2003-06-27 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Planning For Safe Fun In The Sun
By Dr. Nancy Gahles
Health & Harmony

Health & Harmony

nancy gahlesnancy gahles

By Dr. Nancy Gahles

Planning For Safe Fun In The Sun

Summer is the season of light, of energy, of fruitfulness. It is our natural instinct to bask in the sunlight for in doing so, we feel energized, connected, warm and satisfied. We feel calmer and more vibrant. As we indulge in all the bounty that this season has to offer, the tendency is to overindulge. While we know that sunlight has a myriad of healing effects, we are also painfully aware that too much sun causes damage to our skin and can result in premature aging, wrinkles and worse, skin cancer. Some recent studies indicate that too much sun can also lower immunity and that sunscreens while preventing exposure to some of the more dangerous rays, cannot prevent skin cancer or protect your immunity.

What we do know is that we can protect ourselves by safeguarding our immune status. It is always within our power and indeed, it is our responsibility, to avail ourselves of the prevailing knowledge, to consult professionals and to listen to our intuition concerning our own health needs.


The first 20 minutes of sun exposure should be before the hours of 11AM and 3PM when the sun is at it’s height and the damaging rays are the strongest. Exposure to these rays will stimulate the production of Vitamin D on your skin. This Vitamin is essential for the assimilation of calcium. A good idea is to plan your walk outdoors before these times, without sunscreen. You can achieve the maximum benefit of weight bearing exercise and Vitamin D production. I do suggest that you do not wear sun-screening sunglasses at this time so as to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight through the eyes. After these hours, it is suggested that you wear a hat, sunscreen of at least 15 SPF, and sunglasses if you are planning on prolonged exposure to the sun.


Studies have demonstrated that using anti-oxidants on the skin can protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Taking anti-oxidants in supplement form is even more beneficial in preventing burning, reducing long term damage, protecting against skin cancer and preventing suppression of the immune system.

Vitamin E, C, A are the most well known of the anti-oxidants famous for their ability to be scavengers of free radicals. Vitamin A and E can be used topically to prevent inflammation, aging and wrinkling.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid is a potent anti-oxidant that has become a favorite of mine for it’s ability to help cells metabolize energy and protect cells from free radical damage. The fact that alpha-lipoic acid increases the effectiveness of Vitamins C and E is an added bonus. (As an aside, I have found that alpha- lipoic acid helps with weight loss because of it’s role as a key enzyme in mitochondria, the energy production centers of a cell and it’s effect on carbohydrate metabolism. This is a personal observation.)

Beta-carotene and lycopene, when used in combination with Vitamin E or alone reduced sunburn in one study. Lycopene is a nutrient found primarily in tomatoes. It has also been shown to be effective in certain prostate disorders.

Pycnogenol is another personal favorite anti-oxidant. This is a standardized extract of French maritime pine bark. Its effectiveness in helping to prevent the skin from sun damage may have to do with it’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties. I have found it to be very helpful in managing cases with inflammatory qualities such as acute muscle spasm and respiratory inflammations associated with the common cold. I use it preventively for my son’s seasonal allergies and upper respiratory complaints. Some studies show that it is a more potent anti-oxidant than Vitamins E and C and can increase their effectiveness.


Green tea is chock full of disease fighting, anti-aging anti-oxidants. Theophyllin, a stimulant in green tea, increases blood circulation and dilates bronchial passages, which increases the flow of oxygen in your body. Green tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which keeps you calm and focused. Green and black teas reduce the risk of many cancers. A recent study from the University of Arizona found that drinking hot black tea appears to protect against squamous cell carcinoma. Studies show that green tea compounds in skin lotions may protect against and even reverse, sun damage.


As always, I advise you to be your own best advocate. Use good common sense. All the answers are within you. Take the time to relax in nature. Use all your senses to experience this season of light. Wake with the sun. Breathe fully and deeply and with a passion for living the day to its fullest. Stretch your body. Feel the sensations as you move. Identify the tight spots. Acknowledge their origin. Accept, forgive and breathe away the tension. With each breath, move into the next moment experiencing it fully and trusting that with each exhalation, with each letting go, the next moment will follow. It’s about trust and a leap of faith that, in fact, the next breath will follow. That is really all we have. This moment and trust and faith. And that is enough. Keep it simple. Start with the basics and build your health from there. Remember that breath is the first thing we take as we enter this world, it is the most basic element of life that we cannot do without, and it is the last thing that we let go of as we leave this life.


Wear sunscreen of 15 SPF or 30 SPF for total sun block. Wear a hat and glasses during peak hours of 11AM-3PM. Don’t overindulge.

Eat the foods that are ripe in this season. A diet filled with colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains and complex carbohydrates, anti-oxidants, a cup of green tea and a leap of faith will give your body the cue to move forward in the right direction. Remember that the body has no judgment. It believes everything that you tell it. It works with the things that you feed it. Build a strong immune system by living the life you were meant to live. A life filled with joy, happiness, love, relationships that sustain you and breath. The breath of life!! It’s your Divine birthright. Walk. Walk in the morning to set the tone for the day. Walk in the evening to unwind from the day. Give thanks and move into the next moment with confidence.

Dosages and product brands of the above mentioned supplements are specific to the needs of the individual person. For personal advice, please feel free to contact me at askDrnancy@ aol.com.

I welcome your questions on health issues. Send your question to ask DrNancy@aol.com and my answer will appear in my next column.

May The Blessings Be!

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