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VITAMIN D - THE “SUNSHINE HORMONE”

PATHWAY TO HEALTH            

by Patrick Moore, N.D., M.S.sun.jpg

September, 2012

Have you ever wondered why we have an influenza season in the winter and not the summer?  Did you know that people experience more heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, depression, suicides, body aches and weight gain in the winter?  And that if you are diagnosed with cancer in the winter your chances of survival may be less than if you are diagnosed in the summer?  For decades, health experts have theorized over why this is so. Now, medical research and scientific discoveries are providing definitive clues as to why a preponderance of illness may have a seasonal component.  And it’s not complex but quite simple. We’re missing the sun! We’re missing and we’re deficient in  one of the most important, health-enhancing nutrients ever discovered, Vitamin D (which is actually a beneficial hormone).  And for D to be naturally produced, our body requires skin exposure to the sun’s ultra-violet B rays. However, due to the angle of the sun in northern latitudes like Connecticut, B rays disappear in the Fall and don’t return till late Spring. And, for many of us, we limit our exposure to the sun year-round. It’s a major reason why research shows over 70% of us are deficient or insufficient in D and even if we are supplementing. This especially affects the African-American community who reportedly have a 90% deficiency.  We’re just not getting enough of this key nutrient which controls over 2,000 of our genes and is crucial for enhancing and  controlling our immune system. Not enough D and we become more susceptible to infections and infectious diseases and a multitude of cancers ( vitamin D activates over 200 natural, internal, antimicrobial peptides and Harvard researchers recently discovered that people diagnosed with lung cancer with the highest levels of vitamin D lived 100% longer than those with the lowest). Not enough D and our immune system can overreact and promote autoimmune diseases. Not enough D and our muscles and bones weaken, affecting our strength, balance, stamina, and skeletal integrity. Studies show that people with the lowest levels of D are Three times more likely to have musculoskeletal pain.  And a report in the November 7, 2011 American Journal of Cardiology found that adults with the lowest levels of  vitamin D were more than Twice as likely to have diabetes, 40% more likely to have high blood pressure and about  30% more apt to suffer from cardiomyopathy -  a diseased heart muscle – as people without  D deficiency. And, those who were deficient in D had a Three-Fold higher likelihood of Dying from ANY CAUSE than those who were not deficient. There seems to be virtually no limit to D’s influence on countless health conditions too numerous to list but as varied as fertility, weight control, kidney disease, cognitive function, neuro-muscular coordination, maternal and fetal health during pregnancy, to a child’s susceptibility to food allergies, dental caries, asthma, respiratory illnesses, and potentially autism. Perhaps then, we should begin to regard vitamin D as our internal “solar panel” of health. When deficient, those “solar panels” flicker and dim. When optimal levels of D circulate in our bloodstream, our “health panels” glow brightly.

Since most people are either deficient or have insufficient levels of D in their bloodstream, what steps can each of us take to ensure we are achieving optimal levels of D to fully enhance our health. First, have your vitamin D levels checked. It’s a simple blood test called 25-hydroxy Vitamin D.  Normal range is 30 – 100 (ng/ml).  Most vitamin D  scientists suggest you strive to keep your levels in the 40-100 range. They believe it may require a daily supplementation intake of approximately 2000-6000iu of vitamin D for the average adult.   Some will need more, some less.   For kids, Vitamin D scientists recommend 1-2,000 units/day.  Only small amounts are available in food and natural D production from sun exposure (ultraviolet–B) diminishes come late Fall in the northern latitudes.  In my family, none of my children take D supplements from late spring to early fall. I let natural, safe sun exposure do its job with the judicious understanding to “never burn.”  I would use  common sense based on your skin pigmentation and skin melanin content to determine proper exposure time to the sun to develop a therapeutic exposure. This may mean only a few minutes a day if you have very light skin. Longer if your skin is darker.

Finally, let’s understand that the sun is our friend. It’s a powerful natural medicine for health enhancement if properly understood and used wisely.  Most of our ancestors were always aware of this gift from nature.  In fact, two Nobel prizes were awarded in the early twentieth century to a doctor and scientist – Niels Finsen (1903) and Robert Koch (1905) – both known as Heliotherapists - who used the sun, solariums, and ultra-violet B lamps to cure Tuberculosis and improve many health conditions. Their contributions have recently resurfaced with the discovery by British researchers of the impressive results and improved health in patients battling Tuberculosis and Hiv–Aids  by raising their Vitamin D levels.

To learn more about vitamin D and find research articles on specific health issues related to Vitamin D and sunshine exposure,  go to vitaminDcouncil.org. or Grassrootshealth.org.

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