Vitamin D and Neurotransmitters
Every tissue in the body has vitamin D receptors, including the brain, heart, muscles, and immune system, which means vitamin D is needed at every level for the body to function.
Vitamin D is also the only vitamin that is a hormone. After it is consumed in the diet or absorbed (synthesized) in the skin, vitamin D is then transported to the liver and kidneys where it is converted to its active hormone form. Vitamin D as a hormone assists with the absorption of calcium, helping to build strong bones, teeth and muscles.
In addition to its well-known role in calcium absorption, vitamin D activates genes that regulate the immune system and release neurotransmitters (e.g., dopamine, serotonin) that affect brain function and development. Researchers have found vitamin D receptors on a handful of cells located in regions in the brain-the same regions that are linked with depression.
Vitamin D’s effect on mental health extends beyond depression. Schizophrenia has also been linked with abnormal levels of vitamin D.John McGrath of the University of Queensland in Australia studied 424 Danish newborns who developed schizophrenia. He concluded that infants born in winter or spring seasons, when birth mothers have decreased levels of vitamin D, are at an increased risk of developing schizophrenia.
Normal level of Vitamin D via blood testing is anything greater than 30 ng/mL. However, some providers prefer to see 25-hydroxy-vitamin D levels between 50 and 75 ng/mL. Supplement recommendation can range from 2,000 IU to 10,000 IU. It’s important to note that vitamin D supplementation needs to be monitored by blood testing every few months.