Vitamin D is considered to be the “Sunshine Vitamin”, as your most natural, abundant source of Vitamin D comes from bright and happy sunshine.
Most people in countries that tend to have longer winters or greyer seasons have a largely deficient population in this key vitamin.
Did you know that low Vitamin D levels can also affect your HPV status?
This blog features the basics on HPV and how Vitamin D can be vital to your health and wellbeing.
Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin”, is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be produced in the skin with sunlight exposure.
It is best known for its crucial role in bone health. Without it, the body would not be able to absorb calcium, magnesium, or phosphate, essential minerals for bone strength, from food in your gut.
Without adequate calcium absorption, the body “borrows” calcium from the bones, increasing the risk of bone thinning, which may lead to osteoporosis and fracture.
Vitamin D helps maintain normal blood levels of phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium for other body functions.
Vitamin D is so vital to bone health that governments mandated the fortification of certain food products, such as milk and milk alternatives to prevent severe deficiencies.
Diseases caused by severe deficiency, such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, are considered common prior to this fortification.
Vitamin D-eficient Symptoms
Low levels of vitamin D can present with symptoms such as:
- Low immune function – have you noticed you’re getting sick or infected more often than usual?
- Fatigue – it can be as simple as an increased difficulty of getting out of bed in the morning!
- Bone loss or pain – new and random aches and pains should be assessed by your primary healthcare provider.
- Muscle pain and weakness – not able to crush it at the gym like usual? Having difficulty recovering?
- Low mood or depression – often this is a key symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder, where those who have dark, cold, long winters are deficient in vitamin D, leading to decreased pleasure or interest doing things they used to love, low mood, and frequently, depression.
- Impaired skin healing – with low vitamin D, it can be harder to heal something as small as a papercut or an skin blemish scar.
- Hair loss – hair thinning or hair loss can be caused by low vitamin D status.
What’s the Connection Between Vitamin D and HPV?
So now you have the run down on the importance of vitamin D. How can you apply this to your HPV status?
New research on Vitamin D is constantly emerging on the numerous benefits this vitamin has on health. Low levels have been linked to insulin resistance and diabetes, inflammation, impaired immunity, as well as being implicated in certain autoimmune conditions and cancer.
As more and more research is conducted, the potential benefits of this “sunshine vitamin” are rapidly expanding.
The main connection to HPV is in the immune status. An HPV prognosis can single-handedly be affected by the strength of your immune system. Vitamin D is an essential part of keeping a robust immune system, even in fighting HPV.
Specifically, every 10ng/ml decrease in blood levels of vitamin D was correlated to a 14% increased risk of high risk HPV.
Another study outlined the importance of vitamin D in the steroid hormone pathway, which regulates calcium. It explained the anti-proliferative, pro-apoptotic, anti-angiogenic effect of vitamin D in cancer prevention.
In simpler terms, Vitamin D was effective in decreasing cancer cell growth and increasing cell death of existing cancer cells.
This study found a significant connection between blood levels of Vitamin D and HPV positive status.
Vitamin D has proven anti-inflammatory functions, therefore a deficiency in Vitamin D and its metabolites can be a possible reason for HPV persistence and related cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.
Getting Your Vitamin D
The best way to get vitamin D is through sun exposure. You need bare skin exposed to sunlight when it’s at its highest so that you can get enough ultraviolet B, or UVB, rays.
10 to 30 minutes per day around 11am to 3pm is optimal.
Fair-skinned individuals may spend less time, while those with darker skin tones may need to spend longer.
Darker skin tones will have decreased production of vitamin D in skin due to increased skin pigments which block UV light absorption.
Other factors that may affect vitamin D synthesis in your skin from the sun includes: season, time of day, latitude, cloud cover, pollution, skin tone, clothing, sun screen, age.
With the exception of summer months, the skin is able to make little if any Vitamin D from the sun if you live at latitudes above 37 degrees north. This includes all of Canada and most of the United States. Those ages 65 and up have decreased production of vitamin D with increasing age.
Although sunscreen is pertinent for protecting the skin against harmful effects of the sun from skin cancer, sunscreen further blocks your skin’s ability to produce vitamin D.
Try sitting in the sun, sunscreen-free for 10 minutes, then generously apply sunscreen or cover up after filling up your vitamin D stores!
To Supplement or Not to Supplement
For those who live in places with long, dark winters, or grey seasons (we’re looking at you, Canada!), supplementation is recommended. You should see your primary healthcare provider to get bloodwork to guide dosing and supplementation.
Supplementing too much vitamin D has been known to cause stomach pain and kidney dysfunctions. When picking your supplement, make sure it is in the active form of cholecalciferol.
Food sources may help with your vitamin D levels as well. Food sources highest in vitamin D include: canned sardines, salmon, tuna, sunflower seeds, liver, eggs, mushrooms, and fortified milk.
What else can you do naturally?
Most HPV infections are easily cleared by a strong, healthy immune system. You will mostly likely clear the infection with no symptoms with a robust immune system.
Your immune system can be supported in a number of natural ways:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables – fruits and vegetables contain many essential vitamins and nutrients to keep your body functioning at its best! These food groups are specifically high in antioxidants, which may help neutralize bad molecules floating around in your body.
- Quit smoking – smoking single-handedly increases your risk for HPV-related cancers, even second-hand smoke exposure. While cutting down your cigarette count will still have an effect, nothing is quite as good as quitting entirely.
- Reduce alcohol consumption – high consumption of alcohol is related to a number of negative risks, including a decrease of immune functioning.
- Drink green tea – green tea for HPV seems a perfect match in many ways. It has been shown in many studies to have immune boosting benefits and anti-cancer effects, some specific to HPV.
- Exercise to sweat
- Get adequate sleep – getting 7 – 8 hours of high quality sleep is important to regulate your bodily functions, including your circadian rhythm. All of these factors have a distinct effect on your ability to fight infections.