The Healing Sun: Sunlight and Health in the 21st Century book

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In 2000, Richard Hobday released this book on the health benefits of Sunlight. Richard Hobday, MSc, PhD is a member of the British Register of Complementary Practitioners and has studied traditional Chinese Medicine and Chinese exercise systems in China. Dr. Hobday has many years experience of solar design in buildings and is a leading authority on the history of sunlight therapy.

Book Description

The human race evolved under the sun, and for thousands of years lived in harmony with its heat and light. Yet over the last fifty years we have lost this close contact with the sun and its healing powers. We have become afraid of it.

However the sun is central to our well being and health. Did you know that:

  • designing and building sunlit houses can help prevent disease, make us feel happier and save energy; 
  • sunlight can help prevent and heal many common and often fatal diseases like breast cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and osteoporosis; 
  • before antibiotics, sunlight was used successfully to speed up the healing of wounds; 
  • tanning moderately throughout the year is better than avoiding the sun altogether; 
  • sudden bursts of strong solar radiation are unnatural and dangerous, protection needs to be built up slowly; 
  • early morning sunlight in cool temperatures is particularly beneficial to the body; 
  • sunlit hospital rooms provide a better environment for the treatment of clinically depressed people; 
  • prolonged exposure to artificial light puts the body under great stress large numbers of people may be compromising their health through sunlight deficiency; 
  • there is a substantial body of historical and contemporary evidence that suggests moderate sunbathing is far more beneficial than we are currently led to believe.

The light and heat from the sun are indispensable to all nature. Humanity is also part of nature and needs sunlight for health and well being, for vitality and happiness. This book explains how and why we should welcome sunlight back into our lives — safely! It shows how sunlight was used to prevent and cure diseases in the past, and how it can heal us and help us in the future.

Chapter 1 : Your Body and Mind in the Sun 

Over the last forty years there has been a complete reversal in medical thinking on sunlight. Sunbathing is regarded by many experts to be a dangerous pastime which should be actively discouraged, yet little more than fifty years ago doctors in Europe and North America were using sunlight to treat potentially fatal diseases and a number of hospitals were built specifically for sunlight treatment. The Healing Sun highlights some of the positive aspects of the sun and gives guidance on how to minimise the risks and maximise the benefits of exposure. It has been written with aim of restoring a little balance to the currently rather one-sided debate on sunlight and its effects on human health.


Chapter 2 :The Decline of the Sun in Recent Times 

Our traditional relationship with the sun has undergone a dramatic change over the last fifty years not least because modern lifestyles allow us to live independently of sunlight. Opportunities to benefit from the biologically active component of sunlight can be limited in the modern world. There are also public health campaigns warning against exposure to the sun because of the increased incidence of skin cancer together with the ‘hole’ in the ozone layer. Fears about depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer causing increases in skin cancers and cataracts appear to be largely ill-founded. Regular moderate sunbathing may actually protect against the most dangerous form of skin cancer – malignant melanoma – rather than cause it. There are, however, concerns that chemical sunscreens may actually cause skin cancers rather than prevent them. Before sunscreens were developed, only tanned skin could withstand strong sunlight for long periods without burning. Sunscreen use encourages people to expose themselves to the sun when they should not be out in it at all. 


Chapter 3 : How Sunlight Can Prevent Serious Health Problems 

This chapter explains the serious health problems you may suffer from if you don’t get enough vitamin D from the sun. These include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Osteomalacia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Prostate cancer
  • Psoriasis
  • Rickets
  • Tooth decay
  • Tuberculosis

There is evidence that vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency is far more widespread that was once thought to be the case. Each of the medical conditions above are related to vitamin D levels in the body and which are largely dependent on exposure to the sun. 


Chapter 4 : Sunlight: A Medicine for Diseases of the Past, Present and Future 

Sunlight therapy was a popular treatment for tuberculosis before antibiotics were developed, and the techniques used in the past may need to be revived. The incidence of tuberculosis is increasing in both developing and industrialised countries, partly because of the emergence of strains which are resistant to the limited range of available antibiotics. These strains are becoming established in developed world and elsewhere, posing a serious threat to public health. Variants of bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus are also upon us which are untreatable by every known antibiotic. Because of this, post-operative infections are becoming much more difficult to heal. Before antibiotics became widely available in the 1950s, sunlight therapy was used to treat infectious diseases and the techniques developed by sunlight therapists in the past could help solve this growing problem. 


Chapter 5 : How to Sunbathe Safely, All Year Round 

What we are told now told about sunbathing is very different from what was being recommended fifty years ago. This chapter puts together information from the past and current research to show you how to sunbathe in safety. In order to do this you need to develop an understanding of the variables affecting sunbathing, i.e., latitude, altitude, the effects of choosing different times of day and different times of year, of being in different ambient temperatures while sunbathing. You also need to know: how sunlight gets to us via the Earth’s atmosphere clouds and air pollution; what happens when it passes through glass and clothing; how different reflecting surfaces affects the intensity of the sun’s rays. Diet is another very important factor as the proportion of fat in your diet, and its mineral and vitamin content affects the way your skin responds to sunlight. 


Chapter 6 : The Merits of Getting Sunlight into Buildings 

There are marked differences between being `comfortable’ and `healthy’ when indoors. The human body needs the stimulus of change. A healthy internal environment provides constantly changing conditions, a `comfortable’ one may not. In the past, buildings were designed to admit sunlight not only promote general health and well-being, but reduce the spread of infectious diseases. Sunlit hospital wards have less bacteria in them than dark wards and they provide a better environment for clinically depressed patients, heart attack victims and premature babies. The bactericidal property of sunlight is particularly significant now that many pathogens are becoming resistant to antibiotics and infections actually caught in hospital are the fourth most common cause of death after heart disease, cancer and strokes. 


Chapter 7 : Sunlight and Health in the 21st Century 

We need to have a better understanding of sunlight and its beneficial effects because of its key role in preventing chronic health problems. More research is needed into our complex relationship with the sun: One way to check if the recommendations put forward in the preceding chapters are valid is to look at the way sunlight is used in traditional cultures. Chinese medicine, in particular, has a great deal to tell us about sunlight, health and the ageing process. The Chinese have practised sunlight therapy for thousands of years and continue to do so. They also have a long tradition of preventive medicine and solar architecture. So, this final chapter shows that the guidelines which have been presented are consistent with practices developed in cultures whose medical traditions have been less inclined to ignore the benefits of sunlight than our own. In the past, sunlight was an important medicine and was valued because it could prevent diseases. The more we know about the sun, the more we can exploit its healing properties: now, and in the future.



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