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I Made My Children Eat Their Sunscreen

I've been surprised to have actually had people e-mailing me asking me about me mentioning our use of sunscreen or lack thereof and I certainly don't want to disappoint anyone that might be following my adventures.. So, I must respond to the masses. Or, the all two of you that were interested..
You did read the title right... Sort of.. I made my children eat their sunscreen... Please read full post before reporting me to well, whatever agency one reports naughty parents to these days.

I am not talking about the stuff that comes in a bottle.. I'm talking about eating a diet that is chalked full of nutrients that protect your skin... I am also not advocating unlimited sun exposure.. However, I have come to believe that we have been misinformed about sun exposure and for those of you that expressed interest in my experiments with this, I thought I'd share...
In 2008, when my oldest daughter broke her leg, jumping in a bounce round at a birthday party, I started evaluating her calcium intake, questioning whether she was getting enough to keep her bones strong... After counting grams, some blood test and some conversations with the pediatrician and a nutritionist, we determined that it wasn't calcium that she was deficient in but Vitamin D. A very well informed article by Donald W. Miller, Jr., MD about Vitamin D deficiency and the importance of Vitamin D in our health can be found here. But, here are some important points that stood out to me..

* Vitamin D plays a vital role in the bodies ability to process calcium

* Lack of Vitamin D can trigger infections (influenza and tuberculosis), autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease), cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

* Many epidemiological, cohort, and case control studies prove, at least on a more likely than not basis, that vitamin D supplements and adequate exposure to sunlight play an important role in cancer prevention (Am J Public Health 2006;96:252–261).

* The amount of Vitamin D absorbed from the sun varies by person. A darker skinned person needs more sun exposure to receive the adequate amount of vitamin D.
I feel the need to say once more, that the information included in the above cited articles support the idea of moderate sun exposure. Not unlimited sun exposure. Please do not go to the beach, get fried and then sue me. Almost everything that I've read says that when you've reached the point that your skin starts to turn pink, your body has absorbed as much Vitamin D as it can at one time.

However, since Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to so many illnesses, many doctors are coming off the recommendation to avoid all sun exposure.

During my Vitamin D research, I started reading articles with information about eating foods high in antioxidants that protect your skin from the damaging effects that can be caused from excessive skin exposure..
Here, you will find some great information about eating to reverse the signs of aging
and here, you will find a great information about eating to develop an internal sunscreen.

And so of course, I put the theory to the test. Pre-Chloe, my brown eyed, olive skinned husband, my brown eyed, olive skinned, daughter and myself (green eyed, light hair, honey complexion) headed to the beach.. Before our trip, I had stuffed my daughter and myself full of antioxidant rich foods while my husband seemed to be laughing under his breath.. When we got to the beach, I coated myself and my daughter with a sunscreen of SPF 8 and my husband used SPF 30.. Based on our skin tones, though I can develop a tan, I should burn more easily then my husband (and I had in the past).. My daughter and I went home with a nice golden tan, my husband, fried...

After hearing all the bad press on the damaging chemicals in sunscreen, I decided to test my theory further.. This year, before our beach trip, my husband remarkably, was much more willing to join me in my quest for nutritional sun protection. And we headed off to the beach prepared with months of eating Salmon, flax seed, leafy green vegetables and the brightest fruits I could find.. We limited our beach time to mornings and afternoons, returning to our hotel room for a nice nap during the peak sun hours of the day. I finally applied sunscreen the last two hours of our third and last day because I thought I saw a hint of pink on someone's shoulders. And we returned home with nice golden tans with very little use of sunscreen... Every one of us..

I would never recommend someone ditching sunscreen all together and my children are dark complected and need much less than a fair skinned child would. Like with most things, I try to find a balance. And, it can never hurt to eat more fruits and vegetables. Right?

For those of you that asked what chemicals to avoid in sunscreen... That's something I'm still learning about. If anyone reading has more information on that, I'd love hear it! If you are interested in learning more about chemicals in sunscreen, I think this
article at "Healthy Tidbits for Kids" is a good place to start. I try to stick with California Baby because it is an organic brand. It's worked well for us because my children don't require much. But, it's expensive. But, if you've ever suffered a sunburn, you know that's never fun. So, at times when I don't have the organic sunscreen on hand, I try to see what poses the biggest threat, the sun or the sunscreen and make the best judgment I can.. A lot of times, that means using whatever sunscreen is available but more often, simply limiting our time in the sun.

And so you have, Operation Eat our Sunscreen..

For my family that means:

*A diet that stuffs us full of antioxidants
(I mean change your poop the color of whatever fruit you're eating kind of stuff)

* Avoiding peak sun hours

* limited, organic, sunscreen use
How about you? What are your thoughts on sun protection?

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Comment by Angela Zwaagstra on July 28, 2010 at 11:54pm
Great Post! I have two very dark and two very fair children and it is really hard to justify to people why the two darker one's don't need, and in fact can be harmed, by vitamin D blocking sunscreen. Off to check your blog!

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