Welcome to day nine of my 30 Days of Ayurveda series! Throughout these blogs and videos, I will be sharing some upbeat thoughts and wellness tips, as well as some Ayurvedic tricks and food recommendations to help you lead a balanced life.
Vitamin D for Health
Today, I wanted to talk about the benefits of going outside and taking in the sun to synthesise Vitamin D for our health. In the UK, our summer months are usually filled with warm, sunny days (at least, the majority are – it wouldn’t be Britain without a bit of rain now and again!) Indeed, as lockdown restrictions begin to ease, it has become much easier to go outside and enjoy the sunny weather, whether it be a trip to the beach or your local park. However, during lockdown, this was much harder to do.
During this time, while most of the world were confined to their homes, many people lost the opportunity to go outside and expose their skin to the sun. Spring saw most lockdowns at their most strict, and unfortunately this was the perfect time to go out and create vitamin D. First, the UV index was at not too high a level, so sunburn was less likely; second, it was just after winter, when we needed to top up on our vitamin D levels.
Those with gardens, or who could go out for daily exercise, were lucky enough to go outside and take in the sunshine. However, some people were more restricted, be it due to health reasons or strict lockdown rules, so were stuck inside and denied the benefits of vitamin D.
Why is vitamin D so important?
When we expose our skin to sunlight, we create vitamin D, and thus bring ourselves a little bit of mental balance. So during lockdown, when a lot of things were out of our control, vitamin D helped us to achieve some kind of mental and emotional stability. Furthermore, going out into the sun boosts serotonin levels; at a time when our perspective on life was quite low, vitamin D helped us to look ahead, into the horizon, and feel more bright and positive.
Ultimately, a lack of vitamin D affects our immunity. In these unprecedented times, we want to keep our immune levels as high as possible. Therefore, if you were unable to get out during lockdown, and your vitamin D levels have dropped as a result, you should look into supplementing with some vitamin D3 drops. These are available from lots of great online sources (click here) and can be delivered straight to your door.
Vitamin D is vital for the absorption and regulation of calcium in the body. Without this we can be prone to calcium deficiency and long-term osteoporosis.
If you are still in lockdown, or don’t feel comfortable going outside quite yet, there are still ways to get your daily vitamin D. Find a window in your house that takes in the most sunlight and open it wide: remember, you can’t synthesise vitamin D behind glass! Open it wide, expose your skin, and look beyond, into the distance, to enjoy that feeling of freedom and space.
In Ayurveda, we talk about sunlight we understand a deep connection with Pitta Dosha.
What is Pitta?
Pitta is one of the three doshas, and relates strongly to the heat in the body. It contains the properties of the fire (Tejas) and water (Jala) element, with the former being more pronounced. Pitta regulates all metabolic processes in the body, as well as body temperature and hormonal balance, which is why it helps to create mental and emotional stability. There is a sub-dosha of Pitta known as Bhrajaka pitta which governs the colour of the skin. Sunlight directly effects Bhrajaka pitta.
How is Vitamin D produced in the body?
When sunlight (particularly the UVB rays) of the sun hits our skin and reacts with a compound (7-dehydrocholesterol) in the skin Vitamin D is produced. In the UK owing to the distance from the equator, being in the northern hemisphere and the fact that the UV index does not get about 3 in the winter we cannot synthesise Vitamin D in the winter months.
Between March and October, exposing more of our skin to the skin allows the body to synthesise vitamin D. However, it is still important to protect ourselves. We can do this through the use of a cap, particularly a peaked cap, as it helps protect the head and the skin on the face. Normally, our skin and hands are exposed to a lot of sunlight, so to prevent aging and any skin damage, covering the skin with some shade can be really beneficial. Additionally, we can limit the amount of time we spend in the sun relative to the UV index and utilise sun screen when necessary. We cannot synthesis vitamin D through sun screen so a little gentle sun exposure without sunscreen is necessary.
At higher altitudes the atmosphere becomes thinner and therefore the UV becomes more intense. So, we need to take caution when exposing the skin at higher altitudes as this can be more harmful to the skin.
Do all skin tones respond in the same way to the sun?
The amount of time to spend out in the sun is varies from skin to skin. Lighter skin tones will burn more quickly than darker skin tones, but ultimately, you should let your skin be the guide: as soon as you start to see it is turning red, or smell that your skin is burning, you know that you should go inside or to cover up the skin. Darker skin contains comparatively more melanin pigment and is a different type (eumelanin) in the skin and requires longer exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D in the same geographical location as fairer skin tones containing less melanin pigment (pheomelanin).
I hope you get to go outside multiple times today and enjoy the sunshine! You could make it part of your dinacharya daily routine.
Over the next 30 days, I will be sharing even more tips and tricks to help you build some great Ayurvedic routines. Hopefully, they will soon be imbedded in your life and you can progress with them. Be sure to let me know how you’re getting on, and why not share how being in the sun makes you feel? Find me on Instagram @anneheigham and on YouTube.