The amazing, but under appreciated, Vitamin D

Protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun

We have been warned, time and again to apply sunscreen frequently and limit any direct, unprotected contact with sunlight. We have been told that we’ll get skin cancer if we don’t use sunscreen.  The war against natural sunlight has been ongoing for years now. Now, not only do we have a plethora of sunscreen products to keep that dreaded sun from harming us, but we can also buy clothes and sunglasses that block the sun’s damaging rays as well. So, thank goodness, there are plenty of products to keep us sun free and healthy! And, we all lived happily ever after, right?

What about Vitamin D?

Vitamin D? I thought we were talking about the rays of the sun! Well, almost everyone has heard of vitamin D. But, many don’t realize that direct sunlight on our uncovered skin is the best way to get Vitamin D. But…wait…sunlight is bad for us! Or, is it? Here are some interesting facts about Vitamin D.

  • Our skin synthesizes sunlight and converts it into vitamin D.
  • It is recommended, by those who really do want to see you get and stay well, that we each get at least 15 minutes of uncovered sun per day.
  • Vitamin D is a key ingredient to enabling our bodies to fight off illness and disease.
  • Vitamin D from the sun is plentiful in most parts of the US between April and September. Wow, that’s strange! About the time of year that we are not able to get as much vitamin D from the sun, cold and flu season begins. In fact, some say that there really is no ‘Cold and Flu’ season. But rather, low vitamin D season.
  • In wintertime, if you live north of Atlanta Georgia, you will get almost no natural Vitamin D from the sun. Even Florida residents, they say, can only get about 10% of what they need in the winter, due to the increased angle of the sun.
  • If you live in the mountains, you might be able to get Vitamin D from the sun year round. This is said to be due to the fact that you are a little closer to the sun and the atmosphere is thinner.
  • People who are obese may not, in many cases, get the vitamin D they need. This is because Vitamin D is a fat soluble hormone and so, in these people, it may get stored in fat and might not be readily accessible to the body.
  • Dark skinned people might need more sunlight than light skinned people. This is because dark skin acts like a natural sunscreen, blocking much of the sun’s effects.
  • Vitamin D supplements may not provide all of the benefits that natural Vitamin D generated by the sun can provide.
  • If supplementing with Vitamin D, it is possible to overdo it. When this occurs it can cause something called hypercalcemia.
  • Although most doctors never check Vitamin D levels, your Vitamin D levels can be checked by routine blood work. The normal level should be somewhere between 50 and 90.
  • A low vitamin D level can be an indicator that you have a pathogenic infection. Some say that Vitamin D levels will return to normal once pathogenic infections are reduced or eliminated. When Measuring vitamin D levels it might be best to measure both 25(OH)D and 1,25(OH)2D, to get a clear picture of actual Vitamin D dysregulation.
  • Vitamin D plays a key role in regulation of inflammatory processes.

Vitamin D and pathogenic infection

Vitamin D plays an important role in managing pathogenic infections. The problem is, many of the pathogens that can make us really sick, especially those associated with chronic disease, know this and take actions to dysregulate our Vitamin D. Note that ‘VDR’, as mentioned below, stands for Vitamin D Receptor.

Here is a link to the study that the above excerpt is taken from. It’s an interesting read that once again assures us that just when we think we understand something about how our bodies work, we find that things are way more complicated than we ever imagined.

What about skin cancer?

Yep, there it is. Skin cancer. For me, the jury is still out on how much of a causal effect the sun has on skin cancer, or Melanoma. I’m just not convinced that too much sun is the only factor in the development of skin cancer. Personally, I believe that in many cases viruses and bacteria play a key role in the development of many cancers. But, it may be years before we know the full truth. My biggest question about skin cancer is this: ‘Why does skin cancer often occur on areas of the body that do not get regular sun exposure?’.

Here is a link to an article by Dr. Mercola that questions the hypothesis that too much sun exposure alone causes skin cancer.

Yes, too much sun can be harmful

Now, even with all of the information that I have presented above about how we really do need a certain amount of sunlight to maintain good health, I’m not saying we should overdo it. My goal this spring is to get good sun, like 30 -45 minutes 3-4 times a week. And, like every year, I’m sure I will feel my best once I am again able to achieve this amount of sun exposure. We can get what we need and be reasonable at the same time, by doing the following:

  • Plan your exposures to get what you need, without overdoing it.
  • Try to cover exposed skin with shade or clothing when you have reached your limits, as opposed to applying sunscreen (Because who really knows how that is affecting us all).
  • Avoid burning.

Consider using natural sunscreen

Astaxanthin is a supplement that is said to provide natural sunscreen benefits from the inside out. I personally take astaxanthin, but I haven’t taken it long enough to vouch for the sunscreen benefits. Here is a link to learn more about Astaxanthin:

Some final thoughts on sun exposure

Personally, I feel like we are greatly misguided about sun exposure and Vitamin D. I know that I always feel better in the spring, summer and fall when I am able to get adequate sunlight. I also believe that too much sun ages your skin faster than usual. So I think you have to strive for balanced exposure. That balanced exposure time will likely be different for everyone. And just remember, too much of a good thing can be bad.

Vitamin D is a complicated issue. I do believe that Vitamin D is very important to our health. But even more so, I believe that monitoring our Vitamin D levels is more important than we ever realized as it can be an important indicator of pathogenic infection. So, ask your healthcare provider to check your Vitamin D level frequently. And, if you find that it is consistently low, it may be an indicator that you might be harboring an infection that is steadily preparing your body for long term habitation.

At any rate, good luck on your health journey and…see you outside!

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