When I was a kid, no one ever asked: “Is the sun good for you?”. And it was a given that everyone loved the sun and would occasionally overdo it and get burned. Especially kids in the summertime.
When I was 12, I went to a beautiful state park for a week with a friend and her family. She and I laid out on a huge rock in the middle of a clear lake for the better park of a day. The air was so cool and the sun so warm on my back that I didn’t want to budge.
Next Day I Paid the Price
I studied my painful, blistered skin the following morning and decided my lobster-like complexion was both funny and a bit scary. I looked like a creature from another world.
But it never occurred to me or my mom to worry about the consequences of too much sun. I just wondered how long it would hurt and if the blistered skin would peel in long strips like I’d seen on some other kids.
How things change in 40 years! Now we have 35 levels of sunscreen protection and the threat of skin cancer has been drilled into our heads like a mantra.
Yet we also hear serious warnings about getting too little sun and becoming deficient in Vitamin D — the sunshine vitamin.
Gradually Expose Your Body to More Sunlight
I wonder sometimes if we have used warnings about excessive sun exposure as an excuse to stay inside and become less active. It’s true that some of us have gone to the extreme of avoiding the sun altogether.
Yet some experts, such as Dr. Joseph Mercola, claim that those who stay inside all day are actually more prone to melanoma skin cancer – not people who work outside or sunbathe regularly.
How can this be?
When it comes to the sun – like most things in life – it turns out that moderation is key. You shouldn’t shun the sun, on the one hand, but neither should you spend long hours under its rays when your skin isn’t accustomed to it.
Avoid Sunscreen If Possible
Most sunscreens contain toxic chemicals and hormone disruptors and should be avoided. Sunscreens also block the rays that help our bodies produce vitamin D.
If you must be in direct sunlight for a long period of time, see Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreens to help you pick one that is less harmful.
Get Direct Sunlight at Mid Day — For Up To 30 Minutes
The National Institute of Health now advises us to spend 5 to 30 minutes in direct sunlight between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm, at least twice a week. (The lighter our natural skin color, the fewer minutes we should spend starting out.)
This allows us to acclimate to the sun’s rays without burning, which is very important. The danger factor in sun exposure is allowing our skin to burn, and studies show that those who have significant burns throughout their lives are more likely to develop melanoma skin cancer than those who avoid sunburns.
Spending time in the sun is essential for our skin to produce vitamin D, a vital nutrient that provides significant protection against many illnesses, from winter depression (also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder) to cancer to insomnia to heart disease.
But what if we just can’t get out in the sun much? What about winter when sunlight is scarce? Some have devised very creative solutions to this problem.
Giant Mirrors Capture the Sun
In Rjukan, Norway, where the sun is blocked much of the day by steep mountains, the town has installed three gigantic 16 foot wide mirrors on the mountainsides, giving residents greater exposure to the sun’s light and heat.
In another northern town, residents are transported to the tops of the mountains by lift each day to get their requisite dose of sun exposure.
So we finally understand just how vital the sun is to our health. How could it be otherwise? It makes everything, inside and out, grow and thrive. It brightens our days and our moods, and now we understand that its light on our skin actually produces vitamins inside us. Surely this comes as no surprise.
But what if we can’t get enough sun? Some foods provide vitamin D, such as eggs, sardines, and mushrooms, but it’s difficult to get enough through food alone.
Supplements Can Help
Many naturopathic doctors recommend that our vitamin D levels should be between 50-70 ng/ml year-round for optimal health. The best way to determine your level is a simple blood test in your doctor’s office. Or you can order the test online.
Many people’s levels are too low. If you need to boost yours, get out in the sun more and consider supplementing with vitamin D3.
Doctors Mercola recommends a dose between 2000 IU and 8000 IU per day to achieve optimal levels in the blood. Dr. Josh Axe recommends 5000 IU per day. After you try a supplement dose for a few months, you can have your blood level of vitamin D checked again to ensure you are within the optimal 50-70 ng/ml range.
The current RDA for vitamin D is 400 IU per day. But many believe this minimum should be greatly increased as we move forward with new knowledge. Many doctors state that this RDA is just enough to prevent some diseases, but not enough to optimize health.
I would prefer the optimal level, as I imagine you might too.
So get your levels checked and get out in the sun. Let its glorious rays brighten your eyes and penetrate your skin as nature intended.