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Five Disruptive Factors For The Body’s Own Vitamin D Formation

Vitamin D can be formed in the skin with the help of UV radiation. Many believe that this can be achieved simply by spending time in the sun on a regular basis. But this requirement alone is not enough to prevent vitamin D deficiency. Five common disruptive factors can prevent healthy and sufficient vitamin D formation in the skin – even in summer. But the good news is, you can eliminate most of these disruptive factors.

Vitamin D needs sun

Vitamin D is not an actual vitamin. After all, unlike other vitamins, it does not have to be ingested with food but can be produced by the body itself.

Vitamin D is therefore much more of a type of hormone than a vitamin. For production, we only need sunlight (UVB radiation) that shines on our skin.

With the help of this radiation, the so-called provitamin D3 is then produced from a substance (7-dehydrocholesterol), from which cholesterol can also be produced.

This now travels with the bloodstream to the liver, where it is converted into actual vitamin D3, which now only has to be activated, which can happen in the kidneys.

The vitamin D requirement is not really known and is still hotly debated. Officially, 20 micrograms per day are recommended for adults, which other experts consider far too little.

A clue could be that on a summer’s day 250 micrograms of vitamin D are formed in the skin – after about 30 minutes, at least when you’re out and about in a bikini/swimming trunks, so the body is completely irradiated.

This amount of vitamin D then no longer increases, as this is how the body protects itself from an overdose.

Vitamin D – The mood maker

Vitamin D is responsible for many functions in the body.

For example, vitamin D is an excellent immune system booster, a great protector against cancer, and an effective component of any therapy against diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Of course, vitamin D can also elevate mood and relieve depression, boost memory, and improve the ability to find solutions.

A vitamin D deficiency is therefore often held responsible for the so-called winter blues, as this usually manifests itself in gloom and mental sluggishness.

As is well known, the sun rarely shines in winter – and when it does, only minimal amounts of the UV rays required for vitamin D formation reach the earth.

The frequent recommendation to simply go into the sun for 20 minutes twice a week is therefore not always helpful – especially not in winter.

But why is it that the majority of adults in the northern hemisphere suffer from vitamin D deficiency – and not necessarily only in winter?

Disruptive factors in vitamin D formation

We present five factors that can prevent your body from producing enough vitamin D. If you switch off or outsmart these five factors, then nothing stands in the way of an all-around optimal vitamin D formation.

Sunscreens reduce/prevent vitamin D formation

Again and again, so-called skin cancer prevention campaigns ensure that hardly anyone dares to go outside at dizzying heights in summer without a sun protection factor.

Even people living in southern Europe can develop a vitamin D deficiency if they constantly apply creams that contain a sun protection factor.

This does not necessarily have to be a specific sunscreen. Ordinary day creams often have a high sun protection factor.

However, sun protection factors prevent sufficient amounts of UVB radiation, which is necessary for vitamin D formation, from reaching the skin.

If only a little of this radiation hits the skin, then only a little or in the worst case no vitamin D can be produced and the organism is dependent on vitamin D in food. However, that is the next problem.

Conventional foods contain so little vitamin D that it is almost impossible to even come close to meeting the required requirement. The usual diet only provides about 2 to 4 micrograms of vitamin D per day.

With a high sun protection factor, we give our body the feeling that it is permanently living in the middle of the gloomy winter.

Your latitude can sabotage vitamin D formation

If you live north of the latitude of Barcelona (about 42 degrees latitude), then you can only produce enough vitamin D in the summer months. During the rest of the year, the required UVB rays do not reach the earth in the right amount due to the sun’s angle of incidence being too flat. In the months of November to February, they do not arrive at all on the earth’s surface.

And if you live north of the 52nd parallel, then the latter period extends even further, namely from October to March. These are places north of z. B. Berlin, Braunschweig, Osnabrück, Hanover etc. are located.

How can you easily find out whether the sun’s angle of incidence is sufficient for your vitamin D formation or not? Very simple: if the sun is shining, go outside now. Stand in the sun and look at your shadow.

If your shadow is as long as you are tall or if it is even longer, vitamin D formation is not possible. On the other hand, if your shadow is shorter, vitamin D formation can be boosted.

However, since inactive vitamin D is stored in adipose tissue and can be activated if necessary, it is important to replenish all vitamin D stores in summer in order to then easily get through the winter months with little sun.

In between, of course, it would be ideal to spend a vacation in the south or in the mountains to replenish your vitamin D levels and minimize the risk of running out of supplies before summer starts.

The color of your skin can reduce vitamin D formation

The lighter your skin color, the faster you can produce vitamin D. The darker your skin type, the longer it takes before you can produce the same amount of vitamin D as a fair-skinned person.

Your skin type now depends on which regions your ancestors lived in and how much solar radiation they were exposed to over the generations.

In the north, people, therefore, have lighter skin in order to be able to form sufficient vitamin D as quickly as possible with the rarely available sun.

In the south, on the other hand, the sun shines so often and so much that the skin has to protect itself from too much radiation, while vitamin D formation has never been a problem.

It becomes problematic when a dark-skinned person lives in the north. Then the dark skin color reduces vitamin D formation and an even longer stay in the sun is necessary to be able to produce enough vitamin D.

UV Index – The lower, the less vitamin D

Just because it’s summer, the sun is shining and you’re lounging in a deck chair doesn’t mean you can produce vitamin D too. It is quite possible that the UV index is too low.

The UV index indicates the radiation intensity of the sun and should help to assess whether and which sun protection measures are necessary.

The UV index ranges from 0 to more than 11. A value from 0 to 2 indicates weak radiation intensity. A value of 3 to 5 is already stronger. Sun protection is already recommended here. Values ​​of 8 or more advise against staying outdoors.

The season, the time of day, and the geographical location, but also cloud cover, air pollution, and the thickness of the ozone layer influence the UV index.

With diffuse clouds, for example, the sun comes through and you think it’s a sunny day, but the UV index can be low because of the clouds, which of course also affects vitamin D formation.

The UV index even depends on your environment. It is therefore crucial whether there is snow or whether you are lying on the beach. The brighter your surroundings (snow, sand), the more UV radiation can be reflected back onto you – sometimes by up to forty times.

Only when the UV index is higher than 3 are sufficient UVB rays present for vitamin D formation.

It is best to visit an online weather site that will give your local UV index. That way, you’ll know if your next sunbathing session makes sense in terms of vitamin D. Apps are also available that indicate the UV index.

Showering after sunbathing reduces vitamin D absorption

After sunbathing, a refreshing shower is often the order of the day. But that should not be good in terms of vitamin D formation.

It is even said that the skin needs up to 48 hours to actually absorb the provitamin D formed in the outer skin areas during sunbathing and to transport it into the bloodstream.

Therefore, one should not shower for at least the first few hours (four to six) after sunbathing – at least not with soap. Otherwise, the newly formed provitamin might flow away again through the drain.

A study from 2007 could also point to the reducing effect of showering on vitamin D levels. The study, published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology And Metabolism, looked at surfers from Hawaii and found that they had low levels of vitamin D despite very frequent sun exposure (an average of nearly 30 hours of sunshine per week).

One might think that the sports freaks certainly used sunblock regularly, but 40% of the study participants confirmed that this was not the case and they never or very rarely used sunscreen.

At the same time, it had been shown that lifeguards, who only come into contact with water in emergencies, i.e. rarely in the course of the day, had significantly higher vitamin D levels than surfers.

It could therefore be quite obvious that the study by Helmer and Jansen, published in 1937, is still valid.

According to this study, vitamin D and its precursors are preferably formed in the skin sebum, i.e. on and not in the skin, and can therefore be easily washed off in the shower.

To optimize vitamin D levels, it may therefore be advisable not to wash with soap for at least two days after sunbathing. Of course, soap or shower gel can be used in the intimate area or under the armpits, but not on the other parts of the skin.

Unfortunately, there are hardly any further scientific studies on this topic. In recent studies on vitamin D, participants are even told not to wash until the vitamin D levels relevant to the study have been measured, so even scientists apparently still expect that washing off the vitamin D – Precursors from the skin might be possible.

a dr However, James Spurgeon explains in an October 2017 YT video that washing vitamin D off the skin is not possible. He says vitamin D is only made in living cells – and living cells cannot be washed away. Only dead cells or sebum can be washed away, but vitamin D is not formed in dead cells or in sebum.

Nevertheless, our skin is not made for the daily use of soap, shower gel, or other cleaning agents and often reacts to today’s hygiene mania with irritation and skin diseases. It is therefore advisable – vitamin D or not – to treat the skin less often with cleansing actions and instead to promote its own regulatory abilities – simply by leaving the skin alone for a while.

Vitamin D deficiency or skin cancer?

One often wonders whether sunbathing in favor of the vitamin D level does not increase the risk of skin cancer. Firstly, having healthy vitamin D levels reduces the risk of skin cancer, secondly, you don’t have to roast for hours in the sun to achieve healthy vitamin D levels, and thirdly, exposure to the sun is not the only risk factor for skin cancer. After all, skin cancer only develops when the skin no longer has its own natural protection and is confronted with excessive UV radiation.

Sun protection from the inside

However, the skin’s own protection can only be maintained if the organism has the appropriate antioxidants at its disposal. With the right diet, you can provide yourself with exactly these antioxidants. Carotenoids, for example, are contained in all red, yellow, orange, and dark green vegetables and fruits and are considered substances that provide sun protection from the inside.

Dietary supplements rich in carotenoids are also a way of increasing inner skin protection, e.g. B. with astaxanthin, which is excellently suited to protecting the skin cells against possible negative effects of excessive sun exposure – without affecting vitamin D formation at the same time.

Astaxanthin is taken four weeks before a planned summer vacation or before extensive exposure to the sun and in this way protects the skin from the inside in good time against excessive susceptibility to sunburn and thus also against skin cancer. Of course, you still have to get your skin used to the sun slowly and should use sunscreen (from the natural cosmetics sector) in the midday hours (especially in midsummer).

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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