Four clear benefits to sun exposure beyond vitamin D

I often write about the importance of sunlight exposure for vitamin D production. After just about 10 – 15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen, your skin starts to naturally produce and store vitamin D on its own.

Unfortunately, we now face an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in this country thanks to poor food quality and poor advice from clueless dermatologists and other doctors to avoid the sun because of skin cancer risk.

And that’s a major problem.

Evidence links low vitamin D with a higher risk of developing virtually every major chronic disease — including skin cancer itself! In fact, research shows vitamin D helps protect us from asthma, colon cancer, heart attack, multiple sclerosis (MS), obesity, stroke, and Type II diabetes. It also helps boost libido and mood.

Of course, you get sun by going outdoors in Nature, which has many health benefits of its own. In fact, I recently reported on a study from Sweden showing that women who get more sun live longer — up to two years longer, on average. The study showed that lack of sun is as bad for your health as heavy smoking! While big government pursues their quasi-scientific obsession about tobacco, they give out exactly the wrong advice when it comes to sun exposure.

Aside from boosting vitamin D, spending time in the sun offers many other benefits.

For one, it prompts the body to make nitric oxide, which in turn supports cardiac and cellular health. Specifically, nitric oxide relaxes and expands arteries, which provides more blood supply to the heart through the coronary arteries. (Nitroglycerin for acute angina pectoris acts in the same way in the heart.) Nitric oxide also lowers blood pressure and supports general circulation. And lower blood pressure, in turn, helps reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Sunlight impacts gene expression

Sun exposure also appears to influence gene regulation. In fact, researchers at Cambridge University found that expression of 28 percent of human genes varies from one season to the next.

For example, during winter, genes that regulate immune system functions have increased activity. In summer, anti-inflammatory genes are more active.

(As a side note, these mechanisms go a long way in explaining the strong correlation between lack of sun exposure and higher MS risk. You see, evidence links MS with low vitamin D, chronic inflammation, and irregular nitric oxide cellular production.)

Research from Australia and from China shows that children who get out in the sun more have better eyesight. Sunlight also affects the eye in other ways too. Sunlight naturally stimulates sensors in the retina, at the back of the eye, which in turn influences the pineal gland, the vestigial “third eye” in the brain. This effect helps regulate melatonin, which influences our circadian cycle and sleep. Your brain also produces serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter, when exposed to the sun. No wonder most people tend to sleep better after a day spent in the sun.

(If exposed to bright sunlight for long periods, you want to use polarizing sun glasses to protect the lenses of the eyes from excessive ultraviolet exposure.)

It’s also interesting to note the linguistic similarity between melatonin in the brain, which never gets direct sun exposure, and melanin in the skin, which does get direct sun exposure.

And speaking of melanin…

For most people, the melanin in the skin is a healthy response to sun exposure. The melanin will protect your skin from harmful rays while allowing the rest of your body to get all the benefits of Nature’s sunshine.

Of course, when you think about it, all of these benefits of sunlight make perfect sense…

The sun is the ultimate source of all life on Earth. It also directs the movements of the entire solar system. Here on Earth, the sun is a great, untapped resource for health and well-being.

So this summer, do your whole body a favor and make sure to spend 10 to 15 minutes outside in the sun without sunscreen each day, and build up the melanin in your skin that protects it. (After that, you may want to use a natural sunscreen. Just avoid the toxic brand names.)