Have you ever wondered about what vitamins are and why they are important to us? Vitamins are molecules that are necessary for our body to function correctly and are not made by the body alone. Most vitamins have a role in our metabolism and many other bodily functions including boosting the immune system. Vitamins were first discovered in 1912 and led to a revolution in our understanding of nutrition.
While we get most of our vitamins through our daily food intake, vitamin D is a little different. Vitamin D does not show up widely in dietary staples – while it can be found in beef liver, egg yolk and some fatty fish, it isn’t available naturally from vegetables or fruits where many other vitamins are sourced. Unlike other vitamins, the most available natural source for vitamin D is, oddly enough, sunlight.
Sunlight and Vitamin D
The synthesis of vitamin D from sunlight seems almost alchemical. There are three types of ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun called UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC rays are blocked from reaching Earth’s surface by our atmosphere, and UVA represents 95% of the ultraviolet radiation affecting humans. The category in between these two, UVB, is perhaps both the most beneficial and the most harmful type of UV radiation. On one hand, UVB reacts with cholesterol in our skin to initiate the creation of vitamin D3 in the body. On the other hand, UVB is responsible for most sunburns and many types of skin cancer.
Your Body and Vitamin D
Without sufficient vitamin D, many health issues can arise in the body. Symptoms of low vitamin D include fatigue, bone pain, concentration and digestive problems as well as muscle weakness. Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to weak or misshapen bones. Without vitamin D the human body becomes more vulnerable to chronic diseases like cardiovascular issues, osteoporosis and even some forms of cancer. Maintaining healthy vitamin D levels is good for your health on every level.
For most adults, vitamin D intake should be in the range of 800-2000 IU (International Units). Using sun exposure to generate most of the body’s vitamin D is usually likened to 10-15 minutes of unprotected exposure to full sun around 2-3 times a week in minimal clothing, such as a swimsuit.
However, sourcing most of your vitamin D from the sun can be a health issue as well. Even short stints in full sun can produce damage on the level of your DNA. Unprotected sun exposure, especially to the intense midday sunlight we have here in Arizona, can lead to sunburns and skin cancer as well as wrinkles and skin aging. Because of the damage sun exposure can cause to unprotected skin, many dermatologists and other medical professionals advocate for getting appropriate amounts of vitamin D mostly through vitamin-fortified foods and dietary supplements.
Despite the role of UVB in vitamin D production, its converse role in skin damage means that the most balanced option for getting vitamin D will usually be through supplements and fortified foods rather than sunbathing. Skin protection like sunscreen focuses on limiting the UVB rays that can penetrate to the skin. Even low SPF sunscreen, such as SPF 15 still blocks over 90% of incoming UVB. Higher SPF ratings block out nearly all UVB, severely limiting vitamin D production in the skin.
Luckily, our body doesn’t have to build vitamin D in the skin for it to be effective. Vitamin D that is ingested through food sources, either naturally or through vitamin fortification, or received through supplements can all be effectively used in the body to keep you healthy. In central Arizona, that’s great news for those of us concerned about unprotected sun exposure.
At CC Sunscreens, we know firsthand how important sun protection can be. Our custom sunscreens block UV radiation and the sun’s heat from making its way into your home. Installing sunscreens on your home can cut your energy expenses drastically and make your Arizona home comfortable year-round. Sunscreens also block the damage the sun can mete out to your possessions. Unprotected sun exposure can fade and deteriorate surfaces and finishes. With summer right around the corner, the time to act on new sunscreens is now! Give us a call to find out more about what custom sunscreens can bring to your home!