Proper Exposure: Benefits of Sunlight

proper_exposure_benefits_of_sunlight_picI was raised near the beaches of Southern California in the 1960s. In my junior high and high school, your social pecking order was largely determined by the depth of your tan; it was more important than IQ, grades, or fashion sense. We never used sunscreen. In fact, if anything, we used oils that attracted the rays like a magnifying glass. My, how times have changed. We have gone from sun worshipers to solar-phobics. Now it’s stay out of the sun, lather up, and cover-up.

There’s currently so much controversy about the subject of tanning. We all know that you can use statistics and studies to “prove” almost anything. I’m going to play the devil’s advocate (not that he needs my assistance), but isn’t it kind of a cruel joke in that virtually nothing on earth can live without the sun, yet people are scared of the dangers attributed to the sun? I believe the damage from the sun has been greatly exaggerated, while the healing, beneficial powers of our closest star have been downplayed.

There’s no doubt that excessive sun exposure can cause damage such as premature aging of the skin, eye problems like cataracts and macular degeneration, and skin cancer. The most common form of cancer is skin cancer. One in five people will develop it at some time during their life. That is pretty scary if you ask me, but it doesn’t mean we should completely hide from the sun.

morning_sunlight_on_the_grass_imageFrom many years of clinical experience and following numerous studies I’ve noticed some things. Recently Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola have collected mountains of data and given voice to some of the same patterns. Let me share some of the benefits of an appropriate amount of exposure to sunlight.

1 – It helps you feel more positive, lessens depression, eases anxiety (including seasonal affective disorder), and even helps you sleep better by increasing the amount of endorphins, serotonin, and melatonin in your system.

2 – Sunlight increases both red blood cell and white blood cell quality and quantity, thereby improving immunity and energy.

3 – Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in the presence of sunlight nitric oxide is released into our blood vessels, which causes a reduction in blood pressure. They believe that the potential benefit from lower blood pressure is a decreased possibility of heart attack and stroke which may outweigh the risk of skin cancer.

4 – Sunlight functions as an effective antimicrobial and antiseptic agent for the skin, helping with everything from acne to psoriasis.

5 – Generates the formation of Vitamin D. Here’s a biggie in terms of benefits and a huge subject all by itself. Vitamin D is important for bone health, decreasing inflammation, fighting all sorts of illness, and for general health. This has become one of the most common deficiencies in America with the hide-from-the-sun movement, in that sunlight is a superior source of vitamin D compared to supplements.

So the $64K question is, “What is the appropriate amount of sun?” Apparently too little is just as bad as too much. Dr. Mercola states that “over a million people die every year from lack of sun exposure.” He and Dr. Oz feel that 10–20 minutes per day without sunscreen will provide the daily dose of Vitamin D we all need. Sunscreen blocks much of the body’s ability to produce vitamin D. The darker the skin tone, the more exposure it takes to optimize your Vitamin D formation. Another rule of thumb is that a pink color can be the best thing for your skin, but sunburn should always be avoided.

vitamin_d_necessary_for_life_imageDr. Cannell’s work has shown there are two types of radiation in sunlight. UVA radiation penetrates deeper and causes the most damage. It is present all day, even when it’s cloudy. UVB is the good radiation that produces most of the Vitamin D, and is most prevalent in the middle of the day. So, contrary to most opinions, high noon is the best time for your sun exposure.

I like what Galileo said, “The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.”

Learn more about Dr. Steve Weston

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