Here Comes the Sun – Getting Vitamin D Safely

 

Dr. Mercola says:

Safe sun exposure is essential for optimal health, but incorrect exposure can raise your risk of skin cancer while not providing any health benefits. Sunburn should be avoided at all cost. Detailed guidelines are provided for safely increasing your vitamin D stores through proper sun exposure are included.

While sunlight is composed of about 1,500 wavelengths, UVB is the only wavelength that will produce vitamin D when hitting unexposed skin. UVA’s increase your risk of skin cancer and causes photoaging of your skin. Therefore, it’s important to determine the ideal times of year for safe and effective sun exposure, and avoid exposure during times that UVB rays are not present. Instructions are included.

Vitamin D3 is an oil soluble steroid hormone that forms when your skin is exposed to UVB radiation from the sun (or a safe tanning bed). When UVB strikes the surface of your skin, your skin converts a cholesterol derivative into vitamin D3. It takes up to 48 hours for this vitamin D3 to be absorbed into your bloodstream to elevate your vitamin D levels. Therefore, it’s important to avoid washing your skin with soap after sun exposure.

In case you do develop a sun burn, immediately apply raw aloe vera. It’s one of the best remedies to help accelerate skin healing.

From a health perspective it doesn't make much sense to expose your skin to the sun when it is lower than 50 degrees above the horizon because you will not receive any valuable UVB rays, but you will expose yourself to the more dangerous and potentially deadly UVA rays. UVA's have a longer wavelength than UVB and can more easily penetrate the ozone layer and other obstacles (like clouds and pollution) on their way from the sun to the earth. UVA is what radically increases your risk of skin cancer and photoaging of your skin. So while it will give you a tan, unless the companion UVB rays are available you're likely doing more harm than good and should probably stay out of the sun to protect your skin.

Vitamin D3 Is Great for Me

I was driving to the golf course three weeks ago when it happened. To make the 30-minute drive more enjoyable (truthfully, it's because I'm an information freak), I hook my iPod into my car radio and listen to an audio book. It landed on Dr. Mark Hyman's book UltraMind and I started listening.

In the audio version of his book, Dr. Hyman emphasized that most of us who don't work outside are vitamin D deficient. His reasoning was so compelling that I decided to do some research when I got home. I found the a post (below) on his UltraWellness blog. I decided to follow his advice (I skipped the blood test — I figure it's probably his lawyer's counsel for avoiding law suits and AMA sanctions) and start taking a large dose of vitamin D3 daily.

Several days later, Ann and I were shopping at Trader Joes when I saw a bottle of Vitamin D3. I bought a bottle and started taking 10,000 IU a day.

Wow! The aches and pains that I felt every day started fading away. The need for a nap in the late afternoon went away. My memory improved. I looked forward to my daily bike ride. I felt better most of the time.

Today I saw another article about vitamin D on The Daily Reckoning web site (a financial site). Here's an excerpt (the whole article is below):

This ranks as one of the most important public health breakthroughs in decades.

A trickle of solid peer-reviewed evidence that most people are severely vitamin D deficient has turned into a flood. If the new consensus is correct, and I believe it is, increasing your vitamin D level could, for most people, add years of healthy life. It could also save the U.S. economy hundreds of billions annually…

D is not just another nutrient. Putting it simplistically, it is the über-nutrient that affects the way all other nutrients, not just calcium, are utilized.

Now we see a compendium of solid peer-reviewed research indicating that many of our most troublesome and expensive diseases are symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.

Link: Vitamin D — Why You Are Probably NOT Getting Enough – UltraWellness – Mark Hyman, MD

What vitamin do we need in amounts up to 25 times higher than the government recommends for us to be healthy?

What vitamin deficiency affects over half of the population, is almost never diagnosed, and has been linked to many cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic muscle pain, bone loss, and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis?

What vitamin is almost totally absent from our food supply?

What vitamin is the hidden cause of so much suffering that is so easy to treat?

The answer to all of these questions is vitamin D.

Over the last 10 years of my practice, my focus has been to discover what the body needs to function optimally. And I have become more interested in the role of specific nutrients as the years have passed.

Two recent studies in the journal Pediatrics found that 70 percent of American kids aren't getting enough vitamin D, and this puts them at higher risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and lower levels of good cholesterol. Low vitamin D levels also may increase a child's risk of developing heart disease later in life.

Overall, 7.6 million, or 9 percent, of U.S. children were vitamin-D deficient, and another 50.8 million, or 61 percent, had insufficient levels of this important vitamin in their blood.

Over the last 5 years, I have tested almost every patient in my practice for vitamin D deficiency, and I have been shocked by the results. What’s even more amazing is what happens when my patients' vitamin D status reaches optimal levels. Having witnessed these changes, there's no doubt in my mind: vitamin D is an incredible asset to your health.

6 Tips for Getting the Right Amount of Vitamin D

Unless you're spending all your time at the beach, eating 30 ounces of wild salmon a day, or downing 10 tablespoons of cod liver oil a day, supplementing with vitamin D is essential. The exact amount needed to get your blood levels to the optimal range (100 to160 nmol/L) will vary depending on your age, how far north you live, how much time you spend in the sun, and even the time of the year. But once you reach optimal levels, you'll be amazed at the results.

For example, one study found that vitamin D supplementation could reduce the risk of getting type 1 diabetes by 80 percent. In the Nurses' Health Study (a study of more than 130,000 nurses over 3 decades), vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of multiple sclerosis by 40 percent.

I've seen many patients with chronic muscle aches and pains and fibromyalgia who are vitamin D deficient — a phenomenon that's been documented in studies. Their symptoms improve when they are treated with vitamin D.

Finally, vitamin D has been shown to help prevent and treat osteoporosis. In fact, it's even more important than calcium. That's because your body needs vitamin D to be able to properly absorb calcium. Without adequate levels of vitamin D, the intestine absorbs only 10 to 15 percent of dietary calcium. Research shows that the bone-protective benefits of vitamin D keep increasing with the dose.

So here is my advice for getting optimal levels of vitamin D:

    1. Get tested for 25 OH vitamin D. The current ranges for "normal" are 25 to 137 nmol/L or 10 to 55 ng/ml. These are fine if you want to prevent rickets — but NOT for optimal health. In that case, the range should be 100 to 160 nmol/L or 40 to 65 ng/ml. In the future, we may raise this "optimal" level even higher.

    2. Take the right type of vitamin D. The only active form of vitamin D is vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Look for this type. Many vitamins and prescriptions of vitamin D have vitamin D2 — which is not biologically active.

    3. Take the right amount of vitamin D. If you have a deficiency, you should correct it with 5,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day for 3 months — but only under a doctor's supervision. For maintenance, take 2,000 to 4,000 IU a day of vitamin D3. Some people may need higher doses over the long run to maintain optimal levels because of differences in vitamin D receptors, living in northern latitudes, indoor living, or skin color.

    4. Monitor your vitamin D status until you are in the optimal range. If you are taking high doses (10,000 IU a day) your doctor must also check your calcium, phosphorous, and parathyroid hormone levels every 3 months.

    5. Remember that it takes up to 6 to 10 months to "fill up the tank" for vitamin D if you're deficient. Once this occurs, you can lower the dose to the maintenance dose of 2,000 to 4,000 Units a day.

    6. Try to eat dietary sources of vitamin D. These include:

    • Fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil. 1 TBSP (15 ml) = 1,360 IU of vitamin D

    • Cooked wild salmon. 3.5 oz = 360 IU of vitamin D

    • Cooked mackerel. 3.5 oz = 345 IU of vitamin D

    • Sardines, canned in oil, drained. 1.75 oz = 250 IU of vitamin D

    • One whole egg = 20 IU of vitamin D

Link: The Uber Nutrient Worth "Hundreds of Billions".

10/21/09 Marco Island, Florida – This ranks as one of the most important public health breakthroughs in decades.

A trickle of solid peer-reviewed evidence that most people are severely vitamin D deficient has turned into a flood. If the new consensus is correct, and I believe it is, increasing your vitamin D level could, for most people, add years of healthy life. It could also save the U.S. economy hundreds of billions annually…

D is not just another nutrient. Putting it simplistically, it is the über-nutrient that affects the way all other nutrients, not just calcium, are utilized. Virtually every cell in the body has a D receptor, even those in the brain. Until recently, however, few asked why. This is a particularly interesting question because there is very little vitamin D actually available in food. Most of our nutritional D, in fact, is added. Historically, the primary source of D, not only for humans, but for many other animals, has been sunshine. We convert the energy found in ultraviolet B in our skin to vitamin D. Obviously, there is something critically important about D if our prehistoric ancestors could manufacture it even during times of famine.

Now we see a compendium of solid peer-reviewed research indicating that many of our most troublesome and expensive diseases are symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. Rickets, apparently, was only the tip of the iceberg. Other diseases on the list of conditions caused or exacerbated by D deficiency include cancers, diabetes, susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, heart disease, stroke, osteomalacia or age-related bone mass thinning, osteoporosis, depression and even food allergies. Obesity, in fact, is highly correlated with vitamin D deficiency. In many of these conditions, risk factors drop within months, and by as much as 80%.