Friends-I am thrilled to feature my friend and guru, holistic health and behavioral specialist Heather Goodwin here again on the blog. Today she enlightens us on the connection between vitamin D and depression. So gentle nudge: take care of yourself and get your levels checked today! XOXO, Elaine
About 1 in 10 of your friends suffers from depression. And 1 out of 13 lives a painful existence riddled by anxiety. And how in the world has the number of individuals on the autistic spectrum skyrocketed from 1 in 10,000 a mere 30 years ago to presently 1 in 45?! (That’s a different article, but one solution lies within.*)
For many, many years, we have believed that these type of mood (or developmental) disorders had a beginning and an end in the brain. And, with this belief, we were instructed that the only solution was to medicate the deficits away.
Thankfully, functionally-minded and progressive, trail-blazing physicians such as Dr. Kelly Brogan, author of A Mind of Your Own and Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Ultra Mind Solution, have put these particular mood myths to bed. As Dr. Brogan puts it, “Depression is not a Prozac deficiency.” And, Dr. Hyman educates us on how to fix this “broken brain” syndrome. Both she and Dr. Hyman purport that depression in particular is actually less of an exclusive brain-based disorder and more of a “lifestyle medicine” issue, a systemic physiological disconnect, often rooted somewhere else in the body. And, the real work involves pitching the pills and rolling up our sleeves to reveal the root cause of the dis-ease that is making us miserable.
As if it’s not depressing enough to know that only 9 (out of 10) of our friends feels connected, fulfilled and happy the majority of the time, vitamin D deficiency has not only been linked with depression and mood imbalances, but it’s lack has profound physical consequences as well. And a whopping one billion of us are deficient. Why is vitamin D such a powerhouse? Well, for starters, every tissue in the body has vitamin D receptors, including the brain, heart, muscles, and immune system, meaning we need it to be wholly healthy, mind and body.
Vitamin D is so integral to health partly due to the fact that it’s the only vitamin that also functions as a hormone, where it not only serves its more famous role of assisting with calcium absorption, but it stimulates both the immune system and neurotransmitters. Yep, in its hormone state, vitamin D can have a direct effect on our “feel good” brain chemicals! In fact, vitamin D receptors actually exist in the areas of the brain that are linked with depression. So, maybe our brains aren’t in fact “broken,” maybe we just need more vitamin D.
So if the solution can be as simple as rooting out a severe deficiency in something our body needs to optimally function, like vitamin D, the next question is how do we best get MORE? According to the Vitamin D Council, unlike most other vitamins/minerals, it’s virtually impossible to get the proper amount via food. What??? In fact, they suggest that the most optimal avenue for your daily dose could be a good old-fashioned sunbath away. No need for two hours of flesh scorching, baby oil-laden torture. (We Gen-Xers are paying for that now!) Researchers say 10-15 minutes of direct skin exposure for light-skinned individuals and a bit longer for darker-skinned folks per day will do it. Why? Sun’s natural nectar, vitamin D, that’s why.
I won’t bore you with the plethora of studies linking vitamin D deficiency to mood imbalances and more, but suffice it to say that many of these studies looked at countries the farthest away from the equator (note: less sun), or they measured vitamin D levels in individuals during the winter months (we’ve all heard of SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder) and/or they noted elevated depressive levels in individuals who just don’t play outside enough. Are you seeing the connection here? (Hint: the most natural source of vitamin D comes directly from our planet’s greatest source of energy, the sun.)
So how do we ensure we are one of the nine happy ones? It’s a simple three-step solution:
1. Get your vitamin D levels tested ASAP! Our clinic, Heights of Health, will conveniently help you order this easy blood test. Once you receive your results, our skilled wellness practitioners will facilitate interpretation of your testing and create a customized plan for optimizing your vitamin D levels. Call the clinic today to get more details: 713.861.6777
2. Be sure to get your daily dose of healthy sun exposure in 10-15 minutes/day increments. We all have work to do whether it’s on the computer, in the laundry room, at the office or with the kids. Gather up your laptop, laundry basket, toddler and colleagues and conduct 15 minutes of your workday outside. Not only will this ultimately build up your vitamin D levels over time, but you will feel an immediate shift in your mood just by one work session in the great outdoors.
3. Supplement with a high quality vitamin D3. (Avoid the synthetic and less bioavailable version, vitamin D2.) Supplementation is actually the second best way (next to that sunbath) to get your vitamin D. We carry several excellent, high-quality options in the convenience of our clinic. And, don’t forget that our staff is well-trained in muscle response testing (also known as “applied kinesiology”) and can quickly determine the brand/dosage that most resonates with your individual health needs.
So, hop on your bike, scooter, skateboard or lace up your sneakers and take a 15 minute play session outside (or a nap in the hammock!) and if you are lucky enough to live within a 15 minute stroll of HoH, we will see you and your sun-happy skin as you easily implement your three-step plan toward happy!
*For those of you with a loved-one on the Autistic Spectrum, please visit the Vitamin D Council’s resource center on the amazing link between vitamin D and autism.
As the Director of Heights of Health Mind Wellness Division, Heather empowers adults and children with proven life-transforming tools and interventions. Her multi-disciplinary approach is rooted in the recognition that physical issues cannot be separated from emotional, social, spiritual, and psychological influences. Therefore the whole person must be taken into account to achieve optimal whole-person health. Heather’s mindfulness and behaviorally-based approach leads individuals to make sustainable choices that bring life-changing outcomes within reach.
Heather holds a Master’s degree in Education and is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner. Heather has served as a teacher, a district-wide Behavior Specialist for a large urban school district, as a lead associate in one of our nation’s top consulting firms and later as the Director of Behavior Programs for an innovative publishing company located in Colorado. Four years ago, Heather launched the Holistic Mind Wellness Division at Heights of Health, Houston’s beloved and cutting-edge natural healthcare clinic.
At Heights of Health, Heather teaches adults and children research-based practices that utilize the science of neuroplasticity to rewire the brain, biofeedback to balance the nervous system, and numerous powerful techniques that clients easily implement to positively affect daily habits and behaviors. Heather has particular expertise working with adults on changing the stress response and children with ADHD and other neurological or behavioral challenges. After 20+ years in the educational, behavioral and holistic health fields, Heather remains a requested national speaker and recognized behavior specialist. Heather happily resides in the Houston Heights with her husband, Mike and their two awesome children, Sophia (10) and Nicholas (7).
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