“You need to be in the sun to get Vitamin D”, “You shouldn’t be in the sun, you’ll get cancer'”. Government guidelines are also telling us to cover up and wear sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, yet skin cancer rates are at an all-time high! Is it any wonder we are all so confused today? Let’s take a look at this important vitamin, how we can get it – and what to do about that sun!
Not a vitamin but actually a hormone
Vitamin D is in actual fact not a vitamin at all but considered a ‘hormone’. A vitamin by definition is a substance that is essential to the health of the body but cannot be produced by the body. Vitamin D is produced by the body through the suns rays to produce Calcium and Phosphorous in the body. Without it, we would not have healthy bones.
Our ancestors used to get Vitamin D from animals and fish, such as beef or calf’s liver and salmon or Cod Liver Oil. Our modern-day diets are stripping us of nutrients, due to processed food and restrictive, fad diets. We seem to have lost the way and our ancestors seem to have known how to be healthy and what to eat for survival. They didn’t have sunscreen, neither did they have cancer rates like we do today. Through my research and self experimenting, I have found that the majority of us are lacking in Vitamin D, which is essential for good health and strong bones.
Vitamin D from the sun is delivered to your skin through UVB rays. UVB rays are responsible for turning your skin red and causing sunburn. Therefore, we only need to spend a short amount of time in the sun, so as not to cause sunburn. This will also depend on your skin type and how much melanin your skin produces. People with a lighter complexion who burn easily will need less time in the sun than someone with an olive complexion or a higher percentage of melanin in their skin. In contrast, UVA rays are the rays that contribute to ageing, discolouration and wrinkles and they penetrate through windows/glass i.e. while driving in a car. They do not produce Vitamin D in the body.
Ways you can increase Vitamin D levels in the body
1. Increase the amount of time you spend in the sun – you need 10-20 minutes of sun on bare skin a day for optimum levels of Vitamin D, without sunscreen. This will not only increase your Vitamin D levels but will increase your tolerance to the sun, so that when you are exposed, you have natural protection because of an increased level of melanin in your skin. Too many people don’t go in the sun for weeks or months and then go on holiday and expose their skin to the sun and get sunburnt, as they aren’t used to it. The nearer you live to the equator, the more sunshine there will be available to you. If you live far north or south of the equator and don’t have many opportunities to get out into the sun daily, you should consider taking a Vitamin D supplement.
2. Use natural sunscreen – coconut and sesame oil have a natural SPF of 15. Other good natural sun protectors are products using zinc oxide as the main ingredient. This acts as a barrier against the suns rays, just as a t-shirt or piece of clothing would. Make sure you reapply throughout the duration of the time spent in the sun, especially after Swimming. The toxins in regular sunscreen may strip your body of Vitamin D as they are full of toxic ingredients.
3. Eat your eggs – Egg yolks from Free-range chickens who are free to roam in the sunshine produce eggs that are higher in Vitamin D than barn laid eggs.
4. Fatty Fish and Seafood are great sources of Omega 3 fatty acids and contain high levels of Vitamin D. If you have an aversion to fish, you can take a supplement such as Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil. It contains high levels of Vitamin A and D, as well as Omega 3, 6, 7 and 9. The liquid version is the most absorbable. Great for kids who don’t enjoy eating fish. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the gut, therefore it plays a part in reducing cavities in the teeth, so it is very beneficial for children as their teeth and bones are growing and developing.
5. There has been a lot of research lately on the use of sunglasses and how they filter out the light, therefore wearing sunglasses can increase the chance of getting sunburnt. Sunglasses can also affect your sleep due to the filtering effect of light in your eyes, which is important to set your circadian rhythm. Without sunglasses, your eyes can filter the light the way they are intended to and can help with the production of Vitamin D in the body through the Vitamin D Receptors (VDR) found in your eyes. Therefore, getting enough sun and vitamin D can help you accomplish a better nights sleep.
6. Cholesterol is converted into Vitamin D during the process of receiving UVB rays directly on the skin. Please note that in no way am I advocating sunburn or irresponsible sun exposure. These are scientific-based facts about Vitamin D and how they are converted in the body.
A great book, with many interesting facts about Vitamin D, is ‘Vitamin D Revolution’ by Soram Khalsa.