#291 Breast Cancer and The Sunshine Vitamin - Everything You Need to Know

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Need more Vitamin D? Go get some sunshine…right? 

Not always.  

This powerful substance supports many important processes in your body but sunshine isn’t always enough. 

There are many factors that affect the levels of active vitamin D in your body. 

In this Tuesday Terrain talk episode, we’ll talk about: 

-How your body makes and uses vitamin D 

-What it really does to support your health 

-How you can get it from food 

-When you might need to turn to supplementation  


-How your unique body may affect your vitamin D levels. 

Listen now and learn how to make an informed decision when it comes to the sunshine vitamin and your health. 

Referred to in this episode: 

Wild Planet Sardines in EVOO 

Low Vitamin D Levels 

Meta-analysis of vitamin D, calcium and the prevention of breast cancer 

25-hydroxy vitamin D test 

Vitamin D physiology 

Vitamin D, Obesity and COVID-19 

Colour Counts: Sunlight and Skin Type as Drivers of Vitamin D Deficiency at UK Latitudes 

Vitamin D deficiency 2.0: an update on the current status worldwide 



Read the full transcript below: 

Laura Lummer 0:00
You're listening to the breast cancer recovery coach podcast. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I'm a Certified Life health and nutrition coach, and I'm also a breast cancer thriver. If you're trying to figure out how to move past the trauma and the emotional toll of breast cancer, you've come to the right place. In this podcast, I will give you the tools and the insights to create a life that's even better than before breast cancer. Well, let's get started.

Laura Lummer 0:32
Hello, Hello, friends, welcome to another episode of Better than before breast cancer with the breast cancer recovery coach. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. As always, super happy to be here today. It's such a gift every day that I get to be here and record a podcast and put this information out into the world. The Tuesday terrain talks what we're talking about today, this, I just loved, I'm so glad that I did this because I think something that's so important is understanding our bodies understanding how they work, but why we do the things that we do. You know, we go into a lot of fear when we're dealing with health, and we're dealing with breast cancer, and we want to have the healthiest bodies possible. And I think that the less information we have, the more we are susceptible to fear. And the more confusing information overwhelms us. And then we either don't do anything at all, or we do too many things. And even too many things, no matter if they're natural therapies, if they're integrated therapies, if their standard of care therapies, all the way around the spectrum, too much isn't necessarily better, right? If something's good for you more isn't always better. Understanding what you need. And where you're at is the most important thing. That's where we want to start. Because when you can understand where you're at, then you kind of know what you need. And then the first step is we look at lifestyle. Lifestyle is a huge factor, lifestyle can change so many things. And so today, I want to talk about something that is a really important part of supporting our health supporting our metabolisms supporting our metabolic well being. And it's also an invaluable part of our life, how we get this to be in our body and what it does for us. And we're going to talk about vitamin D, I think you've probably heard the breast cancer word. If you're in the breast cancer world. You have heard about vitamin D being very important when we were all going through lockdowns and figuring out COVID Vitamin D was talked about a lot. But why is it important? Why do you need it? And how do you get it? We're going to talk about that today. Because there's a lot of misunderstanding out there. We think that more is better. And I have actually had personal experiences with people who have taken way too much too much meaning that this vitamin can cause harm. And we'll go into why. But that's just at an extreme right on a regular healthy way of incorporating this into your lifestyle. It's not going to harm anybody, but because it is a vitamin and a hormone. And because if you choose to take a supplement, you should always know what is in your body. First what your body is doing with this and whether or not you even need it. So consulting with your doctor, what I'm going to talk about here is not medical advice, your doctor gives you medical advice. So if you're going to talk to think about this, and consider incorporating a vitamin D supplement, definitely talk to your doctor about it. And I think you'll have be armed with more information as to why that is important. And how to monitor and manage optimal levels and optimal functioning of vitamin D in your body. Okay, so let's talk first about what vitamin D is you probably have heard about it as the sunshine vitamin, right vitamin D people say go out, get some sunshine, get some vitamin D. And that's not wrong. But genetics play a part in that, believe it or not. And I know for certain because I'm one of those people who has a genetic snip, a variant that makes it very difficult for my body to synthesize vitamin D. And so I'll share a story with you. While we were as I mentioned, the lockdowns a minute ago when we were in the lockdowns in 2020. In that summertime, I spent every morning walking in the sunshine in a tank top in my board shorts on the beach with lots of exposure to sun at a great tan. And you know what I was so excited to get this was before my my stage four diagnosis This was during the summertime and I have always had vitamin D levels running low. It's constantly been something I have to focus on. And I personally need a lot of supplementation in addition to diet and life. trialed to get to optimal levels. So during this time, I was so excited to get my next series of bloodwork because my vitamin D panel was coming up and I thought, oh, my gosh, my vitamin D is gonna be off the chart. Well, the previous blood tests that I had, which had been about five months prior was my vitamin D sort of level was 27, that's really low, we do not want to be down in the 20s with our vitamin D. So I thought for sure it's going to be doubled. Because I mean, I'm exercising, I'm in the sunshine I'm eating well, for sure this is going to have an impact. It only went to 29. Right went from 27 to 29. In the sunshine every day for at least an hour, plenty of skin exposed to it. But I have a genetic variant that makes that difficult. So even though it is the sunshine vitamin, we have an inactive form of vitamin D in our skin, and the UV rays from the sun hit that and they activate it. And then we'll go into what happens after that in just a minute. But it doesn't work the same for everybody. And I'll touch on some more reasons why as well. So let's go back to the basics vitamin D, why it's more than just a vitamin, but it is a vitamin because the definition of vitamin, is it something that's essential to have in your body, it's essential for the functioning of our body. And vitamin D is essential for the proper functioning of our metabolism. So that's why we call it a vitamin. It's also a fat soluble vitamin. And that means it gets stored in the fat tissue of your body, so that your body can access it when it needs it for the functioning that it's trying to support. So we do store vitamin D. It's also a hormone, because the definition of hormones are substances that help control how cells and organs function. And vitamin D does that as well. So it's known to be both a vitamin and a hormone. It's a very powerful substance. So as I said a minute ago, we have this inactive form of vitamin D in our skin. And when we soak up sunlight, we activate that. And then it goes through this scientific complicated process that I'm not Bill Nye the Science Guy. So we're not going to go into that on the podcast, but know that once it's activated in your skin, it goes through other processes in your liver and in your kidney, before it becomes the active form of vitamin D that supports so many different functions in our bodies. Now one of those functions is that it helps control calcium. Now when we go through breast cancer and through aging in general, we focus a lot on calcium, right osteopenia and osteoporosis become some major areas of focus. And vitamin D is something that helps us to keep that calcium in our bones, when it is taken in conjunction with vitamin K too. So it's very important, again, to consult with a professional and medical doctor when you're going to supplement. Because if you're taking vitamin D, if you're taking d3, without enough que tu, you could actually be increasing the calcium levels in your blood. And then that could get stored in arteries, it can get stuck in arteries, and we can have more calcification, we do not want that to happen. So it's important when we're taking a supplement that we're taking it properly, we're getting the right amount of it, and we're getting the right support for it, whatever, it has a synergistic effect with that vitamin. Okay, so vitamin D, and Ketu. Now, vitamin D goes inside of your cells by using receptors. So our cells, which are absolutely fascinating, amazing things, think of like this entire world inside of this microscopic thing. And on the surface of it are these receptors. And when we need more things, we ourselves put up more receptors, and we need less things, our cells take those receptors back, which is fascinating. So vitamin D uses a receptor on the cell, and it gets into the cell that way, and it helps to turn on genes that do things like managing calcium. It's so crazy, right? It's such a fascinating process our bodies. And so it helps by binding how to calcium binding proteins in your body. And that is how vitamin D manages calcium or absorption also in our gut by using these calcium binding proteins. Very, very cool. So if you want all the scientific details of it, because that was not a scientific explanation, that was a wonder explanation, fascination explanation. I'll put links to several articles in the show notes for this episode, which you'll find either by scrolling down where you're listening to this podcast or going directly to my website, the breast cancer recovery coach.com forward slash to nine one. Okay, so that's where you're gonna go to get all the science but let's go in a little more to what vitamin D is actually doing. In our body, and why we want to pay attention to the vitamin D levels. So it's not just the fact that it's managing calcium. But that's a really important factor. And we want to make sure when we're getting that calcium we're getting in our bones, we're taking vitamin D, because we're thinking I want to have strong bones. So we want to make sure that the vitamin D is being used properly to get the calcium into our bones, right. We pay attention to it by taking blood tests, because we've seen through scientific studies, that there's a strong correlation between low vitamin D levels, and breast cancer. Also, our bodies get less efficient as we age at going through this complicated process of activating vitamin D, turning it into its active form, and using it to manage things properly in our body. So as we get older, we get less efficient at this process. If you have darker skin, then you also get less effective at activating vitamin D. Because darker skin has higher levels of melanin. And melanin absorbs the same UV rays, the vitamin D absorbs for activation. So you definitely want to be checking for vitamin D levels. And this is again, just I'm saying this as it's coming to my mind as I'm recording this podcast. But we hear things about people of color having higher rates of breast cancer, and I'm sure there's multiple, multiple, multiple factors to that. But one of them could be to just the fact that it's not being activated enough in their body. And we don't know enough and art testing and looking at it, and seeing what foods or supplements may be needed to support people with darker skin. Okay, if you have a lot of excess body fat, you might think since vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is stored in fat, that if you have extra body fat, it's probably easier for you to have higher levels of vitamin D. But here's what a study out of the University of Colorado just found out, they were looking at the discussion between vitamin D obesity and COVID-19. And what they found was that 90% of people with obesity are actually deficient in vitamin D. This is because the more body fat you have, the more your very efficient body likes to store things, and stores that vitamin D in your fat cells so that it can use it in case of an emergency. But that's not the active form. So what we want is a certain level of the active form of vitamin D in our blood in our server being used and available. If it's stored away in our body fat, we're not using it, we're not accessing it, okay, so it's important to pay attention to the levels of vitamin D in your blood through your blood work to make sure that they are higher levels, because it may be getting stored away in your fat and not being used by your body. Now, we also talked about vitamin D and its important role in the management of calcium in our body. And there was a study that was published in the Journal of breast cancer research and treatment. And it was looking it was a meta analysis. So it would 36 other studies that examined vitamin D and calcium intake and their effects on breast cancer risk. And what they found was that there was a significant relationship between vitamin D intake and breast cancer risk. As they analyze these studies, they saw that the women who had the highest amounts of circulating 25 Oh HDS, the active form of vitamin D, the women who had that circulating remember, we don't want it stored. We want it in our blood. They had a 45% decrease in breast cancer when compared to women who had the lowest amount of circulating vitamin D in those studies. When they looked at calcium, they saw that there was a 19% decrease in breast cancer risk for the women who had the highest levels of calcium versus those who had the lowest level of calcium intake in their blood. So these results, they concluded that were strong evidence that vitamin D and calcium and the synergy of these two had chemo preventative effect against breast cancer. Again, this is important people don't go out and start taking a bunch of calcium and vitamin D supplements, okay, because you can harm yourself. When we have too much vitamin D, we get rickets, we can get bone spurs, we can start building up too much calcium inside our bones. So we want to make sure we understand first what our blood level of Vitamin D is. This is one thing I love so much about the metabolic approach to cancer. We work off of people's labs, we look at people's genes, we look at people's labs because we want to see the truth of what's going on in your body. And it's important for you and for all of us as individuals to really embrace that and understand. Maybe you are in the perfect zone for your vitamin D maybe your body is very efficient at synthesizing vitamin D maybe You are at an optimum level of it and you don't need any, that's an important thing to know. Maybe you just have a great diet that's full of vitamin D rich foods. What are vitamin D rich foods, they're things like salmon, egg yolks, cheese, beef liver. And you'll see some dairy products that say fortified with vitamin D, I think a lot of dairy products are fortified with vitamin D, sometimes during the pasteurization process, that some of the vitamins and nutrients are removed, and so they'll try to put them back in why because dairy products are going to have calcium and vitamin D can help to use the calcium in a healthy way in your body. But the first step is testing to see what your actual vitamin D and calcium levels are in your body to know if you're already in that optimal range if you're in that sweet spot. Now, if you're not in the sweet spot, I always suggest that you turn to lifestyle first, that you get out and get more sunshine, that you start eating more foods that are rich in vitamin D. But at the time of this recording, we're moving into fall, this is at the end of October, and we're going to be soon in winter. So a lot of you are in places where you're not going to have a lot of sunshine during this time of year. Or if you do have sunshine, it's freaking cold and you're gonna be in parkas and face coverings when you go outside. So maybe getting sunshine isn't going to be very realistic for you outdoors during this time of year. So you may need supplementation at different times of the year. Again, you have to test to see that for sure. And another important role that Vitamin D plays in our body is that it's very effective in managing the body's inflammatory response. So vitamin D levels have been linked to what's called C reactive protein and it's known as CRP. Interestingly, CRP is one of the three inflammatory markers we look at, on a monthly basis when working with people in the metabolic approach to cancer and to health, because it's known to be a really efficient biomarker of inflammation. So what vitamin D does, again, so fascinating, our bodies are wonderful. It stimulates helper T cells, and these are important part of our immune system. And by doing this, it increases anti inflammatory cytokines. These are substances that are secreted by different cells in our bodies, and they impact many, many things, but they have a big role in the inflammatory process. So vitamin D helps to decrease the cytokines that increase inflammation, and it actually increases the levels of other cytokines that decrease inflammation. Other things that help with that process, or different anti inflammatory foods that

Laura Lummer 17:48
can really help to manage that CRP level tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, spinach, kale, collards, almonds, walnuts, get those fatty fish, salmon, mackerel, sardines. You know, it's a funny thing because sardines, I guess it's something as a kid when I would hear about sardines, like so gross, right? These little fish staring up at you that stink really bad. And then years ago, as I started getting into intermittent fasting and ketogenic diet resources, and more and more people talked about eating sardines that were packed in olive oil. And one time I was like, alright, well, let me go back. I don't want to be that person who's like, I don't like it. Even though I haven't eaten it in 40 years. Let me go back and try. And I started getting these wild caught sardines, and they don't have the little heads on them. And they don't have the bones in them. So I don't have to worry about picking stuff out because it just grosses me out. And they're these little cans of sardines. And they're delicious. You know what a sardine taste like tuna. So I learned to just get these little cans of sardines, wild cod, and to just use them like tuna and put them on salads, and they were already cleaned up and it worked wonderfully. And it helps a lot with preventing inflammation in the body. And these kinds of fatty fish are also good sources of both vitamin D and calcium. So let's talk about the optimal level I keep saying know your levels know your levels, what is the optimal level of vitamin D what are we aiming for? So I referred to the science I'm gonna give you the straight from the science books and from a 2020 article published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition is that vitamin D deficiency, which is defined as less than 50 Nano moles per liter or 20 nanograms per milliliter. So vitamin D deficiency we have less than 50. And whether it's measured in nanometers or nanograms is just depending on where you live in the world and how your lab measures it but you'll see it and Mo L or ng on your vitamin D tests. So vitamin D deficiency less than 15 animals or 20 nanograms is associated with unfavorable skeletal outcomes, including fractures and bone loss, a healthy vitamin D level of greater than 50 Eating Animals are 20 nanograms is there for the primary treatment goal. And this article says, and I quote, although some data suggests a benefit for a higher threshold, severe vitamin D deficiency is concentrations below 30 animals or 12 nanograms per milliliter. Remember I told you that one point, right before I was diagnosed, my vitamin D was at a 27. Right? This study said that the severe deficiency of vitamin D dramatically increases the risk of excess mortality, infections, other diseases and should be avoided whenever possible. Now, those are targeted, kind of the everybody should be above 50. Right? Is what this article is saying. But in the metabolic approach, we're not just looking at what's a normal range. So what I just read to you is saying, hey, anything below this range is dangerous. So try to stay at least in this range. When we're taking a metabolic approach to health, we're looking at what's the optimal range, what is better than average better than normal, what keeps you in an optimal level of health, and according to nation winters, that level is 80 to 120 nanograms per milliliter. So when you're getting your vitamin D test, that's what you want to look for in your vitamin D certain levels. Okay, so now you know, ways to get vitamin D, sunshine, good foods, supplementation, if recommended and discuss with your physician, you know, things that can impact and keep levels of vitamin D, low age, body fat, lack of sunshine, darker skin color diets that aren't rich in whole foods, and vitamin D, and healthy, fat rich calcium rich foods. Okay? You also know that there are several genes that can have an impact. So what if you don't have a genetic report where you're like, Well, I have no idea of my genes are affecting my vitamin D? Well, the way you tell is by your labs. So if you've addressed your lifestyle and your diet, you're getting sunshine, you're at a healthy weight or eating good food, and you still have vitamin D levels coming back low, you don't really need a genetic test to tell you something's not working, right. And that's the point where you want to discuss it with your physician and ask about the level of supplementation that you might need to have to get your body into these optimal ranges of certain vitamin D. So now you know what vitamin D is, how to get it into your body, what it does for your body, how much you need to have in your body and how to figure out whether or not you're in that sweet spot. So what do you do? Get out and get some sunshine whenever you can. Take a look at your diet and see what is in it. What are you supporting yourself with? Look at your blood tests. For most of us who are in the breast cancer world we get some pretty frequent labs. Look at your last lab see where your vitamin D levels at if you haven't had one in a while ask your doctor it's a simple test. most insurances cover it I've asked doctors for this test many times I've never had a doctor not be willing to order a vitamin D test for me. So learn about that talk with your doctor about it and see where you're at so that you can support yourself and you can support your optimal metabolic state with good healthy levels of vitamin D. All right, friends, go get some sunshine and I'll talk to you soon.

Speaker 2 23:19
Courage to the test laid all your doubts your mind is clearer than before your heart is full and wanting more your futures given all you know you've been waiting on


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