Q. My vitamin D level is low and my doctor said I should spend more time in the sun. He didn’t provide details and I don’t like to sit outside in direct sunlight. Is indirect sunlight (under an umbrella) just as good?
A. Most dermatologists would shudder at your doctor’s recommendation. They worry because excessive sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer.
Indirect exposure, however, will not allow your skin to make vitamin D. It doesn’t take long to get enough vitamin D from sunlight. In the summer, 10 to 15 minutes two or three times a week often does the trick.
Some people believe that naturally produced vitamin D from sunlight is better than the synthetic vitamin D you get form a pill. That controversy remains to be resolved. SInce you do not like any direct sun exposure, oral vitamin D might be the best solution.
We are sending you our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency so you can learn more about the dangers of inadequate vitamin D, how to analyze lab results and the optimal oral dose for good health. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (61 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. D-23, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It can also be downloaded for $2 from the Website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

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  1. fbl

    For years I tried to get my D level up. I started in the low 20s. The sun for 30 min, 3X a week did nothing until I added some extra D3, but even then I only got up to 43. I finally took 12,000 iu daily, plus sun and now my level is finally, after several months, where it should be. Too late of course…
    In the meantime I battled cancer of the cervix. I truly believe that if my level had been up from the get-go I would never have developed cancer. I haven’t had a cold or flu in over 25 years-but I got cancer! Go figure!

  2. HJL

    Read Michael F. Holick, Ph.D, M.D book, The Vitamin D Solution. After you read it you will be convinced the sun is friend. The book gives detailed guidelines about how much sun to get. The guidelines are adjusted for latitude (how far north or south you are) and for time of year (you get more sun in summer when sun is more overhead-more rays per sq. foot.
    The dermatologists are right if you way overdo it. People who overdo tanning booths do significantly raise their risk for skin cancer.

  3. cpmt

    Not everyone can assimilate vitamin D (& A) from the sun. My mother and I have difficulty absorbing or making vitamin D (and A) at least that is what the Dr. told us many years ago. We were very low in those vitamins. I always needed ‘extra help’ with supplements for both vitamins when I was little (and I was in the sun everyday).

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