In our quest to improve and protect our brain health, more attention has been given to the benefits of vitamin D. A fat-soluble vitamin that works like a hormone in the body, vitamin D has been extensively researched for its role in bone health and immunity. But did you know that getting enough vitamin D is also crucial for your brain?
Let’s explore how vitamin D can help promote brain function and cognitive health, including how to ensure that you’re getting enough of it.
Understanding Vitamin D
Sometimes called “the sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D is often associated with time spent in the sun. When your skin is exposed to direct sunlight, it triggers the production of vitamin D in your body. You can also get vitamin D from certain foods as well as supplements.
The two primary forms include ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). While both serve the same purpose in your body, the latter has been found to be more effective at raising your blood levels of vitamin D when taken supplementally.
Vitamin D's Impact on Brain Health
We all hope to stay sharp as we get older. There are many things we can start doing now to help prevent cognitive decline, such as consuming a nutrient-dense diet, exercising, and learning new skills. Getting enough vitamin D is also important to protect brain function.
Scientists have found vitamin D receptors in the brain, further highlighting its key roles there. Interestingly, these receptors are found in areas that are responsible for things like new memory formation.
Vitamin D is involved in things like the inflammatory response process, antioxidant pathways, and cellular growth and communication in the brain. Not getting enough of it has been associated with a higher risk of experiencing a decline in normal brain function later in life.
While more research is needed, having enough vitamin D helps minimize the accumulation of amyloid beta and phosphorylated tau, which are two proteins that help guide the aging of the brain.
Furthermore, studies have observed a relationship between blood levels of vitamin D and healthy mood regulation. Adequate vitamin D is also linked to better sleep patterns.
Sources of Vitamin D
Regular, but not excessive, sunlight exposure is a great way to boost your vitamin D levels. However, there are several factors that can determine how well this process works, such as your skin pigmentation, geographic location, how much clothing coverage you’re wearing, your sex, and how old you are.
Make sure you’re also getting direct sources of vitamin D from your diet. The best food sources include:
- Fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, and halibut
- Egg yolks
- Foods that have been fortified with vitamin D, like dairy and plant milk and some juices
- Mushrooms that have been treated with UV light
Daily supplementation of vitamin D can provide more consistency. For most healthy people, a modest supplement of 1,000-2,000 IU per day is enough to help maintain normal vitamin D levels.
This might be found in a standalone vitamin D supplement, a daily multivitamin, or a multifaceted supplement like Herbals Brain Health, which contains Organic Lion's Mane, Organic Turmeric, Organic Pepperdine, Organic Huperzine-A, and Vitamin D.
In the case of vitamin D deficiency, a higher dose would be prescribed temporarily until levels normalize. The only way to know what dosage is appropriate for you is to have your blood levels checked by your healthcare provider.
Get Your Brain on Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a key nutrient for the health and function of your brain. There’s evidence that having enough is critical for things like healthy mood regulation and forming new memories. Your body makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but the process can be impacted by many factors.
You can also find vitamin D in certain foods, like fatty fish and fortified beverages, but incorporating a daily vitamin D-containing supplement may also be helpful. Speak with your healthcare provider to have your blood levels tested and determine whether a supplement is right for you.
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