The Sun and Yang Deficiency
Summer is finally here! It's time for sun, and beaches, and barbecues, and more sun! I love the sun and it loves us too. Without it, life wouldn't exist, but too much? Well there is unfortunately such a thing as too much sun. Sunburn is only one of the side effects. Overexposure to sun can lead to sun poisoning, heat exhaustion, skin cancer, eye damage, and even speed up the look of aging (if you'd like to reverse some of that you may want to consider Facial Acupuncture). Does that mean we should avoid it? Nope! Getting out in the sun helps alleviate symptoms of depression and seasonal affective disorder, regulates sleep, and can even support weight loss (and your mood) by increasing the levels of serotonin being released. It's also our best source of vitamin D which is crucial in calcium absorption and phosphorous regulation (meaning healthy bones and muscles), supports the brain, cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems, regulates insulin, and supports lung health. So how do we get all these benefits without going overboard? The key is to limit (NOT eliminate) your exposure. Our skin makes vitamin D from the UVB rays from the sun and this requires some unprotected exposure. In my research, I've found that the recommended amount of unprotected sun per day ranges from 1 to 15 minutes but overall, that amount of time is determined by skin tone. As we all know, darker skin tones will absorb more light before getting damaged but that doesn't mean you're exempt from using sunblock! What I recommend is applying sunblock just before going outside. By the time it kicks in, you've met your unprotected sun quota. For those who are of lighter skin tones, wait the full amount of time before going out. Broad spectrum SPF 50 blocks about 98% of the UVA and UVB rays, so that 2% is probably all the "unprotected" sun you really need. Be sure to re-apply because it does come off with sweat and water!
Lets talk about vitamin D deficiency. Firstly, sunscreen doesn't cause vitamin D deficiency. Spending your life indoors does. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include osteoporosis, osteopenia, and brittle bones, chronic pain, fatigue, increases in blood pressure, weak muscles, and decreased endurance. In Chinese medicine, we call this yang deficiency. If you're unfamiliar with what yang energy is, read this blog post before continuing on. Now that we're all on the same page, symptoms of yang deficiency include everything above in addition to cold limbs, loose stool, and spontaneous sweating. Yang deficiency in specific organs can lead to crashing periods in the day, heart palpitations, difficulty focusing, poor appetite, sexual dysfunction, and difficulty urinating. If it gets extreme, you can develop what we call yang collapse. This conditions exhibits symptoms similar to heat exhaustion: cold body, cold sweats and chills, low blood pressure, confusion, dizziness, and a very weak pulse. Heat exhaustion might sound like it would be an excess of yang energy but think of it like your computer overheating and shutting down- the overload ends up causing the collapse.
Finding the right balance of sun is going to be different for everyone. If you're sensitive, use an SPF of 50 and make sure you're taking breaks in the shade, especially between 10a-3p when the sun is at it's strongest. If you're not, a minimal SPF of 15 has been shown to decrease your chances of melanoma by 50%, and premature aging by over 20%. When picking the right sunblock for you, always make sure it's a broad spectrum and try to pick one made with mineral zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Popular ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate and methyl paraben are damaging to the coral reefs and therefore, the ocean ecosystems. You can read more about this topic and discover reef safe sunscreens here thanks to Badger Balm. Lastly, if you do burn, treat it with aloe or Purple Cloud Ointment. With aloe, you don't need to get fancy bottles with extra ingredients. Just get yourself a plant, leave it on your windowsill, and break off leaves as you need. If you follow all the guidelines above, you shouldn't need much!