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Sun Safety, Vitamin D, and Paleo

By Nell Stephenson, B.S.
September 13, 2018
Sun Safety, Vitamin D, and Paleo image

If you’re following an authentic, modern-day Paleo lifestyle, then you’re well aware that the lifestyle involves much more than what you’re eating.

While mimicking what our ancestors ate (incidentally, we don’t even have to go as far back as our ancestors; let’s even take a cue from our grandparents) is indeed the foundation of creating a plan designed to achieve optimal health and performance, there are other aspects of our day to day regimen that are also important.

You’re moving your body.

You’re spending at least a little time with your feet on the bare earth and you’re allowing for ample time to rest and recover.

In addition, you’re also spending time outdoors, breathing in fresh air and getting natural sunlight in order to help your body get the vitamin D it needs…or, are you preventing this natural process from occurring by coating your body with sunscreen for fear of prematurely aging your skin or worse, developing skin cancer?

Some are taking it to extremes. A growing number of well-meaning parents are slathering sunscreen on their kids causing debilitating results. Nearly one out of five American kids between ages 1 and 11 have blood levels of vitamin D below the 50 nmol/L recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is contributing to a rise in rickets, vitamin D deficiency, and can lead to chronic pain and short stature (1).

But rickets is far from being the only concern when a lack of Vitamin D is occurring; a low level of the vitamin which acts like a hormone is linked to a number of other conditions, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, respiratory tract infections, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, among others.

What’s the balance between sun safety without overdoing it to the point where you’ve prevented this key process from taking place? And does what we’re eating play any role in how safe we are in the sun?

Undoubtedly, and vitamin D deficiency is yet one more topic in the broad spectrum of health concerns in our society today that can be alleviated or even eliminated by incorporating an anti-inflammatory eating regime.

The Skin Cancer Foundation states on their website (3) the importance of incorporating antioxidant rich foods into your diet in order to help prevent skin cancer. Antioxidant-rich foods are easy to find them in many everyday nourishing whole foods.

While the Skin Cancer Foundation doesn’t go so far as to literally recommend a Paleo approach, they do suggest, “The more varied and colorful the array of foods you eat, the more weapons you amass in your anticancer army. Hearty, nutritious, multifaceted meals can help your body fend off damage and disease with waves of powerful antioxidants, immune boosters and anti-inflammatories… One great power regimen combining a wealth of anticancer nutrients is a plant-based diet rich in active, potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods, featuring nutritionally rich foods such as cruciferous and green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, citrus fruit, fresh herbs, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, wine and olive oil.”

A study of more than 600 people eating this way cut their melanoma incidence compared to others who did not follow this health-boosting approach (4).

So, does that mean we can simply stick to the Paleo diet and not think twice about heading out into the great outdoors without so much as an afterthought about overexposure to sun and subsequent burns?

Unfortunately, no. The sun’s rays aren’t what they used to be. With the ozone layer having depleted by as much as 20 percent in some areas (5), we have to be more mindful than our ancestors were.

This doesn’t mean, however, that we’ve got to pile on the chemicals.

Whether you choose to go the route of many of the safe options for sunscreen on the market these days (6), or choose to test out a more natural approach (such as some of the DIY approaches using coconut oil as a base), simply being aware and mindful that some sun is essential and it needn’t be avoided like the plague is a great starting point.

Eating real, whole foods plays a huge role in the equation, and by factoring in some common sense, we cover all our bases and hedge our bets to keep safe in the sun, while also allowing our bodies to make that crucial vitamin D we require.








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