I am learning more about the enormous benefits of vitamin D, commonly known as the "sunshine vitamin". Doc Gurley comments on her blog:
"D is associated with massive decrease in breast cancer, prostate cancer, autoimmune diseases (including juvenile diabetes, inflammatory bowl disease, and multiple sclerosis).......even associated in such common, chronic problems such as high blood pressure and low birth-weight babies."
This is impressive stuff. But it's even more impressive in view of results from a new study, conducted by the University of Toronto, which concluded that vitamin D deficiencies at the time of breast cancer diagnosis were shown to cause a 94% increase in breast cancer spread and 73% were more likely to die over the next 10 years, compared to women with normal vitamin D levels.
Whoa! Where can I get some of this powerful stuff?
The National Institutes of Health vitamin D dietary supplement fact sheet found here offers information on benefits, sources, and suggested supplement guidelines.
There are few natural dietary sources of D. Fatty fish, and fish oils are among the best sources. Vitamin D is frequently added to pasteurized milk, some ready-to-eat cereals, and some processed orange juice products.
When UV rays in sunlight hit our skin, our bodies are able to generate vitamin D. There are a great number of variables in this process, however. Depending on your skin color, cloud cover, how many minutes you are exposed to the sun, and what season of the year, you may or may not rack up enough IUs to meet your daily requirements. Since UV rays cannot penetrate glass, sunlight coming through a window does not provide vitamin D. Few of us are able to obtain the daily requirements by sun exposure. Many of us who have autoimmune disease can not expect to get our vitamin D from the sun, since avoidance of UV rays is important.
Which brings up the last source of vitamin D - dietary supplements. The NIH supplement fact sheets give this information for using D supplements:
"there is evidence to suggest that for women with a deficiency, taking 800 International Units (IU) of vitamin D a day can raise levels to the optimal range. For healthy people without a deficiency, current recommendations for people between ages 0 - 50 to get 200 IU vitamin D daily, with 400 IU recommended for those between the ages of 51 and 70. After age 70, 600 IU of vitamin D are recommended each day."
Always check with your doctor before beginning any supplementation program, since an excess of vitamin D can cause toxicity and can alter calcium levels.