Ronit Mor, ND
The Most Overlooked Wellness Essential
The role sunlight plays in our health is a major factor in restoring optimal vitality. Sunlight - nature’s full-spectrum light - is the most overlooked wellness essential. Without the sun, there would be no life on this planet. Our physiology, metabolism, cognitive and emotional abilities are all affected by the sun’s activity. Research shows that our genes are programmed to respond to exposure to full spectrum light. Sunlight is critical for the healthy development, growth and maintenance of our body and mind. It contributes to increased cell function, metabolism, detoxification and healthy levels of cortisol and melatonin, which balance our sleep and energy levels.
Yet, we are encouraged to block the sun as if it were toxic enemy number one. Sunglasses, sunscreen, sunblock, sun hats, sun tinting, sunshades, sun umbrellas, sun canopies: is the sun really this dangerous? How can it be that the sun, once regarded as a divine power, is now considered a public enemy?
This guide takes a closer look at the importance of sunlight to our optimal wellbeing and what constitutes safe sun exposure…
Debunking The Myth
As though we have not declared enough wars - “war on germs”, “war on drugs”, “war on cholesterol”, “war on cancer”, to name just a few - in the past century a war has been waged against the sun, which creates and sustains all life on our planet, including us. The US Surgeon General has issued a call to action on UV and tanning and dermatologists everywhere have been warning us to never ever expose even one inch of our skin to a single ray. In fact, most of us have learned to avoid it at all costs.
How can it be that the source of all life on our planet is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “Class I Carcinogen”? As we dig deeper into the WHO’s data, we unearth conflicting information that clearly does not support this classification. In its 258-page 2006 report The Global Burden of Disease From Solar Ultraviolet Radiation, the WHO clearly states that excessive UVR exposure accounts for only “0.1 percent of the total global burden of disease” in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). In contrast, in the same report, the WHO notes that a markedly larger annual disease burden of 3.3 billion DALYs worldwide might result from very low levels of UVR exposure. This burden includes major disorders of the musculoskeletal system and an increased risk of various autoimmune diseases and life-threatening cancers. Sadly, public health recommendations that significantly restrict sun exposure may be doing more harm than good.
Did you know that when traveling from either pole to the equator, UV exposure increases up to 5000 percent whereas ozone depletion only increases UV exposure by 20 percent? If UVB exposure and ozone depletion were the cause of skin cancer, those populations living closest to the equator would be diagnosed with malignant melanoma at a phenomenal frequency. However, the opposite is true.
When we observe nature, it is very obvious that all animals and plants know how much sunlight is good for them. Our ancestors also knew how to best benefit from the sun. Yet, we somehow forgot. The good news is we do not need to look back all the way to Ancient Egypt to help us shine a light on the dark corridors of our collective memory. Heliotherapy, the therapeutic use of sunlight, was the most prescribed and most effective treatment for a variety of ills as recently as the 1950’s. In 1931, for example, the United States government launched a public health campaign recommending sunlight as a therapeutic method to prevent rickets in infants. As awareness of the sun’s power against rickets and TB spread, attitudes toward sun exposure underwent a radical shift. Heliotherapy quickly emerged as a popular medical treatment not only for TB, but also for rheumatic disorders, diabetes, gout, chronic ulcers, and wounds.
In his presentation at UCSD in 2014, Dr. Alexander Wunsch, MD of Wismar University of Applied Sciences, Germany, presented some stunning before and after photographs of heliotherapy patients with severe, sometimes life-threatening illnesses, who were completely cured by sunlight.
For Part 2 of this blog series, click here.
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