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Back to Better Health: Healthy sun exposure

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By Dr. Elizabeth Boomhower

For Capital Region Independent Media

Happy spring! Now that the sun is starting to show up more, I want to touch on an all-important topic — sun exposure!

From November to February, our body cannot absorb vitamin D from the sun, which is one of the reasons that you may hit the bottom of the winter blues in the lovely month of February.

Fear not though, the sun is shining more each day and I recommend you get out there and embrace those rays, especially while it’s not yet in its peak power.

Sunshine is “free” medicine. Letting sun rays hit our bare skin can help our body regulate many things, including vitamin D levels, which help to strengthen our immune system and enhance our mood.

These benefits only come, of course, if we let the sun hit our bare skin. Unfortunately, we have been conditioned to fear the sun and slather on layer upon layer of sunscreen, especially in the summer months.

Although sunscreen offers protection against harmful results of sun exposure, it also has an extensive list of ingredients that are toxic for the body, and it’s applied directly to the most porous organ in our body — the skin!

Before you apply your sunscreen once you’ve set foot outside, consider your body’s essential need for the fat-soluble vitamin D. I believe in balance, which is entirely possible when it comes to sun exposure.

One of my favorite tools to help with mindful sun exposure is the Dminder app. I love this app for SO many reasons. It’s customizable to your location and skin type, so you can get personalized recommendations regarding a healthy amount of sun exposure. It shares with you important and valuable information like the UVI level in your area, which equates to the intensity of the sun, how much vitamin D your body is making from your sun sessions, and when solar noon is.

You can also retroactively input sun sessions and input any vitamin D supplementation you do. It will alert you to when you may begin burning, based on the UV index in your area at the time, which you can then opt to cover your skin or apply sunscreen.

The Dminder app also includes a valuable FAQ section that explains more about solar noon, sunscreen usage, photo aging and cancer risks.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble hormone that we can only make from the sun until the end of fall, which means the more we absorb and store now until then, the happier we will be in the winter months and the less we will have to supplement.

Additionally, early morning and evening sun exposure can help to regulate our sleep cycles. Viewing the sunrise can jumpstart your morning for many reasons. Embracing the beauty during a mindful moment is great for stress relief and the bright red-orange light of the sun triggers your cortisol to release, getting you awake for the day ahead. If you’d like to cut back on morning caffeine, this is a great tool to help do so!

Viewing that same fading red orange light in the evening as the sun is setting can help trigger melatonin release in the body, which helps you begin to feel sleepy.

The sun is the most magnificent thing we have access to. It helps our plants grow, it is our source for essential vitamin D, our body’s cue to wake up and wind down, and it is a transformer for many things.

I encourage you to download the Dminder app and begin taking an empowered approach to your sun exposure this year, knowing that it can provide us with healing if we allow it to.

Dr. Elizabeth Boomhower owns and operates Catskill Valley Chiropractic: A Center for Wellness on Country Estates Road in Greenville.

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