The Sun is not just a source of light but it is one of the most essentials for life to exist on the earth. Plants need sunlight to prepare food by photosynthesis and many animals depend on plants for their food. Hence sunlight is an important source of energy that supports life on our planet. In spite of all these benefits, for several years people have been advised to cover up in the sun to lower the risk of getting skin cancer. But now studies indicate that a little bit of sun exposure can really do wonders to your body and improve your overall health. Scientists suggest that moderate amount of sunlight actually reduces your risk of various types cancers and other health problems. This is because our bodies prepare vitamin D with the help of the sun’s ultraviolet rays and this vitamin is essential for absorbing calcium and for protecting our bodies against serious diseases like Type II diabetes, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis and many types of cancers.
Reasons why the Sun is good for you
As opposed to the winter or rainy season, most of us are happy when the summer time comes. Why? Because it elevates your mood and brings in a sense of happiness and enjoyment. Your body is designed to be out in the Sun. Moreover, sunlight has amazing health benefits and healing effects. Read on to know more about how sunlight benefits your health.
[Read more about Sunshine vitamin benefits – Vitamin D]
Sunlight is an effective stress buster
Stepping out into the sunlight everyday is a great way to reduce stress in life. Researchers have found that sunlight increases the levels of serotonin in the body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is associated with regulating sleep, improving memory and enhancing your mood. It is also helpful in warding off depression and anxiety. Regular sun exposure when combined with exercise is effective in curing moderate depression. It has been found that exercising outdoors produces more endorphins or happy hormones in the body than exercising indoors.
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Sunlight lowers your blood pressure
A study led by a group of researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that a compound known as nitric oxide is released into the blood vessels when sunlight touches the skin. This compound helps lower blood pressure by causing the blood vessels to widen thus cutting off the risk of dangerous conditions like heart attacks and strokes. Sunlight is also helps your body produce vitamin D, which has been found to lower blood pressure.
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Sunlight protects your heart
As you have just read, one way by which sunlight offers cardiovascular protection is by lowering blood pressure. Another is by lowering the levels of blood cholesterol. Studies indicate that a deficiency of sunlight could increase cholesterol levels in the blood. When exposed to sunlight, the UVB rays of the sun react with the cholesterol on your skin converting it into vitamin D.
Sunlight improves your bone health
It is a well known fact that vitamin D is needed for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus – two bone-strengthening minerals needed by the body. Studies have found that there is a direct correlation between bone density and vitamin D3, a fat-soluble vitamin formed during the Vitamin D manufacturing process that happens when sunlight falls on the skin. Higher levels of vitamin D3 in your blood makes your bones stronger and puts you at a lower risk of suffering fractures and developing conditions like osteoporosis.
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Sunlight for improved brain health
Sunlight has been found to provide a positive effect on the brain. The human eye has photosensitive cells in its retina, which has connections with the hypothalamus region of the brain. This region influences various functions such as behavior, hormone regulation, promoting normal sleep patterns and increased reaction time. Exposure to sunlight in the morning also helps in regulating body temperature to normal and performing various other brain activities including mood enhancing, better cognition and increased alertness. According to one study, lower levels of vitamin D in the body leads to poor cognitive functions. Other studies have found that sunlight could help promote the growth of nerve cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with developing, organizing and storing memories. Sunlight is also found to be beneficial for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, when Alzheimer’s patients are exposed to bright sunlight, they experienced fewer symptoms of agitation, depression, insomnia etc.
Sunlight boosts your immune health
According to scientists, vitamin D is a critical nutrient for the proper functioning of the T cells, the white blood cells that play a major role in the immune system. Exposure to sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, which in turn helps the T cells to become active and protect your body against foreign invaders like microbes and pathogens. Vitamin D is thus a powerful immune booster and staying out in the Sun is the best way to make sure that your body produces this amazing vitamin.
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Sunlight helps prevent multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease which is characterized by the body’s own immune system attacking the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Studies suggest that infrequent outdoor activity and the use of sunscreen are associated with increasing the risk of multiple sclerosis. According to researchers, vitamin D plays an important role in preventing multiple sclerosis through its ability to enhance the immune system. Getting good amounts of sun increases the amount of vitamin D in the body and helps prevent multiple sclerosis.
Sunlight and oral hygiene
Another great benefit of sunlight is that helps maintain good oral health. Dental caries is a tooth infection caused by bacteria that leads to the loss of the hard tissues around your teeth. Vitamin D in the cells in your teeth increases the amount of antimicrobial proteins known as cathelicidin that help in fighting off the bacteria that causes dental caries. Therefore additional sunlight can help you maintain proper oral hygiene by supplying your body with good amount of vitamin D.
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Sunlight and reduced cancer risk
Although too much exposure to the sun is associated with increased risk of skin cancer, vitamin D produced by your skin with the help of sunlight can actually help significantly lower your risk of certain other types of cancers. Vitamin D reduces the risk of cancer by enhancing calcium absorption, reducing angiogenesis, reducing metastasis and proliferation, inducing cell differentiation and increasing cancer cell apoptosis or death. According to a study conducted by the US National Cancer Institute, people exposed to high levels of sunlight had a lower risk of death from breast, bladder, esophagus, colon and uterine cancer.
Sunlight can boost fertility
Studies have found that sunlight increases fertility in both men and women by increasing the levels of vitamin D in their bodies. It also lowers the levels of melatonin, the hormone which suppresses fertility. According to researchers, vitamin D also known as the sunshine vitamin, is essential for improving sperm count in men as well as balancing sex hormones in women. This vitamin helps in boosting the levels of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone in women, thus regulating menstrual cycles and improving the chances of conception. In the case of men, vitamin D is needed for the healthy development of the sperm’s nucleus. It also improves libido by increasing the levels of the male sex hormone testosterone.
Sunlight improves eyesight
Sun gazing is considered to be one of of most powerful exercises for your eyes to improve eyesight. A technique known as sunning was developed by Dr. William Bates in the early 1900’s and this technique helped people to improve their vision naturally. By allowing direct sunlight to fall on closed eyelids for about 5 minutes, it is possible to make the vision clearer and sharper. Direct sunlight focused on the white part of the eye has been found to be beneficial for cataract and many cases of blindness.
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Sunlight heals skin disorders
Sunlight has been found to have a beneficial effect on various skin problems such as psoriasis, acne, eczema and a type of malignant skin cancer known as mycosis fungoides. It also helps in healing the skin by fighting off bacterial and fungal infections. Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition where the skin cells start to grow more quickly than normal, resulting in an accumulation of cells on the skin’s surface. Sunlight treatment has been found to be effective for curing this condition. The UVB rays of the sun help in treating the plaques and lesions caused by psoriasis. It also inhibits the fast rate of growth as well as shedding of the skin cells. Moreover, the vitamin D provided by sunlight helps in reducing inflammation of the skin.
Most of us overlook the importance of sunlight exposure and never spend enough time outdoors. As you can see, sunlight has many health benefits and is absolutely vital for our existence. Experts recommend that we should go out in the sun without sunscreen for about 5 to 15 minutes a day for at least three times a week to boost our vitamin D levels. As with everything else, sunlight should also be enjoyed in moderation. People with fair skin are not recommended to stay out in the sun for more than 10 minutes without a sunscreen as it may increase their risk of skin cancer.