We have finally had some warm sunny days to thaw us out after our unusually snowy winter. As the weather warms up, so does the constant admonitions in the media to avoid the sun at all cost. We are reminded on nearly all fronts to treat the sun like a toxic intruder in our lives and never let its rays touch our skin without the proper synthetic screen generously applied first. The American Academy of Dermatology has stated that no amount of exposure to sunlight is safe because it could cause skin cancer. These scare tactics have created an epidemic of VDDS or Vitamin D Deficiency Syndrome.
Webster's Dictionary defines a syndrome as a "group of symptoms or signs typical of a disease, disturbance, condition, or lesion...a set of concurrent things" while a disorder is a "derangement of function: an abnormal physical or mental condition." A group of world renowned doctors got together and formed the Vitamin D Council to study the effects that a lack of Vitamin D has in the body. Their definition of VDDS is: "We propose that Vitamin D Deficiency Syndrome is a group of symptoms or signs typical of a disease, disturbance, condition, or lesion, a set of concurrent things and a derangement of function. VDDS is the aggregate of symptoms and signs associated with the morbid process of vitamin D deficiency, and constitute together the picture of the disease."
Osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, depression, chronic fatigue or chronic pain. comprises potential manifestations of the syndrome. That is not to say these illnesses are caused by vitamin D deficiency, nor that repletion of the vitamin D system will cure these illnesses. At this point, all that can be said is that these illnesses are associated with vitamin D deficiency. (http://www.vitamindcouncil.com/vdds.shtml)
Cuts Cancer Rate by over 50%
Studies have shown that having adequate levels of Vitamin D in the blood dramatically reduces your chance of getting any form of cancer. One Harvard professor offered evidence in a recent study that vitamin D from the sun may prevent 30 deaths for each one caused by skin cancer. Breast, colon and prostate cancer was 50-75% less in people with high levels of vitamin D in their blood. Even death from Multiple Sclerosis was decreased by 76% when their sunlight exposure was increased. Osteoporosis, high blood pressure and even mental disorders all respond favorably to higher levels of vitamin D in the blood from exposure to the sun.
Vitamin D Sources
The absolute best source of vitamin D is good old sunshine on your skin for 10-20 minutes a day with no sunscreen. After a winter of snowy weather, you need to start with 5 minutes or less and work up to 20 minutes slowly so as not to burn that pasty white skin! The darker your skin, the more sun exposure you need to get the same amount of vitamin D. African Americans have a higher incidence of VDDS as well as the aged and those who are devoid of any sunlight. Let’s be clear that the sun does not give you vitamin D but allows your body to produce it from the cholesterol in your skin. Just like a plant performs photosynthesis, we take the UV-B rays from the sun and convert the cholesterol in our skin into a vital nutrient in our bodies-vitamin D3. Many people believe they are getting vitamin D from eating fish but that is not true. The oil from fish liver (cod liver oil) has vitamin D but there is not much in fish meat. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the preferred form of oral vitamin D and only comes from animal sources like liver and egg yokes.
Not Really a Vitamin
Vitamin D is not really a vitamin but a steroid hormone precursor. Just like estrogen and testosterone are made from cholesterol, so is vitamin D. Again, this is another vital use for the wrongly maligned cholesterol but that is a whole other topic! The cholecalciferol is taken to the liver and converted to calcidiol. Calcidiol is taking via the blood stream to the kidney and turned into calcitriol which is the activated form of vitamin D. The role of vitamin D is to take the calcium from your gut and move it into your blood. Without enough vitamin D, the calcium in your food is not absorbed. Vitamin D not only moves the calcium into the blood but it also moves into the cell and takes the calcium with it. Vitamin D is also responsible for proper apoptosis. Apoptosis is cell death and vitamin D makes sure that the cells die when they are supposed to instead of mutating and turning into cancer. When the blood stream has plenty of calcidiol then it can make lots of calcitriol. Once the blood levels of calcitriol are sufficient the remainder can move into the cells and regulate their normal life span. If you are deficient in cholecalciferol, you will be deficient in calcidiol which makes you deficient in calcitriol and your cells will have an easier time mutating in the presence of carcinogens. That is why low levels of vitamin D have been correlated with lots of different cancers and diseases. Dr. Michael Holick wrote a book, The UV Advantage. Dr. Holick is probably the top vitamin D expert in the world and you can read an interview Dr. Mercola conducted with him at http://www.mercola.com/2004/jul/14/vitamin_d_book.htm .
Dr. Giovannucci from Harvard said that, "I would challenge anyone to find an area, nutrient or any factor that has such consistent anti-cancer benefits as vitamin D." Dr. Giovannucci is a professor in the departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He was recently awarded the 2005 DeWitt-Goodman Award for excellence in cancer research from the American Association for Cancer Research. With news like this, the drug companies are scrambling to make vitamin D analogs to use in cancer treatments. Of course it would be easier and cheaper for patients to just get sunlight or vitamin D supplementation but you can’t patent either one of those. Accutane, the drug for acne, is a vitamin A analog that has lots of bad side-effects that you don’t get with natural vitamin A. I’m sure an analog of vitamin D would be just as bad.
Does excessive sunlight cause skin cancer? Yes. Too much of anything is harmful. But no sun exposure is even more deadly. Most skin cancers are easily treated and self-limiting except melanoma which can metastasize. Gradually increase your daily sun exposure without burning and you will protect your health and your skin. If you get too much sun at one time you can use Cataplex F to balance the excess vitamin D you just made. Vitamin F (fatty acids) and vitamin D are two sides of the same coin. Vitamin D moves the calcium into the blood and Vitamin F moves the calcium from the blood stream into the tissues. This lack of calcium in the tissues causes herpes and canker sores to flare up after too much sun. Calcium fights all viruses including the Plague, herpes and Polio but it must be in the tissues to do so. Cataplex F, if taken soon enough, also helps reduce the severity of the sunburn as well as natural aloe vera on the skin. Dr. Mercola’s web site sells some natural sunscreens as well as health food stores but sunscreens give you a false sense of security in the sun. I wrote a whole newsletter on the sun and sunscreens years ago and it's on our website at http://drcraigreese.com/InfoLetters/Sun.html.
When Tiffany left us in December to go back to school we were a bit slow in replacing her. Molly Temple was recently hired to fill her spot and also to help out while Kelly goes to Italy for 2 weeks this month. Memorial Day falls on the 28th this year so the office will be closed that day. I will be out of the office on Thursday May 24th so Gloria and I can sneak in a small trip to the Florida Keys over the holiday weekend. The staff will be in the office on both Thursday and Friday before the holiday to help you with anything you need and for the patients scheduled on the DRX 9000. Hope you have a great month!