Vitamin De Sun

Contributor: Devon Cassidy
Photographer: Saffron & Sage
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Vitamin D is an essential fat soluble vitamin. Why is it essential for our bodies? Because it is a steroid hormone that plays a key role in the regulation of many bodily functions such as calcium regulation and bone health, brain function including mood stability, and even gene expression which affects thousands of things like inflammation, immunity and blood pressure.

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The unique feature of vitamin D that sets it apart from all other vitamins is that our bodies can produce it on our own. In fact, the best source of vitamin D is surprisingly not found in a food source at all but rather the sunlight that gets absorbed by our skin. Unfortunately, lack of adequate sun exposure may be why it is also one of the most commonly deficient vitamins in the U.S.

The body generates vitamin D by directly absorbing UVB rays through the skin surface. Upon exposure, the UVB rays interact with a natural source of cholesterol on the skin called 7-dehydrocholesterol. The chemical reaction of the two are what make Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, the active form of Vitamin D in the body.

The best way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D is to expose your bare skin (that’s right- no sunscreen) to direct sunlight for about 10-15 minutes during peak hours of the day (10am-3pm). This amount of exposure will absorb approximately 10,000 units of the vitamin, depending on the individuals skin tone. The amount of melanin (pigment) in skin will affect how much sunlight gets absorbed. Those with darker skin contain more melanin which can block some UVB absorption meaning they may require longer sun exposure (40 minutes) to generate the same amount of Vitamin D.

The USDA recommendation for Vitamin D is 600IU, a number set to only PREVENT rickets, but is not necessarily adequate for meeting all of the body’s vitamin D required functions. It is safe to consume higher amounts of vitamin D (5,000-10,000IU/day) but this is dependent on your vitamin D blood levels and should be discussed with a primary doctor.

If you are deficient in Vitamin D, I encourage you to increase your sun exposure! If you are fair skin or have a concern about skin cancer, you can apply sunscreen to protect the face and hands while allowing the limbs to get direct sunlight. Other alternatives for boosting Vitamin D levels are fish oils; specifically cod liver oil, fortified foods, or vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D deficiency can increase risk of many adverse health problems like cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, cancers, autoimmune disorders, osteoporosis, and more.

If you’re like me and sunshine on your shoulders makes you happy... get out there and don’t be afraid to enjoy this summer sun!