Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D? Tips and Secret Health Benefits
The Sun may be a good idea, but there are a few precautions you should be aware of
You remember your mom always telling you to eat right because you needed certain vitamins. You probably even had those chalky, chewable vitamins shaped liked Flintstones characters.
There seems to be even more awareness today about the importance of vitamins and healthy foods. The health food stores have entire aisles dedicated to vitamins and other supplements.
Vitamin D in particular, gets a lot of attention as people debate whether we get enough from the sun or not.
The Sun Conundrum
You learn in school that going outdoors and soaking up some sun each day gives you all the vitamin D you need. You also can’t help but notice the posters everywhere telling you to cover up with sunscreen.
Are you supposed to get sun or are you supposed to avoid it? You can get sunscreen in sprays, lotions, mixed into your makeup, and waterproof, so it must be important. Sure, it protects you from the harmful UV rays, but does it also prevent your body from getting what it needs to make an essential vitamin?
The interesting thing about sunscreen is that, despite all its varieties and applications, the incidence of skin cancer cases is actually on the rise. And people are getting skin cancer in places that never see the sun nor any sunscreen.
As scientists have uncovered this shocking revelation, it has become increasingly more important to understand why your body needs sunlight. And whether it does more good than the harm it is thought to cause.
Sun: What Is It Good For?
For centuries, humans have relied upon the sun as a source of vitamin D. There were not always food options available that boasted substantial amounts of the vitamin.
Then biologists discovered that your body can make it with a little help from the sun. Just as plants use the sun for photosynthesis to create oxygen and other useful by-products, so do humans need the sun to make things.
While the sun doesn’t work in the same way for us as it does for plants, it is still a valuable resource.
Exposure to the ultraviolet-B rays from the sun causes a photochemical reaction under the skin that results in the production of vitamin D. This vitamin is then transported through your blood to the liver, where it is converted into a pro-hormone known as calcidiol.
This compound makes its way to your kidneys where it is converted to calatinol, a hormone responsible for the regulation of mineral concentrations in your body, specifically calcium.
Vitamin D is critical to your overall health in many ways. You risk deficiency without adequate sun exposure. Here’s why:
♦ It is estimated that 75% of cancers can be prevented by consuming adequate amounts of vitamin D.
♦ The T-cells of your immune system require vitamin D for their cretin and function. Without them your body is not as equipped to fight infections and disease.
♦ A lack of vitamin D in the body promotes widespread inflammation, which is linked to several serious problems including arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and heart disease.
♦ Vitamin D is required for efficient calcium absorption and maintaining proper phosphate levels, both of which are essential to bone growth and strength.
Vitamin D and the C-Word
This regulation of minerals or, lack thereof in cases of vitamin D deficiency, has a strong link to cancer. The awareness of vitamin D deficiency and its connection to potential health problems has increased. The question as to how we became so deficient in an essential vitamin is now a hot topic.
Skin Pigmentation: In the past, people that lived in hotter areas of the world developed more melanin (darker skin pigment) because of excess sun exposure. This pigment prevented burning, but also produced more vitamin D than the more easily burned lighter-skinned people.
Because people no longer live in one area for their whole life, your skin has to adapt to changing amounts of sun exposure.
Lighter-skinned people need to limit their exposure to get adequate vitamin D production, and darker-skinned people need more. There is no need to worry about calculating how much sun you need because your skin tells you.
Sunburn is a painful, but accurate way of telling you that you have enough to make the vitamin D your body needs.
Stuck Inside: The evolution of humans has progressed us right into an era where we spend more time indoors than our ancestors. Between working for a living and all the modern day comforts we are spoiled with, people just do not get out as much as they should. By spending more time in artificial light and not natural sunlight, our bodies are incapable of producing the vitamin D levels we need, and our health as well as that beautiful skin glow slowly disappears.
Sunscreen: If advertisers had their way, we would be covered from head to toe with sunscreen every time we stepped outside. The scare of skin cancer has forced us into thinking we need to wear sunscreen any time we are not inside.
What is ironic is that the chemicals in sunscreen have themselves been linked to cancer. And by blocking out UV rays, we prevent the photochemical processes we need.
Instead of painting yourself and the kids with sunscreen, simply remove yourself from the sun when you have had enough (right before that sunburn hits). If you plan to be outdoors all day, try a more natural sunscreen or one free of any potentially harmful chemicals.
Get to know your skin. You know how long it takes before you typically burn, and this is all the time you need in the sun. When the time is up, cover up!
Vitamin D is essential, and, although you can take supplements, natural sources are always a better option. Stay wise about your sun exposure and get just what you need each day, and not one UV ray more.
Get out of the sun before it has a chance to burn and if necessary use a safe sunscreen. Without vitamin D you are at risk for serious health problems, but these can be easily avoided by listening to your skin.