Or why bank holiday Monday might be the worst day to sunbathe ever.
I know! It’s another cloudy bank holiday in the UK, but if it were full-on sun we’d be stripping off, baring lily white legs and shoulders, and wondering if it will shine long enough to be worth getting the sun cream out. Is it a factor 15 or factor 30 day? Gone are the days of coconut oil and tin foil!
Thats modern thinking for you. Sunshine = sun cream or skin cancer. Which is odd, since the action of sun on skin is the main source of one of our most important vitamins. If vitamin D is so good for us, how can sunshine be so bad for us?
The answer lies not in the properties of the rays of the sun but in the state of the body they fall on.
As well as being the progenitor of Vitamin D, sunshine is a form of radiation that creates free radicals. Which means it sets off a reaction in your body that causes tissue damage and inflammation that can lead to cancer – unless it’s mopped up along the way.
Other sources of free radical damage are alcohol, drugs, sugar, barbecued food, smoking, stress, pollution, and other forms of radiation like X-rays. Being alive, basically, is a major source of free radical damage, and the body is always standing by with a mop and bucket to try to repair the carnage.
The bucket in question needs to be full of antioxidant molecules like Vitamins A, C and E, selenium and alpha-lipoic acid; and phytonutrients like beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene and anthocyanidins, found in deep and brightly coloured vegetables and fruit. Our ‘endogenous’ antioxidant enzymes and glutathione need to be on fighting form too, which involves another batch of nutrients.
Potentially, your body has an amazing array of mops and buckets up its sleeve (aren’t you loving these metaphors?!). But the only person who can fill the buckets is you.
So if you spent all week stressed up to the eyeballs, forgetting your usual careful diet, and chose to relieve your stress over the weekend with a nice barbecue or two with free flowing alcohol (and maybe a few cigarettes or some recreational drugs) and a couple of late nights, rounding it all off with a visit to A&E for an X-ray, your metaphorical buckets will be empty and unable to cope with the further insult of sunlight radiation. Which explains why baring your bod to the world on a Bank Holiday Monday is asking for trouble: sunscreen or no sunscreen.
Do you see? It’s not the sunshine that’s to blame, it’s the lifestyle. Sunshine is balm to a healthy, well-nourished body, but needs to be approached gently if your body is stressed, undernourished or unwell, especially if you are undergoing or getting over chemo or radiotherapy.
Bizarre as it may seem, your decision to sunbathe should depend more on whether you’re well-hydrated, topped up with vegetables, and in overall good health, than on the choice between Ambre Solaire and Nivea. And if you have a tendency to burn consider taking a high dose Vitamin C supplement along with a meal that includes avocado, red peppers, chicken liver paté, blueberries and a few Brazil nuts.
Don’t forget the sunscreen, but don’t rely on it to keep you safe if you bake.
After all that, I’ve probably put you off the whole idea of going out in the sun.
Lucky it’s raining again then!