It's spring and time to get out into the sunshine, right? Not according to some who say we should strictly limit our time in the sun, or that we should slather on plenty of sunscreen first to avoid wrinkles and skin cancer. But how natural is that? Sunscreen, most full of nasty chemicals, vs. sunshine, which helps our bodies make plenty of vitamin D…? Which will you pick?! (Find safe sunscreens here.)
Don't be afraid of the sun!
A COMMON SENSE ARTICLE FROM HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
In recent years, the advice to totally avoid sun exposure hasn't set right with me. Yes, I know that some say there have been changes in the earth's ozone, so the sun can be more dangerous than in years past. But how could something as natural as the sun be unhealthy as many would have us believe? This article from Harvard Medical School on sunshine takes a more believable middle road on the issue:
- “Several studies have suggested that suddenly getting a lot of sun is more dangerous then steady exposure over time.”
- “There is a well-documented relationship between low vitamin D levels and poor bone health. Now links have been made to everything from multiple sclerosis to prostate cancer. “Linking” low vitamin D with these diseases doesn’t prove cause-and-effect, but it suggests that possibility. Getting some sun may also shake off the wintertime blues: Research suggests that light hitting your skin, not just your eyes, helps reverse seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Moreover, being outside gets us golfing, gardening, and engaging in other types of physical activity.” (Also read about how taking my cod liver oil is, for me, like an all-natural chill pill!)
- “Nobody wants to get skin cancer, but we’ve gone from sun worship to sun dread. Dr. Stern and others say there is a middle way that includes using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 when you’re outside for an extended period and wearing a hat and shirt around midday. So when summer’s here, get outside and enjoy it!”
MORE ON VITAMIN D AND THE MANY HEALTH BENEFITS:
- Prevents/treats depression and the “winter blues”/S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
- U.S. News and World Report: “Almost everyone needs more of the sunshine vitamin” – Vitamin D for bone health, lower diabetes risk, protection against TB, colds and flu
- Decreases multiple sclerosis risk
- Prevents cancer:
- Fox News: “Scientists Say Sunshine May Prevent Cancer“
- “Vitamin D Benefits from Sun Exposure Outshine Cancer Risk“
- USA Today: “Vitamin D research may have doctors prescribing sunshine” The research of Dr. Edward Giovannucci, a Harvard University professor of medicine and nutrition, suggests that vitamin D might help prevent 30 deaths for each one caused by skin cancer. “I would challenge anyone to find an area or nutrient or any factor that has such consistent anti-cancer benefits as vitamin D,” Giovannucci told the cancer scientists. “The data are really quite remarkable.”
HERE'S WHAT OUR FAMILY DOES:
As soon as there's a hint of spring in the air, we're outside as much as possible and our skin slowly builds up a good base. As we go through the summer, we rarely need much sunscreen. I only put it on the kids or I if we're going to be outside without shelter for a long time, especially in the middle of the day, or if we'll be by water, and then only after we get some sun without sunscreen for a while first. (How long depends on how much we've already been in the sun that year.) Sometimes I'll only put it on their cheeks, noses, shoulders and tops of their ears. You have to know your/your kid's skin and just be smart about it.
BE CAREFUL WITH THIS!
Use common sense. Be especially careful with kids. If your skin is very fair you may have to use more sunscreen than our family does. (Or if you haven't been in the sun much, and obviously if you're vacationing in a hotter climate.) Remember, the goal is to get some sunshine on your skin for the vitamin D (and probably many other health benefits that only God knows), but NEVER LET YOURSELF BURN!
WHAT ABOUT WRINKLES?
Most people think wrinkles are from sun damage. This may be partially true, and mostly if your skin has been burned a lot, but there are many other risk factors: age, smoking, stress, genetics, and I've also read that not getting enough healthy fats in your diet plays a HUGE role.
ALL NATURAL SUNSCREENS?
There are many non-toxic sunscreens on the market that have natural ingredients, so you can avoid the chemicals. We just use the cheap ones, though, because we really don't use it enough to justify the extra expense – they're very pricey. However, if you have very fair skin and/or you are in the sun a lot, it may be worth it to you.
WHO TO BELIEVE?
There are conflicting studies (big surprise!), and some sources still say that any sun exposure is dangerous. Do some reading and decide for yourself, but as always, above all, use common sense.
- The best way to get vitamin D in the winter: cod liver oil! (Don't worry, you can take the capsules.)
- Dr. Eades says the same thing, I love him!
- Omega 3's in cod liver oil can prevent sunburn – scroll down about 2/3 on this page to read about that and more on the many benefits of cod liver oil.
- Where is the TRUTH on health & nutrition?
- Last week's Rookie Tip: do you eat enough eggs?
- Need some meatless/vegetarian meal ideas?
- Other main dish ideas (scroll down through them all)