Why menopause makes time in the sun riskier

Menopause is infamous among women for being a time of uncomfortable changes, including hot flashes, mood swings and weight gain, as the body prepares to stop menstruating.

Unfortunately, once menopause is “done”, it’s not necessarily smooth sailing.

Postmenopause, the time that starts twelve months after a woman’s last menstrual period, brings with it lingering symptoms of hormonal imbalance and new uncomfortable symptoms, as well as a vulnerability for osteoporosis, heart disease and depression.

Vitamin D is one way to help. One study showed that postmenopausal women who did not get enough of the “sunshine vitamin” were 18 percent more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Of course, we’ve been encouraged to get more vitamin D by spending time in the sun. But it turns out that sunbathing is a double-edged sword, especially during this time of a woman’s life.

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Too much sun disrupts hormones even more

Kai Triebner is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Bergen in Norway. For several years, he has studied the effects that changing hormone levels have on women at various stages of the menopausal “transition,” including pre- and post-menopause.

Triebner’s earlier research has shown that menopause affects women’s lung function negatively, and that spending time outdoors may actually postpone menopause.

But here’s the “double-edged sword” part…

Triebner has recently made another discovery: that too much sun exposure can further throw a post-menopausal woman’s hormones out of whack, making her more vulnerable to significant health risks.

Triebner and his team collected data from 580 postmenopausal women from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, France, and Spain, who participated in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS).

They found that women who were most exposed to sunlight had lower levels of estrogen and more gonadotropins (which stimulate ovulation), compared to those exposed to lower levels of UV radiation.

In other words, hormonal balance of these women was completely off the rails.

“A low estrogen level and a high level of the other hormones increases the risk of osteoporosis, cardiac diseases and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s,” says Triebner.

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A better way to get vitamin D after menopause

Truth be told, relying on sunlight exposure after the age of 55 isn’t the best way to maintain healthy vitamin D levels, even aside from this new information about how time in the sun further disrupts hormones.

See, with age, the mechanism by which the body converts sunlight to vitamin D3 when it hits the skin is no longer as efficient.

That’s compounded for women because falling estrogen can affect the skin in lots of different ways. It not only makes the skin drier, but it tends to get thinner as well.

In fact, it’s one of the reasons most people over 50 are deficient, and why autoimmune diseases have risen in this age group by 50 percent in the last 25 years.

Foods rich in vitamin D include:

  • salmon
  • sardines
  • canned tuna
  • mushrooms
  • egg yolks

You can also try a quality vitamin D3 supplement.

Just remember — if you’re post-menopausal a little sun can still be beneficial. But avoid sunscreens that contain hormone-disrupting chemicals that can further cause problems. Look for natural ways to protect against sun damage, including polyphenol-rich foods, and of course, wear protective clothing.

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Sunbathing after menopause may be harmful — Neuroscience News

Ultraviolet radiation as a predictor of sex hormone levels in postmenopausal women: A European multi-center study (ECRHS) — maturitas.org

What Health Changes Should You Expect Postmenopause? — healthline.com

The vitamin that slows aging where it starts — Easy Health Options

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.