Let The Sun Shine

The quick answer:  Enjoy the sunshine; it’s the best source of vitamin D.


In The Beginning . . .

I love the Genesis Creation story.  I find great lessons about nutrition—for this is where our food supply was created.  There are a great variety of plants and animals on our planet and people everywhere do quite well eating whatever is at hand.  The body is remarkable for how it can flourish on such a varied cornucopia. 

In the 20th Century man reinvented food—today food mainly comes in packages from factories.  Sadly, we are now learning that though man can flourish on many combinations of plants and animals, there is one form that doesn’t support a long, healthy life—the factory foods of the modern American diet.

You could state a guide to nutrition in two simple sentences:

  1. Eat food as close as practical to how it was created.
  2. Show reverence for the creatures that are part of our food.

“God saw the light, that it was good”

Aside from a diet of natural foods and regular exercise, the next best thing you can do for your health is get a little sunshine.  Light, when it was formed or created, was given a benediction, that “it was good.” 

Sunshine works on the cholesterol in our skin to form a new molecule that is acted upon by the liver and kidneys to become vitamin D.  More hormone than vitamin, “D” plays many beneficial roles.  There’s been a steady drumbeat in recent years of new discoveries about the benefits of vitamin D. 

There is wide deficiency and insufficiency of vitamin D.  Most people know their cholesterol number, and nearly all men know their PSA number, but very few know their serum vitamin D level.  Some feel we have this backwards—the best number to watch would be vitamin D.

Fear of Sunshine

The weatherman, when he foretells a sunny day, typically warns you to hide from the sun by covering up, staying out of the sun, or slathering on a sun block.  You've been told to fear the sun.  We have an excellent dermatologist and she has it right—get a little sunshine, fifteen minutes on each side is plenty, but don’t get burned. 

The Vitamin D Solution

The best book I’ve seen on vitamin D is The Vitamin D Solution, written by Dr. Michael Holick, PhD, MD.  Holick suggests a 3-step solution of 1) testing, to know where you are, 2) sensible sunshine, and 3) safe supplementation when sunshine isn’t available. 

The book makes two remarkable statements about vitamin D and cancer:

First, on the benefit of getting sensible sunshine: “vitamin D could be the single most effective medicine in preventing cancer, perhaps even outpacing the benefits of . . . a healthy diet”.  We hear all the time that we should avoid avoid sunshine to prevent skin cancer, which brings us to the second point.

Second, the book quotes Dr. Edward Giovannucci on the benefits of sunshine for vitamin D versus the risk of skin cancer:  sufficient “vitamin D might help prevent 30 deaths for each one caused by skin cancer”.    I like those odds: 30 better outcomes at the risk of one bad outcome.

Please note the term "a little" sunshine, sun that burns or turns the skin pink may be harmful and should be avoided.  (If you live in the northern latitudes, don’t tolerate the sun, or are concerned about your vitamin D, consult your doctor.)

Please comment:  Want to share your experience with vitamin D, or how you tested?  Do you live in the northern latitudes?  If so, what do you do in winter to maintain vitamin D.


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Reader Comments (7)

I'm very confident in the body's ability to heal and be healthy. I don't take supplements because they are isolated elements and do not necessarily include all the components the body needs and so it is possible to upset the body's natural system.

My time in the sun is in the early morning and evening. I have wondered if there is any evidence that an hour of sunshine in the early morning is effective for Vitamin D production. The idea of 15 minutes in midday is fine except my logical mind says that can't be the only option.


March 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSandra Morris

I am a fair skinned Northern European import to first New Zealand and then Australia - countries with the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. I have been obeying the "cover up in the sun" messages since my early 20s. Now in my 50s my vitamin D levels have been tested and are on the low side. This is now extremely common here in women and especially in Muslim women who wear traditional clothing.

My doctor's advice was 20 minutes of sun exposure to the arms and legs each day, but outside of the real danger zone of 10am to 2 pm. This is not easy for me as I work full time but I am trying to up my exposure, even if it is only from deliberately walking on the sunny side of the street or eating my lunch outside.

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Love this! We just spent the weekend in sunny St. George and I enjoyed laying out in the sun both days we were there. I just love the feeling of laying in the sun and it makes sense that it's healthy. I don't overdo it, but I also don't wear sunscreen. My kids get sunburned once in a while, which isn't ideal, but I never use sunscreen because it seems more dangerous than a sunburn. I've tried using coconut oil as a sunscreen and it seems to work really well.

I like your two guidelines. My friend's summary of good nutrition is two-fold: increase nutrients (eating fruits and vegetables, properly preparing grains, eating organic, etc) and decrease toxins (in food, personal care products, environment, etc.) I loved this simple way of looking at it. This is especially helpful when people say, "Well, I've been eating this way for years and I'm fine. Moderation in all things, you know." It's true that eating twinkies or using scented lotion won't kill you, but it's the collective effect of all of these chemicals and lack of nutrients over years that really makes the difference in your health.

I'd love to see a post on reducing toxins in the home. I got rid of toxic cleaning products when my son was old enough to get into cupboards six years ago and I've been very happy with the results I get with baking soda and vinegar and natural dish soap. Also, I've started making my own soap, deodorant, lotion and lip balm to reduce the toxic load soaking into my family's skin. It's become a fun hobby for me and is quite economical.

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey

Hi Sandra
You ask a good question, what times of day works best for vitamin D-producing sunshine. It's a little complicated as latitude, season, and elevation all matter. My best guide is how it feels after 15-30 minutes. Over time you'll see a nice glow to your skin (not pink!) if you're getting enough. If you live around the latitude of Seattle, Salt Lake, and Boston you need solar noon sunshine in the winter and that may still not be enough. But if you're up at the elevation of Park City, Utah in the summer, you'll burn pretty quick. For confidence, everyone should get tested at some point for serum vitamin D level. Best to you.

March 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSkip

If you know a breast cancer survivor the following article may be of interest (link below). Basically, a healthy vitamin D level doubles survival time for breast cancer which is an incredible benefit. See:

March 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSkip

I was very low in Vitamin D so I have been supplementing with Vit D3 10,000 iu per day during the winter- I live in Utah. I feel much better and I also give my kids Vit D 2000 iu per 25 lbs per day. They are much happier. I also put tap or filtered water in jars and let them sit for a day or 2 in my south facing window. This allows the chlorine to evaporate and the full spectrum of light to absorb into the water. My father died at 52 of breast cancer,- his mother and her mother both had breast cancer. Thanks for your blog!

April 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterK

PS- I use coconut oil as a sunscreen all summer and when we are at the pool or exposed for longer periods we use sunscreen recommended by Ewg.org/skindeep

April 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterK

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