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Wed, 14 February 2018

After the last article on how non-burning exposure to sunshine protects skin against cancer, Anne of RAspect looks at other health benefits. Part 3 of our #MindSetFree series.


MindSetFree-Photo-by-Will-van-Wingerden

EDGE OF THE SUN: The correct exposure to the sun is critical for human health. Photo Unsplash


There are many more reasons why being out in the sun is good for one’s health - after all, we evolved in the sunshine, and it remains our natural element. Our skin, eyes and nervous systems all function best when exposed to the full spectrum of UV radiation (sunlight) - something which we only partially understand and appreciate.

Your body’s reactions to sunlight play a gamut of important roles in keeping mood, energy levels, alertness, appetites, immune functions and general health on an even keel and functioning at their full potential. Conversely, depriving yourself of sufficient exposure to sunshine is akin to malnourishment, and results in comparable problems.

The most recognised health benefit of sunshine is vitamin D synthesis by the skin, an essential process which requires direct exposure to the sun, specifically UVB radiation. Vitamin D is best known for its role in the formation and maintenance of strong bones, but more recently we have discovered that it has a far wider role and affects practically every aspect of our overall health and well-being. Vitamin D functions as a hormone, and receptors for it have been located on nearly every type of cell in the body, from bone to gut to neurons.

Despite how important it is, and despite the fact that each of our bodies is covered with the perfect machine - our skin - for creating this essential nutrient out of abundant, free sunshine, vitamin D deficiency is actually a global epidemic, affecting people of all ages, in all parts of the world - an estimated 1 billion people have inadequate vitamin D levels. In the US, 64% of adults don’t have high enough vitamin D levels for full health.

MindSetFree-Photo-by-Zac-Durant

ARMED AND READY: When you know how, you know when and where. Photo Unsplash


The role of vitamin D to build and maintain strong bones has been understood since the early 1900s when thick, heavy smog blocked out so much sunlight in industrialised cities that 80-90% of children were found to be suffering from rickets (softening and weakening of the skeleton from severe vitamin D deficiency). Compared with our ancient forebears, we still spend a great deal of our time indoors; and many modern health issues - from diabetes to depression to dementia - are now linked to a simple fact: many of us don’t have enough vitamin D for our tissues to operate at their optimum.

Last month we looked at how regularly being out in the sun is the best defence against skin cancer. This is not suggesting that you sustain a sunburn. That is obviously not good for you. Non-burning exposure to the sun also protects against many other cancers.

Mild exposure to the sun also protects against many other cancers, notably colon and breast cancerMild exposure to the sun also protects against many cancers, notably colon and breast cancer. Regular sun exposure almost halves the risk of developing breast cancer (45% decrease) and of it developing into advanced breast cancer. In patients who already have breast cancer, those with the most exposure to sunshine have approximately double the survival rate from cancer compared to those with the least sun exposure.

Sunshine also has a protective effect against cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. In a three-month Berlin study (published in The Lancet, 29 Aug 1998), some hypertensive patients were given a regime of daily full spectrum UVR exposure, while another group was not. Blood pressure levels of patients in the sunshine group dropped back into normal range, whereas for the sunless group there was no change.

The sun also helps our bodies protect themselves against multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and infectious diseases - incidences of all of these are lower in sunnier months and in sunnier places than elsewhere.

When it comes to our moods, energy levels and mental health, the role of sunshine is massive. There’s a reason we talk about having a “sunny personality” and of being in a “gloomy mood”.

Sun exposure is positively linked with improved cognitive functioning (clear thinking), mental well-being including the prevention and treatment of depression, and healthy sleep patterns; any surfer worth his or her salt could attest to this.

In a myth from ancient times, Icarus flew too close to the sun, and paid a high price. In modern times, we live in fear of another myth, and hide ourselves from the sun - once more, paying a high price. In surfing, “stoked” means to be very happy, excited, thrilled, but it’s more common meaning is to feed a fire. As it turns out, it’s us who need feeding, with sunlight. So get out there, and get stoked.


Anne picAnne (pictured right) is a holistic entrepreneur who created The Apothecary, which comprises household cleaning agents and skincare products, among others, that are 100% natural and hand crafted. RAspect sunscreen is the culmination of seven years work that stems from a unique date, 10/10/10, when she and her surfer husband Carl contributed to a www.350.org project on climate change by showing the advantages of removing harmful synthetic chemicals from our lives.

Anne experimented with herbs and oils, and the infusion of vinegars and "mixing various ingredients" to create household cleaning agents. "It thrilled me how well these simple, natural concoctions did so many jobs and were so versatile and beneficial in a huge range of ways".

RAspect comprises organic Mozambican coconut oil, castor bean oil, natural zinc oxide, Cape beeswax, organic fair-traded cocoa, vanilla oil and cinnamon leaf. RAspect is available at these stores.

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