Recent research has revealed that most of us are deficient in Vitamin D. Since low Vitamin D levels have been linked to higher rates of various types of cancer, this is a serious problem, yet we are still told to lather on the sunscreen and avoid the sun.
From a previous article:
“In humans, Vitamin D is much more than just a simple vitamin that we need to hit a target RDA of. Vitamin D is a hormonal precursor and science is constantly linking deficiency of Vitamin D to increased incidence of many diseases. Ironically, while Vitamin D is readily available (at least part of the year in most parts of the world) for free if produced from sun exposure, people are surprisingly deficient in it these days.
Vitamin D3 can be obtained by adequate sun exposure or by oral supplementation, but which is better? For years and years (basically all of human history until the last few hundred years) vitamin D was obtained from the sun in varied amounts based on proximity to the equator. Obtaining Vitamin D from food wasn’t really a feasible option, since most foods didn’t have any mentionable level of Vitamin D”
Yet now, we don’d spend as much time outdoors, consume more artificially created oils that can cause skin problems and have low vitamin D levels.
Why We Need the Sun
From a past article: “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.
Vitamin D is important for:
- Lowering Cancer Risk- Research is now estimating that 75% of cancers can be prevented by adequate consumption of Vitamin D.
- Calcium Levels- Vitamin D controls calcium and phosphate levels in the blood and contributes to bone growth and bone strength. It is also vital for healthy teeth!
- Your Immune System-Ever heard of those “t-cells” that protect your body against bacteria and disease? Vitamin D is crucial in their creation and function.
- Inflammation- Lack of Vitamin D can cause inflammation in the body, then again, so can grain consumption. Have joint pain, soreness or inflammation? Cut the grains and hit the beach!
Can Food Affect Sun Tolerance?
When I switched to a real food, grain free diet I noticed my sun tolerance and natural skin tone changed. I was not only more tan/brown (rather than pinkish) hued even when I wasn’t in the sun, but I tanned really, really well. I’m Irish, so this was a shocker to me!
After some research and self experimentation, I found that certain dietary factors would directly impact my sun tolerance. For instance, if I eat out and consume something with vegetable oils, I can burn much more easily the next day, while coconut oil and fermented cod liver oil work as an internal sunscreen for me!
As I stated in a previous post, these are the things that I’ve found to help the most:
1. Eating Enough Good Fats
To make sure your body has the proper building blocks for healthy skin and to reduce inflammation, make sure to get enough healthy saturated, monounsaturated and Omega-3 fats while avoiding polyunsaturated fatty acids and linoleic acid in Omega-6 vegetable oils.
2. Getting Enough Antioxidants
If you’re avoiding grains and Omega-6 oils and eating proteins, fats and vegetables instead, you are probably great in the antioxidant department. Even real food “treats” like berries and dark chocolate, are packed with antioxidants.
Antioxidants help reduce inflammation and free radicals (which you also won’t have as much of if you’re not eating grains, sugars and omega-6 oils. Research has shown a strong protective effect of antioxidants against sunburn and skin damage.
3. Optimizing Vitamin D
This is a logical step in protecting the skin and many other parts of the body. Melanin, the dark pigment that we get when we tan, is produced to shield the skin from further UV exposure by providing a type of barrier. This is why dark skinned people need more sun that those with fair skin to get the same amount of Vitamin D. When the body has enough Vitamin D, it will start producing Melanin to keep from getting too much. There is evidence that optimizing Vitamin D levels through sun exposure and even through supplementation will help the body produce melanin faster and retain it longer.
4. Getting Sun Exposure Gradually
While the sun is very beneficial because it helps our bodies produce Vitamin D, sunburn is certainly not beneficial. The easiest way to avoid sunburn naturally is to increase sun exposure gradually, while eating a healthy diet. For most people, 15-30 minutes is enough at first, though many can work up to several hours without a problem.
If your activity level requires you to be out for longer than this, wear protective clothing or find some shade!
5. Avoiding Chemicals and Using Natural Options
Since your body needs Vitamin D and there is no conclusive evidence that sunscreen protects against skin cancer, it is best to avoid using sunscreen,especially the chemical laden varieties.
If you have to be out in the sun for extended periods of time and can’t seek shade,use a natural homemade sunscreen or plain coconut oil (which supposedly has a natural SPF of about 4).
At this point, I truly wonder what a healthy diet can’t help! I was happy with the weigh loss, additional energy, clearer skin, better sleep, etc, but it even helps reduce sunburn and improve tanning!
6. Taking Some Supporting Supplements
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. This is not necessary for those spending time in the sun and taking Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
- 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 or take while pregnant.
So that’s my story… have you noticed any changes in your skin or sun tolerance from changing your diet?
The Challenge and the Prize
Getting Vitamin D is important, and there are various ways to do it. Personally, I check my Vitamin D levels regularly to keep them in the 50+ range, and this is the best way I’ve found to make sure blood levels are high enough without being too high. In fact, there are even ways to test Vitamin D levels at home with a simple finger stick now. I test mine through here.
Do you get your Vitamin D from the sun, or from supplements like Fermented Cod Liver Oil? Do you know if you are deficient or not? To help you, I’m giving away a $100 gift certificate to Tropical Traditions (which can be used to order some coconut oil which help increase sun tolerance internally and which is naturally SPF 4 externally!). Enter in the widget below and then leave a comment telling me how you get your Vitamin D! Contest runs through Sunday, July 28 at 11:59 pm CST.
Important note: This post is based on my own experience and does not constitute medical advice in any way. I am not a doctor and don’t play one on the internet, so consult with your physician if you have any questions or concerns about sun exposure. I also highly encourage you to do your own research on this and all topics! Also, while I have found personally that moderate sun exposure without burning while eating a healthy diet is very beneficial, sun exposure while eating processed or unhealthy foods may not have the same results!
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