The Surprising Reason You Are Sick, Tired, and Cranky

by Alaina Tweddale on 7 January 2015 (1 comment)

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We all love the sun but it causes cancer, right? So we stay inside or, when we venture out, we lather on the 50+ SPF, cover up our limbs, and hide under a large floppy hat. But what if, in our quest to avoid too much of a good thing, we're simply not getting enough of that good thing?

That's what research from the University of California, San Diego found, in a study that linked low vitamin D levels with increased risk for several health ailments, including breast and colon cancer. In fact, the level of vitamin D deficiency seen over the past few decades has been described by some doctors as "an epidemic," caused primarily by our avoidance of the sun. Another physician estimated that a whopping 40% to 75% of people are vitamin D deficient.

Getting enough sun exposure, turns out, can help us avoid a whole host of health problems. Perhaps that's just one reason why our ancestors once worshipped the fiery orb. According to research, direct exposure to sunlight at moderate levels can help our bodies fight ailments and gain the following benefits.

1. Better Sleep

Researchers have uncovered a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and sleep problems, including daytime sleepiness, sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome.

2. Stronger Bones

Bone pain and muscle weakness can be the markers of a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D acts as an aide in the body, helping it use the calcium in the food you've eaten. The two nutrients work together to keep your bones healthy.

3. Boost Energy

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to chronic fatigue syndrome, an ailment marked by continual tiredness that doesn't go away with increased rest. Other symptoms include muscle weakness, memory problems, and insomnia. One researcher found chronic fatigue sufferers recovered quickly when administered an optimal dose of vitamin D.

4. Enhance Mood

Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with mood disorders like PMS, seasonal affective disorder, non-specified mood disorder, and major depressive disorder.

5. Lower Blood Pressure

One study found that subjects with higher levels of vitamin D had lower blood pressure and reduced risk for hypertension. As vitamin D concentrations increased by 10%, the study found, hypertension risk decreased by 8.1%.

6. Prevent Breast and Colon Cancer

As many as 600,000 cases of breast and colorectal cancer could be prevented each year by increasing vitamin D intake, according to one researcher.

7. Decrease Risks of Autoimmune Disorders

Vitamin D deficiency has even been linked to many autoimmune disorders including multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and even systematic lupus. Research has found that a vitamin D supplement can improve these diseases.

8. Protect Against Melanoma

It's unexpected but this study found an increase in melanoma levels among indoor workers who didn't have enough outdoor exposure. The researchers found that UVA light was filtered out by windows, leaving indoor workers exposed only to UVB rays. They concluded that moderate UVA exposure actually helps decrease the risk of melanoma.

How Much Vitamin D Do We Need (and How Can We Get More)?

Our skin helps produce vitamin D after sun exposure but there are many variables that affect its production including season, time of day, where in the world you live, how much skin is exposed, skin color (those with darker skin are more prone to vitamin D deficiency), age, and whether sunscreen has been applied.

Researchers recommend 2000 International Units of vitamin D a day to avoid certain types of cancer. Most of us can get that amount from just 15 minutes of direct sunlight exposure at midday, when the sun is at its strongest (between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.). Of course, melanoma is still a risk, so it's recommended we cover up (with clothing and/or sunscreen) after getting our 15-minute dose. There are gadgets you can use to track light intake, just to be sure you've gotten as much as you need.

It's more difficult to get proper sun exposure in winter, when cloud cover is heaviest and we're most likely to be clothed. There are also certain populations who are more prone to a vitamin D deficiency including those with a milk allergy, who follow a strict vegetarian diet, have darker skin (because melanin makes it more difficult for the skin to make vitamin D from sunlight), or are overweight. Proper diet and nutritional supplements can help fill the gaps not met through direct sunlight exposure alone.

If you think you may be vitamin D deficient, a simple blood test can measure your levels. The treatment is easy: 15 minutes of direct sunlight exposure per day, a vitamin D supplement, and proper diet. So go ahead, get outside today. It's good for you.

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IBikeNYC

Gee, ya don't think there's a correlation between anti-sun hysteria and the EXPLOSION in osteoporosis cases, do ya?????

Maybe we can all calm the heck down about OMG being outside with bare skin!