Why You Should Get Some Sun This Summer + How To Do It The Safe Way

Although irresponsible sunbathing is unquestionably harmful, regular, moderate, unprotected sun exposure is essential for good health. It’s free, easy to come by and good for you when handled wisely. It’s also the only reliable way for your body to generate vitamin D, an essential ingredient for optimizing health and preventing disease.

Trouble is, for the last 30 years or so, the medical-dermatological complex has brainwashed us with the mantra that sun exposure is lethal and we should stay away. It’s an oversimplified view that’s had little effect on curbing skin cancer rates — in fact, they’re skyrocketing — and has managed to make millions of people sun-phobic, causing them to miss out on the numerous benefits associated with sun exposure in limited doses.

And the best way to optimize vitamin D levels?

It’s with safe, smart and limited sunscreen-free exposure to the sun. Used wisely, strategic bouts of sunshine help the skin produce the Vitamin D it needs to build bones, tamp down inflammation, boost the immune system. Better yet, vitamin D and may actually help prevent as many as 16 different types of cancer including pancreatic, lung, breast, ovarian, skin, prostate and colon.

Now, of course, taking advantage of the benefits of sunshine is by no means a license to burn and tan with abandon, but consider it permission to step into the light every now and then, with considerably less fear about it than you’ve had in the past. Here are a few pointers on how to support your health with sunshine:

Let the Sun Give You Your Vitamin D (And Yes, There’s an App for That!)

Your age, complexion, where you live, season and what time of day it is, they all affect the amount of sun exposure you need. The farther north you live, the more sun exposure you’ll need to generate vitamin D.

For instance, a fair-skinned New Yorker, sitting on a local beach in June at midday for 10-15 minutes without sun block (enough to cause a light pinkness 24 hours after), will produce the equivalent of 15,000-20,000 IU’s of Vitamin D. Put that same person further north in the U.K, or Canada and they’ll need 20 to 30 minutes for the same effect. By contrast, people with darker complexions may need 20 to 30 times more exposure to generate the same amount of vitamin D.

To help determine your needs, have a look at the tables in Dr. Michael Holick’s The Vitamin D Solution or download the particularly useful-for-summer app called D Minder which tracks the amount of Vitamin D you get from the sun based on your age, location, body type, and time of day, etc. and even includes a timer so you’ll know when you’ve topped off the D tank, without burning.

Slowly Ramp Up Your Sun Exposure

Kicking off the summer by searing your skin with multiple sunburns is not only painful but it can potentially roll out the welcome mat for melanoma down the line, so bottom line: never burn.

Instead, as the summer brings you outdoors more often, don’t be afraid to expose your skin to the sun, just be sure to build up your tolerance slowly over the course of a few weeks.

Just don’t rush out and sunburn yourself outdoors or in a tanning booth in hopes of quickly getting a “base” tan all in single afternoon.

Learn How to Sunbathe Smartly

Brief, regular exposures have been found to be much more effective and safer than the occasional long one. And sorry, but sitting by a sunny window just won’t do it, because the UVB rays necessary for vitamin D production are absorbed by glass.

To get your Ds, you’ll need to step outside. Set aside some time for short doses of sun-block-free exposure, but if you’ve had skin cancer, check with your doc first.

From there, start with a 5-minute shot of unblocked sun for week 1, every other day; step up to 10 minutes the next week, and 15 to 20 minutes for week 3.

To maximize your body’s natural Vitamin D production, build up to 20 to 30 minutes of mid-morning sun without sun block.

After your 30 minute max dose, it’s time to start sun blocking.

Sunburns are the Enemy – Not the Sun!

Some sun exposure is good, but get too much and you’re playing with fire. Remember it’s the repeated sunburns that have been linked — not regular, moderate sun exposure — so the fewer burns the better, particularly when it comes to kids and those with fair complexions.

To keep sunburns at bay this summer make sure you:

  • Never fall asleep in the sun without protection.
  • Don’t get fooled by cloudy days — they can burn you just as easily as a sunny one.
  • Protect your skin, particularly if you’re in and out of the water, on a boat or cycling, when the breezes can make you less aware that you’re getting sun burned.
  • Wear a hat, sunglasses and light-colored clothing to block the sun when out for longer periods.
  • When it’s time to apply sunscreen, use one with as few chemicals as possible.
  • Before you buy a sunscreen, first check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of safer sunscreens.
  • Optimize vitamin D levels and its protective effects with a combinations of controlled sun exposure, a healthy whole food diet and supplementation with vita D3.
  • And no matter what the season, please stay away from tanning beds!

For more ideas about what sun-induced vitamin D does for you, check out my post, Symptoms and Diseases Associated with Vitamin D Deficiency.

My advice? Don’t! And get out there and enjoy the summer!

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.

Frank Lipman, M.D.

Pioneer in Functional Medicine
For Dr. Frank Lipman, health is more than just the absence of disease: it is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. Dr. Lipman is a widely recognized trailblazer and leader in functional and integrative medicine, and he is a New York Times best-selling author of five books, How to Be Well, The New Health Rules, Young and Slim for Life, Revive and Total Renewal.After his initial medical training in his native South Africa, Dr. Lipman spent 18 months working at clinics in the bush. He became familiar with the local traditional healers, called sangomas, which kindled his interest in non-Western healing modalitiesIn 1984, Dr. Lipman immigrated to the United States, where he became the chief medical resident at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, NY. While there, he became fascinated by the hospital’s addiction clinic, which used acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat people suffering from heroin and crack addiction. Seeing the way these patients responded so positively to acupuncture made him even more aware of the potential of implementing non-Western medicine to promote holistic wellbeing. As a medical student, he was taught to focus on the disease rather than the patient, and now as a doctor he found himself treating symptoms rather than the root causes of illness. Frustrated by the constraints of his training, and the limitations in helping his patients regain true health, he began a journey of discovery to search for the path to meaningful long-term health and wellness. He began studying nutrition, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, functional medicine, biofeedback, meditation, and yoga. Dr. Lipman founded the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in 1992, where he combines the best of Western medicine and cutting edge nutritional science with age-old healing techniques from the East. As his patient chef Seamus Mullen told The New York Times, “If antibiotics are right, he’ll try it. If it’s an anti-inflammatory diet, he’ll do that. He’s looking at the body as a system rather than looking at isolated things.”In addition to his practice, Dr. Lipman is the creator of Be Well, an expanding lifestyle wellness brand he founded in 2010 to help people create, sustain and lead healthier lives. He is also the instructor of the mbg Video Course, 14-Day Detox.
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Frank Lipman, M.D.

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