Human beings are Solar-Powered! That might sound odd, but think of it this way: Vitamin D, the "Sunshine Vitamin", plays such a crucial role in so many of our vital body functions, that we truly would not be the same without it. In fact, Vitamin D is crucial in maintaining healthy bone growth, heart health, stable moods, cancer and chronic disease prevention, and maintaining our immune system.
Vitamin D is actually a hormone, which means that it plays a crucial role in regulating the functions of certain cells and organs in our body. So, if we don't have enough of this powerful nutrient in our body, it leaves a lot of room for things to go wrong! Low levels of Vitamin D are associated with increased risk of cancer, depression, osteoporosis, and Type 1 Diabetes, just to name a few!
So, how is Vitamin D related to your mood? There's a reason why many of us feel an instant boost in mood and energy when stepping outside on a sunny day. Vitamin D is involved in the production of Seratonin, the brain chemical that produces feelings of good mood, positive outlook, and helps us get a good quality sleep. It makes sense, that if you are having troubles sleeping, then a poor mood can easily become even worse! Many people suffer from a condition called "Seasonal Affective Disorder" (SAD), which often effects people in the winter months due to a lack of sunshine. Symptoms include feelings of depression, fatigue, and hypersomnia (sleeping too much).
Without enough exposure to sunlight, Vitamin D levels can drop dramatically, which in turn makes it hard for the body to produce enough Seratonin. In other words:
Low Sunlight = Low Vitamin D = Low Seratonin = Low Mood!
Vitamin D isn't only important in keeping us feeling happy, but it plays a huge role in keeping our immune system functioning as well.
The white blood cells in our bodies, which fight off disease and infection, actually contain Vitamin D receptors. This means that if you don't have enough levels of Vitamin D, your white blood cells will not be able to function properly to fight diseases, and you'll be much more prone to illness and even chronic disease, such as cancer. Vitamin D plays an important role in the proper division of cells, meaning that without adequate levels, cells in the body can either divide and grow uncontrollably (cancer), or on the flipside not divide at all and prevent cells and tissues from growing normally. Numerous studies have actually shown that people with adequate amounts of Vitamin D have 30-40% lower risk of developing cancer, and that in people genetically predisposed to colon cancer, Vitamin D supplementation actually decreased the rate of cancer development by 73%.
So, bottom line: make sure you're taking advantage of these increasingly sunny days to ensure your Vitamin D levels are sufficient! Ideally you should be outside during peak sunlight hours with skin exposed for at least 30 minutes per day (which, unfortunately is not always possible in rainy Vancouver!)
That's why it's a good idea to get your levels checked- ideally it should be at a level between 50-80.
A great insurance policy is to supplement with Vitamin D3 (the active form, as opposed to Vitamin D2). Our recommendation is 2000 IUs of Vitamin D3 during Spring and Summer, and up to 4000 IUs during the Fall and Winter months.
If you're looking to get your levels up from food sources, unfortunately there aren't many great ones out there. Liver and egg yolks do contain some, however sunshine is definitely the main and ideal source. Many drinks and juices are fortified with Vitamin D2, however this is the less absorbable and active form.
So, don't be a vampire and step outside from time to time-- it really could make a huge difference in your mood and health!