Wow, what a summer we have had here in Vancouver. It has been absolutely beautiful. We really did deserve it after that winter, and hopefully everyone has taken advantage of being outside and enjoying how beautiful BC really is. Even though we are nearing the tail end of summer, we thought we would shed a little light of one of the most powerful healers out there. The sun.
The blue skies, bright sun are quite energizing. The sun helps increase mood, serotonin levels and this weather brings about an overall sense of well-being. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this weather and spend at least thirty minutes to one hour out side everyday. Aim to be barefoot as much as possible. Whether it be a walk, a light jog or sitting in the backyard with a book. Just being outside will do.
In recent years the sun has received a bad reputation for being dangerous to our health, when in fact this information is grossly misinformed. When traveling to most traditional cultures across the globe, they will spend most of their time working, playing, living outdoors more so than being indoors. Consider as well our ancestors, most of the time was likely spent surviving outdoors. The sun is actually very healthy.
Sun exposure can be unhealthy under extended periods of time, causing repeated burning and healing of the skin. This is not what I am referring to. I am referring to exposure to the sun without sunscreen, so that the skin becomes pink. I would generally advise to start out with five to ten minutes per day in the sun, exposing skin without sunscreen. This amount of time will release the essential Vitamin D, also known as, “The Sunshine Vitamin”.
Vitamin D is found in the skin and is released when Ultraviolet B rays hit the skin. Utraviolet B or UVB rays are generally highest around mid-day or 10am to 2pm. UVB rays are lowest in the morning and evenings. Therefore, to get the most release of Vitamin D, when the sun is hotter is the best time.
In recent years, Vitamin D has been the subject of much media attention. Vitamin D is a hormone, and is released as UVB rays from the Sun hit the skin. The body is programmed to produce Vitamin D by exposure to sunlight, and so I am hesitant to prescribe in the summer. Vit D should be sufficient as we should be getting outside. However, in the winter during darker months, Vitamin D is an extremely beneficial and necessary supplement, especially living in the North West.
What does Vitamin D actually help? Vitamin D is essential to optimal health. North of the Equator the occurrence of cancers are higher as well as cases of Multiple Sclerosis. One key difference from the equator to up north is lack of Vitamin D exposure. Rates of some cancers and cases of Multiple Sclerosis are higher in the Northwest, due to darker weather and lack of Vitamin D. Researchers at the Moores Cancer Centre at the University of California, San Diego found that 600, 000 cancers could be prevented per year just by increasing Vitamin D levels. This unbelievable study would likely not be found in the media, as pharmaceutical companies cannot profit from recommending the sun.
Vitamin D is also beneficial for: optimal blood pressure; osteoporosis, healthy teeth and bones; diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease; rheumatoid arthritis and prevention of most autoimmune diseases; optimal cholesterol levels; healthy immune system. These are just a few of the many functions of Vitamin D in the body.
Researchers and scientists are now reporting that covering the body in sunscreen is more harmful than good. The sunscreens will block the release of Vitamin D preventing all of the cancer fighting benefits as well as the above-mentioned functions of Vitamin D. As I mentioned it is important to expose as much skin as possible daily, until the skin becomes pink. At that point you can return inside, or apply a natural sunscreen. Try to work your way up in small increments to thirty minutes per day without sunscreen; this recommendation is completely dependent on skin pigment. Fairer pigment may only get up to 5 minutes per day of sun exposure, and a darker pigment skin may be completely fine with 30 minutes per day. Never stay in the sun long enough to burn, pink skin is the goal.
We only have a few more weeks to benefit from this amazing sunshine vitamin so try to take advantage of it. In Vancouver, the majority of the year is spent in darker rainy days, indoors. For the remainder of the summer try to take advantage of backyards, family picnics and outings. The sun is not the enemy, it is even worshiped by some traditional cultures, it is beneficial for spiritual growth and it elevates the mood. One popular example would be for all you yogi's our there. Case in point the "Sun Salutation" routine! Lastly, the Sun helps to release Vitamin D; your body produces it; it is free; and the body knows exactly what to do with it. Enjoy it while you can! Happy Summer!
Dr.Neetu Dhiman, ND