Over the last few decades scientists and doctors have been telling the public to beware of the harmful effects of direct sunlight. It has been beaten into our collective consciousness that exposure to sunlight is the major cause of a variety of skin diseases, not the least of which is skin cancer. And so, being desiring to improve our health we began to limit our exposure to sunlight, and rushed out to buy skin creams and sun blocks to protect ourselves from perhaps the most natural element in God’s great and wonderful universe – sunshine. But, it turns out that ‘conventional’ wisdom may well have been miles off the mark, and sunlight may actually be a surprising ally in the prevention of a number of diseases and disorders, including cancer. By limiting our exposure, we may have actually been harming our health.
Sunlight and Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the most important building blocks of human health. It is essential for strong bones and teeth, and vitamin D deficiency is responsible for a number of chronic disorders including rickets in young children and osteoporosis in senior citizens. Vitamin D is also instrumental in maintaining a healthy immune system, regulating cell growth, and in inhibiting the production and growth of rogue cells and tumors. Unlike most essential vitamins and minerals, which can be obtained through a healthy diet and supplements, vitamin D requires exposure to the UVB radiation in sunlight to become active within the body. Without this exposure, the vitamin D remains largely inert and fails to perform its necessary functions.
Conventional Medicine and Vitamin D
Conventional medicine would have us believe that over the counter vitamin D supplements can compensate for a lack of exposure to the sun. However, it is important to understand that man-made vitamin D supplements are difficult for the body to absorb and process, and do not provide the protection of naturally occurring vitamin D. In fact, like many over the counter supplements they can actually lead to toxicity, which can cause a host of further health problems. Vitamin D, obtained through a healthy diet and sensible exposure to sunlight, is used by the body as it is needed and excreted as waste when there is an abundance. Clearly, this is the healthiest way for people to obtain the vitamin D they need to remain healthy and free of disease.
Sunscreens and Skin Cancer
While recent research has shown that exposure to natural sunlight is vital for the health of the human body, over exposure is still a concern. That being said, the majority of commercial sunscreens may actually increase a person’s risk for developing cancer. Most of these creams and ointments contain chemicals, such as benzophenone and oxybenzone, which are themselves carcinogenic. While the irony seems to be lost on the sunscreen industry, it should be a warning for those of us trying to protect ourselves from skin cancer and other diseases. To protect yourself from overexposure, consider natural alternatives to commercial sun blocks and sunscreens. Aloe Vera protects the skin from the potentially damaging effects of ultraviolet rays, and has long been used to help heal burns, cuts, and abrasions. Virgin coconut oil also makes for an effective sunscreen, blocking harmful ultraviolet rays while allowing the skin to absorb the health giving goodness of the sun.
The dangers of sunlight exposure appear to have been greatly exaggerated, and recent research is showing that we need the sunshine to maintain our optimal health. In addition to helping to prevent cancer, exposure to natural sunlight helps to release endorphins that improve our mood and boost our energy levels. Regular doses of sunlight also helps to suppress the recurring symptoms of many autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, and can help to relieve the pain associated with fibromyalgia. The benefits of sunlight are many, and clearly we must learn to embrace the sunshine again if we are to maintain our total optimal health.