Sunday, May 11, 2008

D-ficiency

Quick test: What do the following conditions have in common: Osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, gum disease, mental illness, and cancer?

Part of the Answer: Experts suspect that insufficient levels of Vitamin D raise your risk of getting these diseases.

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone which regulates cells all over the body, influencing insulin production, regulating immune function, and preventing inflammation and cancer.

Unfortunately, many of us are likely Vitamin D deficient. We are meant to produce Vitamin D via our skin as a result of sun exposure. Live in the North, like me, and those winter months don't exactly encourage Vitamin D production. You won't be seeing my bare booty soaking up the rays as the snow falls (Lucky for me, but more for you!) On top of that, when the summer sun does actually hit, we pile on the hats and sunscreen for protection. But according to Dr. Holick of the Boston University School of Medicine, sunblock as low as SPF 8 reduces the skin's vitamin D production by 95% !

The good news? For those of us with neuropathic pain related to MS -- Brand new research results have been published in March of '08 which point to Vitamin D as an effective "analgesic" in relieving diabetic neuropathic pain. As an end-stage palliative cancer nurse, I see every day how incredibly difficult it is to treat neuropathic pain. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be given the option of something as simple as Vitamin D to diminish burning, stinging, buzzing, numbness, and throbbing?

Of course, it won't be the drug companies funding any future research. No, Vitamin D is too inexpensive to be worth their time. Dang.

So what do we do?

The answers are D-cidedly easy.

1) Sun yourself! Spend 10-15 minutes outdoors without sunscreen at least twice per week.

2) Eat D-licious foods. Very few foods contain much Vitamin D. Rich foods include the following: Cod liver oil; oily fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel; eggs, and fortified milk, soy milk, and orange juice.

3) Take a daily supplement of cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), which is the form naturally occurring in our bodies. The Canadian Cancer Society (June, 2007) recommends 1,000 IU of Vitamin D daily during the fall and winter months.

No one has done studies at this point in regards to how much Vitamin D is too much. However, toxicity is very rare. The U.S. Food and Nutrition Board sets the upper level for daily dietary intake at 2,000 IU. It's interesting to note that a "young, fair, and scantily clad person hanging out near the equator produces 20,000 IUs of Vitamin D in 10-15 minutes of peak sunshine". That's 100 times higher than the upper level set by the FNB! The Journal of Expert Opinion Pharmacotherapy in 2008 points out that in order to reach toxic levels of Vitamin D, which would cause organ damage due to high calcium levels, most adults would have to take well in excess of 10,000 IU/day for many months or even years.

I'm all for a supplement which has been proven in the medical field to prevent a host of diseases, and which is used in the treatment of many more. And I'm selfish enough to champion anything that will reduce pain and decrease functional impairment!

It's D-lightful news!

10 comments:

CrazyCath said...

I had suspected this a little for myself. I noticed that no matter how ill I was, spending time in a warm country or sat out in the garden when sunny made me better. I could never be sure though if this was due to increased vitamin D or because of destressing. Probably a bit of both, but the vit D definitely increases and helps health.

Well written, (Sorry I've been absent - struggling to keep up with everybody!)

Merelyme said...

i take fish oil capsules...will this help?

Nervus Rex said...

Cath -- good to see you! Spring does get busy, doesn't it. I love this time of year, when I can enjoy the sun without over-heating myself. I think that you are right about the de-stressing effects of temperate climates :)

Merely -- Fish oil capsules are a great idea! There's your Omega's and certainly *should* be your Vit. D all in one... I would like to find out more about that. Anyone else know?? Plus, the fish oil is great for hair and skin :)

Nervus Rex said...

Merely,
This is what I've found (and can't say I'm too happy about it, LOL):

From the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 2005:

Although fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 LCPUFAs, it doesn’t provide the significant levels of vitamin D that cod liver oil does. Vitamin D is concentrated in the liver of the fish and thus plentiful in cod liver oil, a time-honored source of vitamin D. Fish oil is made from the whole body of the fish and has an insignificant amount of vitamin D.

Mmmmmmmm

Shauna said...

Believe it or not, I eat those cod liver oil pills by popping them open in my mouth...I know some of you are gagging right now.

The useful UV light from sunlight is also only available for 5-6 months of the year. In the late fall and winter, the light isn't strong enough to aid your body in producing Vitamin D. From about May-October I am supplement free. But over the winter I pop those cod liver oil pills.

S.

Nervus Rex said...

Oh my goodness, Shauna, I can't even imagine! Bleh!

But honestly, I don't even know what the cod liver oil tastes like, never having been spoon-fed it. Maybe I actually love it and just haven't discovered it yet?!

Sure, we'll go with that...

What *does* it taste like popped in the mouth like that?

Diane J Standiford said...

Great post. Seattle is expecting sun this week can't wait!

The Rotten Correspondent said...

Very interesting post. I have a dear friend with MS and she always feels better in the summer than she does any other time of the year.

I'm passing this on. Thanks.

Shauna said...

It tastes like...um....well....unlike anything I've ever tasted actually. It's oily. It's think...not really fishy. Hmmm....let me try one right now. Nope. Can't explain it. I suspect it's the aftertaste that people don't like. That's a little fishy.

S.

Carolyn said...

WOW! Great post. So informative. I recently started taking 1,000 IU of Vitamin D per day and really feel the benefits. I know I feel better. It's interesting the list of conditions you mention at the top of your post because I have often wondered if I have fibromyalgia. Perhaps not suprising since I live in Vancouver where I get almost no sun in the winter months. I once asked my doctor about Fibromyalgia, but she rolled her eyes and moved on. As you can imagine, I'm currently looking for a new doctor...

Thanks for this important post.