By Dr. Andrea Wick, D.C.

EBS HEALTH COLUMNIST

According to the Vitamin D Council, 70 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a higher risk of cancers, depression, autoimmune disease, arthritis and other health concerns.

Summer is the best time of year to increase your vitamin D levels naturally through sun exposure. Many patients ask me, “How do I do that safely? Isn’t it dangerous to be exposed to the sun?”

The sun is our friend—as we learn in elementary school science, without the sun, life on our planet wouldn’t exist. So why are we so afraid of sun exposure?

Too much of a good thing can be dangerous and over-exposure to the sun can lead to skin damage and certain types of skin cancers. However, 20 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen is generally considered the “safe zone,” and is enough time to allow your body to produce vitamin D on its own. After 20 minutes your body will no longer produce vitamin D.

The average American needs at least three 20-minute sessions of sun exposure per week to produce healthy vitamin D levels on their own, according to alternative medicine proponent Dr. Joseph Mercola, D.O.

After you achieve your recommended dose of vitamin D, then what? Using a sunscreen that protects against UVB rays is your best option. However, some sunscreens are extremely toxic and it is important to be aware of what you are putting on your skin.

Oxybenzone is a popular ingredient used in most sunscreens, however it is a dangerous free-radical generator. Free radicals break down cell membranes, which accelerates aging and leads to many chronic disease processes. Oxybenzone is frightening because of its ability to penetrate into the blood stream. It mimics elevated estrogen symptoms which can cause reproductive conditions such as endometriosis in women and decreased sperm cell counts in men. It can also trigger allergic reactions similar to eczema.

Other ingredients to avoid that are found in common sunscreens include para amino benzoic acid, octyl salicyclate, avobenzoate, oxybenzone, cinoxate, padimate O, dioxybenzone, phenylbenzinidazole, homosalate, sulisobenzone, mentyl anthranilate and trolamine salicylate.

Zinc oxide is your best option for sun protection. It protects your skin against UVA and UVB rays and is non-toxic. Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) is the best resource to find non-toxic skin care options for you and your family.

We are what we eat, and having a diet—or what I call a “live it”—high in antioxidants helps protect against free-radical damage. Salmon, green tea, cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, asparagus), and tomatoes help protect against free radical oxidation.

Dr. Andrea Wick is a chiropractor and applied kinesiologist. She graduated from Life University in Marietta, Georgia, and now practices in Big Sky. She has a passion for holistic health care and being active in the outdoors. Her practice, Healing Hands Chiropractic, is located in the Meadow Village Center. Visit drandreawick.com to learn more.