Summer Sunshine and Vitamin D
By Dr. William H. Karl, D.C.
Summer’s finally here! The rays of the sun are very strong at this time of year, so play it safe by limiting your sun exposure and pay attention to signs of burning. It’s easier to prevent a burn than undo the damage later. However, if you can be in the sun without burning, you may be able to reap some of the amazing benefits of sunshine – of which there are many!
Theoretically, it’s possible to obtain almost all of our vitamin D requirements from sunshine. It’s the way our bodies were designed. However, most people cannot get the required amount of vitamin D from the sun for lots of reasons. The body’s ability to convert precursor vitamin D into useable vitamin D3 in the layers of the skin when exposed to ultraviolet light is often hampered due to both natural and unnatural conditions.
The factors that can interfere with our ability to obtain enough vitamin D from the sun include the time of year, time of day, latitude, elevation, the ozone layer, cloud cover, pollution, surface reflection, one’s age, sunscreens, current tan level, skin color, kidney function, and whether or not one has inflammatory bowel disease or other conditions causing fat malabsorption, one’s weight (including obesity or people who have undergone gastric bypass surgery), antioxidant levels, overall diet, and nutrition.
Even without the above adverse conditions, we need to have the precursor (pre-vitamin D) that’s made from cholesterol in the outer layers of our skin. To have this, we must consume healthy fats. If you’ve already had your cholesterol lowered artificially, it may be worth looking at your ratios to see what’s best for your overall health. This part is pretty technical so I’ll save it for my workshop on July 24th, 2016.
Approximately 50% of the general population and 95% of our senior citizens in the US are at risk for vitamin D deficiencies and/or insufficiency. There’s still plenty of confusion over the best ways to get vitamin D and how much is needed, so this isn’t surprising. For seniors, getting vitamin D from the sun rarely provides adequate levels since people over the age of 70 produce about 30 percent less vitamin D compared to those who are younger with similar sun exposure.
Why do we need vitamin D? It’s known primarily for preventing osteoporosis by regenerating and maintaining healthy bone structure. Vitamin D balances calcium and phosphorus which helps regulate blood pressure and prevent heart disease, assists with diabetes, improves immunity, helps the body resist infections, and provides protection against many forms of cancer and autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Sunshine activates your pineal gland to produce feel good hormones. Feeling “blue” is one of the “7 Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency” by Dr. Mercola (2014). Other signs included having darker skin, being 50+ years of age, being overweight or having a higher muscle mass, having aching bones (often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome), head sweating, and gut trouble. Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, deficiencies often result when the ability of the gastrointestinal tract to absorb fat is affected (e.g. Crohn’s disease, celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and inflammatory bowel disease).
Dr. Mercola described vitamin D as a potent neuroregulatory steroidal hormone influencing nearly 3,000 of our 25,000 genes that may be turned on or turned off depending on the sufficiency of our vitamin D levels. He cites a study by Dr. Holick in which 2,000 IUs of vitamin D per day for several months resulted in the up-regulation of 291 different genes controlling 80 different metabolic processes.
I recommend taking a high quality, non-synthetic vitamin D supplement and consuming foods that provide vitamin D, because few people can obtain enough to meet requirements from sunshine. The best sources of vitamin D3 are fish liver oils and the flesh of fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, and mackerel. Small amounts of vitamin D3 are also found in egg yolks, beef liver, and cheese, and certain mushrooms.
Avoiding synthetic vitamin D is essential. When synthetic vitamin D supplements were given to children in the early part of the 19th century, it resulted in calcifying the kidneys. Even people today can have this happen. If the condition isn’t too advanced, there are natural ways of helping resolve it. Otherwise, medical intervention may be necessary.
Having vitamin D levels checked annually through a blood test is also extremely important. The ideal range for general health agreed upon by many experts is 50 – 70 ng/ml, more in some cases. I recommend that all of my patients test and monitor their levels annually as they may change throughout the years.
Vitamin D supplementation must also be balanced with vitamin D’s friends, free fatty acids. They help move the calcium out of the bloodstream into the tissues where calcium is needed. Free fatty acids also help you avoid hypercalcemia which is excess calcium in the bloodstream. Free fatty acids are also called vitamin K2.
As mentioned earlier, vitamin D helps balance the calcium and phosphorus used for rebuilding bones, making them stronger and enabling them to function like a bank for storing minerals until needed by other body tissues, and systems long to work properly; we need free fatty acids. If you’re deficient in free fatty acids or take the wrong form of calcium, you may end up with calcium deposits. Calcium deposits may contribute to or even create conditions such as kidney stones, bone spurs, stiff joints, osteoarthritis, bone cancer, gallstones, ovarian cysts, cellulite, scar tissue, dental plaque, gum disease, and atherosclerosis.
As a side note, calcium is used by the immune system to kill bacteria. Your white cells use calcium like a weapon. When you are sick and have a fever, putting calcium into circulation in your body helps to kill the bad bacteria.
So much to tell you….Come to the workshop and learn more!
Dr. William H. Karl, D.C