Vitamin D: D for Depression

Are you feeling depressed during the autumn and winter months?

In his book ‘The Ultramind Solution’, Mark Hyman suggests that “Vitamin D deficiency is a major epidemic that is under the radar of most doctor and public health officials.”

The cause for concern lies in the fact that Vitamin D is “almost totally absent from our food supply” and “we need up to 25x more of what the government recommends for us to be healthy.” Here’s Mark:

“Most doctors think that if you don’t have rickets you don’t have vitamin D deficiency. They couldn’t be more wrong. The real question is not how little we need not to get rickets (400IU a day), but how much we need to be optimally healthy and how much we were designed to have (approximately 5,000 to 10,000 IU a day).”

Are you doing what’s best for you or just the bare minimum?

There are two ways you can avoid low levels of Vitamin D during autumn and winter months:

  • Include the few natural dietary sources of Vitamin D into your diet
  • Take Vitamin D supplements

Dietary sources are not enough

There are two types of Vitamin D that you should know about – D2 and D3. D2 comes from dietary sources and D3 comes from the sunlight. You’d think it’s all the same but actually D3 is 3X more effective.

In his review of a substantial body of evidence on Vitamin D, Dr. Michael Hollick explains the difference in dietary and sunlight versions of the vitamin:

“Since vitamin D2 is approximately 30% as effective as vitamin D3 in maintaining serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels up to three times as much vitamin D2 may be required to maintain sufficient levels.”

So unless you’re eating lots of omega fatty fish or supplementing with excessive amounts of cod liver oils, it’s clear you won’t be meeting your body’s needs.

Supplement on Vitamin D

Supplements are a great way to fill in the gaps in your diet but keep in mind that they’re just that. They’re meant to supplement your diet and not replace it.

to make sure that you body is getting the nutrition is requires remaining healthy and functioning optimally. But it’s easy to pop a pill and expect for all your worries to wash away in an awesome wave.

The best way to take Vitamin D

Vitamin D supplements are fat-soluble. They require LDL cholesterol for transportation.

This means that for your body to adequately absorb the supplement, you need to pop a pill with a food that has fat in it.

My bro takes Vitamin D with a glass of milk; I personally have mine after breakfast that usually involves eggs in some way, shape or form.

It saddening to see that the back of a pharmacy bottle of Vitamin D reads ‘take with plenty of water.’ If you don’t take it with some fat, you’re wasting your time. This is what my bro says:

“It just goes to show that with anything you have to get deep to understand. Taking supplements blindly isn’t good enough. You’ll spend your money, spend the time taking it, but if you’re doing it wrong nothing is going to come of it.”

How much should you be taking?

Before I go into how much Vitamin D you should aim to take in order to be optimally healthy, it’s important to clarify the IU-mcg conversion rates.

The International Unit (IU) is used to measure fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, and E. The conversions from IU to micrograms (mcg) differ for each vitamin. For Vitamin D here are the conversions:

40 IU = 1 mcg

400 IU = 10 mcg

1000 IU = 25 mcg

Here’s Dr. Hollick on the effective dose of Vitamin D:

“Either 1000 IU of vitamin D3 per day (available in most pharmacies) or 3000 IU of vitamin D2 per day is effective. (…) However, most experts agree that without adequate sun exposure, children and adults require approximately 800 to 1000 IU per day.”

That is, it is effective to absorb 25 micrograms of Vitamin D (D3) from sunlight, or 75 micrograms of Vitamin D (D2) from dietary sources.

Let’s face it, nobody is a) going to pay attention to how much micrograms of D2 they are getting from foods on a daily basis, and b) it is easy to monitor Vitamin D levels by taking a supplement that has a, say, “10mcg” sticker on it.

But the take home message is that 20-25 micrograms of Vitamin D per day is an optimal range to aim for.

Can you overdose/what are the toxic levels?

Unlike with other vitamins like Vitamin A, it would take a lot to cause toxic levels in the bloodstream. Even lifeguards don’t have toxic levels of Vitamin D. Here’s Dr. Hollick:

“Doses of more than 50,000 IU (i.e. 1250 mcg) per day (…) are associated with hypercalcemia and hyperphosphatemia. Doses of 10,000 IU (i.e. 250 mcg) of vitamin D3 per day for up to 5 months, however, do not cause toxicity.

Can vitamin D be stored?

The benefits of sunbathing are far-reaching and Dr. Hollick suggests it could help you in the autumn and winter months ahead:

“Sensible sun exposure can provide an adequate amount of vitamin D3, which is stored in body fat and released during the winter, when vitamin D3 cannot be produced.”

Action – What you can do

As a preventative strategy to avoid low Vitamin D levels, one of the best things you could do for yourself is recharge your batteries in a hot sunny climate over the Summer.

Focus on the few natural dietary sources of Vitamin D and supplementation.

Try to eat foods rich in Vitamin D include fatty wild fish like mackerel, herring, oysters, or cod liver oil. You’ll find small amounts in eggs, cheese, and fortified dairy products like milk.

When it comes to supplementation, I’d personally recommend getting a bottle from Boots. I currently take 2-3 10mcg tablets of Vitamin D a day after breakfast that usually involves soft-boiled eggs or an omelet. Otherwise, I’ll take it with a glass of milk.

Do this and you’ll start to feel more energised and notice within days that your mind is lifting from that strange haze.