Its that time of year again where we are gloriously gifted with the full expression of the sun’s rays. Feeling the warmth, sometimes heat, on our faces and skin is reassuring, nourishing and necessary for optimal health and wellness.
The Sun provides us with vitamin D, the very necessary nutrient that has been linked to everything from keeping the immune system strong to cancer prevention. Vitamin D is created when UVB rays from the sun hit the skin and are absorbed by cholesterol, converting to Vitamin D (in the form of D3).
Vitamin D has several important functions. Perhaps the most vital are regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorous and facilitating normal immune system function. Getting a sufficient amount of the vitamin is important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as improved resistance against certain diseases. Remember that we cannot obtain vitamin D from the sun from September to May in our region due to the angle of the sun’s rays.
Exposure to the sun in appropriate and measured timeframes has a number of health benefits unrelated to vitamin D production, such as:
- Enhancing mood and energy through the release of endorphins
- Treating skin diseases, such as psoriasis, vitiligo, atopic dermatitis, and scleroderma. UV radiation also enhances skin barrier functions
- Melatonin regulation through the “third eye” of the pineal gland photoreceptors
- Standard treatment for tuberculosis 100 years ago, long before the advent of antibiotics
- Can be used to sterilize your armpits and eliminate the cause of most body odour
- Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Treating neonatal jaundice
Absorbing the sun’s rays in a healthful and safe way is crucial. There are definite risks in over exposure to the sun and heat of the sun. Knowing how to sun bathe in a way that builds wellness is key.
5 Strategies for Safe and Healthy Sun Exposure
- Nutritional Sunscreen: What we ingest determines how our skin responds to sunlight.Skin cells must be strengthened and nourished internally with real food and water to receive the full benefit of interacting with the sun. We can create an internal SPF with an antioxidant-rich diet of sun-grown foods, herbs, and fats loaded with nutrients. The powerhouse antioxidants in foods include: Lycopenes in fresh tomatoes, Glutathione in grass fed meat, Alpha-Lipoic Acid found in broccoli, CoQ10 in nuts, Resveratrol in grapes and cacao, Carotenoids in carrots and squash, Astaxanthin in wild salmon and of course Vitamin C in berries, citrus and certain herbs such as strawberry leaf. Our nutritional sunscreen must be ‘applied’ at every meal, all year long, to provide maximum benefits.
- Make time for your Sun Bath. Start slowly but surely to exposure your skin to the sun. Melanin, the tanned-skin pigment, produced in the spring, prevents sunburn in the summer. Melanin is our ancient biological mechanism of photo-protection designed exclusively to support our relationship with the sun. Melanin transforms 99.9% of absorbed UV radiation into heat that is easily dissipated, allowing us to avoid radiation damage that contributes to cell damage. The best time of day for sunning is morning to solar-noon. The amount of time you bathe in the sun depends on the condition of your skin and your natural skin pigmentation. If your skin starts to feel warm, seek shade. Start with a few minutes a day and build-up.
- Think sunblock or barrier instead of sunscreen Using a sunscreen stops the much-needed UVB rays from their important Vitamin D work. Most of the sunscreens on the market contain various suspicious chemicals with names beginning or ending with Methyl, Propyl, Butyl, Ethyl, Trieth, and/or Dieth. Why would you want to filter the glorious sunshine through an array of chemicals? Sunscreens create a false sense of security by disabling our skin’s early warning system, the sunburn. By disabling this system we tend to stay too long in the sun, not only burning but struggling with heat exposure as well. Uncoated zinc oxide effectively blocks and reflects, rather than absorbs, the sun’s rays and it won’t paint the skin white. Consider barrier clothing as an option for sun protection. Don’t forget your hat!
- Sun exposure and eye health. Our eyes need the sunlight, too. When the full spectrum of light rays is absorbed in the retina, it sets in motion the hormones and neurochemicals that help us stay happy and healthy. This process works even if we are in the shade, but not if we are wearing sunglasses. Children also need to be outside in the sun for healthy eye development. Sunlight triggers dopamine production in the eye, which stimulates normal growth.
- Recover your skin The skin’s outer layer is a thin coating of oils that provides natural anti-bacterial, anti-wrinkle, and sunscreen protection. Using synthetic lotions and creams, exfoliants and harsh soaps interfere with this sensitive layer. Using natural oils, plant based extracts plus following a dry skin brush regiment will help nourish this layer and build its resiliency. Remember not to shower off after being in the sun, allow those great UVB rays to continue their vitamin D work as along as possible.