For those dealing with diseases like Lupus and Fibromyalgia, the sun can be a controversial topic. On one hand, the sun provides us the best natural source of vitamin D, a nutrient essential to maintaining health. On the other hand, with active autoimmune disease, we know that sun exposure can actually contribute to serious flare-ups.
I have personally been on both sides of things. I’ve experienced those wretched “sun-flares”. Where, after only 30 minutes in the sun, I was stricken with an all out vomit-fest followed by 4 painful days in bed. On the flip side, now that I am stronger and healthier, I can be out in the sun for hours (without sunscreen) and not have a single symptom, not even a sunburn (and I’m about as fair-skinned as they come). So, what gives…? How did I go from being completely sun intolerant to soaking up all the delicious vitamin D the sun has to offer?
Let’s first look at some facts about vitamin D. Vitamin D is responsible for making enzymes and proteins that are crucial for health as well as preventing disease. Virtually every cell in your body has a vitamin D receptor. It also has the ability to interact with and affect more than two-thousand genes in the body. In addition to the myriad of chemical functions we aren’t aware are happening inside our bodies, it is vitamin D deficiency that is of the biggest concern. Studies show nearly 1 in 2 people are deficient in vitamin D, and if you’ve been avoiding the sun lately, YOU are one of them. This deficiency has been proven to play a role in almost every major disease, including.
- multiple sclerosis
- rheumatoid arthritis
- chronic fatigue syndrome
…It seems we have yet another “chicken and the egg” situation, where it is unclear which potentially came first, the deficiency or the disease. As you already know, if you are battling one (or more) of these illnesses, the absolute best thing you can do to improve your current health, is to nix any vitamin deficiency you may have. But, since vitamin D is derived primarily from sun exposure, it can make correcting this particular deficiency more complicated than those that can be solved by simply eating a nutrient-dense diet. If you are in an active state of disease (constant and intense flares), supplements are the way to go. While I’m not a proponent of synthetic supplements, in this case, they are necessary. I suggest working with your doctor to get the proper tests to determine your starting point, but you can begin by taking a vitamin D-3 supplement of around 2,000 IU to start raising your levels. Your doctor may recommend more depending on your blood work.
As your health improves and your tolerance to the sun increases, begin to add in a little sun exposure – it’s the absolute best source and THE most effective way to boost your levels.
Did you know…? The sun is the ONLY complete source of vitamin D, even drinking milk would require drinking 20 glasses a day just to meet your needs. In just 20 minutes of sun exposure, our own bodies make 20,000 IU of vitamin D (100x more than the RDA!)
As you can see, it doesn’t have to be much exposure at all, even just starting with a few minutes every other day will help dramatically. As your sun-tolerance increases, you can begin to phase out the synthetic supplements in place of a little regular outdoor time. I’m not talking about becoming an all out sun-bather, but even as little as 15 minutes a day on your bare arm will do your body, mind and spirit, wonders!
My rheumatologist used to lecture me about avoiding the sun, and to always wear sunscreen, but never once did he advise me to get my vitamin D levels checked…It still makes me uneasy to know just how long I listened to that advice. As with most things regarding our health, the answer is not always as clear cut as we’d like. I get it… he was just doing his job. He’s seen the horrific flares that sun exposure can cause, and wants to help his patients avoid them. But all too often in Western medicine, there is a short-sightedness that can be end up being detrimental. I have come to learn through my own quest for health, that sunlight exposure is truly one of the most powerful healing therapies in the world, yes, even for Lupus!
It’s so important for the sake of our health that we always look at the big picture and treat our bodies as a whole. Our journey back to health is also one that often takes us back to nature, doing the things our bodies were intended to do. We were created to be nourished by our natural environment, everything from the foods we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. Nature provides us everything we need to get well, all we have to do is trust it enough to use it.