Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Sunshine Pill

Me enjoying the desert sun in Oman. January 2013
Vitamin D is a wonderful part of the nutritional makeup that we need to consume to allow our bodies to be healthy. It helps us to absorb calcium and phosphorus making bones strong. Vitamin D can also help increase our brain activity as well as help boost our immune systems, as well as helping with Seasonal Affective Disorder. It's a great little number and we get it from the sun! It's one that we need to take a look at before we get into the subject of our next blog, which will be Sunscreens.

In 2010 there was an outcry in the papers: Children in the U.K were suffering from Rickets, and in truth they still are. A simple Google search will show you how widespread it is and the concern that many have about its link with the lack of Vitamin D today as the problem of Rickets is linked to Vitamin D uptake in children's developing bones. Kids need quite a bit of it to make sure that they are developing well and growing steadily. The issues that were headlined were that children are indoors too much and they need to be outside, but personally, I think there is more to this than the fact that they like spending time on Facebook!

The truth of the matter is that there are two massive factors going on in England at the moment which conflict with each other. The first being the weather and the fact that it has rained, or we have had to put up with cloud cover, for about 18 months. The second factor is that we are being told that we have to wear a sunscreen to protect against skin cancer and premature aging.

The research paper that the NHS based it's comments on about the increase in Rickets was useful as it was the same paper that the Newspapers talked about in 2010. It basically stated that in the U.K in 2010 half of the adult population had a decreased amount of healthy levels of Vitamin D in the body, which is a massive number. But it also stated that due to the position the U.K has on the globe, (i.e north of the tropics), children should get three, thirty minute bouts of U.K noonday sun to make sure they get enough Vitamin D into their bodies through the sun. Basically,  a healthy tan on the forearms is no bad thing!

So, we have cloud cover and marketing. Yes, we need to protect the skin against UVA and UVB sun rays to help stop skin cancer and premature aging. However, I would argue that in the U.K it is probably safe to have lunch outside and enjoy the sun as long as you are sensible with your sunscreen.

If we are are not able to get enough sun, then how can we get the right amounts of Vitamin D? Most of
the time I would say that a health balanced diet, including oily fish such as Salmon, should give you enough Vitamin D to function properly. You can also find it in eggs and fortified cereal, but at the moment that may not be enough. I would advise that a chat to your family doctor or your pharmacist would be a great idea to see if a daily supplement could help boost your levels. (Remember, always get the right supplement for your age as children should never be given an adult amount.)

Protecting your skin is always personal to you as you know how long it takes for you to burn in the sun. But make sure you are not using too much! An SPF 20 whilst sitting in the garden or the park at lunch on a gentle summers day in England may be enough for you, whilst an SPF 50 could be going overboard.

On the other hand, if you work outside you may want to wear SPF 50 as you are out in the weather all day everyday and you need a constant amount of protection. You will get enough sunshine through the sunscreen filters over a day long period if you apply it correctly.

No sun can be as bad as too little sun. I encourage you to think for your own skin, rather than fall for marketing and scar-tactics in the magazines and papers, (on both sides of the argument), and work out how much you protect your skin on a daily basis.

As for me, I'm sitting in the shade in Sardinia with an SPF 50 in my face, neck and shoulders and an SPF 30 everywhere else!

Enjoy your day, where-ever you are, and I look forward to writing to you soon.

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