Vitamin D research continues to impress upon us the importance of appropriate sun exposure as the ideal way to optimize your vitamin D levels.
Taking vitamin D is critical in the winter months as exposure to sunlight is limited. Credit: Ragesoss via Wiki
Winter limits sun exposure for many up to six months of the year. During those times, your next best bet would be artificial UVB light, as UV ray exposure also appears to have health benefits above and beyond the production of vitamin D.
One of the most damaging elements of standard tanning beds are the magnetic ballasts (which make that loud buzzing noise you hear in many tanning salons). If an electronic ballast is used, there are far less damaging EMFs, which provide most of the danger from tanning beds.
The other concern is related to the bulbs used, as some may contain only UVA light which is primarily responsible for the tan, but doesn’t increase vitamin D levels. For much of the northern hemisphere, vitamin D production is not possible from the sun during the winter months. You must use artificial UVB light or obtain vitamin D from your diet during this time.
The benefits of UVB exposure from the sun or artificial light include but are not limited to the production of nitric oxide–a compound that lowers your blood pressure. Despite its name, vitamin D is not a vitamin. It’s actually a potent neuroregulatory steroidal hormone, which helps explain some of its health impacts.
It has become abundantly clear that vitamin D deficiency is a growing epidemic across the world and could be contributing to hundreds of common health problems. In fact, correcting your vitamin D deficiency may cut your risk of dying from any cause by 50 percent, according to one analysis.
If this sounds too incredible to be true, consider that vitamin D influences nearly 3,000 of your 24,000 genes. This occurs via vitamin D receptors, which can be found throughout your body, and should come as no great surprise given that humans evolved in the sun.
Vitamin D Beneficially Affects Gene Activity
Just one example of an important gene that vitamin D up-regulates is your ability to fight infections and chronic inflammation. It also produces over 200 anti-microbial peptides, the most important of which is cathelicidin, a naturally-occurring broad-spectrum antibiotic.
This is one of the explanations for why vitamin D is so effective against colds and influenza.
According to a January 2013 press release by Orthomolecular Medicine,1 there are now 33,800 medical papers with vitamin D in the title or abstract, and this veritable mountain of research shows that vitamin D has far-reaching benefits to your physical and mental health. Such research has shown that vitamin D can improve:
Pregnancy outcomes (reduced risk of Cesarean section and pre-eclampsia)
Type 1 and 2 diabetes
Heart disease and stroke
Autism, Alzheimer’s, and other brain dysfunction
Bacterial and viral infections
Some of the most recently published studies, which I’ll review here, demonstrate how boosting your vitamin D levels can improve depression and pain in diabetics, Crohn’s disease, and breast cancer.