The sun is essential to all of life. I find it interesting that even the sun is now perceived as an enemy. Before the Industrial Revolution, people not a part of the upper class were naturally exposed to the sun throughout their lives. As a result of the Industrial Revolution, we disconnected from nature’s cycles and rhythms. As people began to work through lunch, there was even less of a chance to go outside. Sunlight is essential to our health and well-being. I’d like to add some macrobiotic perspective to sunlight.
There are many ways that the sun is beneficial. For example, the sun rises and evaporates dew which cleans and refreshes all of life; it renews and uplifts the energy both in nature and ourselves. Just from stepping outside on a sunny day, we experience this. There are few dietary sources of vitamin D in a plant-based diet, so our main source of vitamin D is the sun. Vitamin D is essential to our overall health, which includes calcium absorption, nerve and muscle function, reduction of inflammation, and healthy immune response. If we are outside in short sleeves for just 10-20 minutes everyday, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. between the months of May and October, we naturally receive our yearly supply of Vitamin D.
Is the sun the primary cause of skin cancer and melanoma? In my counseling practice, the skin is one of the most important barometers of the condition of someone’s overall health. Specific dietary changes from World War II coincided with a dramatic increase in skin cancers and melanoma, even though people were spending less time in the sun. These changes include the increase in consumption of poultry, tuna and other fatty fish, dairy, eggs, processed sugars (including high fructose corn syrup), tropical and citrus fruits, and poor quality and hydrogenated oils. Dietary changes that damage and weaken the skin in turn change how we are affected by exposure to sunlight. Unhealthy skin is much more easily damaged by exposure to the sun.
The effects of exposure to the sun are very different depending on whether we are in a vertical or horizontal position. A vertical position (standing or sitting upright) activates our metabolism and allows us to use the energy of the sun in the most healthy and beneficial way. When we are in a horizontal position, as in sunbathing, we deactivate our metabolism. Falling asleep in the sun feels similarly to having an overly rich meal. Too much sunbathing is like eating too much rich food. It can also weaken immunity, causing the skin to dry out and age prematurely. Unhealthy skin, and over-exposure to the sun may aid in the development of skin cancer and melanoma.
The skin is very efficient at absorbing anything applied to it, so it is equally important to be aware of the quality of sunscreens and cosmetics. Use high-quality, natural products. If you’re going to be out in the sun for a prolonged period, it is best to wear a hat and cover up. Furthermore, it is best to slowly build up a tolerance to sunlight and reduce the use of sunscreen.
I hope that you enjoy the sunlight this summer, but please use common sense and discretion about how much you sunbathe. In a following entry, I will write about healthy skin, and how to work create it.