Vitamin D is required for proper functioning of every organ and tissue in the human body. This has been proven time and time again, but new studies suggest that vitamin D may also be an important tool in the treatment of substance abuse and addiction. There are also indications that low levels of vitamin D may delay recovery and increase the risk of relapse.
In recent years, studies have suggested that adequate levels of vitamin D help regulate and protect dopamine and other chemicals that affect healthy brain function. It also regulates the immune system, reduces inflammation, repairs damaged DNA, and helps the body restore vitamins and minerals depleted by years of substance abuse.
Vitamin D deficiency is associated not only with drug and alcohol addiction, but a host of serious health problems, including heart disease, some forms of cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, osteoporosis, liver disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, and even the common cold.
Vitamin D and the Body
There is a surprisingly high rate of vitamin D deficiency in countries around the world. While the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is highest among people who live far from the equator, the deficiency is common everywhere, even in low-latitude areas and climates where it seems that UVB radiation should be adequate.
Vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight. If you spend a lot of time indoors, or if you live in a cold, dark climate, you are at a higher risk for vitamin D deficiency. In many areas, the sun isn’t strong enough during the fall and winter to provide necessary levels of vitamin D. Vigilant use of sunscreens is a significant contributing factor.
Are You low on Vitamin D?
If you suspect you may be low on vitamin D, the only way to know for sure is to ask your medical provider for a blood test. Don’t rely on information online to self-diagnose a possible vitamin D deficiency.
Although supplements are inexpensive and readily available, the optimum level of vitamin D varies substantially depending on your skin type, age, the altitude where you live, air pollution and other factors. Too much vitamin D can result in a dangerous buildup of calcium, which may contribute to bone pain and kidney problems.
The most natural way to increase your level of vitamin D is to expose large areas of your skin to natural sunlight, but don’t over-do; even a few minutes of sun without sunscreen can boost your vitamin D levels. It isn’t necessary to tan and you should never remain in the sun long enough to burn your skin.
Vitamin D and Food
You receive most necessary vitamins and minerals from the food you eat, but the amount of vitamin D in food is very small – certainly not enough to make up for a serious deficiency. However, it never hurts to add the following foods to your diet:
- Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, shrimp, oysters
- Canned tuna
- Egg yolks
- Cod liver oil
- Beef liver
- Milk and yogurt
- Almond milk
- Fortified orange juice