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Sunshine: great blessing and deadly threat.

"Because a little is good, a lot is better." and "Because a lot is bad, a little is bad, too."

The above statements represent some people's illogical thinking. Because some people develop skin cancer from abusing the sun's rays, it does not follow logically that all sunshine is harmful.

Rudyard Kipling wrote, "Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun." He was referring, of course, to the practice of the English in India walking around at midday while the natives took their afternoon siesta.

Without sunshine, there would be no life possible on earth. The human race has thrived under the influence of sunlight. It combats depression and without adequate sunlight many forms of psychosomatic illness can develop. During the winter months in the far North, many people develop depression that is often relieved by the advent of spring.

Skin that is denied fresh air and a little sunshine occasionally becomes pale, pasty and unhealthy. A few minutes of sunshine, when the sun's rays are slanting, as in early morning or late afternoon, can be very beneficial to your skin. Sunshine is both bactericidal and fungicidal.

There are many skin disease benefit from sunlight. For example, sunlight has a beneficial effect on psoriatic skin, as evidenced by the face usually being unaffected by the disease while skin underneath clothing may show extensive psoriasis. I have seen fungus conditions which, although drug-resistant, heal in several days through the influence of sunlight.

Lack of sunshine can cause a vitamin D deficiency, which is more common than generally realized, particularly in the elderly. Vitamin D deficiency can result in rickets in children (rarely) or low blood calcium levels and a more common softening and brittleness of the bones, osteomalacia, which occurs in adults and chiefly in women. Vitamin D is necessary for the body's proper utilization of calcium.

In Leeds, England, three doctors examined biopsy specimens from the hip bones of 134 patients who had suffered fractures. They concluded that over a third of the patients were suffering from a vitamin D deficiency. They also noted that the greatest number of fractures occurred between February and June, when we absorb the least amount of sunshine. In another study conducted in England involving 110 children and 11 adults, vitamin D levels were determined more by exposure to the sun than by dietary supplements of vitamin D.

Keep in mind that more than 400 international units daily of vitamin D may be toxic. Actually, vitamin D is not plentiful in natural foods. Vitamin D is created in the body simply by exposing the skin to the sun. Vitamin D is also fat-soluble which means that the body stores it. Therefore, a deficiency may be developing by spring and summer.

The sun has been worshipped as a god and used as a therapy since the beginning of recorded history. Heliotherapy, named after the Greek god of the sun, was very popular throughout Europe until World War II and the advent of penicillin and other drugs. Clinics were established in leading European health spas to treat various diseases.

One of the most famous helioclinics was established in Switzerland more than 5000 feet above sea level in the Swiss Alps. Because the intensity of the ultraviolet (UV) light increases by 4 percent for each 1000 feet of elevation above sea level, at 5000 feet, the sun's UV intensity is increased by 20%. Dr. Auguste Rollier, the world-famous physician who directed the clinic, attributed his success in curing various diseases to the intensity of the ultraviolet rays of the sun which were, of course, most intense at high altitudes. One of the principal diseases cured by Dr. Rollier's "sun therapy" was tuberculosis. At the time, more than 100,000 lives were lost each year to tuberculosis, or, "The White Plague". However, Dr. Rollier found many other diseases responded to heliotherapy, including anemia, fungus infections, rheumatoid arthritis, skin diseases, rectal diseases, and upper respiratory infections.

With the advent of penicillin, heliotherapy lost much of its popularity and was largely forgotten after World War II. In the late 1980s, tuberculosis (TB) reemerged with AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) patients, and many doctors believed that antibiotics could contain it. But six major outbreaks of "multi-drug resistant" TB in the United States made many change their attitude. Some even wanted to revive the sanitoriums and do further research on heliotherapy.

Of course, the sun can be abused. Lying in the sun or exposing your skin to the sun's rays for prolonged periods is damaging to your skin and cause premature wrinkling and skin cancer. Avoid the sun on your skin when your shadow is shorter than you are. During the months of May to August, when the sun in the northern hemisphere is highest in the sky, the intensity of the sun's rays is most potent. It is around noon during this period that the greatest danger to your skin from UV radiation is present. Overexposure to UV radiation, especially for light-skinned people, can cause drying and wrinkling of the skin, actinic keratoses, and basal and squamous cell carcinomas. Overexposure can be a risk factor for malignant melanoma.

Absorb the sun's rays during the early morning or just before sunset, when the sun's rays are slanting, and when your shadow is longer than you are.

Note: Beta carotene plus vitamins C, E, PABA and Pantothenic Acid can make you more resistant to sunburn.
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Author:Flatto, Edwin
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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