Sunlight is D-liscious!

Posted on Sunday, July 20th, 2008
Written by: Angela, Nutritionist

The warning that should appear on sunscreen containers is, "Warning — you’re not getting enough sun." Sunlight is just like a food nutrient that your body needs in order to function in a healthful way. Exposure to sunlight, for example, creates Vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D, as recent studies have shown, is preventative for most cancers in women (breast cancer, colon cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer, brain tumors, multiple myeloma… to name a few). Meanwhile, the toxic chemical ingredients used in most sunscreen products are actually carcinogenic and have never been safety tested or safety approved by the FDA. They get absorbed right through the skin (a porous organ that absorbs most substances it comes into contact with) and enter the bloodstream.

It is the deficiency of Vitamin D that is thought to be the primary cause of most cancers and many chronic diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes and other metabolic issues, osteoporosis, to name a few. In other words, if you don’t get enough sunlight on your skin on a regular basis, you are extremely likely to suffer from Vitamin D deficiencies that will inevitably result in chronic disease and/ or cancer. New research is showing a possible correlation between Vitamin D levels and susceptibility to Influenza viruses. Do you ever wonder why there is a "flu season"? In northern latitudes, it is uncanny that the flu season peaks at a time when our vitamin D stores are diminishing (interesting how most people reach for Vitamin C pills during this time and not vitamin D….one more reason to book a tropical vacation in the middle of winter).

This is not to say that you can’t get sunburned if you aren’t used to being under the sun, or if you follow the standard American diet that consists of processed foods, chemical additives, refined carbohydrates, soft drinks, and junk foods. Eating these foods alters your body chemistry, and makes you highly susceptible to sunburns. Changing your diet, removing processed foods, and adding super foods (Whole nutrient dense foods) and nutritional supplements into your diet, should go hand in hand with getting an adequate amount of sun light exposure. So how much is enough?

For those us who live above the 35th parallel (North of San Francisco) it is impossible for our skin to produce adequate vitamin D from October through April. This occurs because of the position of the sun to the earth during these months. The angle of the sun is too low on the horizon and the UV rays reflect off the atmosphere. During the summer months our bodies can produce about 10,000 to 20,000 IU’s within 15 minutes of sun exposure.

The current RDI (recommended daily intake) for vitamin D is between 200 and 600 IU, depending on age. Current research has shown that the RDI for Vitamin D is far below what we need. Vitamin D deficiency in our population is widespread, especially affecting people who are elderly, overweight, lactating, dark skinned, who have digestive issues (including gluten sensitivity and gallbladder problems), someone who has had a gastric bypass surgery, and for people who wear a sunscreen daily.

Some researchers (and this nutritionist) are calling for an increase in vitamin D intake (D3 form), from 2000 to 4000 IU’s in adults and 6000 IU’s for lactating women. To obtain vitamin D naturally (and the way your body prefers), expose skin without sunscreen applied for 10-15 minutes 3-4 days per week from the end of May through September. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. To improve the absorption of Vitamin D and the other fat soluble vitamins (A, E and K) always take them with a meal. If you would like to have your Vitamin D levels tested, mention this to your naturopathic physician at your next visit. Vitamin D levels are tested through a simple blood test, which can also be done at your yearly check up.

What about food sources of vitamin D, you ask? Natural sources are cod liver oil, wild salmon, and egg yolk. Though these foods do not provide our bodies with sufficient Vitamin D during the winter months, so supplementation is usually necessary. Dairy products are NOT natural sources of vitamin D. “Milk with added A&D” is simply milk that has had supplemental Vitamin A and D added to it. For this reason I do not recommend eating dairy to get adequate vitamin D in. Instead, get adequate exposure to natural sunlight, adequate supplementation of D3 form vitamin D and choose healthy whole foods because they taste good.

Categories: Nutrients - Choosing the Right Sources

2 Responses to “Sunlight is D-liscious!”

  1. I have heard to much vitamine D can be problematice for men in particular. Anything to that rumor?

  2. Hi Dave,
    Great question. What we know is that most people are Vitamin D deficient. Most don’t eat fish, get enough sun exposure, take a vitamin D supplement…and then you add on our Northwest latitude…all a recipe for vitamin D deficiency. Proper levels are protective against prostate cancer in men (more cases in Northern latitudes and among blacks who’s skin pigment prevents a good percentage of vitamin D conversion in the skin), most other cancers and yes, even skin cancer. Now, that said, too much sun can increase the chance of skin cancer. So then we need to ask, how much is enough? 10-15 minutes of exposed skin 3-4 days a week is plenty. Vitamin D supplementation is a great way to go and something I highly recommend. Men and women alike need adequate levels of vitamin D.
    Angela Pifer, Certified Nutritionist
    Nutrition Northwest Co

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