What would you do if you knew that there was a key component to good health that many people were intentionally — albeit unwittingly — avoiding?
If you’re like me, you’d be frustrated and want to tell everyone you know about this health treasure that so many are working to avoid.
What am I talking about?
I’m talking about the Sun — and even more specifically, the Sunshine Vitamin, Vitamin D, which functions not only as a vitamin, but as a hormone.
My Own Anecdotal Evidence
I discovered Vitamin D’s importance in my own life a few years ago.
It was early spring. My son and I had gone with my dad’s family’s for our annual jaunt to Hatteras.
It should have been a great vacation — something I felt like I had been sorely needing after a stressful winter had left me emotionally drained. A little R&R seemed like just what the doctor ordered.
Imagine my confusion, however, when my roller-coaster like emotions were not only not improved by the trip, but instead, were exacerbated.
I was confused, and frustrated, to come home not more well-rested, but rather stressed to the gills.
I scheduled an appointment with my OB/GYN to talk about the possibility of it being a hormonal issue. I was thinking perhaps intense PMS, or maybe even PMDD.
On the day of my appointment, we looked over the calendar, and then we looked at my moods, as well as some other health symptoms I had been experiencing (muscle tension, neck aches, etc..), and didn’t see that there was a cyclical pattern to my symptoms. Instead, they seemed to be ever present, only varying in intensity at times.
Tina, the nurse practitioner who saw me that day, knew that I was not interested in a quick pharmaceutical fix to my mood swings, but rather wanted to pinpoint the cause. She considered the data and suggested I be tested for a Vitamin D deficiency.
That seemed to come from completely out of left field. I really didn’t know much at all about Vitamin D, much less that I could be deficient, or that said deficiency could cause problems.
She ordered a quick Vitamin D levels blood test and said she’d let me know the results.
About a week later, I got the call. Tina told me my Vitamin D levels were way low. Not too much of a surprise, I guess, since my work and lifestyle had me indoors at home most of the time. (This was before I started gardening.)
She recommended I take 2,000 IU of Vitamin D-3, three times per day. She also recommended I go outdoors in short sleeves and shorts, weather permitting, for twenty minutes at least three times a week to get Vitamin D directly from the sun. She wanted me to report back within two weeks to let her know how I was doing.
It didn’t even take a week for me to see drastic results, however. I had gone out that same day Tina prescribed my Vitamin D regimen and purchased tablets by Nature Made at our local pharmacy. Fortunately, with the warm weather, I was also able to work in more time in the sun, although maybe not the 20 minute intervals that she had prescribed.
Within about five days I already had noticed a difference in my mood.
Vitamin D Before and After
Before I started taking Vitamin D, I had gotten to where I felt like almost everyone that I tried to hold a conversation with was, well, an idiot. Obviously, none of them were idiots, but my distorted emotions at the time had left me with little patience for listening to anyone talk about anything. I was also completely zapped of any optimism.
On top of all of that, I was having physical symptoms that I now realize go hand-in-hand with emotional stress.
Several days after I started taking Vitamin D, I noticed my short-fuse seemed to be getting longer. All of a sudden, my friends and loved ones weren’t grating on my nerves anymore.
I couldn’t wait to see how it would affect me to continue taking the Sunshine Vitamin, and prayed that the effects wouldn’t wear off.
Sure enough, after about six weeks of taking 6,000 IU of Vitamin D daily, as well as increasing my sun exposure, I felt like a new person.
When I ran out of my first supply of Vitamin D, I was slow to go to the store to restock. I thought, “Well, I may be fine now and not need to keep taking it.”
Part of me wondered if it wasn’t something that just helped me get over a hump, but that perhaps I didn’t need in an ongoing fashion.
After a couple of weeks off of the supplement, my mood was darkening again. I still didn’t rush right out to buy more, thinking perhaps it would resolve itself.
A couple more weeks went by and my mood was progressively worse. I was worrying and anxious a lot, and just generally didn’t feel joyful.
I wasted no more time and went out to replenish my Vitamin D.
Within days, my mood was improving again. I was convinced — and amazed — to see that Vitamin D does have a profound impact on health and well-being.
The next time I ran out, I went to a different store to restock. I bought a different brand from usual, and I noticed that my mood, again, started to dip. After a few weeks, I determined it was the change in brand, so I went back to the brand I had initially used. Again, in days, everything was on the upswing.
Solar Power Your Life
I’m not recommending that anyone go out and start taking certain amounts of Vitamin D-3 (by the way, Vitamin D-3 is the kind our bodies need) supplements, nor am I saying that anyone should start baking themselves in the sun for hours each day. In fact, I’m not recommending anything specific to anyone. I’m not a licensed healthcare professional.
What I am recommending, however, is to learn what you can about Vitamin D and its effect on health and well-being.
- Start by visiting any of these sites:
- Find out what symptoms and health conditions can be caused by a deficiency. Here are just a few:
- Cold & Flu
- Eczema & Psoriasis
- Heart Disease
- Muscle pain
- & many more!
- Look into getting your Vitamin D levels checked by a healthcare provider (you can also purchase a test online), although if you go through your doctor’s office, don’t assume just because your levels come back within normal range that everything is ok. There are a variety of tests available and different healthcare providers interpret results differently. (Unfortunately, there are still a number of doctors out there who have resisted getting on board with all of the Vitamin D research.) Dr. Joseph Mercola says this:Don’t Be Fooled — Order the Correct Test
There are two vitamin D tests — 1,25(OH)D and 25(OH)D.
The correct test is 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This is the better marker of overall D status, and is most strongly associated with overall health.
Please note the difference between normal and optimal. You don’t want to be average here; you want to be optimally healthy.
- Soak up the sun, but be smart about it! Don’t slather on the sunscreen every time you go outside.There is research
to suggest that sunblock actually promotes skin cancer, rather than prevents it. The key is to avoid burning.Dr. Mercola recommends that individuals go outside for brief periods of time early in the season to acclimate the skin to the sun. Lesser periods of time would be appropriate for people with very fair skin — perhaps as few as ten minutes. As you build up a base tan, you can increase your time outside. The lighter the skin tone, the less sun you need to build up your Vitamin D levels. Ultimately, however, you’ll want to build up a healthy tolerance to the sun so that you can keep your natural Vitamin D at optimum levels.
Since summer weather came early to North Carolina, I was able to slack off my Vitamin D supplementation this year thanks to all the time I’m spending in the sun in our garden. I haven’t stopped taking it altogether, but I realize I don’t need as much if I’m getting a good dose of sunshine every day.
[This article originally appeared in May 2012.]