The sun has always been seen as the source of life and healing. The birth of every organism in scientific literature has been traced back to its exposure to the rays of the sun. Even throughout history there has been no better and a more common symbol of happiness and well being than the sun, with the ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, Romans and Greeks, all worshipping the sun as the source of life and health. Yet in today’s times, people are being increasingly advised to stay out of the sun. Individuals living in tropical climates have been evading exposure to sunlight since times immemorial.
The burgeoning of pharmaceutical industry has caused medical groups to spend the past three decades convincing everyone to avoid this “nutrient” by scaring them into thinking it causes cancer. The abundant availability of sunscreen products further attaches credibility to this claim. However, science has proven beyond doubt that only an over exposure to the rays of the sun could cause damage, and no harmful repercussions exist if sought out in safe, reasonable doses.
So, how exactly does sunlight benefit one’s health? Sunlight is the single most effective catalyst in producing natural vitamin D in our bodies. It is this propensity to generate vitamin D that keeps people exposed to sunlight healthier than those who are not.
Vitamin D has been shown to help prevent and treat serious medical conditions, including: breast cancer, osteoporosis, prostate cancer, psoriasis, acne, etc- adequate enough to prove its importance in maintaining physical health. It is for this reason that exposure to the sun or Heliotherapy has always been a part of naturopathic treatment for disease and the restoration of health.
Interesting Facts About The Role Of Sunlight In Generating Vitamin D
Vitamin D is the most underrated nutrient mentioned in the world of nutrients. Almost 81% of the infants and 40% to 60% of elderly people are vitamin D deficient. Given below are a few interesting reasons why sunlight is absolutely necessary in replenishing adequate amounts of Vitamin D in our bodies:
- It is nearly impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from diet alone. Sunlight exposure is the only reliable way to generate vitamin D in the body.
- A person would have to drink ten tall glasses of vitamin D fortified milk each day just to get minimum levels of vitamin D into their diet.
- The further one lives from the equator, the longer exposure they need to the sun in order to generate vitamin D. Canada, the UK and most U.S. states are far from the equator.
- People with dark skin pigmentation may need 20 – 30 times as much exposure to sunlight as fairer skinned people to generate the same amount of vitamin D. That’s why prostate cancer is epidemic among black men — it’s a simple, but widespread, sunlight deficiency.
- It is impossible to generate too much vitamin D in the body from sunlight exposure: our bodies self-regulate and only generate what is needed.
- Even weak sunscreens (SPF=8) block your body’s ability to generate vitamin D by 95%. This is how sunscreen products actually cause disease — by creating a critical vitamin deficiency in the body.
Sunlight And Breast Cancer
Research has found that “high exposure to sunlight was associated with a 25 percent to 65 percent reduction in breast cancer risk among women whose longest residence was in a state of high solar radiation.” This percentage reduction would mean approximately 44,000 women would not have to suffer the trauma of this disease. Since vitamin D and sunlight exposure are life-style behaviours, this seems to be an easy option for those who wish to avoid breast cancer.
Sunlight And Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is the loss of bone mass due to the mal-absorption of calcium into the bone. Osteoporosis increases bone fragility making it more susceptible to fractures. Here again, Vitamin D is critical in facilitating calcium absorption in the body. The absence of Vitamin D impedes effective calcium absorption in the bones, making them weaker and causing bone loss.
Sunlight And Immune System
Sunlight is the most powerful booster of the immune system, and stimulates our metabolism while decreasing food craving and increasing our intelligence. Additionally, trace amounts of UV radiation in natural daylight are required for physical and mental health, civilized behaviour, muscle strength, energy, and learning.
Sunlight And Mood
Researchers have found that the exposure to natural light increases the production of serotonin, a chemical that stimulates the brain’s pleasure centre, thereby perking up one’s mood while warding off anxiety and depression. This fact is not such a surprise as almost around 11 million exposed to long winter months suffer from a condition termed ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD’, and another 25 million suffer from a milder form of “winter blues.”
Medical Researchers think that our depressed moods during the winter may be the result of a chemical imbalance between serotonin and melatonin as too little melatonin makes us drowsy, and disrupts our internal clock.
Staying Fit With The Nature’s Healer- Sunlight
There are many more benefits of sunlight exposure than can be recounted on paper. Irrespective of the evidence that pharmaceutical bigwigs place before us, we cannot ignore the fact that our ancestors led a very healthy life even without sunscreens. In the current scenario, the depletion of ozone layer due to various technological strides may have lessened nature’s natural protection from strong rays of the sun. But a complete lack of exposure will only spell more harm than good. The key there is to not only bask in the warmth of sunlight, but also exercise moderation to stay in the pink of health.
Article by Snigdha Taduri for Biomed-ME