Are you getting enough of the Sunshine Vitamin?

By: Allison Kropff Email
By: Allison Kropff Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - We have had no shortage of the Sunshine Vitamin this summer, but you still may not be getting enough of it.

Doctors say we are Vitamin D deficient because we're not exposing ourselves to the sun. But if you do spend time in the sun, are you increasing your risk of Melanoma? We talked to to doctors.

It's an early trip to the park for the Feagins'.

"The kids do so much better when they get some outdoor time. Also so they can get sunshine without sunscreen on for just a few minutes every day," says Jenifer Feagin, a mother of three.

Don't think she's a bad Mom, she's right. By leaving the sunscreen off for a few minutes a day, she's allowing the kids' bodies to make Vitamin D.

"What I tell patients to do is get out in the sun, 10 minutes or 15 minutes, or if you're getting a little pink, then put your sunscreen on," says Dr. Barry Sunshine, who adds excessive use of sunscreen leads to Vitamin D deficiencies.

Without the "sunshine" vitamin, your body can't fight the flu, bacterial infections or cancers.

"Why do we have flu season in the winter? We have it because we don't make enough Vitamin D, so we don't make the antimicrobial polypeptides," says Dr. Sunshine.

But what about your risk for Melanoma?

"I don't think we need to stay out of the sun, I think we need to be smart in the sun," says Dr. Daniel Ibach, a medical oncologist with Thompson Cancer Survival Center.

He says not to be afraid of skin cancer.

"It's not bad to be out in the sun, we all need to be out in the sun, but you have to protect from the burns. So it's not necessarily just the sun, but it's the burning of the sun."

Your body needs 5,000 International Units of Vitamin D a day. If you're in the sun for about 10 minutes, Dr. Sunshine says you'll get 10,000 IU's.

"You have to have it on your arms, your legs, the best place is the torso."

It's a way Feagin keeps her kids stay healthy. Then she applies the sunscreen.

"It's a hard balance, but you have to decide what's best for you and your family, do what you can to keep your family healthy and safe."

If you can't be out in the sun, you should take a supplement. You get some Vitamin D from food, but Dr. Sunshine says not nearly enough.
He recommends you get your Vitamin D checked.

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