We all know the dangers of having too much sun exposure. We also know that the sun is life giving. Without it, we could not survive. And yet we’re afraid of it. So today, I’m sticking up for the sun! I’ll be sharing all the amazing ways the sun interacts with our body to keep us healthy. So get out your favorite Koraru swimwear, and let's make the sun our medicine.
Before you call me irresponsible, we take sun safety very seriously at KORARU. So, if you haven’t already checked out Koraru’s How to Sunbathe Safe blog, you should probably read that before you head out to get your sunlight medicine. And while we’re on the subject, we’ve also got an article about the best sunscreens for safe sunbathing to help you protect yourself.
IT IS TIME TO SMILE ABOUT SUNSHINE AGAIN
Now back to the amazing benefits of sunlight exposure. And I’m not just talking about peak-of the-day-sun-in-the-sky sunlight. Even the beautiful rays of a stunning sunset have unique properties that contribute to our health. Yeah, you heard me right, those sundowners, if you minus the cocktail, are super healthy for you!
Just so we’re all on the same page, let's get a quick sciency overview of just what the sun is sending our way. I’ll keep it real quick. The sun emits a spectrum of light. At one end we have our ultraviolet light, that’s the UVAs and UVBs that our sunscreens protect us from. In the middle of the spectrum, we have visible light. Without visible light rays, we wouldn’t be able to see. And at the other end of the spectrum, we have infrared light. These rays are what give us those beautiful red sunsets.
Now the sun being the sun, the almighty life-giver, provides us with this spectrum of light so that we can do lots of different things with its energy. Just like plants, we suck up that energy and turn it into all sorts of awesome things. For example, while you’re busy slapping on Factor 50 to block out the UVAs and UVBs, your body is desperately craving those rays so it can turn them into Vitamin D.
VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
We all know that we need sunlight to get Vitamin D, but just because you live in a sunny place doesn’t mean you’re getting enough Vitamin D. The average American spends 93% of their life indoors. And modern glass doesn’t let those sun rays in. It doesn’t matter how sunny it is where you live if you’re always indoors. That's why, according to the CDC, between 2001 and 2006, 42% of Americans were thought to be Vitamin D deficient.
Even if you like spending time in nature, it's not always easy to get enough UV sun rays to produce sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. I live in the South of France, mostly because it's sunny all year round, but according to the App, Dminder, my body can’t make Vitamin D from the sun until the end of January.
That’s because the sun is too low in the sky, and the UVA and UVB rays have to travel through way too much atmosphere to be of any use to my body by the time they reach it. All the more reason to get out and enjoy the sun safely when it's high in the sky.
Vitamin D is vital for a strong immune system and our body’s general healing ability. And while you should never burn, there is mounting research linking moderate sun exposure and higher blood levels of Vitamin D to reduced cancer risk of all cancers except skin cancer.
It’s not only important for fighting cancer and having a strong immune system. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to bone and muscle weakness, cardiovascular disease, degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, and mood disorders.
TOP UP YOUR VITAMIN D
If you want to make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D, try using Dminder. It's a free app that helps you safely get enough UVB AND UVA sun exposure for optimum Vitamin D levels. Just enter your location, pigmentation, lifestyle, vitamin D supplements, and Vitamin D blood level if you have it, and the app will tell you how long you need to be in the sun (don’t forget to let it know if you move location, especially where the sun is strong, you don't want to over do it).
If you’re someone who burns easily, don’t worry! You don’t need as much time in the sun. Your body makes Vitamin D ten times faster than someone with dark skin. But if you’ve got dark skin and live in Canada, you should probably take Vitamin D supplements.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF A BEAUTIFUL SUNSET OVER THE BEACH
That’s it for the benefits of ultraviolet rays, but did you know that those gorgeous red hues at the other end of the spectrum are equally important and beneficial to human health? And while your body is soaking up those infrared rays all day long, you only start to see them at dawn and dusk.
I’m going to get a bit sciency again. I’ll keep it short. At night our body produces melatonin in the pineal gland. We all know that melatonin helps us sleep. But here’s the cool thing. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant. It fights oxidative stress, which is linked to inflammation, dementia, diabetes, and learning disabilities. But most importantly, melatonin plays a crucial role in cancer prevention and healing. In other words, melatonin is vital for a healthy body and a strong immune system.
We need melatonin 24/7 to mop up all the oxidative stress in our bodies. So what happens during the daytime when our body isn’t making melatonin? That big ball of energy in the sky is coming to the rescue. The infrared radiation penetrates our skin, goes into our cells, into our mitochondria, and transforms the sun's energy into melatonin right there in the cell where the oxidative stress is happening.
Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash
CIRCADIAN RHYTHM AND SUNLIGHT EXPOSURE
Pretty impressive right? But that’s not all. We rely on the rhythm of the sun and its sun rays to set our internal biological clock. What’s known as the circadian rhythm. Like many other animals, our brain and circadian system use the sunlight to trigger certain processes in our body.
So, in the morning, when we’re exposed to bright light, our cortisol levels increase to where we need them to be, and 12 – 14 hours later, our body knows it's time to produce melatonin, helping us to sleep. If our cortisol levels peak later because we’re exposed to artificial bright light, say from a computer, phone, or TV screen, our cortisol levels rise and play havoc with our circadian rhythm and sleep cycles.
This is important because our circadian rhythm is what keeps our body running like clockwork. Disrupted circadian rhythms affect every aspect of our health, from our sleep-wake cycle, digestive and metabolic processes, the immune system, and the cardiovascular system to cognitive function and our moods. When our circadian clock is out, we can start to suffer from mental health problems like bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety.
SUNLIGHT AS MEDICINE☼ Wake up with the sun, go to bed with the sun, and spend time in the sun.
☼ Avoid bright lights in the evening.
☼ Spend more time outside. Choose outdoor sports and eat your lunch outside.
☼ Make use of artificial Dawn Lights in the morning and artificial Blue Lights in the day.
☼ Up your vitamin D supplementation with high-dose vitamin D supplements (as recommended by your health practitioner).
To learn more about the healing benefits of sunlight, I recommend watching this video. Remember, The sun heals, but it can also destroy. Take care of your skin while you soak up the healing benefits of sunlight.
Photo by Sarah Labuda on Unsplash
Written by Kirsti Formoso - Wellness Writer for Koraru. Kirsti Formoso is a wellness writer and researcher. She is passionate about holistic health and wellbeing. She has over 30 years of experiential knowledge in personal and spiritual development, and a Masters of Science in Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology. She is also a peer reviewer for two scientific journals specialising in Transpersonal Psychology. When she’s not writing she can be found working on her vegetable plot, hiking in the mountains and breathing in all the wonders nature has to offer