The Sunshine Vitamin
By Kathy Smith, creator of
From the Million Dollar Body Club - Join Today and Workout to
noticed that vitamin D is getting a lot of attention lately? According to
recent reports it may help protect us from certain kinds of cancers (such as
breast cancer and prostate cancer). It can also help us to build and maintain
strong bones and muscles plus provide a lot of other health benefits. It's no
wonder that I am getting a lot of questions about this hot "new"
I once gave a
speed-walking workshop to a group of women in their mid-forties who were
training for a 5K. One of the women walked regularly for exercise and she
always made sure she was covered in sunscreen and clothing. She avoided the sun
at all costs, because she was worried about skin cancer. She kept getting colds
and having aches and pains. When I suggested she check with her doctor, she
found out something really surprising. She had a severe vitamin D deficiency.
She got a prescription for getting her vitamin D from natural sunlight.
She started walking early in the
morning or later in the afternoon or early evening, when there was low
sunlight, and she didn't put sunscreen on her hands or face for her 45-minute
walks. She wore sunscreen for the rest of her day.
two months, her vitamin D had increased to a healthy level and her mood and
immune system improved dramatically. Within six months her bone density had
also improved and her aches and pains had gone away. When we don't get enough
vitamin D, our bones get weakened and so do the muscles that support them. She
also discovered that she had lost her tendency to catch colds.
Vitamin D and
But here's something I bet you didn't know: vitamin D isn't
really a vitamin. It's a hormone. That's right. What's the difference? Vitamin
D is manufactured in the body and that makes it a hormone. Vitamins by
definition are not manufactured in the body and must be obtained from food.
When I tell my friends this, they always ask the same logical question. Why all
this discussion? Why not just let my body make the vitamin D it needs?
The answer is pretty surprising. Did
you know that vitamin D, like so many other hormones in the body, is
manufactured from cholesterol? When your skin is exposed to sunshine, the
cholesterol in your skin is converted to vitamin D.
But here's the dilemma. Just about every person in America
believes incorrectly, I might add that cholesterol is a toxic substance that
causes heart attacks. And so millions of us are taking a medication to block
our body's ability to synthesize cholesterol. The odds are pretty good that, as
a result, we don't have enough vitamin D.
of us also believe that sunshine is a bad thing that causes skin cancer, so we
make sure that we cover ourselves with strong sunblock. As a result, sunlight
never touches our skin, and you guessed it, we don't convert cholesterol into
Best time to soak up the
can we do? If you expose your face and hands to sunlight without sunscreen for
about 20 minutes three to five times per week for four to five months per year,
you probably will get enough UVB rays to keep your bone mass intact, because
your body has the ability to stockpile vitamin D for use during low-sunlight
times. Mother Nature is amazing. Early-morning or late-afternoon sun exposure
is the safest.
I love taking an early morning walk at least four mornings per
week, or I try for the late afternoon or early evening when there is still some
sunlight and the risk of overexposure is very small. I always wear sunscreen
when I'm not getting my natural dose of vitamin D. Another easy way to get some
vitamin D time is rolling down the window in your car as you drive, or even
opening the windows in your home.
When you can't get enough sunlight, if
you're under 65, you should take 400 to 800 IU per day. People over 65 should
take 800 to 1200 IU per day unless they have a known sensitivity to it.
Remember that many very common drugs actually increase sun sensitivity and will
therefore increase your chances for getting a sunburn if you stay out too long.
It's always best to check with your pharmacist.
Good food sources of vitamin D are
liver, cod liver oil, and egg yolks. But the most reliable way to get your
daily dose of vitamin D is sunshine. Have you had your sunshine today?