The sunshine vitamin.

This powerful chemical is vital for overall good health, growth, strong bones, calcium absorption and immune function.  Consequently, two important groups that can strongly benefit from this Vitamin more than most, are our elderly friends and family and importantly, our children.

Vitamin D helps prevent;

According to a National study of more than 11,000 adults conducted by Deakin University earlier in the year, ‘nearly one third of Australian adults are suffering vitamin D deficiency’.   Vitamin D deficiency has become increasingly common not only in Australia but across the globe, ‘ Vitamin D insufficiency affects almost 50% of the population worldwide’, (National Center for Biotechnology Information,USA, 2012)…

Yet is there more to increasing our levels than purely getting more sunshine?

Firstly, here’s how it works:  When the skin is exposed to the sun in adequate amounts our bodies naturally form Vitamin D from our bodies cholesterol.   As Vitamin D is fat-soluble it requires fat molecules for it to be absorbed efficiently by our cells.  Another very good reason to be including good fats in our diets.   In its active form, (i.e. it’s been converted by the body to an active form that can be further utilised) vitamin D is a steroid hormone with some anti-inflammatory properties.

About 90% of our vitamin D is made in the skin with the help of sunshine, it is the only reliable way to generate vitamin D in our bodies.  We obtain very little Vitamin D from our diet. UVB sunlight converts cholesterol in the skin into vitamin D.  The fact we need to expose our bare skin to the sun is confusing as we also need to be wary of avoiding too much sun.

Vitamin D, ‘The Sunshine Vitamin’.  A balanced approach to sun exposure is necessary to avoid the risk of skin cancer and yet get an adequate and healthy dose of sunshine and vitamin D.

How much sun do we need though?  This will depend on a number of factors e.g:

As a guide, try to get a few minutes of sun each day, avoiding the hottest times of the day, generally from about 10am – 3pm.

Toxicity:  It’s very difficult to generate too much vitamin D from sunlight, as our bodies self regulate and only generate what we need.

Vitamin D can also be obtained through certain foods, such as fatty fish, fish liver oil, and eggs, (note the fat content of these foods … nature knows).  Generally though most foods contain very little vitamin D.

These are a few things our family does to be Sunsmart:  

  1. Avoid going out in the middle of the day when the sun is hottest and enjoy the beach earlier in the morning.
  2. enjoy 10 – 15 minutes of good sunshine before putting rashies, hats and sunscreen on (& usually before midday)
  3. Cover up with good hats, light, long 100% cotton shirts, rather than using sunscreen if possible.
  4. We usually use the Soleo or Wotnot sunscreens that can be found at most chemists or natural health stores.
  5. Enjoy a nutrient rich diet.  As a fair skinned person, I’ve found diet has definitely helped my skin function more efficiently and it seems more protected when it is exposed to the sun.

Kids at school:  As vitamin D is so important for kids bone and immune health, I use sunscreen only as a necessity.  I find out when their lengthy sport days are and if it’s going to be after 10am, then I’ll make sure they put sunscreen on.  If not, they don’t go to school with sunscreen on during Summer, (and they don’t get sunburned).  

Question.    If many of us are deficient in Vitamin D (1 in every 3 Australians), ie we aren’t getting a good amount of sunshine or foods rich in Vitamin D, then why do we have the highest incidents of skin cancer (commonly thought to be caused by sun exposure)?

If we look at these stats simplistically, surely we should have either higher amounts of vitamin D & high rates of skin cancer?  or alternatively, high rates of vitamin D deficiency and lower rates of skin cancer?  But no, both rates are going up side by side?   

There are a few other considerations in regard to getting enough Vitamin D:

We are what we eat, and more importantly,  we are what we absorb.  Vitamin D is one of our most powerful healing chemicals in our body, and our body makes it absolutely free IF we have the right environment for it do so.     

The above is a summary of research on this topic.   It doesn’t take into account, holes in the ozone layer that may be damaging.  This needs to also be a consideration. 


The information for this article was sourced from Pubmed, Natural News, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition & Sunsmart.

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