Maybe you are worried that too much sunlight can cause cancer? It is just one of the multiple causes so there is no need to get hung up about it. We are bombarded by messages to use sunblock all the time, even in winter. But sunblock may contain potential carcinogens, so you begin to wonder who is telling the truth. The answer is that there are no black and white answers but in the midst of all the hype, there are surprising benefits from staying in the sun, provided you do not overdo it!
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, praised sunlight’s great benefits. It is no surprise that the word for light therapy is heliotherapy which comes from the Greek god Helios, god of the sun.
Here are 10 great health benefits which should make you treasure your time in the sun.
1. Sunlight may actually help to prevent cancer
Drs. Frank and Cedric Garland discovered that the lack of sunlight might be one explanation for the high rate of colon cancer in the New York area, compared to that in New Mexico. Sunlight helps us to produce vitamin D which can help to prevent certain cancers.
2. Sunshine can prevent health problems
We should remember that we produce most of our own Vitamin D, at no extra cost. It is done by a complex process in which our skin reacts to sunlight. If you have enough Vitamin D, you can avoid all sorts of health problems.
Vitamin D deficiency can result in dementia, tooth decay, compromised immune system, and osteoporosis. As 77 percent of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency, this is becoming an urgent health problem. The best way to stock up on this is to eat certain food rich in vitamin D (fish and fortified milk) and also to get at least one and a half hours of direct sunlight each week.
3. Sunshine can help with depression
Another chemical (serotonin) which affects your mood is produced when sunlight reaches the retina. This process sends a signal through the optic nerve which helps to increase levels of serotonin and boosts your mood. It is well known that most anti-depressants (SSRIs) work on the principle of artificially making sure that serotonin levels are high, thus warding off depression. Now, isn’t a good dose of sunshine better than Prozac?
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” – Helen Keller
4. Sunshine can help to kill bacteria
To understand what happens here, we have to go way back to the work of Niels Finsen which won him a Nobel Prize in 1903. He discovered that treatment of certain diseases (such as lupus) with light therapy was perfectly feasible. He showed that light rays, rather than heat, had a powerful antibacterial effect.
5. Sunshine may help you live longer
The University of Graz in Austria followed several thousand heart patients for a number of years. They found that there was a correlation between earlier death and low levels of vitamin D. The study suggests that longevity may well be affected by maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D. The best and cheapest way is to get more sunshine.
6. It helps to curb your appetite
Keeping up your levels of Vitamin D, either through supplements or by getting more sunshine, can actually help you keep that appetite under control. These were the conclusions reached by the University of Aberdeen after they had studied 3,000 women for a two year period. Guess what? Those who had more problems with obesity also had low levels of Vitamin D.
7. Sunshine helps you sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep seems unrelated because the sun has long gone down. But your normal sleep-wake cycle has to be maintained. Researchers now say that one essential element to favor the production of melatonin (sleep hormone produced at night) is to get sunshine at the same time every day.
8. Sunshine and vitamin D may improve lung function
Most smokers compromise the health and function of their lungs, if the habit lasts for years. One study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Crucial Care Medicine found that once vitamin D levels were maintained, then the actual decline in lung health was arrested.
9. Sunshine can help with blood pressure
It is no surprise to learn that the Danes do not get much sunshine in the winter months. In fact, studies have shown that in the month of February, 80 percent of Danes have very low levels of vitamin D. Some studies show that women who are suffering from vitamin D deficiency are more likely to suffer from hypertension fifteen years later. This was one of the take home messages from a recent conference hosted by the European Society of Hypertension.
10. Do it yourself health benefits
Sunshine is still free and as we produce almost all of our own vitamin D, then the whole process becomes so easy. I cannot think of a better way of looking after our health. We just need to remember to take adequate protection and to do everything in moderation.
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”- Oscar Wilde
Featured photo credit: Couple in sunshine/Pavlina Jane via flickr.com