WHY WE NEED THE SUN
Vitamin D is perhaps the single most underrated nutrient in the world of nutrition. Statistics currently show that up to 40% of the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient. Many people are aware that vitamin D is critical for strong, healthy bones but what’s often overlooked is its importance for immune support. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, allergies, autoimmune disorders, cancers of the colon, breast, skin and prostate, depression, type 1 and 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, infertility, obesity and osteoporosis.
Our bodies make vitamin D naturally when exposed to ultraviolet rays from sunlight. Vitamin D is also found in cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, sardines, vitamin D fortified milk and orange juice and in the yolk of whole eggs. The issue with dietary vitamin D is you would have to drink 10 cups of fortified milk or orange juice daily, or eat salmon, sardines and mackerel 3 – 5 times a week in order to get the minimum requirements of vitamin D. Vegetarians and vegans should pay special attention to their vitamin D levels since it is only found in animal products. While foods and supplements are options, it seems the most efficient way to meet your vitamin D quota is through natural sunlight exposure.
Over the past several years due to increased awareness about the sun contributing to skin cancer, more people are using sunscreen on a regular basis. While sunscreen is extremely important for skin protection, using one with just SPF 8 reduces your ability to make vitamin D by more than 95%. This doesn’t mean you should avoid sunscreen, it means your body needs short periods of exposure to the sun without it. If you merely expose 6- 10% percent of your body, 3 – 5 times a week, that’s all you need for proper vitamin D synthesis. The basic recommendation is to go outside for 5 -10 minutes, enjoy the sun, make vitamin D and then put your sunscreen on. The darker your skin, the more sunlight is needed to activate vitamin D synthesis. For prolonged sun exposure apply a natural, chemical-free, SPF 15 + sunscreen (you can find these in health foods stores). While it is impossible to generate too much vitamin D from sunlight exposure, it is important not to over supplement; therefore a simple blood test to determine your current level of vitamin D is recommended.