Seeing The Light – The Healing Powers Of The Sun
Did you know that the sun is good medicine? We have been told for decades to apply sunscreen dutifully, or we risk getting melanoma – a deadly form of skin cancer – so how can the sun be good for us? It appears that science is now seeing the light. After years of warning against the dangers of sun exposure, researchers are calling for a reassessment of sunlight exposure guidelines. In this article, you’ll learn how to avoid wrinkles and other skin problems, yet still receive the sun’s healthful benefits. As with any medicine, knowing the right dosage and best time of day to take in the rays is key to reaping the benefits.
Reverting back to simple basic strategies that our ancestors applied is one of the keys to staying healthy, such as spending a little time outdoors each day.
We humans have been living with the sun…as long as we’ve been living. Yet we didn’t have sunscreen until a few generations ago AND most of us spent a good portion of our day outdoors. What benefits did our ancestors – as well as our contemporaries who regularly spend time outdoors – receive from the sun?
The increase in rates of melanoma, a form of skin cancer has been largely blamed on exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. Research published in the British Journal of Dermatology shows that the sun is likely nothing more than a scapegoat in the development of melanoma. Several studies over the years are showing that appropriate sun exposure actually helps prevent skin cancer. In fact, melanoma occurrence has been found to decrease with greater sun exposure, and can be increased by sunscreens.
Here are a few of the many noteworthy properties:
Reduced blood pressure: Here’s the remarkable new finding from UK’s University of Edinburgh. When sunlight hits your skin, it prompts a release of nitric oxide (NO) into blood vessels. NO goes right to work, relaxing smooth muscle around vessels. This increases blood flow, which reduces blood pressure. And for millions of people, that means (drum roll, please)… reduced risk of heart disease. Edinburgh researchers conclude that skin cancer risk from sun exposure is minimal compared to heart health benefits. They estimate that for every skin cancer death in Europe, there is as many as 100 deaths due to stroke and heart disease linked to high blood pressure.
Sunlight burns fat by increasing subcutaneous fat metabolism.
Regulation of human lifespan (solar cycles appear to be able to directly affect the human genome, thereby influencing lifespan)
Improved evening alertness from daytime sun exposure
Conversion to metabolic energy (i.e. we may “ingest” energy directly from the sun, like plants do)
Pain-killing (analgesic) properties
There is also strong evidence that sunlight is protective against MS. 1
Supports the eye. Research shows that people with nearsightedness have lower blood levels of vitamin D3 which supports the function of muscle tissue around the lens in your eye. When exposed to outdoor light, for instance, cells in your retina trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that slows down growth of the eye and perhaps stops the elongation of the eye during development. Nature reported:4
Essential Vitamin D: Vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients for our overall health. Vitamin D deficiency is a major predisposing factor in at least 17 varieties of cancer, as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, birth defects, infectious disease and more.
Guess how our body produces vitamin D most efficiently? The Sun! UVB rays are the rays within the ultraviolet spectrum that allow your body to produce vitamin D in your skin. When UVB strikes the surface of your skin, your skin converts a cholesterol derivative in your skin into vitamin D3.
Optimizing your vitamin D levels may reduce your risk of as many as 16 different types of cancer, including pancreatic, lung, ovarian, breast, prostate 1 and skin cancers.
According to Angus Dalgleish, M.D., a medical oncologist and professor at St. George’s University of London, as part of a research team that tested vitamin D to treat breast cancer, he found that D could speed up the death of tumor cells and target tumors in many other ways.
Dr. Dalgleish used to fear the sun just like most of his colleagues. Now he believes that avoiding sun exposure increases rather than reduces skin cancer risk, according to his recent writing in the Daily Mail edition.
Studies show melanoma mortality actually decreases after UV exposure. Additionally, melanoma lesions do not tend to appear primarily on sun-exposed skin, which is why sunscreens have been proven ineffective in preventing it. Exposure to sunlight, particularly UVB, is protective against melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer)—or rather, the vitamin D your body produces in response to UVB radiation is protective. The following passage comes from The Lancet:
“Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect.”
“Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign encourages people to enjoy the sun safely and avoid exposures that lead to sunburn,” reads the draft statement, acquired by The Independent.
“O.k., so now I know many of the healthful benefits of the sun, but how do I avoid the damaging effects of our bright star, especially now that our ozone layer has been somewhat compromised?” Well, I’m glad you asked.
Your BareFood Angel’s Sun Prescription: How much is enough?
Give your body a chance to produce vitamin D; expose large amounts of skin (at least 40 percent of your body) to sunlight for short periods daily.
20 or 30 minutes of full sunlight exposure daily is perfect. No hat, no sunscreen, no sleeves.
That’s enough to reap the benefits of vitamin D and Nitrous Oxide. Little and often is best for sun exposure. You should get to know your own skin to understand how long you can spend outside before risking sunburn under different conditions.”
Get your sun between 11 a.m – 3 p.m. Due to the physics and wavelength of UVB rays it will only penetrate the atmosphere when the sun is above an angle of about 50° from the horizon. When the sun is lower than 50°, the ozone layer reflects the UVB-rays but let through the longer UVA-rays.
If you’re going to be out much longer than a half hour (such as a trip to the beach or theme park, or working outdoors all day), to protect sensitive areas of your face be smart and bring some healthy sunblock* and cover up with clothing, a hat or shade (either natural or that you create using an umbrella, etc.) If you’ve ever had a sunburn, you know from experience the wisdom of protection from overexposure. Apply the sunscreen after you’ve optimized your daily vitamin D production.
Even when trying to get some sun, I like to protect my face and hands (I protect my hands by wearing long sleeve gloves while driving); I’m vain like that. The skin around your eyes and your face is typically much thinner than other areas of your body and is a relatively small surface area so will not contribute much to vitamin D production.
Consuming a healthy diet full of natural antioxidants is another incredibly useful strategy to help avoid sun damage to your skin. Fresh, raw, unprocessed foods deliver the nutrients that your body needs to maintain a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 oils in your skin, which is your first line of defense against sunburn. Fresh, raw vegetables also provide your body with an abundance of powerful antioxidants that will help you fight the free radicals caused by sun damage that can lead to burns and cancer.
Your BareFood Angel’s 6 ways to prevent sunburns:
1) Consume more vitamin D. While the sun helps us to manufacture vitamin D, consuming vitamin D rich foods like Cod Liver Oil and/or supplementing with quality source of oral vitamin D3 can in turn help to protect us from the UV radiation of the sun. Here is a list of high quality sources of vitamin D.
2) Eat your healthy saturated fats (use Which Fats to Eat, Which to Ditch visual). Robust fats in the diet is crucial to resilient skin. Dietary fats and oils provide building blocks for skin tissues. My favorites are coconut oil, olive oil and Ghee. Logically, if your skin is nourished with fragile oils such as vegetable based tanning oils, it will be much more sensitive to damage by the sun.
3) Make sure you get plenty of minerals. Deficiencies in certain minerals such as zinc and magnesium can cause photosensitivity and sun rashes. Be sure to consume mineral rich foods from both plant and animal sources. Bone broths and Mineral broths and organ meats like liver are particularly balanced in trace minerals.
4) Apply true extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil on the skin. It may be delicious to eat, but coconut oil and olive oil is also a powerful healing agent when applied to the skin. There is anecdotal evidence showing that Polynesians frequently rubbed this precious oil on before spending long periods of time in the sun. Although it has been tested to block only about 20% of the sun’s rays, its value lies more in the powerful antioxidants it releases into the skin, which bolster natural defenses and prevents damage from long term sun exposure.
5) Try internal antioxidants such as Astaxanthin and krill oil. The unique compound in Astaxanthin is a super-antioxidant found in algae and the organisms that it such as salmon, shrimp, krill and flamingos. Pink-red in color (hint: think about the animals that eat it), this substance has been growing in popularity as an “internal sunscreen.” Several trials using human cells have shown it to have protective effects on the skin. Although it may not turn our skin quite as romantic a hue as a flamingo, many people experience skin benefits and an enhanced ability to tan from consuming.
6) Get grounded! Earthing is the landmark rediscovery that the ground’s energy upholds the electrical stability of our bodies and serves as a foundation for vitality and health. Modern rubber and plastic-soled shoes act as electrical insulators and therefore block the beneficial flow of electrons from earth to your body. Studies have shown that earthing/grounding improves blood viscosity, heart rate variability, inflammation, cortisol dynamics, sleep, and reduces effects of stress. Earthing decreases the effect of these potentially disruptive electromagnetic fields. Fight premature aging for free by walking barefoot on: sand, moist grass, bare soil, concrete or brick, ceramic tile. Additionally, the following products can help you get grounded while sleeping or working in the office. They are especially helpful if you are bed or office bound. Here is additional information about grounding/earthing.
Choosing the Right Sunscreen:
Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases their annual guide to sunscreens, and this year’s data again shows that you must be very cautious when choosing sunscreen to apply to your skin.
The chemicals in sunscreen are actually responsible for more skin cancers than the sun. In 2014, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reviewed over 2000 sunscreens and over 257 brands. They found more than 75% of the sunscreens contained toxic chemicals that can increase your risk of cancer and other health issues.
What to Choose:
Choose a sunscreen that protects against Both UVA and UVB Rays. SPF only protects against UVB rays, which are the rays within the ultraviolet spectrum that allow your body to produce vitamin D in your skin. But the most dangerous rays, in terms of causing skin damage and cancer, are the UVA rays. Therefore, look for a sunscreen that contains the minerals zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which block the sun’s rays without penetrating your skin.
What to Avoid:
The most toxic sunscreens typically contained the hormone-disrupting chemical oxybenzone, synthetic fragrance, and retinyl palmitate, which poses cancer concerns:
In 1978, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began to develop its first-ever sunscreen safety regulations. Decades later, the job still isn’t done. That’s outrageous.
The FDA hasn’t protected us from the sunscreen industry’s false claims or use of potentially hazardous ingredients.
Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a Sunscreen Guide. You should have the best information possible to help you choose products that will protect you and your family from burns and skin cancer and keep you safer in the sun.
Since there are no regulations, the industry doesn’t have to verify that its sunscreens work or provide adequate UVA protection or even check their “waterproof” claims. Two-thirds of the sunscreens analyzed by the EWG did not work well or contained potentially hazardous ingredients.
This is one of the most troublesome ingredients found in the majority of sunscreens. Its primary function is to absorb ultraviolet light. However, oxybenzone is also believed to cause hormone disruptions and cell damage that may provoke cancer. According to EWG:
“…the chemical oxybenzone penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body. It can trigger allergic reactions. Data are preliminary, but studies have found a link between higher concentrations of oxybenzone and health harms.
One study has linked oxybenzone to endometriosis in older women; another found that women with higher levels of oxybenzone during pregnancy had lower birth weight daughters.”
Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A palmitate):
Sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer because they contain vitamin A and its derivatives, retinol, and retinyl palmitate.
The problem occurs when this form of vitamin A is exposed to the sun (as opposed to when it is used in night cream, for example), which is why sunscreens that contain it should be avoided.
I caution against using personal care products that contain synthetic fragrance, as this term describes any number of harmful chemicals that do not have to be listed individually on the label. Some common “fragrance” chemicals include:
Synthetic preservatives known to interfere with hormone production and release.
Another synthetic preservative that’s carcinogenic and linked to reproductive effects
(decreased sperm counts, early breast development, and birth defects) and liver and kidney damage.
These are linked to hormone disruption and are thought to persist and accumulate in breast milk, body fat, umbilical cord blood, and the environment.
Additionally, here are three more things to stay clear of:
1) Avoid Spray Sunscreens: These are incredibly popular, especially for kids, but the convenience comes at a price. When the sunscreen is sprayed, toxic particles are released into the air, making them easy to breathe in, with unknown health effects.
Spray-on sunscreens may also contain flammable ingredients, and there have been reports in which a person wearing the sunscreen received serious burns from coming close to an open flame.
2) Avoid Super-High SPFs: Higher SPF sunscreens (SPF 50+) are not intrinsically harmful. However, there’s evidence that the higher protection level gives people a misleading sense of security, encouraging them to stay in the sun longer than they should. In reality, research suggests that people using high-SPF sunscreens get the same or similar exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays as those using lower-SPF products.
3) Avoid Sunscreen Towelettes or Powders: These offer dubious sun protection and the powder poses a risk of lung irritation if you inhale it.
BareFood Angel’s closing words:
We all need to make our own decisions. My goal is to offer you information that will help take your decision making from fear-based to education-based. Once you look at all sides of an issue (and there are always more than one or two sides), your decision – whatever it may be – will be the right decision for you and your family.
Only when you move into that space of making an educated decision, can you move into a zone that is full of freedom and choice. Fear always carries a sense of uncertainty. I want you to be free.
Check with your “gut”. Always question…even those who claim to be experts. Mother Nature has been perfecting her game for millions of years. Who are we to tamper with the beautiful balance she provides?
When we start getting to the Bare truth, we see how simple everything is and how complicated some things have become. The less complicated we make things and as we go back to our Bare needs, we’ll start seeing how simple it is to accomplish balance.
Balance brings health and wellbeing to our lives.
Health and Wellbeing are precious gifts that we must preserve and protect.
So go back to Bare simple truths – apply the laws of nature and use your judgment.
Go out and enjoy the warmth and benefits (vitamin D, reduced blood pressure, increased fat burning capability, pain killer etc) of the sun safely mid day unprotected (no sunscreen, least amount of clothes) for a limited time (20-30 minutes/day depending on the color of your skin). And remember, if you are going to be under the sun longer than that, apply some safe sunblock and a hat. Complete avoidance of the sun is a surefire way to cause some problems for yourself down the road.
Enjoy the sun!
Disclaimer: To help my customers shop my recommended brands, I have set up an account with some companies. I earn a small commission if you use the links in this article to purchase the products I mentioned. I only recommend products I would use myself or that pass my test. Your purchase helps support this site and my ongoing research.
1(Occup Environ Med 2000;57:418-421) (Cancer March 2002; 94:1867-75)
2(Nutrition Reviews August 2007 Volume 65, Supplement 1, pp. 91-95(5) (Registration Required) and The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology March 2007; 103(3-5):708-11 Eurekalert August 21, 2007)
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