Health & Wellness Embracing Summer Sunshine

Prudent sun exposure is healthful in many ways. Sunshine on bare skin helps us produce Vitamin D (which is actually a hormone). Vitamin D plays an important role in helping the body maintain healthy, strong bones; it also helps boost the immune system. The key words are: “prudent sun exposure,” which means that getting a “burn” is not beneficial to the human body. The Benefits Without the Dangers By incorporating a few simple interventions into your lifestyle, you can help to protect yourself from sunburn while increasing the benefits of sun exposure. Some recommendations will sound familiar; others may be new. For example, there are certain foods that offer protection from the sun. A few examples of skin-protective foods include carrots, red peppers, spinach, and salmon (wild caught). Aim for 3 – 5 servings a day of brightly colored orange, red and yellow fruits and vegetables, either raw, lightly steamed, or lightly sautéed (ideally organically and locally grown) to help protect your skin from sunburn. Sipping green tea (iced or hot) is also helpful. Supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids and lutein (ask your health provider) also offer protection. Choosing the Right Sunblock Lotion Choose products that have as few ingredients as possible. Ideally, zinc is the main ingredient. Any additional ingredients should be organic, if possible. Apply sparingly to the most vulnerable areas, such as the shoulders, face (particularly cheeks and bridge of nose), tops of ears and head (if not covered with a hat – and particularly if hair on the scalp is thin), as well as above the brow/forehead, if it protrudes. A few additional recommendations that might be familiar include seeking shade when your skin feels tingly and wearing protective clothing. Protective Clothing Tightly knit fabrics (such as denim jeans) offer more protection than loosely knitted fabrics (those with visible holes between stitching). Darker, more vivid colors (such as bright orange or dark blue) offer more protection that does white – think about this also when choosing a hat. Also keep in mind that polyester is more protective from the sun’s rays than natural cottons. So, if you need to protect your skin while outside for extended periods of time, darker colors, tightly woven fabrics, and poly or poly blends would be a more protective choice. Eye protection Foods and supplements are essential in helping to protect the eyes as well. This doesn’t mean that you can leave the sunglasses home. On the contrary, appropriate UVA/UVB-blocking sunglasses (check with your optometrist to be certain your sunglasses offer adequate protection) are essential. To protect your macular (a part of the eye that helps us focus on objects in front of us), ask your optometrist about polarization, tint, and other factors related to the quality of protection offered by your sunglasses. For more information about staying safe in the sun, visit my Facebook page (Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC), or website: for additional hints and tips. Here’s to a successful, joyful, and safe summer for you and those you love! Dr. Nancy Iankowitz is a board certified family nurse practitioner and Director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC. Email your questions and comments to: