Ounce of Prevention | Protect your breasts, bone and womb
Is there a cheap natural substance that can protect a woman’s breasts and womb while keeping her bones strong? Yes,there is. It's vitamin D! In fact Vitamin D is not really a vitamin. It is more like a powerful hormone. It controls the behaviour of over 2,000 of our genes and virtually every cell in the human body responds to vitamin D. The term vitamin D describes a family of fat soluble steroids found naturally in only a few foods such as fish liver oils, fatty fish, mushrooms, egg yolks and liver. Vitamin D3 (technically called cholecalciferol) is the most active and useful member of that family.
Mankind’s main source of vitamin D comes from sunshine. When the UVB rays of the sun strikes the skin it converts cholesterol in the skin cells into vitamin D. Dark skin, obesity, old age and the use of sun block greatly reduces the body’s ability to make the vitamin from sunshine. Vitamin D is safe and inexpensive and provides many, many, benefits for men, women and children. Unfortunately many of us have been programmed to avoid sunshine. This information is therefore very important, as women are particularly prone to a deficiency in vitamin D.
Protect your breasts
There is good evidence that vitamin D lowers the risk of breast cancer. Studies show that the higher a woman’s level of vitamin D, the lower her risk of breast cancer.
Research at Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC, revealed that high doses of vitamin D caused a 50 per cent reduction in breast tumours, and a 75 per cent decrease in cancer spread among women who already had the disease.
Other researchers at the Creighton University School of Medicine in Nebraska showed that supplementing with vitamin D and calcium can reduce your risk of several cancers especially breast cancer by an amazing 77 per cent. This suggests that vitamin D may be our most powerful tools against cancer.
In fact researchers in France after examining the records of more than 67,000 women suggested that getting more vitamin D from both supplements and sunshine might well be the most effective way to prevent and treat breast cancer.
In addition, not only does vitamin D protect the breast against cancer but also prevents other non-cancerous breast lumps and cysts as well as the all too common fibrocystic disease.
Vitamin D in its most active form D3 encourages the breast cells to remain healthy or if they become cancerous to die by committing cell suicide (apoptosis). D3 also reduces the blood supply to tumours and reduces the spread of cancer.
Some cancer treatment centres now give their patients at least 5000 IU of vitamin D3 each day. Holistic physicians like myself recommend much higher dosages along with daily sun baths. Just one hour of full body exposure to sunshine can cause the body to produce up to 50,000 IU of vitamin D. Some studies suggest that combining vitamin D with calcium may provide added protection against cancer.
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths or tumours of the uterus that arise from the muscle cells that form the walls of the womb. Research published in the journal Biology of Reproduction found that vitamin D may effectively reduce the size of existing uterine fibroids, and may even help prevent them from forming in the first place.
It is estimated that 80 per cent of women with fibroids are vitamin D deficient. A report in the Journal Epidemiology revealed that only 10 per cent of black women and 50 per cent of white women have adequate levels of vitamin D. The US women with sufficient vitamin D levels have an estimated 32 per cent lower risk of fibroids compared with those with low vitamin D levels. From my own observations a similar situation exists in Jamaica.
Vitamin D3 seems to stop the uncontrolled proliferation of the cells in the walls of the uterus that leads to fibroid growth. This is a promising lead in the search for a non-surgical treatment for fibroids that does not compromise a woman’s fertility. Rather than waiting to have surgery, women with fibroids (the earlier they start the better) may benefit greatly from exposing themselves regularly to natural sunlight, and by supplementing with vitamin D3.
Osteoporosis is a condition characterised by weakening of the bones and a loss of bone mass. It is a disease of major concern to women throughout the western world.
Media campaigns and posters in doctors offices and pharmacies continually warn women of the dangers of disappearing bone mass. They are advised that the war on bone loss can be won with taking calcium supplements and by consuming calcium-rich dairy products. Doctors may prescribe synthetic oestrogen to these women, and, if necessary add bone-building Drugs like Fosamax.
Vitamin D is essential to bone health and is absolutely vital for the absorption of calcium from your food, drinks and supplements. Without adequate vitamin D3 all the calcium in the world will not get into the bones and keep them strong. Although the ‘calcium propaganda’ has lead to a very significant increase in the dietary intake of calcium by women, there still continues to be an ongoing rise in their rates of osteoporosis. Calcium is good and important but what most people need is not more calcium but more vitamin D, more balanced nutrition and more exercise.
The incredible thing is that vitamin D helps so many other health concerns. Whether it is breast cancer, uterine fibroids, osteoporosis, heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic infections, inflammation, allergies, depression, arthritis, chronic pain, neurological problems, respiratory ailments or skin diseases, inexpensive vitamin D has been shown to provide significant benefits without negative side effects. Sadly my clinical experience shows that most urban Jamaicans are vitamin D deficient.
For those interested the Vitamin D Council (www.vitamindcouncil.org) has extensive scientific literature about vitamin D and the many related disorders that affect women and men worldwide.