How to get Vitamin D from sunlight safely: Overview
Of course there is a good reason why vitamin D is called the "sunshine vitamin" - because without it, the body can't make any. But for those of us who live in cloudy climates, this isn't always easy. So what can we do to get vitamin D from sunlight safely?
Learn how to get vitamin D from sunlight safely with the following tips that will teach you how to protect your eyes as well as your skin from blotches and sunburns. It's important to know these tips before spending time outdoors so that you're not doing any harm and optimizing your vitamin D intake!
- Avoid direct exposure during sunrise or sunset hours when UV rays are strongest (between 10 A.M - 4 P.M).
- Wear sunglasses that protect your eyes from UV rays as much as possible.
- Wear clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible.
- If you must go outside, then make sure to apply sunscreen before and after going outside. This will protect you from sunburns and squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer).
- Apply sunscreen generously, without slathering the product on. Rather, use a gentle touch when applying it so that you get a thin layer on the skin, avoiding your hair and face.
- When you go outside, don't stay for a long period of time.
- Watch out for the signs of sunburns: redness, pain and inflammation.
- Use a moisturizer with SPF15 or more after going outdoors so that your skin doesn't get dry.
If you're going to be spending 30 minutes outside or less in the day, then you might not need to apply sunscreen. In such a situation, your body can make enough vitamin D from sunlight exposure because it's not too harmful to your skin. However, if you're going to be spending more than that amount of time outdoors, then it's still best to apply sunscreen.
The threat of sunburns from too much sun exposure isn't to be taken lightly because they can cause skin tumors and blindness. So make sure that you apply sunscreen generously to protect your skin!
What are some tips for using sunscreen?
- Apply it liberally 15 minutes before going outside so that your body can get used to the new layer of protection on top of the old layer.
- When applying lotions and creams, use a squirt bottle or a pump bottle so that you don't have any streaks or blotches when applying it all over your body.
- Make sure to reapply sunscreen every few hours or so.
- Watch out for signs of sunburns and don't overdo it if you expect to be outside for longer than 30 minutes but less than a whole day.
- If you're going to be outdoors and sweating, don't forget to apply sunscreen on any exposed skin. This includes your neck, back, arms and hands as well as your face.
EDITED TO ADD:
Several readers have asked about the use of lotions with SPF50 or more that claim that they can be applied daily because they help prevent skin cancer even when not in the sun (i.e.: in cloudy weather). There are a lot of sunscreen lotions on the market that contain this ingredient. However, there is no evidence to prove that they do and a 2013 study concluded that daily use of SPF50+ sunscreens may not be effective in preventing skin cancer. For example, one year after applying twice daily for three months, there was no significant difference in the number of new cases of squamous cell carcinoma. Also, studies have shown that in many cases, people develop more skin cancers under the areas where they applied sunscreen regularly while they were not exposed to the sun at all or when they were not using sunscreen at all.
So while the SPF50+ lotions may not protect well against skin cancer even in the sun, this is still a good thing because you'd have to repeatedly go outside and expose yourself to sunlight without sunscreen anyway if you want it to work.
Alternative ways to get Vitamin D
The next tip is actually a joke but I thought it would be an interesting point nonetheless. There are lots of ways of getting vitamin D besides going outside, such as:
- Taking oral supplements like vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) pills or Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) tablets.
- Using a nasal spray that creates vitamin D3 locally in the nose.
- Using a skin patch with vitamin D.
If all else fails and you're stuck in a place where you're not going to get any sunlight or not able to get out of the house because of your job, then these are good options. However, they won't be as effective as getting out in the sun itself — and they may have some side effects like smelling like fish.
How much Vitamin D do we need?
There's always confusion about how much vitamin D we need on a daily basis. Some people will say that we only need 400 IU while others will say that we should take several times that amount.
These numbers are sort of based on the fact that it takes just a few minutes of sun exposure to produce vitamin D but in reality, we need more than 2,000 IU per day to maintain a normal level of vitamin D in our system. "Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is produced naturally in your body during sunlight exposure. However, this varies depending upon the season and geographical region."
For those who eat certain types of foods, like dairy foods and eggs, then they absorb more vitamin D from them as well. Some people are also more prone to sun-damage and may need to take higher amounts of vitamin D so that their skin can produce enough vitamin D on its own. Therefore, your vitamin D need depends on a number of factors.
There are a lot of supplements out there that contain very high levels of vitamin D in them — such as 5000 IU or more — so it's really important to be careful when using these types of supplements (especially if you're taking any prescription medications). You should always see your doctor first before taking supplements.
Also, be sure to check out this article for more information about how much vitamin D you need. If you're living far from the equator and going outside is not an option, then make sure to check out this article titled "What Are the Benefits of Supplementing Vitamin D?"
How do I know if I have a deficiency?
The best way to know if you have a deficiency is to get tested first. Most doctors will prescribe blood tests or something similar that can determine your exact levels of vitamin D in your body. There are also other symptoms as well which can indicate whether or not you have a deficiency such as:
- Fatigue, weakness and muscle pain: This can be caused by low vitamin D levels in the blood because vitamin D helps to keep calcium in your bones.
- Muscle weakness and bone pain: This can also be caused by low vitamin D levels in the blood.
- Hypoglycemia: A deficiency of vitamin D can lead to low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, which is when your body doesn't have enough sugar to function properly.
- Gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea: This is most likely caused by a lack of vitamin D because it helps with absorption of calcium and phosphorus from food.
- Headaches: These are typically caused by low vitamin D levels in the blood, which eventually leads to poor circulation throughout the body.
- Low blood pressure: This can be caused by a lack of vitamin D in the blood.
- Constipation and irregular bowel movements: This type of health problem is caused by a lack of vitamin D because it helps with proper absorption of calcium and phosphorus from food.
If you have any of these health problems and don't know what's causing them, then you may want to consider talking to your doctor about getting tested for any deficiencies.
- Low levels of potassium in the blood: This can be caused by taking too much vitamin D3 or by getting less than enough potassium in your diet. You can get more information about that here .
- Kidneys that do not function properly: This can be caused by impaired kidney function, which can be caused by taking too much vitamin D, obesity, low levels of potassium in the blood and dehydration.
- Liver problems and high levels of fat in the blood: These could both be caused by taking too much vitamin D.
You should always talk to your doctor before taking a supplement or medication if you're concerned about any side effects. "A deficiency has been linked to reduced bone mineral density but is not considered a major health risk unless it is accompanied by other conditions. Taking too much vitamin D can lead to toxicity. Therefore, it is advised to get daily vitamin D through sun exposure and food rather than supplements."
Other tips to reduce your risk of cancer
Before I go, let me give you just a few other tips that I've uncovered during my research so that you can reduce your risk of skin cancer and other types of cancers as well. Some of these you may already know but it's good to go over them again:
- Wear sunscreen. Regardless of whether or not SPF50+ sunscreen protects against skin cancer, they still protect against sunburns and aging caused by the sun. - Try to stay out of the sun during the afternoon when the sun is at its hottest. This can be a bit hard for those who work outside all day but you should rotate in your breaks so that you're spending time in the shade during key times of the day. - Sun protection clothing is an excellent way to protect your skin even when you're working outside. You can find this type of clothing on Amazon or any place that sells outdoor products such as REI, Cabela's or Bass Pro Shop. - Check yourself regularly for any new moles or changes in existing moles and see a doctor if you notice any changes. Even if you don't think it's cancer, you should still see a doctor and have it checked out anyways. - Educate yourself on skin cancer and sun safety. There's plenty of information out there that can help you stay safe and protect your skin in various ways. After all, you may want to share this article with your family or friends at some point so they know what they need to do to protect their skin as well.
- Take care of your digestive system as well. I've also dedicated an entire article to how important a good digestive system is for overall health and well being ; however, I'll include a few tips here that are important for staying healthy in general as well.
- Eat plenty of foods rich in fiber, like nuts and seeds. Fiber helps to keep your digestive system functioning properly and can help to prevent constipation, diverticular disease, hemorrhoids and appendicitis. - Avoid processed foods or foods that contain a lot of preservatives. This will help you keep your digestive system healthy as well as reducing your risk for colon cancer . - Drink at least 2 liters of water every single day. Staying hydrated is very important for overall health. It helps to flush toxins from the body, keeps your skin looking healthy and helps to prevent any type of dehydration (which can lead to headaches). - Try to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables every day . This will ensure that you're getting plenty of vitamins and minerals as well as great antioxidants that help protect you against cancer. - Avoid alcohol and smoking. These two things can affect your overall health in a negative way, increasing your risk for heart disease, strokes and even certain types of cancers .
- Take care of yourself in general - sleep enough, exercise regularly , eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water on a regular basis. This will keep your body functioning properly so that it can heal itself when the time comes. I've dedicated an entire article to how important rest is for good health, so be sure to check it out here (this article is on this website as well). Sleeping more will help your body to process all of the food you eat and drink and it will also reduce your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases, obesity and osteoporosis . Exercising regularly will strengthen your muscles so that they can better protect themselves from disease and injury. It'll also help you to have more energy on a daily basis so that you're ready for anything when it comes. Eating healthy foods will ensure that you keep your digestive system functioning properly so that it doesn't become overburdened with toxic materials. Drinking plenty of water every day can help to keep your skin looking young and healthy as well as flushing out toxins from the body to prevent any future health problems.
- Stay positive and be happy. I know it sounds cliché but research has shown repeatedly that stress and anxiety can greatly increase your risk for cancer. I've dedicated a whole article to why stress can cause cancer so you should check it out here . So, make sure to stay positive, have fun and enjoy your time on this earth because you never know when it will be taken away from you by something you don't even suspect!
Thanks again for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please be sure to share it with anyone who might benefit from the information provided.