How much sunshine do you need to get enough Vitamin D?

How much sunshine do you need to get enough Vitamin D?
April 29, 2017 Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.

Our amazing bodies can produce vitamin D in our skin when it’s exposed to sunlight. Of course, we need to balance how much sun exposure we need for vitamin D, but not so much it puts us at risk of skin cancer.

Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for your bones, teeth and muscles. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer (particularly breast, colon and prostate) as well as depression, insomnia and autoimmune disease.

If you aren’t getting enough vitamin D (be on the lookout for deficiency symptoms), you may need to look at taking a supplement and getting out in the sunshine more!

So – how much sunshine do you need to get enough Vitamin D?

Factors that determine how much sun for vitamin D:

  • How much skin is exposed to the sun (surface area)
  • How long your skin is exposed
  • Latitude (anything north of 37th gets NO UVB in winter)
  • Color of skin (pale vs tan vs dark pigment)
  • Age
  • Air pollution
  • Cloud cover

I did find this one vitamin D exposure calculator, but what I find easier is this simple rule of thumb:

Your sun exposure for vitamin D = half the time it takes your skin to get a sunburn

So if it takes me thirty minutes to get a sunburn, I should go outside with most of my skin exposed (shorts and tank top) for about 15 minutes a few times a week at midday.

I did find a calculation that someone with pale skin, at midday, in shorts and tank top, with no sunscreen, would produce 10,000 IU in 10 minutes. The average daily recommended intake is 5000 IU daily.

Do I need to take a vitamin D supplement?

Infants and children can’t digest enough from foods, so they need supplemental vitamin D either from fortified cereals and drinks or from a liquid supplement. Adults over 65 years also need a supplement to get enough after digestion. Anyone living north of the 37th (or south in the southern hemisphere) needs to take a supplement in the winter, and in the summer if they don’t have enough sun exposure for vitamin D production.

A high quality vitamin D supplement is really inexpensive, and doesn’t do any harm, so to mitigate the risk of developing vitamin D deficiency I take one year round. I take more in the winter, but I do still take a low dose in the summer as kind of an insurance policy, to make sure I’m getting enough in case I didn’t get outside enough.

Here are 2 supplements I like and recommend to my clients:

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