Growing up in the sunny south of France, I loved the occasional rainy day. The cadence of rain on rooftops and the musty smell in the air felt so comforting. Seven years in the Pacific Northwest cured me of that: my energy ebbed with the seemingly unending cloud cover, my skin itself felt thirsty for sunshine. Light affects our health in many ways. It is essential to human growth and healthy development. It’s no wonder so many people living up North make a yearly pilgrimage to tropical islands every winter!
Light is Essential For Optimal Health
- Cell growth and regeneration. Light therapy has been used to improve health since ancient Greece. More recently researchers have demonstrated that light exposure promotes cell renewal and growth. It is interesting to note that it is being used in the medical field to treat wounds, skin conditions, and even cardiac conditions and traumatic brain injuries.
- Vitamin D. A natural hormone created by our bodies as a direct result of sun exposure. By now everyone has heard about how vital it is to cell function at all levels of our physical and mental health. About 10 years ago, I had to fight my child’s paediatrician to get him to check my daughter’s levels. I am glad I did: after three years in Seattle, her results were dangerously low. We need vitamin D for calcium absorption, cell metabolism, neurological function, and immune function. It is also essential in reducing inflammation in the body.
- Hormone regulation. Natural lights affects our hormone production. Our bodies follow a certain rhythm closely linked to the cycle of the sun and the moon. Artificial light at night has been shown to negatively impact the pineal gland responsible for the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps govern sleep. Our hormones form a complex system; an imbalance in one can cascade to others. Low melatonin can throw off your reproductive and immune system.
- Low light exposure has been linked to a multitude of health conditions. Studies have linked low light exposure to osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes (types both I and II), metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, a poor immune system, increased inflammation and poor thyroid function.
- Light exposure helps with our stress response. Our skin’s pigmentation is linked to our ability to release endorphins (feel-good hormones) and therefore exposure to light is essential to a healthy stress response.
- Sunlight releases an essential chemical necessary for immunological responses. This explains why certain skin conditions, such as psoriasis, benefit from sunlight therapy.
I am not suggesting that people overdo it and spend hours roasting in the sun–as with most things, balance is key. Our ancestors used sun-therapy as a modality to treat all sorts of physical and mental illnesses. Western medicine is very impressive, but we can still sometimes benefit from more natural approaches to wellness and balance. If you spend a lot of time indoors, consider getting outside more frequently to improve your health.
Photo credit: Thank you Take Back Your Health Conference!