Lives Out of Balance: The Effect of Sunlight, Part 1

By | May 21, 2011

Cute little girl being piggybacked by mother on a bright sunny day

Sunlight is another aspect of the human environment, which is lacking in balance for many individuals. We have sun worshipers and heliophobes and in some cases the dialogues can become quite heated. The sun worshipers will tout the effects of natural sunlight on increasing the active forms of vitamin D, treating psoriasis and in combating Seasonal Affective Disorder, while heliophobes will counter that certain frequencies of sunlight can increase skin cancer rates and promote wrinkles.

Lets start with some simple observations about sunlight and health. Sunlight catalyzes the production of vitamin D naturally in our skin. Over one third of Americans are vitamin D deficient and the number is even greater among chronic pain patients.  Osteoporosis is one the fastest growing health problems among senior citizens and contributes to a number pain conditions. You would think that a rational response to questions like how much vitamin D do we really need and how much sunlight is enough to assure that we are not deficient would be readily available. Unfortunately such optimistic assumptions seem unfounded. The normal serum concentrations of vitamin D vary widely among different ethnic groups, as does the rate at which sunlight catalyzes its production. There is no real consensus on the adequate doses of exogenous vitamin D or sunlight.

If the situation is bad with respect to vitamin D, our understanding of the other effects of sunlight on human health and happiness is even worse. How does sunlight make us happy and what is the optimum dose. Is it adequate merely to look at sunlight or is it necessary to actually feel it on ones skin. Is it the visible rays that make us happy or do the infrared and ultraviolet rays play a part as well? Besides, what does all this have to do with pain anyway? Are you getting as confused as I am?


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