HEALTH BENEFITS OF SUNLIGHT Do you know sunlight protects o
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Dr. Atul Chowdhury
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SUNLIGHT

Do you know sunlight protects our health?

Sunshine makes most of us feel better, but there may be more to its benefits than just feeling good. A growing body of evidence suggests sunlight itself – with adequate protection, of course – may actually be good for health.
Sunlight comprises two types of solar radiation: UVA, which causes reddening and burning of the skin, and UVB. The latter increases the production of an inactive form or precursor of vitamin D by the skin, which is then activated by the liver and kidneys.

Unfortunately, both UVA and UVB also increase the risk of skin cancer, including the most deadly type, melanoma, which is why you should always take a balanced approach to sunlight exposure.

Furthermore, sun block stops the sun's ultra violet rays from creating Vitamin D in the body, which is essential for many functions such as:

• bone health
• anti-cancer
• supports the immune system
• protects against dementia and brain aging
• good for loosing excess fat
• essential for decreasing symptoms of asthma
• strengthens teeth

We are making a whole generation Vitamin D deficient with fear of the sun.

Ultra Violet light is just one frequency of light; there are eight others - infrared, and the seven spectrums of visible light. Each one has its own unique healing power!

1.A Better Night's Sleep

Your amount of daylight exposure is vital in maintaining a normal circadian rhythm. These rhythms include physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle and respond to light and darkness in the body's environment, says the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). The sleep-wake cycle is contingent on morning sunlight to help you sleep at night. Natural daylight helps your body clock restart to its active daytime phase. To ensure that your body clock is in sync, be sure to go outside and get some sunlight when you wake up or turn on the lights in your room. This will give your body the signal that it is daytime and not nighttime. To avoid confusing your circadian rhythm, try not to sit in dim settings during the day because your body will associate the bright light with night. The less morning light you expose yourself to, the more difficult it will be for you to fall asleep and wake up at your set time.

2.Enhances Your Mood

Regular sunlight exposure can naturally increase the serotonin levels in your body, making you more active and alert. In an article published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), exposure to bright light is seen as an approach to increase serotonin without the use of drugs. The positive correlation between the development of serotonin and the hours of sunlight during the day was seen in healthy volunteers. In a sample size of 101 healthy men, researchers found that turnover of serotonin in the brain was lowest during the winter whereas the production rate of serotonin was highest when the subjects stayed in the sunlight longer.

The article therefore suggests that spending time in the summer sun can help you avoid the winter blues. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), seasonal depression, and mood variation has been linked to sunlight exposure. Dr. Timo Partonen from the University of Helsinki's National Public Health Institute in Finland and researchers found that blood levels of cholecalciferol, also known as vitamin D3, are relatively low in the winter months. Sunlight exposure in the summer can equip your body to stock up on vitamin D3 that can last throughout the fall and yield for the production of more vitamin D, which leads to higher serotonin levels.

3.Lowers Blood Pressure

Skin that is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays release a compound, nitric oxide, that lowers blood pressure. In a recent study conducted at Edinburgh University, dermatologists studied the blood pressure of 34 volunteers under UV and heat lamps. In one session, the volunteers were exposed to both light sources and in the other session, the UV rays were blocked so only the heat affected the skin. The results of the study showed a significant drop in blood pressure after exposure to UV rays for an hour but not after the heat-only sessions. It is important to note that the volunteers' vitamin D levels were unaffected in both sessions.

4.Actually Protects From Melanoma

Yes, safe sun exposure can actually protect you from melanoma. The skin's exposure to ultraviolet radiation of short wavelegnths (UVB) has been linked to a decreased risk of melanoma in outdoor workers compared to their indoor counterparts, which suggests chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect, says The Lancet Journal. In a study, indoor workers were found to have increased rates of melanoma because they were only exposed to UVA light, which is associated with skin damage and skin cancer. These workers were found to get three to nine times less solar UV exposure than outdoor workers and therefore had lower levels of vitamin D. It was reported that the indoor UV breaks down vitamin D3 formed after outdoor UVB exposure, which can result in a vitamin D deficiency and increase the risk of melanoma.

5.Sufficient Supply of Vitamin D

The most notable benefit of exposure to sunlight is its ability to boost your body's vitamin D supply. The NIH says at least 1,000 different genes that control every tissue in the body are linked to be regulated by vitamin D3. Vitamin D is produced by the skin's response to UV radiation primarily through sun exposure, which affects 10 percent of the genes in the human body. In a study, researchers did vitamin D screenings on approximately 500 children admitted to a pediatric hospital ward for 12 months. Two in five children were found to have a vitamin D deficiency, which was linked to severe illness and a longer hospital stay. A healthy supply of vitamin D promotes bone growth and prevent illnesses such as breast and colon cancer, inflammation, multiple sclerosis, seasonal disorders, and depression.

6.Sun exposure improves bone health.
It is a well known fact that vitamin D stimulates the absorption of bone-strengthening calcium and phosphorus in the body. However, emerging research also indicates there is a direct correlation between bone density and vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin formed during the process of Vitamin D manufacture when sunlight hits the skin. It regulates calcium absorption. When you have higher levels of vitamin D3 in your blood, you are at a lower risk of suffering fractures of virtually all types. On the other hand, lower levels of vitamin D3 in the blood are associated with higher rate of all types of fractures. This is why sun exposure is especially important for bone health in older adults.

7.Sun exposure improves brain function.
Aside from promoting bone health and regulating vital calcium levels, scientists have now linked vitamin D with a number of functions throughout the body, including the functioning of the brain. One study led by neuroscientist David Llewellyn of the University of Cambridge, assessed vitamin D levels in more than 1,700 men and women from England, aged 65 or older and found that cognitive function reduced the lower the subjects’ vitamin D levels were. However, more studies have found sunlight could help spur nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for forming,organizing and storing of memories.
8.Sun exposure eases mild depression.
Sunlight deprivation can cause a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression common in the winter months. It is also common in people who work long hours in office buildings and hardly get out for some sun. Moderate sun exposure, however, increases levels of natural antidepressants in the brain that can actually help relieve this and other forms of mild depression. That’s because on sunny days the brain produces more serotonin, a mood-lifting chemical, than on darker days.

9.Sun exposure lessens Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Clinical research has shown Alzheimer’s patients who are exposed to the sun throughout the day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. followed by darkness at night score better on mental exams and improve some aspects of the disease. For example, one study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that Alzheimer’s patients exposed to bright light had fewer symptoms of depression, nighttime wakefulness, agitation and lost less function than those exposed to dim daytime lighting. The researchers attributed these improvements to more regular circadian rhythms.
10.Sun exposure heals some skin disorders.
Sunlight promotes healing of skin disorders, such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, jaundice and other fungal skin infections. In one study, for example, a four-week outdoor sunbathing therapy was successfully used to significantly clear symptoms of psoriasis in 84% of subjects. While sun exposure has a therapeutic effect on the skin and sunlight has been successfully used to treat skin disorders, this alternative treatment method should be done under medical supervision to prevent negative side-effects of UV radiation and to ensure the benefits outweigh the risks.
11.Sun exposure boosts growth in children.
This benefit is especially true for infants. Studies reveal the amount of sun exposure in the first few months of a baby’s life has an effect on how tall the child grows. Many cultures around the world recognize this fact and expose children to mild sun to boost growth and height.
12.Sun exposure enhances the immune system.
Sun exposure can help suppress an overactive immune system, which could explain why sunlight is used to treat autoimmune diseases like psoriasis. And since white blood cells increase with sun exposure and they play a key role in fighting diseases and defending the body against infection, moderate sun exposure is very helpful for your immune system.

13.Sun exposure reduces risk of certain cancers.
Vitamin D deficiency increases your risk of many cancers, especially breast and colon cancer. However, eating whole foods and getting some sun can send breast cancer into remission. This connection was first made by Drs. Frank and Cedric Garland from the University of California who observed that the incidence of colon cancer was nearly three times higher in New York than in New Mexico. Subsequent studies have since shown vitamin D supplementation produce a dramatic 60% drop in risk of developing any form of cancer. This confirms the benefits of vitamin D and sun exposure in reducing risk of cancer.

Sunshine does have its benefits, but it’s still the number one cause of skin cancer. Experts recommend no more than 15 to 20 minutes of direct sunlight daily for a healthy adult. After that, apply sunscreen with a minimum Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30. Remember skin color, where you live and how much skin you expose to the sun affect how much vitamin D you can produce.

The sun's rays lower blood pressure

Even a single exposure significantly lowers blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure. On the other hand, pharmaceutical drugs such as Statins have side effects, such as robbing the body of Coenzyme Q10. CoQ10 is essential for cellular and heart energy.

Sunlight can cure depression. The noon sunshine can deliver 100,000 lux. When we sit in offices for the best part of the day, out of the sun, under neon and artificial lights (150-600 lux), we are depriving ourselves of the illumination of nature. Sunlight deprivation can cause a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression. It is more common in winter months, but also common in people who work long hours in office buildings.

Sunlight increases oxygen content in human blood. And, it also enhances the body's capacity to deliver oxygen to the tissues; very similar to the effects of exercise. The sun has a great effect on stamina, fitness and muscular development.
Dr Atul Chowdhury
General Medicine
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