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Sunbeds in winter for Vit D?

(19 Posts)
Roonerspism Mon 01-Feb-16 23:09:18

Genuine question.

Has anyone tried a sunbed in winter for the sole purpose of raising Vitamin D levels?

I'm talking about a monthly session here for, say, 5 minutes. (I understand that UVB induced Vit D remains in the body for 3/4 weeks).

Tanning salons seem to put UVB tubes in their sunbeds now.

Bonkers? The risks of low Vitamin D might perhaps be higher than the risks of an occasional brief sunbed. And supplements aren't always absorbed well.

Roonerspism Tue 02-Feb-16 13:33:35

Dark bump

PolovesTubbyCustard Tue 02-Feb-16 19:11:50

I don't know. After years of sun/sunbed abuse I would say take supplements instead.

But bumping for you.

Bettertobehealthy Fri 05-Feb-16 10:33:26

The answer to your question is that : nobody knows for certain. Our knowledge is not yet comprehensive enough. Each person responds differently,skin pigmentation plays a role etc etc.

It is true that UV light , in excess , can be a factor in the development of skin cancer. But it is also true that UV light is beneficial to the human body. UVB will generate vitamin D in your skin, which has anti-cancer properties. UVA light (longer wavelength) will produce other substances including beta-endorphins, a known antidepressant/painkiller as well as nitric oxide a compound known to be beneficial in the cardiovascular system,it lowers blood pressure.

People that have long term , regular, exposure to sunlight, such as an outdoor worker have less chance of developing melanoma , than say an indoor worker. These outdoor people have higher levels of protective vitamin D circulating in their blood. 95% of skin cancer deaths are attributable to melanoma. The other 5% are attributable to squamous and basal cell carcinomas. These latter types are more frequent in overexposed skin. Melanomas can occur on the least exposed skin , i.e sole of foot, nail bed etc. From this , you should see that it is not a simple equation , UVB or UVA is good or bad.

The answer is that your body requires vitamin D, if you lack it , your body does not have the full complement of tools to fight illnesses of many types, including cancers, autoimmune diseases, infections etc etc.

Vitamin D researchers have recently shown that our bodies use the vitamin d , created by a dose of sunlight, i.e. UVB , or indeed supplements, to read genes in every cell in our body, as and when those cells require. This is an autocrine response. After 2 - 3 days, the vitamin d is converted in the liver, to 25hydroxyD3, the storage form, not so accessible for the autocrine response.


a monthly dose of UVB is not of maximum benefit, far better to have fresh Vitamin D every few days , or less, such that your body can use it more effectively. Although the storage form ( 25hydroxyD3 ) is used in maintaining the bodies calcium balance ( arguably the most important function - as it keeps your muscles including heart, nerves etc functioning correctly), in order to maximise the benefit you should have the non-converted parent compound D3 circulating in your body at the same time. To achieve this you need more frequent dosing.

IF you decide to go down the sunbed route, then be aware that a mild tan, is your bodies way of protecting the nucleus of each cell, by generating melanin which will congregate above the nucleus , thus protecting it from UV radiation. You should probably have no more than a half MED ( (Minimal Erythemal Dose ) exposure. This means roughly half the exposure which would cause a slight reddening of the skin , the day after exposure. So, a half MED that would show no apparent effects , but will generate Vitamin D under UVB light.

IF you have ginger hair,very pale skin or lots of freckles then you have Type 1 skin, and probably should not be exposing yourself to anything other than a very short, minor dose. NEVER EVER BURN. Daily oral supplements are probably the way to go, or very close to daily.

The darker your skin , the more tolerant you are likely to be. However NEVER EVER BURN, no matter what your skin type.

Your (white ) skin can only make Vit D for 20 mins maximum,when exposed to UVB radiation, any exposure longer than that is not going to make more vitamin D . Your skin has a self regulating mechanism, excess Vit D is broken down in your skin, you cannot become overdosed with vitamin D by sunlight. You cannot wash off vitamin D after sun exposure. ( a common myth ). Darker pigmented skin will require 3 - 5 times the exposure to make the same amount of vit D .

It is a good idea to measure your Vit D level, then using supplements or maybe sunbed etc, raise that level to optimum for health. That level is 100 -150 nmol/l according to vit d researchers worldwide. The level commonly found in this country UK is 30 -70 depending upon time of year , personal exposure habits,skin pigmentation,diet etc etc. If you are below 25, which quite a few people are, your risk of developing many nasty diseases increases dramatically.

I have posted quite a bit about Vit d on various threads here.

Look here for lots of information.

also here

also search under my username for lots more ..!!

Hope this is helpful


VikingVolva Fri 05-Feb-16 10:39:55

Yes, vitamin D is important.

The risks of using sun beds is well documented.

Vitamin D supplements are widely available and the safe way of boosting your levels.

The risk/benefit equation simply does not stack up on this one.

DorynownotFloundering Fri 05-Feb-16 11:07:40

BTBH was hoping you'd post thanks for that info.

Following the OP's thoughts would a SAD lamp with small doses daily be more effective/less risky or are they the wrong sort of rays?

I'm struggling to maintain my Vit D levels unless on high dose supplements despite being out in all weathers daily (dog walker) & rarely using suncream.

GP is looking into why I am not absorbing/metabolising Vit D - have you come across this before?

<sorry for hijack OP>

Bettertobehealthy Fri 05-Feb-16 13:54:13

Hi dory,

Yes it is possible that you either have absorption problems, or metabolic problems. Absorption problems could be due to things like Crohns, coeliacs, etc, i.e various intestinal irregularities. It could be due to lack of bile salts , which would be required to break down oil,in which you may be taking your supplementation. Have you had your gall bladder removed ? In what form are your supplements?

Your doctors test is most likely for 25hydroxyD3 , ie the storage form of vitamin D3, that has been processed by your liver , whereby an hydroxy group is added to the molecule. It may be that your liver is not efficient at this function and so you need more than normal.

Another possibility is that your VitaminD binding protein is less efficient due to genetic mutations.

As you can see , there is quite a list of possible reasons.

If you can get to the bottom of the problem, that would be very advantageous knowledge for you, now and in the future. You will be able to maintain an optimal vit d level for good health, by compensating for the difficulty.

Presumably your doctor is in the midst of investigation , so maybe it would not be very helpful to try various options right now.

When you have talked about high doses, what amount were they? , and what effect did they have on your blood level? What was being measured in your blood?

A SAD lamp would be very low in UVB radiation , and no use at all in making Vitamin D in the skin. UVB radiation is 290 to 320 nanometre wavelength, to be found in some sunlamps, some sunbeds etc. Longer wavelength UVA and even longer wavelength visible light does not have the same effect on the skin.

Many people do report that SAD lamps are good for lifting mood etc, I can fully understand why that might be so, they most probably have their place in various treatments, however they are no good for raising Vit D levels.

Just to remind you, in the UK, you can only make vitamin D , in the skin between about 10 and 3 ish , in the months May- Sept ,but in April and October only between 12 and 2 ish. The reason for this is our latitude is 50+ and UVB radiation is absent from sunlight at all other times. Many, many people do not get enough sunshine within these times, that is why they are deficient, over winter particularly.

Hope this is helpful


DorynownotFloundering Fri 05-Feb-16 14:19:45

Thanks BTBH

I was taking daily doses 10,000 units ?mcg ( sorry forgotten the correct term )just to maintain a lower level at one point. Every time I come off them even in summer my levels would plummet & I end up lethargic, achy and I notice my muscle tone deteriorates ( various gyne/bladder probs worsen)

I recently went back to the GP as I have been so bad since I completed a 3 month course up to Christmas I insisted we look at WHY I clearly wasn't absorbing enough.

I have for a long while suspected I have sleep apnoea, (on top of everything else) and GP agrees, and while searching for info on diet & absorption there seems to be some thought that there is a link between a well perfused gut & Vit D absorption which is interesting.

I am just awaiting latest Vit D level results & will be going back on supplements while awaiting some sleep studies.

I feel sometimes my GP thinks I'm looking for something wrong with me which is so far from the truth I just want to be well again as haven't been since 2012 when I hit the menopause & I'm sick & tired of being sick & tired IFYSWIM?! grin

Bettertobehealthy Fri 05-Feb-16 15:08:26


If you are going back on supplements, you could possibly try a sublingual spray. Say 3 puffs of 3000 IU per day. Total 9000 IU per day.
This may be more absorbable. for you.

Test in a month, say ,- if your level has shot up , you may have found an answer. ie. intestinal absorption and not other problems.

The doctor may not want to repeat the blood test so soon , but you can send a blood spot test here, they email the result in a week

Vit d laboratories have different methods , so you may find one is not in exact agreement with another, however a really major change should show up. Or you could use the same lab twice, once before starting , and once after a month on your constant level of daily dosage.

Just to be clear, if you test after 1 month your blood level will still be rising , and should carry on rising for about another 60 days , if you carry on with a constant daily dose. It takes about 3 months to reach equilbrium. By testing after 1 month , you will get an indication of what your final level will be. Initially, your level will rise exponentially, the rise trailing off in the last few days, so probably about half of the rise will be seen in the first month. That is assuming you are actually absorbing by this method. We are all different , and have different responses.

There are sprays in Holland and Barratt , I believe, or many other suppliers. Make sure you get the 3000 IU per puff.

I hope this is helpful. Please don't mess up your doctors regime, you should mention to him that you would like to try another form of supplementation, if indeed you think this idea is worth trying.

Best of luck.

let us know how you get on.


PS. I U is International Units. 200 IU is equivalent to 5 ug ( micrograms )

Your dose would have been 10,000 IU which is 250 ug ( micrograms), or in other words 0.25 milligram.

DorynownotFloundering Sat 06-Feb-16 14:14:40

Aha not totally befuddled then i knew it was 10,000 somethings. gawd & I used to work out complicated drug regimes & doses, scary what you forget.

Thanks for the advice, I won't be altering anything without consulting my GP, I prefer to get things via their pharmacy anyway, some cheaper versions ( like in H&B) can be full of crap to keep the price down. grin

Blood test results on Monday I'll post seperately in health to let you know & not hijack Rooners thread.

Roonerspism Sat 06-Feb-16 22:59:14

Please do hijack my thread!! This has turned into a fascinating conversation and one I thought I was relatively well versed in - until BTBH provided her truly expert knowledge.

In terms of your original response BTBH, I appreciate it. Do you take an interest in all this for personal reasons or scientific, do you mind me asking? I think your knowledge is impressive....

I researched a bit about the sunbeds and I guess for obvious reasons couldn't find much about their use purely for Vit D reasons. I'm a bit silly really as I should get my own Vit D levels measured instead of guessing.

For what it's worth, I have the kind of skin that develops a base tan and doesn't burn very easily. I live quite far north. Until I had kids, I went abroad a lot in the winter and was out a lot in summer. I very much doubt I was ever Vit D deficient. That has all changed and I haven't been abroad in years. I take Vit D supplements and I just don't think they do as good a job.

Maybe there are other benefits of UV light other than Vit D. Maybe, as said, supplements aren't always well absorbed.

I have read that it's best to take Vit D with Vitamin K.... There is always a complicating factor!!!

For now, I'm doing a weekly sunbed for one month and then monthly till April/May.

I wil get my levels tested and report back although it's meaningless having not known my levels now!

PollyPerky Sun 07-Feb-16 09:26:10

Are you medically qualified Better ?

OP- I think the dangers of sun beds are well known- they damage your skin and it's not worth the risk.

Unless you cannot take supplements for any reason, then they are your best bet.

Also, getting sun in summer will build up reserves- sorry, not read every line of Betters' posts, but basically Vit D is fat soluble and stored in the liver. If you get enough in the 'bank' during the summer, then it's used as needed over the winter months. You can also supplement with the right foods- tinned sardines are chock full of it, along with other oily fish, eggs and other foods.

Roonerspism Sun 07-Feb-16 10:09:48

polly I agree the dangers of sunbeds are very well publicised.

I am the kind of person who questions everything, however.

So my theory is, at what point does the risk of vitamin D deficiency become greater than the risk of a 5 minute monthly sunbed? Of course, no one knows the answer as there are too many variables.

But given the number of diseases linked to Vit D deficiency, I would love to see some research on this area.

I suspect the ability to obtain Vit D from a sunbed isn't related to getting a tan!

I also suspect that many people don't absorb Vit D supplements well and there are other factors to be considered. Have a look at some of the research on the interaction with Vitamin K, for example, and the risks of high Vit D supplement without it.

I suspect we will get to the point of recommending very brief UVB and UVA sunbeds for a variety of conditions such as fibro in years to come.

Roonerspism Sun 07-Feb-16 10:11:06

polly it is nigh on impossible to obtain sufficient Vit D from food sadly.

Ememem84 Sun 07-Feb-16 10:32:02

I do this. I take supplements but my dr said it wouldn't hurt to have a couple of minutes on the sunbed every now and then.

Being outside as much as possible has helped me though and making sure the house if bright. I make sure (even if it's raining) I go for a walk when I'm on my lunch break at work. And open curtains as soon as I get up to let the light in.

PollyPerky Sun 07-Feb-16 10:35:37

63% of daily requirement. Now we don't know what they are setting the RDA as, I appreciate.

I think the bit that's missing from all of this is how much Vit D is stored in the liver then synthesised during the winter months.

Regardless of whether you will get any Vit D from a sunbed, the fact is they will make your skin wrinkle and give you age spots in time.

Far better if you can afford it to have a winter break somewhere hot once to twice a year! You don't need to tan- 10 mins of sun a day on the arms and legs is enough at the right latitude.

Roonerspism Sun 07-Feb-16 11:11:21

Yes I think they base the RDA on 400 IU sadly.... Even so, I'm going to eat more sardines! Although I think we have to remember the difference between D3 and D2 here too.

That is my point. Until some years ago, I had a regular winter holiday. I can't manage that just now for various reasons and I don't feel the Vit D supplements cut it in the same way.

I think as BTBH that if anyone takes the decision to occasionally sunbed then the key is to ensure you never burn and, in fact, barely tan.

DorynownotFloundering Wed 17-Feb-16 16:15:40

Hi OP thanks for the invite to continuing hijacking!!

BTBH my levels were "subnormal" but not by as much as previously, 48 thingies where 55 should be the bottom of range. (I was 25 at my worst) sorry to be so inaccurate with units but brain-fog is bad at the moment.

GP has referred me for sleep studies as sleep apnoea is a real possibility which might be affecting the absorbtion of my Vit D I guess- lack of oxygen to the gut has been noted apparently.

Luckily the appt came through quite quickly - tests in a few weeks time & back on supplements so we'll see how that pans out.

I have to say the thought of possibly having to sleep with a darth vader mask pisses me off (such a sexy bedroom look...not) but not as much as the lack of energy so on balance if that is the problem then needs must. grin I'm single & sleep alone anyway so at least I can hiss & wheeze as much as is needful.

DorynownotFloundering Wed 17-Feb-16 16:17:02

I hasten to add lack of oxygen to the gut has been noted in some people apparently not had mine looked at. grin

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