Sun Smarts for Your Health

Sunshine time is here and like all living things we need it. Much as plants harness the sun’s rays through photosynthesis, our bodies benefit from sun exposure in many ways, probably only some of which we are aware.

For example, we know the UVB radiation in sunshine stimulates increased production of vitamin D which is needed to build bones, quell inflammation, and bolster the immune system against many of today’s diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, depression and asthma.

Most people have heard of the studies that connect sun exposure to skin cancer. But there are many studies that suggest sun exposure plays a role in decreasing risks of at least 16 different types of cancer including lung, pancreatic, breast, ovarian, prostate, and colon cancers.

While UVB radiation is responsible for making vitamin D, the UVA, thought to be responsible for most of the skin damage, also helps modulate your immune system. UVA and UVB in combination improves beta-endorphin production in your skin, which makes you feel good.

Sun exposure on bare skin also produces nitric oxide and carbon monoxide that cause relaxation of the blood vessels, improves wound healing, and helps fight infections.

The blue wavelength of sunlight is particularly important for regulating your circadian rhythm improving your mood, and reducing symptoms of depression. Light therapy has been shown to be effective not only against seasonal affective disorder (SAD) but also non-seasonal major depression.

Clearly, sun exposure provides a wealth of health benefits over and beyond mere vitamin D production.

So how do we maximize the benefits of sun exposure while avoiding the risks of damage from too much exposure? Here are some suggestions:

  • Start small and slowly build up a tolerance to 15 to 30 minutes in the mid-day sun. Light skinned people should limit their exposure in the beginning to just a few minutes but keep building as you lightly tan.
  • Do not sunburn. You are done with sun for the day if you begin to get just a little pink.  How much time this takes will vary with the individual.  Be Careful.  Be Smart.
  • Boost your “internal sunscreen” by eating antioxidant rich foods and healthy fats. Some specific foods that help provide natural sun protection are citrus fruits, carrots, strawberries, watermelon, almonds, flax seed oil and lots of omega 3’s, red grapes, leafy greens and sea greens, pomegranates, green tea, tomatoes, turmeric and red colored fish and seafoods.
  • If you can, avoid synthetic vitamins, creams and sunscreens as these are generally made of petroleum products and other toxins that can weaken your immunity and harm your skin cells, often rendering you more susceptible to the cancer you are trying to avoid.

For more information about safer sunscreens see my June 2016 Connector article or visit

There are many natural and safe products now on the market to moisturize and protect your skin, but common sense is always the best medicine.



Cathy Lidster, B.Sc., GCFP, ACNRT, is a local and international Health Educator/Practitioner, Speaker.
You can contact her or 250-819-9041.