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So let the sun shine in


So let the sun shine in

The health benefits of sunshine have become lost as UV awareness has grown, but what are we missing out on? KENDALL MORTON looks at why sunlight was a popular remedy in days gone by.

Sunlight was once seen as a valuable medical treatment, especially before the advent of antibiotics in the 1930s.

You may recall scenes from the old movies showing tuberculosis patients resting in the sunshine in the European alps.

Sanatoria were a popular place for healing in from the 18th century onwards.

These health retreats were situated at high altitude locations as the intensity of UV light increases by 4 per cent for every 300m of elevation above sea level. This sunlight therapy was effective in treating tuberculosis.

So why does simple sunlight help with healing? Researchers suggest two factors.

First, sun exposure causes the body to produce nitric oxide. This powerful gas widens your capillaries, improving circulation. More blood, nutrients and oxygen can then travel through the body.

Nitric oxide has antiviral and antimicrobial functions too.

Note that low nitric oxide levels have been associated with heart disease and diabetes.

The second factor is that sun exposure produced Vitamin D.

This vitamin is important for general immunity. It has preventative and curative functions.

While the age of sanatoria has passed and tuberculosis is not a major problem in sunny Australia, sunlight therapy may have other applications for brightening health prospects today.

It can be a relaxing treatment that’s available literallyright at your back door.

Here are a few more reasons to give the sun a second look:

Sunlight is anti-bacterial – In his book The Healing Power of the Sun, Richard Hobday states that sunlit hospital wards have less bacteria in them than dark wards, and patients recover faster in the sunlit wards.

He adds that infection from hospital stays is the fourth most common cause of death after heart disease, cancer and stroke. So, when you have a choice at home or in hospital, choose a sunny room.

Sunlight can protect and ease multiple sclerosis – This happens in two ways. Adequate sunlight can lessen your likelihood of getting MS and for MS sufferers, regular sun exposure can reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms. The current thinking is time in the sun strengthens the immune system against autoimmune attack.

Sunlight helps with bone growth – Without adequate sunlight your body cannot make its own Vitamin D. Regular time in the sun boosts Vitamin D for the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus from diet to strengthen bones.

Sunlight has anti-inflammatory actions – This can aid many health conditions such as psoriasis and cardiovascular health. The production of nitric oxide lowers blood pressure.

Sunlight helps with sleep – A dose of morning sunlight will help you sleep better because melatonin production will be activated earlier in the evening. The mood lifter, serotonin is triggered by the sunshine.

It is converted to melatonin when you turn out the lights at night.

Exercise caution when you start to spend time in the sun – People react differently to sunlight. It is not a panacea. Also, some medications can cause you to be sensitive to sunlight.

New scar tissue should not be exposed to the sun as it can burn and result in a darker scar.

Before you start a sun regime, you may want to check with your doctor.

 Kendall Morton is Director of Home Care Assistance Sunshine Coast to Wide Bay. Call 5491 6888 or email

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