The Healing Sun and Health: Is Sunshine Good for You?

By Val Silver

benefits of sunshine

What do you think? Do the sun and health go hand in hand? Or are the experts who tell you to stay out of the sun correct? Can you get too much or too little sunshine? 

Many of us are familiar with the symptoms of being out in the sun too long - the burns, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and dehydration. What we may not be aware of are all the benefits we get from getting healthy amounts of sun exposure. 

The relationship between the healing sun and healthy living seems to be hardwired into humans and animals alike. Plants and animals rely on sunlight for food, warmth and light. It tells us when to wake and when to sleep, for the night or for the season.

Despite warnings to stay out of the sun or slather ourselves with chemical-laden sunscreen, we don bathing suits and sleeveless tops with shorts to bare our bodies to the sun when the weather allows. Few things in life feel as good as the first penetrating sun rays warming you to the bone after a long, cold winter.

Animals live in closer harmony with nature than modern day humans. Ignorant of dire warnings about the dangers of sunshine, wild animals and household pets seek out sunny spots for napping. They also teach another important lesson. When enough is enough, they move to a shady spot so as not to get overheated and burned. 

Benefits of Sunlight

Enjoyed wisely, the benefits of sunlight far outweigh the risks. That means you do not allow your skin to burn. For fair people outside at noon, that may mean 20 minutes. Generally, the darker your skin, the longer it takes to make Vitamin D and the longer it takes for you to start burning. Then it is time for a safe organic sunscreen, a cover-up, or shade.  Choose a mineral-based sunscreen, not one with hormone-disrupting chemicals. Here are two safe products to consider.

Light and color therapy

Full-spectrum sunlight offers light and color therapy at its finest. Sunlight looks golden yellow, but it is really all the colors of the rainbow combined together. Each color frequency affects your body and mind in different ways. When you are outside, you expose yourself to all the healing sunlight color frequencies.

On the other hand, most artificial lighting uses only part of the spectrum. Glass windows block UV rays.

Antibiotic effects of the sun

Naturopathic doctors, old time medical doctors, and mental health providers knew of the connection between the sun and health. They used its antibiotic-like effects for sick patients.

Patients in sanatoriums spent time outside soaking up the healing sun rays for physical and mental healing. Tuberculosis patients were successfully treated with sun therapy. Surprisingly, it ceased to work when a pane of glass was placed between them and the great outdoors. Jaundiced infants were placed in sunshine before lighted beds replaced natural sun therapy.  It helps heal skin conditions like psoriasis and acne.

Several years ago I experienced the healing power of the sun. After enduring months of a lingering cough and acne on my face and back, both cleared completely after only three days of intense Jamaican sunshine and ocean water.

Our biorhythms are in sync with light and darkness. 

sun and health

A few minutes of early morning sunshine help regulate sleep inducing melatonin. 

When your eyes take in morning sunlight, they send a message to the pineal gland in your brain to turn down melatonin production. Sun exposure signals your brain to make fell good chemicals. Serotonin improves mood and helps you wake up. Dopamine stimulates the pleasure center of the brain, and helps you feel energetic and alert. The darkening night sky completes the cycle by signalling your brain to release melatonin to promote sleepiness. If you have trouble sleeping, try getting at least 15 minutes of early morning sun time and see if that helps.

Face away from the sun and look with opened, unprotected eyes to the sky. Blink often. You may face the sun for a brief period with your eyes closed. If you do this, keep your eyes moving. Move your head also. Indirect sunlight may improve vision and eye health. Looking directly at the bright sun can damage your eyes.

The sun and healthy emotions

The relationship of sun and healthy mental/emotional states is so important that research shows rat brain cells linked to emotion actually begin dying when deprived of light. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the winter blues, you can blame lack of sunlight for causing underactive emotional centers in your brain and a short supply of serotonin.

Exposure to sunlight and healthy vitamin D production go hand in hand.

Vitamin D is a vital fat soluble steroidal prohormone made by your skin when it receives UV B rays. 

Vitamin D receptors are located in every cell and tissue in your body including the brain. It helps regulate approximately 3,000 genes in the body, making the benefits of vitamin D enormous.

  • It helps your body absorb and metabolize phosphorus and calcium for strong, healthy bones. 
  • It promotes sound sleep, good moods, and weight control. 
  • Vitamin D supports the immune system. It eases autoimmune flare ups,  mobilizes infection fighting agents, and provides significant protection from several cancers including colorectal and breast cancers.

Allow 10-15 minutes of direct sun around high noon at least twice a week to benefit from UV B rays. Expose as much of your skin as possible. Do not burn. Burning damages your skin and increases your risk of skin cancer for years after. Refrain from washing your skin with anything but water for several hours before or after. Your body oils are needed for making vitamin D.

Your body has built in controls to limit how much vitamin D you store in a day, which prevents toxicity. If you supplement, get regular blood tests to ensure an optimal range of 50-70 ng/ml. Over 100ng/ml is toxic.

If you have a medical condition requiring you to avoid direct sunlight, ask your medical provider what amount and intensity of sunlight is safe for you.

The sun and your skin work together to make nitric oxide.

As you make vitamin D, you also produce nitric oxide. This molecule lowers blood pressure by dilating blood vessels, which ensures adequate blood supply to the organs. Nitric oxide also helps regulate the immune system, decreases blood clotting, and keeps arterial plaque at bay.  

The Sun and Health Conditions

Many studies prove that cumulative sun exposure does not cause melanoma cancer. Studies also show that people who get healthy amounts of sunshine enjoy the following health benefits:

  • 40% less risk of dementia
  • less risk of hip bone fractures in the elderly
  • a three-fold risk reduction in breast cancer
  • reduced risk of multiple schlerosis
  • children who get adequate sunshine are less prone to develop near-sightedness
  • sun lovers tend to live longer lives than sun avoiders
  • sunshine can improve eczema and psoriasis

How to Simulate Healing Sunshine 

During the winter or long stretches of cloudy weather, you can still benefit from the sun and health connection by using electron ballast tanning beds twice a week to make vitamin D. Follow timing recommendations. Do not burn. For the winter blues or SAD, use a light box and/or bright full spectrum light bulbs. My sister swears by her light box, but even a lamp with the full spectrum bulbs can help.

Part of living in harmony with nature and living a healthy life is getting safe and adequate sun exposure. It makes it possible for you to enjoy the benefits of vitamin D and nitric oxide. Your exposure to the sun and health go hand in hand. It helps your immune function, skin (just don't overdo it) and hormone production, Listen to your body and use common sense. While outside enjoying the many natural benefits of sunlight, add some deep breathing and exercise to feel even better.

Source: Avoiding Sun Exposure? The surprising health risks to know

For Educational Purposes Only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult with your health provider before using natural remedies and/or complementary therapies if you are pregnant, nursing, or you are being treated for a medical condition. Be aware that certain herbs and supplements interact with medications.

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