Sunday, February 27, 2011

Vitamin D Deficiency and UVB Sunlight

We hear a lot of advice about getting regular, safe and reasonable exposure to sunlight to help prevent Vitamin D Deficiency. When our skin is exposed to Ultaviolet B (UVB) rays, our bodies manufacture vitamin D. Too much exposure and our skin will burn. Too little and we become deficient in vitamin d. We are supposed to get exposure with our face and arms uncovered for 10 to 20 minutes each day, making sure not to stay in the sun long enough for our skin to start to burn or redden.

UVB will not pass through glass. Your skin can't make Vitamin D if you sit inside next to a closed window even if the sun is shining through it. The same goes for driving or riding in a car with the windows rolled up.

In warmer climates like the Middle East, people cover most of their skin so they aren't getting enough UVB exposure. I can imagine that the heat in the deserts would be too dangerous. The risk of sunburn would be high.

Northern latitudes or places located farther from the equator, offer less UVB and there is less UVB available in the winter months, even in the southwestern deserts of the U.S. Let's face it, most of us are not willing to uncover our skin when it's cold outside. I prefer sitting inside, by the fire with a cup of coffee and wrapped in several blankets. Some of us have darker skin and would need to spend more exposure time than those with lighter skin because the darker your skin, the less efficient it is in making vitamin d. Older folks need more exposure time than younger ones because our ability to make vitamin d diminishes as we age.

It is apparent that a lot of us just don't have regular, optimal conditions or ideal schedules to get enough UVB exposure. I'm betting that most of us are Vitamin D Deficient. Lucky for all of us, Vitamin D3 supplements are easy to get. The tough part is getting a blood test to find out what your current level is. You might be surprised to find out you are deficient. Let us know what you find out. Leave a comment about your experience and check out the poll in the right column on this page.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Can Vitamin D Treat or Prevent Infections?

After reading several articles about the infection rate in hospitals, it is obvious that more research needs to be done to find out if Vitamin D can help to treat or prevent infections.

During my own geneology research, I found out that many of my ancestors died from Tuberculosis Infections or it was a contributing factor. Looking at the old photographs, I noticed that the clothing of the day, covered all of their skin except for their hands and face. Sufferers were sent to "Sanatoriums" where they spent a lot of time outdoors. Arizona was considered one of the best places for treatment. That probably had a lot to do with more sunlight which led to higher Vitamin D levels.

People with lower Vitamin D levels have a higher rate of respiratory infections as well as ear infections which often  follow respiratory infections like the flu. The flu or influenza is more active during the winter months when there is less sunlight available. Dr. John Cannell spoke about naturally occurring antibiotics called antimicrobial peptides which act on bacteria, fungal infection, TB and other infectious diseases. Production of antimicrobial peptides in our bodies is greatly increased by higher Vitamin D levels.

The infection rate in hospitals is a continuing problem. According to a representative of The HAI Watch from Kimberly Clark, while there have been some improvements, hospitals still have work to do to put an end to the ongoing - but solvable - problem of Health care-Associated Infections (HAIs). To help achieve this goal, Kimberly-Clark Health Care launched "Not on My Watch" (www.haiwatch.com), a website that provides tools and information to help facilities eliminate HAIs. I wonder if Vitamin D could play a role in these types of infections as well.

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