Vitamin D – 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 children and elderly friends and family.

Vitamin D prevents;
•    osteoporosis
•    depression
•    prostrate cancer and breast cancer and even effects diabetes and obesity

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’.  Australia also has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

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, (ie 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.  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.

So how much sun do we need? 

This will depend on a number of factors eg;
•    our geographical location.  The further we live from the equator, the longer the exposure we need to the sun to generate enough vitamin D.
•    the season
•    time of day
•    our age and
•    skin type.  People with dark skin pigmentation may need 20 to 30 times as much exposure compared to fair skinned people to generate the same amount of vitamin D.

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.  In Winter we need more.

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

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 we do to be Sunsmart: 
•    Avoid going out in the middle of the day when the sun is hottest and enjoy the beach earlier in the morning.
•    enjoy 10 – 15 minutes of good sunshine before putting rashies, hats and sunscreen on (& usually before midday)
•    Cover up with good hats, light, long 100% cotton shirts, rather than using sunscreen
•    We usually use the Soleo or Wotnot sunscreens you can buy at most chemists or natural health stores.
•    enjoy a nutrient rich diet.

As a fair skinned person, I’ve found diet has definitely helped my skin function more efficiently and I believe more protected when its exposed to the sun.

Kids at school:  As vitamin D is so important for kids bone and immune health, I avoid using sunscreen as much as I can.  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 we go back to the start of this article where I shared some statistics on Vitamin D deficiency and skin cancer, it raises a question:

If many of us are deficient in Vitamin D (1 in every 3 Australians), ie we aren’t getting enough 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?  Interesting…

Vitamin D deficiency has become increasingly common in Australia, but is there more to it than just not getting enough sunshine?  Before we start spending loads of money on supplements, here are a few other things to consider first:
•    perhaps we don’t have the necessary levels of Cholesterol available to absorb the Vitamin D we are exposing ourselves to
•    we’re not consuming the right good fats to help the absorption of Vitamin D in our diet or
•    Vitamin D is activated by our kidneys and our livers before it can be used. Having kidney disease or liver damage can greatly impair our bodies ability to activate 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.  No prescription required!

Other resources:    
•    For more detailed information on sunscreens,  the sun and skin cancer check out the EWG  (Environmental Working Groups) website
•    This is a great Vitamin D Guide, presented as an infographic from Mike Adams at

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

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