Western cultures have become almost phobic about any exposure of unprotected skin to sunshine with the well-recognised association between skin cancer and exposure to sunshine. Indeed the US Environmental Protection Agency is currently advising that ultraviolet light, and therefore sunlight, is so dangerous that we should “protect ourselves against ultraviolet light whenever we can see our shadow”.
But a certain amount of sun exposure is essential for normal good health in order to produce vitamin D – and partly as a result of current recommendations, we are seeing declining levels of vitamin D and the problems that go with it.
Human beings evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in equatorial areas and were daily exposed to sunshine. Dark skins evolved to protect against sun damage. However, as hominids migrated north, those races which retained their dark skins were unable to make sufficient vitamin D in the skin and did not survive. Only those hominids with paler skins survived. Thus the further away from the Equator, the paler the skin became. Races in polar areas survived because they were able to get an alternative source of vitamin D from fish and seafood.
There is an interesting inverse correlation between sunshine exposure, vitamin D levels, and incidence of disease as one moves away from the Equator. Even correcting for other factors such as diet, there is strong evidence to show that vitamin D protects against osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, bone fractures (vitamin D strengthens the muscles thereby improving balance, movement and preventing falls), cancer, hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia, diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and vulnerability to infections. Multiple sclerosis is a particularly interesting example of a possible vitamin D deficiency disease. Indeed mice bred for susceptibility to multiple sclerosis can be completely protected against development of this disease by feeding them high doses of vitamin D.
For people living in equatorial areas, blood levels of 25 (OH) D) usually exceed 100nnmol/l and often 200nnmol/l. Since we evolved in hot climates, this is probably what is physiologically desirable. However, normal ranges in laboratories are still stated at around 40 to 100nnmol/l. This almost certainly represents sub-optimal levels – it may be enough to prevent rickets and osteomalacia, but is not sufficient for optimal health.
For a pale skinned Caucasian, whole body sunlight exposure barely sufficient to trigger tanning (the so called minimum melanogenesis dose) is as little as 15 minutes and is equivalent to the consumption of 10,000i.u. of vitamin D. If this is compared to the US recommended dietary allowance now standing at 200i.u. (which is the amount in a teaspoon of cod liver oil), one can readily see that the best source of vitamin D is sunshine.
It is extremely difficult to get blood levels up to an optimum level on diet alone. Furthermore, dark-skinned individuals need very much more sunshine exposure in order to achieve the same blood levels of vitamin D. As people get older their requirements also increase – however, typically they spend less time in the sunshine and are much more prone to vitamin D deficiency and the problems that go with it.
In a study in which groups of elderly people started to take calcium and vitamin D, the occurrence of fractures is reduced by a third in the first year even though bone density is not increased sufficiently to account for the fewer fractures. What is not yet common knowledge is that vitamin D improves muscle strength and balance and it is thought that this is what reduces the occurrence of falls leading to fractures.
How to get more vitamin D
It is impossible for people living in Britain to get adequate vitamin D levels through full spectrum light. To receive sufficient vit D, you need to get the equivalent of at least 15 minutes per day whole body exposure to sunshine, probably more depending on the colour of your skin, to trigger tanning, but not burning of the skin. How likely is that? So what do you need to do to optimise your vitamin D levels?
- If you are taking my Mineral Mix at your full correct daily dose (up to max 5 g a day), then you will be getting 4000 – 5000 i.u. of vitamin D3 a day. You do not need to take any other Vitamin D supplement, but sunshine on your skin whenever you can get it will be a welcome bonus! If you are not taking the Mineral Mix, you need to add 5000 i.u. vitamin D3 to your nutritional regime.
- Lack of sunshine in the UK is an excellent excuse to book a holiday in a sunny climate during the winter! In order to get an equivalent dose through eating fish, one would have to consume 25 teaspoonfuls of cod liver oil or its equivalent. Eskimos and Inuit Indians probably achieve this easily with their diet, but I cannot see myself persuading my teenage daughters to do this. A foreign holiday sounds much more attractive, or keep taking your 5,000 iu daily.
Vitamin D supplements
In choosing a good vitamin D supplement, one needs to know a little of the biochemistry. Vitamin D2, ergocalciferol is made from yeast and is about a quarter as potent as vitamin D3. In order for D3 to be activated it needs to be twice hydroxylated in the liver and the kidney – bear in mind that anybody with liver or kidney problems may have a requirement for the active twice hydroxylated vitamin D (calcitriol) rather than D3.
In studies where vitamin D3 is supplemented at 10,000i.u. daily there have been no cases of hypercalcaemia. 5,000i.u. daily seems a reasonable dose for the winter months, higher amounts where there is pathology such as osteoporosis.
People will be delighted to hear that sunshine is good for them – the overwhelming majority feel much better for sitting out in the sunshine. If the skin goes red then they are having too much exposure – they need just sufficient to promote mild tanning.
People with dark skins need much more than people with fair skins, but again they can judge this from the degree to which their skin darkens with exposure to sunshine. Redness means inflammation due to skin damage and should be avoided. It’s the old story – with any substance from water to sunshine, there is potential to underdose and overdose – it’s all about getting the balance right!
“THE CLINICAL IMPORTANCE OF VITAMIN D (CHOLECALCIFEROL): A PARADIGM SHIFT WITH IMPLICATIONS FOR ALL HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS” by Vasquez et al. – gives the science behind vitamin D.
Pathology Department at the City Hospital in Birmingham offers a “direct to the public service for serum 25-hydroxy Vitamin D based on dried blood spots”. They send a home kit with detailed instructions, which makes it a very convenient way to check the levels. All the details on the Pathology Department’s website City Assays and in the page about the test: Vitamin D test.
First there is the promise: the vitality of nature is concentrated in seeds, roots and buds. Than the blossoming: seeds jump open and let their germs go through the often still half frozen earth. The young green is fragile and strong at the same time. There is a huge growth force behind those germs, who sometimes even by the smallest crack in the asphalt presses itself upwards.
You can’t keep the different plants apart in this first stage; they all have two round germ leaves. Just as foetuses of different animals who, in the first instance, all still look the same. But in every germ the concept is already decided of the major plant he will be. And also the power that the plant will need to grow. Everything is in “The Sign of Renewal”.
Even centuries-old trees get a hint of fresh young green. Sturdy branches are wearing delicate blossoms. Fledgling leaves shine of the ‘ baby oil ‘, other still cherish in soft ‘feathers’ like leaves. Both are appealing enough to want to touch it. Chestnut buds are even protected by a downy ‘ layer ‘.
Buds growing, eggs are cracking open, chicks and lambs see the light of life. Wear the Snowdrops still hang with the bent cup and the heart orientated to the earth, the Crocuses are already formed flowers. But then the sunny Daffodils come. They are opening entirely and give their heart free in the form of a Crown in the flower.
Winter is a time of stillness. Literally speaking this means that there are hardly any leaves left where the wind can rustle through. The birds aren’t singing anymore, some have already left before the frost, others are silent. The people spend less time outside. If snow falls, the last sounds are muffled under the insulating blanket. Even the smells of nature seem frozen in the winter. There are odours, such as those of pine, but there is hardly any heat to transport those odours. Only when you fetch the pine branches inwards, into the warmth of your home, comes the smell of winter.
Figuratively speaking it’s also a time of silence. The winter is the Sunday of the seasons. Therefore this is a resting period, in which nature can collect his forces under the ground. The frost seems to reinforce that silence. For many plants the life processes are shut down. The juices aren’t flowing anymore, they cease their activities and the rotting bacterium comes to a standstill. Meanwhile the frost acts on structures. The best way to see this is when you look at water condensing to ice, or your own breath turning into flowers on the windows. Less well known is that frost is also a good force on the structure of the ground. Frozen clay soil for example, cracks open. The grove and big chunks are changed into much finer and crumblier clay. Frost makes some cabbages (like kale) more digestible and some of them can taste even sweeter. The germination of the seeds is more powerful after the frost. The seeds of many wild primula and gentian plants may not even germinate of they haven’t been frozen. Although the frost makes the nature paralyse, in the mean time it activates the hidden life processes in the seeds.
Something lurks in the hidden life processes of the secret of the winter.
Many seeds are germinated in the ground back in December. Spring showers are often associated with growth; it let the seeds sprouting and growing.
But in fact it is the autumn rains in November, in combination with the cold December days that is necessary to germinate.
When there are a couple of days of soft weather, after the cold ones, the seed of lots of trees and pioneers plants will start sprouting.
Then they will stay in that state for spring, before it will continue to grow.
However, when we don’t have the cold days first after the rain in November, then the chances are these seeds will start rotting away instead of germinating. Such a hesitant start is a phenomenon that you also encounter in the animal world. It has been discovered that animals that are fertilized in the autumn, for example a deer, create a very small beginning. This stays than in a resting state until Christmas and then it continues to grow, so the calf is born in the spring.
The fact that it hangs around until Christmas and then starts growing probably has to do with the fact that the days then again begins to lengthen. From more and more scientific studies shows how the vitality of all living organisms depend on sunlight. Around the day that we celebrate New Year’s Eve, the saps in the trees begin to stream again. In the cycle of trees, the first of January truly is the beginning of the New Year.
Nutrition provides the fuel for your body to function properly. Heat comes from the combustion of these nutrients and energy. In addition, it delivers the construction materials for the growth and maintenance of your body, such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vitamins. But before it can do something for your body, it must first become a part of your body. Your body takes the nutrients, breaks it completely off, then transforms this and rebuilds it, in its very own peculiar way to substances that supports and feeds your body. This digestive process proves in itself to be important. Artificial feeding through an infusion for example, is only to be accepted by the body for a short period, despite how carefully the loose nutrients are selected. It’s like with a piece of music. That is vividly by the way the loose nuts are forged together. But if you listen to the nuts from the written music separately it has little to do with music. In artificial feeding, nutrients are loosened from the natural whole and therefore there’s nothing to digest. If you skip the process of digesting and processing too long, you’ll eventually get sick. Your body must move significantly to properly digest. With every food your body must find a new way to handle this. Brussels sprouts are processed in different way than a strawberry. It is partly to this agility that you stay vital and healthy. The more vigorous the food is that you eat, the bigger the challenge to digest and so the more it promotes your own vitality. The vitality of the food depends on the way it is grown. Fruits and vegetables that gets the time to mature is therefore richer in vitamins and is more vigorous than the species who are filled up with water and chemical fertilizer in order to grow quickly. Also the operation affects the vitality. For example, there is more to digest from whole grain products than there is from white flour products.
Whole grain cereals are very warming in winter. Wheat, oats, barley and rye let your gut work hard, so heat is released. Moreover, a large proportion of cereal products exist for carbohydrates. Your body converts this into sugars and that gives energy and warmth. It is important that they are well cooked cereals, and simmer preferably for some weeks (for example, in a hay box). The grain will then be able to open more, allowing for a better way for the valuable nutrients (in the metabolism) to be included. In white flour the vitamins, minerals and fibers, which especially in the bud, but also in the outer layers of the grain sitting there, are sift thru. To whole wheat flour the fibers are in any case added back, and organic whole wheat flour is made from the entire grain and therefore the valuable germ is still in there (it is because of the fats from the germ that they have a less long shelf life). Oats is the most warming of all grains, because he also is rich in fat. A bowl of porridge eaten before a hefty bike tour through the cold is not so crazy after all. This is also something to remember for the winter sports.
Fats for heat and energy
Fats get in the winter a shinier role. If you ever have a graving for crème soup, creamy sauces, or homemade pudding with whipped cream, or bavarois, then it will be in the winter. Roasted nuts do well as a crispy and warming detail in all sorts of dishes. And what is also eaten more in the winter are meat and bacon. That is not so crazy. Just like carbohydrates, the fats are a nutrient that gives the body so much energy and heat supply. A small amount of fat may already give a great amount of energy. Digesting fats also lasts longer than the digestion of carbohydrates or proteins and fats also slows down the stomach operation. Therefore it takes longer after a fatty meal to get hungry again. A limited fat reserve is helpful. A fat layer under the skin works in the cold time of the year as a protective layer for the underlying organs. But almost nobody needs to be afraid that he receives too little fats. Most of us eat too much fat. But don’t avoid them entirely, because many healthy vitamins such as A, D, E and K, are dissolved in fats. There are books note about healthy and less healthy fats. Generally you can say that your body can cope better with vegetable fats and non refined fats, which are easier to digest than animal or refined fats.