Are you enjoying more outdoor time now that it’s Summer? Let’s hope so! Spending time outside, in nature, is absolutely HUGE for our health and well-being. There’s really nothing that can replace good old Vitamin N (N = Nature). You probably already know that you feel better when you spend some time outdoors, but what are some of the reasons why?
Some important benefits to getting outside include:
- Uninterrupted/distance views which are great for the nervous system, eyes and brain
- Sun exposure for circadian rhythm and energy balance (i.e. proper cortisol and melatonin levels)
- Immune enhancement from being around plants (seriously, look up “forest bathing” – so cool!)
- Energy and ion balance from direct contact with the Earth (i.e. “grounding”)
- Vitamin D production from sun exposure (important for immune health, hormone balance, bone health, cell growth and more!)
What is the ideal Vitamin D level?
Let’s address the sun exposure and Vitamin D thing a bit more. As we know, sun exposure on our skin is what creates Vitamin D production in the body. This is also a vitamin we can supplement with – so what is ideal here?
As with most things, there’s a “Goldilocks rule” where we want just enough – not too much and not too little. With Vitamin D (25-OH Vit D being the best lab test for this), a value of about 40-60 ng/ml is ideal for those with light or white skin, while a slightly lower level is ideal for those with darker skin.
What’s the best way to get Vitamin D?
Think about it like this: whole foods are the best way to get our nutrients in, followed by high-quality supplementation, when-needed. Similarly, sun exposure is the best way to get full-spectrum Vitamin D, because this is how our physiology has evolved to produce and “receive” it. Getting Vitamin D (and other nutrients) via the “natural” route helps ensure their bio-availability and balance among nutrients. In addition, there are various other important bio-chemicals that are produced as a result of sun exposure that support our well-being, not just Vitamin D. Supplementation would be the secondary route/recommendation for increasing one’s Vitamin D levels, if-needed. If you’re curious about whether or not supplementation is right for you, consider working with a qualified healthcare practitioner who has expertise in nutrition and lifestyle medicine – such as a naturopathic doctor.
Some sun safety thoughts…
So, while getting some direct sunlight on our skin is imperative for Vitamin D production (and much more!), we also want to make sure to keep things in balance. We don’t want to be spending so much time in the sun that we’re getting burned and putting ourselves at risk for skin diseases or other issues down the road. For most people, getting about 15 minutes or so of direct sun exposure in a day is adequate. Beyond that, it’s usually wise to consider using light/loose clothing, hats and/or mineral-based sunblocks for some protection. Utilizing typical, chemical-laden sunblocks is not recommended. (Check out the sunscreen guide from EWG.org for more safe sunblock recommendations).