Sunshine... Where are You?
If you live in Indiana and are like me, you have been asking this question a lot the last few weeks! Most of us intuitively look for and like to see the sun. I work on a number of people who actually like the cold (and even the snow), but I have yet to find someone who would prefer to have overcast days on a steady basis.
We are winding down our series on the Paleo Lifestyle, as outlined by a special edition of Paleo Magazine: "Go Paleo - The Step-By-Step Guide." This week, we are going to explore how the sun impacts our health. There is no doubt that as our society embraces advanced technology, we are spending more time indoors.
Could that actually be negatively impacting our health?
Sunshine and Physical Health
Let's go ahead and deal with the elephant in the room...
"Doc, don't you know, the sun causes cancer, especially skin cancer?"
Yeah, that is what I have always heard, and melanoma is the type of cancer most people associate with the sun. In fact, melanoma has been on the rise over the last twenty years, but is it due to sun exposure?
According to a study in the British Medical Journal of Dermatology, the rise in reported melanoma is actually due to the way they have started to classify the benign (non-cancerous) form of the disease over recent decades and not as a result of an increase in the actual malignant state.
An article by Dr. Mercola explores how there has been an increase in melanoma on those who are in the sun too little! I am not a dermatologist ("Dang it, Jim, I am a chiropractor, not a dermatologist!" - for all your Star Trek fans), and the relationship between the sun and skin cancer is complex. However, there is convincing evidence that some sun exposure is vital to skin health and other aspects of our well-being.
Adequate sun exposure has been linked to the following:
- Reduced risk of colorectal cancer
- Reduced risk of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Possible reduction in breast cancer risk
- Reduced reduction in prostate cancer
- Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis
- Treatment of metabolic syndrome
- Treatment of systemic lupus
- Treatment of inflammatory bowel disease
- Treatment of thyroiditis
- Reduction of blood pressure
At least in part, the benefits of sun exposure have been linked to the increase in vitamin D that happens when our skin is exposured adequately to UV rays, especially UVB. Next week, we will talk a little more about how to go about maximizing sun exposure and minimizing sun risks.
Sunshine and Mental Health
Seriously, who doesn't feel better mentally on a cold day when the sun warms your face? If you live north of I-70 in the United States, chances are, you've heard of S.A.D. - Seasonal Affective Disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder is thought to occur when low levels of sunlight in the winter impact serotonin and melatonin activity - two brain chemicals associated with depression. This can be diminished and reversed with, you guessed it, light and vitamin D exposure! There are other ways to impact this and, again, Dr. Mercola has a great article on the science of S.A.D.
Besides S.A.D., sunlight exposure has been seen to benefit:
- Non-seasonal depression
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
- Depression associated with pregnancy
- Anxiety-related disorders
- Panic attacks
Next week, we are going to talk more specifically about vitamin D, which has been linked heavily to a lot of disease states. We will discuss specifics on how it impacts health, as well as some practical ways and guidelines to increase it in your life through food, supplementation, and sun-exposure. Until then, especially if you live in Indiana, go out and get a little sun. I am pretty sure you won't get a sunburn this week!
Yours in Health,