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.
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!