It’s Official. Summer is Here!

Posted: June 21, 2016  

So what better time than the first week of summer to honor its benefits. 

                            Ô, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.” 
                                                                     ― Roman Payne

 Everyone knows the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays can cause skin cancer and premature aging, but it can also have numerous health benefits (in moderation of course), so I prefer to focus on those.  Here are a few good reasons not to completely shun the sun:

Sleep Cycle benefits – according to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). When sunlight hits our eyes, a message is sent to the pineal gland in the brain and production of melatonin (a hormone that makes us drowsy and helps us sleep) is shut down until the sun goes down again. Try to get some sunlight early in the morning so your body knows it is day and triggers the pineal gland to stop releasing melatonin. To avoid confusing your circadian rhythm, try not to sit in dim settings during the day.

Skin benefits – Sunlight promotes healing of skin disorders, such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, jaundice and other fungal skin infections. In a study, a four-week outdoor sunbathing therapy was successfully used to significantly clear symptoms of psoriasis in 84 percent of subjects.  This alternative treatment method should be done under medical supervision and obviously too much sun is far from soothing on the skin.

Bone Health and Bright eyes – It’s a known fact that vitamin D stimulates the absorption of bone- strengthening calcium in the body.  Recent studies also indicate there is a direct connection between bone density and vitamin D3, which regulates calcium absorption, and is formed during vitamin D production when sunlight hits the skin.  The higher the vitamin D3 levels in the blood, the lower the risk of bone fractures.  Lower levels however are associated with a higher rate of fractures, which is why bone health is so important. Also, Vitamin D has been tentatively linked to lower incidence of cataracts, and studies show good D levels can lead to lower risk of macular degeneration (aging).

Don’t be SAD and improves Brain function – Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression common in the winter months and in people working long hours in the office who don’t get out in the sun much. Moderate sun exposure increases levels of natural antidepressants in the brain – on sunny days the brain makes more serotonin, a mood-lifting chemical, than on darker days. Also, studies have found sunlight could help spur nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memories.   

 Experts recommend no more than 15 to 20 minutes of direct sunlight daily. Remember to apply sunscreen with a minimum Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30. Remember skin color, where you live and how much skin you expose to the sun affect how much vitamin D you can produce.

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