One of the first scientific concepts my now three year old son was able to understand is that when we’re outside in the sunshine, we’re getting Vitamin D. Now, sometimes when we’re outside and the sun is shining in his eyes (which he hates), he’ll say, “Go away sun! I don’t want any Vitamin D!”
We know that the sun gives us Vitamin D, yet at the same time, we’re strongly warned about the dangers of sun exposure. It’s a proven fact that over exposure to harmful UVA rays increases your chances of skin cancer. And I have memories of my mother frantically applying and re-applying sun block to my entire body just about every time we went to the beach or a pool party. In my first year of being a parent, I used to instinctively worry about my son being in the sun and always smothered him in sun block too.
My worries about the sun faded away though when I read several articles about new (new to me) information we now have regarding sun exposure and Vitamin D.
The information found here should not be a substitute for seeking the advice of a medical professional before beginning any lifestyle change or taking supplements. This post contains affiliate links and you can read the full affiliate disclosure here.
Vitamin D Benefits
As of today, we have evidence that the benefits of regular, safe sun exposure outweigh the dangers! It’s not yet common knowledge, but getting adequate Vitamin D from the sun decreases your risk of cancer (over 16 types) by 60%, reduces your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 Diabetes, macular degeneration and even more than that!
Most of us don’t know these things because we’re still hearing from our parents, other moms and sunscreen ads that the sun is damaging to the skin, causes wrinkles and is the culprit of skin cancer. But what we’re not hearing and reading and seeing on advertisements is that there is a safe way to be in the sun (that doesn’t involve sunscreen) and that getting regular sunlight is critical to your health! Just take a look at what Vitamin D can do for you!
Incredible benefits of Vitamin D include:
- helps to treat pneumonia, colds, flu, tuberculosis
- help to control seizures
- helps protect against more than 16 types of cancers
- helps to manage weight
- ensures strong, healthy bones by absorbing calcium
- helps to manage mood and energy
- improves fertility
- and a lot more!
I was excited to learn that you can get your Vitamin D level checked with an at-home test kit! Start here to order your Kit from EverlyWell.
I personally had never heard about these benefits and that’s why I’m sharing this with my readers. Even though we have research proving safe sun exposure is a necessity, the sun is still being depicted as a serious threat from which we must protect our children. But we need to understand the truth about the sun. And the truth is, it’s the only sure-fire way to get Vitamin D into our bodies. And Vitamin D is a critical vitamin in preventing most of the health conditions that are on the rise today! But the next benefit of sun exposure is really going to blow your mind!
Vitamin D Protects Against Sunburn
It’s an ironic concept, but scientists have found that having adequate levels of Vitamin D actually protects you from getting sunburned (skin cancers are linked to skin damage from burns). And the primary way they advise getting Vitamin D is by being regularly exposed to sunlight. Unprotected.
Dr. Mercola, a physician who specializes in nutrition, clarifies in his articles that it’s the UVB rays from the sun that help to synthesize Vitamin D, and that being outside between 10am and 2pm is the prime time to get UVB exposure. He goes on to explain that UVA is the more harmful type and it dominates in the morning and late afternoon.
Vitamin D Deficiency
American researchers have reported that it appears nearly 85% of Americans are Vitamin D deficient. For seniors the number is 10% higher! That means, those with deficiencies are more likely to suffer from any or all of the major health issues named above!
Vitamin D deficiency is more prevalent in people with darker pigmented skin and therefore require longer sun exposure and/or supplementation in order to reach adequate levels of Vitamin D.
Sunscreen Blocks the Sun & Vitamin D!
Whenever you’ve chosen a sunscreen, did you look for one that blocks both UVA and UVB rays? I know I did! As it turns out, that’s a bad call, actually promoting Vitamin D deficiency! So if you think your kids can still get Vitamin D while wearing sunblock, think again!
Not only do most sunscreens block Vitamin D, the ones our parent used to put on us (that are still the most popular) are loaded with toxic chemicals that are themselves linked to pretty bad health issues. Check out what the FDA recently said about those bad ingredients after reading this post.
According to Dr. Mercola and other health experts, mineral-based sunscreens are the way to go. They don’t contain the harmful ingredients in “regular”, chemical sunscreens and they allow more UVB light in to promote Vitamin D synthesis. My family uses Babyganics Sunscreen but only for extended sun exposure. (It does block both UVA and UVB) Other mineral sunscreens are listed here.
Don’t Wash Away That Vitamin D!
Interestingly, Vitamin D synthesis is sort of drawn out process and it takes many hours before it gets absorbed through the skin and into your body and bloodstream. That’s why Dr. Mercola warns sun bathers not to shower too quickly afterwards. There isn’t a magic number though for how many hours to wait before showering after sunbathing so we at least wait until right before bed (or the next day if we didn’t get too dirty).
Getting Vitamin D In the Winter
Again, scientists say the best way to get Vitamin D is from regular, unprotected sun exposure to large parts of the body (not just face and hands). Obviously though, in the winter most of us aren’t outside regularly and this is the time when finding a good Vitamin D3 supplement is necessary.
When it comes to supplementing Vitamin D, Dr. Mercola and others recommend specifically Vitamin D3 and not D2. They also suggest supplementing Vitamin K2 at the same time, so as to keep the appropriate balance of calcium in the blood and body.
Vitamin D Overdosing and Side Effects
Incredibly, your body will not allow you to overdose on Vitamin D synthesized from the sun. But when it comes to supplements you’ll want to be careful not to exceed the recommended dosage because it is possible to overdose on Vitamin D supplements. The side effects and symptoms of Vitamin D overdose are:
- Nausea, vomiting
- Dehydration and increased thirst
- Abnormalities in heart rhythm
Additionally, because Vitamin D increases calcium absorption, too much Vitamin D brings too much calcium into the blood, causing hardening of the arteries. These side effects are serious enough that health experts recommend testing your Vitamin D levels before turning to supplementation.
Test Your Vitamin D Levels At Home
Thanks to the advancement of technology, there are now more convenient ways of measuring our health without even leaving our home. I personally love tests I can do at home using trusted labs that allow me to mail in samples and receive the results online or by mail. I don’t have to take my two toddlers into germ-infested doctors offices where we’ll wait a ridiculous amount of time just to have a simple test performed!
For Vitamin D testing I ordered at home kits from EverlyWell. One quick finger prick and you’re done! In a matter of days you’ll get your test results with a detailed explanation and suggestions from a real physician!
Although your results will be explained to you when you test through EverlyWell, you can also refer back to this chart below to understand your Vitamin D blood level reading. These ranges are per Dr. Mercola’s website and may differ slightly from the ranges given elsewhere.
|Optimal Range||Deficient||Levels for Treating|
Cancer & Heart
|50-70 ng/mL||<50 ng/mL||70-100 ng/mL||>100 ng/mL|
What To Do After Testing Your Vitamin D levels
Once you know what your Vitamin D levels are, you can make the necessary changes to reach optimal levels. That may entail trying to get outside in the sunlight during peak UVB times (10-2) or supplementing with a good Vitamin D3 supplement or stopping supplementation if your levels are reaching excess amounts.
How Much Vitamin D Should You Take?
I think it’s important to reiterate that doctors advise having routine blood testing done to monitor your levels of Vitamin D, especially if you’re supplementing. Regularly checking where you’re at will keep you from toxicity levels and experiencing any Vitamin D overdose side effects. Better to be safe and spend a little extra than be really sorry with serious side effects!
Assuming you’ve tested your levels and need to supplement Vitamin D, this is the recommended daily dose:
|Under 5 years old||35 Units/Day|
|5-10 years old||2,500 Units/Day|
|11 years old and above||5,000 Units/Day|
|Pregnant Women||8,000 Units/Day|
Remember to take Vitamin K2 when taking Vitamin D3 supplements in order to deliver calcium to the bones and prevent it building up in arteries. See references below for more on that topic.
My family takes Dr. Mercola’s Vitamin D3 + K2 supplement from Vitacost. They have the best prices, almost always have great discounts going on plus free shipping (in the US).
I am not a medical doctor and as always, encourage you to discuss all of what you’ve read here with your primary medical care professional before following any suggestions made here.
The Take Away!
- Vitamin D is crucial for fighting off disease, building the immune system and preventing many cancers.
- Get regular sun exposure-without a sunblock-in peak UVB times between 10am and 2pm to get the most Vitamin D.
- Don’t shower immediately after sun bathing!
- You can’t overdose on Vitamin D from sunshine!
- Use Mineral based sunscreens for extended sun exposure (preferably without UVB protection).
- Test your Vitamin D levels routinely, especially when supplementing.
- Take Vitamin D3 with K2!
Vitamin D Facts from Mercola.com