Monday, January 8, 2018

The Vitamin D Effect---More Than Just S.A.D. Relief!

We're right in the thick of winter and I'm one of the 6% of people in the U.S. who suffer from mild Seasonal Affective Disorder! It is hard on my poor husband, my dog, and my body. Some of the symptoms I experience are: needing to sleep much more than normal, lack of wanting to get outside, lack of desire to exercise, lack of motivation for pretty much anything. It is during this time that I am in danger of losing my "girlish figure". I jest of course, but still....this is when I can really pack on the pounds. 

We already know that Vitamin D is the Sun vitamin and that there is evidence which shows that supplementation can help calm down your Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms. My doctor told me recently that there are quite a few people in my state of Utah who test low in Vitamin D. There are a couple reasons for this. First of all, we are in the western U.S., surrounded by mountains on the east and west, making the sunrise later and the sunset earlier. And because many people in the state are very health conscious, they additionally use sunscreen to block out the sun in order to prevent skin cancer. But it also blocks Vitamin D.
Besides alleviating the symptoms of S.A.D., there are some other very exciting benefits that accompany having sufficient levels of the Sun Supplement. There is even an ideal blood serum level to aim for that appears to be the magic number. That would be 40-60 ng/ml year round.  
What are some of these other benefits? Here they are:

  • A 50% Reduction in Breast Cancer - When there is a 50 ng/ml level of Vitamin D in the system, the risk of cancer in women is substantially lowered. Additionally, in every case of aggressive prostrate cancer in men, it was found that D levels were BELOW 23 ng/ml. "Vitamin D metabolites increase communication between cells by switching on a protein that blocks aggressive cell division." Being proactive about cancer prevention is paramount in order to avoid it altogether.  Vitamin D treatment seems to be an important part of that process!
  • Vitamin D has an amazing ability to dramatically improve heart function. Dr. Klaus Witte led a research project that divided patients into two groups, one receiving a placebo and one receiving a Vitamin D3 Supplement. After 1 year, the Vitamin D group experienced significant improvement in heart function as compared to the placebo group. Dr. Witte called it "nothing short of amazing." 
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On the flip side, people who avoid the sun risk a mortality rate of 0.6 - 2.1 years earlier than those who are moderate in their sun exposure habits. This is astonishing when so many people try hard to avoid the sun because of the risk of melanoma and photo-aging. I was one of those people, until recently. In a recent study, "Nonsmokers who avoided sun exposure had a life expectancy similar to smokers in the highest sun exposure group, indicating that avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking." Are you getting that? Avoiding the sun is like being a smoker in terms of your risk of dying!

What is active, intentional sun exposure? Basically it's 20 minutes of sun exposure, during the hours of 12 - 3 p.m.,  with moderate amounts of skin exposed. For instance, short sleeves, shorts, a bathing suit, or similar clothing. The amount of time in the sun should give just the faintest pink color to the skin, nothing more. Of course, trying to get sun exposure during the dead of winter is not ideal.

There are instances where active, intentional sun exposure may not be in your best interests, one of them being winter. The other would be when you are at high risk for melanoma carcinoma. It is at this juncture that you weigh between the mostly healthy Vitamin D effect and the risk of getting cancer--not an easy option to weigh. 

Another way to boost Vitamin D is through supplementation. However, it needs to be optimally combined with Calcium and Vitamin K in order to give the same results as being produced naturally in the skin through exposure to sun.

We are not yet at a point where this kind of information is standardized and readily available to the general public. Getting Vitamin D levels checked is not part of a regular medical exam because the new research hasn't had a chance to become the norm among medical professionals. But just knowing some of these findings will help us take our health into our own hands and proactively request Vitamin D levels during yearly check-ups. It could dramatically improve yours, mine, and everyone's quality of life, and even increase the years we live! 


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