If your brain does not work optimally, you do not work optimally. It is plain and simple. All of our brains need a variety of things in order to function properly, like fuel and oxygen. The next big one may be vitamin D, the one most of us get very little of throughout the winter—and guess what? “Winter is coming.”
Getting sufficient levels of vitamin D is imperative for us to keep working towards the goals we want to accomplish. Sufficient vitamin D is needed to produce serotonin (our happy hormone) in the brain. Unfortunately, serotonin cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning your brain must create its own serotonin. If you do not have enough vitamin D, your brain cannot produce enough serotonin.1
Not producing enough serotonin is a big deal. Being happy is more enjoyable then being depressed, but serotonin is also really important for other reasons. Low levels of serotonin lead to low impulse control, poor long term planning, inability to resist short term-gratification, and impaired memory and learning.2 All of these decrease our ability to accomplish our goals because we end up sabotaging ourselves in the short-term due to the lack of serotonin production.
In order to know whether or not you are deficient in vitamin D you need to go get a blood test. Depending on where you live you may need to pay for it, but it will be well worth the money. You will get a reading of your vitamin D level in ng/mL. For optimum health, we would like to be between 40-60 ng/mL. If you are lower than 40 ng/mL, it is a good idea to supplement with vitamin D or get more sun exposure. However, if you live in the northern hemisphere, you’re not going to have much success finding sun until next spring.
When supplementing with vitamin D, we want to make sure it is D3, not D2. D2 is the synthetic form and not something our bodies like. How much to supplement depends on a lot of factors including our sun exposure and our current levels of vitamin D. Supplementing with 1000 IUs of Vitamin D per day for one year will net an increase of 5 ng/mL. This means if “Joe” got tested today and had 35 ng/mL and took 1000 IUs per day, next year his levels should be up to 40 ng/mL.
There is a lot of chemistry going on inside of our brains to help them work correctly and allow us to function at our best. Increasing your vitamin D levels if they are low will help to increase your brain’s serotonin production capabilities. That will help to keep you focused and ready to stay on track toward your goals.
More on vitamins and minerals for optimal health:
1. Rhonda P. Patrick and Bruce N. Ames, “Vitamin D hormone regulates serotonin synthesis. Part 1: Relevance for Autism“, Faseb Journal. 2014.
2. Rhonda P. Patrick and Bruce N. Ames, “Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids control serotonin synthesis and action, part 2: relevance for ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and impulse behavior“. Faseb Journal. 2014.
Headline photo credit: Pixabay.