My patients surely know that it’s the best way to get vitamin D. But what if I told you that there’s one easy trick that can let you maximize the amount of vitamin D that you can make yourself.
That can make all the difference, especially now that…
Winter’s Coming (for some of us it is here already)
The availability and strength of sunlight decreases during the winter months. This means you’ll have to be deliberate about getting sun exposure. During the summer, it’s almost automatic – you spend time outdoors wearing sleeveless shirts and shorts, for instance, and within a short period of time you’ve soaked up a lot of sunlight without even trying.
Even in the summer, though, you can still employ this handy trick to get the most vitamin D from the sunlight. But it’s absolutely essential during the winter months.
Why Vitamin D?
Vitamin D supplementation is a good idea, in addition to sun exposure in the winter. In other words, it would be best if you got sunlight and took a supplement. Bear in mind that during the winter, you should increase your supplemental vitamin D to compensate for the lack of sunlight.
Vitamin D is very important to your overall health, particularly your bone health. Here are just some of the health benefits of vitamin D:
- Decreased risk of chronic disease
- Decreased risk of contracting influenza, colds, and other contagious illnesses
- Regulation of calcium and phosphorous in bone remodeling
- Maintenance of blood calcium levels
- Stimulation of intestinal calcium absorption
Some of these health benefits are because…
Vitamin D is Also a Hormone
Yes, this vitamin has a dual function. Because of this unique trait, vitamin D plays a vital role in an untold number of body functions. It has the ability to “turn off” or “turn on” certain genes in the body, thereby making it an indispensable component of a properly functioning body.
Inevitably, the question of how much vitamin D we need each day comes up. And this will amaze you: a study published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has shown that just one 20-minute exposure to summer sun in Hawaii wearing a bathing suit produced between 15,000 and 20,000 IU of vitamin D3.1 The Vitamin D Counsel recommends 5000 IU per day of supplemental Vitamin D3.
The best part is that you can’t “overdose” on vitamin D obtained from sunlight. Your skin will automatically shut the process off when you’ve made enough of this vitamin, even if you are still in the sunlight when you’ve reached your maximum.
If you are in doubt as to your vitamin D levels, a simple blood test can let you know exactly where you are. Then you can customize your sun exposure and oral supplements to create the optimal levels of vitamin D in your body. The Vitamin D counsel recommends your Vitamin D on the lab test should be 60 to 100.
I just had my Vitamin D checked in October. It was 43 even though I was out twice a week with short sleeves and shorts all summer. Everyone is different and the blood test is the only way to know your Vitamin D level.
The ‘Shadow’ Trick
The trick to getting the most Vitamin D out of your daily sun exposure is to sunbathe when your shadow is shorter than your height. This means that in the winter, with the sunlight at a slant, your optimal sunbathing time is greatly narrowed down.
Typically, you’ll get the most vitamin D if you go out between 10am and 2pm. That’s about the only window of time when your shadow will be shorter than your height. And that’s when the UVB rays, which are what you need to make vitamin D, are at their strongest, and the time when most will tell you to hide from the sun!
But remember, the key to avoiding skin damage such as premature aging of the skin or the dreaded melanoma, is to keep sun exposure during these times for a short duration.
Summing It Up
- Expose as much skin as possible to the sun, aiming for full-body sun exposure for 20 minutes (20 for light-skinned individuals and 30 for those who are darker-skinned). This might be impossible if it’s too cold outside, so that’s where my next suggestion is important.
- You can use a sun lamp. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, and be certain that your sun lamp is made for the purpose of vitamin D supplementation.
- Don’t wear any sunblock or sunscreen while you’re sunbathing for Vitamin D production.
- If you’re fair-skinned or haven’t exposed your skin to the sun for a long period of time, pay special attention, especially at the beginning, to make sure you never allow your skin to get burned (a pink tone is OK, though).
The research is clear, so don’t let your fear keep you away from the sun, because…
Responsible Sunshine Exposure is Crucial to Bone Health And Health in General
With this knowledge, you can embrace the sunlight without fear.
And here’s another piece of positive information: as you prepare to let your skin feel the warmth of sunlight this winter, remember that your mood will likely improve in the process. Lack of sunlight can send many people into a season-induced slump. Exposure to light is an easy and effective remedy for the winter blues.
So let the sunshine in, be happy and healthy!