Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sunshine via Sunlamp, Niacin, Vitamin C: A Personal Story of a Fight with a Cold

I fear that the healthcare complex - from medical experts to parents - are mishandling vitamin D. I'll be the first to state that I don't know no how to help anyone - forget knowing how to help everyone. Vitamin D is an important hormone - like estrogen and testosterone. It's biochemistry is complex and only dimly understood. My first objective is to help myself. Here's what I did when I felt like I was coming down with a cold last fall.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in early November. I had to fly to Houston for business, and was afraid that I would catch a cold on the plane because I frequently come down with a cold after traveling on an airplane - especially in the wintertime. I have come to believe that vitamin D is boosting my immunity to colds, and that supplements and sunshine have reduced the frequency and severity of colds. I can't prove it, but I believe it. So I wanted to get on the plane brimming with vitamin D. On Sunday morning I got under a UVB sunlamp when I woke up at 6:30 am, again at 8:30 am, and then again at 10:30 am. I do this by undressing to my underwear and lying prone 3 feet under a 160 watt broadband UVB lamp. I lie on one side and count 80 heartbeats. Then I roll on my face, count another 80 heartbeats. Then onto my other side for 80 heartbeats and finally onto my back for 80 heartbeats. I do my best to evenly distribute the light across my body from head to toe. It was a beautiful day. At 1 pm I sunbathed on my porch - 5 minutes on each side. I have found this to be approaching the limits of what I'm willing to do. At this point, any additional sunshine or time under the lamp makes my skin start to feel like it is beginning to burn.

At 2 pm my limo picked me up. I went to the airport feeling fine. Before boarding the plane, I took 4000 mg of vitamin C and 100 mg of straight release niacin. I took another dose of the same size on the plane flight. I recall a pleasant flight to Houston.

At dinner that evening - 8 pm time at my local airport - I felt minor pain in my sinus and jittery - symptoms I associate (without any convincing data) with being exposed to a cold virus. I took another 4000 mg of vitamin C, 100 mg of niacin, and an ibuprofen tablet. I slept very poorly with steadily worsening sinus pain. I had no other symptoms. I took vitamin C and niacin throughout my Monday meeting in Houston, and kept the sinus pain under control with ibuprofen. At 1 pm during my meeting, I got out into the sun for 30 minutes - which made me feel obviously better. Monday evening I was back on a plane traveling home, taking 2000 mg of vitamin C and 100 mg of niacin every 2 hours. I was in alot of pain by the end of the flight - and very happy to be home. As soon as I arrived - 11 pm Monday night - I got under the lamp. Again, I felt like the lamp made me feel immediately better. I had a second restless night and awoke Tuesday morning exhausted and still with sinus pain - but no other symptoms. I got under the lamp as soon as I awoke, and took more vitamin C, niacin, and ibuprofen. I went off to a 7:30 am meeting with no symptoms other than sinus pain and fatigue. At 9:30 am I came home for another session under the lamp. After this light session, I felt obviously better - the sinus pain was subsiding. At 1 pm I got another session of light, and yet another at 5 pm. I felt well enough to join my colleagues at our team dinner at a local restaurant. I came home, got another session of light, and went to bed. I woke up on Wednesday morning, and felt basically normal. Starting Wednesday morning I reverted to my regular habits when I am feeling well - 2000 mg of vitamin C and 100 mg of niacin in the morning and two sessions of light - 1 in the morning and one between 11 and 1 pm.

I know some readers will look at this post and say, "All that effort and you still got sick on the airplane? It's probably the vitamins making you sick and not a cold at all." What can I say? My teeth and skeletal health are my source of comfort. I have had bad teeth my entire life. Now my dental health is excellent. I wasn't able to run 2 miles at a stretch because my arms would hurt. Now that has stopped. Something is making me generally healthier.

Until recently I have avoided discussing my personal stories because stories are just stories - they are not good science. I hope I'm not making a mistake by being more personal.


At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Gabriel said...

Can you please give more information on your 160 watt broadband UVB lamp?. Are they safe? Only UVB and not UVA? Why donĀ“t you use a timer instead of counting? Thanks.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Steve said...


I chose the Fluker's Sunspot 160 watt bulb.

Counting heartbeats is a very low-tech method of counting. I have not made the effort yet to upgrade to a more precise/automated/convenient method of timing. I'm just telling readers what I'm doing.

From the paperwork that comes with the bulb. "The Fluker Sun Spot bulbs are designed to duplicate the UV-A, UV-B and heat that your animal would ordinarily get from the sun. The proper exposure to these elements is essential in preventing or reversing metabolic bone disease in reptiles. Not all animals required the same amount of UVB so you should research your animals needs to determine their appropriate levels. Reduce or add UVB exposure by guaging your animal's behavior and feeding habits."

"This lamp emits UV and is intended for reptile use only."

Regarding safety. Type "UVB workplace exposure standards" into google and lots of information pops up. UV light damages DNA and the exposure standards documents frighten me.

I read about the importance of vitamin D and I'm afraid to not get enough. I take supplements and get unbearable side effects and conclude - rightly or wrongly - that it is significantly safer to produce vitamin D in my skin from UVB light than it is to take supplements. I live far enough north that I can't get as much UVB as I want from the sun in the winter. That leaves me with the lamp. So - I'm balancing out my fears - fear of vitamin D deficiency vs. fear of UVB radiation poisoning.

I meant what I said when I opened this blog with the statement that I don't know what I should do. Your circumstances, needs,age and biology are different than mine and the "right" answer - if there even is one right answer - is likely different for you than for me.

That said - today most people are grossly deficient and will benefit from taking actions to improve their vitamin D status. That's what has me on the internet working to help.

Don't hesitate to ask follow-up questions.


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