Today, the news is full of stories about why we need to avoid the sun, so it's easy to overlook the obvious benefit natural sunshine brings.
Light therapy is a staple treatment for many medical problems, which would seem to indicate that the sunshine has a medicinal effect. Of course, none of that cancels out the need to protect our bodies from the potentially dangerous UV rays of the sun, but what about looking for a balance? Slathering on sunscreen every time you walk out of the house means you're missing out on the health benefits available from that beautiful bright globe in the sky.
What is Heliotherapy?
Put simply, heliotherapy is the therapeutic use of sunlight for healing. It can also apply to different types of light produced artificially. There is a reason that so many ancient cultures worshiped the sun. They saw the wonder in it that many of us miss today. The sun provides natural healing. Without it, we must look for artificial ways to get the same results.
What are the Benefits of Sunshine?
You'd be surprised how much the human body reaps from a little sunshine. For one thing, the UV rays of the sun stimulate the production of vitamin D, an essential nutrient sometimes called "The Sun vitamin". A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences called vitamin D deficiency an ignored epidemic that affects over a billion people worldwide.
Without vitamin D, you may experience bone pain and muscle weakness. Deficiency of the sun vitamin puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease, dementia and even asthma in children, too.
Sunshine supports the immune system by helping to fight off infection, as well. As the world faces an increase in antibiotic resistance, you have to wonder whether the overuse of sunscreen limits our natural defenses.
What about Sunbathing?
While it's true that sunbathing has a bad reputation, there are some positives to getting a little extra sunshine. Doctors use the same UV rays produced by the sun to treat chronic problems such as:
It is even a staple treatment for some forms of cancer. Many of the mood problems that exist in our society relate to the reduction of natural sun exposure, as well. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is based on the idea that some people get the blues when they have to stay indoors due to the changes in weather.
How can You Stay Safe and Still Enjoy the Sun?
It is a complex problem because there is a danger of overexposure to the sun. One answer might be to use sunscreen wisely. If you are headed for a day at the beach or by the pool, then you want protection from the burning rays of the sun. The question is do you really need a daily dose of sunscreen, as well?
Today, make-up, lotion and other skin products come with sunscreen already in the formula. If the sun offers real health benefits, why do we hide from it completely? The answer is to respect the power of the sun both an ally and a potential danger. Understand that it does help with certain conditions like psoriasis and eczema. It does stimulate vitamin D production and improves immune system functioning. A little sun even helps you sleep better.
Take advantage of the mild exposure you get just leaving the house to pick up your mail or take the dog for a walk, but put on sunscreen when you expect to remain outside for an extended period. There is no reason you can't enjoy some of the natural healing power the sun has to offer without abusing it and putting yourself and family at risk.