Light-Boxes for Vitamin D and Depression

sunshine-makes-me-happyDr Michael Holick, PhD. MD., author of the book “The Vitamin D Solution”, which is another must read for those who really want to understand the importance of this key nutrient (Vitamin D is actually a hormone), outlines the huge benefits of getting natural sunlight not just for improved Vitamin D levels, but for health in general.  He makes convincing arguments that the minor increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancers which occurs with sun exposure is dwarfed by the benefit in reduced breast, colon, prostate cancers with increased sun exposure, reducing breast and colon cancers by 30,000 a year in the USA.  He notes that the non-melanoma skin cancers, which are the ones thought to be increased by the sun exposure, take about 1,200 lives a year in the USA and are treatable when detected early.

You should avoid sun exposure that causes a sun burn as it is the burned skin that gives rise to the most skin cancers. He recommends up to 15 minutes of sun exposure three times a week (without sunscreen as it blocks the vitamin D production) as long as that amount of sun will not cause more than a slight amount of redness at 24 hours later.  For those who just won’t get the opportunity to get out in the sun on a regular basis, he recommends you consider purchasing the only FDA approved light-box to provide Vitamin D boosts in the comfort of your home. You can see that model here.

If you are not worried about the vitamin D level in your body, perhaps you take adequate supplements and have had your vitamin D tested and it is in the optimal range of 50-80 ng/ml, then you still can get additional benefits from direct sun exposure as there are other chemicals released into the body that are less well understood. If however you want to avoid all the UV radiation that can be damaging to the skin and potentially cancer causing, but still get the benefit of the light therapy, consider one of the quality light boxes known to help with depression, particularly SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

When considering a light box that does not have the UV side effect issue, you’ll want to have one that provides 10,000 lux and what is important is at what distance you must sit to get that amount of light and what area of your exposed skin will get the 10,000 lux.  The Northern Lights model is both broad spectrum, medical grade and provides a good intensity with 10,000 lux at 24 inches covering 288 square inches (2ft by 1 ft area).

Another good choice is from Bio-light

For a light box that covers the most surface area and has a stand for use while on exercise equipment for example, consider the model by Sunsquare.

Don’t let the fear of the sun keep you sick.  If you think about it, people and animals were not intended to live in caves away from the sun.  The sun is a life force known from the beginning of time to be important. Suntan and sunscreen lotion manufacturers have teamed up with our dermatologist friends to bombard us with fear based messages about sun exposure.  Everything in moderation, and avoid getting a sun burn, but do get out into the sun and day-light.  A visit to my office will remind you of this importance as all patient rooms are centered on a window, and all these rooms have re-lights to allow that light through to the rest of the office.

Dr. Paul



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