In part one of this series on Vitamin D, Dr. Frank addresses the epidemic of vitamin D deficiency: 30 to 100 percent of Americans don’t get enough of this crucial hormone. This deficiency can play a role in almost every major disease including 17 kinds of cancer, MS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. He explains that since only about 10 percent of vitamin D comes from diet, the two best sources are the sun and supplements. In part two, Dr. Frank advises us on how to tell if we are vitamin D deficient. In this post, Dr. Frank addresses vitamin D toxicity, tanning beds and more.
My Doctor told me to avoid the sun, what do you think?
There is an old Italian saying “Where the sun does not go the doctor does.”
For about the last 25 years, doctors (dermatologists in particular) have demonized sun exposure and repeatedly told us it is bad for you and causes cancer. But is that true? In the last few years, numerous studies have shown that modest exposure to sunlight may actually be good for you, helping the body produce the vitamin D it needs to keep bones healthy and protect against cancer, including skin cancer. Though repeated sunburns–in children and very fair-skinned people–have been linked to melanoma, there is no credible scientific evidence that moderate sun exposure causes it. Since it’s almost impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from food alone (including fortified milk and fatty wild fish), sun is your best source. I’m not suggesting you go bake in the sun with your suntan oil or go to tanning salons. But getting some sun without getting sunburned makes healthy sense. We evolved in the sun; we were made to get some sun, not to live our lives indoors and slather on sunscreen every time we go outside. If the sun is shining where you are today, get out and enjoy it, talk about a free natural treatment! All you need is a little common sense when heading outdoors, do it gradually and always avoid sunburn. Special Note: Remember to take antioxidants when you sit in the sun, as these can help prevent skin cells from sun damage.
How much sunshine do you need?
All living things need sun, the key is balance. Too much sun exposure can cause melanoma and skin aging, while too little creates an inadequate production of vitamin D. The amount needed depends on the season, time of day, where you live, skin pigmentation and other factors. As a general rule, if you are not vitamin D deficient, about 20 minutes a day in the spring, summer and fall on your face and arms or legs without sunscreen is adequate. It doesn’t matter which part of the body you expose to the sun. Many people want to protect their face, so just don’t put sunscreen on the other exposed parts for those 20 minutes.
If you live north of 37 degrees latitude (approximately a line drawn horizontally connecting Norfolk, Virginia to San Francisco, California) sunlight is not sufficient to create Vitamin D in your skin in the winter months, even if you are sitting in the sun in a bathing suit on a warm January day! The further you live from the equator, the longer exposure you need to the sun in order to generate vitamin D.
What about the use of tanning beds to get my vitamin D?
I tend not to recommend them because we don’t really know if they are safe. Because the light sources vary with different tanning beds, it makes them unpredictable and possibly unsafe. In addition, most commercial tanning beds emit an unknown amount of EMF and because one is so close to the actual bed, it may be an unnecessary high dose. Theoretically both these problems could be overcome, but in reality they usually are not.
Can I take cod liver oil to get my vitamin D?
Although Cod liver oil contains a fair amount of vitamin D, it also contains high amounts of vitamin A. Vitamin A antagonizes the action of vitamin D and can be toxic at high levels.
Next: What are food sources of vitamin D and what about vitamin D toxicity?