More exciting news on the cancer front. How would you like it if someone told you there is a drug available to you free - and this drug is not just any drug. This drug is associated with a massive decrease in breast cancer, prostate cancer, autoimmune diseases (including juvenile diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis). This drug is even associated with decreases in such common, chronic problems as high blood pressure and low-birth weight babies. But wait – there’s more. What if this drug has been studied for decades - this is no johnny-come-lately finding, but one that has be shown over and over again? AND what if I told you this drug is not making more news because…it’s free! Think about it. Who’s going to make a profit off it? No one – so no ads, no mega-headlines, no incessant “ask your doctor” taglines at the end of commercials. The only way the word’s going to spread with this is by word-of-mouth. And this week, women diagnosed with breast cancer who don’t have enough of this drug were found to have a 94% increase in breast cancer spread and 73% greater chance of death. Yeowza! What is this amazing freebie, and, more importantly, how do you get some for yourself and those you love?
The drug is vitamin D. We humans are more like plants than we’d like to admit. We need a certain amount of vitamin D to do well. Test your vitamin D knowledge here:
1) You can get vitamin D from (check all that apply): a) Milk b) Yogurt c) Soy milk d) Ice cream
The answer (sorry to all those of you who are lactose intolerant) is a). The only substance that automatically gets vitamin D added to it in this country is milk. But vitamin D is NOT added to milk products – there’s none in cheese, yogurt, ice cream, or cream. A few non-milk products (like soy or orange juice) might have vitamin D added, but you have to check the label. And – WARNING - some organic milk specifically does NOT have vitamin D added – but, again, you have to notice it’s missing on the label.
2) How many 8-ounce glasses of milk do you need to drink a day to get “enough” vitamin D? (see below for what is “enough”). Is it a) 2 glasses, b) 3 glasses, c) 5 glasses or d) 10 glasses?
Brace yourself. The answer is d). Urk. Who can drink this much?
3) I get vitamin D in my multi-vitamin. That’s probably enough, right? a) well, duh. Of course it is, b) only if I’m under the age of 5, or c) only if my multi-vitamins are really expensive.
The answer is (drum-roll) b). The recommended dose of vitamin D has not changed since the mid 1900’s, when the dose of 400 units a day was chosen as the amount needed to prevent rickets in small children. Newer studies (this century) show that the amount a pregnant woman needs to produce enough vitamin D in breast milk is much higher – therefore most breastfed babies aren’t getting enough from mother’s milk alone. The recommended FDA dose of 400 units of vitamin D a day has stayed the same for all humans (defying all reason, science, data, and logic), regardless of diet, age, reproductive status, skin color, or size. 400 units a day is probably fine if you’re under 5.
3) The national news keeps saying that I can get enough vitamin D from 10 minutes of mid-day sun – is this true?
a) well duh. Of course it is – it’s that cute doctor on CNN we’re talking about, b) sure, as long as you’re pale, nearly naked, and lying in a cleared Kansas cornfield in July, or c) my brain hurts – can I stop thinking about this?
Answer: b). Vitamin D is a freebie from the sun. But – look around – not everyone is the same. How much sun, and under what conditions you get enough vitamin D depends on several factors. If you’re pale and sunburn, your body actually starts breaking down and destroying the vitamin D you made. If you have dark skin and live north of L.A., it might take you two hours of naked, mid-day sun in January to get you enough vitamin D – and I, for one, just hate it when I get one of those pesky indecent exposure citations.
What about windshields and windows – do those affect your vitamin D making? What about sunscreen? What about shade? How high does the sun have to be? Won’t doing this cause skin cancer? Can someone tell if you’re getting enough? How – and does it involve the word “biopsy”?
All these questions and more will be answered. If you want to find out how to sun-dose yourself for health, stay tuned for a future Doc Gurley post, titled “Are you a fern or a palm?”