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It all began one dark, cold day. Bangalore was covered with dark clouds and drenched with rains, bringing down the temperatures and moods drastically. This went on for a little over 2 weeks. Imagine no sunshine for 2 weeks straight!!! Dark gloomy days!
Then just as suddenly as the clouds had descended on this garden city, one fine day Bangaloreans woke up to a super bright sunny day. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Where were the sunglasses?
As soon as the children came back from school, I rushed them to the park (an activity they had not experienced in what seemed like ages) fearing that anytime now the rains would come lashing down.
Thankfully as I write this, it’s the 3rd day running of lovely bright blue sunny skies with just a perfect nip in the air to enjoy the warmth of the sun. The park was full of children joyously enjoying all that it had to offer. Who knew the sun would be missed this much? But interestingly when there is abundance of sunshine, we run miles from it. Considering how much it has to offer, we shy away from stepping into the ‘light’.
This is not a weather update post but the importance of Sunshine for our health. I wouldn’t have been any wiser if I had not got detected with dangerously low levels of Vitamin D and was ordered a very high dosage of vitamin D supplements. Some of the symptoms I battled with were severe and consistent aches and pains (felt 10 years older with creaking bones), low energy and hair fall (first it was vanity that caused my concern but with lumps falling out, I was freaking out). Unfortunately I was not alone in this. As per a recent study 69% Indians are suffering from this deficiency.
If we take a moment to consider how much sunshine are our children really getting exposed to, we will know it’s not that much at all? If they are school going, I would say very little unless the school has some daily planned ‘outdoor’ activities. Once they are back from school rarely do they do any sports / activities in the sun (what with all indoor sports complexes). Lucky are those children who run wild in the sun.
What was intriguing when I got diagnosed with this deficiency was that I actually thought I got plenty of sunshine. Then again, I was smothering my skin with high spf sunscreen. Was the sunscreen interfering with my body’s ability to make Vitamin D, even though I was sufficiently exposed to the sun? I was equally guilty of covering up my children too with sunscreen. I would expose the children to loads of sunshine but with equal measures of sunscreen. After plenty of research and doctor’s advice it was evident that if the body had any chance to make Vitamin D when exposed to the sun, then the skin shouldn’t be covered with sunscreen (atleast 15-30 minutes sun without sunscreen).
We didn’t grow up with sunscreen laden on us and so far so good for all of us. Yes weather conditions are very different today but unless you are trekking in the Sahara desert or sunbathing on the beach for hours everyday, does one really need the kind of sun protection the sunscreen makers are propagating? Sunscreen is important but to what extent and for whom?
Sunscreen definitely has a place in our ‘health and beauty’ section but when faced with rampant vitamin D deficiency there a lot of unanswered questions that need more detailed answers. As informative as the Internet is, its also throwing us all over the place. Like if a child steps into the sun, how much spf sunscreen (if any at all) is needed so that the vitamin absorption is not compromised? Does vitamin absorption get hampered when we apply sunscreen? How about a person working in an office setting from 8am to 8pm? How much sunshine/sunscreen do they need?
Keep in mind the following when taking on the battle of Sunshine vs Sunscreen –
· Indian brown skin has its own natural sun protection. This is the reason that darker skin people actually need ‘more’ sun exposure than our fairer counterparts to benefit from the sun’s good stuff.
· If you still want to protect your skin there are lots of natural sunscreens available, like coconut oil for one.
What is a definite fact is that more people today than ever(and Indians in large measure) are suffering from a severe vitamin D deficiency and to imagine we live in a country largely lit by sharp sunshine.
As always don’t take my word for it, read the recent July 2015 article published in TOI - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health-news/Are-you-vitamin-D-deficient/articleshow/34287065.cms