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  • Writer's pictureJugoslav Erceg

Vitamin D and Its Role in Neurology: Why Having Sufficient Levels is So Important.

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

With the arrival of spring, the days start getting longer and the sun finally reappears more frequently. For many people, this brings about an improvement in their mood and an increased sense of well-being. However, in addition to its pleasant effects on our psyche, the sun also plays a crucial role in the production of vitamin D in our bodies. Vitamin D is a vital nutrient for optimal health and is involved in many important bodily functions. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to a range of health problems.


Sandy beach from above with people and umbrellas
A day at the beach.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is primarily synthesized in the skin through exposure to sunlight. It is an essential nutrient that fulfills many important functions in the body. Specifically, it is also significant in neurology as it may play a role in the onset and progression of neurological disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS).


Vitamins in General


Vitamins are vital nutrients that the body requires to fulfill many important functions, such as growth, tissue repair, and immune system support. They also play a crucial role in maintaining the health of bones, teeth, skin, and hair. There are 13 different vitamins that are divided into two categories: water-soluble vitamins (such as Vitamin C and the B-vitamins) and fat-soluble vitamins (such as Vitamin A, D, E, and K). While water-soluble vitamins are typically needed daily and any excess is easily excreted, fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body when consumed excessively, potentially leading to negative effects with overdosing. A balanced diet consisting of a variety of fresh foods can help ensure adequate vitamin intake.


Functions of Vitamin D


One of the most important functions of Vitamin D is regulating calcium and phosphorus balance in the body. It promotes the absorption of calcium from food in the intestines and ensures its incorporation into bones. As a result, Vitamin D can protect against conditions like osteoporosis and osteomalacia, which involve bone weakening and softening, respectively.


Vitamin D also influences the body's immune system and can contribute to its functionality when adequately supplied. It acts as an immune modulator and can inhibit the activation of immune cells that promote inflammation. A deficiency in Vitamin D can impair the immune system and increase the risk of autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis. Furthermore, sufficient Vitamin D levels have been found to reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections, such as colds and the flu. One possible explanation is that Vitamin D increases the production of antimicrobial peptides in the respiratory mucosa, which can kill bacteria and viruses.


Vitamin D also plays a crucial role in regulating mood, pain perception, and the sleep-wake cycle. Studies indicate that individuals with low Vitamin D levels have a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Vitamin D influences the production of serotonin and dopamine, which are important neurotransmitters that regulate mood. It is also involved in the production of endorphins, which alleviate pain and promote a sense of relaxation and well-being.


A low Vitamin D level can also lead to disrupted sleep-wake cycles as Vitamin D plays a role in the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Individuals with low Vitamin D levels may experience difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep.

It's important to note that Vitamin D supplementation alone is not sufficient to treat mood disorders, pain, or sleep disorders. It should always be used in combination with other therapies such as psychotherapy, medication, or behavioral changes.


In addition to neurological conditions, an adequate Vitamin D level also plays an important role in other diseases. Insufficient Vitamin D has been associated with an increased risk of conditions such as diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases, and various types of cancer. Studies suggest that adequate Vitamin D supply may have preventive effects for these conditions, but further research is necessary to confirm this.


Importance of Vitamin D in Neurology


There is evidence that a deficiency in vitamin D may be associated with a higher likelihood of developing neurological disorders. The relationship between vitamin D deficiency and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is particularly well-studied. MS is an autoimmune disease of the nervous system where the body's defense system attacks the protective covering (myelin sheaths) of nerve fibers. Studies have shown that a low vitamin D level in MS patients may be associated with a worse disease course. One possible explanation for this could be that vitamin D has anti-inflammatory effects and influences the immune system. It can also contribute to the improved functioning of the nervous system. Therefore, maintaining adequate vitamin D levels can help reduce the risk of neurological disorders and improve their progression.


Increasing Vitamin D Levels


There are various ways to increase vitamin D levels. The primary source is the body's own synthesis through exposure of the skin to sunlight. It is recommended to expose uncovered skin (such as arms and face) to the sun for about 10-15 minutes daily. However, this can vary depending on skin type and season.


Another way is to obtain vitamin D through food. Good sources include fatty fish (such as salmon, herring, mackerel), liver, egg yolks, and mushrooms.


Here's a tasty recipe example for a delicious meal with high vitamin D content:


Grilled Salmon with Roasted Vegetables


Ingredients:


  • 4 salmon fillets

  • 2 zucchinis

  • 1 eggplant

  • 1 red bell pepper

  • 1 yellow bell pepper

  • 1 red onion

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • Olive oil

  • Salt and pepper


Instructions:


  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit).

  2. Wash the vegetables and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Slice the onion and finely chop the garlic.

  3. Place the vegetables in a bowl, add the garlic and some olive oil, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

  4. Spread the vegetables on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20-25 minutes in the oven.

  5. Wash the salmon fillets and drizzle them with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

  6. Place the salmon on the grill and grill for 6-8 minutes.

  7. Serve the grilled salmon with the roasted vegetables.


This dish is not only delicious but also an excellent source of vitamin D. Salmon is rich in this important vitamin, and the vegetables contain a variety of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals essential for optimal health.


However, the amount of vitamin D in food is often limited, so it is advisable to take vitamin D as a supplement if the level is low or if sufficient vitamin D intake through food is not possible.


The recommended daily dose for adults is approximately 800-1000 IU (International Units) per day, although the exact dosage should be individually adjusted.


It is important to note that an overdose of vitamin D can have negative health effects, particularly on the kidneys and calcium balance in the body. While adequate vitamin D intake is essential for optimal health, overdosing on the vitamin can, in rare cases, lead to undesired side effects. Vitamin D toxicity can cause a variety of symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, constipation, weight loss, dehydration, and kidney stones. In severe cases, it can also lead to kidney or liver damage. However, overdosing is typically only possible with long-term intake of high doses of vitamin D supplements.


If Vitamin D Levels Are Low


When a deficiency in vitamin D is detected, supplementation therapy may be necessary. This can be in the form of tablets, capsules, or drops. The duration and dosage of the therapy depend on the severity of the deficiency and individual needs. It is also important to regularly monitor the vitamin D levels to ensure they are within the normal range.


Conclusion


Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that fulfills many important functions in the body and plays a significant role in neurology. Maintaining adequate vitamin D levels can help reduce the risk of neurological disorders and improve the course of existing conditions. Therefore, it is important to ensure sufficient vitamin D intake and, if needed, have the levels checked. Generally, it is best to meet the requirement through a balanced diet and regular sun exposure. However, in cases of confirmed deficiency, supplementation may be necessary, which should be individually dosed and monitored. We can assist you in this regard and provide further examinations and consultations if needed.



Your neurological practice,


NEUROLOGIE GALLUSWARTE

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