Also called photosensitivity, sun sensitivity can occur for a variety of reasons, causing skin rashes, spots and blotches that might itch or burn. You may have sun sensitivity due to an underlying medical condition like porphyria, lupus or polymorphous light eruptions (PLEs). In some cases, you’ll need treatment for the underlying condition, but altering your diet could help, too. Before you modify your diet, consult your doctor to gain an accurate diagnosis of what’s causing your sun sensitivity and to discuss the proper treatment options.
The artificial sweetener known as saccharin may play a role in causing or contributing to sun sensitivity, so you should avoid it in your diet, the University of Michigan Health System advises. If you have sun sensitivity due to the cutanea tarda form of porphyria, you should avoid consuming alcohol. Although rare, photosensitivity can occur from eating celery, fennel, dill, limes, parsely, figs, parsnips, artichokes, lettuce and endive, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center explains. Consuming medicinal plants and herbs like St. John’s wort, chrysanthemum, dandelion, sunflower, marigold and arnica could also cause sun sensitivity in some people.
Foods rich in beta-carotene, like yams and carrots, are typically the most important to add to your diet if you have sun sensitivity, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Increasing your beta-carotene intake is particularly helpful if you have photosensitivity due to porphyria or PLEs. Beta-carotene appears to have antioxidant actions that protect you from damage due to free radicals from sunlight exposure, explains the University of Michigan Health System. Chocolate may also provide similar antioxidant actions.
Certain dietary supplements — including beta-carotene — could help to reduce your sun sensitivity. You could take supplements of adenosine monophosphate, green tea extract and nicotinamide, as well as vitamins B6, C and E, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center advises. Lycopene supplements and mixed carotenoids may also help. Fish oil and vitamin B3 supplements are also sometimes recommended for treating sun sensitivity, the University of Michigan Health System adds. Don’t begin taking any supplements to treat sun sensitivity before first consulting your doctor.
Keep in mind that taking certain precautions when you’re exposed to sunlight is likely even more important than your diet or nutrition if you have sun sensitivity. Avoid exposure to sunlight during the middle of the day, such as between 10 am and 3 pm, and avoid sudden exposure to strong sunlight, the Mayo Clinic advises. Wear sunglasses, a hat and protective clothing when you’re out in sunlight if you have photosensitivity Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or greater every two hours when you’re outdoors in the sunlight. Certain types of photosensitivity may require conventional medications or avoidance of sunlight exposure, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. See your physician to receive a proper diagnosis of what’s causing your sun sensitivity.
Like conventional medications, natural supplements can cause side effects and may interact negatively with certain drugs. For example, taking large doses of beta-carotene can turn your skin a deep yellowish color, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center cautions. High doses of vitamins B3 and B6 can produce a variety of negative effects, so you should take these supplements only under the supervision of a doctor, warns the University of Michigan Health System. Keep in mind also that certain medications and topical skin products can cause photosensitivity.