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Sunshine, vitamin D and mental health

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There is no question that throughout the summer months, our general mood improves. Sunshine, longer evenings and being able to throw all those wooly jumpers into the back of your wardrobe to be forgotten for a few months all contribute to that overall feeling of contentment. So, with this in mind, and both Mental Health Awareness Week [1] and Sunshine Month [2] in full swing, it seems a good time to look at the correlation between UV light, vitamin D and people's mental wellbeing.

 

 

Vitamin D is necessary for overall good health [3]. The whole body has receptors for the Sunshine Vitamin. It contributes to the successful function of all organs. For example, not only does vitamin D help improve brain function and development as well as cell communication, but The Sunlight Institute also tell us that "summer sunlight exposure [which leads to the production of vitamin D,] correlates to a reduced risk of breast cancer among women of any age [4]". 

However with the increase of jobs, hobbies and (let's be honest) TV shows luring (or in some cases dragging) us indoors for longer periods of time - not to mention, other uncontrollable elements such as age and skin tone which can impede your ability to absorb enough of the Sunshine Vitamin, - as a nation more and more of us are lacking in vitamin D. When this increase in vitamin D deficiency is compared to statistics showing the ever increasing rate of diagnosed mental health problems [5], there must be some pattern we can draw from this. 

 

 

Research suggests that vitamin D could not only play a role in physical wellbeing, but also psychological health [6]; as vitamin D levels improve, so could moods [7].  But how? The answer to this billion dollar question still kind of stumps scientists. 

For some illnesses, it can be easier to hypothesise than others. For example, where Seasonal Affective Disorder affects people at certain times of the year, this could be seen to follow fluctuating vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is known to release neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which can drastically improve moods. Therefore during winter, when there is less sunshine and therefore less vitamin D being absorbed, less serotonin is released, lowering spirits. In which case it could be suggested that with more sun exposure, comes more serotonin and dopamine, promising for better moods [8]. 

 

 

When James Greenblatt stated "vitamin D deficiency impairs and prolongs recovery from depression" [8], he supported UCL's view [9] that "in depression, this vitamin has the potential to play a useful therapeutic role as demonstrated by a several studies that recorded an improvement in depressive symptoms after vitamin D supplementation." So when diagnosed with depression, a boost in vitamin D really could be a means to remedy this illness. 

What's more, the NHS explains that during the summer months, we get the majority of our vitamin D from sunlight [10]. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is made in your skin when exposed to summer sun. This happens very quickly; around half the time it takes for your skin to begin burning [11]. The Sunshine Vitamin can also be gained by using a sunbed, as although the lamps are artificial, the UVA and UVB emitted are not and also provides tanners with increased vitamin D levels* [12].

As UV light and subsequently vitamin D are both great ways to trigger the production of happy hormones [13], which, in turn, contribute to a positive mindset, it seems that Sunshine Month couldn't have come soon enough.

So what could be taken from this? Well, get those legs out! Wake up and smell the lotion, getting sunkissed has great benefits! Although this may not be the definitive answer to remedy all mental illnesses, increasing our time outdoors can't be a bad thing. Be it sunbathing with an SPF, or using a sunbed with a lotion, getting that UV exposure could help to put you back on track and looking positively towards the summer. 

 

 

* Please note we advise using sunbeds using 0.3 lamps. These comply to EU regulations and deliver the same tanning effect as the mid-day Mediterranean summer sun but without the risk of burning when used responsibly. When using 0.3 lamps, you can expect deeper and longer-lasting tan. The tanning process is also kinder to your skin and the risk of over-exposure or burning is effectively eliminated.

[1] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk

[2] https://grassrootshealth.net/blog/may-sunshine-month/?utm_content=buffer8f110&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer&fbclid=IwAR2EZOyX3eGLXELFo4jezBPpRFulHwobhJOKLD-al6fVIuIhIGNEiYqoeXQ 

[3] https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/what-is-vitamin-d/#.XNqWrC3MxhE

[4] http://sunlightinstitute.org/research-studies/ 

[5] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/fundamental-facts-about-mental-health-2016

[6] https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/mental-health/a28382/vitamin-d-deficiency-and-depression-is-there-a-link/

[7] https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/5abc/12db2f108903d087830d0a7772bd5faa4d99.pdf 

[8] https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-breakthrough-depression-solution/201111/psychological-consequences-vitamin-d-deficiency

[9] http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/12391/2/Vitamin%20D%20and%20mental%20Health.pdf

[10] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-get-vitamin-d-from-sunlight/

[11] https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/how-do-i-get-the-vitamin-d-my-body-needs/#.XNwkay3MxhE

[12] https://www.sunbedassociation.org.uk/UV_Tanning/3.aspx

[13] https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201111/boosting-your-serotonin-activity

https://www.thebestbrainpossible.com/sunshine-vitamin-d-depression-serotonin/

https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health-conditions/depression/#.XNrJ5C3MxhE

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