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Summer Skin Tips
We were designed to flourish under the sun! However, excessive sunburn and overexposure to the sun without protecting our skin, could damage our DNA. It also causes photo ageing. That means it breaks down the elastin and collagen fibres that support the skin, causing wrinkles and premature ageing. That’s why so many sun worshipers look older than their biological age!
No need to fear the sun, though. The sun’s rays have tremendous health benefits. Sunlight exposure in the right way at the right time, will ensure these benefits for your optimal health and wellbeing.
We only make vitamin D with sufficient sun exposure. Sunlight signals the brain to produce the rest, recovery and replenishing hormone, melatonin at night. This helps you sleep deeply, while your cortisol levels decline during this deep rest period, a sure sign you’re sleeping well, fully recovered by morning, energised and ready to go!
The sun can also help relieve mild depression and elevate your mood. Sunlight activates the pineal gland and therefore the endocannabinoid system and releases the feel-good hormones serotonin and endorphins.
British studies reported that the sun helps to lower blood pressure. Sunlight releases nitric oxide which dilates the blood vessels, increases blood flow and reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Studies show that people who get 15-30 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week, reduce their risk of breast, prostate, colon, lung and ovarian cancer.

More benefits of sunlight:
Relief from asthma symptoms
Alleviating skin problems like psoriasis, acne and eczema
Reducing the risk of rheumatoid arthritis
Lessening symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Have some sunshine and promote longevity
Get your sun exposure 30 minutes in the morning, not later than 1 hour after sunrise, and/or in the afternoon, not earlier than 1 hour before sunset.
If you do go out into the sun at other times, protect yourself naturally, and don’t stay out there too long. Most health benefits of the sun require only 15-20 minutes a few times per week.
Be careful with sunscreens, though. Many commercial sunscreens contain cancer-causing agents. The heat from the sun interacts with the chemicals, making them even more toxic. Many sunscreens contain PABA which causes DNA damage. So look out for PABA – it truly accelerates ageing. Some sunscreens also form a thick layer, block the skin and prevent effective synthesis of vitamin D.

Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin
The body makes vitamin D when sunlight is absorbed by the skin. As long as people get enough exposure to the sun, it is not necessary to supplement with vitamin D. However, low vitamin D status is very common in the general population, with many research studies illustrating that few people fall within the optimal range for vitamin D. This is due to extremely low sun exposure, even in sunny South Africa. Globally, people are afraid of the sun and slather themselves with sunblock that further exacerbates the problem, blocking the skin from the sun’s beneficial rays. We need sun exposure for at least 30 minutes early morning and later afternoon, within an hour of sun rise and sun set.

Key Functions of vitamin D

• Essential for male and female reproductive health and pregnancy outcomes.

• Important in the regulation of calcium and magnesium homeostasis.

 Cognitive protection – key to keeping mind sharp well into your golden years

• Reduces the risk of breast cancer

• Improves muscle strength

• Supports immune system

• Helpful in treating endometriosis

• Prevents polycystic ovarian disease – PSOD

• Important to prevent and treat insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and the inevitable increase in weight, especially around the abdomen

• Helpful in treating hypertension or high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia)

• Plays an important role in foetal programming. Vitamin D induces more than 3 000 genes, many of which have a role in foetal development. Therefore, vitamin D may be particularly relevant to the ‘developmental origins’ or ‘foetal programming hypothesis’ in which environmental factors such as vitamin D status in the mother, influence the genomic programming of foetal and neonatal developmental and subsequent disease risk in both childhood and adult life. In later life, children of mothers with low vitamin D serum levels during pregnancy, have a higher risk for developing certain chronic health challenges, such as asthma, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes mellitus and insulin resistance. This suggests intra-uterine programming as possible mechanism. Epigenetic (above the gene, i.e. more important than the genetic expression itself, in the cell membrane or the environment of the cell), mechanisms that lead to persistent changes in structure and function in endocrine systems, are extensively being researched at present.

It is recommended to take vitamin D with calcium and magnesium in the correct ratio and in amino acid chelated form, for balance and the optimal absorption of all these important micronutrients. Vitamin D also improves the bioavailability of calcium.
Whereas Vitamin D is made through the direct intervention of sunlight, Vitamin C is also often known as the sunshine vitamin because of the high concentration of vitamin C found in the rainbow of coloured fruit and vegetables that grow best in sunshine!
Therefore, enjoy the sun’s healing rays early morning and late afternoon. Use natural skin protection and moisturise frequently. If your skin does burn a bit, or you’ve been stung by insects, use natural Aloe vera or Aloe ferox gel.

Written by Dr Arien van der Merwe, adapted from her book
‘Health & Happiness’.

Arien van der Merwe

Dr Arien van der Merwe is a medical doctor, author and holistic health counsellor. She developed and presents continued professional development training through VideoLearn and Synergetica CPD Courses on Mental Health in Challenging Uncertain Times; Heart Health; Inflammation both Friend and Foe and Neuroplasticity. These online CPD Courses explore ways to support both ourselves, our nearest and dearest, as well as our clients/patients.

Dr Arien is the author of Stress Solutions, the ‘Relax & Unwind’ relaxation CD as well as the books Health & Happiness, Managing Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome and Herbal Remedies. Dr Arien teaches group and individual meditation and relaxation classes, as well as health coaching online (WhatsApp video consultations) and at her rooms in Pretoria.