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F.A.Q. - Your questions answered

Whether you are new to TACOMA HEALTH or an established patient, we understand that many of you have important questions that need to be answered. We have carefully composed a list of our patients' most frequently asked questions about all topics regarding being a patient here at TACOMA HEALTH. Please take a moment to carefully read over these questions and see if your inquiry may be in the answers provided.

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Dr. Iverson answers your important health questions
Q:   Dear Dr. Iverson,
            My desk at work is in front of a big window and I receive a fair amount of      sunshine through it.  Do I need to take as much vitamin D as others since I am getting so much light?   -- Cindy,  Dupont, WA
A: Thanks for your question Cindy!
Well you are certainly fortunate to receive some light from the sun, which is better than most that never get to see the light at all, such as working in a department store with the only light being fluorescent.  The sunlight you receive through the window is primarily going to serve as a warming benefit (from infrared) and a mood benefit (from the full spectrum lighting).  However, when it comes to making Vitamin D3—that is a different story. 
 Here is a little story on UV light before I completely can answer your question.
Ultraviolet light from the sun comes in two main wavelengths: UVA and UVB of which 98% come from UVA. The less abundant UVB is the healthy wavelength that helps make vitamin D in your body when it shines on your skin. With only 20 minutes of midday sun exposure, your skin produces approximately 10,000 IU vitamin D. So, what happens when you go month after month without seeing the sun shine at all? You will most certainly end up with a vitamin D deficiency.
UVB is essential for human life, but even though it is the healthy ray, it is also responsible for that painful red sunburn which occurs after too much fun in the summer sun. UVA waves do not cause sunburn. Serious sunburn can cause cellular DNA damage which results in premature aging and skin cancer. Unlike UVB which acts on the surface of the skin, UVA penetrates deep into your skin and can cause even more damage from free radicals than UVB. Some researchers argue that UVA is directly responsible for the most dangerous form of skin cancer - malignant melanoma. For this reason it is the ‘bad guy’ and is the ray most responsible for premature skin aging and skin cancer.  Many sunscreens across Europe show how they protect against UVA rays as well as UVB- it is not yet law for your sunscreen to show that here in the USA.
Vitamin D3 is made from UVB rays but UVA actually breaks down both vitamin D as well as vitamin A. This is Nature’s method of making sure you do not get too much vitamin D from the sun.
The window glass in your home or your car allows 90% of the ‘bad’ UVA to pass and blocks 90% of the ‘good’ UVB rays. This can actually deplete vitamin D levels!   So to answer your question Cindy—you are actually receiving the unhealthy UVA rays which may leave you with a bit of a tan, but can actually penetrate deeply into the skin and cause damage without giving all the benefits of vitamin D found in UVB rays.
So it is recommended that you get outside in the sunshine daily to get your healthy UVB rays. The trick is - DO NOT GET BURNED! If you are fair-skinned, you may never be able to be in the sun for long periods of time. Instead, expose yourself to a little sunshine bit by bit, day by day, until your body becomes accustomed to the stronger and more intense afternoon rays. If you can only tolerate a few minutes the first day… then that is ALL YOU CAN TOLERATE! Don’t try to push the body beyond its ability. Spend a few minutes in the sun the first day and a few more the next, adding on a few minutes each day. Little by little, your body will produce its own natural melanin sunscreen. This is how the naturopathic forefathers, like Dr. John Christopher, taught his patients to benefit from the sun- little by little.
If you can't enjoy the sun in a holiday vacation- be sure to take your vitamin D3 as I recommended in the articles.
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