As summer approaches (or feels like it is already here, as the case is where I live), sun protection is definitely something to plan for, though I do it differently than most.
Conventional wisdom says to slather on some sunscreen and call it a day, but this is problematic for a couple of reasons. Wearing any sunscreen blocks the body’s ability to produce Vitamin D, which is vital for hundreds of reactions in the body (including cancer prevention).
Most sunscreens also contain toxic chemicals that can be more dangerous than moderate sun exposure. As I mentioned in a previous post:
Despite the push for more awareness about sun exposure, and the advice to use sunscreen whenever we go outside, incidence of skin cancer, especially melanoma, is rising dramatically.
So, if skin cancer rates are rising despite sunscreen use and reduced sun exposure, perhaps there is a deeper underlying cause. I’ve written before about the link between nutrition and sunburn, and I’m becoming even more convinced of this as more evidence emerges. The most convincing part for me personally was my own reaction to the sun over the last couple of years.
I’m Irish-Scottish (which is Latin for very fair skinned!) and have always burned. In fact, even moderate sun exposure would leave me with a pinkish glow rather than a tan… until the last couple of years.
Last summer, I was able to garden for 6-8 hours including during the heat of the day without burning. We also went to Florida for a friend’s wedding and I was at the beach for 4 hours between 11-3 with no sunscreen and I didn’t burn… at all!
To those of you blessed with olive skin, this may not seem like a big deal, but to me, this is huge! I also noticed looking back at pictures of me from last summer that I don’t look like the pale-stepchild among my Italian in-laws for the first time.
The Underlying Cause
Doctors and sunscreen manufacturers are quick to push sunscreen for those who burn easily, but this is often the equivalent of giving antibiotics for every illness. It may address a short term problem, but it does nothing to address the underlying cause.
Sunburn is a type of inflammation, and diet has a tremendous impact on inflammation in the body. As such, addressing diet is often a much more important that just slathering on the sunscreen, plus dietary improvements can improve other areas of health as well.
Certainly, it is also wise to avoid burning by wearing protective clothing or by using homemade sunscreen for prolonged exposure, especially early in the year, but a good diet and a few supplements are often far more effective at day-to-day sun protection. (You can also use coconut oil on the skin for light protection, as it is naturally about an SPF 4)
Diet for Sun Protection
A large part of natural sun protection is eating an anti-inflammatory diet. This type of diet will also be beneficial for many other health conditions, and if you’ve read my blog before, you know the drill:
Foods to Avoid
- processed foods
- vegetable oils (this is the most important for sun exposure)
Foods to Eat
- lots of healthy saturated fats
- lots of foods rich in omega-3s (fish, etc)
- lots of leafy greens
- 2+ tablespoons of tomato paste daily
About this time of year, I also start taking a specific regimen of supplements that help reduce inflammation and improve sun tolerance. The supplements I take are:
- Vitamin D3 (I take about 5,000 IU/day)- Emerging evidence shows that optimizing blood levels of Vitamin D can have a protective effect against sunburn and skin cancer
- Vitamin C (I take about 2,000 mg/day)- A potent anti0inflammatory, and it is good for the immune system too.
- 1/4 cup coconut oil melted in a cup of herbal tea per day- the Medium Chain Fatty Acids and saturated fat are easily utilized by the body for new skin formation and are protective against burning
- Fermented Cod Liver Oil/High Vitamin Butter Oil Blend (also great for remineralizing teeth)-Probably the most important supplement for sun protection. I take double doses during the summer and the kids take it too. Since adding this and the coconut oil daily, none of us have burned. It’s also great for digestive and oral health. (Amazon finally has the capsules back in stock)
- Astaxanthin– A highly potent antioxidant which research shows acts as an internal sunscreen. It’s also supposedly an anti-aging supplement. I don’t give this one to the kids though.
That’s our regimen and we don’t ever use conventional sunscreen and only use the homemade stuff a couple times a year.
Do you eat your sunscreen? Still use the toxic stuff? Avoid the sun completely? Tell me below!