It’s springtime, and Memorial Day weekend gives us a chance to go fishing, or to the waterpark, or maybe just spend all day grilling out in the sun with family and friends. This time of year, we all want to be outside, it feels so good to bathe in the warm sun and let its light shine on our bare skin. Most of us are aware of the threats of too much sun, however many of us don’t realize that sunlight bestows us with an enormous amount of positive energy and healthy benefits equally. The argument on whether the sun is a friend or an adversary has been enduring, with more people afraid of sun exposure given its relations to skin cancer and early wrinkling. However we shouldn’t out-and-out avoid the sun, as sun exposure has numerous health benefits that go far beyond just vitamin D. It’s also been proposed that exposure to the sun can help to prevent infective diseases and our biological response to light prompts, which alerts us when to wake up or rest, also plays a huge role in the strength of our immune systems.
Plants don’t just metabolize sunlight we do too. However, our relationship with sun exposure and health isn’t as simple as we might assume. Genes are an element of how we metabolize sunlight; as is skin type plus timing and duration of exposure. Vitamin D or the “sunshine vitamin” is naturally produced when the sun caresses our skin, eliciting a response through a intricate process, our bodies convert sunlight into life-giving vitamin D. Dr. Frank and Dr. Cedric Garland, from the University of California-San Diego, first made the association between vitamin D deficit and cancer. After ruling that the frequency of colon cancer was nearly three times higher in New York than in New Mexico, the brothers theorized that lack of sun exposure, causing in a vitamin D deficiency, played the culprit. Research states that thousands of distinctive genes control every tissue in our bodies and are regulated by vitamin D3. Vitamin D is manufactured by our skin’s reaction to UV radiation primarily through sun exposure, which affects nearly 10 percent of the genes in our bodies. A healthy amount of vitamin D has been found in direct association between both bone denseness and blood levels of vitamin D3. Higher blood levels of vitamin D3 are linked with bone development and prevent illnesses such as breast and colon cancer, inflammation, multiple sclerosis, seasonal disorders, and depression. A distressingly large percentage of our population may be vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency can cause our bones to become frail, irregular, and may have other severe health effects. Studies show that those of us who are vitamin D deficient have a 50 percent higher possibility of having a heart attack, proving why vitamin D is considered to be significant for our cardiovascular health.
Sun exposure also has a number of cardiovascular benefits beyond vitamin D’s effects. Sun exposure on bare skin creates nitric oxide and carbon monoxide that cause vascular easing, increases wound healing, and helps fight infections among other biological activities, as it helps expand our blood vessels and reduce our blood pressure. Nitric oxide also has a number of other health benefits. When exposed to sunlight, our hemoglobin molecules also discharge carbon monoxide, which in insignificant amounts can cause vasodilation and reduce our blood pressure. Carbon monoxide can also perform as a neurotransmitter, and has favorable outcomes on our nervous system. It causes stress reduction, and has anti-inflammatory activity.
Sunlight is particularly important for regulating our circadian rhythm and subduing melatonin levels; it helps rally our mood, and reduces any depressive symptoms. Daylight is vital in sustaining an average circadian rhythm. These rhythms include physical, mental, and behavioral changes that adhere to a sun to moon cycle and react to light and dark. Studies have discovered that the same regulator method that senses time of day in order to amp up or shut down our bodily processes, such as digestion, also regulates the growth of crucial cells in our immune systems. Sunlight and darkness initiate the release of hormones in our brains. Exposure to sunlight is said to escalate our brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. The light-induced effects of serotonin are generated through special areas in our eyes retina. Serotonin is associated with lifting our mood and helping us to feel calm and focused. At night, darker lighting indicators trigger our brain’s to make another hormone called melatonin. This hormone is responsible for helping us feel drowsy and going to sleep. When sunlight strikes our eyes, communication is sent to our pineal gland in the brain and assembly of melatonin is shut down until the sun sets again. Our body gets a transparent signal that it’s no longer night and this helps us to maintain a normal circadian rhythm. Low levels of melatonin creation at night due to overproduction during the day, has been coupled with poor sleep. Without enough sunlight, our serotonin levels can drop. Low levels of serotonin are associated with a higher risk of seasonal affective disorder or SAD. SAD is a form of depression that is initiated by changing seasons caused by sunlight deprivation. SAD is a form of depression common in winter months. It’s also usual in those of us who work extensive hours in cubicles and office buildings hardly getting to see the sun. Modest sun exposure, however, increases the levels of natural antidepressants in our brain that can actually help alleviate this and other forms of mild depression. That’s because on sunny days our brain produces more serotonin, than on shadier days. Exposure to bright light is seen as a method to increase our serotonin levels without the use of drugs. Our sleep-wake phase is conditional on morning sunlight to help us rest at night. Natural daylight helps our body timer resume to its active daytime phase. To ensure that our body clock is in sync, we should be sure to go outside and get some sunlight when we rise or turn on the lights. This gives our bodies the signal that it’s day and not night, to avoid confusing our circadian rhythm. The less morning light we expose ourselves to, the more difficult it will be for us to fall asleep and wake up at our desired time.
Overall, sun exposure can improve our health and even extend our lives, because of its benefits of decreasing blood pressure, along with reducing heart attacks and strokes. Sunlight not only makes vitamin D in our skin; it also makes beta-endorphins, which makes us feel better, and nitric oxide, which can help lower our blood pressure, plus a entire multitude of other positive benefits that we just won’t get when relying on vitamin D supplements. It’s important to realize that when we’re exposed to sunlight, we’re being exposed to a huge amount of cosmic energy that’s penetrating deep into our bodies illuminating each of us from within. The sun gives us life.