Well. Sort of. It seems that the warmer days are not necessarily heralding the appearance of a large shiny ball in the sky (remember that thing?). Nonetheless, it is with daily exuberance that I cast open the curtains each morning, living in hope. Sure, more often than not, my heart sinks down to my slippers while the kids tug at my pyjamas, begging to go to the beach.
Hmmm. There is a sandpit full of goodness-know-what at the base of our building… not quite the same. How depressing. And my depression is probably due to my lack of sun-exposure and not the fact that I can no longer fit into my bikini.
In countries where hours of sunshine are particularly scarce during winter, depression can become a real problem – many people resort to light therapy to lift their mood and up their production of Vitamin D. Strictly speaking, Vitamin D is not a vitamin since human skin can manufacture it from sunshine alone. Whatever the case, the Big D is something we need to stay healthy, and dear sweet Beijing may not be coming up with the goods.
It’s not only our moods that grow dark when we co-exist with such a vague sun. Vitamin D has been long associated with strong bone formation and protection of the lungs (something Beijingren are in dire need of). It also powerfully influences the immune system responses and cell defences, and maintains the level of calcium and phosphorous in the blood stream (vital for bones and teeth). It’s even believed to help protect against cancer.
If you can’t pack up the kids and spend five days lolling in the limpid water off Krabi, Koh Samui or the Greek islands every month, keep an eye on the skies for any semblance of sun and rush outside, post-haste. Roll up your sleeves and pant legs and bask your face – fifteen minutes’ exposure directly to the skin is recommended at least three times a week – without sunscreen. Whilst it’s normally imperative to protect skin against the sun, sunscreen can actually block the potential benefits of Vitamin D.
Be sure to check your vitamin supplements for the presence of Vitamin D and talk to your doctor about appropriate supplements for the kids. Unfortunately, there are not many foods that contain this precious vitamin – milk is your best bet, along with liver, egg yolk, sardines and canned tuna. If you can find it, Vitamin D fortified orange juice, margarine and soy milk are other options.