Sunny weather means picnics, camping, swimming, hiking, and as many other outdoor activities as possible. But look outside on a warm day. You might be surprised how many people covered up in hats, scarves, and sunglasses religiously slather on gallons of thick, white sunscreen. Believe it or not, sunshine is good for you. In fact, it just might be the wonder drug you’re looking for.
The best-known benefit of the sun is Vitamin D, which a recent New
York Times article reminds us can help build bones and healthy joints,
strengthen the immune system and lower the risks of illnesses such as diabetes, heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure and cancer. But the best way to get Vitamin D isn’t through popping a pill – it’s by spending time out in the sun.
What’s the Big Deal about Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is naturally made by the body, but is not stored in the
body. Production of this vitamin is activated by one’s exposure to
sunlight. Individuals with an adequate amount of Vitamin D have been
shown to suffer less from osteoporosis and joint pain, to have slowed
effects of arthritis and pain, and to have averted certain types of cancer. Not only is Vitamin D important to stay healthy, inadequate
levels can render your body vulnerable to any number of chronic conditions.
Generally, as little as ten minutes per day, or approximately one hour of sun exposure each week is thought to be enough to produce the necessary amount of Vitamin D.
However, most people do not get even that amount of sun exposure,
which is why certain foods high in Vitamin D (fortified milk, eggs and
fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids) are recommended. Supplements and cod
liver oil are two additional sources of this necessary daily part of a
healthy diet. In addition, as we age, our bodies tend to produce less Vitamin D, even with adequate sun exposure.
Why You Need the Sun
Moderation is key in most areas of your health. The same is true for the sun, says John Jacob Cannell, MD, Executive Director of the Vitamin D Council, which supports moderate sun exposure. “Fear of the fatal form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, keeps many people out of the sun. The problem with the theory is that the incidence of melanoma continues to increase dramatically although many people have been completely avoiding the sun for years. We are not saying sunburns are safe; they are not. We are saying that brief, full-body sun exposure… is a much smarter thing to do than dying of Vitamin D deficiency.”
In the revelatory book, “Dark Deceptions: Discover the Truth about Sun Exposure,” noted osteopathic physician and natural health advocate Dr. Joseph Mercola reported that over 600,000 people around the world are developing cancer because they do not receive enough sun exposure to optimize their Vitamin D levels.
Factors that influence the amount of Vitamin D necessary for any
person are: geographic area, age, obesity, amount of melatonin in the
skin, and other factors. A simple blood test administered by your
physician or health care professional can identify the ideal amount of
nutrient essential for your individual health and well being.
What’s in Your Sunscreen?
If you were marketing a chemical compound laden with a plethora of potentially harmful ingredients in a lotion, how would you sell it? By telling everyone if they didn’t, they’d die of something worse, of course. And lo, the sunscreen industry is born. Even though more people use sunscreen than ever before, the incidence of skin cancer in the United States and other countries continues to rise.
While the manufacturers are busily pointing out why you need their
product to stay healthy in the sun, they neglect to mention what’s in
their own concoctions. And the truth may surprise you. There are several
potentially harmful chemicals found in sunscreens that purportedly
advance the possibility of skin cancers. There are no fewer than four known carcinogens found in popular sunscreen products. A number of
studies conducted in the 1990s report higher, not lower, incidence of the deadliest form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, among frequent
In a recently released report questioning the effectiveness and safety of top-selling sunscreens, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) claims that many contain potentially hazardous ingredients. In fact, they evaluated 500 sunscreens and found only 8% to be acceptable. About 60% of sunscreens contain the chemical ingredient oxybenzone, which the EWG considers unsafe because of concerns that it can penetrate the skin and disrupt hormone balance.
The Light that Heals
In the end, it’s up to you to cut through the marketing hype and make the right decision for yourself and your optimal health. Boost your Vitamin D levels and increase your sun exposure to appropriate levels that serve you and your well-being.
Cannell JJ, Hollis BW.
Alternative medicine review : a journal of clinical therapeutic. 2008
Mercola, J. Dark Deception: Discover the Truths About the Benefits of Sunlight Exposure. Thomas Nelson. 2008.
Aceituno-Madera P, et al. [Changes in the incidence of skin cancer between 1978 and 2002].
Actas dermo-sifiliográficas. 2010 Jan-Feb;101(1):39-46.
Westerdahl J, Ingvar C, Mâsbäck A, Olsson H. Sunscreen use and malignant melanoma. International journal of cancer. 2000 Jul 1;87(1):145-50.
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