The Sunshine Vitamin
Summer is here and that means most people are rejoicing at the arrival of the refreshing warm weather - particularly the sunshine! The good news? Sunshine is WONDERFUL for your health. The bad news? Most people will tell you otherwise.
Sun exposure produces vitamin D in our bodies, and that is why it is called the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D - which is actually a hormone rather than a vitamin - is not only beneficial, it is of utmost importance for many aspects of our health and well being. Yet we as a society are told to run away from the sun, hide ourselves from exposure of any kind, and to slather our skin in sunscreen in order to protect our fragile health. When we do this, however, we are denying our bodies one of the most important tools necessary for overall health. One can supplement vitamin D through vitamin D pills, but pills do not always act the same way in the body. The purest form of vitamin D comes the natural way: through the skin.
Vitamin D is crucial to our immune function. Vitamin D decreases the incidence of viral respiratory infections. It's said, for example, to provide powerful protection against colds and flu. Some theorize that the reason “cold and flu season” takes place during the winter months is because we are not exposed to enough sunshine during that time and we are naturally vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D is a powerful anti-cancer agent. This is contrary to modern medical thinking which says that UV exposure causes cancer. Healthy, moderate sun exposure will provide you with the cancer fighting properties of vitamin D, but it’s important not to overdo it to the point that you burn your skin.
On that note, here’s a word about sunscreen. Many sunscreens are full of known carcinogens. So when you use a regular sunscreen, you are preventing your body from getting vitamin D as well as providing your body with known cancer-causing chemicals. If you want to protect yourself from too much sun so as to not get burned, consider a natural sunscreen or moderate your exposure by covering up lightly or staying in the shade as much as possible. Avoiding conventional sunscreens is generally a good idea.
Regular sun exposure also helps regulate your hormones and sleeping cycles through the pineal gland, which is very sensitive to light. Melatonin is produced by this gland and it is an important antioxidant with cancer-fighting abilities. Daily UV exposure helps keep your pineal gland functioning optimally, providing you with the benefit of both melatonin and vitamin D.
To get enough vitamin D, you don’t need extensive time in the sun. Simply 20-30 minutes once a day in the sun while wearing shorts and a t-shirt will provide most people with the health benefits of vitamin D. During winter months, supplementation is an acceptable substitute, but as soon as you are able to get in the sun again, jump right in - and enjoy your summer in the sun!