Is your fear of sun damage causing Vitamin D deficiency?
Is the sunscreen you’re using bad for your health?
Most of us are aware that our bodies naturally produce Vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. But are you getting enough of those life-giving rays from the sun to prevent Vitamin D deficiency? Surprisingly, even here in New Zealand where we enjoy reasonable sunlight for much of the year, Vitamin D deficiency is increasingly prevalent throughout the population, especially amongst the elderly. We risk developing major health issues unless we change the current practice of sun avoidance into a common sense approach to healthy levels of sun exposure.
Many factors influence how much Vitamin D an individual produces through the skin. These include which part of the day you usually spend in the sun, the changing seasons, which latitude you live at, your age, your skin pigment type, differing cultural norms governing dress style and of course the strong media messages we get these days to avoid sun exposure due to risk of skin cancer. Alongside the last powerful influence is the prevalence of sunblock usage and the current socially acceptable view that everyone must apply it liberally before venturing outside during the summer season.
Many commercial sunscreens, it turns out, can be extremely bad for your health. Not only do they block Vitamin D absorption, they contain chemicals that are absorbed into the body and can severely compromise the health of your immune system and vital organs. Some of those chemicals are carcinogenic, so while sunscreen use is promoted as skin cancer prevention, it may be causing other systemic cancers.
Recent UK research confirms what many naturopaths have been saying for decades. Rather than something to be feared, the sun is necessary to sustain human life and we need adequate sun exposure to maintain our health. Bathe as much of your body as possible in direct natural sunlight on a regular basis, using common sense to judge appropriate exposure times to avoid sunburn. Of course, there are times we need to apply a sunscreen to prevent burning the skin, particularly on a hot summer’s day. It’s important to choose a sunscreen containing only naturally sourced organic ingredients, and there are many good examples of these now available on the market.
The body’s bioactive form of Vitamin D, called 1,25 D or calcitriol, is converted from our stored supply of Vitamin D in the liver. 1,25 D has a short lifespan so needs replenishing on an ongoing basis for continued healthy function. Most importantly, 1,25 D has a proven role in inhibiting the conversion of healthy tissue to diseased tissue. In New Zealand studies show at least 40% of us have insufficient levels of this important vitamin, while 3 – 4% are clinically Vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D deficiency is now known to be implicated in many serious diseases including breast and bowel cancers, types 1 and 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, Crohn’s disease, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis and even dental decay. The wide range of disorders represented in this list gives a good indication of how important the ‘sunshine vitamin’ is to human health.
If you think you may be among the 40% or more of us who are absorbing insufficient Vitamin D from sunlight, you may need to take it in supplement form. To achieve optimum levels, supplementation of 3000 to 5000 IU per day in conjunction with exposure to sunlight is the recommended approach. Beneficial outcomes in pregnancy, labour and birth were found in a study of pregnant women supplemented with vitamin D (with best results at levels of 4000 IU per day). Of the two supplemental forms available, Vitamin D2 and D3, Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) is the safest and most effective form of supplementation to take.
You can also read on the blog my extended article for more in-depth Vitamin D information.
Have you checked the safety of the ingredients in your usual sunblock lotion?
Do you experience unexplained fatigue, muscle ache or mood fluctuations that could be due to Vitamin D deficiency?
By Carolyn Simon ND, DipMedHerb
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