The shelter that protects us from the elements is also the barrier that prevents us from getting the fresh air and sunshine that we need to thrive.
Vitamin D occurs naturally in only two foods that we can eat – fish and egg yolks. Thus, the primary way for us to acquire this vital nutrient is through exposure to sunlight.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D isn’t technically a vitamin at all.
It’s a vital nutrient that occurs as a result of a chemical process; one which creates what we call D3, and a synthetic process that results in what we call D2.
When people talk about Vitamin D, they usually are talking about both types interchangeably.
Vitamin D is made by our bodies during a complex chemical process that begins with exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet B energy. These rays convert chemical molecules in your skin into Vitamin D3. D3 is then transported to the liver and kidneys, where it becomes active.
What About Supplements?
Vitamin D supplements on the other hand, are actually made with D2, which is synthesized from exposing plant molecules to ultraviolet light. This is also where Vitamin D enriched foods derive their D2 from.
Many people take Vitamin D supplements in lieu of exposing themselves to the sun in order to prevent themselves from becoming Vitamin D deficient.
D3 Is Different
However, the only way your body can make or get D3 is from sun exposure (or from consuming fish and egg yolks). It would seem easy to let Vitamin D develop effortlessly in our bodies.
Yet, likely due to the general public’s excessive use of sunblock, and the media and government’s relentless assault against so-called harmful UV rays; many people are shunning all sun exposure as much as possible.
How Much Do You Need?
In order for your body to get enough UVB light to make D2, you don’t have to achieve an actual tan. You do, however, have to expose enough skin area to capture the sun’s rays.
For example, walking outside without a hat isn’t sufficient to get any substantial sun exposure, but wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt would be.
In addition, the region where you live and the time of year will influence your sunlight absorption amount and rate.
As an example, more people in the northern part of the U.S. have vitamin D deficiency than those in sunnier climes in the southern United States. This is due in part to the necessity to cover up and stay inside in ice cold weather, and also to the ratio of overcast skies to full sun days.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a slew of problems, including but not limited to:
- Bone fractures
As researchers delve more into the part that Vitamin D plays in overall health, the negative impacts of Vitamin D deficiencies add up.
Are you still intent on soaking up the sun only with sunscreen applied? Vitamin D deficiency linked to Alzheimer’s is no longer a theory. It may not be as smart as you think to slather on the sunscreen.
Word About Sunscreen
Sunscreen plays a role in protecting your skin from overexposure to the sun.
Those who have sensitive skin or who have genetic traits that make them more prone to skin cancer should certainly give thought to skin protection.
In addition, the skin of young children and babies should always be given special consideration with regard to sun overexposure.
Unfortunately, most commonly known brands of sunscreen contain ingredients known to be carcinogens. So the application of the sunscreen to guard against cancer may in itself increase the likelihood of skin cancer. A list of safe and unsafe sunscreen brands can be found at the website of Environmental Working Group.
Covering up is the Best Solution
For those who wish to protect their skin from the sun, moderation is the best solution. 10 to 20 minutes of daily exposure should be enough to ensure proper sun exposure.
For time outside that range, covering up is a better option than sunscreens with carcinogenic ingredients. Another option is to choose sunscreens that are on the safe list as far as their ingredients.
As a human, your overall health profile includes doses of sunlight.
Monitoring your Vitamin D levels is just one part of ensuring your personal health and longevity.
About the Author: Kate Supino is a natural health advocate.