Monday, July 7, 2014

Here Comes the Sun!

This is not an article about wearing sunscreen. As a lover of summer and the sunshine that comes with it, I want to put forth some positive press about the sun. Our biggest and brightest star out there tends to get a bad rap because of its harmful UV rays. I would guess most families are headed to the beach this summer (good times!) or are hanging out poolside where there are many good reasons to enjoy the sun. Your body receives and truly needs benefits from the sun that are tough to obtain from just food or supplements.

Please don't get me wrong, in giving three cheers for the sun I am not promoting a lack of sunscreen or use of tanning beds. We should all use common sense and avoid risks such as skin cancer. I just want to remind and comfort this audience that some exposure to the sun can actually boost one's health (there is a reason "sunny days" has a happy connotation)!

The National Institutes of Health recommends 15 minutes in the sun WITHOUT sunscreen a couple of times a week.  Why?  Vitamins, minerals, and hormones oh my!
Our bodies NEED sunshine for the natural use of vitamins. Vitamin D is the biggest benefit (often called "the sunshine vitamin") which helps our bodies in the following ways:
  • bone health 
  • anti-cancer* 
  • immune system support 
  • losing excess fat 
  • decreasing asthma symptoms 
  • strengthening teeth 
  • protection against dementia and brain aging 
  • heart disease 
  • fighting insomnia and depression 
*Optimizing vitamin D levels may actually help prevent as many as 16 different types of cancer including pancreatic, lung, breast, ovarian, prostrate and colon cancers.

Vitamin D is like a big brother to Calcium. Your body relies on vitamin D to be able to absorb calcium. If you don’t have enough vitamin D, you cannot form enough of a hormone called Calcitriol. Without this hormone, you’ll have insufficient calcium thereby causing your body to take calcium from your skeleton (no bueno). This, in turn, weakens your bones and prevents growth of new bone, say the experts at National Institutes of Health. Calcium also allows your blood to clot plus optimal function of muscles, heart and nerves. 

While Vitamin D is like a big brother to Calcium, its BFF is Magnesium. When one is low, so is the other. The sun provides vitamin D which in turn gives the body sufficient use of magnesium. And why do we need magnesium? 

  • proper growth and maintenance of bones 
  • best performance of nerves and muscles 
  • neutralizes stomach acid 
  • moves stools through the intestine 

I saved the best benefit for last...that happy natural high one gets from sunshine!

In a recent news story, NBC reported some beach goers having addict like reactions from the sun. They reported evidence of endorphins equivalent to those received from ingesting pain killers such as OxyContin. I believe it regarding the endorphins but addiction, really? Seems a bit extreme to me. Can't a girl get a freckle or two + sunshiny happy without being called an addict?! I say go have your fun in the sun this summer with confidence that you're gaining vitamin d (and calcium and magnesium!) to boost your health. If you are not a fan of the sun's rays, live in a climate where the sun doesn't peek out much, or have to be inside for that pesky thing called work, you can add foods rich in vitamin d to your diet.

OR better yet, make sure you're giving your body the benefits of vitamin D (and its little brother Calcium and BFF Magnesium)

Stacie Tracy