Sunshine each day keeps the doctor away
Moving into the winter months it’s easy to cave into hibernation mode. When we spend less time outdoors our body misses out on vital nutrients, such as vitamin D, that we derive from spending time in the sun. According to the Medical Journal of Australia, 31% of Australian adults suffer from inadequate levels of vitamin D.
So what role does vitamin D play in our health?
Calcium absorption: Vitamin D is the nutrient responsible for controlling calcium levels in the body. Calcium is imperative for strong bones and teeth and it reduces the risk of osteopenia in adults and rickets in children. Our calcium intake isn’t solely dependent on the amount we consume through our diet. Without sufficient levels of vitamin D, our body’s ability to absorb it is reduced.
Muscles: Research suggests that vitamin D contributes to the growth and development of our muscles. If someone is vitamin D deficient they can experience decreased strength, muscle fatigue and muscle wasting.
Depression: There is a growing body of research that suggests a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression. While still in it’s early days, the research claims that vitamin D can help maintain melatonin levels, the body’s natural sleep and wake patterns, and increase the release of serotonin. While it should not be considered as a replacement for anti-depressant medications, spending a little time outdoors in the sun has been linked to improvements in mood.
Immunity: According to the Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology, vitamin D is crucial for activating the body’s immunity. It’s good to keep this in mind as we move into winter and our immune system becomes more vulnerable to sneezes and sniffles. Make a conscious effort to step outside for some sunshine. The resulting vitamin D may help to fight off infection and support healthy immune function.
Two questions you’re probably now asking…
Can we get our vitamin D through foods or a supplement? We’re told to slip slop slap and protect our skin from the sun’s rays not expose it, right? Both are fair questions… so here’s some food for thought.
Whilst we can obtain some vitamin D from our diet – fish liver oils, mushrooms, liver, butter, milk and egg yolk – they only provide about 5-10% of our daily needs. That’s not much. If you’re vitamin D deficient, supplements could help, but it’s vital that you don’t self medicate. Make sure you seek advice from a doctor (blood tests) and nutritionist or naturopath to ensure you get the right prescription for your needs.
And with regard to slip slop slap? It doesn’t take much to get the vitamin D you need from the sun. If you’re smart about the way you get it the risk of skin damage is minimal.
- 5-10 minutes each day in mid morning sun for fair skinned individuals
- 15-45 minutes each day mid morning or mid afternoon sun for olive or dark skinned individuals
Expose your forearms and a little extra skin here and there, whilst keeping the delicate skin of your face protected and you’re on the right path.
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