Sunshine and vitamin D
For the past few years, we have been warned to avoid the sun or, if we do venture out, to slather on copious amounts of sunscreen.
Sunshine, though, provides lots of health benefits. Hiding from it therefore (either indoors or under a thick coating of sunscreen!!) could be having detrimental effects on our health.
One of the reasons for this is that sunshine provides the best source of Vitamin D. Known appropriately as the “Sunshine Vitamin”, this nutrient helps to protect us from a host of diseases, one of which is cancer.
The two main ultraviolet rays from the sun are UVA and, the important one, UVB. Our skin needs to be exposed to UVB in order that our body can make its own Vitamin D.
The problem is that UVB can be blocked by a number of things, including glass, smog, cloud cover and, last but not least, sunscreen. An additional issue is that most commercial sunscreen creams contain harmful (and in some cases carcinogenic) substances. Not only are we adding to our body’s toxic load, but we are also ensuring that it cannot make health-giving Vitamin D. A bit of a lose-lose situation!!
Common sense about sun
I’m not suggesting that we throw caution to the wind and go gallivanting naked in the sunshine. As with anything, we need to observe a certain amount of common sense about sun.
We want to get some sun on our skin, but in sensible amounts, and we need to avoid getting burnt.
The NHS website advises that about 10 to 15 minutes in the sun daily without sunscreen and clothing on forearms, hands or lower legs from March to October, especially from 11am-3pm, is enough for most lighter-skinned people to produce enough vitamin D. People with darker skin will need to spend longer in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D.
Another problem is that too much sun, without sufficient protection to the head, and dehydration, can lead to sun- or heat- stroke.
For either serious burns or sunstroke, always consult a doctor.
Tips for enjoying the sun sensibly
Eat a nutrient-dense. antioxidant-rich diet and include healthy fats.
DRINK PLENTY OF WATER.
ALWAYS wear a hat or consider a parasol. This protects the face, head and neck for starters. In strong sun, I always wear long sleeves as well.
Build up your sun exposure gradually. Don’t step off the plane and onto the beach for a silly number of hours.
If you wish to use a sunscreen, think NATURAL. Avoid products containing harmful ingredients, and instead look for those containing natural oils, such as shea butter, coconut oil, carrot seed oil or red raspberry oil, all of which have a natural SPF (Sun Protection Factor).
AVOID burning. If the skin turns a little pink, then the body is telling you to cover up NOW.
What to do for MINOR sunburn
Cool Compresses can help to cool the skin down.
Aloe Vera Skin Gel – wonderfully cooling but please note that some people are sensitive to this – so check before taking it on holiday.
Coconut Oil – this cools and moisturises (so is good for after-sun, whether burnt or not).
Solaris Bush Flower Essence – dilute with water and apply (take 7 drops orally under the tongue too). Solaris is indicated for any sun-related problems.
Lavender essential oil – a few drops in a spray bottle of water – sprayed on the skin.
What to do for sunstroke/heatstroke
Seek medical advice as soon as possible, but whilst waiting, you can try the following
Drink water as sunstroke indicates dehydration.
Take a cool shower / bath, then rest …….
Cool compress on the head (renew as soon as it heats up)
Soaking a towel / sheet in cool water (and wringing out) then wrapping this around the patient to help alleviate the heat.
Solaris Bush Flower Essence orally – 7 drops under the tongue or diluted in water, as often as required.
To read my holiday health article on dehydration and insect bites, click here and look out for my next article on natural approaches to food poisoning.
Judith Reid is a naturopathic nutritionist and passionate about all things natural, elephants, travel and dance. Judith’s philosophy in life is very much in taking personal responsibility for one’s own health and believes that living more naturally is common sense. To read more about Judith click here
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