Sunshine Works for Congestive Heart Failure


SunshineA clinical trial indicates that a high dose of vitamin D could help people with congestive heart failure.

The cause of congestive heart failure (CHF) is not well understood, but recent theories point to increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha).

A Jump in Anti-Inflammatories

For the trial, scientists monitored the effects of a 2,000-IU dose of vitamin D supplement versus a placebo per day on 123 CHF patients. Nine months later, vitamin D patients enjoyed a 43 percent increase in their interleukin-10 levels (a natural anti-inflammatory produced by the body) and no jump in tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) levels.

No Benefit From Placebo

On the other hand, TNF-alpha levels in patients not given vitamin D rose 12 percent. What's more, their interleukin-10 levels were unchanged and the amount of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (the non-active storage form of vitamin D in one's body) dropped.

The trial's results seem to be in line with earlier studies linking heart disease and vitamin D deficiency.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition April 2006; 83(4): 754-759

Nutra April 10, 2006

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

Three years ago, I wrote about the lack of vitamin D contributing to congestive heart failure (CHF). New evidence shows further support that getting a daily dose of vitamin D -- and there's no healthier or easier way to get it than from the sun -- boosts your natural anti-inflammatory response. And this boost can go a long way to treat a failing heart.

Optimizing your sun exposure and levels of vitamin D may, indeed, be one of the most important physical steps you can take in support of your long-term health. No surprise, conventional medicine is finally getting on board the vitamin D bandwagon, using the natural power of sunshine to treat type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis during a woman's pregnancy and even tuberculosis.

It is important to understand that the ideal and STRONGLY preferred method of increasing your vitamin D level is through appropriate sun exposure. I really do not advise oral supplements, not even cod liver oil now, UNLESS you can you have your blood levels checked regularly

It just is too risky. I have seen too many potentially dangerous elevations of vitamin D levels, including my own, from those that are taking oral supplements. Fortunately for myself or our patients, we quickly correct and adjust for the problem. But if you aren't even testing you could be setting yourself up from potentially serious problems.

Vitamin D is wonderful but avoid overriding your body's intuitive wisdom and allow the normal feedback loops to operate and shut down your vitamin D production if you have too much. That just doesn't happen when you swallow vitamin D, your levels just keep going higher and higher.

When you get your vitamin D from appropriate sun exposure your body can indeed self-regulate and greatly reduce vitamin D production if you don't need it, which makes it very difficult to overdose on vitamin D from sun exposure.

If you are exercising in the sun like I do and sweat quite a bit, please understand that the vitamin D is oil-soluble. So, you won't want to shower immediately after being in the sun as the vitamin D is formed in your skin and can be easily washed off. So cool down after you work out and let your body absorb the vitamin D you produce in your skin after sun exposure.

Be sure and get outside regularly -- that is the key. Take some time for yourself and work up to the point where you get regular sun on your skin every day it is possible. If you start to get the slightest amount of pink you know you have enough sun and need to seek shade.

I can assure you that I consider this an essential part of my personal Total Health Program, and I try to get in to work around 4-5 a.m. so I can leave early and read out in the sunshine.

Please remember that, in nearly every circumstance, getting your vitamin D by exposing your body to UV light from the sun is the best option. When doing so, however, there are two extremely important points to remember:

1.  Stay away from tanning beds, as they can increase your risk of cancer.

2.  Avoid staying in the sun long enough to burn your skin. At the beginning of the season, limit your exposure to perhaps as little as five to 10 minutes a day. Progressively increase your time in the sun so that in a few weeks, you will be able to have normal sun exposure with little risk of skin cancer.

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