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Summer is here in the Northwest – a little early, but it’s here. The temperatures are unusually hot for June-uary. Usually we need to sing the blues for the sun to come out.

I know many people love it – and I love the sun, but it’s the rain that makes our corner of the world so green, so I miss rain.

Because of our frequent gray skies, our indoor lifestyles and our use of sunscreen when we do go outside, most Oregonians are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is a powerful immune modulator, can improve mood and energy, prevents preterm birth and it’s pivotal in calcium absorption and bone health. It comes from the sun primarily. In fact, there are very few foods that are good sources of Vitamin D.

So how much sun do we need? And what about the risk for skin cancer? What foods have vitamin D in them?

Here’s what I can tell you –

If you have pale skin, you absorb vitamin D faster than if you have darker skin. The older you are, the less vitamin D you make, and the heavier you are, the less vitamin D you make.

Sun block blocks the UVB rays which are needed to make vitamin D. And the key time of day, when the UVB rays are the greatest is midday – between 10:00 am and 2 pm.

The time of day, season, weather, and where you live influence the amount of vitamin D you absorb from the sun. Not surprisingly, people who live closer to the equator get more UVB than people who live north of California.

Washing with soap and water up to 48 hours after sun exposure will wash off the vitamin D that you have absorbed while sitting in the sun.

And too much unprotected sun time can cause skin cancer. In fact, melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer in people under 30 years old.

The key to adequate time in the sun is to expose as much of your body as you can during peak UVB rays, until it turns slightly pink. That can mean 15-20 minutes for someone with very pale skin, and up to an hour for someone with dark skin. Don’t let yourself burn. Cover up or use sunblock afterward. But don’t run and jump into the shower either.

And if you can’t be in the sun, because of work or medication or other reasons, take cod liver oil – it is your best food source of vitamin D. Or you can supplement with vitamin D capsules. I can help you determine how much you should take.

By Jennifer Means, ND, LAc

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