Monday, April 30, 2012

Vitamin D and Sunlight

Vitamin D provides a wide range of health benefits, especially in treating bone diseases such as osteoporosis.  However, according to this article, it's estimated that 30-50% of Americans suffer from vitamin D deficiency. 

The human body produces vitamin D, which is actually a hormone, when exposed to sunlight. However, in the United States, during winter, it is impossible to get enough exposure anywhere north of San Francisco or Philadelphia. People in southern states who slather on sun block or who stay indoors most of the time may not be getting enough either. The same goes for people who are housebound due to illness or whose work keeps them inside all day.

Vitamin D, in the form of calciferol (vitamin D3) is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is found in food, but also can be made in your body after exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. Vitamin D exists in several forms, each with a different function. Some forms are relatively inactive in the body, and have limited ability to function as a vitamin.

The liver and kidneys help convert vitamin D to its active hormone form known as calcitriol; so, in actual fact, vitamin D technically is sunlight derived pro-hormone calcitriol. Vitamin D in its active pro-hormone form of calcitriol is important in determining how our cells express themselves and is vital in the production of various hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in the brain). For the purpose of more clarity and understanding we will refer to calcitriol as vitamin D.

The major biological function of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium, and thus helps to form and maintain strong bones and teeth. It regulates bone mineralization in unison with a number of other vitamins, minerals, and hormones. In short, without vitamin D, bones start to become thin, brittle, soft, or misshapen. Vitamin D prevents rickets in children, osteoporosis and osteomalacia in adults.

The bottom line is that if you take good-quality calcium supplements (for better health avoid pasteurized milk) and get adequate natural sunlight exposure or supplement with a good source of vitamin D (such as high quality cod liver oil), you could easily improve on the 60 percent reductions recorded in this study... but why is it better to get vitamin D from the sun?

The ultraviolet rays of the sun (UV) are the only ones that actually trigger the synthesis of vitamin D in our body. So if you rely on solariums or sun tan beds to get your natural sunlight, check if they radiate some ultraviolet rays.

Deficiency or insufficiency of natural sunlight and vitamin D has been associated with the following conditions:  adrenal insufficiency, Alzheimer's, allergies, auto-immune disorders including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, cancers of the colon, breast, skin and prostate, depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), diabetes, Type 1 and 2, gluten intolerance, lectin intolerance, heart disease, hypertension, Syndrome X, infertility, sexual dysfunction, learning and behavior disorders, misaligned teeth and cavities, obesity, osteopenia, osteoporosis, osteomalacia (adult rickets), Parkinson's, psoriasis,  and PMS.

The question we might ask is why do we not hear as much about the importance of vitamin D as we hear about calcium? The reasons for this, as most would already know, there are no profits in promoting natural sunlight, not for the cancer council or for the pharmaceuticals industry.

In conclusion of the safest way of ensuring adequate vitamin D, getting at least some early morning direct sunlight is very beneficial for all of us. The best sun exposure would be 30 minutes approximately of early morning sun before 9:00 am.

Exposing the back to the early morning sun

Related links:

Sunday Roundup

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  1. I agree that natural sunlight is the best way to get Vitamin D. In winter, and in climates that get a lot of rain, it is good to take vitamin D supplements.

  2. Thanks for sharing at Sunday Round Up.

  3. wow great info. thanks for visting my blog..+)

  4. growing up, one of our morning rituals [with my dad] was to stand infront of our house for the morning sunlight. as babies, pinapaarawan din kami, usually around 7 to 8 am, and it is still practiced in my father's family. no wonder we have strong strong bones.:p

    P.S. thanks for the kind comment you left...marami pang asin na kakainin, 'ika nga. i wish i could more photo-walks, but i couldn't take the heat!

  5. Valuable info especially to someone living in a sunshine state. Thanks for sharing!