Sunlight: Without it there would be almost no life. It’s key factor involved in photosynthesis, a process vital for many living beings on Earth. Considering the lengths we go to protect ourselves from the sun, it’s a wonder that the incidence of disease is not higher than it already is. Before the advent of toxic drugs and antibiotics, sunlight was being used to treat everything from tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, acne, cancer, sleep disorders and overcoming worldwide sanitation problems including the purification of water.
More than 200 million Americans lack essential vitamin D and as a result suffer from a host of daily annoyances, chronic conditions, and even life-threatening illnesses.
Vitamin D is called the “Sunshine Vitamin” for a reason, but surprisingly to many, it is not actually a vitamin but a hormone â€“ unique because it is made in the skin as a result of exposure to sunlight.
Vitamin D may reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), says Hector DeLuca, Steenbock Research Professor of Biochemistry at University of Wisconsin-Madison, but in a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he and first author Bryan Becklund suggest that the ultraviolet portion of sunlight may play a bigger role than vitamin D in controlling MS.
Sunlight has been shown to effectively treat psoriasis. A feature of psoriasis is localized inflammation mediated by the immune system. Ultraviolet radiation is known to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammatory responses.
Sunlight was long known to improve acne, and this was thought to be due to antibacterial and other effects of the ultraviolet spectrum which cannot be used as a long-term treatment due to the likelihood of skin damage.
The use of sunlight has also been proven to be effective in treating cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a class of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Direct sunlight, reflected into the windows of a home or office by a computer-controlled mirror device called a heliostat, has also been used as a type of light therapy for the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder. The effectiveness of light therapy for treating SAD may be linked to the fact that light therapy makes up for lost sunlight exposure and resets the body’s internal clock.
According to a team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, sunlight and a pinch of lime might do the trick to solve the global water crisis. Researchers found that adding lime juice to water that is treated with a solar disinfection method removed detectable levels of harmful bacteria such as E. coli significantly faster than solar disinfection alone.
A recent study led by researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, conducted in collaboration with the Medical Research Council’s National Institute for Medical Research, has shown that sunlight and high doses of vitamin D, appear to help patients with tuberculosis (TB) recover more quickly.
The research, which will be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS), is the first to investigate the effect of vitamin D on the immune responses of patients receiving treatment for an infectious disease. The findings indicate that high doses of the vitamin can dampen down the body’s inflammatory response to infection, enabling patients to recover faster, with less damage to their lungs.
Dr Adrian Martineau, senior lecturer in respiratory infection and immunity at the Blizard Institute, part of Queen Mary, University of London, who led the research, said: “These findings are very significant. They indicate that vitamin D may have a role in accelerating resolution of inflammatory responses in tuberculosis patients. This is important, because sometimes these inflammatory responses can cause tissue damage leading to the development of cavities in the lung. If we can help these cavities to heal more quickly, then patients should be infectious for a shorter period of time, and they may also suffer less lung damage.
The researchers also found that Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, was cleared from the patients’ sputum (the phlegm coughed up from deep in the lungs) faster in those who were taking vitamin D, taking an average of 23 days to become undetectable under the microscope compared to 36 days in the patients who were taking the placebo.
About the Author
April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.