Day 27 of 31-Day Series “Your Last Health Resolution”

This is our final week in this series.  We now move from Mind-Body Connection to the final element in the PRIMEpathway wellness model:  Essential Elements.  We’ll discuss sunshine, water, air and micronutrients.  We start with sunshine.  And we sure do need it up here in Minnesota.

Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine show those with the lowest vitamin D levels face double the risk of dying from heart disease and other degenerative disease.  Those with the highest levels face only half that risk.  The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study revealing similar conclusions.  The National Cancer Institute says laboratory studies and clinical trials point to a correlation between Vitamin D levels and the prevention of cancer.

Vitamin D production happens within the body through exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet B rays.  The body can produce up to 10,000 international units from 10 to 20 minutes of exposure (wearing shorts and tank top with no sunscreen).  However, anyone living north of Atlanta in the winter can’t experience that production.  The suns does not climb high enough in the sky to penetrate the atmosphere.  And most people don’t receive enough of the vitamin from beneficial foods such as fatty fish, fish oils, and eggs. 

As you age, your body produces even less vitamin D naturally.  This increases risk to a number of diseases, including osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate. 

What about the dangers of sun exposure?  Robyn Lucas, an epidemiologist at Australian National University, concludes in her published study: Far more lives are lost as a result of too little sun exposure than as a result of too much.   Experts worry that public health messaging has gone too far in advocating the use of sunscreen and other skin protection.  

So how much sunshine do you need?  It really depends on the pigmentation of your skin.  The darker your skin, the more sun exposure you will need.  Normally anywhere from 10 minutes for fair-skinned individuals to 20 minutes for those darker-skinned will provide a healthy benefit.  You may use skin protection, such as additional clothing or natural sunscreens, after that time.

Sunlight also provides additional benefits, such as protection against depression, insomnia, and immune system issues.

So with so much evidence emphasizing the importance of vitamin D and sun exposure, what should you do?  At Healthy To 100, we encourage our clients to do some of the following:

  • Increase your daily outdoor activity in the summer.  Enjoy 10 to 20 minutes of sunshine before applying any sunscreen or covering up.  Do some gardening or go for a walk after lunch on a daily basis.
  • In the winter, use a high quality supplement tested for purity and absorption into the bloodstream.  We recommend one meeting USP standards.  Take 2,000 IUs per day.
  • Consume fatty fish (like wild salmon).  It’s a great source of protein and Vitamin D.  In raw form, like sushi, it’s even better.
  • Supplement with a high quality fish oil, preferably one meeting USP standards.
  • Enjoy foods rich in vitamin D like eggs, mushrooms, and whole grain cereals.