On June 20th, 2021 we welcome summer! Summer is the perfect time to amp up your vitamin D to rev up your health.
Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin.” And we already know that getting outside is good for your health.
Despite its name, vitamin D is technically not a vitamin but a pro-hormone (called calcitriol) that plays an important role in maintaining optimal health and immunity. In fact, low levels of vitamin D can contribute to health consequences such as poor bone health, depression, weak muscles, cancer, and even death. And yet, vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic in this country. COVID-19 put vitamin D in the spotlight recently when there was early evidence to suggest that maintaining proper levels of vitamin D may be protective against the virus (although recent studies vary on vitamin D’s efficacy).
Ways to Get More Vitamin D
Unfortunately, food is not always the easiest way to get more vitamin D. There are only a few foods available, that would have to be eaten almost every day, to maintain healthy vitamin D levels (cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon, canned tuna, beef liver, egg yolks and sardines). Liver?! Not a favorite of most. So sunshine it is!
The sun is your next best option for ensuring that your body gets the vitamin D it needs. When you expose your skin to direct sunlight, the sun creates vitamin D from cholesterol. When ultraviolet rays hit your skin it provides the energy to synthesize vitamin D. That said, prolonged exposure to the sun can have deleterious effects (e.g. skin cancer, particularly melanoma). So, coupling sun with supplements or the aforementioned foods may be a safer route to ensuring adequate vitamin D.
How Much Sunshine Do I Need?
It’s important to exercise caution and vigilance when exposing your sun to direct sunlight. But any outdoor activity ranging between 20 -30 minutes can provide the necessary vitamin D you would need on a daily basis. This time range is in line with the 20-30 minutes RISE prescription to decrease harmful effects of stress hormones.
During winter months or extended time indoors it’s prudent to consider a supplement.
Do I Need to Get My Vitamin D Levels Checked?
It is recommended by Team RISE to have your Vitamin D levels checked with your annual routine blood work. Newborns can also be an at-risk population for deficient levels spurring a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics to supplement breastfed babies with vitamin D.
It’s important to be cautious when exposed to direct sunlight and taking proper precautions against skin cancer. Avoid excessive sun exposure and sunburns.
Do I Need Sunscreen?
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone wear sunscreen and states: “The best type of sunscreen is the one you will use again and again. Just make sure it offers broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection, has an SPF of 30 or higher and is water-resistant.”
Get outside and PLAY! It’s good for your health.
Watch for our upcoming blog: The Healing Power of Water.
Dr. Sonja Stilp is a physician and founder of RISE practicing in Boulder, CO. She LOVES the SUNSHINE! Dr. Stilp provides personalized Active Healing and Active Wellness. Make an appointment with her to talk about your health and any concerns related to getting adequate levels of vitamin D.