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Feven at Rooster Rock State Park, ORI went to the library today and on my way out I picked up the local newspaper The Portland Tribune. The front page news was about Vitamin D and its apparent link to numerous health conditions.
I wrote about Vitamin D before, and how people with dark skin should take a daily supplement. Actually everybody needs to take Vitamin D, specially if you live in a region with not much sun, like here in western Oregon.
I also talked before about how Vitamin D deficiency has been clearly linked to certain diseases like rickets. But the article I just read goes way beyond that to speculate that lack of this Vitamin can be responsible for many types of cancers and to the huge increase in autism in children in recent years. Even when there is still no scientific proof of that, many researchers are almost convinced that there is a link.
I became more concerned about vitamin D in the last past two years when my doctor found out that I have a big deficiency that seems hard to manage. I’ve been taking a weekly dose of 50,000IU of vitamin D and it seems it’s the only way to keep some of it in my body, since as soon as I stop taking my pills I start having leg cramps and pain in my bones because my vitamin D level drops. I’ve never had this problem before, so I started to wonder if it’s related to moving to this area where sunny days are so scarce.
It seems that all the precautions we have been taking to prevent skin cancer, like limiting our sun exposure or using sunscreen are backfiring at us and now we are seriously compromising our health in another way.
The question is if we should be concerned about our dark skin children, specially those living in rainy places like Portland.
I must confess that this summer I’m not using sunscreen all the time, and that I’m exposing myself and my family to more sunlight in hours in which the risk of sunburn is very low. Feromsa has really dark skin and he needs more sun exposure than any of us to absorb enough vitamin D. Honestly his chances of getting skin cancer in places like Portland are very very low, but the likelihood of being Vitamin D deficient is very high. The article for example, mentions the health problems that are arising among dark skinned Somali refugees living in Minnesota and Sweden.
Before reading this article I had the suspicion that sooner or later the over use of sunscreen and the many more hours we spend indoors compared to what we used to many years ago was going to cause some problems, but I never suspected that diseases like autism could be among them.
When I was a child, before sun blocks became common use, my parents limited our sun exposure to the “safe” hours, we were forbidden to go to the beach between 10AM and 4PM, and I never got sunburned as a child. They also made the sun exposure progressive, just 15 minutes the first day, a little more the next day and so on, until our skin had the chance to develop a protective tan.
Again common sense is the rule, moderate sun exposure is safe and even healthy.
We need to spend more time outdoors, and specially our children since this will impact on their future health and that of their children.
Nowadays, you can either go see your doctor and ask for a test, or check the vitamin D levels in your blood at home by buying a kit. ZRT Labs located in Beaverton, OR, sells a home test kit online for $75.
There are also “Vitamin D lights” that you can use for just a few minutes specially during the winter months but I don’t know how effective or safe these are.
I’m not suggesting not to use sunscreen at all, but to use it only when necessary, and also to expose your skin to reasonable amounts of sunlight to help boost your vitamin D levels.