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Monday, March 31, 2008

the lowdown on D

Lately I've been fascinated by recent findings associated with the health benefits of Vitamin D. Called the "sunshine vitamin," it needs sunlight to do its magic. Most of us know that D plays a role in bone health, "milk for strong bones." (Vitamin D is not easy to get in foods which is why milk is fortified with it.) But evidence has been steadily emerging to tell us that D helps keep our immune system functioning properly and may help prevent the growth of cancer cells, too.
Now that we're all convinced sunlight is the equivalent of the modern day antichrist when it comes to the skin cancer prevention, we may have swung the pendulum too far. Less sunshine, less risk of skin cancer, yes, but too little sunshine and we have a greater risk of developing other types of cancers: breast and colon, for example. Autoimmune disorders may result from too little sunshine as well, such as multiple sclerosis and diabetes.

Sunlight and Vitamin D may play a role in depression as well. Seasonal Affect Disorder, or SAD, is believed to occur when people get too little sunshine. It is especially prevalent in places like Alaska and Seattle. I believe my own depression was related to getting too little sun. I belong to a gym and for years got my primary workouts indoors. A few years ago, however, I went back to playing tennis (after long hiatus). My indoor gym workouts were replaced by sunshine supplemented workouts. Very quickly I found myself feeling much better: more energy, better moods, improved sleep patterns. I may not be getting the same quality workout, but I feel better and that quickly became more important to ME and my everyday functioning.

SAD experts recommend 15-30 minutes of exposure to sunlight daily as a natural "antidepressant." Take a morning walk, sit outside and read the paper or take your work break outside. Make it a part of your daily routine, for sunshine's sake. For a more detailed look at SAD, read here.

The Harvard School of Public Health's Nutrition Department publishes The Nutrition Source, a website talking about various health and nutrition topics. If you want to read more on Vitamin D, here is a good place to start. Their overview of guidelines and good stuff found in multi-vitamins can be read here.

And one more healthful offering: Oprah's experts, Drs. Oz and Roizen, put together an antiaging checklist which includes the recommendation to take 1000 units of D daily to keep us looking and feeling young. Dr. Oz was mentioned in a comment by Jeanne of knitresolution blogfame, sharing that he recommends splitting multi-vitamins and taking half in the morning and half in the evening to get maximum benefits.

9 comments:

JCK said...

Great column! :) I have been hearing more and more about this. Thanks for all the info and the links. We definitely tend to swing to far on these issues.

And it makes complete sense to me that tennis makes you feel so good. I used to play years ago, and someday, someday...but, how much more fun than a workout in a gym!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I know I need sunshine, that's why I'm never leaving San Diego!

AnnD said...

Great blogging there! I always get the calcium supplements with the Vitamin D in them. I try to get sunshine, but it's so hard in the winter sometimes! Some of my clients get really bad SAD...it usually begins late October to Novemberish here.

Deb said...

Vitamin D is a good thing, and getting it in whatever way possible (sun worshipping notwithstanding) is also good.

Anonymous said...

good info as I head to sunny FL!!

and thanks for the shout out on the blog!

jeannie

Health Psych said...

Great post. I also raised this issue a while back. As someone who is chronically vitamin D deficient, I hear what you're saying. It's been a big issue here in Australia, home of the world's highest skin cancer rate, so much so that they've had to publicise the benefits of getting sun exposure (in a sensible manner).

Linda said...

ah, vitamin D! one of the only surviving benefits of sometimes harmful sunlight ;) vitamin D is so helpful for eyesight. my mother has been ensuring she gets the right daily amounts to help her eyesight. i came across this site and found even more great benefits of vitamin D!

Stacy said...

Hi! thanks for stopping by my blog -- been enjoying yours.

I just had mega-doses of Vitamin D last fall and still take 2000 IUs a day. I had a terrible year last year, including a never-ending sinus infection, low adrenal function, low vitamin d, foggy brain, etc.

Getting my vitamin d up really lifted my foggy brain and helped me think more clearly. It also lifted my fatigue. I am lucky enough to live in a mild climate (Seattle) where we can go without sunscreen in the non-hottest parts of the day and get some natural vit d, too.

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