The Balance of Sun and Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is a growing problem in our modern society. Nurses are seeing more cases of Rickets, the age old bone softening disease that was thought to be caused by the fashion of covering the whole body in clothing so as not to catch disease and poor nutrition. Mothers passed on the deficiency of vitamin D to their babies.
Nowadays we cover the whole body to protect against the harsh rays of the sun. This is resulting in many New Zealand adults, (almost 2 out of 5 people) being below the recommended level of vitamin D, deficient in vitamin D or severely deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is important to strengthen bones and teeth preventing Rickets and Osteoporosis. Vitamin D also plays an integral part in warding off cancer, supporting the body natural ability to prevent cancers from starting up.
Ironic then that by covering up and shielding ourselves from the sun, we are depriving our bodies from this vital vitamin and contributing to the cancers we are trying to prevent. So what to do?
We all need exposure to the sun on a daily basis. Vitamin D is best absorbed near-midday (11am or 2.30pm) by exposing the face neck and arms. Commonsense is needed here as extreme approaches will not help your skin either way. The length of time to be exposed varies according to your skin tone. If you are fair, or your burn time is fast, then 5 minutes a day would suffice. If you are very dark skinned and your burn time is slow, then 15 minutes would be enough. If you are in between, go for 10 minutes but keep an eye on how your skin is reacting. Obviously if you are on medication that makes your skin sun sensitive, then avoidance of the sun should still be adhered to. The length of time you are exposed does not increase your levels of vitamin D. If you are fair skinned then you do only need a small amount of time, if you are dark then your skin needs slightly longer. Your skin needs direct exposure as the UVB rays do not penetrate glass but they will penetrate the clouds. When your time is up, you should then cover up appropriately with clothing, hats and sun screening lotions. In the evening, vitamin A and antioxidants should be applied to your skin to restore levels and mop up any negative effects from the day. September is the time of year that we are most deficient in vitamin D.