To love or hate the sun: That is the perennial summer question

Summer’s here again, and these days, health-conscious Americans wonder whether to go with the traditional slathering on of sunscreens and sunblocks to avoid sunburn and skin cancer, or to back off those butterings at least enough to avoid the consequences of Vitamin D deficiency.

The following scenario is likely familiar to you—If you have light skin and are prone to sunburn, that is: You spend maybe an hour or two in the sun. Then, feeling extra warmth on your skin coming from the inside, you look down and notice that all your exposed parts are bright red (the “boiled lobster” look). Then you get that sinking feeling of having totally forgotten about the sunscreen and knowing that, even though you get in the shade immediately and stay there, in a matter of hours it will be horribly painful even to get dressed or undressed or bathe. After a couple of days, when the pain subsides, that reddened skin will have turned into an ugly, peeling mess. Finally, a week later, you’ll be pretty much back to where you started with that pale and vulnerable skin, newly resolved never to forget the sunscreen again!

But did you ever wonder why, at that moment of realization of having gotten sunburned, it doesn’t just start getting better as soon as you step into the shade? After all, your skin merely reddened. It’s not like it was really cooked or burned. So once you were out of the sun, why did it not just return to normal, instead of apparently getting cooked after the fact? “Established” medical science will tell you that the damage has been done; that the sun’s ultraviolet rays have damaged you skin’s DNA, and that your skin needs to undergo a massive demolition, repair and rebuilding process. On the surface, that seems a reasonable explanation, but is it? Or do we just think there must be a reasonable explanation because that’s what always happens with sunburn? In fact, the explanation doesn’t quite hold up, because the DNA damage to living cells is repaired by enzymes within those living cells. So what explains all the massive cell and tissue death and destruction and rebuilding you have to suffer through?

The name for all that cell and tissue demolition—which causes all the peeling and pain—is inflammation. It is unarguable that the real damage of sunburn is caused by the inflammatory response of the skin to the sunburn; not the sunburn itself. For a detailed description of inflammation I refer to earlier posts on this blog. Suffice it to say here that the purpose of inflammation is to stop infection in a non-specific way, before the body is able to mount a specific antibody reaction to a particular brand of bug. The various cells called macrophages, which actually do the damage of inflammation, are the immune system’s first responders, much like the fire or police department.

So why does your immune system mount an inflammatory reaction against potential invading microbes when the skin hasn’t even been broken, so there are no invaders to go after? The answer is actually quite simple: The immune system is malfunctioning. It is reacting to a false alarm. But why? The answer to that question is just as simple: It is deficient in the simplest of amino acids, glycine.

You can read all about glycine deficiency in earlier posts on this site. But in brief, glycine, which is the most abundant amino acid in the body, resides mostly in the collagen, which is the body’s most abundant protein. Most of the collagen is in the bones and connective tissues; the parts we usually throw away when we eat meat, fish and poultry. To make matters worse, one of the functions of glycine is to help the body get rid of methionine, another amino acid particularly abundant in muscle. So, the more muscle meat we eat, the more glycine is stripped from the body. Why is this a problem? Glycine—as recent research has shown—is the main regulator of macrophage function, keeping macrophages from over-reacting to cellular damage; from responding to false alarms like ordinary sunburn.

Fortunately, Natural Food Science has the solution, and it’s just as simple as the problem: Replace the glycine we usually throw away! That would be about 8 grams a day, on average, and that’s exactly what you get with each daily serving of Proglyta® or sweetamine®. Find out more about these tasty and affordable products on this site. It only takes two or three days to bring your body’s glycine up to a healthy level, so your immune system doesn’t overreact to stresses like sunburn.

Then, go out and enjoy the sun! In moderation, of course. But you’ll be amazed how your skin actually behaves the way it should: When it starts to show the redness of sunburn (It’s technically called “erythema”), get in the shade and/or put some clothing on the exposed areas, and watch the redness slowly go away! You’ll probably even end up with some nice healthy tanning, and learn to love the sun again!

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