Whether you are a health fanatic or not, there’s no getting away from the fact that Vitamin D is vital for good health in so many different ways, especially your bones. But the tricky thing about this vitamin is that you need direct access to the sun for a certain period of time every day to really harness the power and benefits of its health boosting effects. While there are other ways of getting Vitamin D, the sun remains prime. And conversely, along with that rule is the harm that too much sun can do.
As the days grow longer, the summer presents great temptation to sunbathe, and make the best of this warmer time to naturally boost Vitamin D levels. While this essential nutrient plays a crucial role in building bone health, immune system support, and mood regulation, it’s essential to bask safely to avoid the risks associated with excessive sun exposure.
Understanding Vitamin D and staying safe
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that the body produces when exposed to sunlight, specifically ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. This sunshine vitamin plays a pivotal role in calcium absorption, promoting bone health, and supporting the immune system. Additionally, emerging research suggests that Vitamin D may have a role in preventing chronic diseases and maintaining overall wellbeing.
- Know your skin type
Different skin types respond differently to sun exposure. Individuals with fair skin are more prone to sunburn and may produce Vitamin D more quickly than those with darker skin tones. Understanding your skin type helps in determining the optimal sun exposure duration. Prioritise your well-being this summer by embracing the sun responsibly and nourishing your body with the essential nutrients it needs.
- Time matters
The sun is most potent for Vitamin D synthesis during midday. Aim for short periods of sun exposure between 10 am and 2 pm to maximise Vitamin D production. It’s best to expose larger skin areas, such as arms, legs, and the back. Start with shorter periods of sun exposure and gradually increase the duration to allow your skin to adapt and minimise the risk of sunburn.
- Use sunscreen wisely
It’s important to note that while sunscreen is crucial for protecting against harmful UV rays, it can also inhibit Vitamin D synthesis. Consider applying sunscreen after an initial 10 – 15 minutes of sun exposure. Always remember prolonged exposure to the sun without protection can lead to sunburn and increase the risk of skin cancer. Sunscreen can help you to strike a balance between obtaining adequate Vitamin D and protecting your skin from harmful UV rays.
- Vitamin D through diet
While sunlight is the primary source of Vitamin D, incorporating foods rich in Vitamin D into your diet can provide additional support. Fatty fish, fortified dairy products, egg yolks, and mushrooms are excellent dietary sources.
If sun exposure is limited or if you have difficulty synthesising Vitamin D, supplements can be a valuable addition. Consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage for your individual needs.
- When out in the summer sun, protection is key
Wearing loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing that covers the skin can provide an additional layer of protection against the sun’s harmful effects. In addition, remember to stay hydrated. Always keep in mind that increased sun exposure can lead to dehydration. Ensure you drink plenty of water, especially during hot summer days.
- Regular skin checks
Getting enough Vitamin D is vital for your bones, but you need to keep tabs on the process. It sounds like a major chore, but performing regular skin checks to monitor for any changes, such as new moles or unusual spots, is crucial in preventing skin cancer.
Harnessing the summer sun to boost Vitamin D levels is a natural and effective way to support overall health. By understanding safe sun exposure practices, incorporating Vitamin D-rich foods into your diet, and considering supplements when necessary, you can strike a balance between reaping the benefits of Vitamin D and safeguarding your skin from potential harm.
Get warm. Get hot! But don’t get crispy. Love your bones!
NOFSA (National Osteoporosis Foundation South Africa)
NOFSA is the only non-profit, voluntary health organisation dedicated to promoting lifelong bone health. We focus on reducing the widespread prevalence of osteoporosis while working to find a cure for the disease, and by supporting research and developing programmes of education and advocacy.
Find out more about our work at: www.osteoporosis.org.za