Vitamin D: Is it REALLY that great for your mood & immunity?
We would say so...when it’s taken in the most bioavailable form possible, D3.
The problem is that most sources of supplemental vitamin D are either not in this form, or they’re not combined with K2, which “activates” the capability of vitamin D3 to do its job.
In the rest of this blog, if we say “vitamin D,” we’re referring to the combination of vitamin D3 and K2...because that’s the one worth supplementing.
But, how does it work? Is it really that dependable, like a lot of “thought leaders” are claiming?
Let’s look at the science backing these claims and learn how our bodies use vitamin D for mood and immunity.
Vitamin D and the creation of serotonin
How does vitamin D help to boost your mood?
Here’s an easy algorithm to explain the cellular process: Vitamin D3 (with K2) + Magnesium + Tryptophan = Serotonin
Recognize that final hormone name?
Serotonin is known as our “happy hormone.” It’s the neurotransmitter most responsible for mood regulation.
The optimal amount of serotonin can result in a boosted mood, and a deficiency of serotonin can result in depressed feelings.
An ongoing lack of serotonin is typically diagnosed as depression, or seasonal depression if it appears for you when winter rolls around.
In most cases, depression is clinically treated by prescribing SSRIs.
Conventional depression treatment & SSRIs
SSRI stands for “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.”
This is important to know, because the function of this medication is to stop the reuptake of serotonin.
We basically have nerve cells that detect serotonin floating in the body, and they’ll “reuptake” that serotonin for use elsewhere.
The problem with this is that sometimes, we don’t have enough serotonin to begin with.
So if those nerve cells are re-uptaking too much serotonin, it can result in depression.
In many cases, SSRIs are very effective and help reduce depression symptoms.
But we like to look at things a little differently around here.
Boosting serotonin vs. stopping reuptake
What if we just helped the body produce more serotonin? Wouldn’t that result in a boosted mood?
It seems so!
This study by Penckofer et. al. describes how inadequate vitamin D levels are almost always detected in those diagnosed with depression.
It even goes so far as to claim that vitamin D intervention therapy could be a cost-effective way to help reduce the symptoms of depression.
This is great news, because merely sticking to the RDA of vitamin D intake (5,000IU a day) can yield massive results in shifting symptoms of depression and boosting mood.
But what happens with an excess of serotonin?
The human body is fascinating in this way: when we have too much of something, it’s pretty dang good at converting it to something else or eliminating that excess through our waste.
In the case of serotonin, it is converted into melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.
That means that high enough vitamin D levels in the blood can help improve your sleep, too!
What about magnesium and tryptophan intake?
If you’re concerned about your intake of these other nutrients to help with your serotonin creation, fear not!
Tryptophan is an amino acid found in large amounts in meat, so unless you’re vegan, you’re likely getting enough tryptophan in your diet.
And as far as magnesium goes, this salt is found in foods such as:
• Pumpkin seeds
• Black beans
• Dark chocolate
And you can always supplement either of them, if you detect a deficiency after blood work.
Vitamin D and the immune system
Now, vitamin D as an immunity booster hasn’t been talked about as much until recently.
But it’s one of the “health industry’s” most well-kept secrets!
A typical dose in a vitamin D supplement is anywhere from 1,000 IU - 5,000 IU.
And while the RDA (recommended daily amount) by the U.S. government standards is 600-800 IU of vitamin D daily, most supplements don’t adhere to these guidelines because they’re more of a “bare minimum.”
There’s a difference between “just enough” and “optimal,” after all!
Based on the research we’ve seen, anything from 5,000 IU to 50,000 IU of vitamin D daily is safe.
But 5,000 IU is typically gauged as the low end of the “optimal” range, so we’ll begin the discussion there.
It seems that at about 5,000 IU of vitamin D a day, people experience better mood and sleep, like we covered in the first piece of this article.
But in order to use vitamin D for immune function, we need to go a little above that.
This is where we begin recommending around 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily, because it covers those baseline mood and sleep needs, but once those needs are covered, it begins acting as an antioxidant.
Typically, 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily is a great place to start when using it as a preventive immunity boost.
It seems to boost both innate and adaptive immunity, while also helping to reduce the effects of autoimmune disorders.
Most recently, vitamin D has been touted for its effects specifically as an anti-viral agent.
This means that not only does it boost our immune system, it actually directly fights against viruses, too.
Skin color and vitamin D production
One small note on our natural vitamin D production: we can and do make our own vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.
That means it’s technically a hormone, not a vitamin. But you can check out this resource for more information on that.
However, an epic research compilation from Dr. Christianson points out that not everyone is created equal in the amount of vitamin D that they produce.
Body weight and skin color both appear to play a role in how much sun exposure is needed to produce any given amount of vitamin D.
So, to play it safe, even if you’re getting lots of sunlight - we still recommend a combination of sun exposure and daily supplementation to ensure you’re getting the optimal amount of vitamin D in your system.
So, how much vitamin D should you take daily?
Based on everything we covered today, we would recommend at least 5,000 IU per day of vitamin D to hit that “baseline optimal” threshold.
But 10,000 IU of vitamin D (remember: D3 + K2) is probably your best starting point for all of the mood, sleep, and immunity benefits covered in this blog.
If you’re looking for a great and bioavailable vitamin D3 + K2, check out The D.
It’s 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 + K2 per tiny capsule and you can find out more right here.