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What is Vitamin D and Why is it Healthy?

There are so many conflicting studies these days, it’s hard to know what’s what. Regarding medical information, people should never have to worry about whether the information they’re getting is accurate. Knowing what’s what in terms of the latest medical science is important for everyone, yet there is a ton of misinformation out there.

So what about sunlight? We know for a fact that too much direct exposure to sunlight, all of the various types of solar rays, can be very harmful to health. We also know that sunlight is healthy in some measure, and most of us feel this intuitively. It feels good to let the sun shine on your face for several minutes, especially on a beautiful spring or summer day.

When we get to know more about sunlight, we learn that it actually contains vitamins that can be absorbed by the body. This is a fascinating realization, that the sun actually delivers a beneficial vitamin into the body.

But what is Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin? How does the body make use of it, and in what measure is it good for us? These are important questions for parents and families to ask, particularly as the spring and summer seasons approach.

It’s not like other vitamins

As definitions go, vitamin D is not like other vitamins. Why? Because the body itself is capable of producing vitamin D, with the help of natural sunlight. Other vitamins cannot be produced by the body.

Specifically, our bodies make vitamin D in a process that starts with sunlight making contact with cholesterol on the surface of the skin. This contact converts cholesterol into vitamin D3. Through a chain reaction, the kidneys then convert vitamin D3 into vitamin D.

So why do we need vitamin D?

Medical science agrees that vitamin D is a crucial factor in how calcium is regulated and phosphorus is absorbed. This leads to healthy teeth and bones. Vitamin D is also linked to immune system health, as well as neurological health. Lungs and circulation also benefit greatly from sufficient vitamin D.

How much is enough?

Talk to a medical professional (e.g. on your next visit to urgent care) about vitamin D supplements and whether they could work for you. In terms of that natural vitamin D, a limited amount of direct exposure to the sun is usually recommended to stay optimally healthy. What’s a “limited amount”? Medical professionals recommend five or ten minutes of direct sunlight on the skin, anywhere from 2-4 times per week. This will also depend on your natural skin tone. It’s important to know how much direct sunlight is healthy, and how to effectively stay within these parameters using a good quality sunscreen.

Too much sun?

Rarely does a sunburn get so bad that you need urgent care or some other type of medical intervention — but it does happen. Even if you only have question about a possible overexposure, or are visiting urgent care for another reason, it’s good to know that qualified medical professionals are there to give you the most up-to-date, reliable information about proper sun care during warmer times of year. And if you live in a sunny place like Southern California, that’s even more reason to have a great understanding of sunlight and vitamin D!

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