Benefits of Sunshine
June 17, 2021
Ahhh summer! Warmer (or hotter) weather and more daylight from the amazing, life-giving sun!
But sunshine doesn’t just bring us light, it has a lot of amazing health benefits!
Sunshine and darkness help to regulate the release of different hormones in the brain. Sunlight increases the release of serotonin – which helps us feel calm, focused and have improved moods. Darkness, in contract, triggers the brain to release melatonin, helping you relax and go to sleep. This is part of your circadian rhythm regulation.
Inadequate sunlight exposure can cause your levels of serotonin to drop, which can cause symptoms associated with depression. This is what often causes Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression often seen with the change in seasons and less sunlight.
In locations where sunlight is less visible, in seasons with shorter sunlight duration, or for people who work night shift, light therapy is often used to mimic the natural sunlight.
Healthy organs, and tissues:
The ultraviolet B (UV-B) rays from the sun cause our skin to create vitamin D from cholesterol (yes, cholesterol plays important, healthy roles in the body). Vitamin D contributes to hundreds of cellular processes in the body; here are just a few big ones:
- Building strong bones: vitamin D is required for calcium absorption and bone mineralization.
- Muscle function: vitamin D has a direct impact on the muscle’s ability to contract.
- Immune system: vitamin D receptors are found on cells throughout the body, including immune cells. Deficiency in D can lead to increased frequency and severity of illness.
- Lungs, heart, and kidneys: vitamin D plays an anti-inflammatory role, assists in regulating blood pressure and kidney function.
- Appetite: vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, plays a large role in making you feel satiated through the interaction with the satiety hormone, leptin. Low levels of vitamin D reduce the effectiveness of leptin, leaving you feeling hungry!
- Brain function: vitamin D deficiency has been shown to play a wide range of neuroprotective roles, including elimination of beta-amyloid proteins found to accumulate in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease.
We’ve all heard that excess sunlight can cause skin cancer, but moderate amounts of sunlight can actually help prevent cancers such as colon, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate.
Exposure of the skin to sun can even help heal various skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, jaundice, and acne.
And newer research is even showing a potential healing power of sunlight in rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, inflammatory bowel disease, and thyroiditis.
Aim to get sunlight into your eyes early in the day, to help set your circadian clock and trigger the release of serotonin. For maximum vitamin D creation, go outside around midday. Start slowly, to allow your body to build up a base tan. We are NOT looking for a sunburn here! Start with 10 minutes, with as much skin exposure as possible, without sunscreen. Work your way up to about 30 minutes per day; less if you’re fair skinned, more if you’re dark skinned. I also recommend getting your vitamin D levels checked – it’s that important!