David Huting, Guest Writer
“Along with food, air, and water, sunlight is the most important survival factor in human life.” -The National Institute of Mental Health
In the past 100 years, the majority of people around the world have transitioned from working outside all day to being stuck inside, with artificial lighting. 100 years ago we didn’t have sunscreen. Oddly enough, skin and other cancers have been on a dramatic rise in the last four decades, especially in more recent years – despite increased sunscreen usage and less overall sun exposure.  Once one understands that sunlight is essential for a healthy body and strong immune system, the link becomes clear; it appears that sunscreen and lack of regular sunlight is more of a cause of cancer and health problems than the sun itself!
In this article I’ve compiled an array of intriguing factual information about the Sun, to help highlight its importance as an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. My hope is that after reading this, you’ll be inspired to go out and spend more time in the sun every day – even during winter – because it does far more than just feel good and make you tan! First, let’s look at some basic truths related to the Sun:
The Sun Provides Life To Almost Every Living Thing On Our Planet
“Much of the nutritional energy utilized by life on this planet comes through the thin leaves of plant: with a mechanism called photosynthesis. Through microscopic pores in the leaf called stomata, the plant absorbs carbon dioxide. From the roots below, water is absorbed and brought through tiny veins to the leaf. Tiny chloroplasts of multiple chlorophyll molecules drink specific rays of the sun, utilizing those waveforms to split water into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The resulting hydrogen atoms combine with with carbon dioxide to form carbohydrates, while oxygen atoms are released into the air as oxygen gas. The carbohydrates form sugars, starches, and cellulose within the plant, directly providing fuel to plant-eating species, and indirectly providing fuel for those species that eat plant-eaters. None of this could be possible without the energy of the sun.”
The Sun delivers a full spectrum of ultraviolet and infared rays – many invisible to the human eye. Human technology has been unsuccessful at replicating this.
Although many of them are filtered by our atmosphere, the bands of light we “see” and don’t “see” from the sun are vast and essential for many other organisms and animals on our planet as well as our body’s internal systems. (Example: bees see ultraviolet light to help them find pollen.) While there has been technology used to try to imitate this such as “full spectrum lighting” and tanning beds, the fact is that neither of these offer an effective dose of natural sunlight. There is no substitute for the real thing.
Humans and Plants Need Natural Sunlight To Live and Thrive
Ever noticed how most indoor plants will wilt and die without proper sunlight? The same goes for humans; for truly vibrant health, we need sun on a daily basis. On top of providing increased feelings of well-being and relaxation, our body depends on natural sunlight for several critical functions. Below is a list of important positive effects of the sun:
Positive Effects of Natural Sunlight On Our Bodies:
- –> Increased feelings of well-being and relaxation, and decrease in allergies, headaches, joint pain, and backaches.
- –> Increase in core body temperature, facilitating increased cell function and greater energy. This is why when on vacation or living in warm climates like on the beach we feel so great!
- –> Increase in metabolism, providing increased effectiveness in our body’s detoxification and purification systems. The body’s detoxification process critical if we are to remain healthy in such a toxic environment in which most Americans are living.
- –> Reduced Stress through Regulation of our Endocrine System. A lack of natural sunlight will disrupt the body’s endocrine systems, leading to hormonal imbalances, slowed metabolism, and adrenal insufficiency. A lack of natural sunlight can be a major contributor to mental and physical health problems, such as depression, obesity, and reduced energy.
- –> Sunlight is a natural defense against several diseases. A number of diseases are attributable to lower levels of sunlight. Hypertension, atheroscloriosis, early dementia, Alzeheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, depression, arthritis, and lower back pain are just a few of the issues which have been linked to a lack of sun exposure.
- –> Our bodies’ natural clockworks depend on the sun to synchronize. Key hormones such as melatonin and cortisol, responsible for our sleep and active cycles, are stimulated by receptor cells in our body that respond to signals from the sun. And it’s not just the sun we see with our eyes: blind people have very strong biological clocks, and they too run on the sun’s clockworks. 
Sunlight is a Direct Source of Your Life Force Energy
Eastern medicine, which was used effectively for thousands of years before the onset of “modern medicine”, utilizes several different natural healing methods, such as acupuncture. The underlying focus on all of these medicines is on maintaining the body’s natural flow of life energy, or ‘qi .’ (In traditional Chinese culture, qì (also chi or ch’i) is an active principle forming part of any living thing. Qi is frequently translated as “life energy”, “life force”, or “energy flow”. Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. The literal translation of “qi” is “breath”, “air”, or “gas”. Concepts similar to qi can be found in many cultures, for example, prana in Vedantic philosophy, mana in Hawaiian culture, lüng in Tibetan Buddhism, and Vital energy in Western philosophy.)
A Quick Statement About Life Energy
Every living thing on this earth has ‘qi’, or life force, which is directly derived from the sun. The recognition of this fact is essential in understanding the benefits of eating a diet rich in raw, unprocessed foods. (Foods lose their life force [living enzymes] when they are heated, especially at the levels required to process and pasteurize our foods. Chemical preservatives used to extend shelf life further reduce any remaining enzymes [life force] that were not destroyed in the heating process.)
One could reasonably infer that by consuming raw plants (as in fresh made salads and in fresh vegetable juices), they are indirectly absorbing energy derived directly from the sun. Many report a rush of energy and focus after drinking fresh juiced fruits and vegetables (I for one can vouch for this). This observation is only further strengthened by the collective wisdom and beliefs central to Eastern Medicine (natural healing). In this system, the body is believed to have seven energy centers, or ‘chakras‘. The “spleen” or “sacral” chakra, located just below the navel and slightly to the left, is one of seven energy centers taught in eastern healing medicines, and is said to be a distributor of energy. “One of [the spleen chakra's big jobs is to receive and distribute the sun's energy throughout the physical body, especially the bloodstream. It's also a storage place for solar rays, so that when we need energy, it can be called upon. This point is responsible for helping to keep the physical body vital and full of stamina." An example of this many of us can relate to is returning to work, nice and tan after a vacation to somewhere warm and sunny; upon returning, we feel energized and refreshed (part of this feeling is also a result of taking time away from life’s distraction to relax, something many of us unfortunately don’t make enough time for.)
Vitamin D: The “Sunshine Vitamin”
Did you know that the best source of Vitamin D is that which is synthesized through direct sunlight exposure to our skin? Vitamin D is critically important in regulating calcium levels absorption. Vitamin D is also critically important for healthy immune system function, nervous system function, cardiovascular health, mood regulation, pain regulation, insulin/blood sugar balance, as well as numerous endocrine and digestive functions. Vitamin D is a necessary component for good health, and its most natural form (D3) comes from natural sun exposure – not many foods contain vitamin D. (It is found in various dairy products such as choose, butter, and cream, and in some fish and oysters, but these offer vastly less Vitamin D than the Sun.) 
Get Your Daily Dose
The average American diet will only provide about 250-300 IU; a Boston University study in 2008 reported that 2,000 – 4,000 IU is required for significant cancer rate reduction,  While this sounds like a lot, consider this: just 20 minutes of sunlight on the arms, hands, and face, will produce about 400IU of vitamin D on the average skyn type. A day of summer sun in a swimsuit will easily produce as much as 20,000 IU!
- –> Sunlight Can Make You Live Longer: According to a recent article on NaturalNews.com, Vitamin D not only prevents chronic diseases, but also extends natural lifespan!
- –> Although the RDA for vitamin D is only 200-700 IU, many nutritionists believe that 1,000 – 5,000IU per day is optimal.
- –> Note that SPF-8 sunscreen will block 95% of vitamin D synthesis!
- –> For those living in regions with winter seasons, regular sunlight is even more important! Because your skin has less melanin (what makes you tan), it will be able to absorb more vitamin D faster. Roughly an hour in the middle of the day with the face and hands exposed should be adequate.
- –> Keep in mind that even on cloudy days, the sun’s rays will still be absorbed by your skin. Just being outside is the key. (Heavy clouds will block some of these rays, but most still penetrate. This is why you can still get sunburnt on a cloudy day.)
- –> Regardless of how much vitamin D is synthesized, natural light can have positive effects upon ones mood and energy levels, especially if exercise is involved.
- –> Without regular sunlight, humans – just like plants – will begin to degenerate in a host of ways.
Sunscreen: More Harmful than Sunlight?
The widespread use of harmful sunscreen ingredients is a significant factor in the skin cancer epidemic. Their addition to the epidermis layer (outer layer of the skin) creates an environment of excessive oxidative radicals, as the sun in the presence of oxygen further oxidizes these synthetic molecules without nature’s balancing molecules to combat it. These chemicals substantially increase the toxic burden within the cells. This burden minimizes the body’s ability to neutralize oxidizing effects of the sun’s radiation, intensifying the the sun’s harmful oxidizing factor. This intensification essentially converts the sun’s rays from therapeutic to dangerous. It’s not just sunscreen that is dangerous; tanning oils are also filled with synthetic chemicals that alter your skin’s natural ability to repair itself after sunlight exposure, further worsening the negative effects. Various moisturizing lotions also contain a host of synthetic chemicals that disrupt your body’s natural defenses.
When To Use Sunscreen
If you’re not able to cover yourself with a hat or an extra layer of clothes, and you cannot possibly avoid direct sunlight exposure for long periods of time, sunscreen will help with preventing a burn. If you must use sunscreen, look for natural alternatives to mainstream brands that do not include PABA.
Treating a Sunburn Naturally
The best agent for relief and healing is aloe vera gel. The best source of this is cutting a leaf off of an aloe vera plant. This milky plant’s gel holds much of it’s active phytochemicals such as aloectin, anthraquinones, polysaccharides, resins, and tannins – all which work synergistically to speed healing, neutralize oxidized radicals, and soothe pain. Two more great sources are the cucumber – just cut off sections and rub onto your skin or blend into a lotion – and the lemon – dilute in water 50/50 and rub directly on the burn.
Getting Sunburnt Will Still Cause Cancer
If you do choose to spend several hours or even all day in the sun, then sunscreen can indeed help prevent the damaging effects of sun’s UV rays. If your skin is pink, it’s a sign that it has received too much sun and you should take any and all measures to avoid further direct sunlight. Find a spot in the shade, or bring with you some light layers to protect your skin from the powerful mid-day sun’s rays. If you just can’t leave the sun (I am guilty of this sometimes), then be sure to use sunscreen – just try and use natural sunscreens available at your local natural foods stores or online.
Watch the Sunset – It’s Good For You
Sun gazing during sunrise and sunset can have a rejuvenating effect upon the eyes if done correctly. Watching the sunset and sunrise has been a recommendation for eyesight problems among many traditional medicines including Ayurvedic, American Indian, and Greek disciplines. The filtering of the earth’s atmosphere during these two times of the day filters the rays considered damaging during the mid-day sun. Both the UV and infrared spectrum are almost completely blocked an hour before the sunset and an hour after sunrise. After a few months of consistent sunrise/set gazing every day we may discover many subtle and obvious benefits. We may discover our eyesight actually improving. We may perceive colors as brighter. We may also see a change in our moods – possibly a greater sense of optimism. We may feel more relaxed and calm. The synchronising effect between our SCN cells, our pituitary, hypothalamus, and cisual cortex may also lead us to sleep better and have a general reduction in tension.
“Along with food, air, and water, sunlight is the most important survival factor in human life.” -The National Institute of Mental Health
The sun is an essential element to good health, and the importance of making sure you’re getting enough sunlight cannot be emphasized enough. Getting your body the sunlight it needs will make you feel and look better, live longer, and help you harmonize with the world around you. So make time for it. Find a spot to watch it rise or set, and try to watch it as often as you can. Sitting in the sun is not an excuse to avoid other tasks – but rather an essential part of living a healthy, vibrant lifestyle. Use your time in the sun to forget about life’s worries for a moment, and to recharge your mind and soul
About the Author
David Huting is a 28 year-old photographer, videographer, writer, travler/adventurer, and spiritual aspirant with a passion for nature and natural living/healing. His creations include an array of unique content designed to inspire, inform, and relax individuals around the world. He’s most well known for his nature relaxation videos on YouTube, and is the creator/owner of the inspirational sites NatureRelaxation.com, EpicWallArt.com, and his newest site, NaturalHealingNetwork.org, which is designed to be an exciting resource for information related to all things related to living a naturally healthy, happy, and vibrant lifestyle.
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Excessive sun can definitely cause cancer and in no way am I endorsing getting sunburnt.