People go to great lengths to improve their gut health, and for good reason. Good gut health is the key to overall health. A new study shows something many avoid has a beneficial effect on gut health.
If you talk to your dermatologist, they will likely tell you to avoid the Sun to prevent skin cancer. But the problem is, there are far reaching benefits of Sun exposure that reach beyond the skin. I covered the many benefits of exposing your skin to the Sun for gut health. You can check out one of those blogs here.
This new study shows that exposing your skin to UVB rays during the winter boosts microbial diversity. Part of this was from increased vitamin D. The effect only occurred in those who were not taking vitamin D supplements.
But there are other reasons to expose your skin to the Sun to improve gut health. Let’s look at how this may work.
How Sun exposure improves gut health
The effects of vitamin D on gut health are fairly diverse. First, vitamin D plays a role in pancreatic enzyme synthesis. As a result of vitamin D deficiency or hypopararthyroidism, many experience exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.
The vitamin D receptor is located basically everywhere, including the gut. The VDR helps regulate the immune system, how your gut responds to glucocorticoids, and regulates calcium absorption in the gut. Coupled with a high fat diet, poor vitamin D status causes poor calcium absorption and may predispose to excessive oxalate absorption.
But vitamin D isn’t the only beneficial effect of Sun exposure. There are also immune modulating benefits of UVB rays that don’t depend on vitamin D. While some effects are localized to the skin, factors generated in the skin appear to communicate with the gut.
One of these factors is bilirubin, a bile pigment generated from Sun exposure. Bilirubin is conjugated in the liver and dumped in to the gut. Bacterial transformation of bilirubin is what makes our feces brown and urine yellow.
Other factors exist as well. So it’s not surprising researchers believe that these effects are solely due to vitamin D.
If you want to improve gut health, don’t focus simply on what you’re eating. The systems in our body are integrated with one another, and circadian rhythms are critical for this. Things like exercise, when you eat, sleep, and exposure to the Sun are all important factors that can improve gut health.
This study shows that exposing your skin to the Sun is an important factor for gut health. It may seem odd that skin exposure to the Sun is important for the gut, but there is ample evidence that this is so. While most of the data up to this point was in mice, this study was in women during the winter. Thus, it provides evidence that skin exposure to the Sun is an important factor for gut health.