Photograph by Michael Lilley

The knowledge about the sun’s healing rays and power has been known throughout the history of humanity. It goes back even before the times of ancient Egypt, when doctors and natural healers recognised and relied on sunlight to treat wounds, bone diseases and infections. The sun is an effective and efficient germ killer and that is why a safe exposure is recommended to accelerate and aid the wound healing process.

Girl with Sunflowers Photograph From Unsplash

The sun’s effects on our health are plentiful. It is recognised for enhancing moods, relieving stress, improving sleep, and maintaining healthy bones and skin, provided we expose our body to the sun in the right doses at the right time of the day. All the benefits of the exposure of our bodies to the sun have been known throughout the centuries, from generation to generation. Today, we still recognise the same healing powers of the sun while also having quite complex medical explanations as to why and how the sun aids our health.

Photograph by Drew Dau

We are born to the world in which the sun is always there. It is important to know how to healthily live with the sun. We know that with the right exposure to the sun we obtain vitamin D, known as ‘sunshine vitamin’. Vitamin D is essential to our health, and the main way to obtain it is through exposure to the sun. Vitamin D helps to absorb calcium that is necessary for healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D also increases the amount of oxygen that can be distributed by the blood stream around the body, and which in effect will boost the body’s energy levels, sharpen one’s mental faculties and give one an improved feeling of wellbeing. It is through helping to keep serotonin levels up that we do not feel depressed when spending some time in the sun. Sunlight also plays all important part in the fight against heart disease as it lowers cholesterol. Regular exposure to the sun helps for staying slim as it plays a role in optimising metabolism. Safe exposure to the sun can reduce the risk of skin cancer, such as melanoma.

Photograph by Olia Nayda

The main supply of vitamin D we obtain in this climate is through exposure to the sun for 15 to 30 minutes daily from end of March to October between 11am and 2pm. In winter months, we do not get vitamin D from the sun, but we can obtain it through eating foods like mackerel, salmon, sardines or eggs. By doing so, we ensure obtaining the right amount of vitamin D in our bodies throughout the year.

Sunlight is also known to help to build up the immune system as white blood cells increase with sun exposure. These cells play a major role in defending the body against infections. We go to the sun to heal many skin problems too, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis or fungal skin infections.

Photograph by Jenny Marvin

It is known that without sunlight we would just perish; however, we also know that too much sun at the wrong time of the day can cause damage.

Our eyes can get damaged by the sun through long-term lack of protection from the ultraviolet light. It can lead to damaging effects on the retina. UV light is also known as contributor to the development of cataracts.

We can suffer from heat exhaustion which occurs when the body has had an excessive loss of water and salt, usually due to sweating more than usual. Those working in a hot environment are at risk of heat exhaustion. This condition can be recognised when someone shows any of the following symptoms: headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, heavy sweating or an elevated body temperature.

If heat exhaustion is left untreated it can lead to heat stroke. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and it can be life threatening. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention and if left untreated it can cause death or permanent disability. Confusion, altered mental states, slurred speech, coma, hot dry skin, excessive sweating or seizures are symptoms of heat stroke.

Another risk from excessive sun exposure is sunburn. When this happens, the maximum symptoms do not appear until four to five hours later after the exposure. Sunburn demonstrates itself as redness, pain, swelling and blisters on the skin, accompanied by nausea, fever, chills or headache. It can be caused by the sun or tanning beds.

Various skin cancers are the worst consequences of long-term excessive exposure to the sun. Because the damage to the skin from exposure to the sun develops over years, the older you are the greater the risk of developing skin cancer. The most common are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. Regular skin check-ups by professionals, like dermatologists or mole clinic practitioners, are recommended to effectively prevent and adequately treat these types of problems.

Other unwelcome side effects from unsafe exposure to the sun are ageing skin and premature wrinkles. Excessive sun exposure is a significant factor in developing signs of ageing like wrinkles, sagging skin and lost of elasticity. Unwise exposure to the sun and a lack of adequate protection can lead to damage of the protein network of collagen and elastin resulting in our skin losing its youthful appearance.

Wise sunbathing, building a tan gradually in a safe way and, the most beneficial, letting skin tan just the right amount at the right times of the day are the necessary measures for which we all need to be educated, accordingly to our own type of beauty and type of complexion. We all need a healthy dose of vitamin D to keep our bodies healthy, and people with different type of skins may require different times of exposure, but we all aim for the same goal, good health. Adequate clothing and natural, organic sunscreen protectors are recommended to shield from excessive sun exposure.

Photograph by Jernej Graj

It is important to educate ourselves as to how to live with the sun without suffering the consequences of excessive exposure or a lack of adequate exposure according to our individual skin types. Then, we will be able to see the sun as a healer that is always there for us, and we can stop talking about sun rays being damaging. If we have the right education, then the sun’s rays are healing rays.

*’Why Sunlight is actually good for’ By Noma Nazis, Forbes Life

** ‘Healing Power of the Sun’ By Mountain Valley Spring

*** ’13 Ways the Sun Affects Us: Positive and Harmful’

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