IN MY house we have a saying: “If the sun is out, drop everything and get to the beach!” While this is realistically not always possible, I have always been of the mindset that we get so few weeks of sunshine in this country, compared to the dark grey days of our long winters, we must make the most of it while it is here.
This summer we seem to be having an amazing run of sunshine. But often, here in the UK, we cannot plan things a week ahead, because you simply don’t know if the weather will remain the same, and I guess that’s why it’s such a top topic of conversation for us Brits!
However, as soon as temperatures start rising, we get bombarded with the health message: beware of the sun. I get that the dangers of skin cancer from unprotected sun exposure are now well known. But that’s only half the story.
The health value of sunlight, lauded by the ancient Greeks and Romans, has been largely eclipsed in recent years by concerns about skin cancer. While this is a very real, and increasing, problem – more than 7,000 people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma in the UK each year – evidence is also emerging that small to moderate amounts of exposure, may be positively healthy.
It can protect against cancer:
Sunlight plays a vital role in the production of vitamin D in the body, and it’s believed that the vitamin may have a role in stopping or slowing the growth of tumours by preventing the overproduction of cells, as well as in boosting bones. vitamin D is available in some foods, but it is estimated that up to 90 per cent comes from exposure to sunlight.
It’s a very basic rule, but simply put, vitamin D sufficiency is required for optimal health. The conditions with strong evidence for a protective effect of vitamin D include several bone diseases, muscle weakness, more than a dozen types of internal cancers, multiple sclerosis and type-1 diabetes mellitus.
One of the first clues to a possible beneficial link between cancer and sunlight was the discovery of large geographic differences in the prevalence of colon cancer deaths in America. The rates in the states in the north were treble those in the south.
Since then, researchers have found that incidences of other cancers also vary according to levels of sunlight. For example, good levels of vitamin D have been shown to halve the risk of colon cancer.
Increased exposure to sunlight may also decrease the risk of prostate cancer. Researchers found that prostate cancer risk for men with high sun exposure was half that of men with low sun exposure.
It can boost survival rates
Research based on more than one million cancer patients in the UK shows that those diagnosed and treated in the summer and autumn are likely to survive longer compared with those diagnosed in the winter. For women diagnosed with breast cancer, survival chances increased by 14 per cent, and for men and women with lung cancer, there was a five per cent better survival rate.
It can protect against multiple sclerosis
Sunlight may also protect against MS and explain why the disease is more prevalent in areas most distant from the equator. Studies show that the disease, whose cause is unknown, is also more common at low altitudes than at high altitudes, where the intensity of ultraviolet radiation is much stronger. Apparently, higher sun exposure between the ages of six and 15 – an average or two to three hours or more a day in summer during weekends and holidays – more than halved the risk of getting the disease. One theory is that exposure to sunlight boosts the immune system to prevent the damage involved in the disease. Another is that vitamin D plays a key role in the growth of the developing brain.
It keeps us healthy
The risk of many diseases and disorders can be reduced by sunlight. Epidemiological data indicate a low vitamin D status in tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel diseases, hypertension, and specific types of cancer.
So, while you should be cautious, and not be exposed in direct sunshine for hours all day long, some daily exposure could just be what you need to boost your health. I see so many people in my clinics that are very deficient in minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin D, that is affecting their wellbeing.
Just taking time to go outside, breathing in the fresh air, spending some time walking at the beach or in the hills daily could potentially give your body what it needs to stay healthy.
So while we are lucky enough to be experiencing long sunny days right now, enjoy as much as you can! Skip work, take the day off, buy a paddle-board, learn to windsurf, sail or surf! Being outside in the elements makes you feel alive… and life is for thriving, right?
If you think you are deficient and could improve your health with a personal consultation contact me.