How to fight the hidden link between vitamin D deficiency and mental health

Summer is when aromatic flowers fill the air and an abundance of UV rays from the sky penetrate our skin, creating vitamin D. Even though the scorching sun will soon reach its highest peak of the seasons, black women are still sensitive to the lowest reported vitamin D3 levels. This vitamin is partly responsible for a happiness boost, but it can also cause harmful opposites.

The melanin that gives our skin an opulent glow absorbs UV radiation crucial for vitamin D synthesis. Those with the least melanin have an average vitamin D level of 24 nanograms per milliliter because their skin is more receptive to nutrients from the sun.

Black people need an hour of sun exposure to absorb the same amount of vitamin D that a white person gets in 24 minutes. While 40% of American adults suffer from vitamin D deficiency, the percentage is nearly double for African Americans, at 76%.

A combination of hormonal and reproductive factors cause women to experience more pronounced symptoms than men, and lifestyle factors common among black women add to the disparity. Unhealthy food habits, insufficient physical activity, and inadequate outdoor recreation are some lifestyle habits that contribute within the community. Vitamin D is known to be vital for physical well-being, but the mental aspect of the conversation is often left unsaid.

The effects of not getting enough vitamin D can manifest physically as low bone density or mentally as symptoms of depression. An adequate level helps regulate mood, provides energy and encourages an optimistic mindset.

An unexplained feeling of hopelessness and fatigue or a sudden disinterest in activities once deemed pleasurable can be attributed to insufficient vitamin D levels. A deficiency does not always indicate that someone has a depressive disorder, but studies have shown that a deficiency Vitamin D is a constant among people with clinical depression. Discover ways to fight vitamin D deficiency when the sun isn\’t enough.

Thanks to the community created by Black Girl Vitamins, over 50,000 Black women no longer have to fight this battle against deficiency alone. Nnamdi Ugwu, Chief Operating Officer, spoke to GU about her efforts to educate and empower the population. What began as a simple blog to spread awareness has blossomed into a successful supplement business with the needs of Black women at the forefront.

Ugwu told us, “Like in the gym, results take time and effort. Consumers should allow 2-3 months of daily vitamin intake to notice an improvement in their mental health. To measure the changes ourselves, the company offers a vitamin D test kit with results at your fingertips. Ugwu suggests that physical movement and a diet rich in vitamin D are the two best ways to maintain levels after supplementation.

Only 34 percent of black women achieve the levels of physical activity recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Harvard School of Public Health study found that exercise was associated with higher levels of vitamin D. Most of the exercise took place outdoors, such as jogging or playing basketball. Engaging in physical activity is an effective strategy for dealing with deficiency, as it involves spending more time in the sun and regulating the muscles that circulate the vitamin.

Exercise is a natural remedy for depression, anxiety, stress, ADHD and PTSD. Another Harvard study found that running for 15 minutes a day reduced the risk of depression by 26%. Physical movement encourages greater mental acuity, high self-esteem, regulated sleep patterns, and resilience.

In 2020, the CDC reported that half of black people in America have at least one type of cardiovascular disease and two out of five have high blood pressure. These chronic diseases are linked to vitamin D deficiency and increase the chance of developing a mental health condition.
Ugwu told OJ that our diets should have more vitamin D-rich foods such as salmon, eggs and mushrooms. He also said that non-fried starches and high-fiber vegetables, particularly broccoli and cauliflower, are essential dietary choices. The nutrients in these foods have been shown to reduce depression and anxiety and keep your gut happy.

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