We just spent the most relaxing two hours in the warmth of the mid October sun right in our own front yard. North Carolina autumns are such a far cry from the ones we spent in the northern part of this country where it was typically much cooler and the slant of the sun rarely gave way to warmth and no true vitamin D absorption.
But, did you know that the sun provides much more for your health than merely vitamin D?
The human body uses sunlight to create a number of hormones and chemical reactions. One important one is endorphins. Endorphins not only make you feel good but they are responsible for numerous other activities in the body including enhancing your immune system.
Another direct result of being exposed to sunlight (in particular UVR), is the creation of serotonin. Serotonin is one happy hormone. Without it, you just don’t always feel like you can handle the day. You also may have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Another benefit of serotonin is it will regulate your appetite. This increases the likelihood you can lose weight easier.
Still another happy hormone is oxytocin. And again, without sunshine, you just won’t release enough to make a difference in your disposition. This keeps Seasonal Affective Disorder at bay. The best way to get oxytocin is to get outside in the autumn and in winter.
One final happy hormone that is affected by sunshine is dopamine. Although you may need at least 30 minutes to activate this happy hormone, you will definitely recognize when you have less of it in your body.
What Are Other Health Benefits of Sunlight?
According to a scientific paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives,
“Whereas skin cancer is associated with too much UVR exposure, other cancers could result from too little. Living at higher latitudes increases the risk of dying from Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as breast, ovarian, colon, pancreatic, prostate, and other cancers, as compared with living at lower latitudes.”
Sunlight can help clear skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and acne when sun exposure timed and monitored. People with mild conditions may find relief when they place affected areas in direct sunlight. It only takes a few minutes to reap the benefits.
Without exposure to the sun, a deficiency in Vitamin D has been linked to a greater risk of developing a number of cancers, cardiovascular disease, cognitive issues in the elderly and type I and II diabetes. In addition, Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory benefits that may help relieve your aches and pains.
Studies show that Vitamin D is crucial for good eye health, especially as we age. A few minutes in the sun every now and then could help prevent against age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that causes vision loss. Just remember to protect those eyes with sunglasses.
As we go into the time of year when the sun is at an angle that most of North America will be unable to gain enough daily sunshine to create Vitamin D, much less any of the portfolio of happy hormones, we will need to find other ways to create an environment for those hormones to increase and keep all of us from growing moody and depressed. What can you do to keep your hormones happy?
A good night's sleep, good exercise, entertaining positive thinking, keeping up your supplementation of Vitamin D, enjoying the pleasure of good friends, participating in strong community and loving family...all seems to make good sense, and good hormones.
So, despite shorter days and darker nights, don’t despair! You are entering the season where the warmth of the fireplace and the familiarity of family can drive your hormones and keep you feeling bright.