The sun is a supreme and life stimulating force. Life as we know it was created in its power and you could say that we are all creatures of the sun, because without it life would not exist. Whether you are outside soaking in its rays or inside basking in its perfect light, embrace the sun. It nourishes us like food and there’s so many reasons to welcome its life giving energy.
Ever wonder why people are more prone to sickness in the winter or suffer from seasonal affective disorders (SAD)?
For many of us, in the winter time, our summer sun reserves of vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) are diminishing and our immune system can weaken without an adequate supply. Sunlight has been shown to have a significant impact on our health and emotional well-being. That’s because, on a daily basis, sunlight- or even good artificial full-spectrum light- helps us regulate sleep, mood, digestion, and many many of our various hormonal and body cycles. In fact, people can now get a prescription for light to help alleviate seasonal light deficiencies. So you could say that like real food, light is medicine.
Why is Vitamin D the Sunshine Vitamin?
Lately many of us have seen the headlines and read about vitamin D and its growing list of positive health benefits. However, many may still not be aware of the best sources or ways to get vitamin D levels to the range indicated for good health.
Here’s some useful information taken from the vitamin D council’s site (www.vitamindcouncil.org ) about this much needed and still enigmatic nutrient:
Vitamin D is important for good overall health and strong and healthy bones. It’s also an important factor in making sure your muscles, heart, lungs and brain work well and that your body can fight infection.
Vitamin D isn’t like most other vitamins. Your body can make its own vitamin D when you expose your skin to sunlight. But your body can’t make other vitamins. You need to get other vitamins from the foods you eat. For example, you need to get vitamin C from fruits and vegetables.
Also what makes vitamin D unique compared to other vitamins, is that when your body gets its vitamin D, it turns vitamin D into a hormone. This hormone is sometimes called “activated vitamin D” or “calcitriol.”
Getting the right amount of vitamin D doesn’t necessarily depend on the foods you eat. To get enough vitamin D, ideally, you need to expose your skin to sunlight regularly. If that’s not an option due to the time of year, then you can get vitamin D rich foods into your diet through things like fermented cod liver oil or lard (from pastured pork) for example, these are two very rich sources for vit D. Supplementation using only synthesized vitamin D has been around for a relatively short amount of time, so using it only and not the other compliments that are found in food forms, like A, E, and K may promote toxicity. Nature has balances built in, labs don’t necessarily. So if you do supplement with synthesized D, it’s wise to add the compliments, especially K2, to avoid toxicity. Regardless, it’s safe to say that the sun is ultimately the best source for obtaining this essential nutrient. Additionally, because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means we need fat for it to be utilized, any drug or substance that interferes with fat absorption may cause problems, and this includes a low-fat diet.
But what about the risk of skin cancer?
Increasingly, the products many of us use on a daily basis contain sunscreen. Sunscreen blocks the synthesis of vitamin D ~ so could the prevention be one of the causes? Dermatologists are warning us to stay out of the sun or protect our skin from the sun with high SPF, heavy duty sunblocks. But what are we losing by completely hiding from our life giving energy source?
Here’s some information taken from the work of Stephanie Seneff, PhD, a Senior Research Scientist at MIT:
Ironically, sunlight is one of the best protective agents against cancer. Although we are encouraged to stay out of the sun or to lather on the sunscreen for fear of getting skin cancer should we venture outside on a sunny day, the truth is that incidence rates of skin cancer have been rising steadily by 2 percent per year for the last thirty years, while sunscreen usage has increased thirty-fold. Sunscreens interfere with vitamin D3 synthesis in the skin and this effect may more than negatively compensate for any protection they afford from UV exposure.
Furthermore, places nearer the equator and places with less annual rainfall have lower rates of a multitude of different cancers, including esophageal, gastric, colon, pancreatic, breast, ovarian, rectal, prostate, renal, bladder, cervical, gallbladder, laryngeal, oral and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A cancer diagnosed in the summer has a better prognosis than one diagnosed in the winter. And sunlight is also excellent treatment therapy following a cancer diagnosis.
I’m not suggesting turning into a sun god or goddess, but rather, getting the ideal amount of exposure for maximum benefit. Like food, too much of a good thing is no longer good for you. But in the right amounts, is exactly what we need to create and maintain optimal health.
Here’s a general guide for sun exposure, taken from a research article, The Miracle of Vitamin D, written for the Weston Price Foundation:
Sun exposure at higher latitudes before 10 am or after 2 pm will cause burning from UV-A before it will supply adequate vitamin D from UV-B. This finding may surprise you, as it did the researchers. It means that sunning must occur between the hours we have been told to avoid. Only sunning between 10 am and 2 pm during summer months for 20-120 minutes (depending on skin type and color) will form adequate vitamin D before burning occurs.
In the summer, you may need to be careful to avoid over exposure and sunburn, especially during the heat of the day. However, in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, during the late fall through early spring, because the sun is lower in the sky and much weaker, greater exposure is O.K. and less caution required. Remember, even if you are not making vitamin D from the sun, your body is still benefitting from its light.
What is the role of Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) with calcium, K2 and magnesium?
Some things just work together. If you are in need of calcium, or calcium deficient, research shows Vitamin D, along with K2 and magnesium are key components for calcium absorption, utilization and elimination. Together they help create strong, resilient and healthy bones. Magnesium compliments the calcium by keeping the calcium in the cell to do its job better. K2 transports the calcium to where it’s needed and keeps the toxicity from too much Vitamin D (in supplement form) in check by helping to remove excess from our body. Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption.
According to Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Kate Rheame-Bleue:
The biological role of vitamin K2, is to help move calcium into the proper areas in your body, such as your bones and teeth. It also helps remove calcium from areas where it shouldn’t be, such as in your arteries and soft tissues.
If you take oral vitamin D, you also need to take vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 deficiency is actually what produces the symptoms if vitamin D toxicity, which includes inappropriate calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries.
If you take a calcium supplement, it’s important to maintain the proper balance between calcium, vitamin K2, vitamin D, and magnesium. Lack of balance between these nutrients is why calcium supplements have become associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
These vitamins work in harmony to transport, uptake and utilize what we need and where we need it throughout our bodies. Best food sources of vitamin K2 include: fermented foods, grass fed butter, egg yolk, chicken breast/liver, organ meats. Aside from some fermented foods, those on a vegan diet may want to supplement to obtain K2.
You don’t have to be SAD!
What are some of the other health benefits from the sun?
There’s well established links between darkness and depression. In fact, research now shows low levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter Serotonin (a chemical that helps regulate your mood) in people with depression. Interestingly, Serotonin activity increases on brighter days, even in the same season. Bright light can boost your mood by increasing the activity of Serotonin in your brain. This suggests that levels of Serotonin in your brain are directly related to how much sunlight is available on any given day.
Although Serotonin functions in the brain, there is a large supply (90%) that resides in our gut and blood platelets. Serotonin can affect how our cardiovascular system, muscles, and many parts of our endocrine system function. See how everything is related?
Humans were made for exposure to sunlight. It allows our body to synthesize the ever-so-critical vitamin D, cleanse our skin, and for so many reasons, nourish our entire body from the outside in. Although good full-spectrum lights are available and useful, like food, there is no supplement to replace the real thing. People should strive to enjoy direct exposure to sunlight to maintain good health and spirit. Go outside when you can and soak in the rays. Create light inside where possible; open up your windows, draw back the curtains, arrange furniture closer to outside light, and consider skylights. Light up your life ~ BRING ON THE SUN!