Health and Disease, Lifestyle, Rx to Wellness, Uncategorized

Kaiser Permanente Calls Out Sun Avoidance as “Misguided”

sunexpoosure

 

Kaiser Permanente Calls Out Sun Avoidance as “Misguided”

 

Over the past 40+ years, dermatologists have promoted the idea that you should never be exposed to direct sunlight because it will damage your skin and cause skin cancer.

 

You might wonder, well what about vitamin D?  No problem, as according to the American Academy of Dermatology, vitamin D deficiency can easily be addressed with vitamin D supplements.1

 

What they fail to acknowledge and appreciate is that when you’re exposed to sunlight, many important biological processes occur in your skin, not just vitamin D production.

 

This is separate from swallowing oral vitamin D, which is an important but, according to many experts, clearly inferior alternative. While it will improve your vitamin D status, you forgo the many benefits sunlight offers aside from vitamin D production.

 

Weighing the Risks and Benefits of Sun Exposure

 

Unfortunately, the entire focus of most dermatologists is preventing skin damage, which means ignoring the other side—the benefits—of the sun exposure equation.

 

This includes heightened protection against a number of internal cancers and other chronic diseases, including heart disease, which kills far more people than melanoma does.

 

Ironically, recent research shows that vitamin D also improves survival outcomes for melanoma patients.2,3 It’s also important for cognitive health, immune function, healthy pregnancy and infant development, and strong, healthy bones, just to name a few.4

 

As noted in a recent news report:5

 

“Fifteen to 20 minutes in sunlight a day helps your body produce the vitamin D it needs to absorb calcium and promote bone growth and keep the heart healthy. But sunscreen – important to protect against skin cancer — reduces the body’s ability to manufacture the vitamin.

 

Doctors can be torn on recommending time in the sun when too much and too little both have consequences.”

 

Sun Avoidance Decreases Melanoma Risk But Increases All-Cause Mortality

 

A recent study6,7 driving home these benefits was completed in Sweden. More than 25,500 Swedish women between the ages of 25 and 64 were followed for 20 years. Detailed information about sun exposure habits and confounding factors were obtained and analyzed in a “competing risk” scenario.

 

Overall, women who got regular sun exposure had a lower all-cause mortality risk—likely due to their increased vitamin D levels.

 

Women with active sun exposure habits ended up having a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and non-cancer death compared to those who avoided the sun. Of particular note:

 

“Nonsmokers who avoided sun exposure had a life expectancy similar to smokers in the highest sun exposure group, indicating that avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking.

 

Compared to the highest sun exposure group, life expectancy of avoiders of sun exposure was reduced by 0.6–2.1 years.” [Emphasis mine]

 

Other Research That Puts Melanoma Risk Into Perspective

 

Previous research has shown that when sunlight strikes your skin, nitric oxide is released into your bloodstream8 and nitric oxide is a powerful blood pressure lowering compound.

 

This has led researchers to conclude that sun exposure may prolong your life by significantly cutting your heart attack/stroke risk. One 2013 study9 mentions an absolutely stunning statistic.

 

For every one skin cancer death in northern Europe, between 60 and 100 people die from stroke or heart disease, related to hypertension. Knowing your risk of dying from heart disease or stroke is 80 times greater on average than from skin cancer really puts it in perspective.10

 

While higher vitamin D levels correlate with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, oral vitamin D supplements do not appear to benefit blood pressure, and the fact that supplements do not increase nitric oxide may be the reason for this.

 

According to researcher Richard Weller:

 

“We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer. The work we have done provides a mechanism that might account for this, and also explains why dietary vitamin D supplements alone will not be able to compensate for lack of sunlight.”

 

Lack of Sun Exposure May Be Driving Tuberculosis Epidemic

 

Cardiovascular disease is not the only disease influenced by sun exposure that kills far more people than melanoma. Did you know that some 4,100 people die from tuberculosis (TB) EVERY day around the globe?11

 

In 2014, there were 1.5 million TB-relblated deaths worldwide. Compare that to the 438,000 who died from malaria—a well-known global infectious disease—and the 55,100 who die from melanoma each year (worldwide).

 

Tellingly, TB rates are particularly high among miners and prisoners, two populations exposed to far less sunlight than the average person. African miners have the highest incidence of TB in the world.12

 

One of the reasons why TB isn’t on everyone’s radar is because it’s been around for hundreds of years, and the disease (spread by airborne bacteria that settle in the lungs and result in long-term infections) doesn’t evoke the same drama as HIV or Ebola.

 

The reason it should be on everyone’s radar is because it’s now the No. 1 infectious disease out there.

 

No one is safe from it, and with rising antibiotic-resistance, it may just be a matter of time before TB can no longer be treated with antibiotics, in which case the death toll is likely to skyrocket even further—especially if sun avoidance continues to be aggressively promoted.

 

Tuberculosis—A Global Health Threat That Could Be Counteracted With Sun Exposure

 

What people seem to have forgotten is that, traditionally, TB was treated with sunlight, and it’s a well-established fact that UV light is anti-infective. For example, a 2009 study13,14 found that UV light could reduce the spread of tuberculosis in hospital wards and waiting rooms by 70 percent.

 

Other studies have similarly concluded that UV light and blue light has potent antibiotic activity. It can even be used to disinfect water15 in lieu of harsher disinfection chemicals like chlorine. In 2012, researchers announced UV light helps kill 90 percent of drug-resistant bacteria in hospital rooms.16

 

Vitamin D from sun exposure also increases your body’s production of naturally occurring antimicrobial peptides that destroy the cell walls of viruses and bacteria. Sun exposure also increases blood levels of germ-destroying lymphocytes (white blood cells).

 

Auguste Rollier began using sunlight therapy to treat TB in Switzerland in 1903. The treatment was so successful that over the course of the next 40 years, his methods were adopted by hospitals worldwide, including in the United States.

 

Of the 2,167 patients who were under his care for tuberculosis following World War II, 1,746 completely recovered their health, an astonishing number for the time, with the only failures being those who were already in the most advanced stage of the disease.

 

Vitamin D Supplements May Also Help Combat Drug Resistant TB

 

Studies have shown that metabolizing vitamin D can restrict the growth of tuberculosis within cells.17 In one study, Indonesian scientists found that treating tuberculosis patients with 10,000 units of vitamin D daily (instead of the much smaller amount usually advocated by conventional medicine) led to a cure rate of 100 percent — everyone in the study.18 Quite impressive indeed!

 

Other recent research19 suggests vitamin D may enhance your body’s ability to kill drug-resistant TB—an effect thought to be related to the fact that vitamin D helps decrease inflammation in your body. Tuberculosis is not the only disease documented to be influenced by vitamin D and UV radiation. Sunlight has also been shown to be effective against anthrax, cholera, E. coli, dysentery, influenza, staphylococcus, streptococcus, and other infectious illnesses.

 

The time honored tradition of hanging your clothes outside to dry even works as a natural germicidal to kill off potential pathogens. This is especially important for your bed clothes, and if you have the ability, I highly recommend hanging your laundry out to dry when the weather permits.

 

Breaking News—Kaiser Permanente Calls Out Sun Avoidance as ‘Misguided’

 

While the American Academy of Dermatology, the Skin Cancer Foundation, and the U.S. Surgeon General20,21 have all declared UV radiation harmful and said sun exposure should be avoided altogether, Kaiser Permanente is now bucking the status quo by recommending sun exposure. In their March 10, 2016 “Positive Choice” newsletter covering cancer prevention and general wellness, Kaiser Permanente states, in no unequivocal terms:22

 

“It is true that too much sun exposure, and especially sun burns, contribute to skin cancer. But the message to avoid the sun altogether may be misguided. Our increasing knowledge about vitamin D, the sun, and how they affect our immune system has us re-thinking the recommendation to avoid the sun completely.

 

Our ancestors were outdoors far more often than indoors. How could we have evolved and survived as a species if we were that vulnerable to something humans have been constantly exposed to for their entire existence? Like all living things, we need sunshine.

 

Much as plants harness the sun’s rays through photosynthesis, our bodies use the UVB radiation in sunshine to stimulate increased production of vitamin D. Vitamin D is needed to build bones, quell inflammation, bolster the immune system, and protect against disease.”

 

Sun Exposure is ‘Vital,’ Kaiser Permanente Says

 

Kaiser goes on to note that vitamin D deficiency is widespread—as many as 70 percent of American children may have insufficient levels—and lists a number of adverse health effects thereof, including the following. Kaiser also notes that “infants that are born from vitamin D deficient mothers and remain vitamin D deficient for the first several months after birth have a greater risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases later in life.”

 

 

Heart disease  High blood pressure    Type 1 diabetes

Multiple sclerosis       Depression      Asthma

Osteoporosis   Cancer Autoimmune disease

As if taken straight out of my own newsletter, Kaiser notes: “Most people have heard of the studies that connect sun exposure to skin cancer. But there are many studies that suggest sun exposure (and maximizing vitamin D levels) plays a role in decreasing risks of at least 16 different types of cancer including lung, pancreatic, breast, ovarian, prostate, and colon cancers.

 

Without question sun exposure and the vitamin D we make when in the sun is vital to health. But how much do we need? … Some experts recommend blood serum levels as high as 75 ng/ml … The Institute of Health recommends blood serum levels at 40 ng/ml, the amount that meets the needs of most people. Using either value, many Americans are deficient in vitamin D …

 

For healthy people, moderate sun exposure (2 to 4 times a week for 15 to 30 minutes) is not a problem. Just as important as not avoiding the sun all together, it is important to not just bake away. Rather follow healthy sunbathing tips…

 

The benefits we receive from the sun have focused primarily on its ability to stimulate vitamin D production, but there may be other benefits we get from the sun that are not yet well understood. Even if you supplement with vitamin D, it’s still a good idea to get some sunshine as well.”

 

Kaiser Permanente Issues Healthy Sunbathing Tips

 

Kaiser’s “healthy sunbathing tips” also follows the same guidelines I’ve promoted for many years, including:23

 

Only get sensible sun exposure and always avoid sunburn.

Build up your tolerance by starting early in the spring, and gradually increase the time you spend in the sun to avoid getting burned. Once your tolerance has been built up, aim for 15 to 30 minutes of unprotected exposure two to four times per week, around mid-day, to maximize vitamin D production

Expose as much skin as you can, not just your arms and face

Avoid burning

Boost your “internal sunscreen” by eating antioxidant rich foods and healthy fats. As noted by Kaiser: “These foods strengthen skin cells, helping to protect them from sun damage. On a regular basis eating several servings of vegetables and fruits such as blueberries, raspberries … and supplementing with green powdered mixes (wheat grass, barley grass, seaweed powders, etc.) and fish oils are great options when going into the sun.”

As a general rule, the best time to get sun exposure to optimize your vitamin D levels is close to solar noon, which is 1 p.m. in those states that foolishly use Daylight Saving Time. So, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. from March through October. November through February, you will not be making vitamin D if you live north of Atlanta, Georgia, and even at southern latitudes, you’ll only be making 10 to 20 percent of your summertime norm.

 

During winter months, your alternatives are to use a tanning bed, or take an oral vitamin D3 supplement. If you opt for a supplement, remember that you also need to increase your vitamin K2 intake. I strongly recommend getting your vitamin D level tested at least once or twice a year, say during the winter and summer, to make sure your chosen strategy is providing you with enough vitamin D. Ideally, you’ll want your level to be between 40 and 60 ng/ml year-round.

 

Sun Exposure for Vitamin D and Beyond

 

If you look at the spectrum of sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface, UVB radiation is responsible for making vitamin D. But UVA, while being responsible for most of the skin damage also helps modulate your immune system, and UVA and UVB in combination improves beta-endorphin production in your skin, which makes you feel good.

 

Sun exposure on bare skin also produces nitric oxide and carbon monoxide that cause vascular relaxation, improves wound healing, and helps fight infections among other biologic processes. The carbon monoxide your hemoglobin molecules release in response to UV radiation also acts as a neurotransmitter, and has beneficial effects on your nervous system. Like nitric oxide, it causes relaxation, and has anti-inflammatory activity.

 

The blue wavelength of sunlight is particularly important for regulating your circadian rhythm and suppressing melatonin levels; it helps improve your mood, and reduces depressive symptoms. Light therapy has been shown to be effective not only against seasonal affective disorder (SAD) but also non-seasonal major depression. So all in all, sun exposure provides a wealth of health benefits over and beyond mere vitamin D production, although that’s certainly a big part of it.

 

Clearly, when you weigh the risks and benefits, sensible sun exposure does more good than harm, and I’m quite pleased to see Kaiser Permanente push against the misguided advice to stay out of the sun, just to lower your risk of melanoma. At the end of the day, your risk of dying from melanoma is FAR lower than your risk of dying from other diseases associated with sun avoidance, such as TB and heart disease for example.

 

The Role of Vitamin D in Disease Prevention

 

A growing body of evidence shows that vitamin D plays a crucial role in disease prevention and maintaining optimal health. There are about 30,000 genes in your body, and vitamin D affects nearly 3,000 of them, as well as vitamin D receptors located throughout your body.

 

According to one large-scale study, optimal Vitamin D levels can slash your risk of cancer by as much as 60 percent. Keeping your levels optimized can help prevent at least 16 different types of cancer, including pancreatic, lung, ovarian, prostate, and skin cancers.

 

Please share with family and loved ones.  If you have any questions please contact us.

 

Health and Wellness Associates

Archived

312-972-Well

Health and Disease, Lifestyle, Rx to Wellness, Uncategorized

A Hospital Stay is 10 Times More Likely to Kill You Than a Motor Vehicle Crash

hospitalstay

 

Reality Check—Hospital Stay is 10 Times More Likely to Kill You Than a Motor Vehicle Crash

 

Hospitals are typically thought of as places where lives are saved, but statistics show they’re actually one of the most dangerous places you could possibly frequent.1,2

 

Each day, more than 40,000 harmful and/or lethal medical errors occur, placing the patient in a worse situation than what they came in with.3

 

According to a 2013 study,4,5 preventable medical errors kill around 440,000 patients each year—that’s more than 10 times the number of deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes! Hospitals have become particularly notorious for spreading lethal infections.

 

According to 2014 statistics6,7 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 25 patients end up with a hospital-acquired infection. In 2011 alone, 75,000 people died as a result.8

 

Medicare patients may be at even greater risk. According to the 2011 Health Grades Hospital Quality in America Study,9 1 in 9 Medicare patients developed a hospital-acquired infection.

 

Doctors, Nurses, Hospital Administrators Blamed

 

Over the years, hospitals have been warned they need to improve infectious control, but according to two new reports,10,11 the U.S. healthcare system has largely failed to make a dent in the problem.  On the whole, only 6 percent of U.S. hospitals receive top scores for preventing common drug-resistant infections.

 

As reported by NBC News:12

 

“…America’s hospitals are still teeming with infectious bacteria, including drug-resistant superbugs…One-third of hospitals rated by Consumer Reports got low scores on how well they prevent one of the worst infections, Clostridium difficile.

 

Many are flagship teaching hospitals, like those at Johns Hopkins University or Harvard Medical School, and… the prestigious Cleveland Clinic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid the responsibility squarely on doctors, nurses and hospital administrators.

 

“Doctors are the key to stamping out superbugs. Antibiotic resistance threatens to return us to a time when a simple infection could kill,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told reporters…

 

“These infections are not mysterious,” he said. “They’re caused by unwashed hands, rooms that are not cleaned thoroughly, overuse and misuse of antibiotics, a lack of careful hygiene in inserting catheters and other tubes, and slow detection of outbreaks…

 

There are clear simple steps. The hard part is to do them each and every time.”

 

Patients Also Need to Wash Their Hands

 

According to a research letter13,14 published in JAMA Internal Medicine, patients also shoulder some of the blame. Again, the problem can be traced back to lack of proper hand washing.

 

In this paper, they tested patients who went from hospitals to post-acute care facilities such as rehab centers and other long-term care facilities. Nearly 1 in 4 had some sort of drug-resistant microbe on their hands when leaving the hospital.

 

About 10 percent of these patients ended up picking up yet another drug-resistant germ while in post-acute care. Of those who tested positive for drug-resistant bacteria, 67 percent still had them when they were discharged, even if they never became ill from it.

 

So this is another crucial recommendation. Washing your hands is generally recognized as an important infection control strategy but one of the MOST important times to wash your hands is when you are in the hospital, even if you are visiting someone and not a patient.

 

In this way, you’ll minimize the risk of spreading  microbes out among the general population. According to Leah Binder, president of the Leapfrog Group, an organization that grades hospitals on patient safety:

 

“We have to revise hand hygiene policies to include patients. One of the main strategies on hand hygiene is to make it easy to wash hands.

 

Most hospitals have either sinks or dispensers near the door of every room, so that it’s very easy for a provider walking in to immediately wash their hands. Do we make it easy for patients to wash their hands? I doubt it.”

 

Hand Washing Tips

 

Hand washing needs to be done correctly however, in order to be truly effective for disease control. Simply rinsing your hands with water, or giving a quick scrub with soap, is not enough to remove germs.

 

So, to make sure you’re actually removing the germs when you wash your hands, follow these guidelines:15

 

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water

Use plain soap. Antibacterial soap is completely unnecessary and could easily do more harm than good. As a matter of fact, the antibacterial compounds found in most of these soaps are another contributing factor to the rapid emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Research has also confirmed that antibacterial soap is no more effective than plain soap at reducing bacterial contamination when used under ‘real-life’ conditions

 

Clean all the nooks and crannies of your hands, including under fingernails

Rinse thoroughly under running water

Use a paper towel to open the door as a protection from germs that harbor on handles

 

How to Make Your Hospital Stay Safer

 

Besides washing your own hands, ask all personnel to wash theirs before touching you. While many are intimidated by medical personnel, and doctors in particular, just know that vocalizing requests such as these is well within your rights as a patient, and may very well save your (and other people’s) life.

 

Other proactive steps you can take to protect yourself against hospital-acquired superbugs and medical errors include:16,17,18

 

Bring bleach wipes with you. Wiping down surfaces around your hospital bed—including the bed rails, table, IV pole, vital signs monitor, computer monitor and keyboard, call button, and television remote control—can reduce the risk of Clostridium difficile infection by nearly 85 percent.

 

Also ask your doctor to wipe off his or her stethoscope before placing it on your body.

Ask to be tested for MRSA. If you are infected, you, your doctors and nurses will have a heads-up that greater diligence and care is required to prevent transmission.

Choose a hospital with a low infection rate.19,20 Avoid teaching hospitals in June, July and August.

 

Statistically, more errors occur during these months due to the influx of new residents (doctors in training), and senior “attending” doctors taking their vacations.

 

Lethal medication errors consistently spike by about 10 percent each July, due to the inexperience of new residents.21 Also be cautious of weekends.       Make sure you really need antibiotics if one is prescribed for you. If your doctor suspects an infection, a rapid culture can help identify the bacteria in question, which will allow your doctor to prescribe the most effective antibiotic.

 

Also request the lowest effective dose possible.

 

Bathe with chlorhexidine soap a day or two before going in for scheduled surgery.  Ask your doctor about probiotics, especially if you’re given an antibiotic. Probiotics may help reduce your risk of Clostridium difficile infection.

Before scheduling a colonoscopy, ask what solution is used to clean the scope. Make sure the hospital or clinic uses peracetic acid, to avoid potential transfer of infectious material from previous patients.

 

Cidex (glutaraldehyde), which 80 percent of hospitals and clinics use, does NOT properly sterilize these tools.    Proton-pump inhibitors prescribed for heartburn or stomach pain can increase your risk for Clostridium difficile infection, so if your doctor wants to give you one, ask why, and make sure there’s a solid reason for taking it.

 

If you’re concerned you may be given unnecessary drugs or surgery, ask for a Patient Advocate, or request a different doctor.

 

Request IV’s, tubes, and catheters to be removed as early as possible, as the longer they stay in, the greater your risk of infection.   Make sure an electric shaver is used, not a razor, to prep skin areas for surgery. Razors can easily nick the skin, even if microscopically, allowing bacteria to enter and fester.

 

 

What Hospitals Won’t Tell You—Vital Strategies that Could Save Your Life

 

I previously interviewed Dr. Andrew Saul on the issue of hospital medical errors and patient safety. As the co-author of “Hospitals and Health: Your Orthomolecular Guide to a Shorter Hospital Stay,”22 he has a lot of wisdom to share with regards to keeping yourself safe from medical harm. It is possible to make hospital stays safer and more healing, and his book addresses this at depth.

 

Here are a few summarized nuggets from this interview the most important point being the first one. I also recommend buying the book for more comprehensive information.

 

Bring a friend or family member who can help look out for your best interest. This is really critical. Ideally, you want someone with you 24 hours a day, who can double-check what medications you’re being given and why, make sure nurses and doctors are washing their hands and ask questions about any procedures being done.

 

It’s human nature to be more attentive to detail when you know you’ll be questioned, so having an advocate who can keep hospital staff accountable can go a long way toward minimizing errors.

 

Understand and remember that as the patient, you are the most powerful person in the hospital. However, the hospital system works on the assumption that the patient will not claim that power. Doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators are offering you products and services, and they’re trying to get you to accept them without question, but you do have the right to say no to any treatment you do not want.

 

You also have the right to revoke permission you may previously have given. If you are incapacitated, your spouse, followed by your children, has the most influence.

Optimize your nutrition. Hospital meals are almost universally associated with ultra-processed food that will not do your health any favors. You can sometimes get better food simply by asking for a vegetarian meal. It can also be helpful to bring a note from your primary care physician if you take vitamins and want to continue taking them while in the hospital. Also know your patient rights, should the staff insist you can’t take them while staying there.

 

Being Proactive and Assertive Can Make Your Hospital Stay Safer

 

From my perspective, checking yourself into a hospital should be an option of last resort, when you have exhausted all others (barring an actual life-threatening emergency). Not only do you risk developing a potentially life-threatening infection, but they also all-too-frequently give you the wrong solution for your problem. Surgery, for example, is a widely overused option that can cause far more problems than it solves.

 

However, should a hospital stay be necessary, you would do well to heed the advice of Dr. Saul, and bring a personal advocate with you—a relative or friend who can speak up for you and ensure you’re given proper care if you’re too incapacitated (or timid) to do so yourself.

 

If you’re serious about minimizing your hospital visits, start by taking control of your health and building a strong immune system. This will minimize your risk of becoming hospital-bound due to severe illness, as well as minimize your risk of acquiring an antibiotic-resistant infection. Keeping your immune system healthy begins with common sense strategies such as eating real food, managing your stress, and getting plenty of daily movement and regular exercise.

 

Since we’ve been talking about antibiotic-resistant infections, remember that the vast majority of meats sold come from animals raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), where antibiotics are routinely administered not only to combat disease but also to promote rapid growth. This is a major reason for opting for 100% organic and grass-fed meats and animal products, as organic standards to not permit the routine non-medical use of antibiotics.

 

As always, please share with family and loved ones.  If you have any questions or concerns about a upcoming visit to the hospital, nursing home, or rehab center, please feel free to contact us.

 

Health and Wellness Associates

Archived

312-972-Well