Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Breathe Strategy - The Sunshine Vitamin

As I have been thinking about recovering from my recent relapse, I felt inspired to seek more light in my life.  I started last week by doing my morning reading and writing in the room in my house that gets the first light of the day.  Living in the Seattle area definitely presents problems in trying to get enough natural light and lately it has been worse than usual.  We received twice the normal amount of rain in the month of May, and June seems to following in May's footsteps.

Last week I had a friend come over and she had color (Washington skin rarely gets to see the sun, so it is unusual) and I just had to ask how she got it.  She told me that her doctor said she was low in Vitamin D, that she needed to get more UVB rays.  He even suggested going tanning just 10-15 minutes no more than twice a week.  I thought that was very interesting, so I decided it was time to do some research on the Sunshine Vitamin.

Dr. Michael Roizen said this about getting sunlight, "[G]etting safe sun can do your body good. Getting 10 to 20 minutes of sun exposure every day helps you convert some forms of inactive vitamin D into a precursor that becomes active vitamin D-which has a huge beneficial effect on your cardiovascular and immune systems. . . . But you have to limit the time you're exposed to protect yourself from skin cancer as well as wrinkling. Doing both-getting the right amount of sunshine but not too much-can make you up to 1.7 years younger."

Well, looking younger is always a bonus, but I wanted to know how sunshine, or lack of, affects our moods as well as nutrition.  I found a couple of great articles, this one I found on About.com:

"Your body makes vitamin D when you are exposed to the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays in sunlight. You probably need from 5 to 30 minutes of exposure to the skin on your face, arms, back or legs (without sunscreen) twice every week. Since exposure to sunlight is a risk for skin cancer, you should use sunscreen after a few minutes in the sun and even in the winter and on hazy, cloudy days.  The amount of exposure also depends on the time of the year. In the northern hemisphere, the UVB is more intense during the summer months and less intense during the winter months. In fact, if you live north of the 42-degrees latitude, you will have a difficult time getting enough vitamin D from the sun from November through February. If you live north of a line drawn on a map from the northern border of California to Boston, Massachusetts, you will probably need additional vitamin D from the foods you eat during the winter.  The intensity of UVB rays is also reduced by clouds, pollution and UVB will not travel through glass, so sitting next to a window will not give you enough sunlight to make vitamin D."

Well, maybe sitting by the window getting the first morning light hasn't been getting me direct Vitamin D, but I have been feeling better since I started doing it, so the light is helping in some way.  How important is sunshine, well in usnews.com I found an article written by Deborah Kotz where she reports on recent medical findings.

"Coinciding with the first week of summer, a study published today underscores the importance of getting adequate amounts of sunlight for its vitamin D-boosting benefits. The research, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, shows that those with the lowest vitamin D levels have more than double the risk of dying from heart disease and other causes over an eight-year period compared with those with the highest vitamin D levels. . . .  Click here to find out more!In the winter, it's impossible to produce vitamin D from the sun if you live north of Atlanta because the sun never gets high enough in the sky for its ultraviolet B rays to penetrate the atmosphere. But summer is a great time to stock up on the nutrient. . . .  The government's dietary recommendations are 200 IUs a day. . . .  But many experts believe that these recommendations are far too low to maintain healthful vitamin D levels. They advocate for supplementation in the winter of about 2,000 IUs per day and a dose of daily sunshine in the summer.  The sunshine vitamin may protect against a host of diseases, including osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancers of the breast, prostate, and colon. What's more, sunlight has other hidden benefits—like protecting against depression, insomnia, and an overactive immune system."

So maybe I won't get enough UVB sitting by the window, but on those rainy Seattle days, it will have to do.  And when the rain stops, I'll be outside absorbing the Sunshine Vitamin storing it for a rainy day.

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