Most of us are are aware that too much sun exposure can lead to wrinkles, sunspots and skin cancer. But how many of us have stopped to think about the benefits our bodies can derive from that beautiful ball of fire in the sky?
It is estimated that 70% of the population is deficient in vitamin D. And while we can get it in small quantities from food sources, such as fortified milk, cod liver oil, fatty salt-water fish, liver, butter and egg yolks, the vitamin D we produce in our own bodies via the sunshine is our most abundant source.
Yet most of us are afraid of the sun; we enjoy the light it shines on the earth and the warmth it provides, but we want its rays nowhere near our precious skin. We are conditioned to cover ourselves head to toe with SPF 30 before heading outdoors. We don’t want wrinkles; we don’t want sunspots; we certainly don’t want skin cancer.
But is our vigilance doing us more harm than good?
Vitamin D is the only vitamin we are capable of producing in our bodies. Both a hormone and a micronutrient, vitamin D helps to keep our bones and teeth strong and protects against muscle weakness. More than that, vitamin D helps to protect our cells from abnormal division and affects 36 organ tissues in the body, including bone marrow, breast, colon, intestine, kidney, lung, prostate, retina, skin, stomach and uterus, to name a few. A deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, infertility, PMS, fatigue, depression, suppressed immune function, seasonal affect disorder and many autoimmune diseases.
Vitamin D affects every phase of development in the human body—from conception to death. Our general health and wellbeing depend on it.
So what are we to do? Hit the beach with nary a drop of block? Clearly that’s not the answer. But there are a few things we can do to promote the production of vitamin D in our bodies:
Spend short periods of time in the direct midday sun. Experts suggest 10 minutes per day for the fair skinned and closer to 20 minutes for those with darker skin. For maximum benefits, expose as much of your skin as possible—a tank top and shorts, for example. And don’t worry… spending short spurts of time in the sun unprotected isn’t enough to cause damage to the skin. According to the Vitamin D Council, your body can produce 10,000 to 25,000 IU of vitamin D in just a little under the time it takes for your skin to turn pink.
Take a Vitamin D3 supplement. While most of the vitamin D our body produces comes by way of the sun, it is also available in a supplement form. This is an excellent source for those with limited exposure to the sun or for the winter months when the sun isn’t as strong. Experts suggest taking a daily supplement of anywhere from 2000 – 5000 IU per day for adults and 600 – 3000 IU (depending on body weight) per day for children. Second only to direct sun exposure, vitamin D supplements are a great way to quickly restore vitamin D levels in the body.
We all need vitamin D to thrive. Though most of us would like to believe that we’re getting enough from the foods we eat, the truth is we are likely not. So head outdoors and let your skin soak in some beautiful sunshine. Be prudent with the sunblock, yes, but don’t go crazy with it. A little exposure to the sun’s powerful rays will go a long way towards protecting your body from a multitude of diseases and ailments.