The sun is often blamed for causing wrinkles, cataracts, singeing us from the tip of our noses to the tops of our feet, and for making some of us look well beyond our numerical age. But if we were really honest with ourselves, we would ask, “Is the sun really our problem?” or is it our fault that we are not obtaining the proper nutrients needed to balance the sun’s healing light? Before we can answer either of these questions, let us first examine a few details about the sun.
Most people are familiar with sun and its ultraviolet light. In actuality, the sun emits three forms of ultraviolet rays: UVA (long-wave), UVB (shortwave) and UVC. UVC waves are rarely mentioned, due to the fact these rays are absorbed by the ozone layer and do not reach the earth. However, both UVA and UVB, reach not only the surface of the Earth, but also the deep and superficial layers of skin. UVA constitutes 95 percent of the UV radiation that reaches Earth and is able to perforate clouds and glass. It also penetrates the skin deeper than UVB, but UVB is a major contributor to producing those pesky sunburns. Unlike its counterpart, UVB is unable to penetrate glass, and is most intense in the U.S. from 10 am – 4 pm from April to October. These two forms of ultraviolet rays have been shown to be causative agents in the formation of skin cancer.
Despite the constant endorsements of the topical use of sunscreens, the incidence of non-melanoma and melanoma cases continues to rise significantly. Certain statistics even state that one of out of five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their life. Below is a general list of risk factors for developing skin cancer designated by the Centers of Disease Control.
- A lighter natural skin color.
- Family history of skin cancer.
- A personal history of skin cancer.
- A history of indoor tanning.
- Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun.
- Blue or green eyes.
- Blond or red hair.
- Certain types and a large number of moles.
As stated earlier, the sun’s ultraviolet light is noted as playing a major role in the formation of cancer by disrupting the cell’s DNA and membranes, which lead to the formation of free radicals. Free radicals scavenge the body, stealing electrons from stable cells, thus leading to cellular destruction and sometimes cell death. In general, free radicals cause cellular chaos throughout the body. Please note that there are numerous factors that cause the formation of free radicals like: daily emotional and physical stress, air pollutants, inflammation, processed foods, etc., but when compounded with nutritional deficiencies and UV radiation from the sun, the condition can quickly worsen. Therefore, leaving the body in desperate need of antioxidants, which are vital molecules that aid in the stabilization of rogue free radicals.
Obtaining sufficient antioxidants via diet or supplementation is crucial to balancing the effects of the sun’s UV radiation. Here is a list of several antioxidants that have a important impact on skin and eye health.
1. Consume lots of green, leafy vegetables, ie: kale, mustard, collard, turnips, parsley, cilantro, etc and red, orange and yellow veggies.
- Green vegetables contain a green pigment called chlorophyll that allows the plants to absorb energy from light sources via photosynthesis. Take a hint from the plants and utilize the same biomolecules that allows them to thrive in the light of the sun.
- Chlorophyll concentrate – can be purchased as a supplement in liquid or capsule forms.
- Carotenoids are a broad group of fat soluble molecules that give vegetables like carrots and red bell peppers their vibrant colors. Examples of specific carotenoids are lutein and lycopene, which play critical roles in maintaining proper eye health. Carotenoids are potent antioxidants and should be consumed regularly via food or if by supplementation, look for a supplement that contains mixed carotenoids or beta-carotene.
2. Consume seasonal fruit especially dark berries like blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc. These amazing fruits are all high in numerous nutrients, including anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are water soluble pigments that are potent free radical scavengers. If you know that you are going to be spending lengthy periods of time in the sun, consider juicing carrots and green vegetables, and/or taking Allergy Research Group’s FlaviNOx capsules or 1-3 tsp of Dr. William Mitchell’s delicious Fruit Anthocyanins.
3. Lastly, consider including vitamin E (especially gamma tocopherol), selenium (selenomethionine or selenocysteine), and vitamin C plus bioflavinoids in your summer health protocol. The combination of these antioxidants will greatly lower your chances of becoming a sunburn victim.
Increasing your dietary intake of the aforementioned foods and supplements is a great way to protect your skin and eyes, not only this summer, but year round. So before you slather on that sunscreen, make sure you are nourishing your body from the inside out.
For a complete list of safe sunscreens, check out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Sunscreens.
– Blake Gordon, ND*
—–The Skin Cancer Foundation. http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb/understanding-uva-and-uvb. Accessed June 13, 2013.
—–Centers of Disease Control. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/risk_factors.htm. Accessed June 13, 2013.
—–National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/skin/page5. Accessed June 13, 2013.
—–World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/uv/faq/skincancer/en/index1.html. Accessed June 13, 2013.
—–Czap, Kelly. Alternative Medicine Review. Monographs – Volume One. 2002.
Environmental Working Group. http://www.ewg.org/2013sunscreen/ Accessed June 13, 2013.
*Naturopathic Doctors are currently not licensed in the state of Texas.