Everyone always talks about how they ‘just feel better in themselves’ after sitting in the sun for a bit. But why is this? Is it a natural self confidence boost from the newly developed sun tan, the airway benefits of fresh air or something deeper? Well the first 2 very likely are true to some extent, but the real reason is much deeper.
Why is sunlight important?
The reason exposure to sunlight is so important to us is because of something called Vitamin D, you can get vitamin D from foods such as egg yolks, oily fish and liver. But our bodies actually produce Vitamin D as well, with a little help from our friend the sunshine. The actual scientific explanation is that the Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays interact with a protein called 7-DHC in the skin, converting it into Vitamin D3 which is the active form of Vitamin D.
So now that we know sunlight is important to us because of it’s role in the production of Vitamin D, the next rational question is why is vitamin D important to us? The answer is Vitamin D plays a very important role in regulating the amounts of calcium and phosphate in the body, in turn this helps to keep bones, muscles and teeth all healthy. A deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to bone deformities in children and bone pain in adults. Some other more surprising benefits of Vitamin D are; it has been linked to reduced chance of developing heart disease, and even a reduced chance of developing the flu. My personal favourite benefit from Vitamin D is the link which researchers have found between vitamin D levels and depression and anxiety. So hopefully this is helping you see that the ‘feeling better’ feeling you get after being in the sun isn’t just in your head.
How much sunlight is needed?
This depends slightly on the person but 10-30 minutes of midday sun several days a week is quite a good guide. People with darker skin may need slightly more than this and people with fairer skin may need slightly less.
Does Sunscreen cause vitamin D deficiency?
This was a claim which was quite popular until relatively recently but as of 2019, 3 separate studies showed that sunscreen doesn’t reduce vitamin D in most people and it can also help to protect against skin cancer, so it is definitely worth putting it on!
When might a supplement be necessary?
Some people run a high risk of being Vitamin D deficient because they don’t eat foods high in vitamin D and aren’t in the sun very often. People who have jobs where they either work nights and so likely will be asleep during the times of peak sunshine or office workers who don’t get out much during the days, may find it beneficial to take a vitamin D supplement.
However, it is important to remember that Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin meaning it can be stored in the body and as such if you get adequate sunshine most days and eat foods which are high in vitamin D, then one or two days when you don’t get a chance to go out in the sun are nothing to worry about.
I hope this has helped to explain why getting some sunshine is so important for our health. During lockdown I think a lot of people when they started to struggle mentally stopped going outside and this is probably one of the worst things you can do not only for your mood but also for your all round health. The sun has natural healing properties and sometimes you just have to take some time and go sit out in it for 30 minutes and let it work its magic.
As always if you have any questions feel free to drop me a message.
Next week’s topic – “A calorie is a calorie”