Brain Health, Immunity, Better Mood—Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

By Madhavi Gupta, M.D.

 

In this article:

Vitamin D and Brain Health 
Vitamin D and the Immune System
How Do We Get Vitamin D?
Why Vitamin D3 vs. D2
How much vitamin D do I need?
Vitamin D and Pregnancy

 

The Benefits of Vitamin D

Your body requires vitamin D to absorb calcium to build healthy bones (1). But, the advantages of vitamin D go beyond promoting bone health. Vitamin D boosts mood (2), supports immunity (3, 4), and supports growing minds and bodies.  

 

Vitamin D and Brain Health

Scientists have linked vitamin D and its hormone-like activity to the workings of the brain. Vitamin D is needed throughout the central nervous system and in the hippocampus, a small, seahorse-shaped part of the brain that has a major role in learning and memory. 

Vitamin D has recently been found to be more important to brain cell and nerve cell insulation (myelin sheaths) than ever previously thought. Robert J. Przybelski, a research scientist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health stated “We also know vitamin D activates and deactivates enzymes in the brain and the cerebrospinal fluid that are involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve growth.”

 

Vitamin D and the Immune System

The benefits of vitamin D include immune health. This key vitamin plays a role in maintaining immune homeostasis and is necessary for immune cells called “T cells” to fight viruses and bacteria.

 

How Do We Get Vitamin D?

We make vitamin D in our skin when exposed to sunlight, which is why you often hear vitamin D referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.” About 50% to 90% of vitamin D is absorbed through the skin via sunlight. However, we don’t spend as much time outdoors as our ancestors did, and getting enough of that sunshine can be a challenge in winter months or when concerned about protecting our skin from too much sun exposure. 

That is why low vitamin D levels affect almost 50% of the population worldwide.  

When it comes to getting vitamin D through food, there aren’t a lot of dietary options. Dietary sources of vitamin D include fish, milk, and fortified dairy. It’s challenging to get the vitamin D we need for optimum health. Vitamin D supplements are a good source for making up that difference. 

 

Why Vitamin D3 vs. D2

There are two types of vitamin D: D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). The main difference between vitamin D2 and D3 is the way they are metabolized. Vitamin D3 is the type that your body makes and has been shown to be more effective at increasing vitamin D levels. In a randomized controlled study in the Journal of Endocrinology, vitamin D3 was almost twice as effective at increasing vitamin D levels in the blood compared with vitamin D2.   

  

How much vitamin D do I need?

The Vitamin D Council states that blood vitamin D levels between 60-90 ng/ml are ideal. A simple blood test can diagnose a vitamin D deficiency or help you know how much vitamin D you need. The most common test is the 25-hydroxyvitamin D, known as 25(OH)D for short. If your level is low, talk to your doctor about supplementation to raise it. The optimum level varies by individual related to factors such as age, ancestry, and even where you live. 

 

How much vitamin D should I take? 

Vitamin D blood levels should be between 50–80 ng/mL (or 125–200 nM/L) year-round for both children and adults. These levels are especially critical if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. 

How much vitamin D you need to achieve these levels varies among individuals and involves many factors, so it’s important to get tested.

Dr. Cannell from the Vitamin D Council recommends adults to take 5,000 IU per day for 2–3 months, then obtain a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. Children are recommended to take 1,000 IU for every 25 lbs of body weight. Adjust the dosage so that blood levels are between 50–80 ng/mL (or 125–200 nM/L) year-round.

 

Vitamin D and Pregnancy

Vitamin D status during pregnancy is involved in many physiological processes, including brain development. A recent study published in Nutrients showed that a mom’s deficient vitamin D levels in the first trimester of pregnancy (<30 nmol/L) predicted a worse performance in cognitive and language skills for the infant, and language performance worsened with vitamin D levels below 20 nmol/L, (4).  

The vitamin D receptor is found in 900 genes in the human body, an appreciable part of the human genome. The brain is filled with vitamin D receptors and proteins that are turned on by vitamin D. 

 

A Lactating Mom has Two Options:

1. Take about 6400 IU per day, which will be enough to supply her nursing infant with plenty of vitamin D through her milk. You can provide an additional source of vitamin D through supplementation.  
2. Give at least 400 IU per day to the baby directly with a vitamin D3 supplement.


A 2015 study published in the journal
Pediatrics found that infants achieved the same blood level of vitamin D whether they received vitamin D directly as drops (400 IU per day) or via breastfeeding from mothers receiving 6,400 IU per day (6).

The science is clear that vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients at every lifestage but especially important for growing families.

 

Sunshine in a Bottle

Because it is so challenging  to get the vitamin D we need, we developed Sunny Skies Vitamin D Drops. This sunshine-in-a-bottle supplement helps restore and maintain vitamin D levels without worrying about sun damage. It’s a liquid vitamin D3 formula, purified and potent. It also contains no vitamin K2, which can interfere with medications. 

Because vitamin D3 is the form made in our bodies, we choose only vitamin D3 for our formulas. Vitashine® provides natural vitamin D3 sourced from a unique species of non-GMO lichen. The lichen is wild-harvested, extracted in a sustainable manner, and carefully processed for stability.

Made from pure fractionated coconut oil (MCT oil) and vitamin D3, our vitamin D3 drops help restore and maintain vitamin D levels. The convenient once-daily vegetarian formula comes in an easy-to-dispense dropper bottle. It’s a perfect form for the whole family. One flavorless drop provides 2000 IU of vitamin D3.

 


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