Natural Relief from Nasal Allergies – Researched and Rumored

natural remedies for allergiesAbout 20% of us suffer from hay fever or nasal allergies (rhinitis) this time of year.  Why is it that our bodies respond so vehemently to seemingly harmless pollen, dust, or mold particles?  Genetics, diet, and environment work together to cause our bodies to think that certain inhaled particles are intruders that should be eliminated.  When this happens, the mast cells (immune response cells) in the nasal passage release histamines.  Histamines are organic nitrogen molecules that act on nerve endings to initiate inflammatory responses like sneezing, itching, and mucous release. Herbs and nutrients used for natural allergy relief work by stopping one of these three mechanisms.  They either prevent the mast cells from responding to inhaled particles as dangerous intruders, block histamine from activating nerve endings, or lessen the body’s inflammatory response.

I, for one, have had fairly bad symptoms of hay fever every spring for most of my life, and I don’t wish it on anybody!  If you’ve had allergies so bad that you can barely function, you know what I’m talking about.  I’ve tried nearly every over-the-counter allergy medicine out there, but hardly any of them work for me (most of these are anti-histamines).  When I find one that does work, I usually have to take twice the recommended dose, and I don’t like doing that to my liver!  In my search for natural relief, I’ve discovered a few things that work for me, such as high doses of quercetin, but everyone is different.  Based on research and word of mouth, I’ve compiled a list of the most successful supplements for natural relief that are out there.  You might have to try a few different ones to discover what works best for you.

Stinging Nettle: The phytochemicals in stinging nettle act on the mast cells to prevent the release of histamine.  Stinging nettle also contains phytochemicals that block the histamine receptors on nerve endings.  One double blind, controlled studied found that 58% of people who took two 300 mg capsules of freeze dried stinging nettle during the day found it effective at relieving allergy symptoms, and 48% found it equal to or more effective than their previous allergy medicine.

Quercetin: This flavanol is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, such as apples, onions, and berries.  It’s usually attached to a sugar molecule (called a glycoside), which also gives it a higher rate of absorption. Quercetin works as both a mast cell inhibitor and an anti-inflammatory.  One study found that quercetin was more effective at inhibiting mast cells than chromolyn, a common asthma treatment.   Quercetin in supplemental form has a relatively low rate of absorption, so common doses range from 250-600 mg, three times daily.

Vitamin C: The role of vitamin C in providing allergy relief is often debated, but one Japanese study found that supplemental Vitamin C, compared with other anti-oxidants, was associated with fewer allergy symptoms. Another study found that a vitamin C solution sprayed into the nose three times daily greatly reduced nasal secretion.  Vitamin C probably provides relief by acting as an anti-inflammatory.

Bromelain: This powerful enzyme is found in pineapples and stimulates the production of plasmin.  Plasmin is an enzyme that helps provide allergy relief by opening up clogged nasal passages.

Local Honey: The research on the efficacy of local honey is limited, but it’s probably one of the more popular folk remedies out there.  It seems like nearly everyone I mention anything about allergies to suggests trying local honey.  I’ve tried eating local honey and it seems to work for me.  There’s also at least  one randomized, controlled study that indicates local honey may have scientific validity.  In Japan, researchers gave birch honey to patients suffering from birch pollen allergies, and the patients who ate the honey had significantly fewer allergy symptoms than those using traditional anti-histamines.  Hey, it’s honey we’re talking about here — it’s worth a try!

Do you know of any folk remedies or research on natural allergy relief that we missed?  What works best for you?  We’d love to read your comments below.

References: Birch Pollen Study, Quercetin Study, Vitamin C and Rhinitis Symptoms, Alternative Allergy Relief, Stinging Nettle Research

Originally posted 2013-04-30 22:03:31.

Natural vs. Synthetic Vitamin C

vitamin cWhile generally, unprocessed foods are healthier than manufactured ones, science is often successful at manufacturing exact replicas of micronutrients (like vitamin C).  Synthesization in a lab, rather than through natural biological processes in God’s creation, does not automatically make something unhealthy or inferior.  Manufactured versions of naturally occurring micronutrients can still be considered “natural” when they integrate seamlessly with natural biological processes.  The evidence suggests that such is the case with vitamin C.

Every so often people tell me that synthesized vitamin C is not as effective as naturally occurring vitamin C or vitamin C “complexes.”  All current studies, however, indicate that synthesized vitamin C and naturally occurring vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) are identical; they have no difference in molecular structure or bioavailability.

It’s true that vitamin C occurs in plants as part of a nutrient “complex”  and that the nutrients in that complex may provide additional benefits, but the ascorbic acid component in the complex is the same as synthesized ascorbic acid.  Moreover, most mammals (other than humans) are capable of producing vitamin C internally, and when they do, it’s as pure L-ascorbic acid, not a complex of any other nutrients.  The L-ascorbic acid that these mammals produce is effective at carrying out all the important functions of vitamin C, like collagen and carnitine synthesis.

That being said, it’s clear that vitamin C isn’t the only health promoting factor in vitamin C rich foods.  Vitamin C in whole foods works synergistically with a number of other nutrients for increased health benefits.  For example, a study that compared vitamin C supplementation to consumption of orange juice with an equal amount of Vitamin C found that orange juice provided superior anti-oxidant protection.  Whole foods like oranges contain hundreds of healthy phytonutrients that researchers are only just starting to understand.  There’s no debate that a diet rich in whole foods offers tremendous benefits over a diet of processed foods that depends heavily on micronutrient supplementation.  Yet, in and of itself, synthesized vitamin C is exactly the same as natural occurring vitamin C and functions the same in the body.

Synthesized ascorbic acid can have a valid place in a creation-based diet.  Vitamin C supplementation is an affordable and easy way to ensure that the body is getting enough of one of the most important nutrients for optimum health.  In addition to being a powerful anti-oxidant, Vitamin C is essential for a healthy cardiovascular system, normal metabolic function, and collagen production (one of the most abundant proteins in the body).  When applied topically, synthesized vitamin C is also affective at reducing UV ray induced skin damage.   The benefits of supplemental vitamin C, specifically, are also supported by an ever growing number of studies.  Thus, when it comes to my personal health, I’ll keep eating a creation-based diet, high in natural sources of vitamin C, as well as supplementing with at least 500 mg of vitamin C daily.

References:

Originally posted 2013-03-13 23:00:47.

How does creatine work?

Creatine is one of the most researched weight lifting and sport supplements on the market. While many remain skeptical about what creatine is or how it works, the science behind creatine is pretty simple.

Creatine is a molecule made up of amino-acids (proteins) and occurs naturally in the human body.  The liver and kidneys synthesize creatine and add phosphate to it in order to produce a rapid source of energy for the skeletal muscles and brain.  With the added phosphate, creatine becomes phosphocreatine and can supply the phosphate needed to “reload” adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s ultimate fuel.

Adenosine triphosphate is composed of three phosphate ions; when one of these is cleaved, the breaking of the chemical bond produces energy and an adenosine diphosphate (ADP) is left behind.  During intense bouts of activity, the muscles and brain use stored phosphocreatine to rapidly supply a phosphate group to ADP, so that it becomes an ATP again and can provide more energy.

While the body can produce its own creatine, production is dependent on whether or not all the amino-acid building blocks are available (l-arginine, glycine, and l-methionine). Creatine levels are directly related to dietary intake, and meat and dairy are the only natural sources of creatine in its complete form.  Thus, vegetarians or people who eat little meat have low levels of stored creatine and less energy for intense activities.  In one study, vegetarians who supplemented their diets with creatine gained better memory.  A number of other studies have focused on supplemental creatine’s effect on strength training and intense sports.  By supplying the muscles with ample energy, creatine allows the muscles to work harder.  When the muscles work harder and have enough protein, they get bigger and stronger.

The lesson: More creatine means more energy for intense activities. Creatine’s not a steroid or a stimulant.  It’s basically a vehicle that delivers the phosphate needed to “reload” ATP.  To get more creatine in your diet, eat plenty of meat and dairy from grass-fed animals or use a creatine supplement like CBH Micronized Creatine.  The micronized stuff mixes easily in water, but non-micronized is fine for adding to smoothies.

References: Effect of Supplemental Creatine on Vegetarians, The Effects of Creatine Supplementation for Muscles Gains

Originally posted 2013-03-09 00:35:00.

Choosing the Best Fish Oil Supplement

choose-the-best-fish_oilIf you’re reading this post, I’m assuming that you’re already familiar with all the health benefits that can be derived from taking fish oil (improved cardiovascular health, lower blood-triglyceride level, reduction of arthritis symptoms, reduced inflammation, reduced symptoms of some mental illnesses, reduced symptoms of Alzheimer’s, healthier skin, etc). The primary reason that fish oil has these effects is because it’s high in Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and doposapentaenoic acid (DPA). These essential fatty acids (meaning your body can’t produce them), cause a cascade of beneficial anti-inflammatory (or mildly inflammatory) actions in the body. In order to obtain their benefits, however, they must be consumed in a high amount, because they compete for use by the body with Omega-6 fatty acids. Most americans consume far too many omega-6 fatty acids, which cause negative inflammatory response in the body (vasoconstriction, allergies, Reactive Oxygen Species, etc) and not enough omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, while many supplements out there advertise having Omega-3s, Omega-6s, and Omega-9s, it’s really only Omega-3s that are needed as a supplement in our diets. It should also be noted that Omega-3s from fish are far more potent and effective in the body than the type of Omega-3 obtained from flax seeds or walnuts (called ALA), because it doesn’t have to be converted to the forms useable by the body. With that in mind, here are things to look for when choosing a fish oil supplement for your daily regimen:

1) High-potency: You need something that is mostly Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). Most of the fish oil supplements on the market contain only 30% of Omega-3s per capsule, about 300 mg per 1,000 mg of fish oil. In order to obtain the amount of Omega-3s that provide any real benefit (thought by many to be about 2,500 mg per day), you would have to take 8-9 capsules of market-grade fish oil. The thing is, you would also be consuming over 5,000 mg of others types of fats from the fish that can cause gastrointestinal irritation. You also place yourself at a higher risk for consuming too many toxins. Find a fish oil supplement that is at least 60% EPA and DHA per serving, and take a minimum of 2,500 mg of omega-3s per day. The FDA recognizes 3,000 mg per day as generally safe for consumption (of course always consult your personal doctor before starting any new supplement). FIsh oil can be found in both capsule and liquid form. If you don’t like taking large capsules, liquid form might be better for you. There are products available that provide over 2,500 mg of Omega-3 in a one teaspoon serving.

2) Purity: Though not as much of a problem any more, when fish oil supplements first came out on the market many of them weren’t filtered well for mercury, arsenic, dioxins, or PCBs. Due to consumer awareness, today most fish oils are manufactured using a high level of filtration, but it’s still important to check. Make sure the label clearly lists the chemicals the fish oil was filtered for and to what level they were removed. Dr. Sears, author of The OmegaRx Zone, recommends the following levels:

Mercury: less the 10 parts per billion

PCBs: less than 30 parts per billion

Dioxins: less than 1 part per trillion

These amounts are written as follows:

1 ppm = 1 mg/L =

1/1 million = 0.000001

1 ppb = 1 µg/L =

1/1 billion = 0.000000001

Visit this article for a helpful explanation of PPB and PPM.

3) Fish type: If the fish oil is purified from contaminants, the type of fish it comes from really isn’t that important. Some companies use fish type (such as salmon) as a marketing strategy, but it might just increase your cost. Nevertheless, it may be a good idea to stick to oil that comes from fish that are lower on the food chain (sardines, mackerels, anchovies, salmon, herring), as they accumulate fewer amounts of toxins than larger fish (like shark and tuna). Nearly any fish oil produced for Omega-3 fatty acids is derived from cold-water, ocean fish. Cold-water fish store Omega-3s because they consume high amounts of the algae that make it. Farm-fished, by contrast, usually aren’t fed high quantities of expensive algae and, therefore, aren’t as high in Omega-3s.

The bottom line is that fish oil with at least 60% Omega-3s (EPA/DHA) and filtered for toxins is one of the most important supplements you could add to your daily routine. The Western diet is drastically short on cold water fish and the grass-fed meats that are high in these important nutrients. Our bodies thrive on the right balance of essential fats, but we’ve thrown that balance off by consuming refined oils (canola, corn, soy) that are too high in Omega-6s. Cut out the refined oils, eat more meats that thrive in God’s creation (especially cold-water fish), and add some fish oil to your diet to help your body function at it’s optimal state.

Originally posted 2012-11-09 22:40:00.

Are omega-3s fishy business?

If you follow your local supermarket advertisements or read up on recent health trends, you’ve probably heard about the touted benefits of fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids. But are omega-3s another one food wonder, a marketing scheme, or are they legitimately important for health? Well, all the current research (and common sense) indicates that omega-3 fatty acids have important health benefits and are in-fact essential for good health. Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the “essential fatty acids,” along with omega-6, and omega-9, because our bodies can’t produce them but need them for many important functions.

To the detriment of our health, Omega-3 fatty acids are the least consumed essential fatty acids in the American diet. The best sources of naturally occurring Omega-3 are cold-water seafood, especially salmon, cod-liver oil, walnuts, and flaxseed. While many people enjoy salmon and other seafoods, most don’t eat them often enough to meet the body’s requirement for omega-3s. Also while walnuts and flaxseeds are plentiful in a form of omega-3s, called alpha linolenic acid (ALA), it must be converted by the body into the two useful forms of omega-3s, called Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), before it can produce important health benefits. Moreover, many people’s bodies aren’t able to effectively convert ALA into its useful forms. Therefore, omega-3s in the form of EPA and DHA obtained from seafood or supplements are an important consideration for optimum health.

But how do omega-3s support health? Researchers are discovering a number of rolls omega-3s play in the body. For one, they are one of the main components of the brain, which is primarily a fatty-tissue. They are also used in the body to produce anti-inflammatory effects, which can result in a strengthened immune system, help prevent stroke and heart disease, reduce the effects of arthritis, and strengthen the cardiovascular system. Omega-3s also play an important role in hormone regulation and fetal development. Finally, there is reason to believe that adequate consumption of omega-3s may prevent or lessen the effects of depression.

The amount of Omega-3s our bodies need is based on an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. The ideal ratio is thought to be between 4:1 and 1:1. Most American’s consume far too many omega-6 fatty acids due to the high intake of polyunsaturated fats found in refined oils like corn and canola oil. As a result, many Americans have a ratio upwards of 16:1! Correcting this ratio requires consuming fewer refined corn and canola oils (switch to olive oil, butter, or coconut oil instead), and eating more salmon, other seafood, or taking fish oil supplements. The typically recommended amounts of omega-3s are from 1 to 5 grams per day. Personally, I take about 2.5 grams of omega-3s in the form of EPA and DHA from fish oil daily. If you go the supplement route, be sure to purchase fish oil that is purified of mercury. Krill oil is another option, but tends to be far more expensive. For the brave, there is also cod-liver oil (which also contains high amounts of vitamin D). If you prefer to obtain your nutrients through whole foods alone, keep in mind that 200 grams of wild coho salmon contains a little over 2 grams of omega-3s (which means you would have to eat wild salmon daily to get a healthy amount of omega-3s). The best option for obtaining enough omega-3s through whole foods is eating a mix of salmon (and other cold-water ocean fish), grass fed meat, flax seed, and walnuts.

So yes, omega-3s are fishy business, but they are vital for good health!

Originally posted 2012-01-12 19:44:00.

Boost your brain power with healthy living

We’ve all experienced days when our thinking and memory were a bit sluggish and other days when our minds seemed to be functioning at full-throttle. Wouldn’t it be nice to have more days with clarity of mind and full-throttle thinking? While all of the brain’s workings aren’t completely understood, researchers have unlocked a few important nutrition and exercise-related factors that can help you achieve optimum brain performance, perhaps even better than what you’ve ever had! If you incorporate the following practices, you be well on your way to nurturing a healthy brain.

1) Obtain enough rest – It has been known for some time know that getting enough quality sleep is essential for proper brain function and memory solidification. It is also thought that reading or studying something right before bed-time is especially helpful for reinforcing retention of that material. To store information, the brain creates neuro-pathways, and these are reinforced during sleep.

Recent research is also pointing to the importance of resting the mind while awake. Neuroscientist at New York University found that neuro-pathways are reinforced if the brain is given a chance to be idle after acquiring new information. [1] Giving our brain a few moments of idle time during the day can be difficult in our society. With computers, TV, cell-phones, i-Pods, and the like, our brains hardly have time to rest. Try taking a few moment throughout the day to cut out all the noise. The extra time you take to rest when asleep and awake can help your mind more efficiently process all those important goals and tasks throughout your day.

2) Eat the right foods – Fat, carbohydrates, and protein are all important for optimum brain function, but it’s important to get the rights kinds. One of the most important kinds of fats for brain function, one many people are short on, is Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). DHA is an Omega-3 fatty acid that is an important building block of the brain’s structure.[2] Adequate Omega-3 consumption is shown to improve the brain’s circuitry and synapse health and may improve overall brain function. The recommended dietary consumption of Omega-3s is 1,500 to 3,000 mg per day.

As far as carbohydrates, these are the brain’s required source of energy, and it’s preferred type of carbohydrate is glucose. In fact, all of the body’s cells operate most efficiently using glucose as an energy source. There are at least two important reasons why the brain operates best on glucose. For one, glucose is metabolized in the brain in a way that causes it to signal the body to feel full once it has had enough; this is not true of fructose. Secondly, in a recent study that compared the effects of fructose and glucose on the brain, it was found that glucose resulted in an increase in neurological activity for 20 minutes after consumption, while fructose consumption resulted in a depressed state of neurological activity for 20 minutes.[3] While the implications of these results are not yet known, it seems to me that increased neurological activity is what we’re looking for! Unfortunately, many people’s diets are high in added sugars which are typically fructose-based. Glucose is found in whole-food staples like potatoes, vegetables, grains, and seeds.

Finally, the brain relies on protein for proper memory function. It uses a special type of protein to mark neurological pathways for short and long term memory. It can’t make these markers, however, if you don’t have enough protein in your diet! Be sure to get all the amino-acids your body needs by eating high-quality protein sources like, meat, dairy, and quinoa.

3.) Exercise – It turns out that the old adage, “dumb jock,” simply isn’t true. Physical exercise is an important, perhaps even vital, part of optimum mental/brain health. Studies have found that regular exercise from 20-40 minutes in duration can improve brain activity from 80-120%. Exercise also improves brain plasticity and neurogenesis. In other words, exercise helps the brain learn and operate better. Finally, statistical studies have draw a firm correlation between exercise and decreased levels of depression. So, there’s really no excuse for not getting outside to play and exercise.[4][5] Not only will it help improve your attitude, taking the time to exercise/play, will actually help you work more efficiently.

Conveniently, if you’re living a creation-based lifestyle you’re already doing these things! Obtaining rest is so much easier when we trust in the Lord and know that he is taking care of us. It can be so easy to be moved by circumstances and think that we have to do everything in our strength, never giving ourselves an opportunity to rest. Yet, I can’t help but think of how Jesus slept peacefully while a storm was threatening to capsize his boat. What a great example of trusting in the Father’s care! Also, if we look to the Creator and realize he created good things for his children, it’s easy to see that eating the foods he made for us (vs the processed foods made by man) will lead to good health. Furthermore, he created a beautiful creation for us to get out and enjoy, to move in, to run in, to play in. Mental, physical, and spiritual health are inextricably linked in various ways So it’s not surprising that exercise and rest (which can be an important spiritual discipline) promote good mental health and optimum brain function!

References:

Originally posted 2011-10-05 17:24:00.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects as many as 10 to 20 percent of Americans each year during the winter months. If you’re feeling irritable, moody, fatigued or less energetic during the winter season, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder. The good news is, you don’t have to resign yourself to months of moodiness each year. Read on to find out what causes seasonal affective disorder, and learn about safe, natural ways to treat it. 

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder? Many of us love throwing open the curtains in the morning and basking in the sunlight. There’s actually a biochemical reason for that. When our bodies are exposed to sunlight, it triggers the production of a chemical called cholecalciferol, which is ultimately converted to Vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary to regulate the production of serotonin, a hormone which helps produce a feeling of well-being and which has been linked to depression at low levels. Lack of sunlight also triggers the release of a chemical called melatonin, which contributes to feelings of fatigue and helps you sleep at night. In other words, when you’re exposed to less sunlight, your body produces more melatonin (making you feel more sleepy and sluggish) and you absorb less Vitamin D, which means less serotonin production and a higher chance of depression.

How to naturally treat Seasonal Affective Disorder. There are several simple and natural treatment for SAD. Keep a regular daytime/nighttime schedule to avoid throwing off your sleep patterns, which can disrupt your body’s natural biorythms and exacerbate mood disorders and fatigue. Maintain a healthy diet that’s high in protein, which are the building blocks for many hormones, and avoid too many processed carbs, which can contribute to irritability and moodiness. Make sure you get a full night’s sleep each night and expose yourself to as much sunlight as you can during the winter months. Take walks outside or perform other outdoor routines on a daily basis to increase your light intake. You can also swap out your lights at home, and at your office, for full spectrum lightbulbs, which emulate natural sunlight.

How to prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you have a history of SAD or feel you may be at risk of the disorder, make sure you get plenty of sunlight at the onset of winter as opposed to waiting until you feel the effects of seasonal affective disorder. Doing something you enjoy everyday.  Also, having a close social circle you frequently interact with and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen will help prevent the onset of seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder doesn’t have to dominate your winter. Once you recognize the symptoms of SAD, you can help prevent or treat it by following a few safe and simple guidelines. If you feel you may have a medical condition contributing to your symptoms, consult a physician immediately for proper treatment. With enough sunlight, a positive attitude and good health habits, you can typically alleviate seasonal affective disorder or banish it altogether and start enjoying the holiday season again.  Sources for “Season Affective Disorder:”

  • http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/studentlife/counselingcenter/infosheets/winterblues.html
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9539254

Originally posted 2013-12-10 17:20:34.

Vitamin D Values in Blood

vitamin d values in bloodWhy are vitamin D values important? Well, without knowing the vitamin D levels in your blood, you’re basically just shooting in the dark when it comes to getting enough sunshine or vitamin D supplementation. Do you know what the best vitamin D blood values are or the best way to measure vitamin D values in your blood? Read on to discover the answers to these questions.

Optimal vitamin D values in the blood are crucial. Many people are drastically short on vitamin D and don’t even realize it, but the consequences can be profound. Vitamin D acts more like a hormone than a vitamin. Every single cell in the body has a vitamin D receptor, and once received in the cell, vitamin D tells the cells what genetic codes to turn on. Vitamin D  has an important role in optimizing your genetic potential and helps ensure that the bad codes (like those that can cause cancer or disease) in your DNA aren’t turned on. Vitamin D deficiency may play a role in a number of health problems, including: acne, breast cancer, heart disease, depression, fibromyalgia, melanoma, osteoporosis, periodontal disease, and prostate cancer. 

Optimal vitamin D values in blood: Today many of us are drastically deficient in vitamin D. We get most of our vitamin D through internal production, which takes place when the skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. It’s not uncommon for farmers, people who belong to traditional hunter/gatherer societies, or those who simply get outside a lot to have vitamin d blood values of around 100 ng/ml. Many Americans, by contrast, only have 10 to 30 ng/ml!  Current research indicates that optimal vitamin d values in blood range from 50 to 100 ng/ml.  

How to obtain the optimum vitamin D values in blood: 

  1. Have your vitamin D blood levels tested by your doctor or order your own test through Direct Labs.
  2. Depending on the vitamin D values in your blood, you may need to get more sunshine or supplement with vitamin D3. It’s estimated that people with light-colored skin need about 10-15 minutes of sunshine three times per week, with maximum amount of skin exposure (i.e. bathing suit). People with dark-colored skin may need 20-30 minutes. For supplementation, the best amount of vitamin D3 is thought to be between 4,000 and 6,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. (The CBH Daily Multi Nutrient contains 4,000 IU of Vitamin D3 per serving).

Vitamin D3 supplementation is safe up to relatively high amounts. The current upper tolerable limit for supplementation is 10,000 IU per day. Nevertheless, to ensure that your vitamin D blood levels aren’t too high or too low, it’s important that you have your levels tested.

Sources: 

Originally posted 2013-12-03 13:18:32.

Vitamin D Deficiency During the Winter

Vitamin D Deficiency in Winter

Daylight savings has come and we have had our first snow dusting in the Twin Cities. It is time to start considering the risk of vitamin D deficiency — the days are getting shorter and a tad drearier, especially here. I never actually realized this, but it gets darker earlier up north since we are further from the equator. This means less hours of sunshine and less direct sun rays, which can be a bit of a problem since sunlight is the best source of vitamin D. 

Vitamin D is essential to the body for maintaining proper amounts of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Vitamin D also aids in the absorption of calcium which helps keep our bones nice and strong. According to the Mayo clinic, vitamin D deficiency could cause rickets, or malformation of bones, in children and osteomalacia, or weakened bones and muscles in adults. Low levels of vitamin D is also thought to cause depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder in some individuals, with fall and winter being especially high risk times.  The FDA’s daily recommendations for vitamin D are 600IU for ages 1-70 and 800IU for those over the age of 70, but according to other research this might just be the bare minimum. So what are ways we can obtain the needed vitamin D during the darker winter months and avoid vitamin D deficiency?

Dietary sources typically only make up for 20% of our overall vitamin D intake, but it doesn’t hurt to load up on these foods during times of lower sunlight.  Here are few foods to help you avoid vitamin D deficiency: Fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel or salmon. Six ounces of salmon contains over 600IU of vitamin D. Eggs (in the yolk). Fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, soy milk and cereals. Beef liver. Cod liver oil (if you get desperate) which used to be a very common vitamin D supplement.

Get all the sunlight you can in the winter. Again, sunlight is the best way for your body to get vitamin D. In a time when we are all worried about skin cancer, it is still recommended that we get a moderate amount of sun for vitamin D production. The body actually stores extra vitamin D in the fat cells to avoid seasonal deficiency.   On a sunny day during the spring or summer for someone with moderately tanned skin and moderately close to the equator (yes, a little unspecific), it only takes being outside for 15 minutes with face and hands uncovered (including no sunscreen) for the body to produce enough vitamin D. During the winter, try to walk outside for 15-20 minutes during the sunniest part of the day several times per week, if not daily.

Recommendations for the amount of sunlight needed can be tricky since adequate vitamin D production is based on a number of factors. First of all, the darker your skin, the more difficult it is for the UVB light to penetrate and produce vitamin D. It also depends on where you live. The further away from the equator you are, the less direct UVB rays you get. It also depends on the time of the year, and as we discussed, the winter months produce the low amounts of sunshine.

Cautious tanning bed usage. Although large amounts of time spent in a tanning bed are not recommended due to the risk of skin cancer, these beds still produce UVB light that your body can turn into vitamin D. The Vitamin D Vouncil recommends caution with tanning beds, but still suggests a short period of time in a bed that contains more UVB than UVA light. The rule of thumb recommended by The Council is half the amount of time it takes your skin to turn pink (for a freckled gal like me this is probably about 4-5 minutes).

Supplements are also an option. Always be careful when taking supplements as you never want to over dose, especially on a fat soluble vitamin such as vitamin D. The upper tolerable level for vitamin D is set to 10,000 IU for all forms of vitamin D.

Low levels of sunlight can be a bummer for the mood and the body, but you can easily obtain the vitamin D you need though adequate UV rays, foods, and supplements to keep happy and healthy during the winter months. Avoiding vitamin D deficiency is easy and can result in vast improvements in your health. (Always check with your doctor before taking new supplements, starting a new diet, or using a tanning bed.)  

Tell me…

Are you affected by the dark days of winter?

Have you ever had cod liver oil?

Sources for “Vitamin D Deficiency in Winter:”

Originally posted 2013-11-21 09:45:29.