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When you think about sunning, your first associations tend to be negative ones. The harmful effects of sun exposure are something you get warned about constantly: melanoma, aging, dark spots, and wrinkles.
On the positive end of that spectrum is the much-talked-about link between sunshine and vitamin D production. This prohormone has a vital role in many processes in the body and is essential for your health. Studies suggest that moderate bouts of sun exposure are a much more effective way to elevate vitamin D levels in the body than taking supplements.
However, as scientists delve deeper into research about the effects the sun has on our health, they keep discovering new, important health benefits of sunshine that have nothing to do with vitamin D. Here are some of the most interesting ones.
Fungal infections are one of the most common health conditions, with an estimated 25 percent of the world’s population affected by them. Some yeasts, like Candida Albicans, live in and on our bodies naturally without causing any health issues. However, when their population grows out of control, it turns into an infection and causes unpleasant, and sometimes serious symptoms.
Yeasts naturally thrive in moist, dark places. Unlike plants, yeasts don’t use photosynthesis to produce energy. In fact, sunlight is known to inhibit fungal growth, and can, in some cases even kill them.
The reason for this is simple: to propagate, fungi use spores. Research shows that exposure to sunshine for a few hours kills the spores of most yeast species. This means that fungal growth is slowed down or stopped altogether. Consequently, this controls the population and prevents or treats infection of the host.
Scientists recently discovered light can be used to target two genes in fungi that are responsible for their virulence. When either one of them is deleted or mutated, the virulence of fungi drops. These findings suggest that targeted light therapy could have a crucial role in the treatment of yeast infections.
WHO estimates that by the year 2050, the prevalence of myopia will be a staggering 52 percent. Taiwan is among the most infected countries. In recent years, the country has taken on a new strategy to improve the nation’s eyesight. They encourage their population to spend more time outdoors.
A study on Taiwanese school children showed that longer time spent outdoors as compared to the control group led to a reduction of myopia. Moreover, it seems to have lowered the risk of rapid myopia progression by 54 percent. Several studies from other countries have not only confirmed these findings but also discovered that vision deterioration happens more rapidly during months with fewer sunny hours.
Living in countries with more sunshine might lower your risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis by as much as 45 percent. While the link between higher vitamin D levels and lower risk of MS is quite common in scientific conversations nowadays, the explanation might not be so simple.
Research shows that MS incidence is lower even when the skin is not under direct sunlight. This suggests that vitamin D, the synthesis of which requires direct exposure, is not responsible. Furthermore, it seems that sunshine exposure lowers the risk for all races and ethnicities. On the other hand, higher vitamin D levels only lower the risk for Caucasian people.
The conclusion? It seems that there are multiple pathways to how sunlight protects us from autoimmune diseases, MS included.
The most important one is probably the powerful immunosuppressant effect of sunlight. Simply put, sunshine stimulates the immune system to trap harmful or rogue immune cells in the lymph nodes. This prevents them from reaching the central nervous system where they might trigger or exacerbate the disease.
Sunlight has a very direct positive influence on the cardiovascular system. With direct sun exposure on your skin, a chemical called nitric oxide (NO) gets released into the blood vessels. NO relaxes and dilates blood vessels which, in turn, lowers blood pressure.
What is interesting and, perhaps also less known, is that the same chemical might reduce the risk of obesity. Moreover, NO can influence a whole span of conditions that fall under the spectrum of cardiometabolic dysfunction. This includes insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, elevated triglycerides, and intra-abdominal fat.
Promising new studies show that exposure to sunshine might have a positive role not only in preventing weight gain but also in staving off this cluster of illnesses.
The pathway through which this happens is not yet entirely clear. Researchers believe it might be due to the fact that exposure to the sun activates the body’s immune system. Obesity and cardiometabolic syndrome keep the body in a constant state of low-level inflammation. The immune response due to UV exposure can have a systemic anti-inflammatory effect.
Everyone’s heard of sun-worshippers and people addicted to tanning. While these people might be taking things to extremes, there is actually a logical explanation for their behavior. Exposure to sunlight stimulates the skin to produce a hormone called beta-endorphin.
This hormone gets into the bloodstream, reaches the brain, leaves you feeling happy and lifts the mood. Scientists speculate that this is an evolutionary development. It dates back to the times people lived in caves, to avoid the adverse effects of the lack of sunshine exposure.
There is no doubt that, even though sunlight gets a bad rap due to its carcinogenic effects nowadays, its beneficial effects are too great to ignore. Constantly emerging new data suggests that it’s worth it to try and find a balance when it comes to sun exposure. However, it is still unclear whether very low doses – which would be considered safe – would have the desired effects.
That is why red light therapy with targeted, high-quality devices has an important role in your wellbeing and health. Be smart – turn to FlexBeam to bridge this gap and give yourself all of the benefits of sunlight without any of the risks.