Rebecca, our lead chiropractor here at Back2Balance, loves the sunshine, but also knows some of the myths that abound about the sun. In this blog Rebecca explores the health benefits of exposure to the sun, and how to get a well balanced enjoyment of this fleeting thing call sunshine.
Sunshine, oh that word gives me a wonderful feeling of warmth, of blue skies with little fluffy white clouds passing over, and the smell of fresh cut grass. The British sunshine can be lovely (when it does appear), but we get inundated with conflicting information about the sun. This blog is designed to give some balanced feedback on the most common facts and myths surrounding this natural phenomenon!
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin, (your body cannot produce it from other compounds) and is produced by your skin when UVB sun rays hits your skin. We need vitamin D for many bodily functions. It is now well known to be needed for calcium and phosphorus absorption. In fact, it is a cofactor for over 70% of the body’s reactions, therefore a very very important vitamin to be sufficient in. Nearly all of it comes from sunshine, hence the nickname the sunshine vitamin. It is also found in salmon, sardines, egg yolk, and shrimps. Some foods are also fortified with added (fake) vitamin D.
Deficiency of vitamin D often leads to rickets, which was thought of as a childhood disease that was eradicated but has been on the rise once more. Vitamin D deficiency has also been shown to play a part in many health conditions Inc. cancers, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and the flu. Some studies have shown that adequate and possibly supplemented vitamin D, can help with weight loss, increase immune system function, and depression.
The current recommended intakes for vitamin D are as low as 200 IU daily for those aged 19-50, and go only as high as 600 IU daily for those over the age of 70. Other sections of society have different requirements too, so a pregnant woman for example would need more than a healthy 20 year old. I normally advise people to take 1000-2000 IU daily as a minimum supplement. You may think this is high, but there have been studies with people taking far higher doses without negative effect. This is especially important in the winter months, or if you have ongoing reasons to cover up when you go outside.
So, its benefits are obviously not in question. What is in question is how do we get enough vitamin D, and safely, without increasing our chances of getting skin cancer from over-exposure.
An fascinating research study published in the journal of internal medicine in 2016 followed nearly 30K+ Swedish women over 20 years. The conclusion was that increased sun exposure had a direct correlation with increased life expectancy. Specifically women who had high sun exposure lived 0.5-2 years longer, compared to those who avoided the sun. To make this finding even more outstanding; those who avoided the sun but didn’t smoke had the same life expectancy as those women who smoked and had high sun exposure! Wow! I would like to add that more research needs to go into the reasons why, and how the sun exposure gave a longer life expectancy, but still a rather eye opening study, and one that starts challenging the mainstream view towards sunbathing.
It is undeniable that high doses of sunshine causes skin cancer, and obviously skin ageing. What must be noted here is that skin cancer rarely kills. Saying that, I’m not advocating getting skin cancer in order to live longer. Rather to show that the sun is not dangerous if used in the right way. So it is very important that you get enough sunshine, but not too much, a balanced approach.
I’ve also read articles and papers talking about the dangers of sunscreens. Oh boy, we are all screwed aren’t we?! What are we meant to do to protect against skin cancers!? Fascinating figures are emerging, showing increasing cases of skin cancer specifically in those people using the highest amount of sunscreen! What is causing this and why? It could be several factors….Maybe it’s people’s perceived false sense of security using their sunscreen. Typically sunbathers apply sunscreen once, don’t reapply regularly or when getting wet, and then stay a lot longer out in the sunshine thinking they are protected. Or could it be because of the chemicals and toxins used in many high street retailers? The long list of chemicals in these products (together with fragrances and preservatives) are also producing many skin reactions, including higher numbers of allergic dermatitis. Two such controversial chemical filters contained in sun cream and thought to produce free radicals in the skin include oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. Oxybenzone converts UV light to heat and is believed to cause hormonal disruption and cell damage, which can lead to cancer, while retinyl palmitate has been shown to speed up malignant cell growth and the spread of skin cancer.
In summary, it’s physiologically important for all of us to produce enough vitamin D for health and longevity. It’s equally important to make sure we don’t over expose our skin, but to do it safely, with either UV tops (and other ways to cover up) or natural sunscreens.
Check this fab fact sheet about sun cream.
Go out in sun in the morning and late afternoon, missing the mid day rays (Mad dogs and Englishmen…………).
Have your face, arms and legs uncovered. Depending on skin colour, 10-15mins for a fair skinned Caucasian may be all you need from March-October.
If out in sunshine during 11-3pm wear clothes and hats. Think about wearing a UV protection t-shirt.
Wear sunglasses in the sunshine. Opticians recommend this for cataract protection.
Don’t wash off the vitamin D from your skin, it takes over 24 hours to be fully absorbed through the different layers of your skin!
Last but no means least, get a healthy sunscreen, that has been vigorous tested both for ingredients, and for effectiveness (UVA and UVB).
Over the past 10 years, several researchers have found an association between extremely low vitamin D levels and chronic, general pain that doesn’t respond to treatment. The link enclosed tells you more.
If you have any hints, tips, and thoughts on the blog, please do share them with us via the comments box below.