12 Reasons Staying Out of the Sun is Making You Sick

If you’re concerned about cardiovascular disease, your mental health, osteoporosis, sleep issues, hormone issues, or cancer, your vitamin D levels should be at the top of your radar. Almost everyone around the world now is showing significant depletion in their vitamin D levels, yet surprisingly most insurance companies won’t pay for annual vitamin D testing when you go to get your annual blood work, therefore your doctors are not looking at this hormone that is vital to your ability to heal and maintain vitality and health both mentally and physically.

There are a couple of reasons for this global deficiency of vitamin D with the main one being lack of direct daily sunlight exposure. We’ve been led to believe that the sun is our enemy and the main cause of skin cancer and we’ve even been told that sun gazing can lead to blindness. So over the last 40 years, people have been programmed to cover their bodies and stay out of the sun, or to wear copious amounts of sunscreen.

The second most common reason for vitamin D deficiency is the VDR taq gene mutation. This alteration in our genetic code happens in a percentage of the population and put simply, it prevents the body from being able to use its own Vitamin D (whether made from sun exposure or taken nutritionally).

I once had a professional tennis player from Italy working with me for reasons of severe fatigue despite his amazing nutritional and lifestyle regimen. After ordering some blood work on him that included looking at his Vitamin D markers, we discovered that his vitamin D levels were extremely low. For reference, the standard medical model range for acceptable vitamin D levels ranges between 20 ng/ml and 50 ng/ml. For comparison, functional and regenerative medicine practitioners know that the optimal range for vitamin D is well above the standard medical recommendations, ranging between 60 and 100 ng/ml for optimal health. This tennis player had his vitamin D below 30 ng/ml.

Needless to say, he was astonished because he was spending around 6 hours per day outside playing tennis with minimal sunscreen if any at all. With this information, I realized he might have another reason for his deficiency and that he might have the VDR taq mutation. A simple genetic test confirmed my suspicions and I was able to explain to him that while direct sun exposure would still be necessary for so many different aspects of his health (we discuss many of these aspects in this article), he would need to take a Vitamin D supplement (with Vitamin K) as a part of his daily lifestyle routine going forward.

It didn’t take long after starting on his daily supplementation with my recommended dose of Vitamin D/K before this professional athlete got his energy back and needless to say he was super grateful he ended up working with someone who looked deep under the hood to help him find the answers and solutions he needed so he could get back to living his best life!

So what about this whole sunscreen thing, this supposed sun exposure ‘myth’, and what all does Vitamin D and direct sun exposure really do for my health and wellbeing?

For the past four decades, we’ve been bombarded with messages about the dangers of sun exposure. The advice to slather on sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and stay out of the sun has become almost gospel. But recent scientific discoveries have flipped this narrative on its head. It turns out the sun isn’t the villain we’ve been led to believe. In fact, avoiding sun exposure can lead to a whole slew of serious health issues, from osteoporosis to mental health problems. Let’s dive into why sunlight and vitamin D are so crucial for our overall well-being and the surprising benefits they bring.

The Myth of the Sun as a Danger

For years, health experts have warned us about the dangers of the sun, especially the risk of skin cancer. New research shows that moderate sun exposure is not only safe but essential for our health. Interestingly, a study found that skin cancer rates actually increased in Norwegians after they started using sunscreen widely. Some researchers believe that the known carcinogenic ingredients in sunscreen could be one of the causes of the increased skin cancer while others see the correlation between low Vitamin D levels caused by the sunscreen’s ability to prevent natural Vitamin D production as another possible root cause of skin cancer since Vitamin D is known to prevent many types of cancers.

Sunlight does so much more than just help our bodies produce vitamin D.

Let’s look at 12 known health benefits of sun exposure…

…and understand why staying out of the sun may be making and keeping you sick.

  1. Boosts Vitamin D Levels: Vitamin D, often referred to as “the sunshine vitamin,” is actually a steroid hormone that influences your entire body. Vitamin D receptors have been found in almost every type of human cell, from your brain to your bones.
  2. Improves Bone Health: Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb and transport calcium and other minerals, which are vital for strong bones and preventing osteoporosis.
  3. Enhances Cardiovascular Health: Sun exposure helps lower blood pressure and improves heart health by triggering the release of nitric oxide. Historical evidence also shows that Jamaicans who migrated to England after WWII to assist in rebuilding the country experienced significantly higher rates of cardiovascular disease after moving there due to reduced sunlight exposure.
  4. Reduces Risk of Metabolic Syndrome: Sunlight can help decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and excess body fat.
  5. Improves Mental Health: Sunlight increases serotonin and dopamine levels, which can improve mood and alleviate depression and anxiety.
  6. Regulates Sleep Patterns: Sun exposure, including sun gazing during the first hour of sunrise, helps regulate our circadian rhythm, promoting better sleep quality by increasing melatonin production at night.
  7. Boosts Immune Function: Vitamin D from sun exposure enhances the pathogen-fighting effects of monocytes and macrophages — white blood cells critical to our immune defense.
  8. Enhances Skin Health: Sun exposure can help treat certain skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and acne by suppressing overactive immune responses in the skin.
  9. Aids Weight Loss: Some studies suggest that sunlight exposure can help regulate body fat and improve metabolic health.
  10. Prevents Some Cancers: Sun exposure has been linked to a lower risk of certain cancers due to the protective effects of vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels render individuals more vulnerable to aggressive forms of breast and prostate cancer).
  11. Promotes Longevity: Studies show that people with higher sun exposure have a lower risk of mortality and may live longer.
  12. Supports Hormone Regulation and Pineal Gland Activation: Sun gazing during the first hour of sunlight can help regulate hormones by stimulating the pineal gland, which produces melatonin and serotonin, crucial for sleep and mood regulation.

Cholesterol and Heart Health

Sunlight also helps keep our cholesterol levels in check. Exposure to UVB rays from the sun converts cholesterol in the skin into vitamin D. Without enough sun exposure, the cholesterol levels build up because the process of conversion from cholesterol to vitamin D becomes disrupted, leading to high cholesterol levels. Daily sun exposure is essential for cardiovascular health.

Brain Chemistry and Mental Health

Sunlight has a significant impact on our brain chemistry. Natural light boosts the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. Low serotonin levels are linked to depression, anxiety, and sleep issues. Sunlight also helps regulate melatonin production, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

Circadian Rhythm and Sleep

Our circadian rhythm, or internal body clock, is influenced by light exposure. Sunlight helps regulate our sleep patterns by signaling to our brain when it’s time to wake up and when it’s time to sleep. Lack of sunlight can disrupt this natural rhythm, leading to sleep disorders like insomnia, as well as brain fog, decreased memory, and hormonal disruption. Proper sunlight exposure during the day helps ensure a good night’s sleep, which is essential for overall brain and body health.

The Surprising Link Between Sunlight and Skin Cancer

Contrary to what we’ve been told, some studies suggest that moderate sun exposure may actually reduce the risk of certain types of skin cancer. This counterintuitive finding is based on the premise that vitamin D, produced through sun exposure, has protective effects against cancer. While it’s still important to avoid excessive sun exposure and prevent sunburn, completely avoiding the sun may do more harm than good.

The Problem with Sunscreen

Many sunscreens contain harmful chemicals that can do more harm than good. For example, oxybenzone, a common ingredient in sunscreen, is not only linked to an increased risk of skin cancer but also damages marine life, including corals and horseshoe crabs. Other chemicals in sunscreens can disrupt hormones and even increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread.

  • Oxybenzone: Found in 70% of sunscreens, linked to endocrine (hormone) disruption and reduced sperm count in men.
  • Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC): Can cause hormone disruption.
  • Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA): Known to cause allergic reactions.
  • Octyl salicylate: Can penetrate the skin and cause toxic side effects.
  • Phenylbenzimidazole: Another potential endocrine disruptor.
  • Octocrylene: Linked to skin allergies.
  • Octisalate: Can penetrate the skin and cause hormone disruption.
  • Dioxybenzone: Associated with allergic reactions.
  • Menthyl anthranilate: Potentially harmful to the skin.
  • Homosalate: Known to disrupt hormone activity.
  • Octinoxate: Linked to endocrine (hormone) disruption.
  • Cinoxate: Can cause skin allergies.
  • Parabens: Widely used preservatives that can mimic estrogen causing obesity, thyroid cancer, and other conditions related to hormone disruption.
 

And finally, while many think that vitamin A is good for the skin (and it is!) Certain forms of it can actually make the skin hypersensitive to sun exposure and cause burning of the skin. Many sunscreens contain vitamin A and its derivatives, retinol and retinyl palmitate, which are linked to an increased risk of skin cancer by accelerating the development and spread of malignant cells. So when you are looking for ‘clean’ sunscreens, put them back on the shelf and don’t use them if they contain any type of vitamin A.

Embracing the Healing Power of the Sun

I have always believed in the intelligence of Mother Nature and have been happy to see all the new research showing that the sun isn’t the enemy we once thought it was. While it’s important to protect ourselves from excessive sun exposure, moderate sun exposure on a daily basis is crucial for our health. The benefits of sunlight, from boosting vitamin D levels to regulating brain chemistry, body chemistry, immune function, and sleep patterns, cannot be overstated.

I predict we will continue to see new research, debunking many medical recommendations we’ve believed to be true for the last 50 years. Recommendations that we now realize have had direct correlations to the massive rise in worldwide chronic illness and diseases we are seeing today.

It’s fascinating and delightful to see so many things rooted in ancestral wisdom coming full circle and finally being validated with updated science that is being published in mainstream medical journals. The future of healthcare is being rewritten now. This is Modern Holistic Health. The medicine of the future. Let’s do better together. Let’s heal together. Let’s thrive together with total and complete health and vibrancy!

Citations

  1. Holick, M. F. (2004). Vitamin D: Importance in the prevention of cancers, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79(3), 362-371.
  2. Wacker, M., & Holick, M. F. (2013). Sunlight and Vitamin D: A global perspective for health. Dermato-Endocrinology, 5(1), 51-108.
  3. Hoel, D. G., Berwick, M., de Gruijl, F. R., & Holick, M. F. (2016). The risks and benefits of sun exposure 2016. Dermato-Endocrinology, 8(1), e1248325.
  4. Manson, J. E., & Bassuk, S. S. (2018). Vitamin D Research and Clinical Practice: At a Crossroads. JAMA, 319(24), 2448-2450.
  5. Garcion, E., Wion-Barbot, N., Montero-Menei, C. N., Berger, F., & Wion, D. (2002). New clues about vitamin D functions in the nervous system. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, 13(3), 100-105.
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