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Vitamin D Supplementation Isn’t a Substitute for Sun

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

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If you are struggling with chronic health issues – the way I used to – you probably have piles of lab tests that can potentially tell you a lot about your health. Vitamin D may be one of them. However, doctors never had enough time to explain it properly. They will only notice it if the lab flags your test results as outside of normal. But what if all your results are coming back normal, yet you know you are feeling nowhere near healthy? They may even tell you there is nothing wrong with you, and that it’s all in your head – I’ve been there.

Sun, Infrared, and Photons

The sun contains quite a bit of infrared, which is very healing to us. I spoke about infrared with Dr. Gerald Pollack, where we discussed how infrared creates structured water in your body. This recharges your cellular batteries and makes you more resilient to oxidative stress.

The sun also has high energy photons that have special quantum properties, which I don’t fully understand (yet).

Sun and Bright Light

Sun has a certain intensity that is beneficial in resetting the circadian rhythm, which is why a bright light device helps with seasonal affective disorder in the winter.

I had a client who had all kinds of problems, and I realized that most of them were likely from not getting sunlight. I recommended the bright light device and he said that alone changed his life. I’ve had it for 3 years now and I definitely feel an enhancement from it. I only use it on the days that I don’t get a chance to get out or I don’t get any sun.

It’s best to use it for 30 minutes upon awakening to reset your circadian rhythm.

Sun and UVB

Sun is great for decreasing inflammation.

Particularly, UVB rays suppress immunity and can help autoimmune conditions [1].

Given that almost every disease seems like an autoimmune disease these days, it’s wise to make the effort to get sun and not take comfort in vitamin D supplementation, although vitamin D is definitely important if you aren’t getting sun.

Be aware, though, that most of the inflammation reduction is likely from the sun and not the actual vitamin D.

In an animal model of autoimmune disease, UVB rays were responsible for a reduction in the autoimmunity rather than vitamin D [1].

More specifically, sun or UVB rays suppress Th1 and Th17 immune responses [2, 3], which are what causes autoimmune flair-ups.

Sun also suppresses seasonal allergies, which are IgG and IgE-related allergies, which are caused by a Th2 response [2].

Sun or UVB POSSIBLY can even help your hair grow [4].

Even disorders that don’t seem to have anything to do with autoimmunity we’re finding out are related.

For example, I recently came across a study that associates schizophrenia with autoimmunity, likely contributing to the disease.

While the schizophrenia study found no correlation with bipolar disorder, research reveals high levels of gluten antibodies and casein antibodies in bipolar disorder and people with bipolar have increased inflammation. This smells like autoimmunity to me.

Off topic, but I thought I’d mention that casein is found in all dairy – even the raw milk, aged, fermented goats kefir from grass-fed and finished cows, never exposed to antibiotics and, most importantly, blessed by paleo gurus.

If you can’t get sun, get the UVB light and use it for at least 15 min a day on various parts of your body.

UVB Doesn’t Pass Through Windows.

Your body doesn’t produce vitamin D when the sun passes through a window because it’s the UVB rays that allow us to produce vitamin D and this ray is blocked by glass. UVA rays, which are more damaging and don’t produce vitamin D, pass through so we get less of the benefit and more of the damage.

Sun and Hormesis

To get a primer on hormesis, read this post.

In short, hormesis is when a brief exposure to a stressor induces a protective response. Short term sun exposure has this effect.

Brief exposure to UV-A, UV-B or UV-C induces apoptosis and autophagy, which actually protect you from skin cancer.

More specifically, UVB increases Nrf2, which increases our body’s internal antioxidant defenses.

The UV spectrum is also anti-microbial and can help us get rid of pathogens.

UV stimulates oxidative stress and is a type of oxidative therapy. Chronic oxidative stress isn’t good, but in acute doses it’s beneficial. Oxidative therapies are used to help us rid infections.

So the UV spectrum can function in various ways to enhance our resilience via hormesis. Of course, the dose makes the poison.

Sun and Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone (MSH)

When you get sun, you produce MSH so that you tan. MSH is very beneficial for you in various ways.

You aren’t getting MSH when you take vitamin D3 pills.

Monitoring Your Vitamin D Levels

You can request that your doctor test your vitamin D. Conventional doctors will look at high or low vitamin D levels and not mention anything. Sometimes, a lab result may be in the reference range, but not actually be in the optimal range. Reference ranges are not the same as optimal ranges. This is why vitamin D even in the ‘normal’ range can be unhealthy and indicate that certain processes in the body aren’t optimal.

Sun and Sulfated Vitamin D3

When you get sun, you are getting a different form of vitamin D3 – one that is attached to a sulfate group. At this stage, I’m not sure how much this makes a difference and how much we’d sulfate vitamin D supplements when we take them, but it’s interesting to know that we’re not getting the exact form in supplements.

Low Vitamin D3 In Autoimmune Disease May Be a Result, Not The Cause, Of The Disease

Low levels of 25-D are frequently noted in patients with autoimmune disease, leading to a current consensus that a deficiency of the secosteroid may contribute to the autoimmune disease process. However, Marshall and team explain that these low levels of 25-D are a result, rather than a cause, of the disease process. Indeed, Marshall’s research shows that in autoimmune disease, 25-D levels are naturally down-regulated in response to VDR dysregulation by chronic pathogens. Under such circumstances, supplementation with extra vitamin D is not only counterproductive but harmful, as it slows the ability of the immune system to deal with such bacteria. [5]

How Much Sun Do You Need For Vitamin D?

Northeast of the US (New York): From April to October at 12 Noon EST, an individual with light skin, with 25 percent of the body surface area exposed, needs to spend 3 to 8 minutes in the sun daily to synthesize 400 IU of vitamin D. People usually supplement with 2,000 IU.

Southeast of the US (Miami): An individual with light skin, with 25 percent of the body exposed, would need to spend 3 to 6 minutes at 12 Noon EST to synthesize 400 IU. Vitamin D synthesis occurs faster in individuals with lighter skin.

Dark people will need significantly more sun to fulfill their vitamin D needs.

For someone with an average complexion (in between Nordic and Middle Eastern), I would recommend 15 minutes on each portion of your body and you should cover about 50 – 75% of your body. This is a minimum effective dosage for me that I feel good on.

Irregular Vitamin D Levels?

LabTestAnalyzer helps you make sense of your lab results. It informs you which labs are not in the optimal range and gives you guidance about how to get them to optimal. It also allows you to track your labs over time. No need to do thousands of hours of research on what to make of your lab tests.

LabTestAnalyzer is a sister company of SelfHacked. The proceeds from your purchase of this product are reinvested into our research and development, in order to serve you better. Thank you for your support.

About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen won the genetic lottery of bad genes. As a kid, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine.Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation and self-learning to improve his health--something that has since become known as “biohacking”. With thousands of experiments and pubmed articles under his belt, Joe founded SelfHacked, the resource that was missing when he needed it. SelfHacked now gets millions of monthly readers.Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is the CEO of SelfHacked, SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer.His mission is to help people gain access to the most up-to-date, unbiased, and science-based ways to optimize their health.
Joe has been studying health sciences for 17 years and has read over 30,000 PubMed articles. He's given consultations to over 1000 people who have sought his health advice. After completing the pre-med requirements at university, he founded SelfHacked because he wanted to make a big impact in improving global health. He's written hundreds of science posts, multiple books on improving health, and speaks at various health conferences. He's keen on building a brain-trust of top scientists who will improve the level of accuracy of health content on the web. He's also founded SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer, popular genetic and lab software tools to improve health.

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