To live vigorously and luxuriantly, to flourish
Do you tend to hibernate in the winter? The sun sets (around 5:00 p.m.) and you no longer walk the park after dinner or run as many errands as you would during the LONG days of summer. Do seemingly unending days of gray skies prompt feelings of melancholy? It is not unusual to feel depressed, unmotivated or just LAZY in the winter.
Southern beach towns swell in numbers from January to April. We innately know that sunshine has a significant influence on our health and feelings of well-being. And that influence comes via VITAMIN D.
The term vitamin D actually refers to two different forms of the vitamin; D2, which comes from our diet, and D3, which is manufactured by our skin when exposed to sunlight. However, the name, vitamin D, is a bit misleading. Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin at all but a potent neuroregulatory, steroidal hormone that influences nearly 3,000 of your 25,000 genes. It literally turns on and off genes that can exacerbate or prevent many diseases.
It is estimated that 85 percent of Americans have insufficient levels of vitamin D. Despite the overwhelming evidence showing that vitamin D is extremely important for a wide variety of health conditions besides bone health. The RDA is at only 600 IUs for all ages and conditions; pregnant, infant or a 70 year old.
As a general rule, older people need more vitamin D than younger people, large people need more than small people, fat people need more than skinny people, northern people need more than southern people, dark-skinned people need more than fair skinned people, winter people need more than summer people, sun-phobes need more than sun worshipers, and ill people may need more than well people.
Vitamin D is manufactured in your skin from cholesterol. This only happens if a catalyst in the form of ultraviolet rays from the sun is present. When exposed to sunshine, your skin produces two types of sulfur: cholesterol sulfate and vitamin D3 sulfate. Combined, the two sulfurs; cholesterol, and vitamin D produced in your skin, are all necessary for optimal health. They are particularly essential to the immune system and brain and heart health.
If you’re wearing a sunscreen with an SPF level of 8 or greater, then you’re pretty much guaranteeing that you won’t generate any vitamin D. Combine this with the mounting research on the effects of toxic sunscreens absorbing into warm skin and you increase your risk of disease and illness. Case in point; skin cancer rates are rising by 4.2% annually, despite the fact that we spend less time outdoors and wear more sunscreen.
Research is now proving that mineral deficiency in the diet has a profound effect on damaging sunburn and skin cancer. Insoluble mineral oxide formulations remain on the upper layers of the skin and are not systemically absorbed. Mineral oxides absorb and filter UVA and UVB, reducing the amount of UVR that penetrates the layers of the skin. Minerals may also augment antioxidant defense mechanisms in the skin. Most significant protection comes with ZINC, SELENIUM AND MAGNESIUM.
A deficiency in Vitamin D has been associated with the increased incidence of depression. The brain is approximately 60% fat and as such depends on quality fat to insure proper nerve cell activity. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that has shown to have a profound effect on brain health.
A review in the journal “Psychoneuroendocrinology” notes that vitamin D acts on neuronal cells to modulate the production of chemicals in the brain that regulate the survival and growth of neurons. The exact mechanisms of how vitamin D acts on neuronal cells to affect mood are unknown, but this review also notes that vitamin D imbalances may play a role in depression and other brain diseases like Parkinson’s and epilepsy.
Vitamin D works in the intestines, facilitating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from food. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body, 99 percent of your body’s calcium is stored in your bones and teeth. Calcium is necessary for not only bone health but also regulating your heartbeat, conducting nerve impulses, clotting blood and stimulating hormone secretions.
Your body does not make calcium, and in fact loses calcium daily through your skin, nails, hair, sweat and elimination, which is why you must replace it via your diet. The Chinese peasant diet, which was free of cow’s milk and calcium supplements, contained approximately 250 mg a day of plant-based calcium. It was all that was needed to fulfill their bodily needs – and this is a culture with no word for “osteoporosis” in its 3,000+ year old language!
The actions of vitamin D promote bone calcification and development by inhibiting the secretion of the parathyroid hormone. The parathyroid hormone causes the breakdown of bone for the purposes of releasing calcium to the blood. This is a protection mechanism for quick muscle contraction or to alkalize the system when magnesium is deficient. A vitamin D deficiency can allow the parathyroid to “over react” to stressful conditions.
When the body is under stress, emotionally or physically, several “fight or flight” mechanisms are stimulated. Most critical is the body’s need for adequate calcium. Calcium is the “take action” mineral while magnesium is the calming mineral. This causes the parathyroid hormone to stimulate cells that break down bone and increase reabsorption of calcium from the kidneys. If the stress continues the parathyroid can go into overdrive.
Calcium can build in the kidneys causing kidney stones. It can also cause excess calcium in the heart creating excessively strong contractions leading to high blood pressure or even heart attack.
Research has discovered that vitamin D may be an effective therapeutic agent to treat or prevent allergy to a common mold. Aspergillus fumigatus, is one of the most prevalent fungal organisms inhaled by people. Aspergillus fumigatus is a very common mold in home environments, where it’s known for taking up residence in unsuspecting locations like your bedroom pillows.
While ordinarily harmless if you’re healthy, Aspergillus fumigatus can cause a serious allergic reaction called Aspergillosis in people with weakened immune systems, lung disease or asthma. Researchers at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans found that vitamin D not only reduced the production of a protein driving the allergic response to mold, it also increased production of the proteins that promote tolerance. This means vitamin D may not only help treat mold allergy, it may help prevent it as well.
Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with restless sleep, muscle cramps, general fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain or weakness, inability to concentrate, headaches, constipation or diarrhea and bladder problems. Vitamin D is also beneficial to mitigating symptoms of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, periodontal disease and diabetes.
Research has shown a strong link between vitamin D deficiency and breast, lung, pancreatic, ovarian, prostate and colon cancers and multiple sclerosis. Sun generated vitamin D is shown to help prevent up to 78% of all cancers.
Each of us has different needs for unprotected sun exposure to maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D. Depending on your age, what type of skin you have, where you live and what time of the day and year it is, your need will vary. The farther you live from the equator, the more exposure to the sun you need in order to generate Vitamin D.
Researchers at the Environmental Working Group (a Washington-based, nonprofit) released their annual report claiming nearly half of the 500 most popular sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer.
Non-Toxic Sunscreen Recipe: (SPF 6-8)
2 tablespoon Virgin Coconut Oil
1 tablespoon Shea Butter
1 tablespoon Avocado Oil
1/2 teaspoon Sesame Oil
1/2 teaspoon Aloe Vera Gel
Keep in mind that this recipe will not allow you to stay in the sun for hours without burning, even if you have darker skin. If you have pale skin and are prone to burning in very short periods, this recipe will only modestly protect you when UV rays are at their highest strength. Intermittent periods spent in the shade are highly recommended to balance the UV dose you receive.
For those that tan well, this lotion will give you an excellent color and glow if used daily while spending a minimum of 30 minutes in the sun. Although it’s not waterproof, it is water resistant if applied thoroughly and spread evenly. In direct sunlight, you must reapply a thin layer of the lotion every half hour for optimal results.
Foods high in Zinc: sesame seeds (tahini), pumpkin seeds, lentils, chick peas, cashews, quinoa, crimini mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, chard, real maple syrup, cacao, green peas, oats, beet green and sea vegetables.
Foods high in Magnesium: Chlorophyll or greens are the best source of magnesium. Other sources are bananas, walnuts, raw sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachio, pine nuts, oatmeal, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, watercress, cucumber, peas, radish, ginger, plum, melon, celery, endive, grapes, apricots, raspberries, pears, pineapple, oranges, dates, chestnuts, papaya and peaches. Raw Cacao or (chocolate) is also one of the best sources of magnesium.
Foods high in Selenium: Brazil nuts, garlic, oats, brown rice, broccoli, wheat germ, whole grains, mushrooms, red grapes, chia seeds and sesame seeds.
Here are a few delicious recipes with high mineral content:
Pumpkin Seed Basil Pesto or Chocolate Tahini Dip
Vitamin D3 is the most bioavailable form and cannot be sourced from our food. Living Nutritionals has developed a “patch” application that delivers bioavailable D3, K2, and Magnesium through direct slow absorption into the skin, closely resembling the body’s natural production of D3 through sunlight exposure. http://www.livingnutritionals.com/product/d3-16-patches/
When considering food sources for Vitamin D2 it is imperative that you choose clean, organic, wild caught, grass fed sources. Toxins are stored in fat which makes animal sources of Vitamin D subject to contamination or destruction. The highest concentrations of Vitamin D are found in fatty fish such as tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel and salmon. Shitake and button mushrooms are also high in D, and their level of the vitamin actually increases when exposed to ultraviolet light. Eggs can also provide Vitamin D when sourced from healthy, organic raised chickens.