Years ago, I sunburned easily…
Now, I get a tan in early spring (without even trying) and I'm much less apt to burn! If I do burn, it's subtle — never that bright, painful lobster burn of my youth.
What has changed?
One thing: regular consumption of virgin cod liver oil.
Sunscreens are supposed to act as a barrier to protect us from sunburn and cancer, yet they often contain toxic chemical ingredients. Cod liver oil provides an excellent alternative and nourishes the body in so many ways.
Can consuming cod liver oil help us to absorb more vitamin D from the sun, while also reducing our risk of sunburn?
Note: I have tried other natural supplements, like astaxanthin (an antioxidant found in fish), but cod liver oil is the only food I’ve seen to prevent sunburn.
Why Use Less Sunscreen?
Four main reasons exist for reducing or eliminating the use of sunscreen:
- Sunscreen reduces the body's ability to absorb vitamin D from the sun.
- Toxic ingredients, including chemicals that disrupt hormones and contribute to our overall toxic load, are common in sunscreens.
- Some sunscreen products are ineffective.
- It’s inconvenient to use sunscreen! Most sunscreens are sticky or greasy. Natural sunscreens are often opaque white, which is considered unattractive or not ideal.
Why Is Too Much Sun Exposure Cause For Concern?
Health authorities worry that too much sun exposure causes cancer.
Thankfully, cod liver oil has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer. Increasing one’s intake of EPA fats, like those found in cod liver oil, may reduce skin cancer in humans (source).
Prevention of cancer is also a lifestyle choice. We'll discuss more below about diet and exposing oneself to UVB rays wisely.
Why Is Too Little Sun Exposure Cause For Concern?
On the flip side, Vitamin D deficiency as a result of too little sun exposure has become a public health issue as well!
Insufficient vitamin D is usually a lifestyle choice, with more and more individuals working indoors and choosing sedentary lifestyles.
Lack of vitamin D is a risk factor for chronic disease and total mortality in the general population (source). No wonder I feel so great when I get time out in the sun!
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble hormone partially acquired through diet, largely gained through sun exposure, and necessary for optimum health.
However, if we’re covered in sunscreen, how do we get enough vitamin D? (Source.) I use all the resources at my disposal:
- a daily supplement
- virgin cod liver oil (the best dietary source of vitamin D)
While considered inferior to sun exposure, supplements can provide vitamin D. This is the vitamin D3 supplement I take. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels.
Only a few dietary sources of vitamin D exist: cod liver oil, cheese, egg yolks, mackerel, salmon, tuna, and beef liver. Cod liver oil leads all of these foods, providing the most vitamin D in one serving (source).
So if we’re supplementing with cod liver oil and avoiding the chemical-laden sunscreens, while wisely taking in the sun, we’re increasing our vitamin D intake, while also reducing our risk of cancer.
Sunshine Is The Best Supplement
UVB light refers to the shortwave sun rays usually emitted between 10 am and 4 pm, or when the sun is at its height in the sky. We are often warned about the dangers of UVB since they can cause cancer, photo-aging, and sunburn (source).
However, when we expose ourselves wisely, UVB light is also responsible for one of our most important health needs. When UVB from the sun hits our skin, Vitamin D3 is synthesized. UVB light is considered the best and most “natural” source of vitamin D (source). Vitamin D from the sun may last twice as long in the bloodstream as ingested vitamin D (source).
Really? Use Cod Liver Oil To Prevent Sunburn?
How does cod liver oil work to prevent sunburn?
If you burn easily, like I once did, it may be a sign of fatty acid deficiency. The right balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fats helps our bodies to absorb vitamin D from the sun while resisting burning.
Rich in fatty acids, cod liver oil feeds our skin; our skin uses these EPA fats to protect itself from the sun. Unlike sunscreens, fatty acids do not block the sun.
Cod liver oil is also anti-inflammatory. By reducing inflammation, fatty acids prevent further damage to skin cells.
Cod liver oil’s benefits build in the body over time. Therefore, using it the day you wish to receive sun protection will not be effective. Rather, used over time, a concentration of its benefits will help the body to process sunlight in the least destructive way to the skin.
Cod liver oil is also very high in vitamin A. Vitamin A has been shown to correlate in its role between the sun and our skin. Vitamin A may play a significant role in preventing the aging of skin cells and cancer (source).
We should, of course, use discretion. I do not expose myself to the sun indiscriminately. Rather, be aware. Have a natural sunscreen on hand, if needed (like this or this or Wardee's favorite from Beautycounter), shade available, or loose, light clothing to put on if you know you’re getting too much sun.
Which Cod Liver Oil Brand To Buy?
Personally, I use Rosita Virgin Cod Liver Oil in gelatin capsule form. I find the oil to be very icky-tasting, so encapsulation allows me to take the “medicine” daily. I take 2 to 3 gelatin capsules daily and give my kids (ages 9 to 16) the same amount.
What about fermented cod liver oil? I like Rosita's virgin product better since fermented cod liver oil gives me indigestion. However, I have heard varying testimonies on this so it may not be the case for you.
Here are some guidelines on dosage and issues of vitamin A toxicity.
More Dietary Advice
Just as cod liver oil is high in anti-inflammatory EPA fats, there are many foods that are just the opposite: inflammatory. These foods should be avoided to protect skin from sun damage:
- processed foods
- white sugar
- excess grains that are not soured, soaked, or fermented
- vegetable fats
Have you ever heard the advice to eat straight tomato paste for sun protection? This advice is due to lycopene! (Source.) Intensely red produce are rich in this beneficial phytochemical.
Lycopene is known to have photo-protective attributes. It becomes more bioavailable when cooked, which is why tomatoes are considered healthier when cooked! Tomato paste, because it is highly concentrated cooked tomatoes, is healthiest of all.
Other red produce items can be eaten too: goji berries, hibiscus, rose hips, and red bell peppers, to name a few. Watermelon is our family’s favorite sunscreen food! Now you know: The food that best quenches the thirst also protects the skin! Here's a delicious Keto Watermelon-Lime Cooler recipe.
What Other Supplements?
Magnesium has also been shown to increase the skin’s protective devices.
Cod liver oil is the best food source of vitamin D and an excellent source of EPA fats. Vitamin D is attributed with the prevention of many diseases, an increase in cell differentiation, and a decrease in cell proliferation, including a decreased risk of cancer (source). EPA fats help to prevent sunburn. The concentrated EPA fats in cod liver oil may indeed have photo-protective effects.
By consuming cod liver oil, we are increasing our dietary intake of vitamin D, increasing our EPA fats (and thus likely reducing our risk of cancer), and thirdly, reducing our risk of sunburn.
And remember, always use discretion. When too much sun or inadequate nutritional preparation is a concern, have a natural sunscreen on hand (like Wardee's favorite from Beautycounter) and cover up with shade or loose, light clothing.
I’d like to hear your experiences! Have you used cod liver oil to prevent sunburn?
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