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Studying the Sun

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A spoonful of sunshine may be the medicine we're missing in our modern age of savvy supplements, designer diets, and winning workouts. Today's science is discovering the ancient healing powers of the life-giving sun we've been shading ourselves from.

A spoonful of sunshine may be the medicine we’re missing in our modern age of savvy supplements, designer diets, and winning workouts. Today’s science is discovering the ancient healing powers of the life-giving sun we’ve been shading ourselves from.

The key to this sunny news is vitamin D. The most natural and reliable source of this nutrient is through sunshine. The sun’s ultraviolet rays on the skin help the body manufacture vitamin D, a necessary element for health. Through increased time spent indoors and our recent habits of slathering on sunscreen and avoiding the sun for health and wrinkling reasons, we once again learn that nature had intended a balance.

While we’ve been avoiding the sun to prevent skin cancer, we’ve also been increasing our risk for developing other cancers. Population studies have shown that higher levels of vitamin D may reduce the risk of colon cancer by approximately 60 per cent. In fact, according to Dr. Michael Murray and his coauthors of How to Prevent and Treat Cancer with Natural Medicine (Riverhead Books, 2002), colon cancer rates are higher in areas that get less sunshine. They also report that colon, breast, and prostate cancer rates are generally higher in regions where winter sunlight is reduced. Researchers at the US National Cancer Institute have found that people exposed to high levels of sunlight are significantly less likely to die from breast and colon cancer.

Research has also linked our lack of sunshine to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, osteomalacia, rickets, skin conditions, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, fatigue, dental caries and even the severity of the common cold.

Most recently, the Institute of Health Sciences in Oxford studied 5,000 multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers and found that sunshine may act as protection against the progression of the disease, in which the body’s immune system attacks its nerves. This supports the view of many scientists who have found that living far from the equator, where sunlight is weaker, is a risk factor for MS.

The link between sunshine and vitamin D is becoming well understood in terms of bone health. Vitamin D increases calcium absorption and regulates the calcification and mineralization of the bones. Little known, however, is how sun exposure can increase immunity. Vitamin D increases infection-fighting white blood cells and enhances overall immunity. This makes sense when we learn that sunshine can help prevent and treat autoimmune diseases such as MS, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic fatigue syndrome. We’ve all experienced the power of a sunny day to make us feel better&it boosts us, so to speak. With a boosted immunity we have better health and increased protection from disease.

While vitamin D supplements and vitamin D-containing foods (sprouted seeds, mushrooms, sunflowers seeds, egg yolks, organic butter, and fish) can be helpful, these sources must first be converted by the liver before becoming fully active. Only the sun provides a ready-to-go source of vitamin D. Most experts recommend exposing the face and arms to sun (without sunscreen) for 10 to 15 minutes at least three times a week.

When it comes to sunshine, yes, too much of a good thing is unhealthy, but so is too little. Look up to the healing powers of the sun and enjoy a warming dose of natural medicine.

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