Summer has arrived. That means hotter and sunnier days are upon us. Stepping outside and enjoying the great outdoors can be a wonderful way to increase activity and gain mood-stabilizing benefits. However, it also brings the dangers of insect bites and sun damage. Luckily, there are plenty of natural preventions and remedies to deal with both.
Prevention: One of the best methods of prevention to insect bites is the use of essential oils. You can add them into distilled water and spray them onto your body or you can add them to grapeseed or olive oil and rub it into your body. Some of my favorites that work well are citronella, tea tree, catnip, basil, eucalyptus and thyme oil. Insects tend to be attracted to dark clothing so try and wear light colors. My all time favorite is vitamin B1, thiamine. It is very effective in warding off mosquitoes.
Remedies: Sometimes even the best preventions cannot ward off the more aggressive little bugs. If you are afflicted with a bite, try one of these methods to relieve the itch:
- Crush an aspirin tablet, wet it, and rub it on the affected area. Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory.
- Rub the inside of a plantain banana on the affected area. It works great to relieve the itch.
Prevention: I frequently get asked by patients which sunscreen is best to use for themselves and loved ones. There can be a lot of confusion on the labeling of sunscreen. Manufactures are required to label an SPF number, which indicates how much protection it provides against UVB radiation, the cause of sunburn. However, it is UVA light that is the cause of skin cancer. To ensure adequate protection from UVA as well as from UVB, look for sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum,” which will protect against both.
Natural remedies work great for the whole family and of all ages. Remember prevention is key. Keep your immune system strong and working daily. Here are nutrients that you can add to your daily regimen to help prevent sunburns:
- Grapeseed extract, which is derived from grape seeds, is the best antioxidant in my opinion.
- Resveratrol, which is found in skin of red grapes and red wine.
- Vitamin E: Found in avocado, almonds and sunflower seeds. If you prefer a supplement, ensure that it contains mixed tocopherols.
- Vitamin C: found in tomatoes, red/green peppers and melons. If you prefer a supplement, ensure it is buffered vitamin C without sugar.
- Green Tea, drink at least 1-2 cups per day. Studies indicate green tea helps to reduce skin damage and prevent skin tumours.
Adding the right foods to your diet can also go a long way to prevent sun damage. These five foods are excellent sources of protection against the harmful effects of the sun.
- Broccoli sprouts. A recent study out of John Hopkins University, studied the effects of broccoli sprouts on mice. They fed them the sprouts two times per week for 17 weeks and saw a 70% reduction in the formation of skin tumours.
- Turmeric has excellent anti-oxidant properties, use it in your cooking!
- Dark chocolate, with it’s rich anti-oxidants is great, but you must choose the ones that are >70% in cocoa
- Watermelon, with its high source of vitamin C and lycopene, is an excellent skin protector
- Fish oil. The omega 3’s in fish oil have strong anti-oxidant properties, and are great for the appearance of skin. Have 2 servings of fish per week including wild salmon, snapper, cod, mackerel and sardines. Avoid larger fish such as tuna and halibut due to the greater levels of mercury.
Remedies: It is crucial to protect your skin with a clean, broad-spectrum sunscreen, because if we are not as vigilant, the skin can become sunburned. Manuka is an excellent remedy for sunburned skin. Many great skin creams are available that contain organic manuka honey.
Stay safe and enjoy the sunshine!
By Dr. Seema Kanwal, ND
Balance Medical Center
*The information provided is not intended to diagnose or treat any health condition. Please consult with your doctor or Naturopathic doctor before starting any new supplement program as they may have interactions with certain medications. *