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The Ultimate Guide To Getting Enough Vitamin D

An image of people in the sun forming hearts with their handsThe sun is the greatest source of vitamin D for our bodies. Yet, vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common health problems. This is because we know that the sun can do a lot of damage to the skin. For years now, medical professionals have been warning people to use sunscreen and avoid the sun as much as possible. This has led to another widespread health problem, vitamin D deficiency!

Vitamin D is one of the essential nutrients and has many health benefits, especially if you want to recover from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). However, you must be careful with the amount of vitamin D supplementation. If you have advanced AFS then you should not take very high doses. Given that vitamin D is metabolized in the liver, advanced AFS sufferers often have liver problems. Taking a high dose of vitamin D supplementation can burden the liver over time. The key to the use of vitamin D in an AFS setting is thus determining the right amount, delivery system, frequency. It is not a matter of simply normalizing blood levels of vitamin D. The right balance is key to the successful optimization of vitamin D in our body. Let us go back to some basics first.

How your Body Produces Vitamin D

Your body can produce vitamin D with the help of the ultraviolet B rays in sunlight, as it cannot get all the vitamin D it needs, from food and supplementation. The amount of vitamin D produced depends on several factors such as the color of your skin, where you live, and the time of day. And the more skin that’s exposed to the sunlight, the more vitamin D is produced.

You can also get vitamin D through supplementation. However, this is not as good for your body. The human body is a complex machine and it does not always respond to supplementation in the same way that it does to actual sunlight. As a result, you may not get all the health benefits of sunlight by using vitamin D supplements.  The reason behind this is still unknown. Scientists suggest that the combination of light spectrums and warmth of sunlight may have a role to play.

The Benefits of Sunlight

Getting some sunlight every day has numerous benefits for every system and circuit in your body. Some of the benefits of regular sunlight include:

Strong Bones

Almost everyone knows that vitamin D is essential for strong bones. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus from food. That is why it is essential for people of all ages who want to avoid conditions like osteoporosis.

Circadian Rhythm Stabilization

Getting some sunlight is essential for your circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle. This is a natural 24-hour rhythm in your body that tells you when it is time to sleep. When you are exposed to sunlight, your body produces serotonin, a natural mood elevator. On the other hand, it produces melatonin more effectively as well, which can regulate your sleeping patterns.

Improved Mood

An image of a family running through a field with their arms out playing airplaneWhen you are exposed to sunlight, your body releases serotonin and endorphins, which will improve your mood. This effect can be temporary or longer-lasting. In some people, the lack of light in winter can bring on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which shows how important sunlight can be for your mood.

Reduced Cancer Risk

Everyone worries about getting skin cancer from sun exposure. However, lack of exposure can be just as dangerous. It actually increases your risk of breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Lower Blood Pressure

When you get some sun, a compound known as nitric oxide is released into your blood vessels. This will help to lower your blood pressure and decrease your risk of heart conditions and stroke.

Easier Weight Loss

There are some studies that suggest vitamin D is essential to weight loss. These studies show that higher vitamin D levels when starting a diet increase your chances of success. Also, older women who are deficient in this vitamin have been shown to be heavier than those who aren’t.

How To Enjoy the Sun

This doesn’t mean that you should lay out in the sun and bake.  AFS sufferers often cannot tolerate sunlight for any prolonged period of time. It may trigger an adrenal crash. The consequences of excessive sun exposure can be serious when the body is weak, even though sunlight have healthy positive effects. The key lies in the proper amount of sunlight matching the body's requirement at any point in time.  And you really don’t need that much sun to enjoy the benefits of vitamin D.

Studies suggest that you need at least 400–800 IU, or 10–20 micrograms of vitamin D. daily. However, for optimal health, you should aim at 1000–4000 IU (25–100 micrograms) per day. This requirement rises if you are deficient in vitamin D. However do not just keep taking vitamin D supplementation without getting your vitamin D levels checked with your doctor. With these levels in mind, here are some guidelines for safe sun exposure:

  • Get between 10 and 20 minutes of direct sunlight on the skin that isn’t covered in sunscreen.
  • It’s better to get this amount of sun exposure every day rather than binge once a week.
  • Try to expose as much skin as possible for the best effects.
  • Monitor any moles or sunspots for adverse effects.

Essential Sun Protection

Despite the benefits of vitamin D from sunlight, always remember the damage that the sun can do. Uncontrolled exposure to sunlight can lead to skin cancer and cause premature aging. That’s why it’s important not to overdo it, and to protect yourself against these conditions. Some ways to do that are:

    An image of a woman laying on a hammock in the shade with her dog

  • Stay out of the sun when it’s at its hottest, between 10am and 4pm.
  • Wear a hat and shirt when you’re out in the sun.
  • Apply a waterproof, broad-spectrum sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or higher and protects against UVA and UVB rays.
  • Reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours.

It is important that you choose a safe sunscreen when you are going out. Sunscreens are full of harmful chemicals that will be absorbed into your bloodstream when you apply it on your skin. That’s why you should only use them when necessary and cover up with clothes instead.

When you do wear sunscreen, try to choose options that are mineral-based. These contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which block UVA and UVB rays and may be safer to use regularly. This is particularly important if you have AFS and need to avoid environmental toxins that could add to the toxic overload in your body.

How AFS Impacts the Detoxification Circuit

AFS is caused by ongoing, high-stress levels that cause the adrenal glands to become fatigued. The adrenals are responsible for producing cortisol, a hormone that’s essential in the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response. This system responds to stress and fights the stress-related changes throughout your body, cortisol being the most important driver of those changes.

The NEM stress response is designed to be active for short periods before shutting down so your body can return to its natural state. If you’re under constant stress over a long period, the NEM stress response becomes overused and the adrenals can start to degrade from overwork.

Adequate vitamin D is beneficial if you’re struggling with AFS, and this is particularly true for the detoxification circuit. The detoxification circuit includes the liver, immune system, and the interstitium. Together, these organs and systems work to eliminate metabolites and toxins from the body. When this circuit is working properly, stress and its harmful effects are dealt with naturally and without your knowledge. But when the circuit starts to break down, the effects can be catastrophic.

How Sunlight Can Improve the Detoxification Circuit

An image of the human body detoxingGetting more vitamin D regularly can improve the function of the detoxification circuit in several important ways. When the body is under stress, it produces metabolites. These are products of metabolism that are created as the body breaks down to toxic substances so they can be excreted. When you have AFS, you will often experience an overload of these metabolites because of many toxins and stressors that are accumulated causing adrenal fatigue.

These toxins can build up in the extracellular matrix (ECM).  As the liver and the immune system begin to malfunction, the toxins and metabolites can start to build up. The situation gets worse if there are imbalances in the detoxification circuit, further hampering the excretion process. As a result, the ECM becomes more clogged, the liver struggles to convert and excrete the metabolites, and the immune system goes into overdrive. This can turn your body into a toxic mess and cause worrying symptoms.

Vitamin D can help the body in such situations.  It is important to reduce the toxic build-up in the body and rebalance the detoxification circuit. Adding vitamin D can help in this process and remove the accumulated metabolites reducing toxic overload. Furthermore, vitamin D can alleviate certain symptoms and causes of stress. This will decrease the adrenal workload which will allow the detoxification circuit to heal. In turn, all the individual components of the circuit will gradually restore their normal function.

Vitamin D can help to reduce some of the AFS symptoms in the following ways:

Insomnia

Insomnia is one of the main causes of detoxification circuit dysfunction and toxic build-up when you have AFS. By restoring the circadian rhythm and natural sleeping patterns, vitamin D will help eliminate this very common cause of stress.

Mood Disorders

People with AFS often suffer from a variety of combinations of mood disorders ranging from depression to anxiety. These issues can be caused by imbalances in the Neuroaffect circuit as well as stress and worry. Getting some sunlight every day and correcting vitamin D deficiencies will encourage the release of serotonin and improve your mood.

Weight Loss

People with AFS often struggle with excess weight, which can cause distress and worry. You may gain weight for many reasons, including metabolic dysfunction, poor eating habits, digestive problems, and a sedentary lifestyle. Getting more vitamin D may help you improve metabolism and prevent weight gain. In turn, this will prevent additional stress and trigger your AFS.

How To Enjoy The Health Benefits of Vitamin D

An image of a woman smiling in the sunlightAs with most things in life, moderation is key. It is important to get optimal levels of vitamin D from sunlight. Moderate exposure to sunlight and sensible behavior will help you get the fine balance between getting the right amount of vitamin D while protecting yourself from the cancer-causing UV rays from sunlight. While you should avoid lying out in the sun for hours, a careful and methodical routine for sun exposure can help to achieve this balance.

Also, you must always consult with your physician first to check your vitamin D levels before and after starting supplementation.

 
© Copyright 2020 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam's Key Question

When your body is exposed to sunlight, it responds by creating vitamin D. This is extremely important because this nutrient can’t be derived from food. You can get vitamin D from supplements, but this is far less efficient and won’t produce all the benefits enjoyed when you’re exposed to sunlight.

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