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Vitamin D and Incredible Benefits of Sunshine

When you think of sunshine, do you think of skin cancer and wrinkles or do you think of glowing overall health? If you have predominantly negative thoughts about the sun, then consider reading on. Did you know that sunshine helps to prevent diabetes1, high blood pressure2, cardiovascular disease3, chronic pain4, 5, 6, depression7, multiple sclerosis (MS)8, inflammatory bowel disease9, Crohn's disease10, osteoporosis, infections11, 12, 13 (including tuberculosis and the flu), as well as at least 17 different types of cancer13, 14, 15, 16, 17? In fact, over the past 60 years, scientists have observed an inverse relationship between sun exposure and cancer related deaths16, 17! This is due to the fact that sunshine is the only way your body can synthesize Vitamin D, and optimal Vitamin D blood levels are crucial to your health.

Vitamin D is required by your body to perform functions such as controlling the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the food in your intestines, strengthening your immune system, and regulating growth of cells. Many people have low Vitamin D levels in their body, especially in the winter if their latitude is above 30 degrees north or below 30 degrees south. Ask your doctor to test your blood level of 25(OH)D, also called 25 hydroxyvitamin D. Ideal (verses "normal") levels should fall between 50-65 ng/ml for optimal health results.

Other than by the sun, Vitamin D may be obtained from food or supplements. Cod Liver oil can be a good source of both Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin D. You may want to consider supplementing your diet with it during the winter depending on where you live. It is our opinion that irradiated plant based ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2) supplements should be avoided. Vitamin D, although essential to your body, can become toxic at too high a level. Interestingly, it is impossible to acquire Vitamin D toxicity from sun exposure.

Although the sun has health benefits, it is never healthy to get a sunburn. Skin should be gradually exposed to avoid a burn. If you are planning a tropical winter vacation, or if you live in an area where your are in constant danger of burning, then sunscreen should be applied after 10 to 15 minutes of initial sunscreen-free exposure18. Exposure of face and hands alone is usually not sufficient surface area to receive full benefits.

Sunscreen consists of two basic types: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens are more common, but are also more likely to contain mixtures of toxic chemicals such as oxybenzone, octinoxate (aka octyl methoxycinnamate), padimate o, and avobenzone (aka Parsol 1789) . Physical sunscreens are usually a healthier alternative. The two most common types of physical sunscreen are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Titanium dioxide actually damages DNA (the genetic material of each cell) when exposed to light. This, ironically, makes titanium dioxide a poor choice for someone wearing sunscreen with the purpose of preventing skin cancer! On the other hand, zinc oxide has over a 300 year history of safety.

In addition to your own health, avoiding chemical sunscreens is better for aquatic life as well. Recent studies (February 2008) indicate that sunscreens made with chemicals including parabens, cinnamates, benzophenones, and camphor derivatives contribute to hard coral bleaching. This refers to the destruction of beneficial algae that provide nutrients and energy to the coral. Yet another reason to choose healthier alternatives!

Another major consideration when choosing a sunscreen is the list of inactive ingredients. Most sunscreens are loaded with toxic synthetic chemicals such as triethanolamine, proplyparaben, and butylene glycol. Consider choosing Reflect Outdoor Balm which utilizes zinc oxide and beneficial, organic ingredients such as olive oil, shea butter and rosemary with absolutely no synthetic chemicals. Reflect Outdoor Balm is rated for an SPF of 15, although it technically works at approximately an SPF of 30. An added benefit is that it is also a healthy treatment for baby diaper rash!

A few important additional ways to protect your skin from sun damage are to utilize hats, clothing and shade, to make healthy food choices, and to make a conscious effort to avoid skin care products containing synthetic chemicals.

Many people are not aware that what you eat has a significant impact on how your body reacts to sunshine. To help reduce your risk of sunburn, try eating more raw, organic fruits and vegetables (which are loaded with antioxidants), supplementing your diet with an organic, whole-food probiotic containing spirulina, and treating your body to organic skin products that are 100% free of synthetic chemicals and made with food-grade ingredients.

> Try Reflect Outdoor Balm now!

1. Need AG, O'Loughlin PD, Horowitz M, et al. Relationship between fasting serum glucose, age, body mass index and serum 25 hydroxyvitamin D in postmenopausal women. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 2005 Jun;62(6):738-741.
2. Kraus R, Buhring M, Hopfenmuller W, et al. Ultraviolet B and blood pressure. Lancet 1998;352(9129):709-710.
3. Scragg R, Jackson R, Holdaway I, et al. Myocardial infarction is inversely associated with plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 levels: a community-based study. Int J Epidemiol. 1990 Sep;19(3):559-563.
4. Prabhala A, Garg R, Dandona P. Severe myopathy associated with vitamin D deficiency in western New York. Arch Intern Med 2000;160(8):1199-1203.
5. Plotnikoff G, Quigley J. Prevalence of severe hypovitaminosis D in patients with persistent, nonspecific muscuoloskeletal pain. Mayo Cln Proc 2003 Dec;78(12):1463-1470.
6. Al Faraj S, Al Mutairi K. Vitamin D deficiency and chronic low back pain in Saudi Arabia. Spine 203 Jan 15;28(2):177-179.
7. Lansdowne A, Provost S. Vitamin D3 enhances mood in healthy subjects during winter. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1998;135(4):319-323.
8. Munger K, Zhang S, O'Reilly E, et al. Vitamin D intake and incidence of multiple sclerosis. Neurology 2004;62(1):60-65.
9. Cantorna M, Munsick C, Bemiss C, et al. 1, 25-dihydroxycholecalciferol prevents and ameliorates symptoms of experimental murine inflammatory bowel disease. J Nutr 2000;130:2648-2652.
10. Gilman J, Shanahan F, Cashman K. Determinants of vitamin D status in adult Crohn's disease patients, with particular emphasis on supplemental vitamin D use. Eur J Clin Nutr 2006;60:889-896.
11. Wang T, Nestel F, Bourdeau V, et al. Cutting edge: 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 is a direct inducer of antimicrobial peptide gene expression. J Immunol 2004;173:2909-2912.
12. Cannell J, Vieth R, Umhau J, et al. Epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiology and Infection 2006;134:1129-1140.
13. Gombart A, Luong Q, Koeffler H. Vitamin D compounds: Activity against microbes and cancer. Int J Cancer Research and Treatment 2006;26(4A): 2531-2542.
14. Hanchette C, Schwartz G. Geographical patterns of prostate cancer mortality. Evidence for a protective effect of ultraviolet radiation. Cancer 1992 Dec 15;70(12):2861-2869.
15. Miettinen S, Ahonen M, Manninen T, et al. Role of 24-hydroxylase in vitamin D3 growth response of OVCAR-3 ovarian cancer cells. Int J Cancer 2004 Jan 20;108(3):367-373.
16. Grant W. An estimate of premature cancer mortality in the U.S. due to inadequate doses of solar ultraviolet-B radiation. Cancer 2002 Mar 15;94(6):1867-1875.
17. Heaney R. Long-latency deficiency disease: insights from calcium and vitamin D. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78:912-919.
18. Holick MF. Vitamin D: the underappreciated D-lightful hormone that is important for skeletal and cellular health. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes 2002;9:87-98.

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