By Dr. Debbie Bright, DC, MS
Whether you’re out for a midday walk or napping on the beach, experts agree that a little sun can go a long way.
The sun does so many wonderful things for your health. It raises your vitamin D and serotonin levels, sets your circadian rhythm so you can sleep deep at night, reduces your risk for diabetes, boosts fertility and it even helps you fight off certain cancers. Hands down, sun exposure is one of the most effective medical interventions we have.
Unfortunately, we have fallen victim to the American Academy of Dermatology’s zero-tolerance stance on sun exposure. Combined with the marketing gimmicks of conventional sunscreens, we now have a movement in society where people are either hiding from the sun like vampires or slathering on loads of hormone disrupting SPF 50—while thinking there is no downside to avoiding the rays.
One study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2009 found that nearly 70% of Caucasians, 90% of Mexican Americans and 97% of African Americans in the United States have insufficient blood levels of vitamin D. This deficiency is now thought to be one of the most common medical conditions in the world, affecting an estimated 1 billion people. These statistics are prompting many health professionals to pipe up about the detriments of excessive sun avoidance.
People with low vitamin D levels have significantly higher rates of nearly every illness you can think of: obesity, diabetes, cancer, chronic fatigue, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, insomnia and autoimmune conditions.
Vitamin D is a hormone made by the skin when stimulated by sunlight. It is difficult to obtain with diet alone. When our ancestors lived outdoors in tropical regions and roamed around much of their days nearly naked, maintaining optimal levels was not a problem.
Today many of us have indoor jobs and when we do go outdoors, we’ve been warned to protect our skin from dangerous UV rays that can cause skin cancer. It’s time for these warnings to be balanced with the considerable advantages that sufficient sunshine offers—and when done correctly has more benefits than risks.
Here’s what you need to know to achieve all the sun benefits, minus the burn.
1. Honor your skin type.
￼The fairer you are, the less unprotected sun exposure you’ll need to produce adequate vitamin D. Lighter skin synthesizes it more quickly, while darker skin requires more exposure for adequate production. In general, aim for 10-20 minutes depending on your complexion.
2. Expose strategically.
The barer your skin, the better. While it’s often easiest to get some midday sun on your face, chest and arms, remember that other areas of the body benefit too. When direct sunlight gets into your bare eyes, you fuel wakefulness and energy, while also stimulating your melatonin production for better sleep that night. Sunlight on your private parts also stimulates libido. And for men—sunlight directly on the testicles can boost testosterone by 200-400%. Toss your designer shades aside and get naked for ultimate sun stimulation.
3. Timing matters.
This one works several ways. There’s the obvious—don’t get burned. The entire point of sun health is to avoid sunburns by not overdoing your exposure. While we’ve been taught to avoid the sun midday, this is actually when UVB rays (which synthesize vitamin D) are at their strongest—meaning you can maximize vitamin D with minimum sun exposure. Never neglect the sunrise or sunset either—getting those rays into your bare eyes at these times will help you overcome fatigue and reset your sleep patterns.
4. Know your UV index.
The rule is if your shadow is shorter than you are tall, you can make vitamin D. Check the UV index in your area to see if UVB rays are strong enough to trigger vitamin D synthesis. With summer coming on, this is less of a concern than in the winter months and varies by location.
5. Avoid toxic sunscreens.
Many sunscreens aren’t much better for you than the sunburns they prevent. Conventional brands often contain unsafe chemicals and use questionable marketing tactics. A massive study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a national environmental organization that analyzes toxic chemical use in consumer goods, tested 1700 SPF-rated products from sunscreens to lip balms. They found hazardous chemicals like hormone disruptors and carcinogens and noted that spray sunscreens often contain harmful inhalants. SPF protection tops out at 30-50, so anything advertising any higher is a marketing gimmick. To avoid a burn, simply cover up with clothing. Read sunscreen labels and avoid retinyl palmitate and oxybenzone. Use titanium-based or zinc-based sunscreens that reflect the sun’s rays away from your skin.
6. Get tested.
Depending on your geographical location and lifestyle, obtaining optimal vitamin D levels can be a challenge when relying exclusively on sun exposure, even if you are outdoors quite often. The bottom line is most of us will need to supplement at 1,000 IUs or higher, so talk to your practitioner about getting your levels checked and finding the dosage that’s right for you.
Dr. Debbie’s #1 choice for vitamin D supplementation: Designs For Health’s Vitamin D Supreme Vitamins D and K are essential for optimal bone and arterial health and for maintaining a healthy immune system. Vitamins D and K work as a team. Increasing the amount of vitamin D via supplementation, in the presence of insufficient levels of vitamin K, can increase the risk of inappropriate calcium deposition in the soft tissue (such as arteries and joints), and can have a negative effect on blood vessel elasticity. However, when adequate levels of vitamin K are present along with vitamin D, calcium can be properly directed to the necessary areas of the body, mainly in bones and teeth. Increasing vitamin D levels increases the need for vitamin K. The amount of vitamins D and K in this formula may be beneficial for those who do not get adequate sun exposure and/or dietary sources of these vitamins.
● Provides 5,000 IU of vitamin D per serving
● Ideal for high dosages
● Provides both vitamin D & vitamin K for optimal bone and arterial health
● Helps maintain proper immune system function
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