Since I’ve just returned from a fun-in-the-sun vacation, and with our warm weather (hopefully!) coming soon, I thought it would be fitting to write a post about sun exposure and Vitamin D.
There has been a major rise in popularity in vitamin D status and supplementation. There is exciting new research that is showing the relationship between illness prevention and optimal levels of vitamin D in the blood.
Although many of the health experts in the media and in our communities may recommend high doses of vitamin D supplementation, I tend to walk the line of moderation when it comes to supplementation. Rather, I find it’s been more healthy and balanced for people to get vitamin D from a variety of sources. A little bit of vitamin D in a calcium or fish oil supplement, a reasonable amount of straight vitamin D supplementation, vitamin D from foods like eggs and fish and self made vitamin D from sun exposure.
There is a great article about this topic here: The Healing Benefits of Sunlight and Vitamin D
It’s been shown that we can make enough Vitamin D through the year if we have 10 minutes of daily sun exposure to just 20% of our skin.
There is also the other side of the health news feed which has for a long time cautioned people from exposing their skin to the sun without the use of protection, like sunscreen. I can only guess that the initial intention of this information was to help protect people from the ill effects of sun over exposure to the sun, like skin damage and skin cancer. However, it is TRUE that a little sun exposure can do a body good!
Here are a few guidelines that can help us get the most from the sun but also stay protected.
1) During a sunny day, 10-20 minutes of sun exposure during low sun intensity periods can be helpful. These periods are typically before 11am and after 4pm during summer months.
Use discretion with young children. They may only be able to tolerate 10 minutes depending on the intensity of the sun and temperature that day. Less time during hot days.
2) Even during the winter months, or on overcast days, as little as 10 minutes of time spent outdoors can trigger vitamin D production. UV light can penetrate through the clouds.
3) Children under the age of 1 can be put in window light inside the house for 10 minutes on a sunny day. This helps to prevent direct sun exposure and overheating in outdoor temperatures.
4) Young children should be monitored for sun exposure. Let’s face it… no one wants their child to have a sun burn! Ensure they wear a brimmed hat while playing in the sun. Look into full body swim suits to protect their shoulders, chest and back from the direct sun. Encourage play in sunny areas that also have nearby shaded areas for breaks from the sun. Look into natural sunscreens that have a lower number of chemical ingredients. Apply natural sunscreen as recommended by the company during peak sun.
5) When in peak sun, adults should also protect themselves. Hats, sun-unbrellas, light covering, shade. There are natural sunscreens available for adults, too.
You can check out the chemical safety of your sunscreen with the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database.