Letter to the Editor: Sunshine and its benefits

Dear Editor,

The Nemaha County Health Office would like to shine light on the sun and its array of benefits for our bodies. The value of sunshine has been known for some time, in assisting our bodies with absorbing calcium for strong bones. But sunshine, specifically vitamin D, is also found to be significant for our moods, mental health, tumor suppression, hair retention, genetic expression and immune systems. One way vitamin D supports our immune systems is by working against inflammation in our bodies, a crucial issue in fighting against Covid-19. A study published in March of 2013, showed for the first time the non-skeletal health benefits of Vitamin D, including its necessity for function in genes which have been shown to be important for immune function, response to stress and DNA repair. We knew we liked sunny days, but we also need them. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with health problems including disorders of calcium metabolism, autoimmune diseases, some cancers, type 2 diabetes mellitus, infectious diseases, cardiovascular disease and hair loss. The best source of Vitamin D is sunshine — free and for the taking if you go outside. But what about all the problems associated with sun exposure? Wrinkles, vision problems and eventual cataracts, and dreaded skin cancers. In our efforts to avoid these problems, we have perhaps gone too far the other direction. The solution is balance. We need Vitamin D, but how much, and where should we get it? The answer isn’t a one-size fits all. We can obtain vitamin D from some foods or supplements, but sunlight rays trigger our skin to make its own vitamin D. That way we aren’t in danger of getting too much. Young skin absorbs UV rays more quickly than older skin, and the very melanin that protects darker skin from cancer-causing UV rays also needs more exposure for Vitamin D production. You don’t want to get sun-burned, or even “pinked.” In as little as four minutes at mid-day the skin of a young, light-toned person can make 1,000 IU of Vitamin D. If you observe your own body, you can mark how much time it takes for your skin to start getting pink and avoid, either returning inside or applying some sunscreen. Be sure to allow the time on the label for it to absorb into your skin before returning to the sunshine and you’ll be on your way to sun-wellness. The Health Office would like to encourage you to take opportunities to do further learning of your own. If you would like the complete list of resources used for this article, please email [email protected]

Nikki Keim

Interim Health Officer



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