Sun: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Adapted from Healthy, Sexy, Happy: A Thrilling Journey to the Ultimate You
When I was a teenager, I used to baste my body in baby oil and lie out under the noontime sun. In my early twenties, I had an apartment in the tallest building in a small California town. I discovered the access to the roof, and from then on, I would climb up a rickety ladder and lie out naked to get an all-over tan. Then, at age twenty-nine, I started noticing the faces and chests of older women sun-worshippers—wrinkly, leathery, saggy skin. I had an epiphany, immediately stopped tanning, and have since protected my face and chest from the sun.
Of course, we now know that UV rays from the sun can be extremely dangerous. But the fear of the sun is somewhat hysterical. In fact, the truth about sun exposure boils down to the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The Good: Getting a little sun is beneficial. We all need some sun on unprotected skin in order for our bodies to convert UV rays to Vitamin D.
Vitamin D3 is really a hormone. (You may have also heard about Vitamin D2, which is made in plants, but it is not as researched, and its benefits are not as established.)
The fear of malignant melanoma has everyone using sun block now. And when you consider that buildings keep getting taller and most people work inside, it’s easy to understand why the proliferation of Vitamin D deficiencies. Very few people are getting enough sunshine on their bare skin, and lack of Vitamin D factors into the rise in disease.
Definitive research has demonstrated that there is a seasonal correlation between Vitamin D levels and influenza. If you’re in the sun, you’re not as likely to get the flu. In addition to preventing respiratory illness, Vitamin D also modulates neuromuscular and immune function, reduces inflammation, and supports bone growth and bone remodeling. Keep in mind, the body needs cholesterol to synthesize sunlight into Vitamin D, which it then uses to absorb calcium to be used as bone. (And you know I’m big on eating cholesterol-laden foods, so here’s one more reason!) Unfortunately, after the age of seventy, the skin doesn’t convert vitamin D effectively, even with adequate cholesterol intake. Natural Vitamin D prevents cancer, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. It’s linked to improvement in mood and relieving symptoms of depression.
Symptoms of Short-term Vitamin D Deficiency
Burning sensation in the mouth and throat
Loss of appetite
Prone to colds and flu
Symptoms of Long-term Vitamin D Deficiency
Breast, colon, ovarian cancer
Dental problems (periodontal diseases)
Low immunity with chronic colds and flu
Musculoskeletal pain (deep throbbing in limbs)
Weaker bones, susceptible to fractures
Twenty minutes of exposing your arms and legs to full afternoon sunlight without sun block will synthesize 20,000 IUs of Vitamin D. Fairer skinned people synthesize D faster than darker skinned people.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it’s stored in your body—but not for the entire winter. If you live north of Atlanta, the sun doesn’t get high enough in the sky for UVB rays to reach you. And if you live in a geographical area that’s dark and gloomy in the winter, you need to have your Vitamin D levels checked, before supplementing your D accordingly. Sun block inhibits Vitamin D production.
Most doctors are now testing for Vitamin D deficiencies, so you should be able to get tested with no problem. The old fear of Vitamin D toxicity is unfounded. But as with any hormone, you want to have labs drawn to test and monitor your levels for your own good. You should never attempt to diagnose Vitamin D deficiency yourself. People are starting to take Vitamin D supplementation to the extreme, pushing their levels way too high. Make sure you get blood work done before taking Vitamin D supplementation. You can safely eat foods containing Vitamin D, such as supplemented organic milk, Activator X (also known as X Factor butter), regular butter (the sexiest, most beautifying food), wild-caught salmon, sardines, shrimp, cod, and eggs.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Toxicity
Constipation or diarrhea
Drowsiness or ongoing tiredness
Dryness of mouth
Headaches all the time
High blood pressure
Increase in amount of urine
Increase in frequency of urination, especially at night
Loss of appetite
Metallic taste in mouth
Nausea or vomiting
Severe tummy ache
The Bad: Too much sun exposure is called hypervitaminosis D. UV rays synthesize skin oils into vitamin D, which in turn sends calcium from your tissues into your bloodstream. When that occurs, it can unleash the herpes virus, as well as canker sores and hives. To prevent outbreaks, if you exercise in the sun or heat, take calcium lactate supplements. Also get enough Vitamin F (contained in essential fatty acids in fish and sunflower seeds). If you suffer from herpes, canker sores, or hives, stay hydrated when you’re in the sun, and keep your potassium levels up by eating food rich in potassium, such as apricots, raisins, figs, and bananas.
The Ugly: Melanoma. And wrinkles. (Enough said!) Sunlight consists of ultraviolet UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays affect the outer layers of skin, causing sunburn. UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermal layer of skin; overexposure to UVA rays leads to eye damage, immune system changes, cataracts, wrinkles, premature aging of the skin, and malignant melanoma. Sun block blocks the UVB rays necessary to produce vitamin D. Most brands of American sunscreen offer protection from UVB rays but not from UVA rays. Only 15 percent of sunscreens sold in America block both UVA and UVB radiation. The vast majority of sunscreen products also contain toxic synthetic chemicals that penetrate the skin, are powerful free radical generators, have strong estrogenic activity, and accumulate in body fat stores. Chemicals to avoid include benzophenone, octyl-methoxycinnamate, oxybenzone, para-amino-benzoic acid (PABA), dioxybenzone, parabens, and titanium dioxide. These chemicals not only hurt humans but also sea life, when they rinse into the ocean. Right now, only brands whose active ingredient is zinc oxide can safely shield your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. However, zinc oxide doesn’t rub in, and so you’ll have whitish residue on your skin. To get around this, manufacturers are creating zinc oxide nanoparticles that have the ability to be absorbed. Nanoparticles penetrate the deep layers of your skin, carrying toxins directly into your bloodstream, where they lodge in your organs. The best you can do right now is to continue to use zinc oxide sun block and put up with the white residue on your skin. There are sun blocks being developed that are safe for humans, animals, and the environment, and I will continue to research sun block and provide updates on my website.