Sunshine for Health?

The Very Real Benefits of Sunshine for Health

Girl in the sunshine for healthSun exposure not only triggers the skin to synthesize vitamin D which promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, thereby helping the body to form and maintain strong bones and teeth but can also protect against high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and strokes, this according to new research from the University of Southampton and the University of Edinburgh. The benefits of sunshine for health may be greater than we ever realized.

The new British study examined the skin of 24 healthy participants exposed to ultraviolet (UVA) light from tanning lamps during two sessions, each lasting 20 minutes. In the first session, the volunteers were exposed to both the UVA rays and the heat of the lamps and in the second session, the UV was blocked so that only the heat of the lamps affected the skin. The British researchers found that just 20 minutes of exposure to natural sunlight could dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure. The researchers found a consistent relationship between the release of nitric oxide (NO) from skin storage and the reduction in blood pressure, as well as changes in plasma nitrite and nitrate.

According to Martin Feelisch, professor of experimental medicine and integrative biology at the University of Southampton and one of the co-authors of the new study, when exposed to sunlight, small amounts of nitric oxide (NO) are transferred from the skin to the blood circulation, blood vessel tone is reduced, blood pressure drops, and the risk of heart attack and stroke also dropped. Nitric oxide is also known as nitrogen monoxide and it is a molecule with chemical formula NO. The study findings suggest that UVA dilates blood vessels, causing the blood pressure to drop.

For years, scientists have known that both systolic and diastolic blood pressure tend to be lowest in the summer and and greatest in countries that are farther from the equator and during the winter months. The new British study suggests that these known scientific phenomena may be due to variations in sun exposure and not to variation in changes of temperature.

Avoiding excess sunlight exposure is critical to prevent skin cancer, but out of fear or different lifestyle to avoid sunlight exposure, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to Professor Martin Feelisch. Heart disease is a major problem in the United States and it is the leading cause of death for both men and women: about 600,000 Americans die from heart disease in the United States each year—that is 1 out of every 4 deaths.

This new research finding on the benefit of sunlight to the body is valuable to those that are affected by Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) and are in recovery. Not only does natural sunlight promote strong bones and teeth, it proves extremely beneficial to both the heart and brain in its ability to lower risk for both heart attacks and stroke. The key is knowing how much exposure is needed. Sufferers of AFS, especially in advanced stages, tend to have temperature regulation issues. Short exposure to sunlight may trigger adrenal crashes. Even indirect sunlight tolerance may be limited. This has to do with the way the body’s anti-stress mechanism is dysfunctional.

Laying in the sunshine for healthWhen stress is high, the body creates more cortisol to assist in defending itself. Cortisol is an anti-stress hormone created by adrenal glands. Cortisol can actually contract arteries that are mid-sized, which therefore leads to high blood pressure. This knowledge is especially important to AFS recovery because sunlight was also found to lower blood pressure and dilate blood vessels, which would offset some possible cortisol effects. Chronic stress in itself can cause a great increase in blood pressure as well, proving additional benefits of sunshine for health. Since people with AFS have adrenals that are overworked and can react negatively to prescription drugs due to paradoxical reactions, this natural tool to assist in heart and mind health is extremely valuable.

There are also benefits of sunshine for health by assisting the body’s encompassing and natural defense mechanism, which is called the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress ResponseSM system. Comprised of two different components – called the neuroendocrine and metabolic parts – which team together with various organs and systems to battle stress in the body. Sunlight helps assist not only the neuroendocrine component of this system – which includes both the heart and adrenals – but the entire NEM since both segments are inexplicably intertwined.

Assistance with battling stress and promoting general function of organs means not only a healthier person, but less stressed. People that suffer from AFS – as well as the general population – could benefit tremendously by incorporating even a small amount of outdoor time into their day to soak up some sunshine for health!


Source: Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 20 January 2014

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

You should not use full spectrum light bulbs as a replacement for sunlight. Occasional use of them should be ok when sunlight is not accessible. It’s almost impossible to reproduce the full spectrum of the sunshine indoors.

Sunshine for health