Sunshine is Fine!
With longer days this time of year, we often find ourselves spending more time outside enjoying the amazing Montana summers. For many, this means hiking or camping, spending time gardening, floating the rivers or fishing; all outdoor activities that provide an opportunity to get some sunshine! It is an amazing relief following the cold winters where we spend most of our time inside or covered up with insulating garments. We do have to be careful, of course, as most of us are prone to getting too much sun, especially early in the summer when we are most desperate for sun exposure and before we have a more protective tan. There are some healthy strategies that help us not only mitigate the negative aspects of excessive sun, and also some that help enhance the beneficial aspects of adequate sun exposure.
Sun exposure gets a bad rap, but there are numerous benefits of getting sunlight on the skin in moderation and in graded exposure. And these health benefits are supported by quality research. A large 20 year study involving almost 30,000 people found a reduced risk of all cause mortality and morbidity in those with more active sun exposure 4. In fact, in that same study, people who avoided sun exposure had a similar life expectancy to smokers with active sun exposure! We all know how harmful smoking is, and these observations place sun avoidance in the same category as cigarette smoking. It is too bad that claims of absolute harm from any sun exposure is continuing to be sold to the public, scaring some into avoiding the sun or constantly using chemically laden sunscreen whenever they are exposed to it.
Interestingly, research suggests that while sunscreen is protective of certain types of cancer (squamous cell carcinoma), it is not protective of others, such as basal cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma 1, 3. This implies that sunscreen can provide a false sense of security, and can encourage people to expose themselves to excessive, and potentially dangerous, amounts of sunshine, even if they are not burning. Research finds that chronic non-burning sun exposure is associated with a reduced risk of malignant melanoma (the most dangerous form of skin cancer) and other skin cancers, and that severe sun burns are associated with a doubled increased risk of malignant melanoma 1, 2, 3.
There is a great argument for the public health directive to issue a statement recommending enough sun exposure to maintain adequate vitamin D levels without burning 3. There are numerous benefits of consistent, non burning sun exposure. These include a reduced risk of all-cause mortality, as well as decreased risks of colorectal cancer, breast cancer, non-hodgkins lymphoma, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer disease, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, statin intolerance, macular degeneration, myopia, and psychiatric conditions such as depression 1, 6. In addition, there is no data showing an increase in all-cause mortality with high sun exposure 5.
We agree that protecting oneself from sunburn is important. An arguably better option is to minimize the use of chemical sunscreen and use graded exposure to the sun and use clothing or seek shade to reduce excessive amounts of exposure. Save the sunscreen for high risk areas that are often difficult to cover, such as the ears, nose, face, scalp, and neck. Also, use sunscreen when exposed to excessive amounts of solar radiation. And use mineral sunscreens free of unnecessary and toxic ingredients. These tend to be broad spectrum, protecting from both UVA and UVB radiation. Look for mineral based sunscreens, particularly ones made with zinc or titanium oxide and SPF 30 or higher. One of our favorite brands is Badger®. We love their kid formulas even for adults and carry it in the clinic.
Our favorite strategy towards reducing the negative effects of the suns, as well as maximizing the benefits, is to ensure we have adequate amounts of calcium and specific polyunsaturated fatty acids, traditionally known as vitamin F, in our blood stream. The production of vitamin D is dependent on available cholesterol, calcium, and fatty acids in our blood. With adequate supply, we do not burn as readily and we are able to produce more vitamin D, as the biochemical processes do not stall or become stagnant. The limiting factor for modern humans is the deficiency of these specific fatty acids, vitamin F. The easy to come by sources are pasture butter, raw or soaked nuts and seeds, cold-water marine fish, pasture-raised meats, and green leafy vegetables.
Prolonged periods of time in the sun can use up available stores of vitamin F and calcium quickly. Cataplex F is a whole food concentrate that contains abundant concentrated supplies of these fatty acids. Since Cataplex F can supply the necessary fatty acids in concentration, it can be used very successfully to mitigate sunburn, and allow us the positive benefits, of sun exposure. The bonus, Cataplex F is great at reducing muscle cramps and soreness!
Cataplex F transports calcium from the blood to the tissues, such as skin and muscles, where it is needed. When we have ample supplies of these fatty acids, the next limiting factor becomes calcium. For this reason we often recommend additional calcium supplementation when Cataplex F is being used to protect skin from burning or muscles from cramping. A time tested recommendation is to take 2 Calcium Lactate tablets and 1 Cataplex F tablet for every hour of sun exposure. In addition, taking 2-3 Cataplex F tablets 2-3 hours before sun exposure is also recommended. Another benefit of having adequate calcium and fatty acid stores is for the prevention of muscle cramps and to ease the effects of strenuous exercise, as active muscles depend on calcium (Calcium Lactate) and calcium delivery (Cataplex F) to the muscles. We recommend calcium lactate over other forms of calcium because it is more easily assimilated in the body. Any athlete or weekend warrior can certainly benefit from these two food concentrates not only from improving their ability to tolerate the sun and increase it’s benefits, but also by improving muscle contraction and reducing fatigue. Pair this with adequate water or homemade electrolyte drink (want to know more about sports drinks) and an optimal dietary pattern, and we have an enhanced ability to perform at a higher level with less pain.
Summertime is a favorite for many of us, and through careful planning and strategic use of dietary measures we can appreciate this time of year much more. Cataplex F and Calcium Lactate should be in everybody’s toolkit during the summer months, as we will all benefit from increased sun exposure after being covered in clothing all winter long while the intensity of the sun is at it’s lowest.
1. Hoel, D. G., Berwick, M., de Gruijl, F. R., & Holick, M. F. (2016). The risks and benefits of sun exposure 2016. Dermato-endocrinology, 8(1), e1248325. https://doi.org/10.1080/19381980.2016.1248325
2. Coutinho RCS, Santos AFD, Costa JGD, Vanderlei AD. Sun exposure, skin lesions and vitamin D production: evaluation in a population of fishermen. An Bras Dermatol. 2019;94(3):279-286. Published 2019 Jul 29. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20197201
3. Hoel DG, de Gruijl FR. Sun Exposure Public Health Directives. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(12):2794. Published 2018 Dec 10. doi:10.3390/ijerph15122794
4. Lindqvist PG, Epstein E, Nielsen K, Landin-Olsson M, Ingvar C, Olsson H. Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. J Intern Med. 2016;280(4):375-387. doi:10.1111/joim.12496
5. Wright F, Weller RB. Risks and benefits of UV radiation in older people: More of a friend than a foe? Maturitas. 2015 May 19. pii: S0378-5122(15)00674-X. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2015.05.003.
6. Queirós CS, Freitas JP. Sun Exposure: Beyond the Risks. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2019;9(4):249-252. Published 2019 Oct 31. doi:10.5826/dpc.0904a01