The intense sun shines day after day in the tropical country I am visiting. Not wanting to sunburn badly or get skin cancer, I lather up.
I hope to return home with a tan sheen over my white winter skin.
Besides a tan, I desire a huge dose of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is all about the sun. D deficiency causes rickets in children, resulting in soft bones and bow legged kids. D deprived adults develop osteoporosis.
My dilemma is how much sun time is enough time but not too much. As we age it is harder for our bodies to absorb Vitamin D. I know this because magazine and news articles inform me of the dismal fact that it is increasingly difficult for those of us past 50 to synthesize enough D from the sun. We are encouraged to get our fix artificially.
Our bodies obtain some vitamin D through food but not as much as needed. Too bad, because I like to eat. Unfortunately food does not provide substantial quantities of the vitamin. Fatty fish - tuna, salmon, mackerel - offer the best source. Beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks contain small amounts. However as much as 90% of our vitamin D comes from the sun. Because we cannot get enough via food, manufacturers do us a favor and add vitamin supplements to food products, such as milk and breakfast cereals. Vitamin producers encourage us to take a daily pill.
I prefer to obtain my vitamins the natural way. And since I am in a land of 12 hour sun, I hope to absorb a huge amount of vitamin D. But a number of questions concern me.
Does sun screen, while protecting my body from harmful rays, also screen out Vitamin D?
If I don't wear sunscreen but get my vitamin D fix will I get skin cancer? Or a bad sunburn?
If I start the day sunscreened, then get wet and/or sweat off the sunscreen, will Vitamin D then soak into my perspiring body?
Does vitamin D filter through areas of the skin covered by clothing but not sunscreened?
If I get a substantial vitamin D dose, how long will it last before I am once again D deprived?
To answer these questions my fingers marched across my iPad. I got answers, but also got confused.
No, sunscreen does not block Vitamin D intake. It takes only 15 minutes of sun exposure everyday to boost one's vitamin D.
Yes, sunscreen does block vitamin D. Some sources say it is better to get additional vitamin D from food supplements rather than risk being in the sun screen-less.
Bundling up for winter weather protects us from cold, rain, snow - and vitamin D. However D can get through light-weight, loose cotton clothing especially when wet. I guess I can walk around wearing a wet T-shirt, but sadly my wet T-shirt days are long, long gone...
There is a bit of good news. Assuming my body soaks up an abundance of vitamin D now, the supply will last three months.
In three months it will be spring. Late spring. The best time to enjoy the outdoors and the sun.
I may not need extra helpings of fish or cereal or pop a vitamin pill until next winter!
I will not have to worry about vitamin D deprivation until next December or January. Meanwhile I will lather up, wear a cotton shirt, venture outside, enjoy the sun, and hope those D rays surge through my age 50++ body.