Eating a paleo diet and leading a paleo lifestyle offer a long list of benefits. And one easy-to-use paleo tool can help you reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease.
The tool that can improve your health is hanging right over your head: the sun.
The research results affirming the health benefits of the sun are as a clear as the crisp air of a primeval sunrise. To enjoy optimal health, you need to soak up the sun the way your ancestors did.
Now that doesn’t mean you should let yourself get sunburned. Sunburn is a sure sign of too much of a good thing. In the same way that a small amount of red wine is good for your health but an alcohol binge is a health disaster, just the right amount of sun on your skin is a wellness boost but overdoing your ultraviolet exposure represents a serious danger.
And the health benefits of sunlight aren’t merely contained in the vitamin D your skin makes when it gets the right amount of ultraviolet B rays (UVB) from the sun. Studies show that sunshine has other benefits along with stimulating vitamin D production.
Research at the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh demonstrates that when sunlight hits your skin it influences levels of nitric oxide (NO). As a result, NO reduces blood pressure and makes blood vessel walls relax. Those actions protect your heart.
Researcher Martin Feelisch says: “NO along with its breakdown products, known to be abundant in skin, is involved in the regulation of blood pressure. When exposed to sunlight, small amounts of NO are transferred from the skin to the circulation, lowering blood vessel tone; as blood pressure drops, so does the risk of heart attack and stroke.”
The study indicates UVA helps dilate blood vessels, significantly drops blood pressure and changes NO metabolite levels in the blood without affecting vitamin D levels.
“We believe that NO from the skin is an important, so far overlooked contributor to cardiovascular health. In future studies we intend to test whether the effects hold true in a more chronic setting and identify new nutritional strategies targeted at maximizing the skin’s ability to store NO and deliver it to the circulation more efficiently,” says Feelisch.
The lack of sun in the winter, the researchers say, may explain why blood pressure goes up in colder months and the risk of heart problems also increases.
The sun fights cancer
Even though conventional doctors seem to be opposed to getting any sunlight, believing that sun exposure leads to cancer (and it certainly does if you let yourself burn), a wide range of research shows that sun exposure reduces your risk of cancer and other serious health issues:
- A study at the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, shows that men who get a lot of sun on the job have a lower risk of kidney cancer.
- Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison demonstrates that letting your skin make vitamin D from sunlight can help relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
- Studies at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California show that getting a lot of sun can knock a man’s risk of prostate cancer in half.
- An analysis of data from the US Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) shows that sunlight can help keep you safe from rheumatoid arthritis.
Get some sun
Sunscreen may not be your best bet when you need skin protection to prevent sunburn. Some sunscreens are suspected of actually making sun exposure more risky for DNA damage even when they keep you from burning. But it’s always a good idea to wear a hat to guard your skin or just get out of the sun when your skin has tanned a bit and you’ve had enough.
In addition, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is important for helping your skin reap health benefits from the sun.
Your body needs these nutrients to help protect it from sun damage:
- Vitamin C: Sources include citrus fruits, berries and kiwi fruit.
- Vitamin E: Eat plenty of nuts which are rich in various forms of vitamin E.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin: Available from egg yolks, kiwi fruit, grapes, spinach, oranges and squash.