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Can Your Body Really Make Vitamins from Sunlight?

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When you think of vitamins, the images that come to mind are healthy foods, capsules, and tablets. However, your body can also make essential nutrients from nothing more than the ultraviolet rays in sunshine.

Learn more about your amazing sun-harnessing powers and how you can get vitamins from the sun.

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is an essential vitamin, which means that you need to get plenty of this nutrient in your diet if you want to stay healthy. While vitamin D is present in fish and dairy, it’s hard to get enough of this vitamin to protect your health, which is why many people choose to supplement their vitamin D intake by spending time in the sun.

When ultraviolet B rays, which are present in sunlight, strike your skin, a chemical reaction occurs that produces vitamin D3. Most dietary vitamin D is also vitamin D3, so your body knows exactly how to use this vitamin after it passes from your skin into your bloodstream.

Which Vitamins Do You Get from the Sun?

What makes vitamin D3 so unique is that it’s the only nutrient that’s made from exposure to sunlight. No other nutrients are created when sunlight or any other type of light strikes your skin, but thankfully, getting lots of sunshine isn’t the only way to get vitamin D.

It could even be said that vitamin D is one of the easiest essential nutrients to source since you can get it from both food and sunshine. At the same time, you’ll need to eat fish and dairy or get out in the sun a lot to get the amount of vitamin D you need naturally.

PRO TIP: Remember that you can get vitamin D from food, supplements, and sunshine for a triple-whammy effect.


Your Body Depends on Vitamin D to Process Other Nutrients

Even though vitamin D is the only nutrient that’s generated by exposure to sunlight, your ability to process other nutrients is greatly decreased if you don’t have enough vitamin D in your system. Some estimates suggest that your body can only use 15% of the calcium you ingest if you’re deficient in vitamin D, and vitamin D deficiency also appears to decrease the bioavailability of phosphorous by over one-third.

Which Nutrients Make Vitamin D Stronger?

In addition to making it possible to process other nutrients more efficiently, the effectiveness of vitamin D is improved by a variety of nutrients. For instance, both zinc and vitamin K appear to improve the effectiveness of vitamin D, and other nutrient cofactors of vitamin D include boron and magnesium. Vitamin D works with other nutrients to produce a synergistic effect, which simply underscores the importance of using a multivitamin to get all the essential nutrients you need to stay healthy.

How Does Your Body Make Vitamin D?

Your body does not make vitamin D2, which is found in certain kinds of mushrooms. It does, however, make vitamin D3, which is produced in the skin when your epidermis is struck by ultraviolet B (UVB) light. UVB light is naturally present in sunlight, and it can also be created by specialized light bulbs.

Technically, vitamin D is a hormone, not a vitamin. This substance is created in your skin when UVB light causes provitamin D to rearrange into previtamin D. Provitamin D is naturally present in the skin, but it is chemically different from previtamin D, which is the substance that is then absorbed into agents called chylomicrons and transmitted into your lymphatic system.

From your lymphatic system, vitamin D is sent through the walls in your blood vessels, and it enters your bloodstream. At this stage, the process of synthesizing vitamin D is complete, and the vitamin D your body has made from sunshine now passes through your bloodstream until it is all absorbed into vitamin D receptors (VDRs) stationed throughout your system.

Without exposure to the UVB light in sunshine, this process would never begin. While getting out in the sun isn’t the only way to get the vitamin D you need to stay healthy, it’s certainly the simplest and most economical way to avoid the dangers of vitamin D deficiency.

PRO TIP: The darker your skin is, the harder it is for you to generate vitamin D naturally. Hedge accordingly by taking a multivitamin that contains your RDA of vitamin D.


Why Do You Need Sunlight to Stay Healthy?

Everyone knows that getting out in the sunshine makes you feel good. Sunlight is bright, warm, and energizing, and just a short session of standing in the sun is enough to put a renewed pep in your step and reduce anxiety. But why, exactly, does sunshine make us healthy, and how does vitamin D factor into the equation?

First, it’s important to point out that scientists have discovered there are psychological benefits of exposure to sunshine. When sunlight strikes your retinas, it starts a reaction that produces serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and happiness. The more serotonin your brain contains, the happier you’ll be, and getting a little sunshine here and there won’t make you any more likely to suffer from serotonin syndrome, which only occurs when toxic levels of serotonin build up in your body.

The synthesis of vitamin D that occurs when your skin is exposed to sunshine is critical to your bone, immune, and neurological health. Vitamin D performs a variety of critical functions on its own, but perhaps this vitamin’s most critical role is its improvement of the bioavailability of calcium.

Without vitamin D, your body can hardly use any of the calcium you ingest, so vitamin D deficiency can lead to bone brittleness and other bone-related conditions. Children who don’t get enough vitamin D can develop rickets, and adults with vitamin D deficiency are at greater risk of osteoporosis.

Plus, vitamin D reduces inflammation, improves your immune health, and modulates your cell growth. People with high melanin content are even more at risk of vitamin D deficiency, so getting plenty of sunshine is important all throughout the year.

What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough Sunlight?

Your bones will be the first part of your body to suffer if you become deficient in vitamin D. In addition to the depression and anxiety caused by decreased levels of serotonin in your brain, vitamin D deficiency will also make it more likely that you’ll break your bones or develop skeletal deformities. Remember that your body stores calcium in your bones, so once you are deficient, it could take quite a while to return your calcium levels to normal.

From there, the energy-sapping and immune-damaging effects of being unable to process other vital nutrients properly will set in. If you don’t get enough sunshine, you might get sick more frequently, and you might suffer from a general feeling of malaise that persists day-in and day-out.

Though it’s natural to start feeling like it’s all over during the cold winter months when there’s hardly any sunlight, not getting out in the sun enough won’t actually kill you. Especially if you choose to supplement with vitamin D to protect your body’s ability to process nutrients, you’ll be in the clear until the warmer seasons hit and you’re free to spend your off time out in the sun.

PRO TIP: Not getting enough sun won’t turn you into Dracula, but it will make you more at risk of developing dangerous diseases.

Best Ways to Get Enough Vitamin D

If we could, we’d all sit out in sun loungers on our own Caribbean islands every day. Sadly, most of us have to work in offices and live in climates where the sunshine disappears for much of the year. Therefore, we can’t rely purely on sunlight to synthesise all the vitamin D we need to survive, and the vegetarians and vegans among us have an even harder time getting enough of this essential nutrient.

Whether you’ve sworn off animal products or not, getting enough vitamin D from the food you eat is hard, so taking a daily supplement that contains all the vitamin D you need is the ideal solution. Here at WeAreFeel, we’ve developed the ultimate supplement for keeping you healthy throughout all that gruelling office work during the cold winter months.

We skipped all the nasty additives, fillers, and preservatives, but we made sure to include your recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamin D in each capsule of Feel. Instead of stressing about the lack of sunlight or loading up on slimy cod oil every day just to stay healthy, rely on Feel to give you all the nutrients you need every day of the year in one convenient capsule.

Use Feel to compensate for those gloomy days when you’re forced to stay inside.

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About the author
Katie Hipwell - Katie is an AfN Registered Nutritionist (RNutr) with a specialism in food and is Head of Nutrition at Feel. Katie has worked in the food supplement industry for 10 years. She has completed a Master's degree in Human Nutrition and an undergraduate degree in BSc Sport and Exercise Nutrition.
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