The Importance of Vitamin D and the Sun – How to safely take in the sunshine while protecting the body

It’s a universal truth we all know; we need sunblock (yes this opposes the title of this article).

However, the sun plays a crucial role in our lives, one that we take for granted. 

Woman in the sun holding up her hands to the sky in a heart shape.
Sunshine is less intense in the early morning and late evening – Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR

Not only is it good for mental health, but it is also vital in the production of vitamin D, a hormone and nutrient many Americans are deficient in.

Keep reading to find out exactly why we need this vitamin, how the sun helps, and a way to safely expose yourself to those light rays.

What is Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a nutrient many individuals are deficient in. It is considered both a nutrient we eat, though food sources are not abundant, and a hormone we make.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in a small number of foods. It can be found as D2, pre-vitamin D, and but is usually seen as D3.

It is essential for many aspects of our body’s wellbeing and health.

It plays a role in the formation of healthy bones, teeth health, and various other functions.

Essential Roles and Functions of Vitamin D

Vitamin D supports the immune system through the activation of T cells. 

These are cells that locate and destroy viruses, bacteria, or external pathogens.

T cells rely on vitamin D to activate and remain dormant in the absence of this vitamin.

Vitamin D behaves like a hormone as well; all cells in the body have receptors for it. 

It can influence more than 200 genes.

Vitamin D is also important in neuromuscular function, reduces inflammation, and participates in modulating cell growth.

What to Eat to Get Vitamin D

The best sources of vitamin D are fatty fish and fish liver oils. 

Eggs, cheese, and beef liver all have small amounts.

How the Sun Creates Vitamin D in the Body

Vitamin D is also called the sunshine vitamin.

Both D2 and D3 can be formed by the body when the skin comes into contact with the sun’s UVB light.

A protein called 7-DHC in the skin is activated upon contact with sunshine, converting it into vitamin D3.

What causes Deficits in Vitamin D

Sunscreen, darker skin tones, less time outside, or full-cover clothing can be causes of vitamin D deficiency. 

Deficits in Vitamin D can lead to increased fractures, a higher risk of colon cancer, increased heart disease, type II diabetes, and reduced immune system.

Lack of this vitamin can lead to osteoporosis, fractures, and poor overall health.

The Sun and Vitamin D

The sun is an inexhaustible and natural supply to maintain stable levels of this vitamin.

While overexposure to the sun’s rays can cause negative effects, underexposure can lead to damaging effects in the body as well.

Sunlight can and should be received, without sunblock of clothing, in short periods. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that sunbathing on your arms and legs for 10 to 20 minutes at least 3 times a week would be enough. 

These minutes do not have to be continuous but throughout the day.

Take into account that if you sunbathe from 10 am to 3 pm, where there is more intense sunlight, less time will be enough.

How to Prevent Sun Damage

The most important thing is to be careful with the level of radiation. 

We need to take in the right amount of sun to not tan or burn.

Listen, feel, pay attention. Do not expose yourself to too much heat too quickly.

Tanning or burning requires a longer time of sun exposure, depending on your skin tone, which is going beyond the healthy level. 

This is when we must protect ourselves with hats, clothing, or sunscreen.

Benefits of the Sun

Although many people are unaware of it, sunbathing is very beneficial for our bodies.

Improve Mood: Sunlight can provide us a feeling of well-being, as we release endorphins.

Strengthening bones and teeth: The sun’s rays cause our body to produce vitamin D, an essential substance to strengthen our bones and teeth. 

Reduces Bacteria on Skin: If you suffer from acne or psoriasis problems, small amounts of the sun may be beneficial, particularly early morning or late afternoon when the rays are less intense.

Strengthening immune system: The sun increases the number of white blood cells, also known as lymphocytes, which are the cells in charge of protecting us against any infection.

Helps Regulate Sleep: experts found that when people are exposed to sunlight in the morning, their melatonin production kicks in before nightfall, helping them fall asleep more easily.

The Takeaway

Many Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin.

While dangerous in high amounts, sunshine is essential to the body for many reasons.

Learn how to take in sunshine safely to benefit from improved mood, better sleep, improve immune health, and much more!

Fun fact

The Sun is about 150 million kilometers from Earth and is constantly emanating rays of light, at a speed of 300,000 kilometers per second. 

So this light takes 8.19 minutes to reach your skin and give us health!

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