Sunlight has had a lot of bad press lately.
Too much can definitely be hazardous. Those who bathe in it for long hours without sunscreen protection increase their chances of developing skin cancer. Those who spend much time outdoors in blazing hot countries are at increased risk for cataracts (especially if they are also consuming a low protein diet). But there is another side to sunlight - one we often forget.
Every life form on this planet needs sunlight to survive. Man is no exception. Sunlight hitting the skin is converted (with the aid of cholesterol) into vitamin D. This vitamin is required to mineralize bones and teeth, to form certain enzymes, and to produce specific forms of ribonucleic acid (RNA). Vitamin D supplements are available for those who do not get enough exposure to sunlight. But sunlight does more for us than just produce vitamin D.
We have a very important gland that requires light in order to function properly. That gland is the pineal, a tiny pea-shaped structure within the brain. Its secretions are greatly influenced by light that fall, on the forehead and eyes. There is no dietary supplement. However that can substitute for this response to light.
The pineal gland is incredibly important. It influences sex organs and bodily development. It inhibits the excess production of hormones by other endocrine glands and can retard the growth of both malignant and benign tumours. The pineal secretes melatonin, seratonin, pinealin, lysine vasopressin, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, and histamine. These substances have many, many functions - including helping to regulate blood sugar levels, influencing adrenal hormones, protecting the pancreas from oxidative damage, and helping to control fluid retention. Scientists have not yet discovered all there is to know about the pineal.
Canadians are deprived of sun- light for much of the year. 1n some areas smog and pollution reduce available sunlight. Many of us are too busy working indoors to enjoy those rare sunny days. On the whole, Canadians probably err on the side of too little sunlight rather than too much. Somehow we need to find a balance.
If the pineal gland does not have adequate sunlight, it will try to make do with whatever it can get. Artificial, indoor lighting provides only a small portion of the wavelengths of light that the sun does. The missing wavelengths make a difference to our health.
Many Canadians, starting in October, suffer from the winter “blues" also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Possible symptoms may include some of the following: low energy, fatigue, low sexual desire, lethargy, sadness, irritability, anxiety, increased sleep or poor sleep, daytime drowsiness, carbohydrate cravings, weight gain, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, diminished ability to concentrate, physical agitation, arthritic-like pains and difficulty in getting along with others. These symptoms disappear in the spring, upon adequate continuing exposure to sunlight.
It is now possible to bring sunlight indoors, so to speak. Full spectrum indoor lighting is available. These special fluorescent lamps approximate the total wavelengths of sunlight. Exposure to them for two or more hours per day can often reverse the symptoms of SAD within a few days.
Even if you are not affected by winter depression, your health may benefit in other ways from full spectrum lighting. Such lighting has been found to reduce hyperactivity- in children, to improve productivity and reduce absenteeism in the workplace, and to improve calcium absorption. It can also reduce eye strain, especially from television and computer screens. People who use full spectrum lighting report that they feel more alert, more energetic and healthier.
The ideal way to obtain the health benefits of sunlight is directly from the source. Each day, spend at least 20 minutes outdoors (preferably before 10 AM or after 4 PM), without eyeglasses or sunglasses. With your eyes closed. aim your forehead and eyes toward the sun. If this kind of access to the Sun is not possible, then indoor full spectrum lighting is your next best alternative.
Every day from sun rise to 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. to sun set go outside and lay in the sun. Let the sun shine on your bare skin, also, open your eyes and look at the sun for a second. Close your eyes and let the sun shine through your eyelids. You will see all different colors and when the colors fade open your eyes again, look at the sun, close your eyes and let the sun shine through your eyelids again. Repeat the above 40 – 50 times. Remove your glasses or contact lenses. If it is too cold and you can not lay in the sun just look at the sun. When the sun shines through your eyelids and shines on your body you will absorb all the minerals. You do not sunburn or tan before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. this is when the sun has a perfect color spectrum. It is only from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the ultra violet rays are to high, that is when it is harmful to the body.
SCHAFER’S HEALTH CENTRE LTD.
Unity, Sask. SOK 4L0
Telephone: (306) 228-2512