What About Sunblock???
The sun has decided to show it's face again here in the Pacific Northwest.....That means picnics, barbecues, hiking, gardening, swimming and the children playing outside all afternoon. With summer's arrival, and all the outside activities it brings, people are starting to, once again, think about sun protection.
As a cosmetic formulator, a natural health practitioner and a mother, I believe I have a unique perspective on this issue. When thinking about sun protection, I feel there are two general questions that need to be asked:
Do we really need sun protection?
If so, what is the safest way to protect ourselves and our children from the sun?
In this article, I will cover the first question.
Do we really need sun protection?
The answer to this question might seem obvious to most people, but I think we need to dig a little deeper to find out if sun protection is really necessary, or even beneficial. Or, on the other hand, can avoiding the sun actually be detrimental to our health?
We have all been taught that we need to protect ourselves and our children from the harmful rays of the sun. In the last several decades, we have been conditioned to think that sunscreen, sunblock, hats, sunglasses and sun reflective clothing are necessary items for venturing outside, especially in the summer months. We've been told sun exposure promotes early aging of the skin, wrinkles and even cancer. We have been led to believe that if we drastically reduce our exposure to the sun, we will reduce our risk of cancer - skin cancer in particular. But we are beginning to see a very different reality, because in the same time period, we have seen cancer and auto-immune disease rates skyrocket.
Many health professionals and medical doctors are now beginning to realize that this rise in cancer is actually a result, in part, from our societal avoidance of sun exposure, not the other way around as we have been programmed so thoroughly to believe.
The crux of the issue is that one of the only, and best, ways of getting Vitamin D into our bodies, is through sunlight. We know that lack of sunlight can result in nutritional deficiencies. Without sunlight, vitamin D cannot be metabolized in the human body, which can result in rickets, which is making a comeback, among other conditions. Most enzymes, hormones and vitamins need light for proper functioning. Vitamin D is particularly critical because it promotes normal growth and development of infants and children, particularly bones and teeth.
According to mdadvice.com, “Vitamin D, or cholecalciferol, functions as both a vitamin and a hormone. It is required for the absorption and utilization of calcium and helps calcium to be deposited in your bones. Even marginal or slight deficiencies of vitamin D can increase your risk of osteoporosis and deterioration of the joints. Deficiencies of vitamin D can also contribute to thinning of the hair, brittleness of the nails, and rapid aging of the skin.”
William B. Grant, PhD is one of the top vitamin D researcher in the world. In a 2004 interview with Dr. Joseph Mercola, he explains the role of Vitamin D in our bodies in the following manner, “ When produced in the skin or ingested, it is a "vitamin" or "prehormone"and essential for life. Just as cholesterol is metabolized into testosterone, precholesterol is turned into cholecalciferol (vitaminD), which is metabolized into what now is looking more and more like a hormone [25(OH)D]. In turn, this is metabolized in the kidneys or other organs into an even more potent hormone [1,25(OH)2D].
Vitamin D is an essential part of the endocrine system as it controls several of the adrenal hormones, growth of cells, production of enzymes and has other direct genomic functions. The key difference in definition is that hormones have DNA receptor sites, and vitamin A is in that family as well as vitamin D, and vitamins are parts of coenzyme systems (not genomic). In a way, vitamins A and D are both vitamins and hormones.”
According to William B. Grant, Ph.D, vitamin D is not only necessary for proper assimilation of calcium and endocrine function, but it's deficiency is associated with the development of a number of autoimmune diseases, autism, diabetes, schizophrenia, cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.
Vitamin D is not present in a wide variety of foods, but is confined mainly to fish liver oils, fatty fish, liver, egg yolks, and butter, and, to a lesser degree, cow's milk.  So the main source of vitamin D for the vast majority of people is sunlight.
In light of this information (pun intended) I feel it is imperative that we rethink our position on the benefits and/or disadvantages of exposing our bodies to the sun based not only on current scientific research, but on thousands of years of empirical evidence.
In generations past, human beings spent far more time in the sun on a daily basis and suffered far less from the diseases we now know are brought upon us by a deficiency of vitamin D. Just as we learned from past generations which foods and plants prevent which conditions, we need to look to the past to learn how people kept themselves from being vitamin D deficient. Daily sun exposure is a large part of the equation.
So, if sun exposure is not only not detrimental to our health, but necessary for optimal growth and health, is there any danger at all to worry about? Should we just let our children play all day out in the sun without any protection?
Actually, the danger of skin cancer resulting from sun exposure is not completely ungrounded. Skin cancers do occur more frequently in people who have had a history of a greater number of sunburns throughout their formative years. So, the takeaway message is this: Make sure you have adequate daily sun exposure, but be proactive in preventing sunburn.
I will address the best ways to do this in the next article.
What do you think about using sun protection such as sunblock vs. getting adequate vitamin D from sun exposure?
Please leave a comment below.
1. http://www.holisticonline.com/Light_Therapy/light_intro.htm 2. http://www.mdadvice.com/library/vita/vitamin68.html 3.http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2004/04/03/vitamin-d-grant.aspx 4. http://www.holisticonline.com/remedies/hrt/hrt_nutrition.htm