Have you been getting enough D? Among other things, Vitamin D impacts your sex hormones and your mood, which, if you’re like most people, you definitely want working as well as possible!
Vitamin D is so important, it’s one of my top six biohacks.
Vitamin D deficiency can cause low estrogen in women, which means low sex drive. It also causes low testosterone in men. So if you tend to feel more frisky during the summer than the winter, there’s a very good reason for it – increased vitamin D causes your hormones, and your libido, to peak during summer months. Studies have shown that men with adequate vitamin D – 30.0 mcg/L or more – have significantly more testosterone than men whose vitamin D levels fall from 20.0-29.9 mcg/L.
Testosterone and estrogen levels don’t just affect sex drive; they also have huge impacts on your mood. Low testosterone can cause depression, anxiety, and irritability.
Similarly, estrogen helps boost serotonin and GABA, critical neurotransmitters, which help keep you calm and happy.
Vitamin D also has other, more direct, effects on your mood. Vitamin D activates the genes that release dopamine and serotonin. The lack of these neurotransmitters is commonly linked to depression.
This connection might help explain Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD (convenient acronym, right?). People tend to assume that SAD is caused by the gloomy darkness of the short winter days, but in fact, those short days and more time indoors doesn’t just mean darker skies; it also means you’re getting less vitamin D, and therefore less dopamine and serotonin. It’s good to ramp up your vitamin D supplementation during the winter.
Even though there are all these benefits to adequate vitamin D levels – and there are plenty more – an estimated 77 percent of Americans don’t get enough of it. This makes sense, since we are basically giant hairless apes, and we are supposed to get our vitamin D from our entire body being exposed to the sun for most of the day, every day, causing endogenous vitamin D to be formed under our skin. Since we wear clothes, spend way too much time inside, and constantly slather on sunscreen when we go to the beach, we get only a tiny fraction of the vitamin D we need.
Fortunately, you can also get the amount of vitamin D (D-3 is the best form to take) you need by taking a supplement. The only difference is that UV-B rays have to react with the cholesterol in your skin to become vitamin D-3 (cholecalciferol), whereas with a supplement, the vitamin has already been formed, so your body can skip this step. With either method, the D-3 then goes to your liver, where it’s converted into 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
So don’t feel like you have to be an equatorial nudist to get adequate vitamin D, but do make sure you take a vitamin D supplement (1,000 IU daily for every 25 pounds of total body weight). And even though “adequate” vitamin D levels are around 30 ng/mL, aim for around 50-60, because that’s where you get your best benefits. You can test your levels through your local doctor or an online service like WellnessFX, but it’s not necessary if you’re supplementing the right dose and getting the occasional sunshine!