Does Lack of Sun Exposure contribute to deadly Sepsis?

Does Lack of Sun Exposure contribute to deadly Sepsis?

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute…

Sepsis is a deadly disease, defined as infection of the tissues by bacteria. It can spread throughout the body and blood, where it is known as septicemia.  Sepsis accounts for 500,000 emergency-room hospital visits per year in the USA, and the typical stay is nearly five hours.[1] It is one of the most deadly of medical conditions and often results in multiple organ failure.[2] It is, in fact, one of the top-ten causes of death. It is more common than heart attack, and claims more lives than any cancer.[3] Yet, much of the population has never heard of it.

Antibiotics have not been effective against severe sepsis and in some cases may exacerbate the disease.1 Sepsis is also the most common cause of death in critical-care patients in non-coronary intensive care units.[4]

Does regular time in the sun act to protect against this deadly disease? The research indicates that it does. In both the USA and UK, the disease is more common in winter than summer and higher in the Northeast than in the Southwest.

It is likely that vitamin D, produced by sun exposure, is the mechanism by which sepsis risk is decreased in summer.[5] According to Dr. William Grant, reports have shown that vitamin D upregulates human cathelicidin, LL-37, which has antimicrobial as well as anti-endotoxin activity.[6] However, we must never lose sight of the other benefits of sun exposure beyond vitamin D, which is only one of the sun’s beneficial photoproducts. Staying out of the sun—and using deadly chemical sunscreens to block life-giving sun exposure—are two of the biggest blunders ever made in the history of health disasters.

It is also interesting to note that in Australia, melanoma rates skyrocketed between 1980 and 2000.[7] 1980 was the year when a massive anti-sun campaign, called “Slip, Slop, Slap” began. Sepsis rates jumped simultaneously with melanoma and coincided with the widespread use of sunscreens. During this campaign, there was also an increase in viral respiratory infections, most cancers, and congestive heart failure.[8]

Remember that hospitals are not sterile environments. Try to stay away from them except in cases of dire need. Get some moderate, non-burning midday sun exposure instead—without using sunscreens.

[1] Wang, H. et al.  National estimates of severe sepsis in United States emergency departments.  Crit Care Med 2007;35:2461-2.

[2] Mookherjee, N. et al.  Cathelicidins and functional analogues as antisepsis molecules. Expert Opinions on Therapeutic Targets 2007;11:993-1004.

[3] World Sepsis Day web page. September 13, 2015. http://world-sepsis-day.org/?MET=SHOWCONTAINER&vCONTAINERID=11. Accessed February 25, 2016.

[4] Florian B Mayr, Sachin Yende, and Derek C Angus. Epidemiology of severe sepsis. Virulence 2014, 5:1, 4-11.

[5] Karin Amrein, Paul Zajic, Christian Schnedl, Andreas Waltensdorfer, Sonja Fruhwald, Alexander Holl,

Tadeja Urbanic Purkart, Gerit Wünsch, Thomas Valentin, Andrea Grisold, Tatjana Stojakovic, Steven Amrein, Thomas R Pieber and Harald Dobnig. Vitamin D status and its association with season, hospital and sepsis mortality in critical illness. Critical Care 2014, 18:R47

[6] Grant WB Solar ultraviolet-B irradiance and vitamin D may reduce risk of septicemia. Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 Jan;1(1):37-42.

[7] Montague M, et al. Slip! Slop! Slap! and SunSmart, 1980-2000: Skin cancer control and 20 years of population-based campaigning. Health Educ Behav. 2001;28:290–305

[8] Grant WB Solar ultraviolet-B irradiance and vitamin D may reduce risk of septicemia. Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 Jan;1(1):37-42.

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