Ah, summer. The season for less clothing, more sunscreen, and shelving the daily vitamin D supplement; after all, you are getting this important nutrient from the sun now, yes?
You may be surprised to know that simply being outside is not necessarily enough for your body to produce optimal amounts of vitamin D. What you wear, what time of day you are out, and the health of specific organs all influence this vitamin's production.
Sunscreen – While it is important to protect your skin from excessive exposure, did you know that the use of sunscreen can actually block your skin's ability to make vitamin D? Pale, early-spring skin may need some protection, but once you have a bit of colour allow your skin to enjoy direct exposure for ~20minutes each day.
Angle of the sun – Morning coffee on the deck may feel good, but the sun in our region is not high enough at that time of day to stimulate vitamin D production. The vitamin-stimulating UVB rays only reach our latitude when the sun is at least 50˚ above the horizon; and only May through August. As for windows, UVB rays can’t penetrate those either; you need to be outside.
Sunglasses – We actually receive a great deal of information through our eyes; not simply depth and form but other valuable information, like whether the sun is shining. This information will help your skin do 2 things: stimulate your cells to release a protective pigment (or 'tan'), and promote step 1 in vitamin D production.
Liver & kidney function – Although the first step occurs in the skin, it is only once the vitamin D goes through conversion steps in the liver then kidneys that it becomes its most active form. Diseases that affect these organs (such as diabetes, cirrhosis, hepatitis, etc.) may impair your ability to complete this transformation.
“How do I know if I have a healthy level of vitamin D?” you may be asking. The only way to really know is with a blood test; ask your naturopathic or medical doctor to test your 25-hydroxyvitamin D. The investment in your health at most labs is ~$48.
Be Sun Smart
- Wear a hat when the sun is high in the sky; protect your face, ears, chest & shoulders
- Wear longer sleeves and pants (light weight) when out in sun for prolonged periods.
- Select a sunblock that is mineral-based rather than a chemical-based sunscreen, when protection is needed.
And of great importance…Have fun out there!