Should we run, should we hide or should we grab a few sombreros and hit the beach?
SPF # Sombrero
I know what your thinking, “get that man some shorts and some sunscreen STAT!” I won’t debate the shorts, but if it was a choice between the other two, I’d opt to keep the sombreros and ditch the sunscreen. That’s right, I said it! The latest literature (and there is a lot of it) is saying sunscreen does more harm than good when it comes to cancer as well as a host of other chronic diseases, autoimmune and emotional disorders such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, the flu, depression and much more.
But how can this be?? The sun burns, and burns cannot be good, right?
As always the wellness answer is multifactorial, but here is the gist:
1. Sunshine is GREAT
Sun directly responsible for all life on our planet (big shoes eh?).
Sun Improves our mood (ask anyone in New England)
Sunshine on our skin (UV-B rays) makes the precursor to Vit D.
2. Vitamin D is GREAT
Vit D is used by our bodies to absorb calcium and, along with exercise, make
strong bones (major treatment of rickets = sunshine (less side effects than drugs).
Vit D also has cell normalizing (anti proliferation) properties, and because
cancer is cell proliferation gone mad, it protects against many cancers.
Vit D plays a vital role in our immune system and its ability to fight off pathogens
(in early 1900 the only treatment of merit for tuberculosis was sunshine).
3. Sunscreen is ok?!
Sunscreens block UVB rays which keeps us from making hardly any Vit D.
This one is a biggie, it turns out that although sunscreen can limit sunburns, which are linked to skin damage and some cancers; the trade off is no Vit D, which is just not worth it because Vit D has such a vital role in our physiology. (between 200-1000 genes in our body are turned on or off by the big D)
Many Sunscreens do not block UVA rays which causes much of the skin damage.
Many Sunscreens have harsh chemicals that your skin absorbs readily into your bloodstream.
4. My Recommendations
If you are light skinned and don’t have a tan, (which is a very difficult thing to have in the north east) then build one up gradually by spending a few minutes in the sun when possible. If you know you are going to be out for a long time in the sun, soak it up for long enough not to burn, and then apply sunscreen. To determine which sunscreens are best, check www.ewg.org, they have done a ton of research on 1000’s of types and narrowed it down to their top 10 healthiest and most effective.
Spending 2-3 x a week for 15-30 min in the mid day sun should ensure you enough Vit D if you are light skinned. You want to get out of the sun or apply sunscreen after you turn slightly pink, that will ensure enough Vit D, and past that stage results in skin damage. Those with a darker complexion need to spend a considerable amount more in the sun to obtain enough Vit D (I’m unsure on time but I have read that very dark skin is similar to an SPF of 30, so they will need to spend roughly 3x longer 1-3hrs, 2-3xWk). If you are unable to spend enough time in the sun or live above 35 degrees Latitude during the winter (Boston is sadly 42 degrees) you should take an oral supplement to get enough D.
Current Recommended Daily Allowance for Vit D is a measly 200 International Units (IU’s) which is absurd considering that a light skinned person can easily make 10-20,000 IU’s in 15-30min in the mid-day summer sun. (But RDA’s were never based on optimum levels of health; they were based on minimum amounts required to avoid symptoms in the short term…that is a blog for another day).
Based on what I’ve read average adults should take about 2,000 IU’s daily if not getting enough sunshine to keep their Vit D at a healthy level.
5. My Real (wellness revised) Recommendations:
Get into sunshine as much as possible without burning.
ENJOY BEING A HUMAN ANIMAL
PLAY OUTSIDE IN THE SUN
SOAK UP THE RAYS OF THE LIFE GIVING ORB IN THE SKY
IT IS A GIFT TO WHICH WE SHOULD BE THANKFUL AND SHOW OUR APPRECIATION BY PLAYING IN ITS LIGHT.
Get Tan 4 Health!
Your Health Buddy,
Dr. Nicholas Araza DC CCWP
For More on this Topic and Action Steps:
16 Shocking Vitamin D Facts
10 Ways to Boost Your Immune System
Vit D: Sun Exposure, Supplementation & Doses