Winter started on December 21st, 2014 and will end on March 19th, 2015. With the really cold weather in some states in the US, it's really hard to spend too much time outdoors, especially in the sun, which is extremely relevant in our lives, for our physical and even mental health, it provides well-being feeling, pleasure and joy.
The beginning of winter is marked by the astronomical event called Winter Solstice, which is the period when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted about 23.5° away from the sun, making the days shorter, and that's why it's so important to get every little bit of sun we can. This is what Space Solstice looks like:
But it's not enough to be the main body of our solar system, responsible for primary energy supply of our planet. The sun works in our health in the simplest forms, but still with the utmost importance.
THE VITAMIN FROM THE SUN
It is indisputable that everyone likes a bit of sun, but sun exposure is indeed a need - just think of the "baby sun" that our mom's exposed us to. It is through sun exposure that our body metabolizes vitamin D substance (lipid-soluble steroid hormone) essecial for the human body. And to keep a decent level of Vitamin D has been considered as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a variety of diseases including rickets, heart disease, cancer, depression and now MS. Of course, spending a weekend on the beach once a year will not affect your chances of developing (or not) MS, but research indicates a possible link between lack of vitamin D during your childhood is more likely for you to develop the disease . This is because vitamin D has a very important role in bone development and, as research suggests, is also essential for the immune and neuromuscular systems.
Low levels of Vitamin D were, in fact, connected to a larger number of relapses and disability increased in people with MS. These studies offer a glimpse of the role that the sun can play in helping the body cope with serious illnesses.
WALK ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET
Although you can get vitamin D through food and supplementation, sunlight is still the main source for the metabolism of vitamin D.
The major concern among doctors and nutritionists is that our caution with overexposure to the sun made us excessive in relation to the use of sunscreen, preventing the body to produce the right amount needed of vitamin D. More people are spending more time also indoors, and the increase in obesity shows how society has become more sedentary over time.
That's why you should always walk on the sunny side of the street, practice exercises outdoors, stroll on the beach, go to the park, even if the day is cloudy. Expose yourself to the SUN!
UVB rays, are the main source of vitamin D, beyond the clouds and will reach the earth even on cloudy days.
But how much time is required of sun exposure to metabolize Vitamin D in your body? This varies according to skin color: the lighter the person, the less time it has to be in the sun; the darker the skin, longer. The endocrinologist and American researcher Michael Holick, one of the world's leading experts on Vitamin D, explains that the time also varies according to time of day, the season and the location of the city on the globe. Nevertheless, some criteria can be considered universal. He said the average time would be 15 to 20 minutes in the sun without any sun protection, arms, legs, abdomen and exposed back, but we should always have our face protected.
Holick explains that sunscreen prevents Vitamin D from getting metabolized but after that time of sun exposure without protection, the researcher warns that the use of the filter is essential.
The expert also says that the best time for synthesis of Vitamin D for the body is between 10am and 3pm, because of the angle of incidence of sunlight.
The best time for absorption of Vitamin D is precisely what dermatologists point to as the most dangerous for the skin, whose excessive exposure can cause aging and skin cancer. That's why it's so important that after that specified period for the Vitamin D metabolism, the skin needs to be protected from sun exposure. And that includes the winter time as well.
TIPS ON HOW TO PROTECT YOUR SKIN FROM TOO MUCH SUN
- Wear sunscreen every day - even on cloudy or rainy days - with minimal factor suited to your skin type;
- The face is the most exposed part of the body to the sun, always protect your face;
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours and after sweating;
- Wear a hat and use an umbrella when you go to the beach. Still, wear sunscreen, as part of the ultraviolet radiation is reflected on the sand and reaches your skin;
- Avoid sun exposure during the period between 10 and 16 hours (only expose yourself during these times without protection for enough time to metabolize vitamin D).