Soaking Up the Sun

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An entire industry has evolved to help us avoid the sun and the harm it can do to our health. Sunscreen, sunblock, special clothing, eye wear and hats have been researched and designed so our bodies are not exposed to the sun’s rays. These products are marketed to us and pray upon our fears, with good reason…or maybe not.

Both forms of ultra violet radiation can damage collagen fibers, destroy vitamin A in our skin, hasten aging of the skin, and increase the risk of skin cancers. UVA radiation penetrates deeply into the skin, where it can contribute to skin cancer.  Sunburn is caused by too much UVB radiation; leading to direct DNA damage and promotion of various skin cancers. Excessive sun exposure can also cause cataracts and diseases.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, UVR exposure accounts for only 0.1% of the total global burden of disease. Interestingly enough, in 2006 the World Health Organization (WHO) report noted that a markedly larger annual disease burden of 3.3 billion DALYs (disability-adjusted life years) worldwide might result from very low levels of UVR exposure.

“The best-known benefit of sunlight is its ability to boost the body’s vitamin D supply; most cases of vitamin D deficiency are due to lack of outdoor sun exposure. At least 1,000 different genes governing virtually every tissue in the body are now thought to be regulated by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25[OH]D), the active form of the vitamin, including several involved in calcium metabolism and neuromuscular and immune system functioning.”
Research, published in 2008 in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, shows that those with the lowest vitamin D levels more than double their risk of dying from heart disease, stroke and other causes, compared with those with the highest vitamin D levels.

Although many people believe the ultraviolet (UV) light is harmful, our bodies need at least a small amount of UV light in order to function properly. Light has been used for healing since the time of ancient Egypt. Modern scientists began recognizing the benefits of light therapy in the late 1700’s.

Sun exposure signals your brain to make feel good chemicals. Serotonin improves mood and helps you wake up. Dopamine stimulates the pleasure center of the brain, and helps you feel energetic and alert. Part of living a healthy life is getting safe and adequate sun exposure. Just as plants cannot survive without exposure to the sun, neither can we. The sun and healthy immune function, skin and hormone production go hand in hand.

Listen to your body and use common sense. The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10am and 2pm. Try and time your day to avoid the dangerous rays or protect your skin with clothing, a hat, and sunscreen if you do go outside. Sunscreen prevents sunburn by protecting your skin against the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Enjoy the sun wisely!