Vitamin D, Sunlight and Sunscreen – Vitamin D

Lately, a lot of press has touted the benefits of very high Vitamin D intake (higher than the Recommended Daily Allowance).  High Vitamin D intake reportedly leads to a signification reduction in bone loss, improvements in energy, mood and immune function, fewer cancers and even a lower overall death rate.  Recent press has also put a bright light onto the sunscreen industry and the ineffectiveness of most sunscreen products, the toxicity of chemical sunscreens and even our need for UV light to reach our skin.  All of this can be confusing when viewed from the typical standpoint that “the sun is evil and must be avoided to prevent skin cancer, sunscreen is good, and vitamin D is toxic in high doses.”  Let’s tackle the issue in three parts.  First – Understanding Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is really less of a vitamin than a hormone precursor.  Its actions are more global and hormonal in nature than other vitamins.  Vitamin D is a fat soluble substance produced in the skin and further activated in the liver and kidneys.  The process of creation and activation of Vitamin D is so complex that it would be difficult to explain here, but the important step of sunlight (specifically UVB) radiation on bare skin is critical to mention.  The current recommendation to avoid all sun exposure is causing a massive shortage of Vitamin D synthesis in even the least susceptible of populations.  Without this critical sun exposure, we are not forming the Vitamin D required to keep us healthy.  Vitamin D has clinically been shown to accelerate bone formation, leading to stronger bones and enables faster healing from fractures.  Low levels are often associated with impaired immune function, leading to more susceptibility to colds and the flu, this is often cited as a reason for people to get sick in the winter as there is less sun exposure during colder weather.  The major biologic function of Vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.  It is also well established that proper Vitamin D levels regulate cell proliferation and differentiation.  In other words, it offers protection from cancers.  Activated Vitamin D in the adrenal gland regulates tyrosine hydroxylase, the rate limiting enzyme necessary for the production of dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine.  These neurotransmitters affect mood, drive, ambition, and an overall general feeling of well being.  No wonder people in the northern climates get S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder).  Healthy Vitamin D levels also control leptin secretion by fat cells helping to maintain normal weight and fat storage.

Healthy Vitamin D levels are critical to our overall health and should be very easy for most of us to attain with some smart sun exposure.  However, many are chronically low and require supplementation.  Vitamin D3 can be taken alone or can be found in cod liver oil in effective quantities.  A daily dose of Vitamin D should also be considered for anyone requiring calcium supplementation for bone health as the two together are much more effective than either alone.  We have simplified this equation with our own Calcium Plus, and recommend it freely for bone health, mood stabilization, muscle function and recovery, and immune health.  It is possible to take too much, but the risk is VERY low when taking D3 verses the cheaper, more common D2.  Processed food companies who care enough about our health to “fortify” foods with Vitamin D tend to choose the cheaper, virtually ineffective, and potentially toxic version D2.

The answer to how, when and how much to get of Vitamin D, seems a challenge and is often misunderstood.  It is really quite simple – sunlight.  Safe and prudent use of the sun’s rays will provide all the Vitamin D that you can use without the worry about proper doses or toxicity.  A deficient body will respond favorably to supplementation and based on our common American lifestyle, many, if not most, of the general population is deficient, more so when viewed against what we feel are optimal levels.  Consider adding Vitamin D to your diet through sun exposure first, and as part of a foundational supplementation regimen second. A high dose therapeutic treatment should be a last step monitored by a health professional.