Sunshine & Your Health: the power of Vitamin D

May 5, 2019

We are sun-lovers by nature but the common narrative over the last few decades has increasingly become that of fear and avoidance when it comes to the sun’s healing rays.  Unfortunately this fear is leading to an epidemic Vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D, aka the sunshine vitamin, is different from other vitamins you’ve heard of because it’s not really a vitamin but rather a pro hormone that our body produces from cholesterol.  Pro hormones such as Vitamin D influence our entire body through receptors found in almost every cell in the human body, from the brain to our bones.  Regular exposure to UVB from sunlight increases vitamin D levels naturally and in turn reduces our risk of many dangerous health diseases and conditions.

The following list from Dr. Mercola highlights some of the known areas of health that benefit from improved Vitamin D levels:

  • 16 types of internal cancers (including colorectal and breast cancer)
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • hypertension
  • multiple sclerosis
  • osteoporosis
  • psoriasis
  • rickets
  • schizophrenia
  • tuberculosis
  • myopathy

Additionally studies have shown that our mental emotional health is dramatically improved with regular sun exposure, aiding in averting the ‘winter blues’, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD),  a term coined by Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal at Georgetown University.  SAD, which traditionally occurs during long winter months when weather dictates we stay indoors, is becoming more and more of an all-year condition due to our modern lifestyle based around technology which in turn keeps us cooped up inside much of the day under artificial light.

With all these benefits for Vitamin D why is there a deficit?  In a nutshell the sun, which is the best source, has been given a bum rap as a culprit in causing cancer rather than assisting in defeating it.  Because of this our average exposure to sun, especially during the winter months, is significantly less than what is needed to maintain healthy Vitamin D levels. Sadly the dangers of sun exposure have been greatly exaggerated, and the benefits highly underestimated.

That being said, safe sun exposure does NOT include burning!  Sunburn is counterproductive to increasing Vitamin D3 levels in the body.  Because of the news relating to sunburn and skin cancer, as well as information about the cancer causing effects of commercially available sunscreens,  it’s no wonder people are scared and confused.  Rest assured, however, there are many all-natural ways to protect yourself from sunburn.  First and foremost is to boost your skin’s ‘internal sunscreen’ with effective antioxidants from organic fresh vegetables and fruits like whole goji berries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.  Slathering on natural aloe gel is also helpful.  Lastly, it is important that you build up your time in the sun gradually and progressively.  The rule of thumb goes as follows:  a light-skinned person should start with as little as 10 minutes a day/3 days a week and build up to 20 minutes a day.  A dark-skinned person will need 2-5 times longer to produce the same levels of optimal Vitamin D.  The time of day and where you are geographically matters as well.  The sun is brightest mid-day, so shorter sessions during that time may be warranted, and longer sessions if sunbathing at off-peak times (before 12 PM or after 3PM, or at the beginning or end of the summer when the sun is lower in the sky).  Use your best judgement and remember that sunburn is NOT what you’re aiming for.

The sun blesses us with light, warmth, happiness and health.  What more could we ask for?  Go grab your swimsuit and get on out there!  There’s no time to waste.

* A Note about Vitamin D supplements –  I will get into this more on another post, however it is important to know that Vitamin D supplements should be only taken under the supervision of your physician and in conjunction with proper blood tests to determine that the dosage is being properly managed.  Vitamin D overdosing is a common problem when taking supplements.  Bottomline, the best and most organic way to reach the body’s optimal Vitamin D level is through sun exposure.