by Roberta Mittman
I’ll bet you saw that headline and thought you had a good idea of today’s topic. Maybe you’re even a health-conscious individual who read it and thought, Oh, that reminds me! It’s time to buy a fresh bottle of sunscreen.
Congratulations! You have a sense of wellness responsibility that will be immeasurably valuable in keeping you feeling, looking, and living your best.
But you might be surprised to hear that sunscreen is only one side of the healthy summer story. Up for a little quiz? (Hint: All three questions have the same answer.)
1. What hormone decreases your risk of heart disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, tooth and bone loss, and diabetes?
2. Which critical vitamin can be found naturally in very few foods, such as salmon and mushrooms?
3. What nutrient helps to alleviate and even prevent mood-related health problems including sleep disorders and depression?
This miracle compound is vitamin D.
D is, in fact, important to the health of almost every body system—yet many of us happen to be severely deficient.
The paradox is that our widespread vitamin D deficiency comes in part from being health-conscious and doing what experts have, for years, told us to do. Over the past two decades, we’ve taken to heart the lesson that overexposure to sun is detrimental to skin health. Research has proven the dangers: Too much sun leads to a range of problems, from a prematurely aged appearance to painful sunburn, and even to deadly forms of skin cancer.
Protecting ourselves from loads of those penetrating rays simply makes good sense, doesn’t it? As science has drawn links between ultraviolet overexposure and health issues, it has also offered us solutions. New formulations of sunscreen are more effective than ever. And not only can you get UV protection in the traditional standalone form, but nowadays, lotions, make-up, and lip balms often include ingredients that give you a little extra SPF, too.
Unfortunately, the powerful sunscreens that shield us from the pain and danger of sunburn and melanoma also block the biggest benefit that comes with minor sun exposure—namely, the ability for our bodies to make natural vitamin D.
That’s why some experts now recommend a happy medium: careful, intentional exposure to sun, followed immediately by liberal splashes of sunscreen. Here are a few tips for pumping up your vitamin D intake without compromising your long-term wellness.
1. The amount of sun you need to make enough daily vitamin D varies.
Up to 15 minutes is usually safe, but it’s a good idea to start with less exposure to the sun. Some things that can affect your individual timing include the season of the year, your skin type and tone, and where you live. A great resource for guidance in finding your correct exposure is Dr. Michael F. Holick’s book, The Vitamin D Solution.
2. Soak up rays on your arms and legs, but always shield your face and eyes.
Remember, your face is uncovered and exposed passively all day long. Find a hat and sunglasses you love, and wear them every time you go outdoors.
3. After your few minutes of intentional exposure, have a shot of SPF.
A good rule of thumb is to use one ounce of sunscreen per application, about the amount that would fill a shot glass. “Slather” is a key idea here. Don’t skimp!
4. Choose sunscreen carefully.
To guard yourself from surface-level and deeper, less obvious damage, look for a product that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
5. About that SPF number…
Products with a sun protection factor of more than 50 sound great, but if your skin is sensitive, they are also more potentially irritating than lower SPF formulas. Plus, that higher number can give a false sense of security. And remember, no matter how high your SPF, you’ll need to reapply sunscreen after a maximum of 3 hours outdoors.
6. Eat your fruits and veggies.
Research suggests that lycopene, beta-carotene, and antioxidants in general naturally help protect skin from wrinkles, freckling, and cancer. Go ahead, load your plate with spinach, tomatoes, pomegranate, and berries!
7. …with a side of vitamin D.
Good quality vitamin D supplements aren’t hard to find in pill form, but this powerful nutrient comes from a varied, satisfying diet, too. Eggs, mackerel, mushrooms, and salmon all deliver vitamin D, and many cereal and dairy products are fortified with extra D as well.
Delicious food, high-fashion hat and shades, and careful exposure to natural sunlight: Now the only thing that recipe for summer fun lacks is YOU! Feeling a little lost? Give me a call at 212-686-0939. I’d be happy to help you put yourself into the healthy summer formula.
Roberta Mittman, L.Ac. writes about her experiences in her monthly newsletter to both real and virtual patients. If you are ready to jumpstart your transition to natural health care, feeling better and gaining a new outlook on life, get free advice now at www.RobertaMittman.com.
Read more about Roberta and what she can offer you.