Advanced Plan: Supplements
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Dr. Mercola's Nutrition Plan
Lesson 1: Optimize Your Vitamin D from the Sun and not Pills
As explained in the beginner’s phase, there are three primary ways to obtain your vitamin D; from proper sun exposure, a safe tanning bed, or a vitamin D supplement. In this advanced stage, I strongly recommend trying to get all your vitamin D needs from appropriate sun exposure rather than a supplement. There are a number of reasons to opt for sun exposure over a supplement:
- It is more natural. Our ancestors optimized their vitamin D levels by sun exposure, not by swallowing it in foods. Although vitamin D is in some animal foods it is in relatively low quantities and to my knowledge there are no known ancestral populations that thrived on oral vitamin D sources.
- You cannot overdose when getting your vitamin D from sun exposure, as your body has the ability to self-regulate production and only make what it needs
- Research published in June 2012 indicates there are health benefits of UV radiation besides vitamin D production. For example, pathways activated by UV radiation can enhance your mood and energy, treat skin diseases, and relieve the pain of fibromyalgia, just to name a few
- When you expose your skin to the sun, your skin also synthesizes high amounts of cholesterol sulfate, which is very important for cardiovascular health. Sulfur deficiency also promotes obesity and related health problems like diabetes. To learn more, please review the following interview with Dr. Stephanie Seneff
Download Interview Transcript
How to Know if You’re Getting Vitamin D from Your Sun Exposure
The caveat here is that not all sun exposure will allow for vitamin D production. The key point to understand is that sunlight is composed of about 1500 wavelengths, but the only wavelength that makes your body produce vitamin D are UVB-rays, when they hit unexposed skin. The UVB-rays from the sun must pass through the atmosphere and reach where you are on the earth in order for this to take place. This obviously does not occur in the winter for most of us, but the sun's rays are also impeded during a fair amount of the year for people living in temperate climates.
So how do you know if you have entered into the summer season and into the time of year, for your location, where enough UVB is actually able to penetrate the atmosphere to allow for vitamin D production in your skin?
Due to the physics and wavelength of UVB rays, they will only penetrate the atmosphere when the sun is above an angle of about 50° from the horizon. When the sun is lower than 50°, the ozone layer reflects the UVB-rays but let through the longer UVA-rays.
So the first step is to determine the latitude and longitude of your location. You can easily do this on Google Earth, or if you are in the U.S. you can use the TravelMath Latitude Longitude Calculator to find your latitude and longitude. Once you have obtained that you can go to the U.S. Navy site to calculate a table to determine the times and days of the year that the sun is above 50 degrees from the horizon.
Translated to the date and time of some places on the globe, it means for example: In my hometown of Chicago, the UVB rays are not potentially present until March 25, and by September 16th it is not possible to produce any vitamin D from the sun in Chicago. Please understand it is only theoretically possible to get UVB rays during those times. If it happens to be cloudy or raining, the clouds will also block the UVB rays. For a more detailed understanding of this, please view the following video, and/or read through the corresponding article
Even Easier if You Have Apple System...
Alternatively, if you have an iPhone or iPad you can download a free app called D Minder, which will make all the calculations for you. It was made by an Apple developer who was motivated to simplify the process after he watched the video above.
From a health perspective it doesn't make much sense to expose your skin to the sun when it is lower than 50 degrees above the horizon because you will not receive any valuable UVB rays, but you will expose yourself to the more dangerous and potentially deadly UVA rays. UVA's have a longer wavelength than UVB and can more easily penetrate the ozone layer and other obstacles (like clouds and pollution) on their way from the sun to the earth. UVA is what radically increases your risk of skin cancer and photoaging of your skin. So while it will give you a tan, unless the companion UVB rays are available you're likely doing more harm than good and should probably stay out of the sun to protect your skin.
During the times of the year when UVB rays are not present where you live you essentially have two options: You can use a safe tanning bed or you can swallow oral vitamin D3.
Alternative to the Sun—A Safe Tanning Bed
During the summer months, you can generally get enough vitamin D from just spending some time outside every day. Under optimal environmental exposures your body can produce about 20,000 IU of vitamin D per day with full body exposure, about 5,000 IU with 50 percent of your body exposed, and as much as 1,000 IU with just 10 percent of your body exposed.
In the winter months however, and/or times of the year when insufficient amounts of UVB rays reach your location, you will most likely not get enough vitamin D. In that case, I recommend using a safe tanning bed, which is still better than oral vitamin D.
One of the caveats here is to make sure you’re not being exposed to harmful EMF exposure. Most tanning equipment, and nearly all of the early beds from which these studies were conducted, use magnetic ballasts to generate light. These magnetic ballasts are well known sources of EMF fields that can contribute to cancer. If you hear a loud buzzing noise while in a tanning bed, it has a magnetic ballast system. I strongly recommend you avoid these types of beds and restrict your use of tanning beds to those that use electronic ballasts.
Maintain Optimal Vitamin D Levels Year-Round
Remember to monitor your blood vitamin D levels to make sure you’re staying within the optimal range. This is best done by a nutritionally oriented physician. It is very important that they order the correct test as there are two that closely resemble each other: 1,25(OH)D and 25(OH)D.
25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, is the better marker of overall D status. It is this marker that is most strongly associated with overall health.
Your vitamin D level should never be below 32 ng/ml, and any levels below 20 ng/ml are considered serious deficiency states, increasing your risk of as many as 16 different cancers and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few.
The OPTIMAL value that you’re looking for is 50-70 ng/ml. This range applies for everyone; children, adolescents, adults and seniors, and are based on healthy people in tropical or subtropical parts of the world, where they are receiving healthy sun exposures. It seems more than reasonable to assume that these values are in fact reflective of an optimal human requirement.
Please understand that it is sunburn, not sun exposure, that can cause skin cancer. Your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio may also be key to preventing skin cancer development, according to a comprehensive review by the National Academy of Sciences, published in 2001.
Sunlight into your retina is also a very important nutrient. You will get the full benefits if you do not obstruct the light with glasses or contacts.
Make sure you understand the risks of skin cancer versus your sunlight needs.
Studies have confirmed that the benefits of moderate sun exposure FAR outweigh its risks. For example, people who live in sunnier, southern latitudes and have higher vitamin D levels as a result of their increased sun exposure, are less likely to die from any type of cancer than people in northern latitudes. More than one million people die every year from lack of sun exposure and subsequent vitamin D deficiency, so you really need to overcome your fear of the sun if you want to stay optimally healthy.
Of course you should not get burned or look directly into the sun, but small amounts of daily sunshine on your skin and in your eyes is essential for good health! You can combine sun exposure with a brisk walk to satisfy your exercise requirements.
Lesson 2: Consider adding vitamin E.
Although the vast majority of people seem to benefit from vitamin E, that certainly is not universally true. For most however, it seems a reasonable supplement to take at about 100 units as it reduces the rate of omega-3 oxidation.
Keep in mind that your body can easily distinguish between natural and synthetic vitamins, and natural vitamin E is between two and three times as bioactive as the same amount of synthetic vitamin E. Natural vitamin E is always listed as the "d-" form (d-alpha-tocopherol, d-beta-tocopherol, etc.). Synthetic vitamin E is listed as " dl-" forms. It would also be helpful to use a supplement with mixed tocotrienols.
But your optimal source for vitamin E is from your food. A 2002 study suggested that if you consume plenty of vegetables (about one pound of vegetables for every 50 pounds of body weight), the antioxidants in the vegetables may provide as much, or more, protection as vitamin E supplements.
Lesson 3: Make sure you are getting enough calcium and magnesium.
If you are off all milk products, then you should seriously consider juicing if you’ve not started already, in order to get sufficient amounts of calcium. Recent research indicate calcium supplements are not ideal and may actually cause more harm than good.
Your body is more apt to use calcium correctly if it's plant-derived calcium. Good sources include leafy green vegetables, the pith of citrus fruits, carob, and wheatgrass, to name a few. Vegetable juice also has plenty of magnesium, which is equally important.
You also need sources of silica, which some researchers say is enzymatically "transmuted" by your body into the kind of calcium your bones can use. This theory was first put forth by French scientist Louis Kevran, a Nobel Prize nominee who spent years studying how silica and calcium are related. Good sources of silica are bamboo shoots (which contain some of the highest amounts of silica of any food), cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and a number of herbs including horsetail, nettles, oat straw, alfalfa, and raw cacao, which is also extremely rich in highly bioavailable magnesium.
Good sources of calcium are:
- Raw dairy. If you are unable to take calcium then make sure you are getting plenty of bone broth
- Bone broth
- Natural unprocessed salt. My favorite source of trace minerals is pure, unprocessed Himalayan salt, which contains 84 elements needed by your body
Lesson 4: How to Find Healthy Chicken Meat
I recommend ONLY organic pasture-raised chickens, since non-medical use of antibiotics is not permitted in organic farming. Not only are these products safer, but they have a superior nutritional profile as well. Look for the USDA Organic seal. Another alternative is to buy your chicken directly from your local farmer or farmer’s market. Just make sure they’ve been pasture raised according to organic principles, even if the farmer is not organically certified.