For any of you who are trying to figure out if the sun really is healthy for us or not, Loren Cordain’s book The Paleo Answer: 7 Days to Lose Weight, Feel Great, Stay Young (2012) gives some great insight into the benefits of sunshine and the dangers of sunscreen. He believes that the universal application of sunscreen lotions may actually produce adverse health effects. Do sunscreens really prevent cancer or do they just protect against sunburn? There is no evidence to suggest sunscreen actually protects you against major types of skin cancer but rather increases your risk due to its ability to allow you longer sun exposure without burning. Not to mention the amount of chemicals found in Sunscreen! While that is a whole other blog post, Dr. Oxbro believes you should be informed. Click here to educate yourself on safe sunscreens and alternatives: Natural News. The more naturally you live, the healthier you will be.
As we all know UV radiation causes damage to our skin. What you may not know is UV is divided into two categories, UVA and UVB. UVB is responsible for the Lobster look we get after too much time in the sun and most sunscreens employ one or more ingredients to block UVB. Until recently very few blocked UVA which is now believed to be the main cause of melanoma. So then, wouldn’t the best sunscreen contain ingredients that block both UVA and UVB? Would seem logical and it is, but research shows that using sunscreen every time were in the sun actually increases our risk for certain types of cancer. Truth is sunlight is both good and bad depending on how you are exposing yourself to the sun. According to Loren Cordain, PhD., chronic, long term exposure such as what outdoor workers experience is protective from skin cancers whereas the occasional intense burn with little regular sun exposure may promote melanoma and other types of cancer.
What about Vitamin D?
We all know we need vitamin D and getting it from the sun is a great way to supercharge yourself naturally. If you are using sunscreen that blocks UVB you are blocking out your body’s natural response to UVB which is to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a powerful anti-cancer substance that we desperately need for health, well-being and survival. In the last 20 years evidence reveals that low vitamin D increases the risk for 16 different types of cancers as well as autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, mental illness, osteoporosis and susceptibility to infectious diseases. Who wants that?!
Safe Sun Exposure
So then, how do we enjoy the suns healthy vitamin D benefits without burning? Dr. Loren Cordain suggests applying a more natural sunscreen containing both UVA and UVB protection (SPF 8-15) for the first few times you will be out in the sun, especially for people with fair complexions. After you have a healthy tan, or some sun tolerance, begin to lower the amount of sunscreen and the SPF value during sun exposure. After that, you hardly need to worry about it. A healthy diet can also protect your skin from the sun’s harmful effects. You can read more about that here: 6 Food Groups that will Protect you from the Sun. The key is common sense and moderation. We have all heard it before, wear light clothing, hats and sit in the shade when it gets too hot. What we want is regular sunlight exposure, (15-30 mins daily) not excessive. Regular sunlight increases our blood levels of vitamin D which in turn decreases our risk of developing many illnesses and diseases.
How much Sunlight and what about Supplements?
We each need different amounts of sunlight depending on skin colour. Very dark skinned people need twice the amount of sun to achieve similar blood concentrations of vitamin D as light skinned people. In the summertime daily sunlight exposure for 15-30 minutes should rapidly boost your levels of Vitamin D. While a good diet rich in fish, veggies, free range eggs and other natural sources provides us with some Vitamin D, it is not nearly enough. Not to mention what the winter season means for soaking in vitamin D goodness through sunlight…nearly impossible!
Here at Nova Health Naturopathic Centre, Dr. Oxbro recommends taking a natural Vitamin D supplement of up to 3000 IU. This may vary from person to person and their amount of sun exposure on a daily basis. Your best way of knowing how much Vitamin D you need personally is to have blood work done. This way the doctor can read your levels and determine what is best for you!
References: Cordain, Loren.(2012) The Paleo Answer: 7 Days to Lose Weight, Feel Great, Stay Young. Pages 207-211