Small Doses of Sunshine Have Amazing Health Benefits

Weather Talk
Monday, March 10, 2014 - 12:33pm

It’s not just plants that metabolize sunlight. Humans do too. We need a little sunshine to stay healthy!

We had a cold front add a chill over the weekend and I headed outside for about ten minutes to enjoy the sun that had peeked out from between the clouds. It feels wonderful to have the warm sun on your bare skin. I always wear some sort of sun protection cream or sun blocks every day. We all know that being out in the sun, unprotected by sunscreen, put you at risk for wrinkles and skin cancer. I know that sunlight is a source of vitamin D I was wondering about other positive benefits of sunlight. I started researching and was very surprised by some of the enormous health benefits of sunshine!
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Sunlight is a great mood enhancer

I have always believed this to be true for myself, I just can’t help but smile in the sunshine and now I know there is science to back it up. There has been a lot of research on the link between sunlight and mood. One solid study found that sunlight actually increases levels of a natural antidepressant in the brain. On sunny days, the brain produces more of the mood-lifting chemical serotonin than on darker, cloudy days.

Sunlight can improve sleep quality.

When sunlight hits your eyes, your optic nerve sends a message to the gland in the brain that produces melatonin, a hormone that helps make you fell drowsy and fall sleep. The gland decreases its secretions of melatonin until the sun goes down again. In other words, exposure to sunlight during the day increases the natural production of melatonin at night. Low levels of melatonin production are linked to poor sleep quality, especially in older adults

Sunlight Exposure Lowers Blood Pressure Helping to Reduce Heart Attacks and Strokes

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh in the UK suggests that the heart-health benefits of sun exposure may outweigh the risk of developing skin cancer. In the landmark study, the researchers found that when sunlight touches our skin, a compound called nitric oxide that helps lower blood pressure, is released into our blood vessels.Richard Weller, Senior Lecturer in Dermatology, and colleagues, say the effect is such that overall, sun exposure could improve health and even prolong life, because the benefits of reducing blood pressure, cutting heart attacks and strokes, far outweigh the risk of getting skin cancer.

Sunlight Can Reduce Cancer Risks

Studies have linked vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin,” to protection against colon, kidney, and breast cancer. It’s also linked to improvements in bone health and overall mortality. Neurological, cardiovascular, and immune diseases are associated with vitamin D deficiency. By increasing your exposure to sunlight, you can decrease your risk for these diseases.

Sunlight is beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Elderly Alzheimer's patients exposed to bright lighting during the day—from 9 a.m.. to 6 p.m.—got better scores on a mental exam, had fewer symptoms of depression, and lost less function than did those exposed to dim daytime lighting,

Sunlight may lower risk for multiple sclerosis.

Care2.com found that, “several European population studies observed that there is a lower risk of MS for births occurring after October and a higher risk for MS for births occurring after May. This suggests that maternal levels of vitamin D during the third trimester of pregnancy may influence risk of MS.”

Here are a few from mindbodygreen.com;

“1. The sun's light kills bad bacteria. The German solders after WWI knew of the discoveries that had been made in 1903 by the Nobel Prize winner, Niels Finsen. They used sunlight to disinfect and heal wounds.

2. Sunlight has a beneficial effect on skin disorders, such as psoriasis, acne, eczema and fungal infections of the skin.

3. Sunlight lowers cholesterol. The sun converts high cholesterol in the blood into steroid hormones and the sex hormones we need for reproduction. In the absence of sunlight, the opposite happens; substances convert to cholesterol.

4. 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.

5. Sunlight penetrates deep into the skin to cleanse the blood and blood vessels. Medical literature published in Europe showed that people with atherosclerosis (hardened arteries) improved with sun exposure.

6. 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.

7. Sunlight builds the immune system. The white blood cells, which increase with sun exposure, are called lymphocytes, and these play a major role in defending the body against infections.

8. Regular sunlight exposure increases the growth and height of children, especially babies. Many cultures throughout history have recognized this fact. Studies have shown the amount of sun exposure in the first few months has an effect on how tall the person grows.”

Sunlight Can Reduce Surgery Pain and Stress
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study to see if sunlight affected the moods and pain medication usage of patients undergoing surgery. They found that patients who were placed in bright rooms reported less perceived stress and took less medication per hour than patients in dim rooms.

These are just some of the many health benefits of small dose sun exposure. The key I have found in my research is just 10 to 15 minutes a day. Do not go out during the most intense and direct midday sun. Get your sun exposure in the early morning hours or late day hours just before sunset. During those times the light has to travel through more of our atmosphere, therefore more of the harmful rays are filtered. I was truly amazed with how our body processes and needs sunlight to stay healthy. Remember too much sun and not wearing sun protection can be harmful, but soaking up a few minutes of sunshine can be very beneficial.

Chuck DeBroder, Chief Meteorologist
KTSM, NewsChannel 9, NBC, El Paso, TX
cdebroder@ktsm.com
www.facebook.com/Charles-DeBroder
www.twitter.com/ Chuck DeBroder NC9 @wxchuckNC9
 

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