Healthy sunlight exposure boosts gut health in vitamin D deficient people
(NaturalHealth365) Vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is incredibly important for your body. Unfortunately, research shows more than 41% of Americans are deficient in this essential nutrient, mainly because they don’t get enough sunlight exposure.
This obviously puts millions of people at an increased risk for issues like cardiovascular disease, cancer, and … impaired gut health?
A new study published in Frontiers in Microbiology discovered that “healthy” exposure to UV radiation can boost vitamin D levels and improve the diversity of friendly bacteria living in the gut in certain individuals. The implication of this is huge, because we know now that gut health is closely linked to immune health and overall well-being and longevity.
Modest sunlight exposure boosts vitamin D and can improve gut health, study reveals
In this article’s featured study, researchers exposed 21 women to three full body sessions of ultraviolet (UV) radiation – specifically, UVB, the type of UV radiation normally associated with sunburn and skin cancer (the researchers used a special type of UVB lamp that doesn’t cause burning). 9 of these women took vitamin D supplements for three months prior to the UV sessions.
What happened next?
After the UV radiation sessions, all women saw improvements in their serum vitamin D levels. But the women who were deficient in vitamin D prior to the sessions also developed better balance and diversity in their gut microbiomes. In fact, their gut health improved to match the women who had been supplementing with the gut-healthy vitamin for three months!
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This evidence, the authors conclude, “[suggests] the existence of a novel skin-gut axis that could be used to promote intestinal homeostasis and health.”
This research is consistent with past evidence that reveals a link between living at higher latitudes (where exposure to UV radiation is lower) and a higher risk of certain immune-related diseases including inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis.
Overall, this latest study supports the consensus that sunlight is really the best source of vitamin D (which your skin cells produce from cholesterol after exposure to UVB radiation). The study also offers a possible reason as to why sunlight is so good for you, given the way it can boost gut health.
Fun in the sun: 4 ways to enjoy healthy sun exposure
There’s no debate about it – excessive UV radiation from the sun can be damaging to your health, and you should avoid overdoing it or getting a sunburn at all costs.
As an example, one 2014 study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention showed that getting five or more blistering sunburns before age 20 increased a woman’s risk of skin cancer by as much as 80%!
However, we now know that healthy exposure to the sun helps our body produce vitamin D which is good not only for gut health but also bone and brain health. Vitamin D deficiencies are linked with dire health consequences such as cancer, osteoporosis, dementia, and even depression.
Since UV radiation exposure seems to be the most effective way to boost vitamin D levels in your body (especially if you’re already deficient in the nutrient), how can you get out in the sun safely while minimizing your risk of sunburns, cancer, wrinkles, and so on?
- Seek the high noon sun. Evidence suggests the body is most efficient at making vitamin D when exposed to midday sun. Because of this, you don’t need to spend as much time in the sun, which can mitigate the effects of excessive UV radiation exposure.
- Go without sunscreen – at least for the first 10 to 30 minutes. If you slather yourself in sunscreen your body won’t be able to use UV radiation to convert cholesterol into vitamin D. So go sunscreen-free for up to the first half hour in the sun, depending on how sensitive your skin is – remember, we DON’T want to burn!
- Expose as much skin as your modesty allows. Since your head and face are smaller areas, the skin there won’t produce as much vitamin D in response to sunlight. So go ahead and wear your polarized glasses and a wide-brimmed hat to avoid chronic eye problems and wrinkles – but wear a T-shirt and shorts to expose your limbs whenever possible.
- Supplement your sun exposure with a vitamin D rich diet. Sunlight is the best way to get more vitamin D in your body. But to boost your body’s supply (especially if you live in higher latitudes or have darker skin), consider taking a high quality vitamin D supplement (like cod liver oil) and eat vitamin D rich foods like fatty fish, beef liver, and eggs.
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