Sunshine during the Pandemic

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We are living through a difficult time, trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Staying isolated inside our homes, limiting contact with the outside world to “virtual communications” via our computers and phones.

But we need to go outside and enjoy the Sun. A daily dose of sunshine can help to fight against a wide range of illnesses.  Some of us think that taking a pill or vitamin D can solve the problem of sunshine deficiency. In reality the answer is “NO!”.

On the bright side, a little fun in the sun can be a free, stress-relieving way to help defend against multiple common conditions:

INFECTION

Vitamin D produced via photosynthesis exhibits innate immunity to tuberculosis (TB).  When activated, the photosynthetic pathway for vitamin D production yields the antimicrobial peptide cathelicidin, which binds to unicellular Mycobacterium tuberculosis, likely leading to bacterial death.

More recent and currently relevant data from a study carried out by scientists from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Foundation Trust and the University of East Anglia have linked low levels of vitamin D with increased COVID-19 death rates across Europe. Vitamin D has already been shown to protect against acute respiratory infections and it has been shown to be safe.

DIABETES MELLITUS AND OBESITY

Lack of exposure to the sun can play a role in development of type 1 diabetes and vitamin D supplementation in early childhood may offer protection against the development of type 1 diabetes.

Bright sunlight may be associated with increased insulin sensitivity, decrease in incidence of type 2 diabetes, and lower triglyceride levels.

There is also evidence to indicate that it may help to reduce some of the complications associated with diabetes (cardiovascular disease, renal insufficiency, and peripheral nephropathy).

HYPERTENSION

Sun exposure may guard against hypertension and atherosclerosis. Full spectrum sunlight induces nitric oxide release, which relaxes vascular smooth muscle and decreases inflammation.

POOR BONE AND MUSCLES HEALTH

The active form of vitamin D, 1,25(OH)D, facilitates calcium and phosphorus absorption, mediating the exchange of calcium in and out of bones to maintain the metabolism of bone calcium. Without enough vitamin D, bone does not form properly, and deficiency manifests as osteoporosis in adults.

Research showed that sun and vitamin D deficiency can contribute to muscle inflammation and nonspecific muscle pain and fatigue.

AUTOIMMUNE DISORDERS

Exposure to both UVA and UVB radiation can have direct immunosuppressive effects through up regulation of cytokines (TNF-α and IL-10) and increased activity of T regulatory cells that remove self-reactive T cells, and helping in autoimmune disorders such as SLE, Hashimoto thyroiditis, type 1 diabetes mellitus, MS, iridocyclitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis vulgaris, seropositive RA, polymyalgia rheumatica.

MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS

A wealth of evidence links UV exposure to decreased risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) independently from vitamin D. Additionally, some researchers have shown that vitamin D may offer certain benefits for people with MS, including reduced frequency and severity of symptoms, improved quality of life, and longer time to progression from relapsing-remitting MS to the secondary-progressive phase.

CANCER

Researchers found  an inverse relationship between vitamin D levels and breast cancer risk. Specifically, women with 25(OH)D levels (> 32 ng/mL) exhibited nearly half the breast cancer death rate compared with those with lower levels (< 14 ng/mL).

Another study also showed a strong inverse association between levels of pre-diagnostic 25-(OH)D concentration and risk of colorectal cancer in western European populations. Patients with the highest levels (more than 40 ng/mL) had a 42% reduced risk of colon cancer, as compared to patients with the lowest (less than 10 ng/mL).

Similar association exist between sun exposure and prostate cancer, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and bladder cancer.

Non-burning sun exposure is associated with a reduced risk of melanoma, while sunburns are associated with a doubling of the risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.

DEMENTIA

The sunshine vitamin has been involved in clearance of amyloid-β peptide, it has brain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and possible protection against the neurodegenerative mechanisms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. It increases neurotrophic factors, such as the nerve growth factor, which further promote brain health.  Multiple studies and meta-analysis have also exhibited an association of low vitamin D with cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

LIVER DISEASE

Sun exposure can mitigate the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by both vitamin D dependent and independent mechanisms. However, vitamin D supplementation does not result in the same benefits. This suggests that a mediator produced from sunlight exposure other than vitamin D may be responsible for decreasing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease risk.

AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION

Studies have shown reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration in those with high levels of 25(OH)D.

HAPPINESS

We also cannot forget in this depressing time of social distancing and isolation that sunshine can stimulate brain serotonergic activity, increase release of beta-endorphin, a neurohormone that acts as an analgesic, producing a feeling of well-being and improving our circadian rhythm.

The latest study on COVID-19 showed that sunlight may rapidly inactivate SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces, suggesting that persistence, and subsequently exposure risk, may vary significantly between indoor and outdoor environments. Additionally, this data indicates that natural sunlight may be effective as a disinfectant for contaminated non-porous materials.

Spring is here, the Summer is on the way!

Get out of your “incarceration”, and enjoy the benefits of the SUN!!!

But still keep the safe social distancing and use all the required precautions!

Limit direct exposure to the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest. To get the benefits of sunlight without the risk of burning, aim to get 10–30 minutes of sun, several times per week, either before 10 am or after 4 pm, without putting on any sunscreen, because sunscreen blocks most vitamin D. People with darker skin may need a little more than this. Your exposure time should depend on how sensitive your skin is to sunlight. Just make sure not to burn. If you need to be out between 10 am and 4 pm, please apply sunscreen to prevent burning.

For more information on healthy lifestyle recommendations please schedule an appointment with Dr. Koganski at 215-750-7000 or https://www.NewtownInternalMedicine.com