Vitamin D helps your body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus. Calcium and phosphorus are critical for building bone. Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce the growth of cancer cells in some cases, reduce inflammation and help your immune system. t. However, very few foods contain vitamins. You are required to take supplements as an intake of vitamins. The sun is a natural source of vitamin D and has earned the vitamin nickname of “the sunshine vitamin”. It is produced in your skin when exposed to the rays of sunlight. But UVB rays are also the same which causes sunburns. So a balance is needed to get Vitamin D but avoid skin damage.
Get some sunshine and boost your vitamin D level
Simple as it may seem, vitamin D from sunshine is influenced by season, time of day, latitude, altitude, air pollution, skin pigmentation, sunscreen use, passing through glass and plastic and your own ageing. Therefore, knowing how to best absorb sunlight for optimising your vitamin D synthesis comes in handy.
· You do not need a tan or sunburn – Your body makes all the vitamin D it needs for a day in about half the time it takes for the skin to burn.
· Target your sun-time – Your sun-time will depend on your geographical location. At some locations, mid-day sun may be better while at some others, early morning sun, when UVB rays are more, would be advisable. Generally, in India, about 10 – 20 minutes in the early morning sun is recommended by doctors. Due to damaged Ozone layer and air pollution, unfortunately, Longer Sun exposure is considered harmful to the skin by various dermatological societies around the world.
· Take care while out in the sun – If out there in the mid-day sun, take care to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen.
· How much skin should you expose – Well, the more skin you expose, the more vitamin D is made in your body. It is better to expose your back than your hands and face.
· Ensure moderate exposure – Avoid prolonged exposures. It may have dangerous consequences and even lead to skin cancer cases. Frequent, moderate exposure is the healthy way. About 15 – 20 minutes a day for fair-skinned persons and a couple of hours for dark-skinned people are good enough for a day.
· No short-cuts – Soaking in the sun through a window is not going to help. The window glass filters out the UVB rays essential for making vitamin D.
· Balance your trade-off – Exposure to the sun without sunscreen may cause sunburn while the sunscreen limits the ability of your body to make vitamin D. You may be required to create your own balance between the two.
· Are clothes a hindrance – Clothes and sunscreens diminish the levels of vitamin D production by your body. Loosely woven, cotton-based, light-coloured, wet clothing does not have much adverse impact on the ability of your skin to make vitamin D from the sunrays.
· Vitamin D while sitting in the shade – If you are averse to complete exposure to the sun, you may still use the sun for your vitamin D needs by sitting in the shade. Make sure that you have some skin exposed to the sun – your forearms, lower legs, hands etc.
· How does sunlight work – The UVB rays of the sun on your skin are converted to vitamin D by the cholesterol in your skin cells. The vitamin D thus produced gets transformed again in your liver and kidneys before it starts functioning in your body.
· Do statins hamper vitamin D from sunlight – Statins are used for lowering cholesterol. Even on statins, there is enough cholesterol available in your body to convert sunlight into vitamin D.
· You are at risk of vitamin D deficiency – You are likely to be deficient in vitamin D if you are not exposed to sunlight. There may be other causes too, like:-
- Home or bed confinement.
- Wearing fully covered attire while outdoors.
- Dark skin colour.
- Invariably wearing sunscreen while out in the sun.
- Your need for vitamin D is more (as in pregnancy, lactating mothers and babies)
- Age, when the body’s capability for producing vitamin D is reduced.
- Health conditions like renal disease and medications that cause a change in vitamin D control in your body as those Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease, liver disease, etc.
- Being overweight.
- Lack of diet containing food with vitamin D content.
While exposure to sunlight may relieve some of these, dietary supplements and foods rich in vitamin D like oily fish, red meat, egg yolk, food with added vitamin D (fat spreads, breakfast cereals, plant-based milk alternatives e.g. soya milk etc.), infant formula with added vitamin D (for babies) may be needed for several other of the causes. When medication and health conditions have led to a deficiency in vitamin D, supplements of the vitamin are called for. Your doctor will test and advise on this.
Your body requires vitamin D to absorb the calcium it needs to build and maintain bones. Exposure to the sun is the most important natural source of vitamin D.
Allow your body to produce all the vitamin D it needs for the day through a 15 – 20 minute exposure to the early morning sun. While soaking in the UVB rays of sunlight, it is necessary that you strike a balance between skin burn and over-exposure leading to skin cancer. Those with photosensitivity must avoid soaking in the sun and prefer vitamin D supplements instead.
Older people, those with kidney or liver problems or some other ailments, run the risk of becoming deficient in vitamin D. Supplements and foods that contain vitamin D are available for their needs.
Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.