By definition, vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for normal body function. If you look at the nutrition label of a food or supplement, you see a percentage written next to the vitamins and minerals. That percentage represents of the amount of nutrients that research suggests is necessary for the human body to function normally. So ideally, we should get 100% of our recommended daily amount (RDA). The body can make some of these vitamins so we don’t have to get them from food. Others must come from outside sources like food or supplements. All vitamins perform different functions and help our bodies in their own way. Lacking (or being deficient in) any vitamin or mineral can cause issues. One nutrient deficiency I’d like our blog readers to pay attention to is Vitamin D.
Vitamin D isn’t found in many foods and certainly not in a very high amount. Our bodies have a unique ability to turn sunlight into Vitamin D through the skin. One study estimated that roughly 40% of the U.S. population is deficient in Vitamin D, possibly from less time spent outside as our lifestyles have changed.
Why does this matter to you? Some of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include:
Do any of these sound familiar? More importantly, research has linked Vitamin D deficiency to depression. I believe the link between Vitamin D and depression is extremely important because there is a tremendous overlap in the United States between chronic pain and depression. Clinical studies have suggested that, “up to 85% of patients with chronic pain are affected by severe depression”. Studies have also shown that depression is associated with higher levels of inflammation, just like chronic pain. So there is a clear connection. Depression, pain, and inflammation and all are consistent with low levels of Vitamin D in the blood and affect many people.
How can Vitamin D help with depression?
Vitamin D was first discovered as a nutritional compound that affected the body’s ability to absorb calcium needed for strong bones. The connection between Vitamin D and bone health was discovered as researchers looked for a cure for rickets in children (an underdevelopment of bones that may cause delayed growth and pain). As Vitamin D has been researched further, other health discoveries have been made. We now know that that there are Vitamin D receptors in the brain. Remember from our CBD blog that receptors are like pockets on a pool table and chemicals are like pool balls. When a ball enters the socket it causes a reaction. This is important to understand because Vitamin D receptors are found specifically in areas of the brain associated with depression. This means that Vitamin D may cause chemical reactions in the brain that affect depression in a positive way, and may also explain why Vitamin D deficiency is associated with depression.
So what about pain?
Many people have argued that Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin but rather a hormone. A hormone is a substance that “regulates the activity of certain cells or organs”. Often, hormones are produced in one area of the body and affect multiple other areas. Vitamin D enters the body either from supplements or from sunlight through the skin. It is then taken to the liver where it turns into a substance that our bodies can actually use. From there, Vitamin D helps cells all over our bodies communicate with each other. Beyond bone health, Vitamin D also assists:
Immune system function
I would say that Vitamin D fits the definition of a hormone. Interestingly, because of its chemical structure Vitamin D is also considered a steroid. That’s right; I’m encouraging readers to take a steroid. Certain steroids are prescribed for the purpose of decreasing inflammation and calming the immune system. Although research hasn’t determined exactly why, there is a relationship between higher levels of Vitamin D in the blood and lower levels of inflammation.
Now that you are equipped with some history and some science, let’s talk about what to do with this. People often ask, “What supplements should I take?” What we should be asking is, “What am I deficient in or missing?” The only way to determine what is missing is through blood work. There is research that suggests 2,000 IUs daily will help most people reach a normal level of Vitamin D. However, I would encourage you to ask your physician for a Vitamin D test to see where your levels are. Ideally, the number on a blood test will be above 30.
High quality sources of Vitamin D are relatively inexpensive. The product below can be found at most pharmacies and at our clinic, and the cost per serving is less than $0.10. All of the potential benefits listed above should be worth a dime each day. Take your Vitamin D with some fish oil for better absorption.
I hope that all readers will consider adding Vitamin D to their daily routine. More importantly, I hope that all of you either are or will start having regular bloodwork done to look for vitamin/mineral deficiencies, potential issues with organs, immune system function, and inflammation. To illustrate the importance of this, imagine an elite level athlete. Athletes require more calories, more nutrition, and more hydration than the average person because of the tremendous stress training places on their bodies. This is isn’t too dissimilar from chronic diseases. Chronic pain places an amount of stress on the body that takes up more nutrients than an otherwise healthy person will experience. Because of the added stress, patients suffering from chronic pain are more likely to be deficient. These deficiencies come with their own set of negative side effects that medication may not fix, and in some cases may even worsen. The only way to find these inefficiencies is with regular bloodwork.
Yours in Good Health,