Skip to main content

TBT: Keep on the Sunny Side

The science on striking a healthy balance between absorbing sunshine and avoiding sunshine remains confusing. Before re-posting my old opinion below from ye olde turn-of-the-century, I had to remove all the links to my sources because they're all dead by now. Last year, I read some interesting articles on this issue called "Is Sunscreen the New Margarine?" and "No, Sunscreen is NOT the New Margarine." Neither of them can provide a clear answer to how much sun a person should get, and I suspect that the answer is both individualized and complicated.

I've given up on asking doctors about this in person. When I've asked for their personal opinions on the controversy, most of them have given me a blank stare, followed by a mumbling of, "Current guidelines are..." I even started seeing a dermatologist for annual skin cancer screenings, as recommended by every popular women's magazine I've ever seen in a medical waiting room. My dermatologist, who moved to Michigan from L.A., acted consistently bemused as to why a very obvious non-tanner such as myself would want her to examine my pasty, naked hide. It was embarrassing, so I came out and asked her, "Aren't I supposed to get annual checks?" She shrugged and said in a bored tone, "You can if you want to."

I doubt I'll find a straight answer, because it seems obvious by now that nobody knows. However, there are some things I feel certain about: that sunburns are always bad, that moderate amounts of sunshine on naked skin feels good, and that spending time outdoors is very healthy, whether in the shade or the sun. I still do not tan. I still don't wear sunscreen every single day either, and when I do, I choose the kinds that don't kill coral reefs. I keep an eye on my moles and weird spots.

Happy summer, folks. Take care of your skin and get any new skin features that don't go away on their own checked out, because skin cancer is common and much more treatable when caught early. Meanwhile, don't let sun avoidance keep you cloistered inside. Enjoy the rest of the summer outdoors for the good of your immune system, sleep cycles, mental health and acuity, mood, heart, lungs, and bones.

Keep on the Sunny Side

Good news! The hottest health supplement is free, abundant, and intensely pleasurable.

Thy heart created all, this teeming earth,
Its people, herds, creatures that go afoot,
Creatures that fly in air, both land and sea,
Thou didst create them all within thy heart.
Men and their fates are thine, in all their stations,
Their many languages, their many colors,
All thine, and we who from the midst of peoples,
Thou madest different, Master of the Choice.
And lo, I find thee also in my heart,I, Khu enAten, find thee and adoreO thou, whose dawn is life, whose setting, death,In the great dawn, then lift up me, thy son.

-last three stanzas of a poem from 2000 BCE, when the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton established devotion to Ra, the god of the sun

Several years ago, Mr. G and I read a report from Canadian researchers who found that pretty much everyone living above a certain latitude (including us in Michigan) is Vitamin D deficient.

Remember the Easter Blizzard of 2008? Good thing we stocked up on Firewood and Seasonal Affective Disorder prescription light boxes...

For most of the year, we simply don't get enough direct sunshine for our skin to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to heart damage, brittle bones, rickets, and a sharp increase in the risk of internal cancers.

Help! Vitamin D deficiency is SCARY! My pal here fled Michigan's Northerly latitude for Arizona, where he will never have to suffer from the rickets.

In fact, people are much more likely to die of internal cancer related to Vitamin D deficiency than we are to die of skin cancer. Not getting enough sunshine is more dangerous than not protecting our skin from UV rays. Since Americans started to slather sunscreen on our children diligently, a bunch of our children are being born with or developing rickets!

People with darker skin are more at risk than people with light skin. It takes more time for dark skin to absorb enough sunshine to make enough Vitamin D. Pasty folks like me probably only need 10 minutes of basking a day, but dark-skinned people need more.

Miss Moppett needs more D to live as a creature of the night.

People can get some Vitamin D from foods and supplements, but our bodies need the sun to get optimal D levels. It is vital that human beings get direct sun on large portions of the skin, with no sunscreen. Deep tans and burns are still bad, so sunscreen is good if we're going to be outside for a long time. But living like a vampire makes us more likely to die of cancer, not less.

The zombie look is all fun and games until somebody gets rectal cancer.

What useful knowledge! So, logically, Mr. G and I changed our lifestyles immediately. We stopped using sunscreen, except on our faces and hands (which receive a disproportionate amount of UV rays), and began to intentionally expose our pale, cave-cricket-like bodies to the sun as much as possible. During the fall and winter, we take Vitamin D supplements.

It helps if you have a privacy fence or some family property in the wilderness where you can play outside in minimal clothing.

Sadly, the rest of the United States is taking a long time to react to Canada's findings. I noticed that on television and in magazines, experts kept pushing sunscreen and harping on the dangers of UV rays. Rarely was Vitamin D mentioned, and if it was, the "experts" perpetuated the old debunked idea that tiny amounts of sun (like walking by a window in your house) was enough and sunscreen should always be used outdoors. Not true!

Just now, LiveScience is reporting, "Lack of Vitamin D in Children 'Shocking.'" OK, I think the slowness of the U.S. to get with the program is way more shocking, but hey, what can you expect? I don't fully understand why American doctors have largely ignored this very interesting, surprising, and important information. Does it have something to do with sunscreen manufacturers' lobbyist groups? Medical practices wanting to keep us sickly for more business? Sounds crazy, but I wouldn't be surprised.

So send those children outside! The glow from the TV won't do the job. And put on your bikini to work in the backyard. Showing that skin is healthy!

I love learning that enjoyable things are also good for you. Especially when those enjoyable, healthy things are FREE!

In Good Health has a good article on the health benefits of sunshine. UV rays (in the correct dose, of course) improve mood, sleep cycles, mental alertness and clarity, autoimmune health, heart health, and bone density.

Let the sun shine!

Comments

  1. The humor you infuse into a serious, serious situation is priceless.

    I remember talking about Vitamin D deficiency in The Mitten while huddling around the Sun Box. Recently when it was on CBS I was like ::Duh. Doesn't everyone know this?::

    Sadly, no I guess everone does not know about this!

    Obviously I have made a ton of changes to my life since then, but I high doses of sunshine that I am getting here not only help me to create Vitamin D to avoid lots of kinds of cancers but it also has a lot to do with my sunnier dispositon.

    Let in the sunshine indeed!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm getting my vitamins this weekend! We're heading up to Wolverine to strip down and float along the river with a cooler of beer. Just like God intended.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wolverine, Michigan.


    I'm only a little scared for you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. We'll be up there with a barnful of Italian Mafia/West Virginia Hills relatives. Plus, the funeral will take place at the base of the largest crucifix in the world. They've got my back against any bears, gas-huffing woodbillies, or werewolves we might encounter, so don't worry too much!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am working on a means of capturing sunshine in a time-release capsule. Last week, the data for my sunshine in pill form was submitted to the FDA for approval.

    Until it's released, I recommend Vitamin D fortified milk.

    Hmm... I just thought of something ... milk...in a pill form! Genius! Soon we'll be able to take milk orally!
    I recommend drinking something to wash down the pill... Maybe liquified Oreos?

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

TBT: The Magic of Essential Oils

Oh essential oils, beloved friend of loopy-goopy women of my own demographic marketing cohort, along with magic crystals, mystic doulas, organic pesticides, multi-level-marketed leggings, anything labeled as "herbal supplements," and alternatives to vaccination. The essential oil craze is something that has a basis in scientifically verifiable reality but has been endowed with magical, holy, pseudo-scientific properties for marketing purposes. I bought into it wholeheartedly before I learned that not all that crunches is harmless. All too often, legitimate fears based in reality (of toxic chemicals, unnecessary medical interventions, pharmaceutical side effects, etc.) are stoked to induce women like me to jump from the frying pan and into the fire of an "alternative" that may be at least as harmful as what it is supposedly protecting me and my family from. I still use certain essential oils for cleaning and other purposes, and I think everything I've stated in t

Pocket of Joy: Renovating to Love, Not to List

My mom and I have watched Love It or List It for years, and it's no surprise to us that most families choose to stay in their own, customized home rather than move into a new, blank box. The qualities that make a house a home are not the same qualities that make a marketable real estate property. Houses sell better when they are whitewashed into sterile, blank boxes where a new homeowner can come in and add their own personalized color and texture. If you're rich like the people on LIOLI , you can custom build a personalized home from scratch or personalize a market-fresh house in a short time, but even so, it's easier to stay in an already-customized house than to start over.  For regular people who aren't rich, turning a house into a home takes even more creativity, hard work, and time. But working class people certainly can create beloved homes. I've seen dream homes created from the tiniest of tiny houses in the humblest of neighborhoods, in trailer parks, in a

$Monday: Bog Witch Style on a Budget

Autumn in a pandemic is the perfect time to tap into your inner bog witch with wild hair, cozy clothes, forest rituals, creepy cats, fire, books of spells, and Dark Cottagecore home decor mood boards on Pinterest . You don't have to live in a literal swamp. The word "bog" comes from a Gaelic term for "soft," and it sounds nearly identical to Slavic words for gods or divinity with Proto-Slavic roots that refer to earthly fortune. Bog witches burrow into the true goodness of life nestled beneath all the hustle and polish and show of making a living. They focus on soft wealth and spiritual power. The vibe is slow, earthy, comfy, moody, sneakily seductive, maybe sticky, wise rather than smart, preferring old things to new, charming rather than impressive. It's about harmonizing with the natural environment, blending, melting, enveloping, and sinking into earthy, downward energy. Bog witchery vibes with hygge, friluftsliv , and the indigenous earth wisdom of whe

A Lightbulb Moment

All the lights are on! This weekend, my dad finished installing our kitchen cabinets as well as three pendant lights that hang above them. Hallelujah, let there be light! Now we can finally see what we're doing, giving us a boost of productivity by providing both visual access and a more pleasant work environment--which will soon become a warm, welcoming place to cook and eat and converse! This bright, warm light is a great metaphor for something else I've realized over the course my month-long home renovation staycation--which, though hard and busy, has been a clean break from my nonprofit work, my novel-writing creative work, and most of my social life too. I had an "aha" moment about illuminating the kitchen that my family has designed and built ourselves with a set of clear, warm lights that my husband and I chose together, as well as the fact that we are no longer living in other people's stuff. We're approaching 40 now, and we've finally been able t

No Cook Summer Snacks

We've been living without a kitchen for over a month now while we renovate, and while I miss baking and cooking, it's also a little bit nice to not have to cook. My family doesn't have a daily takeout budget (or else we'd be paying someone else to renovate our kitchen, obviously), so we've relied on my parents to share their kitchen and home-cooked meals with us in addition to setting up a makeshift pantry in our living room filled with foods that don't need to be cooked. During a hot summer, even when we have a fully functioning kitchen, it's nice to have some things on hand that don't need to be cooked with a stove or oven--or even a grill outside on scorching days. Whether or not you have a lovely kitchen that works, anyone can stay a little cooler and enjoy a little more time to relax this summer by stocking up on no-cook snacks such as... in-season fruits and veggies that can be enjoyed raw hummus, salsa, liquid nacho cheese (no judgment), or any ot

Pocket of Joy: Heirloom Tomatoes

Among the joys of homegrown veggies and fruits, heirloom tomatoes rise the highest above their grocery store cousins. Nothing cultivated to survive mass production and shipping to supermarkets can compare to the flavor of a homegrown heirloom tomato. Heirlooms come in a startling variety of shapes, sizes, and colors with great variation in flavor and texture as well. The bright, shiny, red, smooth, uniform-looking tomatoes that show up in grocery stores have been hybridized to enhance production and durability at the expense of flavor. There isn't anything wrong with eating grocery store tomatoes in terms of health, but once you taste the sweet, brilliant complexity of an heirloom tomato, you understand right away how different and special they are. If you can't or don't wish to grow heirloom tomatoes yourself, and if you don't have green-thumbed and generous family or friends willing to invite you over for grilled bruschetta this summer (oh, the tragedy!), you can usua

Pocket of Joy: Old Books

Old books! You can judge them by their shabby chic covers, because they function as objets d'art and objects of desire on a shelf no matter what stories they tell inside. Books with leather bindings, books embossed and edged in gold, books with plates and illustrations and fancy lettering inside, books that give off the subtle scent of an aged library, books with fraying ribbon markers and tactile spines. Old books are charming, comforting, and, when they aren't first edition antiques, they are usually cheap. The stories told inside of old books can also be wonderful and so thick and rich that you can revisit them again and again, each time discovering something new or forgotten, as fans of Jane Austen and George Eliot know well. Those were stories built to last the ages. An old book can be a roundly multi-sensory experience. I once picked up an old maiden volume by Anthony Trollope that had never been read--and I know, because I had to rustle up an antique book knife to cut ap

Pocket of Joy: Hot Gourd Summer

The corn has grown past "knee high by the Fourth of July," and so have the sunflowers. The delicious bean plants keep trying to climb up their tall sisters' stalks, though the cute, fuzzy creatures of the neighborhood keep trimming them down. And in one very green corner of the garden, the zombie trash gourds have returned! Last year, they volunteered to take over my compost and apple wood stick piles, and this year, they popped out of the front yard garden (after I spread compost there) to say: it's time for another hot gourd summer! The Fourth of July fireworks are all used up and done; it is now legal to look forward to Halloween. Pumpkin spice girls and bog witches, rejoice with me! And pray to every curly shoot and warty bump that by the time these decorative gooseneck gourds ripen, my witchy kitchen will be finished and ready to display them on rustic cherry open shelves against shady green walls. Until then, it's a joy to let the gourd plants' broad gre

Check Out My...

Pantry! We slapped in some fun and easy, removable wallpaper and dug around in the garage until we found this functional beauty, a commercial-grade speed rack abandoned by a former roommate long ago.  The wallpaper is also pretty old, leftover from a project in my parents' former house. Weirdly, I just saw it featured in a bookcase in an episode of Love It or List It . As seen on TV! While we renovate, we've been going through lots of old stuff in the garage, attic, and shed to donate, throw away, or, occasionally, use in the new kitchen. I've unearthed some VERY interesting and exciting treasures from deep inside the garden shed, which I hope to show off soon.  Things are getting very bog witchy around here indeed!