A common question asked by my Acupuncture patients is, “What can I do to prevent cancer?” It’s not a simple answer, but there are a number of things that you can do which have a dramatically positive affect on your body. Acupuncture is one, and in this article, I’ll also be discussing the benefits of Vitamin D in preventing cancer.
Many of us have cancer cells or pre-cancerous cells in our bodies right now, even though we may never get the disease called cancer. Why? Because in an ideal state of health and wellness, our body’s immune system routinely quells renegade cells and would-be malignancies before they ever take hold.
So why do some people’s defenses break down? Some scientists theorize that cancer thrives when the immune system’s defensive action can’t or won’t react effectively. This lack of immune response may be due to a variety of factors, but it seems nutritional deficiency is a big one, and Vitamin D is becoming known as a major player.
Recently, the waaaaaay-behind-in-reporting-the-truth-in-dietary-needs Institute of Medicine finally reported that people need more vitamin D. They officially raised the daily intake recommendation from 200 IUs to 600 IUs, but this still leaves most people pitifully vitamin D deficient and doesn’t account for variations in individual Vitamin D requirements.
The problem is that Vitamin D recommendations in the U.S. are based on the effects of vitamin D on bone health and calcium absorption but do not reflect, or even acknowledge the other vital biological functions of vitamin D, including its role in cancer prevention.
“Vitamin D has gotten quite a bit of press in recent years- and deservedly so. Innumerable studies are touting it as the single greatest preventative nutrient against cancer. Recent studies in Canada, in fact, showed that vitamin D lowered the risk of all forms of cancer in women by a remarkable 77 percent. In men, this figure was closer to 60 percent.” Nora T. Gedgaudas, Primal Body Primal Mind
The flood of scientific research that has emerged over the last four years is revealing that vitamin D deficiency leads to cancer, osteoporosis, depression, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disorders, suppressed immune function (leading to frequent colds, Flu’s, infections, etc) and depression. There are even reports on its ability to reduce inflammation, prevent autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, Diabetes and greatly enhance healthy immune function.
Even with all this research on the benefits of maintaining a healthy vitamin D level, 70% of Caucasians and 97% of African Americans are still deficient in Vitamin D. So why the growing epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency? For one, dogmas promoting low-fat diets have depleted our bodies of the fat needed to absorb vitamin D (a fat-soluble nutrient). Even more notably, the indoor lifestyle has become far more common these days. We work inside all day and are spending less and less time basking in the sunshine. When we do, UV sunlight fear-mongering hysteria has us slather sunscreen all over our bodies, in a vain attempt to prevent skin cancers- ironically blocking vitamin D synthesis and it’s cancer-preventing powers and making your more susceptible- not less- to various skin cancers and other cancers.
Nutritionally-aware health professionals had hoped the Institute of Medicine’s woefully outdated suggestion of 400 IU’s of dietary vitamin D per day to to a level that would actually help prevent cancer: closer to 1000-4000 IUs per day, or even as much as 10,000 IUs a day for someone with an autoimmune condition. However, before you go gorging yourself on vitamin D supplements, you must understand that all vitamins, D included, do not exist or function in isolation! This means, in this case, that vitamin D functions within a complex set of interrelationships with other vitamins, nutrients and cofactors- requirements will vary from person to person and time of year time of year and taking too much of a good thing can throw off this delicate balance! Your need for D depends in large part on your geographic location, skin color, age, sunning habits, diet, genes, local weather patterns, etc.
It is very important to have your blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 checked before you jump willy-nilly into massive vitamin D supplementation. The only way to know how much D you have and how much D you need is through testing– don’t guess! (Anyone can order the relatively inexpensive test for “25-hydroxyvitamin D3” online via http://www.directlabs.com without a prescription or doctor’s visit. Blood can be drawn from any LabCorp location.
Remember that the standard lab test result ranges are ridiculously low. Try instead to meet the requirements suggested by the Vitamin D Council. According to current standards set by the Vitamin D Council, the optimal range for serum D3 is 60-80 ng/dL. If you happen to have an autoimmune illness, your ability to effectively use vitamin D is potentially impaired and your requirements are said to be generally higher- between 80-100 ng/dL. It is currently advised that no one exceed 100-150 ng/dL because of risk of toxicity.
When vitamin D supplementation is deemed necessary, far and away the safest and most effective means of obtaining vitamin D is through safe sun exposure. This allows the body to make what it needs, as it needs it. Now, I’m not talking about roasting out in the sun all day. 15-20 min, or just enough to have your skin turn just the lightest shade of pink, should be plenty. The best protection against too much ultraviolet light is a good tan or a hat: We evolved in fresh air and sunshine and have an actual nutritional requirement for sunlight. Don’t deny yourself your day in the sun!
Otherwise, if your local climate or lifestyle makes sun bathing impractical, taking oral Vitamin D supplements is your best bet. Liquid, emulsified forms of supplemental D are more easily absorbed by most people and allow for easier excretion of excess. Based on the latest research, many experts agree that you need about 35 IU’s of Vitamin D per pound of body weight. Just remember, though, that Vitamin D recommendations are highly individual since your personal optimum Vitamin D requirements will vary greatly.
You must also remember that proper balance with other nutrients is imperative- most notably with vitamin A. Getting a balanced set of nutrients from high quality, organic, nutrient-dense foods or whole-food form nutritional products is clearly the most sensible choice. On that note, make sure that any nutritional supplements your are taking are in a “whole food” form, rather than a mass-produced synthetic or isolate versions that are found at chain pharmacies, groceries, etc. You see, all vitamin supplements are NOT created equal. Don’t be fooled by large-dose nutrient claims on the labels or inflated costs- this information is often totally misleading. To learn more about how to choose the right nutritional supplements and the importance of whole-food supplementation, check out Are You Taking The Right Vitamin Supplements?
This information brought to you by your friendly neighborhood Austin Acupuncturist, Melanie Irvine, L.Ac., MAOM, owner Turning Point Wellness. For more info about how Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine, and natural nutrition can help you achieve vibrant health and well-being. Feel free to visit my website, www.TurningPointAcupuncture.net for more details and direct contact information.
Gedgaudas, Nora, “Primal Body, Primal Mind,” 2011, Healing Arts Press
Natural News, Teri Lee Gruss . “It’s Winter – Do You Know Where Your Vitamin D Is?”, 01-21-08, http://www.naturalnews.com/022523_Vitamin_D_cancer_doctor.html
Natural News, Mike Adams, “New Vitamin D recommendations promote nutritional deficiency, protect cancer industry”, 12-02-10, http://www.naturalnews.com/030598_vitamin_D_Institute_of_Medicine.html