Our body needs all types of vitamins to function properly. Vitamin D is one such unique vitamin that is essential for the proper functioning of the body. However, it has been seen that generally, most people are deficient in this vitamin. A deficiency of vitamin D can cause many health issues, in particular, problems with your teeth, bleeding gums, digestive issues, brain disorders, and over a period of time, it can even have an effect on your immune system. This is why it is absolutely critical that you get sufficient levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D is manufactured in the body from cholesterol in your skin when it gets exposed to the sun. Increasing the levels of vitamin D is not only easy, but it’s cheap as well. It is possible to maintain optimal levels of vitamin D by getting enough sunlight. However, you have to ensure that you know how to safely absorb vitamin D from sunlight. There are certain ways to safely get vitamin D from the sun and today we take a look at these ways.
Getting Vitamin D from Sunlight
Vitamin D is also often referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because your body makes this vitamin from exposure to sunlight. When the skin gets exposed to sunlight, the cholesterol present in your skin makes vitamin D. Cholesterol is present in our skin cells. When the ultraviolet B rays, also known as UVB, from the sun strike the skin, the cholesterol present in the skin cells provides the energy required for vitamin D synthesis to take place in the body.
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the body and is required for maintaining optimal health. For example, vitamin D is required by the guts to properly absorb phosphorus and calcium. Phosphorus and calcium are critical for maintaining healthy bones in the body.
If you are deficient in vitamin D levels, then it can cause many health problems such as:
- Muscle weakness
- And even death in some rare cases.
The fact is that there are very few foods that actually contain a substantial amount of vitamin D, making it difficult to get sufficient levels of vitamin D from food. Some foods that contain vitamin D include:
- Canned tuna
- Egg yolks
- Cod liver oil
If you live in a region where there is not enough sunlight, then it is recommended that you start consuming a supplement for vitamin D such as cod liver oil.
It is important to know that the UVB rays from the sun are unable to penetrate through glass. This is why even people who are spending prolonged periods of time next to a sunny window, can still be prone to vitamin D deficiency.
When is the Best Time to Absorb Sunlight?
During summertime, it is best to get sunlight during midday. Around noon when the sun is at its highest point, this is the time period during which the UVB rays are their most intense. This is when you would need to spend the least amount of time in the sun to absorb sufficient levels of vitamin D. Furthermore, several studies have also shown that your body is most efficient at manufacturing vitamin D when it is noon.
A study conducted in Oslo, Norway found that even 30 minutes of exposure to sunlight during the summertime at noon just three times in a week was more than enough to have optimal levels of vitamin D. Another study also showed that 13 minutes of exposure to the midday sunlight in the summer months is sufficient to make healthy levels of vitamin D.
Many doctors advice that the recommended daily dose of vitamin D is around 15 mcg or 600 IU and spending 30 minutes under the midday sun for three times a week will help you consume around 10,000 to 20,000 IU of the vitamin.
This is why absorbing vitamin D during noon is much more efficient and also safer as the late afternoon sun also increases your risk of getting skin cancers.
Color of the Skin Effects Production of Vitamin D
Melanin is a pigment present in the body that determines the color of our skin. People who have darker skin have more melanin as compared to people who have lighter skin. Also, people who have darker skin also have melanin that is darker and larger as well.
The purpose of melanin in the body is not to just lend our skin its color, but it also actively protects the skin against UV damage. Melanin serves as a natural barrier or sunscreen that absorbs the sun’s rays and helps protect the body against skin cancers and sunburns.
While melanin is an important pigment for the body, it also poses a dilemma for people who have darker skin. This is because darker skinned people need to spend a much longer amount of time in the sun in order to produce the same amount of vitamin D as lighter skinned people.
Studies have shown that people with dark skin have to spend nearly 30 minutes to even 3 hours under the sun to get optimal levels of vitamin D. This is also the reason why people with dark skin have a greater risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Therefore, if you have darker skin, then remember that you need to spend more time in the sun to get a sufficient dose of vitamin D and meet your daily required levels of the vitamin.
Expose More Skin to Produce More Vitamin D
Since vitamin D is manufactured from the cholesterol present in the skin, this means that you have to expose more areas of your skin to the sunlight in order to make sufficient amounts of vitamin D.
Experts recommend that you should ideally be exposing one-third of your skin area to the sunlight. So if you wear suitable clothes such as a tank top and shorts or a skirt for around 10 to 30 minutes at least 3 times a week during midday in the summer months, then people with lighter skin should be able to produce sufficient levels of vitamin D to meet their daily dose. If you have darker skin, then you will need to spend a little longer amount of time under the sun.
However, if you are exposing your skin to sunlight, ensure that you apply sunscreen to prevent any sunburns. You should also wear sunglasses and a hat for protecting your eyes and your face. The head, being a small part, does not produce much amount of vitamin D in any case. This is why it is safe to cover the head while exposing other parts of the body to absorb the sunlight.
Too Much of Sunlight Can be Dangerous
While exposing your skin to sunlight to produce vitamin D is great, you need to be aware that too much of sunlight can be dangerous. It can have the following side effects:
- Eye damage. If you are not protecting your eyes while soaking up the sun, then over a period of time, UV rays can cause damage to your retina. This greatly increases the risk of getting diseases of the eye such as cataracts.
- Skin changes. Excess exposure of your skin to sunlight can also cause moles, freckles, and other changes to your skin
- Sunburns. This is one of the most commonly occurring side effects of being exposed to too much sunlight. Symptoms of having a sunburn include swelling, pain, tenderness, redness, and appearance of blisters.
- Aging skin. Being in the sun for too long speeds up the aging process of your skin. Many people become more prone to developing wrinkles, and their skin takes on a leathery appearance.
- Heat stroke. When you get a heat stroke or a sunstroke, it causes the body’s core temperature to rise due to the prolonged exposure to the sun. This can be a dangerous situation and you would need medical help.
- Skin cancer. One of the biggest causes of skin cancer is too much exposure to UV rays.
This is why it is important that when you are going to be spending time under the sun, you should keep yourself well protected and avoid being in the sun after 30 minutes of exposure.
Getting regular exposure to sunlight is one of the best and the most natural ways of producing vitamin D in the body. You should ideally be getting 10 to 30 minutes of sunlight at noon at least 3 times during the week to have optimal levels of vitamin D. However, you should determine your exposure time by understanding the sensitivity level of your skin. You must ensure that you do not suffer from sunburn. Taking vitamin D supplements or consuming foods that contain high levels of vitamin D will also help you maintain the right levels of vitamin D.
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