Remember the song “Looking for love in all the wrong places?” Well, it seems that modern man tends to do the same thing when it comes to health solutions. Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars on this or that pill, could it be possible that for some of the solutions to disease, all we need to do is look up?
The concept that sunshine is essential to our health may be surprising. The sun, ever present, is easy to take for granted. And sure, we know that plants need sunshine to grow, but humans are certainly not bean stocks!
The truth is, in today’s highly scientific culture, it is easy to overlook the simple solutions.
In this article, you’ll learn some surprising facts about sunlight and vitamin D and get some actionable items for yourself. We will address key questions and misconceptions such as:
- What is vitamin D?
- Sunlight’s critical role in preventing many diseases
- How our current lifestyle is hazardous to our health and actually contributed to creating an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency
- Why sunlight is the preferred method of getting your vitamin D
- How much vitamin D do I need?
- How much time should I be in the sun?
You’ll learn about some similarities between Vitamin D and CBD (Cannabidiol) in a historical context as well as conditions that both help address. CBD is one of the many cannabinoids found in hemp.
CBD interacts with our body’s own endocannabinoid system to regulate bodily system and help bring balance. Unlike the sun, one of the oldest and identifiable elements in human cultures and healing, the endocannabinoid system in our bodies was only identified in the past 40 years.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is considered an essential vitamin. Almost every cell in your body has a receptor for it. Vitamin D is what makes it possible for our intestines to absorb calcium, magnesium, and phosphate. Vitamin D makes it possible for you to have strong bones and teeth!
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble compounds. Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in fat. They are absorbed along with fats in the diet and can be stored in the body’s fatty tissue. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble. They come from plant and animal foods or dietary supplements.
The interesting thing about Vitamin D is not only do we get it by eating it, our body also produces it when exposed to sunlight.
Vitamin D has other biological effects such as regulating the immune system and insulin. It plays a role in the regulation of cell division. It also works to stop uncontrolled reproduction of cells which is associated with diseases like cancer. Because of its regulatory functions, vitamin D has come to be regarded as a hormone as well as a vitamin.
In humans, the most important compounds in the Vitamin D group are Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and Vitamin D2.(ergocalciferol). They are not naturally present in the body but are critical to its functioning. These can be ingested from your diet as well as from supplements.
Unfortunately few foods contain Vitamin D. Throughout history, the major natural source of the vitamin is a synthesis of cholecalciferol (D3) in the skin. This happens through a chemical reaction with cholesterol that is dependent on sun exposure.
Vitamin D and CBD Oil
Every cell in the body contains receptors for vitamins, just as there are receptors for cannabinoids found all throughout the body.
Both Vitamin D and endocannabinoids affect balance in our bodies. A deficiency in either can lead to anxiety, depression, and pain. So it is important to understand both and take action if you suspect a deficiency in either. If you are not getting a sufficient amount of sunlight in your life, Vitamin D supplements are critical. If your body has a deficiency of endocannabinoids, taking CBD oil and other CBD products are your best solution.
What Happens if a Person has a Vitamin D Deficiency?
A Vitamin D deficiency can lead to some pretty serious consequences.
- High blood pressure
- Thin or brittle bones which lead to frequent bone fractures
- Muscle weakness
- Chronic pain (because vitamin D plays a key role in supporting bone, muscle and cell health)
- Periodontal disease
- Decreased endurance
- Cardiovascular disease
Research shows that a reduced level of Vitamin D in the blood may be a risk factor for developing Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Studies are underway to determine if Vitamin D levels influence MS disease activity. Recent research also points to a possible role for Vitamin D in neuroprotection and myelin repair.
Tiny Tim, Rickets, and Vitamin D
Your body is not able to produce its own calcium. So for strong teeth and bones, it is important to eat foods rich in this mineral.
However, a Vitamin D deficiency means that even if you eat enough calcium-rich food, your body will not be able to absorb the calcium it needs through the intestines. If there is a shortage of calcium in your blood, your body starts taking the calcium it needs in the blood from the bones and teeth.
In the 1800s, Vitamin D deficiency in children led to an epidemic of Rickets. Rickets is a disease characterized by softening and distortion of the bones. This led to generations of stunted children suffering from pain in the bones of the arms, legs, pelvis or spine. Many developed skeletal deformities including an oddly shaped skull and bowed legs.
Perhaps the most famous, though fictitious, victim of a rickets-like disease was Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim was a character from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
In the 1840s, when it was published, many children’s lives were filled with long work days in factories and mining shafts. They lived in polluted cities without parks or playgrounds.
Rickets was so prevalent in England it affected the government’s ability to raise the number of military recruits needed at the time.
Rickets and other serious illnesses such as tuberculosis inspired scientists to look to the sun for answers.
Is Spending More Time Outside a Cure?
In the 1903 Danish Scientist Niels Finsen earned a Nobel Prize for his work with artificial light. He made connections between natural light and artificial ultraviolet radiation proving the value of both as successful medical treatments. With that recognition, sunlight therapy became an acceptable treatment.
Later in the 1920s, most people began moving indoors thanks to electricity and indoor lighting. As such, public health activists began to get involved. They promoted and facilitated weekend and summer outings for city dwellers, particularly children. The point was so they could soak up fresh air and sunshine in the countryside.
But the fact was, getting people out into the sun was not economical. In 1927, the chairman of the Section on Disease of Children of the American Medical Association said, “Cod liver oil, it seems to me, is our civilization’s excellent, economical, and practical substitute for exposure to sunlight. In order to prevent Rickets, the administration of cod liver oil or the exposure of children to the actinic [active radiation] rays should be early.”
And for decades doctors prescribed cod liver oil to patients. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that it was discovered the reason sunlight and cod liver oil were effective was that both put Vitamin D in the body.
Rising Childhood Autism / Epilepsy and CBD
A hundred years later, there is another rising condition among children that we are taking notice of and research is being conducted to find treatments. Much like the connection to Rickets and Vitamin D, many doctors are beginning to look for a variety of solutions in different places. These treatments, like sunlight, include natural and “under our noses” type solutions.
This new condition is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and while there is much heated debate about the cause of this rise, one thing is certain—it is increasing. In 2004, 1 in every 166 children were diagnosed with ASD. In 2018 that was predicted to rise to 1 in every 59 children. Additionally, boys are four times more likely to have ASD. Current figures are not available as of the posting of this article.
Autism and CBD: Grassroots Testimonials and Research
The characteristics of ASD are specific to each afflicted individual and, as the name implies, vary across a wide spectrum. Unfortunately, there is no cure for ASD, only a variety of methods, medications, and therapies to manage its effects both large and small.
Most recently CBD has begun to provide hope for caregivers and people with ASD in terms of managing certain aspects of the disorder. There are testimonials all over the internet by parents of children with autism who discuss the benefits of CBD, primarily its effect on seizures and anxiety.
Fortunately, there is a growing amount of scientific research specifically regarding children with ASD. The objective is to prove that CBD treatment is 100% safe, tolerable, without side effects, and effective in managing symptoms. Unfortunately, there is currently no study completely validating the idea that CBD is an available option for the treatment of ASD yet.
Recent Studies Shine the Light on CBD and ASD
One such recent study published by the American Academy of Neurology found some very encouraging statistics and results. This study assessed the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of CBD. The study used CBD as add-on therapy, specifically for persistent behavioral problems in children with ASD. Following the CBD treatment, general behavioral issues were noted as “much improved” or “very much improved” in 61% of patients.
Breaking that out further, anxiety and communication problems were improved by 39% and 47% respectively. Disruptive behaviors were improved by 29% following the treatment. As a result, parents reported less stress as reflected in the APSI (Autism Parenting Stress Index) scores, improving by 33%. The effect on all outcome measures was more apparent in boys with non-syndromic ASD.
While the research is being done many more success stories are circulating regarding the treatment of ASD using CBD. There are several reports from parents claiming their children benefited positively after including CBD in their treatment. These benefits include: a decline in aggressive behavior, a significant decrease in seizures, improved speech, including children who did not speak before and achieved significant results in a short period of time after their first dose of CBD oil. This is what generates hope in other parents who seek comfort and a better quality of life for their children. Always remember that before using any additional product, like CBD, your doctor should be consulted. CBD is a potential additional therapy to your child’s current medically-prescribed program.
Vitamin D Deficiency Hasn’t Gone Away
While natural health treatments are being researched and implemented for children with ASD, we are not out of the woods yet with vitamin D deficiency.
According to research published in 2016 by the National Institute of Health, rickets is actually still a problem. It is no longer considered a disease of the past or a disease limited to low-income countries. In fact, there has been a resurgence of interest in rickets and vitamin D status. The number of diseases that may be associated with vitamin D deficiency is rapidly increasing, and more and more clinical laboratories are being asked to measure vitamin D levels.
Large population surveys, such as the Nutrition Examination Survey and National Health, have suggested that many people may be affected by vitamin D deficiency at some point during their lifetime. Less sunlight exposure, indoor living, dietary choices, and increasing rates of dietary allergies, are likely playing a significant role in the increase of this rate in some segments of the worldwide population.
Just in the last decade, the National Institute of Health reported that almost 42% of the U.S. population has a vitamin D deficiency. This number went up to 69.2 % among Hispanics and 82.1% among African-Americans.
High-Risk Factors for Vitamin D Deficiency
These are common risk factors for vitamin D deficiency:
- Having dark skin – Melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure.
- Being elderly – as the synthesis of vitamin D from sunlight becomes less efficient as one ages.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Not eating much fish or milk.
- Living far from the equator where there is little sun year-round.
- Always using sunscreen when going out
- Staying indoors
- Wearing heavy amounts of clothing
Vitamin D Recommendations for Infants
The recommended adequate intake of vitamin D for infants is 400 IU per day. Human milk contains 25 IU or less per quart so it’s important to ensure your little one is getting adequate sunlight exposure or getting enough vitamin D supplemented in his or her diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Vitamin D Recommendations for Children and Adults
The RDA of vitamin D for kids and adults is 600 IU per day, but a number of factors may affect your recommended intake. It is believed that higher levels of vitamin D may be very beneficial for certain individuals. Talk to your doctor to see if your levels are adequate.
Vitamin D Recommendations for the Elderly
The RDA for people age 70 and older is 800 IU. As people get older, our bodies are no longer as efficient at synthesizing, absorbing, and digesting vitamin D. This leads to an increased risk for osteoporosis (bone disease), and other health issues.
The daily recommendation for vitamin D assumes that all of a person’s vitamin D is taken by mouth. That is because people’s exposure to the sun varies so widely and the amount of time they would need in the sun to produce the vitamin D they need does too.
It is important to note that while the recommended daily intake for vitamin D is between 400 and 800 IU per day, some studies suggest that a higher daily intake of 1000–4000 IU (25–100 micrograms) is needed to maintain optimal blood levels.
What You Can Do – Get in the Sun!
It is recommended to spend some amount of time without sunscreen outside. This ensures that UV-B rays, the rays that help your body synthesize vitamin D, can do their thing!
How much time you need to spend outside (without sunscreen) really depends on your age, your skin type (light, medium, dark) and where you are geographically. There is a cool UV calculator called Calculated Ultraviolet Exposure Levels for a Healthy Vitamin D Status. You can use this to roughly work it out the exposure you need. You simply plug in your skin type (remember–darker skin needs more exposure), time of year and time of day and voila–you get your time.
How the UV Calculator Works
The calculator was created by Ola Engelsen of the Norwegian Institute for Air Research. Since the test was developed in Europe, the cities listed are in the eastern hemisphere. But with a little guesswork, we think you can get close enough to what you need anywhere in the world.
For example, by plugging in July 15, midday, pale Caucasian skin for a cloudless day in London (which has a similar latitude and weather as Seattle), your recommended sun time is 6 minutes. All things being the same, if you plug in black skin, the time suggested in 25 minutes. If you plug in Nice on a cloudless day the pale Caucasian is recommended 5 minutes and the black skin recommendation is 20 minutes.
Remember, clouds do usually block UV rays, particularly the UV-B rays which are the ones that help your body synthesize Vitamin D. On a really overcast day, clouds can stop 70 to 90% of the UV-B from reaching the surface. The calculator allows you to see the impact that clouds have on your required sun time as well. On a cloudy day, our pale skinned person in London (Seattle) would need to be outside 16 minutes as opposed to 5. Our black skinned person would need to be outside 1 hour and 15 minutes.
The calculator also gives you the estimated length of time it will take for your skin to burn in those conditions. And of course, once you have gotten some sunlight exposure without sunscreen, it is important to use sunscreen to protect your skin. Overexposure to the sun leads to skin cancer.
Eat Foods High in Vitamin D
There is a very short list of foods that contain a significant amount of Vitamin D. They include:
- Salmon – wild caught salmon contains more Vitamin D than farmed.
- Herring and Sardines
- Canned Tuna
- Egg yolks
- Mushrooms – this is the only plant that contains vitamin D.
- Fortified foods such as cow’s milk, soy milk, cereal and orange juice.
Take Vitamin D Supplements
If foods from the list above do not appear on your menu frequently, you should consider taking a vitamin D supplement.
The Amazing Facts About Vitamin D from the sun
With the differing opinions on how much vitamin D one should take each day, it can make it a bit confusing. The amazing thing about your body and the sun is that your body will only produce the amount of vitamin D that it needs. In other words, you cannot get too much vitamin D from the sun… So if you are taking a vitamin D supplement and have high vitamin D foods in your diet, being out in the sun will allow your body to generate additional vitamin D if it needs it!
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from a vitamin D deficiency (and per the statistics, a lot of people are!) talk to your doctor and try one of the remedies above.
To learn more about the endocannabinoid system visit our FAQ page. To try our high-quality CBD products visit our store.