Have you ever stopped and thought about the sun in our sky? I mean really thought about it.
This magnificent life-giving ball of gas at the heart of our solar system has been revered and worshiped by ancient cultures for millennium. It brings us romance, stories, songs, hope, the dawning of a new day, the sinking onto the horizon within a palette of wonder. We seek it, we travel to it, we bask in it, we warm in it, we let it kiss our skin to become golden like it, without it… there would be no life.
The connection and interactions between the Sun and Earth is what drives the seasons, ocean currents, weather, climate, radiation belts and creates the breathtaking dancing colors of the aurorae.
This giant star is 4.5 billion years old. It is a ball of gas and in terms of atoms, it is 91% hydrogen and 8.9% helium. It is the brightest star in our Milky Way Galaxy and is so big that it would take 1.3 million Earths to fill it.
The sun communicates with us through light and electric currents that generate a magnetic field that is carried out through the solar system by the solar winds. The solar winds are a stream of electrically charged gas blowing outward from the Sun in all directions.
The word alone brings fear to some and comfort to others. Some will think about radiation as a type of therapy used in the treatment for certain cancers, others will relate it with the act of sending out or radiating good energy. It is neither good nor bad. It is just the act of sending out energy. It is the attribute of the energy that is helpful or harmful, full of growth or full of destruction
There are basically two types of radiation: Particle and Electromagnetic radiation.
Particle radiation is the result of subatomic particles hurtling at tremendous speeds. Protons, cosmic rays, and alpha and beta particles are some of the most common types of particle radiation. These are mostly harmful.
Electromagnetic (EM) radiation is the result of oscillating electric and magnetic fields. The wave of energy generated by such vibrations moves through space at the speed of light, and they travel with its own characteristic wavelength. Visible light is an example of this.
The EM field around our bodies is created by a positive charged atom like the proton, and a negative charged atom like the electron in motion causing a magnetic field. (Read more about this in the Energy article)
The Sun radiates the entire electromagnetic spectrum of waves, from the shortest, fastest frequency of Gamma rays to the slowest, longest frequency of Radio waves. Because the speed of light is a constant, the wave lengths and the energy they carry must be different. Hence a short fast frequency has a high level of energy such as X-rays and Gamma rays, and a long, slow frequency carries a low level of energy, such as InfraRed light, and Radio waves. In the middle is a very small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum we call Visible light. This is what we can see, represented as the rainbow of colors.
Ultraviolet Light- The Creator of Health and Harm
Most people know the sun for emitting ultraviolet light, or UV, which is faster, or has a higher frequency and shorter wavelength, than the violet color of the rainbow. We think of these rays as harmful, but that is not the full story. It is interesting to note that UV light is broken into UV-A, (blacklights; which we have all played with at some point); UV-B (largely responsible for sunburns and skin cancer) and UV-C (which is mostly blocked by our stratospheric ozone)
As the universe has it, most of the harmful, high energy X- rays and Ultraviolet rays of the sun are blocked by the earths Ozone layer in the stratosphere. As an aside, we are destroying the Ozone layer with our toxic by-products of industrial chemicals and Mother Nature is helping to build it back up with lightning strikes and by trees increasing the oxygen content on the planet.
As the sun emits EM waves carried by solar winds, the earth protects herself by adverting the harmful rays with her own EM field lines, and together there is a symphony of frequencies as the two collide and restructure. When the Solar particles of protons and electrons get through the earth’s magnetosphere, we are gifted with the beautiful Aurora’s, otherwise known as the Northern and Southern lights.
It is all about the balance. Too much and we get sun burned and potentially skin cancer. Too little and we get a deficiency of Vitamin D, (the sunshine vitamin) which is associated with a long list of health problems. It is the UV-B light that is necessary to start the synthesis of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D – How Essential Is It?
Vitamin D is not really a vitamin but a prohormone. Within the deeper layers of your skin there lives a cholesterol molecule called 7- hydroxycholesterol. When it is exposed to UV -B rays it is activated and then converted into Vitamin D3. After this, the chemical goes through a wide range of metabolic conversions; first through the liver and then to the kidneys where it becomes the active metabolite (calcitriol) that is used for calcium absorption and regulation from the bones and intestines, immune functions, cell growth and more. The parathyroid glands get involved when the calcium levels are too low and then they start talking to the kidneys as well to help make the active vitamin D metabolite.
I know this sounds confusing, there are a lot of working parts here and they are all doing their best to keep your body working well. The best and easiest thing to do is be grateful, believe me, your cells will hear you.
The benefits of the Vitamin D metabolites are:
- Calcium homeostasis -bone and muscle health
- Immune modulation: by improving dendritic cells and T cell function
- Modulating neutrophil activity
- Regulation of blood pressure and Cardiovascular health
- Improving the integrity of the lung’s epithelial barrier (reduces edema)
- Stimulates epithelial repair, strengthening blood vessels and decreasing the risk of abnormal blood clotting (hypercoagulability and thromboembolism)
- Helps produce antimicrobial peptides that can kill bacteria, virus, and fungi
- Plays a role in the regulation of zinc in the body
What does this all mean in the face of respiratory viruses like COVID and influenza?
42% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D3. In recent research this deficiency has led to increase susceptibility to respiratory viruses, asthma, allergies, bronchitis, and other inflammatory conditions.
Are We Getting Enough Vitamin D?
Ten – twenty minutes of direct ‘summer’ sunshine a day is equivalent to 10,000- 20,000 IU.
Skin color, lifestyle, altitude, geographical location, season length, air pollution, sunscreen, medication use (like statins that lower cholesterol), aging, underlying kidney, or liver disease, and wearing clothes that covers the skin are all factors in the ability or inability to absorb UV- B rays and start the metabolic process.
In the winter, when we are wearing a lot of clothing it is the most difficult to get sun exposure, and now we are covering up our faces with masks. In highly stressful times like this, it may be a good time to allow some sunshine upon your face.
How can you get Vitamin D if you cannot get it from the sun?
There are two forms of Vitamin D that you can get from foods, or supplements: D2 and D3. D2 is not as potent and still has to be metabolized in your body to the D3 form.
Sources of vitamin D2 include:
- Vitamin D2 supplements (made from irradiated mushrooms and plant material)
- Fortified foods containing D2 (breakfast cereal, infant formula, orange juice, milk)
Sources of vitamin D3 include:
- Egg yolk
- Oily fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna) and fish oil
- Vitamin D3 supplements made using lanolin from sheep’s wool
- Vitamin D3 supplements made using lichen (vegan/vegetarian friendly)
- Fortified foods containing D3 (eg, breakfast cereal, infant formula, orange juice, milk)
Vitamin D3 is more potent than D2 and binds to vitamin D receptors more effectively. It is also better absorbed and more easily converted into active D. Keep in mind, that all forms of vitamin D2 and D3 obtained from our diet or from supplements require conversion in our liver and kidneys before being active in our body.
You can get your blood tested for Vitamin D to see if it is low. This is available from your doctor and there are “do it yourself”, at home kits available.
In Conclusion-As The Sun Sets
How wonderful it is that we are so intimately connected to the sun in so many ways that we have a built in mechanism that is dependent upon its light wavelength to activate one of the most important metabolites for our wellbeing.
The sun may not shine every day, and when it does, make a point to sit with it, be with it, walk in it, and enjoy all the wonderful benefits it brings for our overall health- mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.