“Everything in moderation” is a protocol we respect and follow diligently.
There can be too much of a good thing just as much as there can be too much of a bad thing, and balance – as Yoda has so eloquently been trying to teach us over the years – is what the universe naturally attempts to achieve. While we can all recognize that sun exposure may pose major threats to our bodies, there is also the other — more positive — side of the coin.
Limited sun exposure is important for our bodies, as it is known to increase serotonin levels. So, how can we make sure we get the recommended amount of sun to maintain that immune system correctly, especially during the winter months, in the era of COVID-19?
Everything you should know about vitamin D
First of all, vitamin D is almost impossible to get enough of, especially during colder months and in differing regions of the world. Many experts suggest adding a vitamin D supplement to aid your body in regulating cells of all types, regardless of how much sun exposure you are truly getting. According to an article by Harvard’s Emily S. Ruiz, MD, MPH, “The recommended dietary dose of vitamin D is 600 IU each day for adults 70 and younger and 800 IU each day for adults over 70.”
Not only is vitamin D vital to our immune systems and triggers reactions regarding functions in every bodily system, but In recent months, research has come out that supports a link between vitamin D deficiencies and COVID-19. In fact, 80% of a group of over 200 coronavirus patients at Hospital Universitario Marques de Valdecilla had reported vitamin D deficiencies. As something that is so readily available to humans naturally, it can be difficult to time it correctly or have access to foods rich in vitamin D year-round. To get your daily dose of vitamin D, we recommend sitting or getting exercise by a sunlit window for a while during the day, or try to get about 5-15 minutes of direct light exposure outside.
Aside from the sun being our most obvious and prominent source of vitamin D, and the fact that brighter sun exposure leads to the production of more melatonin at night, a 2016 news release by Georgetown concluded that the sun rejuvenates T cells, which are known to play a big role in immunity. Expands Gerard Ahern, Ph.D., associate professor at Georgetown’s Department of Pharmacology and Physiology:
We all know sunlight provides vitamin D, which is suggested to have an impact on immunity, among other things. But what we found is a completely separate role of sunlight on immunity. T cells…need…to get to the site of an infection and orchestrate a response. This study shows that sunlight directly activates key immune cells by increasing their movement.
How important is it to get vitamin D?
It is important to get a good amount of sun when you can aside from the vitamin D resource, as mentioned above. A recommended 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight is all that is suggested before applying an SPF of 30+, and it is important to concentrate your time outside the hours of 10 am and 3 pm, when skin damage is more likely.
Particular UV Ray lights have been created to mimic the effects of the sun on your body, so having one of those handy during darker months is recommended as well. Many sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and depression have reported fewer symptoms after incorporating a light therapy lamp into their environment. Though we have tried this method ourselves and greatly enjoy it – as do our plants – it is best to consult a doctor before use and about their suggested amounts of use based on your individual medical history.
For those of you who are interested, here are some jobs to stay away from to decrease your chances of unhealthy sun exposure. Here are some additional ideas for the many of you who are seeking more ways to improve your mood during this season. But natural sun and light exposure can really help. So do your morning sun salutations on the deck or fire escape, go on a walk as the sun rises so that you can keep your distance from everyone, or layout in the grass in your yard. As long as you comply with The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regulations, that sunshine will still benefit you.