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More On Protecting Yourself Against UV Rays

In a post on gawking in last week's newsletter, I mentioned some of the measures that I take to protect my skin from burning during the hottest of summer days.

I hope that I didn't contribute to any sun phobias that might be out there. In case it wasn't clear in my post, I am extra careful in guarding my skin because I have many areas of depigmentation which burn very quickly without some form of protection.

If you don't have a history of being sun burned, your health is best served by getting some sunlight on your skin on a regular basis. UV-B rays in sunlight react with cholesterol found in your skin to produce vitamin D as well as a number of other "photo products" that are vital to all of your organ systems, particularly your immune system and digestive tract.

Vitamin D deficiency is arguably the most common nutritional deficiency in first world nations today, so sensible exposure to sunlight is something that most of us should aim for.

What if you have naturally fair skin and tend to burn a lot quicker than those who have darker complexions? You likely don't need a lot of UV-B exposure to generate optimal amounts of vitamin D. But part of the reason for quick burning may be sub-optimal intake of antioxidants that offer natural protection against burning.

Red beets and carrots are two inexpensive and readily available foods that are abundant in antioxidants - specifically, betalains and carotenoids - that can actually neutralize free radicals and inflammation brought about by UV rays.

Other foods that are rich in antioxidants that offer protection against sun burning are blackberries, blueberries, goji berries, black beans, kidney beans, olives, and dark green leafy vegetables like lettuce, kale, and Swiss chard.

So if you want to get a little more sun than you do to ensure optimal vitamin D status, try eating some of these foods on a daily basis.

If you have a juicer, I highly recommend two large handfuls of dark green leafy vegetables, two small to medium carrots, and one-quarter of a medium size beet, all freshly pressed to produce a 12-ounce juice that, once in your bloodstream, will efficiently deliver a plethora of antioxidants to all areas of your body, including your skin.

Of course, there will still be times when you have to be outdoors on a sweltering afternoon for longer than is good for your skin - this is when you want to make use of appropriate clothing, sun hats, physical sunscreen lotions, etc.

Actually, one of the most convenient ways of protecting your skin during extended outings is a UPF-rated umbrella. Over the past few weeks, I've been making good use of a sun-specific umbrella made by a company called Coolibar - you can learn about this umbrella here:

UPF-rated Coolibar Umbrella

With a UPF-rated umbrella, you can wear lighter clothing and even skip a sun hat, which are huge pluses on days when it's so hot out that you don't want to wear anything at all.

If it's not feasible to get a UPF-rated umbrella, any regular rain umbrella made with dark fabric should offer substantial protection - one study out there indicates that dark-colored umbrellas block a minimum of 75% of harmful UV rays.

Well, that's enough talk about the sun, but if you want to read up on how to make sure that you're getting enough vitamin D, feel free to review my article on this topic here:

How to Make Sure that You're Getting Enough Vitamin D


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Dr. Kim,
I think your point about antioxidants protecting the skin from UV damage is on target. I've had 50+ basil and squamous skin cancers in the last 20 years with countless actinic keretosis; the result of years of distance swimming. A year and a half ago I started drinking acai juice with acerola cherry powder and wheat grass powder, eating 10 grams of chlorella, 20 grams of spirulina, D3, dha and epa, quercetin, and 12 mg of astaxanthin a day. This summer is the first time I am not getting burned by reflected light. I believe it has made a difference for me. And, using your sun screen and wearing your sun hat rounds out my defense against too much UV. THANKS!
As an aside about your "Gawker" letter: who cares what they think. I would rather have someone staring at me because of the sun screen and hat than have them gawking at me because I have a couple of pressure bandages from more skin excisions. God forbid the roles were reversed. When I was younger I saw a woman in a store who had to wear a mask to hide her face (I assumed she was a burn victim). What courage! Gawkers aren't ready for this kind of least not yet. I appreciate and learn from your news letters. Good job!