Tumor Necrosis Factor

Skin Cells Making Vitamin D

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

These days anyone with even the slightest interest in nutrition knows that skin cells are capable of making vitamin D. But there’s a lot more to the story than that! The skin and skin cells are the sites for a lot of interesting chemistry. In addition to being just plain fascinating, knowing about it can have practical health benefits.

Skin Cells Making Vitamin D

By Daniel de Souza Telles (File:HumanSkinDiagram.xcf), via Wikimedia Commons

When we think of skin cells making vitamin D, typically we think of the vitamin D that is distributed throughout the body, and for good reason. After skin cells make vitamin D, the blood and the lymphatic system suck much of it away and send it down to the liver for initial activation. Then to the kidney for final activation, and ultimately to the general circulation for use throughout the body. But as it turns out skin cells don’t only make Vitamin D for the rest of the body, they also make it for themselves. They don’t just make it, they listen to it too! In other words, they are sensitive to the presence of the vitamin D they make. In addition to the aforementioned stabilization of their growth and control of their differentiation, Vitamin D can also reduce and stabilize the secretion of inflammatory factors. Skin cells that are not differentiating properly and also dividing, squirt out chemicals that alert the immune system. This causes the inflammation that is associated with the plaques of psoriasis. Vitamin D, via its secretion stabilizing effect on the fast growing immature skin cells can also have anti-inflammatory benefits.

Here is something else interesting about the skin and Vitamin D. For the most part, the liver and the kidneys are the two main sites of vitamin D activation. However, recently it has come to the attention of researchers that skin cells can activate vitamin D, too! The exact same chemistry that activates Vitamin D in the liver, and then super activates it in the kidney, occurs in the skin as well. In fact, there is more activation chemistry in skin cells than there is in any other cells of the body. All of this means that skin cells are the only cells in the entire body, where every single thing can happen, that can happen to Vitamin D. Skin cells can make Vitamin D, they can process Vitamin D, they can use Vitamin D, and they can activate vitamin D. What’s more, the skin will make more vitamin D as it needs more Vitamin D, as long as it’s in the presence of the sun. And it makes less when it needs less. The presence of vitamin D acts as a negative feedback stimulus that slows down further production. And conversely, the absence of Vitamin D acts as a trigger to increase production. Just another example of the incredible, built in, intelligence of the cells that comprise the human body. All of this is to say the skin route, i.e; activation of the skin cells’ Vitamin D manufacturing “machinery” by the sun, is ALWAYS going to be the best way to make sure you have enough of this critical biochemical . This is extra especially true if you have liver or kidney issues, digestive issues, your gall bladder removed, have diabetes or any kind of blood sugar issues; all of which can affect the liver and kidneys.

Here is something else interesting. The vitamin D made by the skin cells, turns around and stimulates the cells that made it to make anti-cancer compounds like something called Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF). Necrosis is a medical term for death, and that’s what TNF is to cancer cells. TNF kills cancer! Skin cell produced Vitamin D also stimulates the production of interferon, a second potent anti-cancer chemical. That means the more sun exposure you get the more Vitamin D your skin cells make, and the more Vitamin D your skin cells make, the more anti-cancer skin protective compounds your skin cells produce. And as if that weren’t enough, Vitamin D is actually a natural sunscreen that not only screens the body from UV radiation better than any sunscreen you can put in a pharmacy, but unlike store bought sunscreens, it has no toxicity. It is especially protective against DNA and RNA damage, it permits solar induced Vitamin D production to continue, and it provides the body with immune enhancing anti-cancer benefits too!

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Skin Care