Sun Awareness Week: Getting the Balance Right During LockDown
This week, Monday 4th May to Sunday 10th May is Sun Awareness Week; seven days dedicated to raising awareness around Skin Cancer. The weather has been beautiful during the last few weeks. In fact we have had the hottest April in years. However, as we enter the seventh week of lockdown in the UK, it is important to make sure you are getting enough sunlight (ensuring you are spending enough time outdoors) whilst also being safe.
Sun Awareness Week is the British Association of Dermatologists’ annual campaign to raise awareness of skin cancer. Although the campaign runs from April to September (the warmer months of the year), it also includes Sun Awareness Week which occurs in May.
Sun Awareness Week has two aims; to encourage people to regularly self-examine for skin cancer, and to raise awareness about the dangers of sunburn and excessive tanning (including the use of sunbeds).
According to the British Skin Foundation:
“Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK and rates continue to rise. At least 100,000 new cases are now diagnosed each year, and the disease kills over 2,500 people each year in the UK – that’s seven people every day.”
There is no denying that too much exposure to sunlight can be detrimental to our health and even life-threatening! However there also some extremely positive health benefits of exposure to the sunlight so making sure we spend ‘some’ time outdoors to boost those serotonin levels is crucial for our emotional and mental wellbeing right now.
Sunlight & Vitamin D
As we are spending much more time in our homes, a daily dose of Vitamin D has never been more important to help you to stay well. Here’s our simple guide on what exactly is Vitamin D and why it is important to make sure you get the balance right; especially during the Coronavirus outbreak.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, as we get roughly 90% of our intake by exposing our skin to sunlight.
“We need vitamin D to help the body absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet.
These minerals are important for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.” NHS
There are two main types:
· D2 – found in plants and often used in fortified foods
· D3 – found in animal products and is the type your skin makes using sunlight
Both types of Vitamin D carry out the same roles – to maintain healthy bones and support your immune system, however Vitamin D3 is thought to be better absorbed and used by the body. Very few foods are naturally rich in vitamin D. The main sources are salmon, tuna, egg yolks and fortified cereals.
What are the Functions of Vitamin D?
Getting enough Vitamin D helps bones and cells absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are vital for strong bones and teeth. It also helps with muscle function, which can reduce the risk of falls in elderly people. Lastly, vitamin D is also vital for healthy cell growth and normal immune system function (more important than ever right now)!
Guidelines on how much we need are not always clear. Some people will be able to get enough vitamin D from sunlight alone, but others may need to make lifestyle changes or take supplements. As a guideline, between April & September: around 15-20 minutes of direct sunlight can provide you with enough vitamin D (this varies according to skin types).
Sunlight and Serotonin
Sunlight and darkness trigger the release of hormones in your brain. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping us to feel calm and focused. (The opposite is true at night, darker environments lacking in sunlight, trigger the brain to make another hormone called melatonin. This hormone is responsible for helping us to sleep).
Without enough sun exposure, our serotonin levels can dip. Low levels of serotonin are associated with a higher risk of major depression with seasonal pattern (formerly known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD). This is a form of depression triggered by the changing seasons.
A mood boost is a GREAT reason to get increased amounts of sunlight, we say!
Sunlight & Health Conditions
Lastly, also worth a brief mention, research studies have revealed links between sunlight as a potential treatment for several conditions. These include rheumatoid arthritis (RA), inflammatory bowel disease and variouis skin conditions. More studies need to be conducted before researchers can conclude that sunlight can be a treatment for these and other conditions but signs are promising and convincing. So, we with many things #wellbeing it’s all about the balance!
Getting the Balance Right
Taking smart steps to avoid sun damage but ensuring you gain the benefits is what it is all about. Getting that balance right! So, we say two main points are to:
- Stay indoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is at it’s strongest.
- Protect your skin with clothing, a hat, and sunscreen.
That way you can get outdoors and safely enjoy the sun. Here at Tonic it is vitally important to us to practice what we preach. Whilst Founder and Managing Director Becca has been working from home since March, she is still making sure she ‘makes time’ to get outdoors safely, to reap those physical and mental health benefits! We hope you are too