Embrace the sun respectfully. Like most things in life, too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. The sun has incredibly wonderful life-giving properties but too much can kill you. At the very least, your skin will suffer from too much exposure to the sun. So treated in moderation, obtaining some sunshine rather than none, will help to optimise your health.
Make sunburn an absolute no-go. They say it is the very early sunburns that do the most damage. However, ANY sunburn at ANY age causes damage that is very hard to repair. Repeated sunburns are even worse, especially if in children or people with fair-skin. All sunburns have the ability to be associated with melanoma. Moderate sun exposure will allow your skin to build an internal capacity gradually to deal with DNA damage.
Know your skin tolerance. Depending on your age, what type of skin you have, where you live and what time of the day and year it is, your ability to spend time in the sun without damage will vary considerably. Ideally you need about 15-30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure 2-4 times a week. Your ability to maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D will depend on these variables. eg. You will require more exposure to the sun:
The higher the latitude, or the farther you are from the equator
The lower the altitude. e.g. by the seaside as opposed to on top of a mountain
The darker the natural colour of your skin
The earlier or later the time of day (when your shadow is longer than you are)
Wherever you are, you need enough exposure to the sun to cause a light pinkness in your skin 24 hours afterwards. This will produce the equivalent of 15,000-20,000 IU's of Vitamin D. For more specifics, please see the tables in "The Vitamin D Solution" by Dr Michael Holick.
Daily short exposure is best. Regular short exposures have been found to be much more effective and safer than intermittent long ones. Note that you cannot generate Vitamin D when sitting behind a glass window, because the UVB rays necessary for Vitamin D production are absorbed by glass.
Protection after your Vitamin D requirements: After the 15-30 minutes of sunscreen-free time in the sun's UVB rays, you do need to protect yourself. There are 2 options:
wear protective clothing, including a hat to protect your face and light coloured clothing that blocks the sun and keeps you cool.
wear sunscreen with excellent UVA and UVB protection. Blocking the UVB rays only will not only diminish your ability to create more Vitamin D, but will allow the UVA rays to do their deeper damage for longer than normal. Also, buy a sunscreen without any toxic chemicals. Check out the Environmental Working Group's selection of non-toxic sunscreens.
Enhance your natural "internal sunscreen": There are so many sources of antioxidants available to boost your internal abilities to protect you from sun damage. These include foods to consume, or even supplements that can either be taken orally or transdermally. Some sunscreen manufacturers are including them in their sunscreen formulas too. Examples of very powerful antioxidants include astaxanthin, superoxide dismutase, or raspberry seed oil.
Check your Vitamin D blood levels regularly. The correct blood test to request from your health practitioner is 25OH vit D or 25 Hydroxy Vitamin D test. For optimum health, the ideal range is 50-80 ng/ml.
Food alone cannot meet your optimum Vitamin D requirements. It is almost impossible to get your Vitamin D requirements met by food alone. The best source of Vitamin D3 is fatty wild fish that is not commercially farmed. Best examples include salmon and mackerel. However, large quantities are required if you hope to meet a daily Vitamin D requirement.
Supplement with Vitamin D3 to meet a Vitamin D requirement level. Without sufficient daily sun exposure or if you struggle to get your Vitamin D blood levels up, take supplements. At least 5000 IU's per day are recommended for optimum health. Vitamin D3 supplements have the potential to provide the same benefits as you get from the sun's UVB rays. Vitamin D toxicity can occur though, so it is necessary to be aware of how much you require to supplement with.
Embrace the real outdoors sunshine! Wherever possible, opt to obtain your vitamin D requirements from real sunshine! Not the artificial kind, although sun beds can provide an option if you make sure to choose the low frequency beds. Also, irresponsible sunbathing is the best way to get sunburnt, which is exactly the wrong thing to do. Regular, moderate, unprotected sun exposure in the middle of the day is optimal for Vitamin D requirements and your best health.
Vitamin D: essential requirement for disease prevention
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