About 20 million Americans suffer from depression and while many do need medication to help them with the sometimes debilitating condition, others can find a significant boost in their attitude with several adjustments in their lives.
Even though we live in San Diego, sometimes we simply don’t get enough sunshine–which can lead to a deterioration of mood. Studies have shown that people who experience depression or have mood swings can show signs of improvement simply by having frequent and consistent exposure to bright light. Couple that with exercise and eating right and the effects can have amazing results that could help more than just a depressed mood.
So let’s examine one of the most highly disputed concepts: is sunshine good or bad for you? The development of more tall buildings in urbanized areas, people working longer hours indoors, and the usage of manufactured lighting all contribute to our getting less natural light or sunshine. While too much sun can, of course, be harmful, a little sunshine can produce a better mood. It also produces vitamin D (a fat-soluble steroid hormone precursor that supports essential levels of phosphorus and calcium in the bloodstream) which may help to ward off cancer.
A lot of us think of vitamin D as only being important to the development of healthy bones but studies have shown that when people get adequate amounts of vitamin D, they have a lower risk of developing cancers of the colon, breast, ovaries or prostate. It gives a new meaning to the importance of vitamin D especially when you consider the fact that about 1,500 people die from cancer daily.
The following excerpt appeared recently in an article in Cancer Monthly: The Source for Cancer Treatment Results, “Getting enough vitamin D can significantly reduce the risk of several different types of cancer, and ecological studies done over the past decade have confirmed that sun exposure is a critical source of this vitamin, according to a recent report in Annals of Epidemiology.
How do you know if you’re vitamin D deficient? Get a blood test. Growing up in sunny San Diego and consuming vitamin D foods, I never imagined that a year ago my results would have turned up deficient. But an increased indoor work load, logging lots of hours at the computer, and a very hectic schedule, may have contributed to my deficiency. And millions of Americans are in the same situation as I. Some research indicates that as many as three out of four adults are low in Vitamin D and that figure has been increasing over the past decade.Thankfully, I was re-tested and am no longer deficient.
The lower levels of Vitamin D (200-400 IU daily) supplementation once suggested are being replaced with recommendations for higher levels of Vitamin D (1,000 IU daily). Of course, check with your doctor to determine what is best for you. But with that in mind, trying to eat your way to getting enough vitamin D can be very difficult. Also, it’s believed that getting vitamin D from your diet is not sufficient to have a significant impact. And, while there is still much debate on this, sunshine is being recommended in brief periods to help produce vitamin D. Some doctors and researchers say minimal exposure to the sun without sun screen for periods as brief as five to 10 minutes of midday sun, can produce 4,000 IU of vitamin D and help prevent diseases.
However, don’t let this be a license to get too much unprotected sunshine. Skin cancer and premature aging are still growing concerns… but a few rays of afternoon sunshine may be just what the doctor orders.