Before antibiotics, sunlight was used to speed up the healing of wounds because it is an efficient germ killer, writes Dr Marga Boyani
All nature including humanity is solar-powered. Deprived of sunlight, man loses physical vigour and strength. Take away sunlight and all life on earth would soon perish.
Since before the time of ancient Egypt, doctors and natural healers relied on sunlight to mend wounds, treat bone diseases like rickets or lung infections like tuberculosis.
Before antibiotics, sunlight was used to speed up the healing of wounds because sunlight is an efficient germ killer.
Sunlight is man’s primary source of vitamin D, the ‘sunshine vitamin’. You get only a quarter of the vitamin D you need from your diet with the rest coming from the sun.
The body is better able to use the vitamin D it makes itself than that which it gets from the diet. Your skin makes vitamin D from casual sun exposure from as little as five to 15 minutes of sunshine per day, two to three times per week on the face and hands.
Being a fat-soluble vitamin, it is stored in your body fat. Vitamin D is perhaps the most underrated nutrient probably because it is free — no prescription required, yet it has numerous health benefits.
You need a good supply of vitamin D to help you absorb calcium from your intestines. Calcium is required in the body for strong bones and teeth.
In the West, there are more hip fractures in winter when there is no sunlight. Almost half the elderly population who have suffered a broken hip have been shown to be vitamin D deficient, yet safe sunbathing, which is simple and free, can reduce the risk.
Sunlight triggers release of the ‘feel good’ hormone serotonin, which other than controlling your sleep pattern, body temperature and sex drive, lifts your mood and helps ward off depression.
Vitamin D increases the amount of oxygen your blood can transport around the body, which in turn, will boost your energy levels, sharpen your mental faculties and give you an improved feeling of wellbeing.
Sunlight can help lower blood cholesterol levels and so is a powerful ally in the fight against heart disease. Both cholesterol and vitamin D, are derived from the same substance in the body, which is also found in the skin.
In the presence of sunlight, this substance is converted to vitamin D but in the absence of sunlight, it is converted to cholesterol, raising its levels. Sunlight can also affect blood pressure because blood pressure levels are higher during winter and lowest in the summer.
It is thought that without enough vitamin D, the body increases levels of parathyroid hormones, which causes calcium to leach from the bones and also raise blood pressure.
Taking a daily ten to 15 minutes walk in the sun not only clears your head, relieves stress and increases circulation; but it could also cut your risk of cancers according to scientists.
How does this work? The vitamin D produced in the skin by the sun’s rays improves the function of your immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells, the body’s primary defence against disease. Vitamin D also controls cell growth, slows the growth of cancer cells and stops new blood vessels from being formed, curbing the spread of the cancer.
You can reap the sun’s health benefits with as little as 20 minutes of sun exposure. Darker skinned people need longer exposure to benefit.
Sunlight exposure is the only reliable way to get vitamin D in your own body because there are only a few naturally occurring food sources of vitamin D, most of which are high in fat.
These include fatty fish and eggs. Some foods are fortified with vitamin D like cow milk, soymilk, rice milk, breakfast cereals and breakfast bars. Vitamin D can also be obtained from multi-vitamins.
Your body is not able to overdose on vitamin D from the sun, because it will self-regulate and only generate what it needs, but your skin can suffer damaging effects from too much sun.