(Health Secrets) Even in the gloomiest of winter weather, a day full of sunshine shows up now and then. On those occasional days, try to get in a walk between 11:00 and 3:00, when the sun is the most intense. Be sure to bare your face, hands, and whatever else the temperature will allow, and don’t use sunscreen. This is the way to keep your stores of the sunshine vitamin, also known as vitamin D, going strong all year long.
On his health and wellness website, natural health advocate Dr. Joseph Mercola says that having optimal levels of the sunshine vitamin is one of the simplest solutions to wide-ranging health problems. He considers its deficiency to be pandemic in the United States. Many Americans are not aware that they may be lacking this important substance..
Vitamin D is not a regular vitamin; rather it is a steroid hormone that is synthesized from cholesterol in the presence of sunlight. It enhances intestinal absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Dr. Mercola states vitamin D has the ability to influence genetic expression, leading to a wide range health benefits. Research studies have shown that increasing levels of vitamin D can prevent many chronic diseases. Researchers believe the incidence of several types of cancer could be slashed in half when people have optimal levels.
Dr. Michael Holick is a leading vitamin D researcher who expounds on these and many other health benefits of vitamin D in his book, The Vitamin D Solution. He says vitamin D also fights infections including colds and the flu. It regulates the expression of genes that influence the immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses.
The natural way to get the sunshine vitamin is from interaction with the sun
The easiest and most reliable way to get vitamin D is through sun exposure. As a general rule to produce enough vitamin D the hands, face, arms, and legs need to be exposed to sunlight without sunscreen for a minimum of two to three times a week for half of the time it takes to develop mild sunburn. Exposure time varies with age, skin type, season, and time of day. Dr. Edward Group, DC, NP says healthy levels of vitamin D can be restored quickly by sunlight — 6 days of casual sunlight exposure without sunscreen can make up for 49 days of no sunlight exposure. Vitamin D is stored in body fat during periods of sunlight and then released when sunlight is gone.
If you live in Canada and the northern half of the US you are at risk for vitamin D deficiency, which also occurs in sunny climates when people stay indoors too much, cover up outside, or consistently use sunscreens. Older people are at risk for vitamin D deficiency because they are less likely to spend time in the sun and have fewer receptors in their skin to convert sunlight to vitamin D. They may also not get vitamin D in their diet, and may have trouble absorbing it or converting it to a useful form because of aging kidneys.
Studies show the risk for vitamin D deficiency in people over 65 years of age is high. Nearly 40% of older people, even in sunny climates such as South Florida, don’t have enough vitamin D in their systems.
Vitamin D prevents bone loss in people taking corticosteroids drugs. When calcium balanced with magnesium is supplemented, D seems to improve bone density in people with existing bone loss caused by using ,corticosteroids. Older people who do not have enough vitamin D tend to fall more often than those with adequate levels. Increasing levels of vitamin D in combination with calcium and magnesium may prevent falls by helping to decrease body sway and reduce high blood pressure, especially in women and those living in hospitals or residential care facilities.
Research over the last few years demonstrates a correlation between Alzheimer’s disease and vitamin D deficiency. Another study showed high levels of D resulted in rheumatoid arthritis symptom improvements in an astonishing 89% of patients, with 45% of patients obtaining complete remission.
If you choose to use a tanning bed to increase levels of the sunshine vitamin, Dr. Holick recommends protecting your face, and to only going in for half the time recommended for tanning. The tanning bed you’re using needs to put out UVB radiation. This is the form of radiation that interacts with the skin to create vitamin D.
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