Summer is here! If you’re reading this post from the great city of Charlotte, North Carolina, you probably have already cranked your AC up and have started to avoid the hottest parts of the day. While we understand the desire to run for the indoors to escape the heat (really, we do!) let’s read on to see why it may be a good idea to hang around outside for a little bit throughout the day.
Okay, perhaps this isn’t surprising that an article about the benefits of sunlight is going to start with Vitamin D. But with over 50% people worldwide estimated to have low vitamin D levels, it’s clearly something we still need to talk about!1 The majority of vitamin D our bodies get is created from sunlight which happens best in the summer, while our diet only makes up a small portion of the rest. Though, the amount of Vitamin D that we get from our diet can vary widely especially if you have conditions like celiac disease, short bowel syndrome, IBS, enzyme deficiency, or any other food sensitivities (if these sound like you, the experts at TNT can help create an individual treatment plan to improve these symptoms!) Since most of our vitamin D comes from the sun, we need to ensure we are giving our bodies the right opportunity to get it. Thankfully, it only takes around twenty minutes of sun exposure with 40% of your skin exposed to get enough vitamin D to prevent a deficiency, though darker skin tones and aging can decrease the amount of vitamin D we get. Vitamin D deficiency may not show any obvious symptoms, but even a mild deficiency can lead to decreased bone density and changes in our thyroid which can cause pain, fatigue, and muscle weakness.2 If you are concerned you aren’t getting a proper amount of vitamin D, our team at TNT can help you identify and treat this to reach optimal levels of vitamin D.
One of the key jobs of the hormones in our body are to act as signals to tell it when to do certain things. As sunlight has long been a consistent marker of the time of day, many of these hormones are triggered based on whether the sun is out or not. One of the most well-known is the hormone melatonin, the release of which is triggered when the sun begins to go down. Melatonin plays a vital role in our sleep patterns, inflammation, and our immune system. When exposed to bright artificial light, especially early in the morning or late at night, our bodies don’t produce melatonin at the right times. The modern schedule of mostly indoor office work, artificial light, and light producing devices have been one of the primary reasons for improper melatonin production. Another hormone also linked to melatonin is serotonin. Serotonin is commonly referred to as the “happy hormone” because it plays a major role in regulation of our mood and cognition. Many researchers have found evidence that the changes in hormones from lack of sun exposure has been a main contributor to an increase in sleep disorders, psychological conditions, and rising rates of chronic disease.3
Both vitamin D and our hormone levels play a role in our bodies immune system. There are a few other things sunlight does to control our immune system that are not related to hormones or nutrition. These other signals that are related to sun exposure may aid in preventing autoimmune disease, regulating our genetics, decreasing skin conditions like psoriasis, preventing nerve dysfunction, and decreasing our stress response.
Sunlight has numerous ways it can benefit us including: vitamin D, hormones levels, and our immune system, but what is the best way to optimize our sun exposure to reap the benefits without potentially harming our health? Many researchers and public health experts recommend multiple brief exposures for 5-15 minutes each throughout the day, with at least one of those stints around the middle part of the day.3* To learn more about ways to safely increase sun exposure and to optimize your diet and hormone levels, please contact our team at 704-549-9550!
- Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012 Apr;3(2):118-26.
- A;, S. O. K. S. G. A. G. (2022, May 1). Vitamin D deficiency. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved May 29, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30335299/
- Mead, M. N. (2008). Benefits of sunlight: A bright spot for human health. Environmental Health Perspectives, 116(4). https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.116-a160
*TNT recommends utilizing an adequate SPF sunscreen for prolonged sun exposure: particularly on the hands, face, and feet. TNT recommends regular checkups with your doctor and dermatologist especially if you have frequent, prolonged sun exposure and/or skin cancer runs in your family.