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Sun – friend or foe? The answer is: BOTH! You already know the risks; now join us in exploring the myriad of benefits that moderate sun exposure has on our health and happiness.

Ancient cultures knew how to use the sun to heal all kinds of illnesses, and bring about radiant health; the yogis even have a phrase for the healing science of sunbathing: Atapa Snana. In the West, we also have a history of using sunlight therapy that dates back to the ancient Greeks, called heliosis. And today, we refer to it as heliotherapy. It’s hardly surprising, given that as a human race we evolved for millions of years under the warmth and love of the sun. So what are the exact scientific health benefits from catching a few rays? Here are the big winners:

1. Helps ease mild depression. We all know that sunshine makes us inherently happier, but there’s more to it. Sunlight deprivation can cause a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – a form of depression common in the winter months as well as for people working long hours in office buildings. Even moderate sun exposure is enough to increase levels of  serotonin – a natural mood-lifting chemical in the brain. So don’t be SAD – go play outside!

2. Kick starts sun hormone production. And by that term we mean the good old “bone vitamin” D. It is in fact a chemical that we make on our skin from sun exposure to the UVB rays. Using the proper word “hormone” reminds us that it affects multiple parts of the body and plays an essential role. Vitamin D deficiency will goof up your sleep (big trouble all around!) and change the intestinal bacterial populations that make and supply us daily with the blood building blocks, Vitamin(s) B. And as for calcium? This hormone also plays a crucial role in helping us absorb calcium from food to prevent osteoporosis and build up of kidney stones.

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3. Heals several skin disorders. A brown tan is not just for looking pretty – moderate sun exposure can also promote healing of scars, acne, psoriasis, eczema, jaundice and some fungal skin infections. Sunlight also kills bacteria and has been used to “disinfect” and heal wounds by German soldiers in WWI.

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4. Lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. The sun converts high cholesterol in the blood into steroid hormones and the sex hormones we need for reproduction. What’s more, when our skin is exposed to the sun, a compound — called nitric oxide — is released in our blood vessels, which in turn lowers blood pressure by causing them to widen. Finally, sunlight increases oxygen in our blood, with similar effects to exercise: stamina, fitness and muscular development.

Just a line of blank text And one other thing… slathering yourself with sun lotion day in and day out could also be harmful, as many products contain toxic chemicals which irritate the skin, get absorbed into our system and congest the liver. So, all said and done, enjoy our amazing life-giving star – safely and slowly, with appreciation and in moderation!

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