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Sunshine: The Many Health Benefits & How to Get More of It

Updated: 4 days ago

We’re sun advocates ☀️


You may know by now we’re big advocates of regular direct sun exposure for kids and adults, and this time we’re delving into exactly why that is, how the sun has helped us, how we get it, how you can too, and the many many MANY benefits of doing so.


There’s a long list of benefits of getting sun time throughout the day but here’s a general overview of the main benefits:


– boosts immunity


– lowers risk of various cancers including skin cancer (yep true story!)


– improves gut health


– enhances eye sight


– improves sleep


– balances hormones


– helps reduce depression symptoms


– strengthens bones and teeth


+ more!


It’s a big post of hopefully very helpful info and inspiration! I hope you get a lot out of this one.


 

We need more than the Vitamin D


Sunlight exposure, direct on our skin and in our eyes, at different times of the day is super important. We used to think it was enough to sit outside near the middle of the day for a while to get Vitamin D time but have since learnt that’s far from enough, we actually need sunrise and late afternoon sunlight too. Interesting ey?!


𝙀𝙖𝙧𝙡𝙮 𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙨𝙪𝙣:


Sunrise light turns on our ‘get up and go’ hormones and the low UV-B doesn’t allow for skin to tan/burn but actually gets the skin ready for higher UV-B later on in the day when there’s Vitamin D available from the sun. The UV-A sun helps strengthen and enhance the skin! The light in the first few hours of the day helps regulate the circadian rhythm, which helps the body produce melatonin naturally at night time, improving sleep quality.


𝙈𝙞𝙙𝙙𝙖𝙮 𝙑𝙞𝙩𝙖𝙢𝙞𝙣 𝘿 𝙨𝙪𝙣:


Later in the morning Vitamin D becomes available and increases in strength until solar noon arrives then decreases over the course of the afternoon as the light continues to change. This window is when we can access crucial Vitamin D, which some prefer to call a ‘hormone’ rather than a ‘vitamin’. D is available in some foods and in supplement form but best sourced direct from the sun through eyes and skin. D from any other source can be over-done whereas the human body can self-regulate D from the sun and utilise it appropriately. The human body is amazing! When we say the skin absorbs it, just getting it on arms and legs isn’t enough, the genital areas in particular need a regular dose of direct D.


𝙇𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙖𝙛𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙣𝙤𝙤𝙣 𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩:


“In the late afternoon, infra-red light acts to help repair damage to skin that has been overexposed to UV rays at solar noon.” – Dr Jack Kruse



So yeah, we kinda need to be outdoors A LOT! Our ancestors didn’t to make an effort to do so like most of us do today (I’m sitting outside using my laptop as I type this), it was their way of life. But today we lead such an indoor lifestyle it can be hard to get outside often to utilise the sun for health.


 

Getting better sleep; balancing the circadian rhythm


This biological rhythm inside the body is connected with the day and night cycles of the sun.



According to this published study from MIT, here’s why the circadian rhythm is important:


“Studies in animals have found that when circadian rhythm is thrown off, health problems including obesity and metabolic disorders such as diabetes can arise. People who work night shifts have an increased susceptibility to obesity and diabetes. Researchers at MIT have also discovered a link between a disruption in circadian cycles and aging. Just about everything that takes place physiologically is really staged along the circadian cycle,” Leonard Guarente senior author of the paper says. “What’s now emerging is the idea that maintaining the circadian cycle is quite important in health maintenance, and if it gets broken, there’s a penalty to be paid in health and perhaps in aging.” The body naturally synchs itself with the rise and setting of the sun and light cycles of the earth.


Living in the modern indoor world certainly has it’s benefits, but one of the biggest downside is the negative effect it’s having on sleep patterns.



The circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock which runs in the background of the brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.


In short, it’s our sleep/wake cycle.


A part of the hypothalamus (part of the brain) controls the circadian rhythm but outside factors like lightness and darkness also play a big role.


When it becomes light in the morning, the body receives a signal that it’s time to wake up, be alert and active.


When it’s dark at night, your eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus that it’s time to feel tired. Your brain, in turn, sends a signal to your body to release melatonin, which makes your body tired.


That’s why your circadian rhythm tends to coincide with the cycle of day and night time.


By exposing the body to sunlight at different times of the day we can balance the circadian rhythm and improve sleep. Blue light blocking at night helps too but that’s a topic for another day!


 

How to get the most out of the sun time you get


Being outdoors in the sunshine at various times of the day is great, it’s a start, but there are lots of unobvious ways we could be missing out on the benefits, even hindering them and making the sun-time unhealthy! Eek!



𝙁𝙊𝙊𝘿


By eating crappy processed plant-based oils (canola, veg oil, conventional olive oil and variations etc) and junk foods we cause inflammation in the body and can actually ‘burn’ the skin from the inside out when we’re in the sun. You could be the most dedicated sunbather but if you’re eating junk then you’re possibly doing more harm to your skin than if you stayed indoors more often.


A paleo-based nutrition approach and consuming quality animal fats is much better when you’re spending time in the sun.


𝙎𝙐𝙉𝙉𝙄𝙀𝙎


One of the best absorbers of nutrients from the sun is our eyes. When we cover them up with sunglasses (and even hats that shade our eyes) we miss out on the goodness the sun gives, and can even do harm to our eyesight. Wearing sunglasses when spending prolonged periods outdoors is smart but generally we need at least 20 mins a day (each, at sunrise then midday and then late afternoon) letting the sun enter our eyes.



𝙎𝙐𝙉𝙎𝘾𝙍𝙀𝙀𝙉


Even natural sunscreen blocks a lot of the goodness, but chemical sunscreens are worse because they can contribute to skin cancers and have a lot of other health problems associated. Wearing chem-free sunscreen when being outside for long periods of time is a good idea and depending on your skin type, but most of us can build up sun tolerance and not burn or receive damage when we go sunscreen-free, we’ll talk more about this later.


𝘾𝙇𝙊𝙏𝙃𝙄𝙉𝙂


Naked sun time is by the far the best way to get the benefits from sunshine but that’s not possible for everyone to do! The less clothing the better though. And building up the skin’s tolerance over time.


𝙒𝘼𝙏𝙀𝙍


Vitamin D is actually water soluble and can wash off of our skin when we’re swimming and scrubbing after a beach session. Swim/shower before a sunbaking session for maximum results.


 

The gut health & Vitamin D link


“Could sunlight be the fastest way to tune your gut health? The way your body forms your immune response is fascinating.


It’s bacteria that live amongst the lungs, participate in oxygen respiration, and regulate the immune system with the gut.


Previously I’ve posted how vitamin D directly regulates the airway via the lung microbiome, but let’s look further into the light-microbe connection.


Sunlight exposure changes the human gut microbiome, specifically in people who are vitamin D-deficient. Research has revealed a protective effect of UVB against inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis or inflammatory bowel disease.


That is UV light, entering your skin, changing. If you get enough sunlight and have other digestive or hormonal imbalances, your vitamin D levels may not rise.


Inflammatory lung conditions like asthma relate to low vitamin D. Bleeding gums and gum disease relate to low vitamin D. IBS, Crohn’s and chronic digestive disorders? All underlie vitamin D.


There is a lot more to UV light, immune and gut microbe changes. Disease causing bacteria were found to decrease with higher exposure to sunlight.


A 2020 study concluded: “human lifestyle concerning sunlight exposure should be considered as one force modulating the gut microbiome, highlighting, as proposed by Bosman et al, a novel skin-gut axis which is associated with health and disease.” Here’s a summary: Your body absorbs UV light and creates an anti-bacterial or anti-viral infection in response to the environment.


TIP: "Try exposing the belly button to sunlight to get direct exposure through where we absorb nutrients; the umbilical cord.” – Dr Steven Lin


Amazing info! Does this inspire you to get a bit mo