Summer is my favourite time of the year—
I really love the sun! But, my very pale Scottish skin doesn’t always share my enthusiasm.
It can be a very delicate balance: I want to soak up lots of vitamin D while enjoying my favourite summer activities like SUP and hiking…but I also don’t want a painful and skin-harming sunburn.
What we know now is the right amount of sunshine is very healthy for us as we absorb lots of immune system balancing vitamin D, which is essential for our health.
We all need more vitamin D. In 2010, StatsCan found widespread vitamin D deficiency. Two-thirds of Canadians have levels low enough to increase the risk of diseases like cancer, while a whopping 4% have levels so low that they’re at risk for rickets!
Benefits of Vitamin D
This super vitamin is actually a hormone. It plays a very important role in our immune system: low levels have been linked to higher risks of autoimmune conditions like MS, as well as cancer.
It’s also good for our mood—researchers have linked low levels of vitamin D to depression and a study found that supplementing helped to reduce symptoms. Vitamin D deficiency has also been connected to fibromyalgia and higher rates of depression and anxiety.
The sun is our body’s favourite way of absorbing vitamin D. 15 minutes in the sun with your arms and face exposed will allow most of us to absorb 10,000 IUs of vitamin D. A sunscreen with SPF 8 or above reduces vitamin D absorption by 95%. This means if we wear sunscreen, it takes 3½ to 5 hours of sun exposure to absorb the same amount of vitamin D.
Sunshine is more than just a source of vitamin D. A healthy dose of sunshine can also help reduce skin problems like psoriasis, lower blood pressure, and increase the amount of oxygen in our bloodstream. It’s no wonder that time spent in the sun feels so darned good!
But too much of a good thing isn’t so good, especially when it comes to the sun. The sun is a source of oxidative stress and a sunburn is essentially free radical damage.
Our body can easily deal with some of this oxidative stress, but too much can cause a sunburn. And too many sunburns in our lifetime can increase our risk for certain skin cancers.
I always feel that summer goes by so quickly, so get outside anytime you can, while also keeping your skin happy!
We want to avoid a sunburn at all costs, but how do we avoid a sunburn and get enough sunshine?
Many summer foods are filled with antioxidants, nature’s sunburn fighter. Antioxidants like beta-carotene (carrots and dark leafy greens), lycopene (tomatoes and watermelons), anthocyanins (blueberries), and green tea help by neutralizing free radicals. Any colourful fruit or veggie comes loaded with antioxidants; they may reduce your chance of burning and heal sun-damaged skin.
Protect yourself the old fashioned way
Slowly work up your body’s sun protection (a tan), or protect yourself with a wide-brimmed hat and long sleeves.
Get your dose of vitamin D
Enjoy at least 10 to 15 min in the sun each day from May to October and take a supplement. In Canada, we all need extra vitamin D, even in summer.
Skin healing supplements
Had too much sun, or just want to boost your internal protection? Add some acerola powder (a great source of vitamin C) and spirulina (mega-packed with antioxidants) to your morning smoothie. Evening primrose oil or borage oil supplements can also help heal sun-damaged skin.
Get a clean sunscreen
When buying a sunscreen, always look at the ingredients. Nature’s Fare Markets has a wide selection of skin-lovin’ sunscreens, or visit the Environmental Working Group’s website at www.ewg.org for sunscreens they have tested to be safe and free of known carcinogens.
Lisa Kilgour is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), and a faculty member at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. While many nutritionists focus on just food, Lisa sees it as just one of those puzzle pieces. She truly believes how we care for ourselves: our emotions, gut flora, sleep, stress, and of course, the food we put into our bodies, all work together to help us heal. Her mission is to help you find those missing pieces and give you the skills you need to solve your puzzle once and for all. Learn more about Lisa: lisakilgour.com
Article was published in The Good Life magazine.