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Smart sun exposure

Published 9:53pm Friday, February 7, 2014

Humans have the ability to make up to 90 percent of vitamin D naturally from sunlight exposure to the skin. This natural process happens when ultraviolet B exposure to the skin prompts the conversion of cholesterol in the skin to vitamin D3. However, now more than ever before, the beauty and pharmaceutical industries encourage the 24 hour use of sun protection factor (SPF) products. This poses a problem; the constant and continual use of SPF products actually inhibits the natural manufacturing process of vitamin D between humans and the sun. Further concern arises from the extensive chemicals and other unhealthy agents found in SPF lotions, creams, and makeups, leading one to question whether the use of SPF products is safe.

One thing is for certain, humans need vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise and is a very serious matter; it is linked to many types of cancers and other deadly diseases. Furthermore, vitamin D deficiency may be more of a concern for women than for men because it causes a significant increased risk of breast cancer and certain complications during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, premature labor and more).

Should you use SPF or not?

Of course, when considering to use SPF products or not, a person needs to weigh not only the factors related to inhibition of vitamin D, but also the risks that could result from too much sun exposure. Therein lies the key. Smart exposure to the sun may be the best answer here. Since the sun’s rays are natural and humans are actually dependent upon the sun for survival and health, it’s important to discover healthy ways to enjoy the sun. For example, did you know that foods have a sun protection factor? That’s right! If labeled, certain fruits and vegetable could actually bear the words SPF. The SPF factor of foods can be credited to their unique composition of certain antioxidant compounds. Plants create antioxidants within their own tissues to protect their own cells from premature destruction due to exposure to heat, light, air, moisture and time; this allows plants to work with the sun rather than it work against the plants. The adage, “you are what you eat,” comes into play here. When we consume plant-derived antioxidants, these natural agents can provide protection to the cells of our bodies, too, including skin cells. By eating certain foods, especially those that are brightly colored, like those available during summer, you can do much to help reduce potential damage to your skin caused by exposure to UVA and UVB rays from sunlight.

Protect Yourself from the Inside Out

  • Eat brightly colored fruits and veggies that contain a sun protection factor. Examples: blueberries, watermelon, yellow peppers, tomatoes, and yellow summer squash.
  • Eat super foods with SPF like cocoa and green tea. Cocoa (raw, organic, dark chocolate) contains 712 compounds, many of which are potently antioxidant and skin-protective. Green tea contains antioxidant compounds called polyphenol catechins, which protect skin cells from exposure to UVA and UVB rays
  • Avoid overexposure to the sun during intense heat. Moderation, not total avoidance is the key to reaping the benefits of the sun.
  • Wear a hat and drink plenty of water to avoid becoming overheated and exhausted.
  • If you choose to use sun block or lotion, choose a natural product that does not contain harmful ingredients that could potentially have adverse effects. Coconut oil contains an SPF of 6 and can be used along with other natural ingredients to make your own lotion.

Sunlight is the best and only natural source of vitamin D.

Unlike dietary or supplementary vitamin D, when you get your ‘D’ from sunshine your body takes what it needs and de-metabolizes any extra. As vitamin D experts and many health groups now advocate getting 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily — five to 10 times the old recommendations. Because too much ‘D’ from dietary supplements may cause the body to over-process calcium, nobody really knows for sure how much supplementary vitamin D is safe. On the other hand, sunlight-induced vitamin D doesn’t have that problem — it’s the way your body is intended to make it!

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