In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that I grew up avoiding sun exposure as much as possible. Having experienced several severe, blistering, peeling burns as a child, I had absolutely no desire to “lay out” in the sun and try to “get a tan” during my teen years and beyond.
But over the past few years, I’ve realized that the sun is actually vital to our health! After all, God made the sun. Would He put us under this magnificent star just to harm us? I don’t think so!
In fact, without sun exposure, we’re likely to be deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and is necessary for bone growth (source). Recent studies have also shown that maintaining proper vitamin D levels can help boost the immune system (source).
But most Americans are deficient in this vitamin. You see, it’s very difficult to get enough vitamin D solely through diet. The best food source is from certain fatty fish–but some people don’t even eat seafood (or enough to get the vitamin D they need) (source).
Image by Joe Shlabotnik
A few years ago my husband discovered he was vitamin D deficient. His doctor prescribed him heavy doses of vitamin D3 in an attempt to get his levels up to par. Then, right before I became pregnant last fall, I found out that I was vitamin D deficient as well and possibly was having thyroid problems. Vitamin D deficiency can actually be a precursor to thyroid disease (source).
My husband and I began taking about 5,000 IUs of vitamin D per day during the winter, and I’d give our girls up to 1,000 IUs per day. I still supplement us in the summer, but I cut down the number of IUs quite a bit to account for the best vitamin D we can get–straight from the sun.
Besides the benefits of vitamin D, sun exposure can also help improve mood (source).
Now what about sunscreen? Can we get the same benefits from the sun if we use sunscreen?
Image by mislav-m
Well, according to The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide:
“The same DNA-damaging, sunburn-causing UVB wavelengths that sunscreens are designed to block also do some good: They kick off the chemical and metabolic chain reaction that produces vitamin D. Research shows that many people have low vitamin D levels. There is a well-documented relationship between low vitamin D levels and poor bone health. Now links have been made to everything from multiple sclerosis to prostate cancer. “Linking” low vitamin D with these diseases doesn’t prove cause-and-effect, but it suggests that possibility.” (source)
Image by dougbelshaw
But what about skin cancer? What about those blistering burns I experienced as a child? How can we get the vitamin D we need from the sun–while not putting ourselves and our families at risk for skin cancer?
We’ll discuss that later this week…as we look at the risks of too much sun exposure…and how we can take advantage of the benefits while limiting our risks of harm.
Have you ever considered the benefits of sun exposure? Have you ever had your vitamin D levels checked to see if you are deficient and perhaps could benefit from more sun exposure?
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**Disclaimer: I am not in any way, shape or form a medical professional. I am simply a mom who loves to research. Please conduct your own research and consult with your trusted health professional before making any decisions regarding your health. This blog is for entertainment purposes only.