14 Nov Sun Exposure, the little know (and free) way to help your gut health
We have been lead to believe that sun exposure is BAD.
However getting a sneaky bit of safe sunshine could be just what your gut needed.
I am not sure of the exact age I became interested in tanning but there is something sexy about a nice tan and I wanted in. I remember baking out in the back yard with my bestie and a bottle of olive oil as a teenager to try and get that summer glow with little success. I guess I am a slow learner and the penny never dropped due to the fact that I have a strong English Irish background and an English rose complexion. However even today I still feel better having a slight tan, I feel healthier and it usually means the sun is shining, which makes everyone happy. Unfortunately these days I have resorted to faken it because of my English / Irish heritage which means tanning takes a lot more effort than I am willing to make and to be quite honest, I don’t have time to lay out all summer. I don’t know many people that tan easily, for most of us Aussies it take a serious summer commitment to get “the glow”.
Now in oz, we have no ozone layer so the sun is particularly harsh so sunscreen is a must because you never want to burn the skin, however in saying that I cringe everytime I see the slip slop slap add on TV.
Let me explain before you spin off the handles.
YES it is super important not to burn and damage your skin because that causes premature aging but we also NEED sun exposure to be healthy and to keep up our vitamin d levels and no one is educating us on SAFE sun exposure, the general consensus is that the sun is bad and you must cover up.
1 in 4 Australian adults are vitamin d deficient (according to the Australian bureau of statistics) even though we live in a sunny country and it could be part of the issue in a plethora of health issues (which we will dive into in a moment). However I came across some interesting information regarding the link between vitamin D deficiencies and gut health I think might be of interest to you.
Personally I practice safe sun exposure and call it sun, slip, slop, slap. I depending on what time of the day i’m out in the sun I try to get a good 30 mins of sun exposure before I apply my sunscreen, that way I get a small and safe daily dose before i cover up with sunscreen. I am by no means recommending NO sunscreen but if you cover up to extreme’s and never get sun exposure you may be at risk from a vitamin d deficiency. It is pretty common in winter to dip into your vitamin d stores and be on the verge of a vit d deficiency so it’s a good idea to supplement with D3 during winter, but we shouldn’t need to fork our money to buy vitamin d supplements when its free from mother earth during summer or during long periods of sunshine.
Let’s take a look at what role vitamin d plays in the microbiome and your overall health.
Vitamin D is important for regulating healthy immune function, heart health, promoting healthy deep restorative sleep, setting your circadian rhythm, reducing internal and intestinal inflammation, bone and joint health and works at helping to absorb calcium you might consume. Vitamin D deficiencies are associated with heart disease, almost ALL cancers, autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis and a leaky gut.
The most interesting piece to the puzzle for me is how vitamin D has the ability to reduce intestinal inflammation. As I mentioned your gut health is the gateway to health or disease so getting a handle on your gut health solves a lot of issues. Vitamin D is imperative in keeping the elasticity of the tight junctions of your gut that open and close to let nutrients through or pathogens to the immune system to be “dealt with” as per normal, however being deficient in vit D can cause the gut to remain open and leaky. Controlling a leaky gut is really important because it can cause an imbalance between good vs bad bacteria, mess with your hormones (stress, sleep, reproductive and mood) create food allergies and intolerance’s, cause anxiety and mood disorders and create a source of inflammation that is hard to control. The list is endless but the key message is vitamin d can mess up your gut health.
There are multiple studies and peer reviewed papers (referenced below for your viewing pleasure) explaining how vitamin d helps to control systemic inflammation. It is widely known that vitamin D helps control inflammation however i was shocked to learn the relationship it plays in your gut health. Not only that you have vitamin d receptors in the brain, heart, skin, reproductive organs, breasts (if you have them), intestines, bone and kidney’s so a deficiency can affect your entire body.
After all that doom and gloom think about how you can get a sneaky bit of SAFE sun exposure today or tomorrow. Also here in Australia it is free (through Medicare) to get a vit d blood test so just visit your Doctor to see where you are at, especially if you are experiencing health concerns you can’t get to the bottom of. I’m not saying this is the “magic pill” but it can be very beneficial to overall health or for someone with a leaky gut.