Drinking and Vitamin D

“Vitamin D, Alcohol and Depression.” Wow! The first line of this article sounds fun! Really brings you in, doesn’t it?! But wait!!! It gets better…. Drinking too much alcohol can contribute to vitamin D deficiency.

Although statistics vary, there are roughly somewhere between 12 and 18 million Americans affected by alcoholism. Doctors say 70% of us don’t get enough vitamin D. So where am I going with all of this?

Vitamin D was discovered in the 30’s, and thought to be not so much a vitamin at first, but rather a hormone, since our bodies produced it naturally with the help of the sun.  Since we started limiting our sun exposure to prevent skin cancer many believe were not getting nearly enough sun. 7 out of 10 of us are vitamin D deficient, which can cause numerous of health problems. Even the milk industry has told us for years how important vitamin D is by adding it to their milk and advertising it on their cartons as a “special feature.” Orange juice companies like “Florida’s Natural”  also add it to their orange juice labels to demonstrate their “hip awareness.”

It’s great for growing bones, but also over time with increased levels of vitamin D in the system one can begin to feel the difference. A lack of vitamin D can exacerbate mood swings and depression in certain people, so anything that can help with management of this condition would seem to almost need to be also re-classified as a mood enhancer.

More than that, researchers say vitamin D helps the:

  • heart
  • teeth
  • bones.

Vitamin D also:

  • prevents certain types of cancer
  • prevents multiple sclerosis
  • prevents type one diabetes
  • protects the brain by helping to preventing dementia

Oily fish contains high levels of vitamin D but with mercury levels on the rise, fish is scary to consumers. Another way to get Vitamin D is sunlight (but to avoid the risks of cancer people need other ways without dangerous sun exposure).

The medical community is considering raising the daily guidelines for vitamin D intake from what is currently 200 to 600 units to between 1000 to 2000 units and up to 5000 units. That would be the equivalent of 4 cups of milk. Yikes (cholesterol)!

The risk of overdose is not really a huge concern. You would have to consume a huge amount of Vitamin D for it to be dangerous.  Generally, vomiting and nausea are the most common of side effects. Other side effects include calcium deposits in the liver.

The Effects of lack of Vitamin D

Lack of vitamin D is contributing to increasing levels of depression among young Americans in this country and worldwide.  Also susceptible are land locked countries where there is a lack of food available to the people with sufficient levels of omega fatty acids, commonly found in fish.

In 1998 the New England of Journal of Medicine did a study on 290 patients and studied them for vitamin D deficiency and 46% of these patients regularly taking vitamin supplements with the recommended dosage of vitamin D in that supplement were found to be lacking the adequate levels in their blood.  After a series of further testings the team of researchers concluded that any amount of vitamin D below 800 IU daily was not enough to prevent vitamin D deficiency from occurring in the patient. Dr. Reinhold Vieth had the view that the proper dosage should be 1200 IU. or more.

A pain management specialist noticed that her patients suffering from depression, sleep disorders, fatigue/disinterest, weight gain, were all very low in levels of vitamin D.

Low levels of vitamin D are linked to higher incidence of depression when related to SAD(Seasonal Affective Disorder) and how supplements of vitamin D in patients with this disorder helped improve the symptoms. Light therapy also was used in these cases.

Vitamin D and Serotonin

Higher levels of vitamin D can increase serotonin. As a neurotransmitter, serotonin helps the brain to relay message form one area to the other and is believed to be highly influential in a a variety of psychological functions. Most of our brain cells are influenced directly or indirectly by serotonin. Cells in the brain related to mood, sexual desire, appetite, sleep, learning, memory and a lot of social behavior are effected by serotonin levels.

A lack of serotonin would, as you can see from the above examples, would seemingly have a strong case as a major factor in terms of depression. Low production of serotonin in the brain can lead to depression when we consider that the serotonin isn’t reaching it’s receptor site.

So there you go. Alcoholic consumption lowers vitamin D levels in the body. Lower D levels can effect serotonin production. Low levels of serotonin can cause depression. You do the math.

Click here to read more about alcohol abuse.