Health From the Sun, About Vitamin D December 17 2017

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Vitamin D, the sunlight vitamin

   Vitamin D has earned the nickname “the sunlight vitamin” because exposure to ultraviolet B rays causes our bodies to begin producing it.  In fact, vitamin D is the only nutrient our bodies can make on our own.

Although this may seem like a very simple process, in reality, many of us are still not getting enough D in our systems.  Combine concern about developing skin cancer with the fact that not all of us live in a sunny climate, and most of us are just not getting out into actual sunlight all that often.  Add to this the fact that creating our own vitamin D becomes more difficult as we grow older, and it is easy to see how we can be deficient in the nutrient.  This is why supplementing with is such a good idea.

The importance of D

 Vitamin D plays a variety of roles in our bodies, from helping to build strong bones and teeth to boosting the immune system and possibly helping to prevent certain types of cancer.

As you have probably noticed, most milk is fortified with D.  This is because, without it, our bodies have a hard time absorbing the calcium found in dairy products.  In a study conducted at TuftsUniversity of about 400 men and women over the age of 65, taking 700 IU of vitamin D and 500 mg of calcium every day led to a decrease in bone density loss.  As a bonus, the incidence of fractures was cut in half.

Another study of over 3,000 elderly French women found that taking 800 IU of vitamin D and 1,200 mg of calcium every day cut the incidence of hip fractures by an impressive 43 percent in two years.  Other recent studies have shown that taking 800 IU a day of vitamin D reduces the chances of both falling and fractures.

As a side note, research conducted in 1994 suggests that older women who get higher levels of D from either their diets or supplements have a lesser chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis.  Others have found relief from their back pain by taking D. This is probably due to its ability to help keep bones and cartilage strong.

7 Signs You May Be Vitamin D Deficient

The only way to know for sure if you're vitamin D deficient is via blood testing. However, there are some signs and symptoms to be aware of as well. If any of the following apply to you, you should get your vitamin D levels tested sooner rather than later.

1. You Have Darker Skin

African Americans are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency, because if you have dark skin, you may need as much as 10 times more sun exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D as a person with pale skin!

As Dr. Holick explained, your skin pigment acts as a natural sunscreen, so the more pigment you have, the more time you'll need to spend in the sun to make adequate amounts of vitamin D.

2. You Feel "Blue"

Serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure. In 2006, scientists evaluated the effects of vitamin D on the mental health of 80 elderly patients and found those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who received healthy doses.

3. You're 50 or Older

As mentioned, as you get older your skin doesn't make as much vitamin D in response to sun exposure. At the same time, your kidneys become less efficient at converting vitamin D into the form used by your body and older adults tend to spend more time indoors (i.e. getting even less sun exposure and therefore vitamin D).

4. You're Overweight or Obese (or Have a Higher Muscle Mass)

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble, hormone-like vitamin, which means body fat acts as a "sink" by collecting it. If you're overweight or obese, you're therefore likely going to need more vitamin D than a slimmer person -- and the same holds true for people with higher body weights due to muscle mass.

5. Your Bones Ache

According to Dr. Holick, many who see their doctor for aches and pains, especially in combination with fatigue, end up being misdiagnosed as having fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.

"Many of these symptoms are classic signs of vitamin D deficiency osteomalacia, which is different from the vitamin D deficiency that causes osteoporosis in adults," he says. "What's happening is that the vitamin D deficiency causes a defect in putting calcium into the collagen matrix into your skeleton. As a result, you have throbbing, aching bone pain."

6. Head Sweating

According to Dr. Holick, one of the first, classic signs of vitamin D deficiency is a sweaty head. In fact, physicians used to ask new mothers about head sweating in their newborns for this very reason. Excessive sweating in newborns due to neuromuscular irritability is still described as a common, early symptom of vitamin D deficiency.

7. You Have Gut Trouble

Remember, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means if you have a gastrointestinal condition that affects your ability to absorb fat, you may have lower absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D as well. This includes gut conditions like Crohn's, celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Optimizing Your Vitamin D Levels May Prevent Cancer, Heart Disease, and More

Researchers have pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year. The incidence of several types of cancer could also be slashed in half. As mentioned by Dr. Holick, one of the Nurses' Health Studies showed that nurses who had the highest blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, averaging about 50 ng/ml, reduced their risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 50 percent. Similarly, a Canadian study done by Dr. Knight showed that women who reported having the most sun exposure as a teenager and young adult had almost a 70 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer. Dr. Holick noted:

"Studies have shown that if you improve your vitamin D status, it reduces risk of colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and a whole host of other deadly cancers by 30 to 50 percent. You're correct. Cancer is a big deal. You need to realize that vitamin D is playing a very important role in helping to maintain cell growth and to help fight cancer when a cancer cell is developing in your body."

Vitamin D also fights infections, including colds and the flu, as it regulates the expression of genes that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses. In this interview above, Dr. Holick expounds on these and many other health benefits of vitamin D. For instance, optimizing your vitamin D levels can help protect against:

  • Cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D is very important for reducing hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. According to Dr. Holick, one study showed that vitamin D deficiency increased the risk of heart attack by 50 percent. What's worse, if you have a heart attack and you're vitamin D deficient, your risk of dying from that heart attack creeps up to nearly 100 percent!
  • Autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D is a potent immune modulator, making it very important for the prevention of autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Infections, including influenza. It also helps you fight infections of all kinds. A study done in Japan, for example, showed that schoolchildren taking 1,200 units of vitamin D per day during winter reduced their risk of getting influenza A infection by about 40 percent. I believe it's far more prudent, safer, less expensive, and most importantly, far more effective to optimize your vitamin D levels than to get vaccinated against the flu.
  • DNA repair and metabolic processes. One of Dr. Holick's studies showed that healthy volunteers taking 2,000 IUs of vitamin D per day for a few months up-regulated 291 different genes that control up to 80 different metabolic processes, from improving DNA repair to having effect on autoxidation (oxidation that occurs in the presence of oxygen and/or UV radiation, which has implications for aging and cancer, for example), boosting your immune system and many other biological processes.

Vitamin D—cancer preventative?

 Several studies have found that vitamin D might be helpful in preventing cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate.  One study of over 400 men showed that those with colon cancer had the lowest levels, while healthy men tended to have much higher levels.  A 19-year prospective study of almost 2,000 men in the Chicago area concluded that taking vitamin D was linked to a “significant reduction” in the risk of colon cancer.  In addition, if you are a healthy postmenopausal woman, taking about 1,000 IU of  D combined with about 1,500 mg of calcium every day has been shown to help reduce your risk of developing any form of cancer by about 60 percent.

It is easy to get enough vitamin D—just add a supplement to your daily routine.  With this “sunshine in a bottle” approach, you’ll be sure to get the levels of D that your body needs for not just adequate health, but possible improved health as well.

Check out Bionatures Vitamin D HERE