A #Thriveinlife Feature
Hey there summer-lover! That's right, you!
Most of our fav summer activities involve a lot of sunshine, right? Hiking our local peaks, pick-up soccer, trail running, outdoor games with the kids, sailing, swimming, surfing, wine and tacos on a patio, floating in the lake on an inflatable “party barge,” we could go on. The point is, there are all kinds of debates going on about what we should be doing to create that balance between getting a good amount of that much needed Vitamin D and protecting ourselves from an increasingly stronger UV index.
First, let's discuss the risks and the benefits a little so you are prepared for your summer of sun. There are different kinds of UV rays (A,B, and C), all of which have the potential to be damaging in some way. The most common concern when it comes to prolonged sun-exposure is skin damage, such as skin cancer and premature aging. How harmful these rays are depends on what type they are, time of day, season, length of exposure, protection, distance from the equator, and many other factors. As our protective Ozone layer gets thinner due to the human races' way of life, more harmful rays will reach the surface of the Earth. There are large debates around the speed and severity of this progress, but it does seem to be getting hotter earlier in the year around here, and despite the excitement over having a longer summer, it is not a good sign.
So, why must we insist on spending time in the sun when there are so many risks? Aside from our vanity, getting Vitamin D seems to be the biggest reason to justify lying in the sun, especially for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere. Vitamin D is often called “the sunshine vitamin” as our skin, through some sort of amazing biochemical reaction, is able to produce Vitamin D when it is exposed to the sun.
Vitamin D has all kinds of great benefits. It is a key factor in our bone health, helping to prevent osteoporosis, and rickets in small children. Studies have linked it to the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It promotes healthy immune function and can help in the treatment of some skin diseases, like psoriasis.
Sun also makes us happier! If you live in a place where winter sticks around for basically 75% of the year, you may have noticed that when the sun comes out, everyone sort of bursts forth from their social hibernation and gets excited about life in general. People smile more, they spend more time outside, they have more energy and are more active. Perhaps this is due to the renewed exposure to Vitamin D. It is suggested that Vitamin D and melatonin have an inverse relationship in our body, and as melatonin helps us sleep, the less Vitamin D we have, the more melatonin we will produce, and will therefore be fatigued more often. There are also links being drawn from Vitamin D deficiency to depression, although the role it plays is unclear.
The great thing is, you don't need to burn or even tan to be absorbing Vitamin D. How long you need to spend in the sun to produce the right amount depends largely on the time of day, your location, your skin colour, and how much skin is exposed. It could be anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours. It is also good to remember that due to the different UV rays, only certain sun exposure will allow for Vitamin D production, and there is no way to easily monitor what type(s) you are being exposed to. The daily intake of Vitamin D is different for all ages and there are varying opinions on what it should be. Although, if you are living outside of the sun belt of the Earth, which would definitely be all of us up in Canada, you are probably not getting enough vitamin D year-round. If you are concerned about your Vitamin D levels, you can always consult your doctor and/or take a supplement.
In terms of UV exposure and risk of damaging rays, protection and education are your best forms of defense. Often times people say they need a “base tan” at the beginning of summer or before a trip somewhere hot so they won't burn as much in the future, but according to experts, that's not a good idea. Even occasional exposure to strong sunlight increases your risk of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. Those recommendations to apply sunscreen every 2 hours, limit time in direct midday sun, wear sunglasses, and slap on a hat are not just trivial things Mother's nag you about, they are serious skin savers.
There is of course an ongoing debate about sunscreen. Many studies say that most available brands are not effective, that they have harmful toxins in them, that they are not regulated enough. There is no consensus here yet. We can't say either way, but the opinion on the pro-sunscreen side is that everyone should be wearing sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays, is SPF 30 or greater, and is water resistant. It should also be reapplied every 2 hours. Take the Sun Safety IQ Test on cancer.org to see if your idea of sun protection is up to snuff!
The very best way to protect yourself is to limit long periods of direct exposure and wear tight knit clothing, sunglasses, and a hat. That is where Thrive can help! We've got lots of great summer clothing, like maxi-dresses, cotton t-shirts, and brimmed hats that will help keep you stylish and burn free.
References /// http://www.chopra.com/ccl/the-pros-and-cons-of-sunshine-how-to-bask-in-the-sun-safel /// http://www.uvawareness.com/uv-info/uv-information.php /// https://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs /// http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/ /// http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/how-do-i-get-the-vitamin-d-my-body-needs/ /// http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/161618.php#possible_health_benefits_of_vitamin_D /// http://www.benzobuddies.org/forum/index.php?topic=41798.0