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    Posted by: Gillian Day BHSc. Comp Med, Adv Dip Nat, AFMCP Grad


    Medical research shows that a lack of sun exposure and vitamin D deficiency may lead to chronic illnesses—including autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases, cardiovascular disease, and cancers. Of course, excessive sun exposure can cause sunburn, which could lead to skin cancer. Most people need only 15 to 30 minutes of sunshine per day to obtain a healthy dose of vitamin D. Daily sunshine can also help reduce depression, improve your mood, build your immune system, and even kill off bad bacteria. The majority of public health messages of the past 50 years have focused on the dangers of too much sun exposure. One of the most successful advertising campaigns in Australian history was the 1980’s campaign ‘slip, slop, slap’ showing Sid the seagull – slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. This initiative started a monumental change in sun protection attitudes and behaviours in our country, from applying cooking oil and baking in the sun all day to a culture of wetsuits and rashies, 50+ sunscreens and sprays plus ‘no hat no play’ rules in our school playgrounds. However, there’s recently been some pushback on the above wisdom. Researchers have noted that underexposure to sun carries significant health risks, including depression, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. Plus, in 2018 – despite living in 1 of the sunniest countries in the world, the vitamin D deficiency rickets, which was once thought to be irradicated, has been found to be, once again a significant problem in the western world, including Australia. So what are the main benefits of the sun? See below our GR8 tips on the suns healing benefits.

    Healing benefits of the sun

    Sunlight can help to lower cholesterol

    The sun converts cholesterol in the blood into our steroid and sex hormones needed for reproduction and healthy, happy hormones. Interestingly, without adequate amounts of sunlight, the opposite happens; and our steroid and sex hormones convert to cholesterol.

    Sunlight builds a healthy and robust immune system.

    Our white blood cells, called lymphocytes increase with sun exposure. These lymphocytes are our primary defence troupes against minor and major infections.

    Sunlight can cure depression

    Sunlight encourages the release of serotonin and endorphins, which can instantly encourage a better mood – and over the long term, reduce the risk of suffering from depression. One easy way to ramp up this effect is by waiting at least a few minutes before putting on sunglasses. It’s when sunlight hits the retina that production of serotonin begins. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression and most often associated with those who live in the northern parts of the world who endure sunlight deprivation for 7+ months of the year. However,  you can also have a higher risk factor for SAD if you don’t expose yourself to the sun (e.g. if you work long hours indoors) we have access to.

    Sunlight encourages better sleep

    Due to adequate sunlight encouraging the release of serotonin which has a knock-on effect for adequate levels of melatonin in the body. Melatonin is critical for healthy sleep patterns.

    Sunlight helps to lower blood pressure

    When sunlight connects with the skin, a compound called nitric oxide is released into blood vessels, which helps to bring blood pressure levels down.

    Sunlight improves the strength of our bones

    The majority of us know that we need calcium to make strong bones and teeth. However, it’s from the vitamin D we gain from sunlight (and in smaller amounts, from some foods) that allows us to stimulate the absorption of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium in the gut to get it to the bones and teeth.

    How much do we need daily to be healthy

    In general, the aim should be for about 15 to 20 minutes of exposure on skin that is not exposed to sunscreen each and every day. This amount of sunlight can initiate the release of up to 50,000 IU (1.25mg) vitamin D within 24 hours of exposure. That can be as simple as on the arms and neck/chest area when wearing a singlet or t-shirt. It is much better to have a small amount of sun time daily rather than a sun binge on a single day, which might cause sunburn. It’s important to note that the darker your skin is the longer you will need in the sun each and every day as it takes longer for the sun to penetrate through darker skin.

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