Here in the northeast, we look forward to the sunny months. The few months on the beach are really looked forward to throughout the year. With that come out the umbrellas, beach chairs, the sand toys and the sunscreens. As you might’ve seen from some of my previous posts already, I am very wary of applying anything on the skin, especially when I flip the container to find that the label contains several ingredients that I not just don’t know, but can’t even pronounce. The skin absorbs a lot more than what we eat. Anything applied on the skin gets absorbed instantly in the bloodstream. No wonder the nicotine patches work as a medication. Even interesting part of this interaction is that what gets absorbed by the skin goes directly to the blood stream. Which is also why the melatonin patches are used to put people to sleep. if you went through my earlier post about the Leaky gut, you would know that the mouth, stomach, intestines and almost every organ in that whole pipe take a lot of effort to make things ready for being introduced to our bloodstream. But something put on the skin gets a direct access to be assimilated within the bloodstream. So now you realize why I am so wary of applying anything on the skin – more than the food we eat. As a general practice, if I cannot eat it, I would think twice before putting it on my skin.
Recently, my kids school gave me a form for approving usage of sunscreen for my child. That’s basically what got me thinking. What are the key reasons why we use screen today? In my opinion, its the sun burns and subsequently preventing the likelihood of skin cancer. Some people also use it thinking that it might help reduce the wrinkles and early aging of the skin due to sun exposure.
The Skin cancer rates have been ever climbing in last few decades. Is that to say that people 50 years ago were not going out in the sun? There might be an alternate argument that we get to know more about these things due to the Internet. In the good old days, people might be suffering from skin cancer but could not reach out for help or probably even if they did, those numbers did not aggregate on the reporting to become big. Quite possible. But seems disconnect when we look for instance at Australia that have the highest rate of skin cancers today. The Australian government expect that two thirds of their population will face skin cancer before 70 years of age. Now 75% population almost seems like an epidemic level to me. But these numbers are derived from an article in Medical Journal of Australia. The same article compares the skin cancer rates in 1985 and finds a substantial increase. so does not seem to me like this is a problem of information propagation. Moreover, this climb is seen despite the increasing use of sun screens.
So what changed between then and now? I guess a lot has changed for a lifestyle for sure. There has also been a significant change in the environment with the diminishing ozone cover. Then again, people have been flying more often to exotic tropical destinations and having a great deal more sun & UV exposure than they would’ve usually had in their own latitudes. Definitely a whole bunch of variables added in there.
What does the science have to say here?
- Several studies have now looked at effects of fats & fatty acids on skin carcinogenesis. Especially a good ratio of Omega3 vs Omega6 fats. A 1984 study published in Journal of National Cancer Institute finds that a higher fat intake (20% +) has a significant positive impact on melanoma (skin cancer). Another 2011 study from the American Association for Cancer research suggests that a good intake of Omega3 fatty acids can in fact modify early skin cancer. This study has been done on the Australian population specifically linked to UV induced skin cancer. Another 2010 article from the Clinics in Dermatology discusses the beneficial effects of Omega3 & Omega6 fatty acids on healing of various skin conditions including skin cancer.
- Vitamin-D has long been recognized as the “sun vitamin”. But the number of reactions it is involved within the body is staggering. So much so that calling it just a Vitamin is an understatement. Vitamin D has far more valuable functions in regulating the body metabolic functions. A report published in “Cancer Prevention Research” in 2011 suggests that Vitamin D can not just help prevent sun burns but also prevent against skin cancers. Interestingly, the process of making Vitamin D within the body from the sun also involves a significant role by saturated fats.
- In yet another study published in Journal of dermatological Science in 2002, Astaxanthin was found to be beneficial in UV-induced DNA alterations that was in turn responsible for causing skin cancers. For those concerned with the cosmetics, another 2010 study conducted in Japan also examines Astaxanthi’s effects on reducing the skin wrinkles due to exposure to sun.
OK, so what does it really mean to me on a day to day basis?
From a lot of what we saw above, fats – especially the Omega3 fatty acids have been seen to be immensely helpful in preventing (or sometimes even reversing) the damaging effects that the beach sun would have on your body. With the advent of vegetable oils and margarine, our diets todays are substantially high in Omega6 fatty acids skewing up the delicate balance required between the Omega3 & Omega6. So get some real grass fed butter (for its alpha-linolenic acid content), if you can tolerate, always get full fat grass fed dairy. Get an extra serving of guacamole for the saturated fats in the avocado and use coconut oil where possible.
The saturated fats are also a precursor to Vitamin D. But vitamin D does much more than just protect from the sun. So get your Vitamin D levels tested and supplement your body accordingly to bring them at a good healthy level. Statistical studies indicate that most of the people in the US are deficient in Vitamin D and need to supplement for healthy levels.
Lastly, astaxanthin is a super potent anti-oxidant found in foods such as algae and red fish such as salmons, trout and shrimps. Where else is a perfect setting to savor a yummy fish than at the beach side shack overlooking the ocean?
For my kid this year, I would also be using coconut oil on her skin to get her the extra layer of saturated fats needed to not just negate the effects of the UV, but also to build up her Vitamin D reserves.
And now the beach awaits !
Enjoy the sunshine.