Liquid Sunshine

Here in Seattle, with our short and often gray rainy winter days, the stretch between October and March is L-O-O-O-O-NG!  If we get a sunny day in February, WATCH OUT!  People go crazy, trying to soak up that sunshine.  It’s a primal thing—we run toward the sun, at least in part because we need that Vitamin D for our health.  In fact, some researchers think that light skin tones may be an evolutionary adjustment to the fact that it’s harder to get Vitamin D at more northern exposures, and lighter skin lets more of it in.

Once you start reading about Vitamin D, it starts to look like a wonder substance.  It is credited with boosting the immune system, helping with symptoms of chronic disease and heart disease, improving bone health, and even boosting weight loss success.  It’s linked specifically with helping people with colon cancer and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and it helps the body with bone health through increasing absorption of minerals such as calcium.

Is there a catch?  Well, yes, sort of.  Recent research is making it look like the mighty D may not be as helpful as we thought, although even the most skeptical writers agree that it is very important for older adults to keep D levels up.   Then, there is some question about whether supplements are even helpful, which makes it challenging when D is not something that’s easy to get a lot of from food.  A great way to get D is through sun exposure; 10-15 minutes on your face and arms a few times a week is perfect.  Unless you are a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, which says NO SUN, pretty much.   And, august bodies of the medical establishment can’t even agree on what is an optimal level of D (while they are arguing, check out this list of dosages from the Mayo Clinic and behold the amazing health benefits that may accrue from taking your vitamin D)!!

So, what to do about this confusion?  Balance is all!  One suggestion is, the next time you find yourself with 15 minutes and are thinking about a health boost, consider a sojourn in the sun, if you can find some and haven’t had too much sun in the past few day, always taking into account your skin type and cancer risk (and comfort with that risk).  Or, plan how you might get a reading on your levels, and then move toward adequate levels of Vitamin D (this may involve getting your level measured by a health care provider (a bit of a project), and then an initial high boost, before settling on a regimen that works).  FOR THESE AND ALL OTHER WELLNESS TIPS HERE, SINCE I’M NOT A HEALTH CARE PROVIDER, BE SURE TO CHECK WITH YOURS!

These are not the sexiest or most fun health tips I hope you’ll find here in future, but especially for those of us who live in darker regions, they’re some of the most important!  Bring on the liquid sunshine!

More reading about Sun-in-a-pill:

Sun worship has pretty much always been a thing!

–Partly because vitamin D is the oldest hormone we know of!

–A few fun facts (including, don’t try to get your D through glass)

–A fascinating and sad article about the history of rickets, caused by D deficiency

–The imperative to get a tan (a pretty recent development) has had a mixed legacy, including the rise of options for fake tans in order to avoid tanning beds

(Photo credit: Pierre Metivier on Flickr)


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