Is Sun Exposure Good or Bad For You?
There is so much debate involving whether the sun is good for you or bad for you, so I decided to do a post on it.
I have noticed that everyone recommends something different depending on the studies that they are most aligned with.
Also, let’s not forget the focus of many campaigns that have talked about the perils of sunshine.
We have come from a culture of roasting in the sunshine to completely avoiding the sunshine because of skin cancer, and getting vitamin D deficiency.
Here is my take on it in a nutshell:
Sun exposure is so good for you! In moderation. With protection.
I will explain why.
How Does Sunshine Benefit your Body?
There are multiple benefits that the mind and body receive from the sunshine, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Let’s start with vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for absorbing minerals to keep our bones, muscles and teeth strong but it is essential for our immunity and for so many more metabolic functions in the body.
Unlike many essential vitamins that are obtained by food, vitamin D can be synthesised through a photosynthetic reaction that is triggered by the presence of UVB radiation, which is from the sun.
90% is produced by sunlight and 10% by food.
The efficiency of the vitamin D production from sunlight depends on the UVB protons that are penetrated into the skin.
Although the skin cells carry out this process, it is the liver where the conversion occurs, mostly.
If you are well-covered in clothing, sunscreen and have excess body fat, this will be reduced.
Also, you have to take into consideration the skin pigment melanin. The darker the skin, the more vitamin D deficiency.
For instance, half an hour in the sun in a swimsuit yields 1.25mg of Vitamin D in the blood circulation if you have light skin.
Tanned skin yields half of that and dark skin yields half of that again at around .30mg.
Which reveals of course that darker skin needs six times more skin exposure than pale skin for essential vitamin D photosynthesis.
It is recommended that a daily dose of 10-15 minutes for lighter skin and up to 120 minutes (dependant on skin pigments) of sun exposure provides good vitamin D production.
Which also explains how winters and countries where light is restricted and the need for clothes encourages the likeliness of SAD.
In fact, there are many conditions associated with lack of vitamin D but also less than optimal mental and physical health for all of us.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to sun-sensitive individuals and those taking medication that cause photosensitivity and they will need a good diet and supplements.
Vitamin D allows calcium absorption from the gastrointestinal tract.
Are Vitamin D Supplements Enough?
In my opinion, supplements are never enough because there is no comparison with supplements versus foods (but necessary to take for some).
The body gets good vitamin D from food sources, like oily fish: mackerel, sardines, tuna, salmon, red meat, egg yolks and mushrooms, throughout these times.
Food is medicine.
Note: a low inflammation, gut healthy lifestyle supports your liver, immunity, cells, blood; everything!
The bioavailability of nutrients in foods are always better than supplements because it is hard to increase serum levels via supplement alone.
It doesn’t even have to be organic but food is always a better way of attaining the right nutrients.
Which is why I am not a great fan of veganism because there shouldn’t be a need for supplements.
We should be getting everything we need from a balanced diet.
(There are so many vegan and vegetarian recipes on the Eat Burn Sleep program but in order to achieve optimum health, there’s special advice and support in how to implement animal products back into your diet).
You may also be interested in watching the video I made about why I don’t think that being a vegan is a good move for optimum health.
Is Everyone Dairy Intolerant?
Vitamin D is also present in dairy (but I don’t recommend dairy for so many reasons) but it is hard to digest.
Although, it is interesting to note that people that come from Northern Europe are more likely to be carrying the gene that produces lactase – which allows them to digest lactose in the milk.
This means that these people will be able to extract vitamin D from dairy. Whereas, I can’t because I am from Morocco.
What Happens to our Bodies Without Vitamin D?
Unfortunately, many Covid-19 fatalities were linked with vitamin D deficiency.
People that had less sun were more affected by the corona virus because vitamin D is an immune regulator.
To fight viruses and to stop autoimmune issues, it is important to have high levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is important to maintain serum calcium and phosphorous levels to support metabolic functions, bone mineralization and neuromuscular transmission.
Maintaining a good serum level is imperative to reduce many conditions, both physically and mentally.
Without vitamin D, bones do not form properly, causing rickets in children and osteoporosis in women and men and go on to form a painful disease called osteomalacia.
Breastfed infants of women who are vitamin D deficient are also at great risk.
Without vitamin D we are more prone to a weakened immune, low moods, depression, premenstrual tension, hormonal disorders, sleep disorders, metabolic conditions and more susceptible to pain.
Should I Avoid the Sun on Statins?
You need vitamin D supplementation and exposure to sunshine if you are on statins because statins lower cholesterol and you need cholesterol for vitamin D production.
Follow the advice on sunbathing safely below to ensure you get maximum vitamin D.
You may be interested in watching the video I have done about Cholesterol in the Videos section.
Sunshine Exposure and Cancer
Sun exposure and skin cancer surfaced in the late nineteenth century and people were cautioned to steer clear of the midday sun and not expose themselves to direct sunlight for more than ten minutes a day.
Three types of skin cancer became common around the world and the message was that too much sun caused skin cancer.
Yet, did you know that too little sunshine can be detrimental to other cancers?
Studies show that scientists are worried about the emphasis on avoiding skin cancer, which obscures the larger concerns of diseases which can be treated with sun exposure.
Too little vitamin D in the body is linked to major illnesses
So getting moderate sun exposure is more likely to be beneficial than not.
Members can read specialized advice for cancer prevention and recovery support here.
Also, listen to my special guest: Karin Greenberg on the Eat Burn Sleep podcast on Surviving Breast Cancer. Her technique in coping is inspirational!
How the Sunshine Combats Viruses
Vitamin D induces cathelicidin which is a polypeptide that effectively combats bacterial and viral infections.
Which explains why effective treatment for influenza and tuberculosis in the last century was focused on putting patients in bed in the fresh air!
Also, why people with sicknesses like tuberculosis, bronchitis, diabetes, rheumatic disorders and wounds were sent to rest in sunny climes, in latter years.
Sunshine is linked to disease inhibition in arthritis, autoimmune diseases, thyroid, IBD and many other diseases.
How the Sunshine Helps Sleep
We are creatures that are programmed to be outdoors in the daylight and in bed when it is dark.
It is this time that nocturnal melatonin is produced to aid easier sleep patterns.
Melatonin is a key hormone for setting the body’s circadian rhythms.
Communicating a repeat signal to the brain and body, melatonin rises after dusk, commanding our bodies to go to sleep and decreases throughout the night until we are exposed to sunlight or bright artificial light in the morning.
Active wakefulness is kicked in until dusk and the cycle is repeated.
Melatonin also plays an important role in reducing inflammation, countering infection, suppressing skin damage and clearing other diseases.
Why the Sunshine Suppresses Appetite
Exposure to sunlight encourages the release of serotonin.
Also known as the happiness hormone, serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced in the central nervous system and in the gut.
Serotonin is responsible for regulating mood, sleep, appetite, digestion, memory, learning and other cognitive functions.
As a precursor for melatonin, serotonin is also affected by daylight exposure and is only converted to melatonin in the darkness.
Moderately high serotonin levels result in positive moods and good mental wellbeing.
Modern day indoor work and play activity reduces melatonin production, so if you work or play inside a lot, it is important to go outside regularly or seek beneficial lighting and sleep in total darkness.
This will have a major effect on energy, mood and sleep quality.
Because the sunlight helps the regulation of sleep and producing melatonin and serotonin, the body’s stress levels are decreased.
Eat Burn Sleep’s gut health program is packed with serotonin-inducing recipes, balancing the gut-brain axis.
How to Sunbathe Safely
I love moderate sun exposure, with a hat on and SPF50 for my face and SPF30 for my body, which I reapply regularly.
Not forgetting hydration and drinking lots of water (untreated, preferably).
I use a sunscreen by Organic Pharmacy regularly (and you can find this and the water I recommend on my Yalda Loves page).
I also use a mineral sun screen which I change regularly because I love trying different skincare products. Plus you need to buy a new one each year because they go off.
I advise exposing the forearms and shins for thirty minutes between the hours of 12 noon and 3pm, throughout the warmer months, for maximum vitamin D production.
It is important to remember that sunshine enters the skin, even through a high SPF sunscreen, so you can maximise the vitamin D production by spending more time outside but with sunscreen on!
Without it, skin damage would be quite substantial (and vitamin D is not increased with longer spells in the sun).
It just makes sense to wear sunscreen and a hat, to minimise the risk of photo-ageing and skin cancer.
Also, moments without sunglasses are important because wearing them all of the time alters melatonin rhythms.
When sunlight enters your eyes, it stimulates the part of your retina that then cue your brain to produce serotonin, that feel-good hormone!
It is good to note also that we don’t store vitamin D from one season to another. We store it in the liver and we utilise it!
Benefits of Sun Exposure Summary:
•Serotonin production – a natural appetite suppressant and better mood elevator!
•Vitamin D – produced by the kidneys, allowing for calcium absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. Stronger bones!
•90% of vitamin D is produced from sunlight exposure and 10% from food
•Vitamin D is essential for immunity and lowering inflammation
•Better sleep – sunlight exposure supports our circadian rhythm and sleep function
•Better mental health- reduces risks of depression, stress and SAD (seasonal affective disorder)
•Anti-inflammatory effects at systemic level – disease protection
You can really feel the benefits of being outside in the sunshine.
When it comes to food, exercise, having fun, being in the sun and going to bed early, there’s always the same principle I apply: moderation.
I am all about getting as much upside from all situations and as little downside as possible – and would totally recommend safe sun exposure for keeping happy, keeping healthy and keeping the inflammation down!
Look after yourselves. Look after your health. It is the best form of self-respect and self-love.
You may also be interested in:
Also, since we are talking about sunshine, this anti-inflammatory snack, which I call ‘Sunshine on a Plate!’ based on how it looks, will uplift you on the inside too!
Serve with a slice of lemon in water – garden, porch or poolside!
Have a beautiful day!