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Sunshine as a cure for vascular disease?

By Dr. Renae Norton

Vitamin D is now recognized as one of the most important vitamins for all around good health.  But it isn’t just any vitamin D.  I am referring to the sulfated version of vitamin D3, which is what we get when the sun shines on our skin. It turns out, sulfated vitamin D3 plays an important role in our vascular health.

I increased the efficiency of arterial flow to my heart by using a combination of sunlight and a UVB (Vitamin D3) lamp long enough to pink my skin, every day for a 2-month period.  This would be the equivalent of only 12 to 20 minutes of sunshine per session for most people.  Based upon the results of a test called an EndoPat, which is a diagnostic device used to detect the earliest stages of cardiovascular disease, it took only 8 weeks to go from High Risk of a vascular event to virtually No Risk. 

Surprised that vitamin D has anything to do with vascular health? So was I.  In her research, a respected colleague, Dr. Stephanie Seneff, identified what she describes as two critical and “mysterious” forms of sulfate: vitamin D3 sulfate and cholesterol sulfate. These two molecules are very poorly understood, especially considering how important they are. “Sulfate deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency you’ve never heard of,” says Dr. Seneff and may be the culprit when it comes to the most common chronic diseases facing Americans today. 

What Are Cholesterol and Vitamin D3 Sulfate and Why Are They So Important?

Cholesterol sulfate and vitamin D3 sulfate share a key biochemical connection that is triggered by the sun. In fact, sunlight acts like a bridge between the two nutrients, converting the cholesterol sulfate into vitamin D3 sulfate. All we have to do to reap the benefits of these two sulfated molecules is get sun on our skin. When we do that, the body uses the sulfated version of vitamin D3 to keep us healthy and in some cases work miracles in terms of reversing serious health issues.  This is exactly what I experienced.

But first a little background:

Cholesterol sulfate is actually a hormone.  In fact it is the first and perhaps most important hormone in the body.  You might think of it as the mother of all hormones. This will undoubtedly come as a surprise to many people, as cholesterol generally gets a bad rap and hormones are good for us.  So how can cholesterol be a hormone? Most people believe that it is very dangerous. 

Actually, there is mixed evidence as to the dangers of cholesterol.  The latest research suggests that high cholesterol is not an issue if you are over 60 and that even high LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) can benefit us as we age.

With regard to the latter, I believe that the issue may be the type of LDL, as one is pattern A-LDL (great big bouncy molecules that roll through the vascular system) and the other is pattern B-LDL (small to very small molecules that stick to the walls of the arteries, causing plaque build-up.) Whether or not you have pattern A or B appears to be a genetic trait. Wouldn’t you think we would all be tested to determine whether we are A or B given the impact it can have on our cholesterol? Individuals with pattern A are also more likely to have high HDL, (the good cholesterol) low triglycerides and normal LDL levels.

Currently there is an epidemic of vitamin D3 deficiency in the US. There is also an epidemic of the dangerous form of LDL cholesterol (pattern B-LDL) that drives the prescription of statin medications. The problem with statins is twofold: The first is whether or not lowering cholesterol is really a benefit, since statins lower all cholesterol, the “bad” as well as the “good” cholesterol and the second is whether or not they offer any real protection. Nonetheless, statins are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the US.

For example, my doctor insisted that I try a statin to lower my LDL cholesterol, despite the fact that my triglycerides were low, my HDL was high and I had pattern A-LDL cholesterol, (the one that does not appear to pose a threat.)  If I had followed my doctor’s recommendation to try a statin, I would not have made the sun/life discovery and there is a  good chance that I would have eventually had a major vascular event, as statins do not necessarily prevent vascular events, they just change the nature of the event.  In other words, whereas people are less likely to die of a heart attack, they are sometimes more likely to die of heart failure when taking a statin. In addition, statins have also been shown to raise blood sugar levels, driving type 2 diabetes.

When I declined the recommendation to take a statin, my doctor insisted that I have an EndoPat, a test that measures the functionality of the lining of the heart and blood vessels.  I am so glad that he did.  The before and after EndoPat results are below. As you can see, there was a dramatic difference pre and post UVB (sunlight) exposure.

The only thing I changed between the first and second EndoPat, was to use a UVB lamp or expose my skin to the actual sun every day for 8 weeks. Here in the US, sunlight with the proper wavelength for absorbing D3 is available late March through Mid-November. This differs depending upon where you are in the world.  There is an excellent app called DMinder that calculates how much vitamin D3 you are getting for the part of the world and time of year where you are.

Notice that my initial score on the EndoPat was 1.4, which places me in the high-risk range for an imminent vascular event and that just 8 weeks of using a UVB lamp and/or getting sunlight, my score was 3.04 placing me at no risk for a vascular event……ever.

Also notice that my blood pressure, which was normal to begin with, goes down a bit.

The therapeutic range for the EndoPat, is as follows:

Ranges:

<1.67               High Risk

1.67-2.09         Intermediate Risk

>2.1                 Healthy

 

First EndoPat on 3/21/15 

Score is 1.49 (Not Good)

Second EndoPat-8 weeks later on 2/20/15 (Conditions were the same)

Score is 3.04 (Good)

Of course, when I got these results, I was thrilled.  My experiment worked far better than I had expected.  But I was also skeptical.  I contacted the manufacturer of the EndoPat equipment.  They were impressed with the results and wanted to know more about what had intervened.  According to the Itamar folks, the equipment is not prone to false positives or negatives, so besides being an unusually good result, the results were likely a valid representation of my cardiovascular efficiency pre and post sunlight therapy.

This is what the above scores meant according to their specs:

Red Zone: Score of 1.68 and lower 

You do not have proper endothelial function and this could be an important signal of an imminent cardiac problem. This EndoScore may indicate the presence of disease and that an immediate evaluation and intervention may be needed, whether it is aggressive medical therapy or a medical procedure. It’s imperative that endothelial health be restored.

Yellow Zone: Score between 1.69 and 2 

Your endothelium is healthy and while you don’t have any additional risk, you are still not in the well-protected Green Zone.

Green Zone. Score between 2.1 and 3

Your endothelium is functioning optimally, and you have maximum protection. Keep up whatever it is that you are doing, because the foods that you have been eating and the physical activity you have been performing regularly have affected a number of risk factors implicated in vascular health and longevity, particularly blood cholesterol levels, hypertension, and obesity.

According to Dr. Steven Lamb, who uses the EndoPat regularly in his practice, a score of 3.04 is an extraordinary result, and one which he says he does not see often. When I asked if he ever recommended sunlight as a way of improving his patient’s scores, he said that he did not.

In addition to the results of the EndoPat, I also obtained similar results on other before and after blood work. Indeed, of the 22 tests measured on a Cardio IQ, 12 of my scores improved, many going from “at risk” to “optimal” and all in 8 weeks with no medication. 

For example, my vitamin D3 went from 22 to 48.  (It is now consistently over 60.)  Likewise, my pattern A vs. pattern B LDL cholesterol, which was already good, improved. 

All 3 of the indicators of inflammation improved including my CRP (a measure of inflammation) Fibrinogen Antigen (a clotting factor) and the LP PLA2 Activity which is an enzyme that can assess the amount of inflammation in the arteries due to a build-up of cholesterol. 

(For more details, see my upcoming book Have a Healthy Heart and a Brilliant Brain – Increase Your Cholesterol!)

The important thing here is that the only significant change was to get cholesterol sulfate that turns into vitamin D3 sulfate by exposure to either UVB or sunlight. I was already eating very clean and exercising regularly using the latest in fitness technology. As you can see from the reports above, I did not have high blood pressure. 

Please note, that I am not recommending indiscriminate sunbathing.  You only need enough sunshine to pink your skin, which for some is 15 minutes and for others even less.  Also, as you will see in my upcoming book on sunshine, the time of day and type of sunshine is important.

One could argue that because I was so healthy except for my high LDL cholesterol level, I am a bad example.  But, according to the results of the first EndoPat, I was at risk for a vascular event despite my “good health.”  Although I had pattern A-LDL, which is likely due to good genes, withdrawing from all sunlight for several years is probably what caused the poor endothelial heath seen in the first EndoPat. 

For individuals who are not so fortunate to have pattern A-LDL cholesterol, it is possible to change from pattern B-LDL to pattern A-LDL sunlight, lifestyle changes, weight loss, and if all else fails nicotinic acid or niacin.

The bottom line is that getting sunlight so as to increase cholesterol sulfate and vitamin D3 sulfate can radically change your health and well-being in a relatively short period of time.  In addition, eating clean sun-kissed foods that increase the antioxidants we need to fight free radicals and using fitness protocols based upon cutting edge technology  are all things that promote good vascular health and things over which you have complete control.  I have many other examples in my practice and in my personal journey to share with you on how you can take charge of your health and weight and achieve amazing results. So stay tuned.

 

Interested in Wellness Coaching or Nutritional Guidance?

Dr. Renae Norton specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. Located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Call 513-205-6543 to schedule an appointment or fill out our online contact form for someone to call you to discuss your concerns. Tele-therapy sessions available. Individual and family sessions also available.

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