Most of us are well aware that the Sun’s ultraviolet rays put us at risk for melanoma, cataracts, and premature aging. Fearing these damaging effects of the Sun, we’ve been programmed to slather on the sunscreen and don the shades as we head outdoors. While these precautions are certainly necessary and well advised, did you know there are also numerous health benefits we receive from sunlight?
Vitamin D – Believe it or not, the Sun is our best source of vitamin D. This essential nutrient is found in certain foods, such as salmon, milk, and eggs, but typically in amounts too small to easily provide the recommended daily allowance. A vitamin D supplement is also problematic because serious complications may arise if taken in the wrong dosage (when you take large amounts of vitamin D, your liver produces too much of a chemical called 25(OH)D. When your 25(OH)D levels are too high, this can cause high levels of calcium to develop in your blood. High blood calcium is a condition called hypercalcemia). The Sun’s ultraviolet rays cause a type of cholesterol found in our skin to be converted into vitamin D. Ten to fifteen minutes of natural sunlight each day on unprotected skin is adequate for most people. After this length of time, remember to apply sunscreen to avoid burning.
Immune system – Sunshine actually contributes to the strengthening of your immune system because it stimulates the production of additional white blood cells. It also promotes the production of gamma globulin, a type of protein that helps the body fight infection.
Circulation – Light from the sun increases blood circulation. It also multiplies the number of red blood cells in your blood, resulting in increased stamina as additional oxygen is carried throughout your body.
Skin health – Sunlight may help prevent skin ailments such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema. Regular sun exposure will also help skin become more resistant to harmful UV rays since tanned skin is less likely to become sunburned. Sunshine even has the ability to destroy germs and help heal wounds.
Disease prevention – Since Vitamin D plays an important role in the body’s absorption of calcium, regular Sun exposure can help prevent osteoporosis and rickets. Sunlight may also aid in the prevention of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. In addition, it helps lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides and aids in the prevention of heart disease. One study even suggests that sun exposure may reduce the chances of cancer by as much as 70 percent. Regular sun exposure may help avert other serious conditions such as diabetes, liver problems, infertility, allergies, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. It also increases metabolism, helping ward off obesity.
Sleep – Sun exposure during the early morning hours (before 10 a.m.) has been shown to provide more restful sleep at night by helping regulate the sleep-wake cycle.