Looking for a natural tool that we all have free access to that can successfully boost immunity? Well, we have just one for you – the sun.
Regular sun exposure has many beneficial effects on the immune system and helps to keep the immune system and its cells strong all year long.
If you want to know why sunshine is so important, how it supports the immune system and how much sun to get daily, read on.
Sunshine is powerful. It is a life force. Biological changes happen in the body that both strengthen the immune system and ward off illness when humans are exposed to UV light. If you’re trying to keep your immune system bulletproof, then you need daily sun exposure.
There is a reason seasonality is a common feature of certain illnesses, like respiratory infections. These types of illnesses occur in fall and winter months and researchers speculate that one of the major factors for this phenomenon is because of less sunlight. Annual periods of colds and the flu break out during the winter months.
How does sunshine affect the immune system?
We know that regular sunshine exposure increases vitamin D, an essential immune vitamin known as the “Sunshine Vitamin”. When the sun’s rays hit your skin, the rays convert cholesterol to vitamin D. Vitamin D works to boost immunity. We link low levels of vitamin D to an increased risk of infections. Also, macrophages, which are your immune system’s white blood cells that eat up pathogens, require enough vitamin D to function well. Having plenty of vitamin D in the body also helps keep inflammation down.
Interestingly, however, new research is revealing that sunlight can strengthen your immune system in so many other ways.
New research has shown that sunshine can actually boost infection-fighting T cells, needed to ward off pathogens and prevent infection in cells. It is an energizing effect that it has on immune cells. This makes sense, as the sun is actually energizing to our whole body, including our immune system. The novel study from Georgetown University found that exposure to the sun’s light rays can activate T cells and make the T cells move quicker to fend off damage in the body. Feeling ill? Get sunshine.
They have shown UV light to inactivate pathogens like viruses on surfaces and eradicate airborne virus particles, which has been known for a long time.
The skin releases massive amounts of nitric oxide (NO) into the bloodstream when exposed to sunlight. While NO is key for cardiovascular health, it is also essential to the immune system and inhibits viral infections! In fact, a 2002 study showed that individuals who had higher levels of nitric oxide had less viral replication of the SARS virus. When the sun triggers increased levels of NO, the result is a boost in immune function and reduced viral replication.
So, in summary, getting enough sunshine daily is key to keeping your immune system strong! This is because sun exposure increases vitamin D levels, makes your infection-fighting T cells work better and faster and raises nitric oxide to further prevent viral replication!
How much sun do I need daily?
As discussed, getting sunshine exposure is essential to keeping your immune system strong. Again, sunlight exposure increases both vitamin D and nitric oxide levels, which have multiple protective effects on the immune system.
If you’re working to bulletproof your immune system, then aim for a minimum of 20-30 minutes of sunshine per day. Just know, depending on how much skin is exposed, your skin color, the month you’re in, the time of day you’re outside, and the status of your immune system, you may need more. See our 5 Top Tips for Safe Sun Exposure.
Interestingly, 20 minutes is likely enough to trigger a significant increase in nitric oxide. For a greater boost in vitamin D levels, however, you may also need more.
Also, work on getting sunshine morning, afternoon, and early evening to best expose your skin to different UV rays. One important thing to do is download the D-Minder app, which helps you track the best rays to get that day to assist you in raising your vitamin D levels.