We often overlook one of the biggest health issues of modern society. It seems we’re too occupied with more visible epidemics like obesity, depression, and infectious diseases to notice it. We still don’t have enough data from many countries, but so far, global researchers estimate that somewhere around one billion people worldwide suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. Surprisingly, countries with high supplementation rates don’t seem to be faring much better than the others. Healthy vitamin D levels are one of the benefits of sun exposure, so it makes sense to suspect insufficient sun exposure to be the cause of this epidemic.
People in sunnier geographic locations experience the same negative effects. However, the further north you go, the more people suffer from low vitamin D levels. Calcium deficiency due to lack of sunlight is another issue with the same cause. Recent studies show that most people living higher than 35° N are not getting enough sun exposure.
Apart from vitamin D synthesis, sunlight also has other, direct effects on our hormone health.
The benefits of sunshine exposure are numerous and well-documented. If you have sought out medical advice for any of these issues, you might want to consider the health benefits of exposure to sunlight.
Reduction in Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is one of the most prevalent health issues of today. While there is plenty of effective medication, over time, their side effects can become more intense. A lifestyle change is, in many cases, just as effective. A part of that regimen should include regular time in the sun.
A few years ago, a team of scientists from the University of Southampton investigated the correlation between sunshine and blood pressure. Their findings were surprising.
According to this study, when the skin is exposed to UV radiation, the light changes levels of a messenger molecule called nitric oxide (NO) in the skin. When NO enters the bloodstream, it causes the blood vessels to relax and widen, thus lowering blood pressure levels.
The lead researcher of the project has pointed out that, with these findings in mind, low exposure to the sun and using sunscreen could emerge as new risk factors for heart disease.
Mental Health Support
WHO data shows that in the past few years, depression and anxiety have found their place among the leading causes of health loss and disability worldwide.
The link between mental health and the benefits of sunning lies in our brain’s ability to produce and regulate serotonin and melatonin. This link is the most obvious when we consider Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is a type of depression due to lower levels of light during colder seasons. Without the benefits of sunlight, levels of serotonin drop and melatonin production increases. This leads to insomnia, a lack of energy, and feelings of sadness, lethargy, sleepiness and hopelessness.
One of the most effective forms of treatment for SAD is light therapy. This includes using a light box for up to an hour every morning and using red light therapy for sleep.
Improved Bone Health
The widespread belief that osteoporosis affects mostly women is nothing more than a myth. The loss of bone density starts at slightly different ages and it doesn’t follow the same tempo at first. However, by the age of 65, both men and women lose bone density at the same rate. The mechanism behind it is not simply related to lower estrogen levels. Rather, changes in bone production lead to decreased bone mass and quality.
Vitamin D3 is produced when the skin gets exposed to sunlight. It is then metabolized in the liver and the kidneys. After that, it plays a role in multiple processes in the body, most notably calcium absorption.
While it is grouped with three other fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin D is completely unique. Namely, it is the only vitamin produced in the body and doesn’t occur in any food naturally. Even if you get it from fortified foods or supplements, the body must convert it into an active form to be able to use it for the process of bone mineralization.
Apart from vitamin D, one of the most effective currently available methods to promote bone healing and regeneration is red light therapy.
Stronger And Healthier Skin
When skin and sun appear in the same sentence, it’s usually to talk about the risks, and rarely to discuss the benefits of sunning. And yet, they exist. There are several skin conditions that sunshine may improve, such as acne, psoriasis and eczema. Sunshine triggers an immediate, powerful immune response in the skin, while at the same time triggering vitamin D production. This leads to a reduction in inflammation and a significant improvement of skin conditions. Many chronic psoriasis and eczema sufferers find that sunny and warm weather brings them relief and alleviates their symptoms.
A More Robust Immune System
The benefits of sunshine exposure when it comes to the immune system are twofold. Sunlight is crucial for the production of vitamin D, which regulates the response and activity of the body’s immune cells and stimulates these cells to produce peptides that protect against pathogens.
However, research shows that some effects of sun on the immune system work independently of vitamin D. UV rays regulate cytokines and stimulate T regulatory cells, and, through these two mechanisms, help prevent autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
How Much Exposure Do You Need to Get the Benefits of Sun?
Nowadays, most talk about sun exposure focuses on how much is too much, because of the associated risks. However, we fail to answer another, crucial question: how much is enough?
The Global Burden of Disease Due to Ultraviolet Radiation, a WHO report from 2006, states that only 0.1% of the total global burden of disease happens due to UVR exposure, as opposed to the whopping 3.3 billion disease burden associated with low sun exposure.
But how much sunlight do you really need to support optimal health benefits? Scientists mostly agree that during the warmer months, around 15 minutes a day for fairer skin types, and up to 30 minutes a day for darker skin tones should be both safe and effective. However, during the months with less natural sunlight, we require around two hours of sunshine, which is sometimes impossible to achieve.
Isn’t Sun Exposure Dangerous?
In a word – yes. Sun exposure is a double-edged sword. While our bodies need the benefits of sun to function properly, it is impossible to ignore the associated risks. UVA contributes to premature skin aging and is also linked to cataracts, while UVB significantly increases the risk of skin cancer. The third type of sun’s rays, UVC, while the most harmful, is absorbed completely by the atmosphere.
Red Light Therapy: Benefits of Sunshine Exposure Minus the Risks
It is clear that the benefits of sun are many, but it is impossible to ignore the risks that come with it.
A study has shown that treatments with red light can help protect the skin and prevent damage from UVB radiation. This means that, even if you choose to spend time in the sun, red light treatments beforehand can help prepare your skin and minimize the adverse effects.
However, if you prefer to avoid the sun altogether, red light therapy offers many of the same beneficial effects, but without the risk.
For instance, you need about forty minutes of sunshine every morning to help with insomnia. In comparison, only ten to twenty minutes of daily use of FlexBeam can dramatically improve sleep quality without any of the negative effects of sun exposure.
With FlexBeam, you can stay inside this summer, and reap the positive effects of light while protecting your skin and your eyes.