Expose yourself to the sun. You need it!
Author: Jan Roberts
In my work with preconception couples and pregnant and breastfeeding mums I’m very aware of the needs for and benefits of ensuring adequate Vitamin D. What’s interesting is that Vitamin D levels considered to be optimal now are far in excess of what was widely regarded as appropriate when I started this work over 35 years ago. But reproductive needs aside, newly revised Vitamin D levels can prevent a host of common conditions, so here’s the latest scoop on ‘the sunshine vitamin.’
Summer’s in full swing in my part of the world, so it’s worth reflecting on what level of sun exposure is appropriate. Unfortunately, in Australia, complete avoidance of the sun has become akin to a religion thanks to dire warnings of sun-induced skin cancers and melanoma from Cancer Councils and other eminent bodies. This religious zeal is applied particularly where children are concerned, with shade sails over playgrounds, hats with excessive brims and tails, swim wear that covers all flesh and 50+ sunscreen lotions. Add to that a generation of young men and women who prefer to spend their spare time indoors in front of computer screens rather than riding surfboards, and a recent taste for fashionably pale flesh. Yet the latest research says that complete sun avoidance is almost as unhealthy as smoking!
That doesn’t mean I’m advocating the sort of sun exposure I’ve had, especially when I was younger. We lived by the beach and, thanks to my mum’s blissful ignorance and the lack of sophisticated commercial products, I got a dab of zinc cream on my nose and across my shoulders at the start of a long day in the water. Every summer I had obligatory sunburn until I acquired the deep bronze colour that for so many years was a must-have fashion accessory. How times have changed! Even with the advent of sunscreens claiming 4+ or 6+ protection, or (good grief!) “maximum” protection at 8+, I continued to sunbath, swim, surf, water-ski and sail with not much more than a healthy layer of melanin to protect me. Snow-skiing added further insult to injury.
But there is a middle ground and it’s important that we take it. What we all need is a regular dose of unprotected, non-burning sun exposure. It’s the sunburn that is primarily associated with skin cancer risk (I would add to that a lack of antioxidants in the body), but far fewer people die from skin cancer than suffer from the very long list of health problems linked to Vitamin D deficiency. That list starts with infertility and continues through pre-eclampsia of pregnancy, premature birth, diabetes types 1 and 2, MS, cancers, influenza, depression, impaired wound healing, poor immune response, muscle weakness in the elderly and so much more!
If you’d like to test your Vitamin D status, to confirm that you’re in the recommended zone of 40-60ng/ml (100-150nMols/L), you can order an at-home-test-kit through www.grassrootshealth.net. In doing this you’ll contribute to their already massive body of research surrounding this important public health issue.
Vitamin D3 is manufactured in the body when you get unprotected exposure to sunlight during the peak hours of sunshine. To maximize exposure while minimizing risk, here is some common-sense advice:
- Minimize UVA while allowing UVB rays
- Limit yourself to 10-15 minutes exposure each day between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm (or between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm during Daylight Saving Time)
- Expose up to 40 percent of skin area (so, wear shorts and a tank top)
- Ensure it’s a clear day without pollution
These guidelines apply to Australian latitudes. In colder climates, oral supplements are the only way to achieve appropriate status. Use oral D3 supplements to achieve 40-60ng/mL (100-150nMols/L). And remember that these ideal levels require significantly more D3 than are found in most supplements. Look for the newer, high potency D3 (there are drops containing 1,000-2,000IU/drop and soft gels containing 5,000IU)
Vitamin D Recommendations Update:
Dose for adults: I,000IU, 1 to 2 times daily.
Dose for preconception: 2,000 IU daily.
Dose during pregnancy: 4,000 IU daily
Dose during breastfeeding: 6,400IU daily