The essential vitamin Melbournians need this Spring that you can top up on without eating a single thing or popping a pill.
It’s early spring and if you’re anything like me you’ve been hanging out for this day since the first of June (or quite honestly the last day of February.) Just the pure fact that we are now in the most magical season of the year is enough to make this solar powered nutritionist feel recharged. Something about the prospect of feeling the sun shining on my back and the extended hours of light is enough to get me through the still unpredictable Melbourne days. And most importantly the season to start topping up the stores of my favourite vitamin, without eating a single thing or popping a supplement. But which one is it exactly?
Whilst you may be with me and agree that sitting out in the sun feels so good, have you ever wondered why? Is it the warmth on your skin, or just the fresh air? Is it because you are in good company with lots of happy friends?
Sure, all of the above may be friendly contributors. But I’m here to tell you it also has something to do with the fact that you’re absorbing a vital nutrient from those warm rays called “cholecalciferol’ or as we all know it, vitamin D.
Vitamin D3 (as opposed to vitamin D2 which is found in plants) is absorbed through our skin from exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. It is then processed by the liver, then in the kidney, before going into circulation through our body to assist in wellbeing in all sorts of ways. Its most important job is to assist in calcium absorption. Of course now it might make sense why it is so important for bone growth. When levels of vitamin D fall behind, bones can become brittle and damage easily. Vitamin D also assists in producing hormones including the happy hormones such as serotonin, regulating blood glucose and building a strong immunity.
As you can now imagine exposure to sunlight is essential but must be done safely. Sitting in your office by the window is not the answer. Unfortunately UVB rays do not penetrate through those glass windows, whilst the extra warmth itself can sure be nice! Sunscreen above SPF 8 has also been shown to block vitamin D producing UV rays.
You don’t need to give your slip slop slap regime, but what can help is these few considerations.
All you need is 5-30 minutes of sun exposure between 10am and 3pm without sunscreen to areas of your body such as face, arms, legs belly or back to help absorb sufficient levels. Baring in mind the colour of your skin, time of day, cloud cover, location and the season. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin meaning it stores in the liver and fat for periods of time therefore a healthy dose of sunlight throughout spring summer and autumn will stock your body’s needs to provide for the winter.
To know exact time of day and a recommended timely dose of sunshine needed, apps such as “D Minder’ can help. This app takes your location, body configuration and skin tone into consideration before sending you a quick reminder to get outside in the sunlight when the time is just right and safe for you!
Whilst the sun sends a healthy dose of vitamin D your way there are instances where sun exposure may not be optimal for you. In this case finding dietary sources or supplementing may be what you need to help you reach optimal levels. Checking in with your nutritionist or naturopath can help with just that.
So next time you’re out in the sun remember to send a little thank you up to the sun for sending her nutrients down on you! She sure knows how to assist in your wellbeing in so many ways.
Consuella Garreffa, BHSc (Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine)
Consuella Garreffa, FGHG Remedial Massage Therapist and Nutritionist is a passionate practitioner with many years of massage experience and a love of nutrition. Consuella likes to treat holistically and strongly believes that there is more than one element to health, which is why she studied a Bachelor of Health Science with a focus on Nutrition to further her knowledge. She is a self confessed “solar powered figure’, and when outside of clinic she takes time to recharge outdoors, travelling, doing yoga and cooking for family and friends.