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It is no secret that vitamin D is good for the body. It helps strengthen bones and teeth, and it also helps us fight off diseases and illness.
However, as a whole, we may not be getting enough vitamin D. With the scare of skin cancer and the promotion of products designed to block the sun from damaging our skin, our vitamin D levels are dropping.
Professor Michael Holick, of Boston University School of Medicine, says “We get about 90 to 95 percent of our vitamin D from the sun. It is essential for absorbing calcium, keeping our bones healthy, and for protecting against serious chronic diseases later in life such as osteoporosis, Type II diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and many common cancers.”
However, just like everything else in our lives, moderation is key. Prolonged exposure to UVA rays can cause severe damage to our skin, while too much UVB rays (the rays that give us vitamin D, have been linked to photoaging and direct DNA damage.
So how do we get enough sun, without causing damage to our skin? Using the proper sunscreen and limiting your exposure to the midday sun is crucial. When applying sunscreen, you should opt for an SPF grade of 15 or higher.
Wearing a shirt and hat in the midday sun is also advised. However, you should allow the sun to have access to your skin on a regular basis. Five to 15 minutes of direct sunlight at least three times per week is about average.
There are other benefits to sun exposure though, and in today’s world of avoiding the sun for fear of damage, we should be looking back outside for the benefits.
The sun, or more specifically the UV rays of the sun, actually promote better moods. Our bodies create serotonin, a chemical that makes us feel happy. Sunlight will promote serotonin levels and make us feel better.
When combined with outdoor exercise, these levels can ward off moderate depression.
Recent studies in Finland and the United Kingdom have found that children exposed to higher levels of vitamin D are less likely to develop Type I diabetes later in life. The studies also show that Type II diabetes is less likely in adults who maintained higher levels of Vitamin D throughout childhood than those who did not.
The Finland studies on Type I diabetes reported prevention of the disease by up to 80%.
Exposure to UVB can actually help protect your body against melanoma. Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer and is caused by repeated and prolonged exposure to UVA light.
However, UVB light interacts with the body and helps produce vitamin D3, which is shown to reduce the risk of melanoma, especially in unprotected portions of the skin.
UVA exposure breaks down vitamin D3 and over time can cause melanoma. People who spend most of their time indoors are actually at greater risk because, unlike UVB, UVA light can travel through window glass.
This means that those mainly getting sun exposure indoors are not getting the beneficial UVB exposure and are at a higher risk of melanoma.
Helps Ease IBD and Crohn’s disease
People suffering from Crohn’s or any other irritable bowel disorders have a difficult time absorbing Vitamin D from foods. Exposure to sunlight can help the body get the required levels of vitamin D without it having to be absorbed from food.
The effects of vitamin D on IBD allow it to ease symptoms and lessen inflammation.
Aids in Fertility
In men, sunlight will increase testosterone levels making them more fertile. In women, it also aids in fertility by reducing the melatonin levels which suppress fertility.
Because of the increase in fertility, studies have shown that women who get less than an hour of sunlight exposure per week reach menopause up to seven years earlier.
Sunlight exposure can also reduce inflammation, making us feel better and recover from injury quicker.
Those that suffer from ailments such as arthritis and general inflammation note significant decreases of flare-ups and pain after being exposed to sunlight on a regular basis.
Cures Skin Conditions
Such skin conditions as acne, psoriasis, and eczema can be treated with some sunlight exposure.
The sunlight will react within the skin cells to promote healing and lessen the severity. You should always speak with your doctor before any treatment regimen. However, slight cases can be treated with up to half an hour of direct sunlight exposure before being covered or having sunscreen applied.
If you treat skin conditions with sunlight, you should ensure that you never allow the affected area to burn, or conditions could worsen.
You should always monitor yourself in the sun. While the benefits are numerous and documented, overexposure can be even worse. Prolonged exposure to untreated or uncovered skin can have serious side effects including burns and even cancer.
You should limit your daily sun exposure to 15 to 30 minutes per day in the summer and no more than an hour in the winter. Darker skin can withstand longer periods of direct sunlight exposure, but everyone should monitor their skin carefully.
When the skin begins to turn pink, it is time to apply sunscreen or cover up. You should always speak with a doctor or medical professional if you believe you have had too much exposure, particularly to UVA radiation.
When using sunscreen, be sure to use an SPF rating of 15 or higher and limit your untreated exposure to less than 30 minutes per day. Reapply the sunscreen within the time mentioned on the packaging.
Always speak to a doctor before starting any sunlight or UV light (such as tanning beds) as a remedy or treatment for any inflammation, disease or illness.
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