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Vitamin D Deficiency Pandemic

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Article by Gabriela Thiecke

ARTEMISIA Natural Medicine, North Lakes Profile | Email | Website
ARTEMISIA Natural Medicine, North Lakes Skin Health, Positive Mood Promotion, Digestive Problems, Healthy Ageing Strategies, Weight Loss, Addictions North Lakes
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Vitamin D Deficiency Pandemic in the Sunburnt Country

by Gabriela Thiecke, Naturopath at Artemisia Natural Medicine in North Lakes, QLD

The flu season.
Has anyone ever wondered why the flu tends to strike in winter? One astonishing theory that still prevails today is that germs and viruses are more active in winter. However, the fact that everything else in nature slows down or goes into hibernation during the cold season and that germs thrive and propagate much more readily in warmer environments seems to fly in the face of this theory.

At any rate, as a naturopath, I regard germs and viruses as being of secondary importance in the disease process. The host is everything. That still leaves the question of why more people are affected by colds and flu during the winter….

Research in recent years has shown that vitamin D deficiency is on the increase across Australia, and doctors, too, are now regularly prescribing this vitamin. However, the true picture of deficiency is unlikely yet to be apparent: Blood tests (serum levels of vitamin D) are not a good indicator of a person’s true vitamin D status, as circulating levels only decrease significantly once storage levels are severely depleted.

In a 2005 position statement on vitamin D, the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) states: “A significant number of Australians are deficient in vitamin D — it is a fallacy that Australians receive adequate vitamin D from casual exposure to sunlight.”

Furthermore, in 2002, MJA authors commented that adequate intake of vitamin D was unlikely to be achieved through dietary means. Though a daily tablespoon (approx. 10 ml) of cod liver oil will yield about 800 I.U. of vitamin D of a commonly available brand in Australia, this is still a paltry amount if you’re addressing deficiencies.

Depending on latitude, weather conditions, time of day, constitutional individuality and other variants, the skin produces somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 I.U. vitamin D in response to 20–30 minutes of summer sun exposure (UV-B radiation). Complete cloud cover reduces UV energy by 50%; shade, including that produced by severe pollution, reduces it by 60%. UV-B radiation does not penetrate glass, so exposure to sunshine indoors through a window does not stimulate vitamin D production.

Vitamin D has many functions in the body. Its importance in bone health is well-known. Its lesser known activities include vital immune system functions, as well as playing a part in reducing inflammation. However, vitamin D also plays a key role in modulating the genes that regulate the cell cycle – the speed at which cells proliferate, the type of cells into which they develop, the body’s inherent control over cell generation and cell death, etc. - a key implication for the development of cancer which causes cells to transform into altered cell types and to proliferate unchecked.

Returning to winter colds and flu, vitamin D is, in fact, the precursor of a naturally generated steroid hormone (following conversion in the body) which increases the body’s production of antibiotic proteins as part of our innate immune system function. These antibiotic proteins quickly kill bacteria, fungi and viruses – including influenza viruses. Given that our exposure to sunshine is lowest during the winter, this is also the season when we are most vitamin D deficient and become most susceptible to developing infections. Perhaps the future will see high-dose vitamin D supplementation taking the place of ineffective,* tax-payer funded seasonal flu shots when sunshine is scarce.

To sum up: Apart from the Inuit people in the northern-most latitudes who traditionally ate large quantities of vitamin D-rich whale and seal blubber, as well as oily fish - thereby compensating for their relative lack of sun exposure - human beings in other regions most efficiently obtain vitamin D by exposing their skin to the sun whenever possible.

No such thing as a healthy tan? On the contrary - there is sufficient scientific evidence supporting sensible daily sun exposure to safely put this alarmist message to rest.


10 Nov 2010

Last Update: 31 Oct 2017

Article/Information supplied by Gabriela Thiecke

Disclaimer - Any general advice given in any article should not be relied upon and should not be taken as a substitute for visiting a qualified medical Doctor.