The Importance of Sun Exposure

The Importance of Sun Exposure

Many people don’t consider their skin an organ; however, our skin is our body’s largest organ and is crucial to our health. It is the container for storing organs and molecules and works as a regulatory system to decide what comes in and stays out of the body. Our skin is essential for temperature regulation, immune response, vitamin production, and touch, one of our five senses.

In this article, we will debunk the myth that all sun exposure is bad and give you a different perspective on protecting your skin from the sun this summer. Keep reading to learn more! 


Should You Fear Sun Exposure? 

Life on Earth depends on the sun for survival. The thought that all living animals and plants rely on the sun for growth, survival, and optimal health, but humans must be different, seems ridiculous! It doesn’t add up. 

Unfortunately, due to data on skin cancer and a marketing push for skin-protecting sunscreens, many humans have been made to fear the sun. And while we should have a healthy relationship and respect for the sun, avoiding all sun exposure will actually disadvantage your overall health. 

While it is true that basal and squamous cell skin cancers can increase due to sun exposure, a lot of literature suggests that melanoma, the potentially malignant form of skin cancer, is not caused by the sun. Very little evidence supports the claims that sun exposure causes melanoma. Some studies have actually found that greater sun exposure decreases the risk of melanoma and that many sunscreens can increase the risk! 

There’s a lot more to the story than we’ve been made aware of and it’s important to consider all sides of the argument. 


Problems Due to Insufficient Sun Exposure

Due to all this fear that has been stirred up related to the sun, Insufficient sun exposure has become a public health problem. Insufficient sunlight exposure is estimated to be responsible for 340,000 plus deaths in the US annually. It’s tied to increased incidence of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, MS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, asthma, and diabetes. This number is larger than the number of individuals who die of melanoma yearly in the US. 

While supplementing with vitamin D can benefit certain aspects of immune and neurological health, it isn’t capable of checking all of the boxes that sunlight exposure does. It doesn’t reverse risk factors from too little sun. 


Why is Sun Exposure Important? 

The release of nitric oxide from the sun and the direct effects on peripheral blood cells are essential to consider as aspects of sun exposure that no vitamin or mineral can supplement. 

Moreover, nitric oxide is important for many aspects of human health. It is a signaling molecule that plays a crucial role in regulating inflammation in the body. Achieving a healthy amount of sun exposure allows the body to produce adequate amounts of NO to regulate systemic inflammation. 

It is when we are careless about our respect for the sun that this becomes a problem. When we allow sunburn to occur, the balance can tip, and too much nitric oxide becomes more of a problem than a helper regarding inflammation. Balanced levels of NO can improve blood pressure, blood sugar regulation, pain, energy, and sexual function. 


How Should You Protect Your Skin From The Sun? 

Let’s talk about sun protection. This article isn’t promoting a free pass to have limitless sun exposure and throw caution to the wind. Instead, we must understand the health benefits of sun exposure and allow our skin to be exposed appropriately. 

Let’s start with how we can protect ourselves from a dietary perspective. Studies have shown that omega-3 consumption helps prevent inflammation and reduces the skin’s sensitivity to sunburn and ultraviolet radiation. 

There is some controversy in the medical world about whether polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) found in seed oils do the opposite of omega-3s and increase your risk for sunburn and skin cancer. These oils are volatile and become oxidized and inflammatory in our bodies when exposed to heat, light, and oxygen. 

For this reason, I recommend avoiding these seed oils as much as possible as you will find that your skin is more likely to burn in the sun, the more processed seed oils you consume. My suggestion is to focus on consuming healthy omega-6 oils found in foods like whole flax seeds, walnuts, eggs, and hemp seeds. 

Between this healthy dietary consumption and a focus on high omega-3 foods and high-quality fish oil (like this one), I obtain a healthy fatty acid balance and achieve extra protection when my skin is exposed to sunlight. 

Other important elements of protection include education and awareness. During high UV hours, the best way to protect yourself is to have a good source of shade and protective clothing. Allow your greatest hours of sun exposure to be early morning and closer to when the sun is beginning to set. And most importantly, don’t fear the sun!


Work with Peak Health Institute  

Learn more cool facts about the importance of sun exposure and why you should avoid industrial seed oils by working with our functional medicine team! Discover how you can optimize your health and live the life you’ve been dreaming of with straightforward solutions like diet and lifestyle changes. Reach out to our team of functional medicine practitioners to learn about our services and get started today!