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New Discoveries Highlight the Importance of Vitamin D

| Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

Fall and winter seasons bring colder temperatures, cloudy skies, and a lower angle of the sun in the sky. We spend more time indoors and have less skin exposed when outdoors. These factors significantly impact your ability to make vitamin D from the sun and make it even more important to ensure dietary and supplemental intake.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D does many things. It is immensely important for your bones and dental health, growth and development, immune system defense, mitochondria and energy production, genetics, colon health, blood sugar metabolism, thyroid hormone function, cholesterol management, and so much more. Every cell in your body uses vitamin D and it is involved with countless gene signals. Here are some recent findings on how vastly important vitamin D is for your whole body.

Highlights for Vitamin D and Brain Health

Brain health research provides a fascinating glimpse into the delicate workings of vitamin D throughout the brain and nervous system. High amounts of vitamin D receptors are found deep within the limbic system, including the hippocampus (memory center), hypothalamus and thalamus, substantia nigra, etc. along with nerves and glial cells where vitamin D is used for neurological function.

The hippocampus is the memory center of your brain and affects short-term, long-term, and spatial memory. The hypothalamus helps to regulate body temperature, emotions, sleep cycle, growth, hunger/appetite, weight, sex drive, autonomic nervous system function and is the commander for hormone release elsewhere in the body.

The thalamus is a relay system, connecting other parts of the brain and body to the hypothalamus. It is involved with sensory pathways, including smell, and interpreting sensory information. Substantia nigra is closely involved with movement, motivation, and dopamine storage. Your vitamin D status affects these life-essential processes and functions, genes, and genetic regulations within your brain.

In addition to high levels of vitamin D receptors in these life-vital brain regions, vitamin D also regulates and manages nerve growth and repair mechanisms and is directly involve with the synthesis of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine (autonomic nervous system, memory, coordination), dopamine (focus, mood, movement), and GABA (relaxation, sleep).

Vitamin D also helps the insulation layer, or the myelin sheath, around your nerves. It is used by nerves to repair and regenerate throughout your body. It provides a neuroprotective effect, as it helps regulate neurotrophin, which regulates growth and survival of nerves and modulates calcium levels within nerve tissues.

Vitamin D Supports Cardiac Nerves and Rhythm

Vitamin D is required for your heart’s neurological function and rhythm. It safely supports function and conductivity of nerves, including resting heart rate variability. Vitamin D supports parasympathetic (rest/relax/repair) activity while it buffers against oxidative stress, increased blood sugar stress, and excitatory neurochemicals that provoke autonomic nervous system irritation.

Vitamin D Essential for Circadian Rhythm and Autonomic Nervous System

Vitamin D also impacts your circadian rhythm and blood pressure. Given the vast impact that vitamin D has on the hippocampus, hypothalamus, and global brain function, this makes complete sense.

Two interesting studies evaluated children’s vitamin D status on autonomic nervous system and cardiac nerve activity and the tendency towards fainting. Children with adequate vitamin D had more stable blood pressure management because of its impact on the autonomic nervous system and circadian rhythm. Children with adequate vitamin D had superior cardiac nervous system tone compared to those who had low vitamin D levels.