The right way to get Vitamin D from the sun
According to studies, 70-90 per cent of Indians are deficient in Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a unique vitamin, which is made from the cholesterol in your skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Thus, it is said that it’s important to get enough sun for maintaining the optimal vitamin D levels (unless you take supplements).
But, too much exposure to sunlight also has its own set of health risks. Here in this article, we tell you the safe way to get maximum vitamin D from the sun.
Vitamin D and COVID-19
Studies have shown that optimal levels of vitamin D in the body help in keeping your immunity up and tight, which is of utmost importance in the present pandemic times. Low levels of vitamin D lowers your immunity and is linked with various health conditions including osteoporosis, cancer, depression, muscle weakness and even death.
Vitamin D rich foods
In addition to this, there are only a handful of foods that have a significant amount of vitamin D. The list includes cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon, canned tuna, beef liver, egg yolks and sardines.
To get enough vitamin D, one needs to eat some of these foods daily. If your diet does not provide you with enough vitamin D, it is recommended to take vitamin D supplements and get some sun to maintain the optimal levels in the body.
There is a reason why vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin. Getting exposed to the sun is the most natural way to get vitamin D. Here are 3 things you should do to safely get the maximum vitamin D from the sun.
Also read: Importance of Vitamin-C, then & now
The best time to be out in the Sun
The best time to soak yourself in the sun to get the maximum vitamin D is between 10 am to 3 pm. At this time, the UVB rays are intense and it is also said that the body is more efficient in making vitamin D at this time.
This time is also considered safer for getting exposed to the sun as it is said that getting the sun during the later part of the days also increases the risk of certain types of cancer.
The body parts to expose in sun to get more vitamin D
Vitamin D is made from cholesterol in the skin, which means one needs to expose lots of skin to sunlight to get enough vitamin D.
Expose your arms, legs, back and abdomen to get more vitamin D. Do not forget to expose your back as it allows your body to produce the maximum vitamin D.
You can choose to wear a tank top and shorts. You must wear your hat and goggles to protect your face and eyes.
How long should you spend in the sun to get enough vitamin D?
According to the Vitamin D Council, people with light colour skin need around 15 minutes in the sun, while people with dark colour skin might need an hour or more.
How skin colour can affect vitamin D production in the body
The colour of our skin is determined by a pigment called melanin. People with darker skin have more melanin as compared to people who have lighter skin.
Melanin acts as a protector that saves your skin from the excess sunlight. It’s like a natural sunscreen barrier that absorbs the UV rays and defends the skin against sunburn and skin cancers.
But this also means that people with dark skin colour need to spend longer hours in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D that people with lighter skin can produce in less time.
This also makes people with dark skin colour more prone to be deficient in Vitamin D.
Can sunscreen affect vitamin D levels?
We use sunscreen to protect our skin against skin cancers and sunburns. Sunscreen has chemicals that either reflect, absorb or scatter sunlight. When this happens, the skin is exposed to lower levels of the harmful UVB rays.
But UVB rays are important for making vitamin D and sunscreen can stop the skin from producing sunlight. Studies show that sunscreen with SPF 30 or more reduces vitamin D production in the body by 95-98 per cent. So, if you are wearing sunscreen, you might have to spend long hours in the sunlight for your skin to produce enough vitamin D.
Harmful effects of too much sunlight
Though sunlight is a great source of vitamin D, too much sun can be dangerous for your skin. Here are some consequences of getting exposed to too much sunlight.
Sunburns – This is one of the most common side effects of too much sunlight. Symptoms of sunburn include redness, swelling, pain, tenderness or blisters on the skin.
Eye damage – Too much exposure to UVB rays can damage the retina, which can increase the risk of cataracts.
Ageing skin – Spending too much time in the sun can cause your skin to age faster. Some people develop wrinkles and their skin becomes loose and leathery.
Heatstroke – Heatstroke also called sunstroke is a condition in which the body’s core temperature rises due to too much sun exposure.
Skin cancer – Too much UVB light is a major cause of types of skin cancers.
Regular sun exposure is the most natural way to get enough vitamin D. But do not expose yourself too much and cover dark colour glasses to avoid eye damage.
If your profession requires you to be in the sun for longer hours, apply sunscreen.
Note: Sun’s UVB rays cannot penetrate through the window. So, people who sit next to sunny windows do not get vitamin D from the sun, contrary to what they believe.