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To Stay out of the Sun or Not: Learning the Truth about Vitamin D

As I’ve started learning the truth about vitamin D, I’m finding that the sun may not be our enemy and that our bodies may need vitamin D more than we knew.

By Ann Timm

Are you buying into the lie?

Banana Boat ads encourage you to ‘defend against the sun’.

Coppertone wants you to protect your skin and your family from harmful UVA and UVB rays.

Me? I’ve been on a quest to reclaim my health after three years of exhaustion and brain fog. For so long, I struggled to get out of bed in the mornings to help my kids get ready for school and for the rest of the day I tried to pry my eyes open. They always felt so heavy, like I was drugged.

By early afternoon I was resorting to a nap before they came home from school, then after helping them with homework and putting dinner on the table, I wanted to head to bed at 9 pm, forgetting all of the other items on my to-do list.

Does this sound like you?

I’ve been on this healthy living journey for 17 years now, but I could not figure out what was wrong with me. I tried drinking more water, eating better and less than I had been. I tried exercising more often and harder and I tried sleeping more, but I could never seem to get out of the funk that I was in.

And it was costing me.

I’m supposed to be Supermom: up early reading my Bible, making coffee, helping the kids get ready for school, making breakfast so they had an awesome start to their day, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, grocery shopping, driving them all over the county for after school activities. And then there’s homework and dinner and not too mention this new gig.

Our job is never done!

I was miserable and my family was starting to feed on my negativity, complaining that I wasn’t any fun anymore. I didn’t feel good and I wasn’t looking so good either.

I needed to figure out where Superman got his powers.

After some prodding, I finally took the time to make myself go to the doctor and get help. My family history includes thyroid issues so I assumed that when the blood test results came back I would get the news that I had a thyroid disorder, which I did.

The news that I was not expecting was how depleted my vitamin D tank was. It was practically on empty. Dangerously low.

Vitamin D is one of those vitamins that I never really paid that much attention to. I mean, you get it fortified in orange juice and milk right? And you get it every time you go outside, so how can you have an empty vitamin D tank?

Apparently I did.

What’s more is that lacking vitamin D causes similar symptoms to a sluggish thyroid. Whoa, no wonder I was walking around like a zombie! My thyroid was in hypo mode and my vitamin D tank was tanked.

I started thinking back over the last few years trying to figure out where things had gone wrong. My diet hadn’t changed much. I was still eating a good amount of fresh veggies. What else could it have been?

Bingo: I loved being outside playing with the kids, but I realized that four years ago, I moved to a northern state from the sunny, warm south. I had just doubled the size of my family and home and I wasn’t spending a fraction of the amount of time outdoors that I used to. And then when I did, the sun wasn’t near as strong.

My skin was now pale and I was tired, putting on weight and frequently forgetful.

My doctor immediately prescribed 5000 IU of vitamin D3 twice a day to refill my tank. (Please note that dose is based on MY blood test and may not be appropriate for everyone, have your physician check yours to give a proper dosage) It didn’t take long for my baggy eyes to feel a little lighter and I felt refreshed in the morning and ready to meet a new day. After just a couple of months, I even found myself staying up later than my teenagers.

I’m not as forgetful as I used to be and I have much more clarity during the day than I did only months ago. The cool thing, it’s only been a little over three months, and my tank is just now at half full. How will I be feeling when it reaches the top?

All of these positive changes got me thinking about vitamin d and asking myself these questions:

  1. What exactly is vitamin D?
  2. What does it do for the body?
  3. What if we don’t get enough?
  4. What are the best sources for vitamin D?

I started reading everything I could find on vitamin D.

While the supplement has been helpful, it’s not the best source of vitamin D. I’ve been reading and researching constantly through this struggle, trying to understand why and how this happened. I desperately want to feel good again and remember how not-too long ago, I felt vibrant and young.

My doctor mentioned that she encourages everyone living as far north of the equator as we do to take vitamin D3 supplements because we don’t get enough sun.

Wait, that’s interesting… aren’t we told to stay out of the sun?

In fact, in my research I came across a Tip of the Day by ABC news: “Stay out of the sun if you want to keep your skin looking young.” And this: “The simple thing you can do every day to look young, stay out of the sun,” from Huffington Post.

Over and over, we are told to stay out of the sun. Wear sunblock to protect your skin. Wear a hat and cover yourself. The sun is harmful!

This seriously piqued my curiosity. My doctor is telling me we don’t get enough sun, but every day by all sorts of media we are told to stay out of the sun. We know that at some primal level we need the sun for survival. After all It gives light for us to see and for plants to grow.

Up until the last century, most people spent all day outside in the sun. In some countries they still do.

I decided to start digging deeper and find out as much as I could. Is the sun good for us? Or is the sun harmful?

In the coming weeks I will be sharing helpful bits of what I have gleaned from a number of resources. I’ll be bringing you what I learned with this series on vitamin D, how it’s affected my life and what I’m doing now.

By the way, can you guess where Superman got his powers? If you don’t remember, the answer might surprise you.

I’ll shed light on it next week.

Do you take a vitamin D supplement? What’s your experience with vitamin D?

Do you know the truth about vitamin D and how important it is for your body? Is the advice to stay out of the sun really so good for us?

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  1. I would be happy to follow you into getting healthier. We are in Australia visiting with my sister and hubby for a year and missing the Canadian non-winter ever in my memory. With my sister’s help, I have lost 25 pounds and regained more mobility. This past week, my husband and I hiked 13 km/5 miles or more. As a former long distance runner, this was a miracle. I have not been able to do that for 25 years, as I damaged a disc in my back. I wish you all the best and would love to join the journey with you!

    1. Wow, thank you for sharing your story Sheila! It is very encouraging to me and I’m sure to many others as well 🙂 I know you are missing home, but it sounds like you are gaining so much life with your sister in Australia! Thank you for joining the journey with me 🙂 In kindness and friendship, Ann

  2. I take cod liver oil year round, which has vitamin D in it, as does my calcium supplement. In the winter I add a D3 supplement as well since I’m not outside walking like I am when the weather is nice.

  3. This article sounds just like me! Always feeling sluggish. I try to take vitamin D supplements, but have not been as committed to it in the past few months as usual. I just kept forgetting. And it cost me.

    Thanks for the reminder to soak in that sun, and take those supplements! I am in Canada so we definitely need the supplements!

    1. Hi Amanda, I totally get it! Thanks for sharing, I know it can be hard to get outside when its cold and remembering to take those supplements. I have been putting it on my to-do list everyday for the last few months and I leave it out on the counter in case I forget where I put my list 😉 Warm regards, Ann

  4. My husband and I have had similar thoughts about vitamin D. I’ve truly wondered if the reason I am sick more in the winter is because of the lack of time spent in the sun!

  5. The role of vit D is fascinating. A couple of years ago my daughter was diagnosed with two auto-immune diseases. At the time of diagnosis her vit D level was dangerously low. Since then myself and all my kids take a supplement, esp. in the winter months. And we spend lots of time outside during the summer mostly without sunscreen.

  6. Thank you so much for this article. It came just before my blood tests came back with terribly low vit D. I have been dealing with adrenal fatigue for nearly two years— the symptoms sound so similar to your testimony although my thyroid numbers are still testing okay. I felt so grateful when my doctor’s email came that I had read your testimony. It gave me a clue of what vit d deficiency meant. Thank you for taking time to write this. Praying we both take more time outdoors to allow our bodies to heal 😉

  7. Good morning 🙂 I’m new to Twitter and am not sure how all this works yet, but I found your article interesting. While I would agree that vitamin D from the sun is essential, it helps defeat depression and all those good things, I have been diagnosed with skin cancer. My moles have reacted to the sun in a negative way… While I would say, yes, go sit in the sun, it is also important to limit the exposure… 😉

    Thanks for all your wonderful input!

  8. I’m finding that the sun may not be our adversary and that our bodies may require vitamin D more than we knew. The advantages of vitamin D are numerous and, at times, astounding. This is what I’ve realized and how I’m getting my day by day measurement.

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