Are Clouds Destroying Your Health?

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One of Dr. Mercola’s mentors – Dr. Jonathan Wright, MD – speaks about the importance of sunlight for our health. Dr. Wright lives in Seattle, Washington, USA – the cloudiest state in America. Dr. Wright understands the importance of sunlight for the body and the difficulty that getting enough sunlight can be. In this article, Dr. Wright offers healthy methods to increase Vitamin D levels using natural light and artificial devices.

Are Clouds Destroying Your Health?

By Jonathan Wright, MD

As you’re likely aware, I live and work in the Seattle area, which gets famously little direct sun. July and August are really our only truly “sunny” months of the year.[1] Sea-Tac airport actually has a “sun gauge” (most airports have rain gauges only), and it records an average 227 days of total cloud cover per year.

So since the sun’s not going to do the job for me, I’ve been taking my vitamin D since “waking up” to natural medicine in 1972. Over the years, I’ve increased the amount steadily towards 5,000 IU daily as more and more favorable vitamin D research appeared, especially since vitamin D has been shown to significantly reduce risk of prostate, breast, and colon cancer, and two of these have occurred in my family.

But important as vitamin D is, it’s only one of solar radiation’s many health benefits.

The Importance of Full-Spectrum Lighting

From the mid-20th century through the 1990s, pioneering light researcher John Ott conclusively demonstrated that full-spectrum lighting that closely mimics the visible wavelengths produced by the sun (380 to 760 nanometers, actually a very tiny part of the entire solar spectrum) is far superior to “regular” fluorescent or incandescent lighting for the health of plants, animals, and humans.

In one of his best-known animal experiments, he placed 2,000 mice with spontaneously developing, usually fatal tumors under four different types of light. In an otherwise identical, controlled environment, the mice developed spontaneous tumors and died at 7 1/2 months under pink fluorescent light, slightly over 8 months under “cool white” (standard) fluorescents, 15 1/2 months under full-spectrum fluorescent lights, and slightly over 16 months under natural sunlight.

Once full-spectrum lighting became commercially available, we made sure to install it at Tahoma Clinic and at home. There’s a visible difference: colors appear much more natural and distinct. The plants in our home and at the clinic do much better with full-spectrum lighting, too.

But there are many, many other solar wavelengths that are invisible to humans. One of these is the infrared spectrum, with wavelengths from 760 nanometers all the way to 100,000 nanometers. This spectrum has been found to have health benefits, too. Just one of those benefits involves enzyme induction — literally “speeding up” an enzyme so that it makes significantly more of its particular product.

Working with just a small part of the overall infrared spectrum — the wavelengths emitted by infrared saunas — Japanese researchers found that this portion of infrared stimulated the enzyme nitric oxide synthase (NOS) within blood vessel walls. This leads to the production of more nitric oxide within blood vessels, which, in turn, leads to blood vessel relaxation and lower blood pressure.

Researchers in the United States found that this effect of infrared saunas significantly improved the symptoms of congestive heart failure. And in separate research, higher levels of nitric oxide have been found to improve male erections and sexual function.

Since sweating heavily is one of the better ways to detoxify our bodies from pesticides, herbicides, and thousands of other industrial and chemical pollutants, Holly and I purchased an infrared sauna for this purpose several years ago.

But when the “secondary” health benefit noted above was pointed out to me by the representative of High Tech Health International (, one of the very best sources of research citations about infrared radiation and health, as well as infrared saunas) I’ll admit that it gave another dimension — and perhaps some more motivation — for using the sauna!

On the “other side” of the visible light spectrum from infrared is the ultraviolet spectrum, with wavelengths between 200 and 380 nanometers. Ultraviolet light has been used in medicine both internally (ultraviolet blood irradiation, “UVBI”) and externally since the late 19th century.

But despite it’s effectiveness, safety, and extensive documentation, ultraviolet light treatment has been almost entirely ignored by “mainstream” medicine since the late 1940s. You can find many more details about ultraviolet treatments in Nutrition & Healing for May and June 2008.

The Health Benefits of “Whole Sunshine”

So ultraviolet, visible spectrum, and infrared wavelengths all have significant health benefits. But what about simple sunshine, which includes all of them — and more? Believe it or not “whole sunshine” has been researched, too.

  • In 1930, researchers found that solar radiation on male genitals increased testosterone secretion.[2]
  • Another study published in 1937 showed that, after sunbathing, glycogen (energy stored from blood sugar) storage increases in both muscle and in the liver.[3]
  • A 1966 Russian study demonstrated that a gradually increasing program of sunbathing lowered cholesterol and triglyceride levels significantly and normalized electrocardiograms.[4] A control group who didn’t sunbathe didn’t have these improvements.
  • And a few years later, in 1973, another Russian research team reported that early stage hypertension was improved by sunbathing and ultraviolet light exposure.[5]

Studies done in this country have shown similar results. 30 individuals with atherosclerosis had their serum cholesterol measured before and after a single sunlight treatment. Just two hours later, the subjects had as much as a 13 percent decrease in their serum cholesterol.[6]

One of the same investigators repeated this study with a larger group of individuals and achieved similar results,[7] and also published (in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine) a study on rabbits fed cholesterol and exposed to either sunlight or standard indoor lighting.

The rabbits exposed to standard room lighting developed severe cholesterol deposits in their arteries, while the rabbits receiving sunlight exposure had clean arteries with little or no atherosclerotic damage — despite both groups being fed cholesterol.[8]

There are many, many more examples of the health benefits of whole solar radiation. One of the best sources on sunlight and health is the book Sunlight Could Save Your Life, by Zane Kime, M.D. (available in libraries and online).

If You Can’t Get to the Tropics, Bring the Tropics to You

Except in July and August — the two sunny months we get in Seattle — if Holly and I want a few reliable days of “whole sunshine” we’d need to go to a tropical or semi-tropical area: Research shows that even the sunniest places in the U.S. — like Arizona — might not do it.

According to a 2008 study of 637 southern Arizona residents, only 22.3 percent achieved “normal” 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of more than 30 nanograms per milliliter.

And keep in mind that 30 nanograms per milliliter is the minimum considered adequate for good health.[9] The optimal range is 60-100 nanograms per milliliter!

There are at least two factors that likely explain this apparent irony. First, in Arizona, as in the rest of these United States, the large majority of people spent most of their time indoors.

And second, compared with tropical areas, Arizona is actually over 3000 miles north of the Earth’s equator, which means that during when Earth’s northern hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun for several months out of the year, those “ultraviolet vitamin D-rays” don’t even reach the ground in Arizona.

Unfortunately, Holly and I don’t have the time or budget available for as many trips to “catch some rays” as we’d like. So we’ve decided to add the next best thing to our vitamin D supplements, full spectrum lighting, and infrared sauna — a “solar tanning bed.” I know it sounds like a major investment, and it is …

But even combining the cost of all of these, it’s still cheaper — and much easier to do on a regular basis — than a trip to the tropics for a week or more.

After some looking around, we found that the best model was the latest version in my friend Dr. Joseph Mercola’s series of tanning beds, the Mercola Vitality Bed.

This lie-down model combines wavelengths of 280 to 400 nanometers (middle and near ultraviolet, including “vitamin D rays,” and some visible violet) with a specific orange wavelength at 633 nanometers, a wavelength that specifically stimulates blood flow and the formation of new collagen.[10]

Collagen is the main protein of connective tissue. Think of it like the glue that holds the tissues of the body together. Loss of collagen with aging leads to thin, “old-looking” skin. This bed also emits 780-800 nanometer infrared wavelengths—tanning rays—along with “visible” wavelengths of 400 to 700 nanometers (violet-blue, blue, green, yellow, orange, pink, and a little red). All of them provide a number of health benefits.

Another great feature of this machine is that the ballast for each light is electromagnetic, creating little to no surrounding electromagnetic field (EMF), unlike “regular” fluorescent tubes, whose ballasts can create hazardous EMF.

Dr. Mercola does such a terrific job of “getting the word out” through about the importance of vitamin D and full-spectrum sunlight to health (as well as many other things, including but certainly not limited to the health hazards of grains, sugar, and artificial sweeteners) that I’ve decided to work with him on this project.

Two Reasons to Get Over Your “Sunphobia”

We’ve all been exposed to so much propaganda from sunblock manufacturers and “mainstream” dermatologists that it’s no wonder so many people still get uneasy about sunbathing or exposure to tanning beds.

But there are two things to keep in mind before letting sunphobia get the better of you. First, researchers have charted the incidence of skin cancer from the 1920s to the present. The graph shows that skin cancer occurrence has steadily increased with every decade. Similarly, use of sun block was relatively low in the 1920s, but has steadily increased with every decade. In fact, the two lines on the graph rise in parallel!

While this doesn’t show that sun block causes skin cancer, it does show that increased use of sunblock has not decreased the occurrence of skin cancer.

A likely cause of this increased rate of skin cancer was illustrated by an animal experiment conducted at Baylor College of Medicine. The researchers regularly exposed two groups of rabbits to ultraviolet light. One group was given a “balanced diet” but no vitamins, while the other group was given the same diet with added vitamins C, D, and E.

After 24 weeks, none of the animals in the diet plus vitamins group had developed skin cancer, while 24 percent of the animals in the diet-alone group had developed the disease.[11] (Folate and vitamin A should be added to this list, since both are quite inadequate in many diets, both are broken down easily, and both are known to help prevent skin and other cancers.)

So my tentative conclusion is that a healthy diet — preferably made up of organic and free range foods — along with the correct supplements would do more to protect against skin cancer than all the sunscreens presently in use.

And the other thing to keep in mind is that, as serious as they can be, most skin cancers are completely curable! Dr. Bill Cham has found that safe, topically applied natural substances called solasodine glycosides can actually cure squamous and basal cell carcinomas should they occur — usually within 14 weeks.



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This entry was posted on Monday, May 20th, 2024 at 1:15 am and is filed under Articles.

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