I thought that once the weather heated up I would be free from the suggestion, usually yelled in passing, to get a hat on my baby. Not so. New Yorkers seem to be under the impression that babies of any, in any season, are in need of hats. And no matter how much I tell myself that I know what my baby needs and I can take care of him better than they can (and, for pete’s sake, we’re only going to be outside for 10 minutes!), it still stings and I have a hard time shaking off the barb for an hour or so. And so I have gotten into the habit of slathering the menchildren in sunscreen and taking along a hat for M2 whenever we go out. That way if anybody shouts at me from across the street to get a hat on my baby I can tell them that I’ve taken care of it and their minds can be at ease that these little boys will not be getting skin cancer today.
But then I started reading about vitamin D. Before last week I knew 2 things about it: 1. It can be made by exposing your skin to the sun and 2. it is added to our milk. I had some vague notion that it helped with bone strength as well, but it wasn’t something I thought about much. Then I read this article. It was both enlightening and confusing. Enlightening because I now know that vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium, is not just for bones, but for pretty much every tissue in your body. Having adequate levels of it can prevent against dementia, cancers (colon, breast, prostate), high blood pressure, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, and wow, who knew it could do all that?
Even more amazing, in my opinion, is that getting enough vitamin D seems to be relatively difficult. Sure, you can get it from all sorts of food (fortified cereals and milk, orange juice, and fish), but ingesting vitamin D is not the best way to get your fill — especially since researchers have not concluded how much people need. Any excess you consume goes to your liver and can reach toxic levels. So you need to go out in the sun. Without sunscreen. Which is where I get a little bit confused. I’m confused because I’m told it is a common deficiency, and yet it seems easy to get enough just by taking a lunchtime walk around the block every day. Or even just a few times a week. Do it often enough, or for long enough, and your body can make enough vitamin D to last a whole year. And, unlike vitamin D from food, any excess is just burned off and does not build up in your liver.
I don’t think I’m going to stress as much about sunscreen any more. If we’re at the beach, of course I’ll put it on them, but if we’re just running errands and they’re only in the sun for 15 minutes at a time, sunscreen be darned. And drive-by advisers be darned too. What do they know about vitamin D?