The Sun, Canoeing, and Cod Liver Oil
By Richard P. Holm MD
It was a Boy Scout canoe trip into the Minnesota Canadian boundary waters in the summer of 1965 when a gangly group of DeSmet Scouts discovered the sun again after two days of chilling and soaking rain. Taking our noon break from canoeing all day, we found a solar exposed, very large, warm, and welcoming rock on an island and stretched out on its warm surface We took off our shirts and dried our soaked socks while reveling in the renewing rays of the sun.
At that moment I could feel the wonderful power and force of ol’ sol beaming into me. I remember thinking how the sun’s radiation was the visible energy source for life on this earth, and I wanted more of it. It must be a natural instinct to want exposure to the rays of the sun. Think how people seem to gravitate to the beach for sunbathing, and how sad some get in the days of the winter solstice when there’s not enough of it.
Recently, we have become more aware of the importance of enough vitamin D which our bodies manufacture when rays of sun come in contact with our skin. We can also get this important vitamin from the oil of deep-sea fish (such as cod) who live in very dark waters gathering their vitamin D by eating falling phytoplankton who mostly live on the sun-soaked surface water. The fish store their plankton-source vitamin D in their livers, and it is that cod-liver oil source of vitamin D that supplemented children for many years. Now we can take fish oil capsules, flax seed oil (another vitamin D source) and vitamin D3 supplements which all work to do almost the same thing as laying out on a warm rock in the boundary waters. Still, we know that just about 50 percent of people don’t get enough vitamin D.
The flip side of all this sun and vitamin D talk is that one can get too much of both. One should not take more than 5,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day, and one should avoid too much sun. We know that excessive sun (or tanning booth) exposure causes premature skin aging with wrinkles, sagging, brown spots, rough skin, not to mention skin cancers. You hear and read everywhere the following words of advice: use sunscreen, wear protective clothing and avoid tanning booths.
But after two days of a soaking cold rain, it should be okay to lay out on a warm rock.
Watch On Call with the Prairie Doc® most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central on SDPTV and follow the Prairie Doc® on Facebook and YouTube for free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc® library.