Vitamin D deficiency is becoming increasingly more common, with some studies showing at least 50% of the North American population testing low for blood levels of this critically important vitamin.
Vitamin D3 which is viewed by many as the most important of the D vitamins is, in fact, more of a “pro hormone” than a vitamin. Our bodies produce vitamin D3 through the reaction of a chemical in our skin, in response to sunlight. Being deficient in this vitamin can cause us to be more susceptible to, and may in some cases double the risk for, many diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma and autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.
So what exactly is Vitamin D and its role in our health? Vitamin D is a fat-soluble hormone essential for growth. It is a necessary component in maintaining strong healthy bones and in supporting the immune system, which makes Vitamin D instrumental in the body protecting itself against cancer and other diseases.
Most health experts are suggesting daily doses of 2,000 to 5,000 IU of Vitamin D to protect against these deficiencies. That may seem like an excessive amount, but if you consider that your skin produces 10,000 IU from 20 to 30 minutes of sun exposure it isn’t that unreasonable. Many might ask if it only takes about 20 minutes of sun exposure to get your daily dose of Vitamin D why are so many people deficient?
There is a number of contributing factors, but sunscreen is at the top of the list. As a society, we have been indoctrinated into the belief that we must wear sunscreen any time that we expect to be out in the sun or we increase our risk of skin cancer, but it simply isn’t true. Sun exposure alone is not what raises our risks of cancer. Poor diet and lack of exercise also are contributing factors as are stress and exposure to too many chemicals.
I find it ironic that there are studies that show that Vitamin D is one of the vitamins that actually fights cancer, yet in our efforts to avoid UV rays and the possibility of skin cancer we are blocking out one of the very things that can help in the fight against cancer. In addition to this I also find it interesting that in those sunscreens, that are supposed to be protecting our skin, we can find ingredients that may contribute to the growth of cancer. If that isn’t a catch 22 conundrum I don’t know what is.
The active ingredients Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, are two of the most concerning of the ingredients which are used in a variety of commonly used sunscreens in the USA. These ingredients are known to penetrate the skin and have been found in mother’s milk.
They have an estrogen like effect on the body and can cause hormone disruption. They have been associated with increased endometriosis in women, and with reproductive and thyroid problems in laboratory studies. These ingredients are also associated with reasonably high rates of skin allergies as well.
They are chemicals and it is a valid concern that the additional toxic exposure, especially for those who use it daily, may compromise the immune system opening the door to diseases like cancer.
Mineral sunscreens that use Zinc Oxide may be a better choice if you are going to be in the sun for long periods of time. They have shown no evidence of hormone disruption and are not an allergic concern, though some concern has been raised with inhalation since zinc oxide is often used as a powder or spray.
And don’t forget the inactive ingredients, particularly those used as preservatives. Methylisothiazolinone was named allergen of the year in 2012 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. This year the Environmental Working Group found this ingredient on the labels of 94 sunscreen products including 6 that were marketed for children.
Other contributing factors to low Vitamin D exposure may include the modern lifestyle which includes sitting in an office most of the day or indoor recreation such as TV watching and video game playing. If we never set foot outside except to get into our car to go to our next indoor destination than the odds of getting enough sunshine are pretty low.
So what are some things we can do to increase our Vitamin D intake in a healthy way?
First, we need to stop being afraid of the sun. There is no rule that says you must spend your time in the sun during the hottest part of the day. I have a naturally pale complexion. So I try to take time outside in the early morning or the late afternoon and early evening hours.
This way I am still able to enjoy being in the sunshine without over exposing myself. This aids in my Vitamin D intake and also enhances my mood by getting me out in nature.
Very few foods in nature provide adequate amounts of Vitamin D, however, a small portion of your daily needs can be gotten through certain foods such as Salmon, Swordfish, and Tuna in addition to beef liver, cheese, and eggs yolks.
The problem with vitamin fortified foods is that those vitamins are nearly always synthetically produced with chemicals in a laboratory. Synthetic vitamins are made to mimic the way natural vitamins act in our bodies but many of them lack the necessary transporters and co-factors of vitamins found in nature. Because of this they simply do not absorb into our systems as well as their natural counterparts.
Most of these fortified foods are also highly processed and provide little more than empty calories. Cold cereal is probably one of the most widely eaten fortified foods, which is advertised to be part of a good breakfast, but which is more or less a dead food lacking in the whole food nutrition that is essential to good health.
So maybe give up the makeup with sunscreen in it and be judicious in exposing yourself to moderate amounts of direct sunlight. Be careful when relying on fortified foods for your vitamin needs, and choose whole foods and a good whole food supplement whenever possible instead. These things will meet your bodies needs better and without the overload of chemicals and added calories.
For a healthier, you, remember… All things in moderation, and common sense. Fewer chemicals, and more of what was given to us in nature.
Denise is a Michigander turned Pennsylvanian, who has been writing stories since Elementary School. Denise won an award at the annual Lansing Youth Talent Show, when she was in 10th grade, for a short story entitled Procrastination is Fatal, but didn’t decide on writing as a career until she was 28 years old. While homeschooling her older children she spent 4 years working through a course from The Institute of Children’s Literature. Through the years Denise’s children have had a variety of health issues, many of which have been linked to various sensitives; having spent more than 20 years researching and trying different things Denise has a boots on the ground view on healthier living. Denise currently writes for 2 blogs and has several books in different stages of completion. She is planning to break ground in e publishing, and hopes to have her first Historical Fantasy book which is set during the renaissance, “Lisa, My Lisa?” ready by the first of the year.