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The Sunshine Vitamin - Vitamin D

By Theresa Mills, PMHNP

Around 42% of adults in the US are deficient in this key vitamin. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with mood disorders as well as neuropsychiatric conditions such as Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and autism spectrum disorder. Although it is not a common practice to screen patients with psychiatric illness for vitamin D deficiency, evidence suggests that Vitamin D levels should be included in routine screening and at Hope419 we include this in our comprehensive health assessment of our patients.

Vitamin D is important for more than just mental health, as studies indicate it may play a role in immune function, bone health, cancer prevention, and sleep regulation,

The most commonly known reason for vitamin D deficiency is lack of sunlight exposure, however poor dietary intake, smoking, and lack of physical exercise are also common causes. In fact, a large percentage of the American population including those living in the sunniest states are vitamin D deficient. Several risk factors, such as genetic and environmental factors, season of birth, latitude and migration, have been linked to vitamin D deficiency and can explain, at least in part, the association between Vitamin D deficiency and mental illness.

While a vitamin D level greater than 30ng/mL is considered normal, patients with psychiatric illness should be optimized toward 50ng/mL for better treatment outcomes of the underlying illness. Any patient less then 20ng/mL is considered to be deficient, while 21-29ng/mL is considered to be insufficient.

How to increase your body's Vitamin D levels:

  • Eating foods high in Vitamin D: Beef or calf liver, wild-caught fish, egg yolks, canned fish, Shiitake mushrooms, orange juice, milk: whole, nonfat or reduced fat, yogurt, almond milk, Pudding made with milk.

  • Moderate intensity exercise increases vitamin D receptor expression in vitamin D deficiency.

  • Over the counter supplementation of 2,000iu vitamin D taken with a meal to improve absorption.

  • A prescription from your doctor for 50,000iu of Vitamin D could be a simple way to increase your Vitamin D level.

Talk with your doctor about obtaining Vitamin D levels and vitamin supplementation if needed.

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