2008-09-26 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

The Sunshine Vitamin
By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are blue … Please don't take my sunshine away!" I recall fondly the words of this song that are reminiscent of cowboys and cowgirls sitting on the prairie under the big sky. No one wants the sunshine to go away and, of course, it never does. The hours of sunlight do decrease, however, as we approach the season of autumn and then into winter. Many of us are quite sensitive to this lack of sunlight. We notice that this causes us to feel sad and melancholy and "blue." Mood changes related to lack of sunlight are often called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

One reason that this is so is because Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is actually a hormone not a vitamin. Now we all, some of us more than others, are intimately aware of the mood changes associated with lack of hormone balance. We haven't always associated hormonal imbalance with lack of sunlight OR with lack of Vitamin D, but recent studies have made this correlation clear to us. Sunlight does produce Vitamin D from the exposure on our skin and through our eyes. During the winter months, especially in the northern climates, we are less likely to have direct exposure on our skin due to the amount of protective clothing we wear. The hours that we spend indoors during these months limits the exposure through our eyes as well. It remains necessary, then, to have our diet of Vitamin D supplemented.

The best sources of Vitamin D in our foods comes from dairy and fish, especially sardines, wild salmon and tuna. It is very hard to get enough of this vitamin from your food sources, especially if you are dairy intolerant or dislike fish. Taking a multivitamin supplement does not ensure adequate intake either as the Vitamin D in most multivitamins is the D2 form which is not the most absorbable.

Vitamin D3 is the form that you want to take. Recent studies now recommend levels of 1,000-2,000 IUs daily for adults and 800-1,00 IUs daily for children.

Dr. Michael Holick, a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and author of The Healing Power of Sunlight and Vitamin D, notes that "All evidence suggests that infants and adults can tolerate 1,000 IUs a day as safe, without risk of toxicity." Indeed, the majority of studies confirm that conditions such as cancer of the colon, cervical cancer, breast cancer, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and inflammation associated with cardiovascular diseases respond to levels as high as 10,00-20,000 IUs per day. In fact, the most bandied about causation of the predominant chronic diseases is inflammation.

According to the Archives of Internal

Medicine 2007, Vitamin D3 deficiencies are closely related to an increase in falls and fractures and an increase in mortality rates. One can easily assess your predisposition to fall if you are unable to rise from a sitting position in a chair without using your hands to push you up. One study revealed a 49 percent reduction in falls after 12 weeks

supplementation with Vitamin D3.

Osteopenia, the state which is a precursor to osteoporosis, can be addressed with adequate D3 supplementation along with calcium. In order for calcium to be absorbed one needs up to 30ng/ml.

It is incumbent upon each of us to request a blood test to determine our Vitamin D3 levels at our annual physical. Yes, for the children as well. This is not routinely done so be sure to ask for a 25 (OH). That is the test for Vitamin D3 levels. 25 (OH). The exact dosage that you need will be determined by the results of this test. Your level should be equal to or greater than 30ng/ml. The exact IUs that you need does not have a strict calculations basis. It is a matter of trial and error. Generally, you start with 1,000 IUs and retake the blood test in 3 months. You raise or lower the IUs until you reach a value of greater or less than 30 ng/ml. You do not need to be a doctor to look at your test results and discuss them with your physician. Often, they are not educated in the latest Vitamin D3 research. You can be proactive in this area if you suffer from any of the conditions related to a Vitamin D3 deficiency or if you are in the over 50 age group.

As a practitioner, I have aligned myself with The National Osteoporosis Foundation as an Osteoporosis Resource Center. I am happy to discuss any of your issues related to osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. There are many new and innovative approaches being taken and clinical and research findings to support the use of natural interventions. E-mail any questions to askDrNancy@aol.com.

Please keep the sunshine in this New Year. L'Shana Tovah!

May The Blessings Be!

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