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Sunshine isn't toxic, nor is it just about getting a tan. And it's also not just about vitamin D. Among other benefits, research finds sunshine also decreases a child's risk of asthma when mom gets enough of it.
For many, summertime means hiding from the sun, or layering on sunscreen to block out the sun's UV rays. But this fear of the sun can do us more harm than good.
As I show in my book, Healthy Sun, the sun can benefit our health in many ways. And while there are reasons to believe unsafe sun exposure causes cancer, it is not as simple as that. In fact, many studies have shown that sun exposure reduces our cancer risk. And skin cancer is not simply an issue of sun exposure.
Again, there are many benefits of sun exposure. One of them relates to asthma risk for children. One in ten children in the U.S. have asthma, and one in twelve of the entire U.S. population suffers from asthma.
This is truly a health crisis of dramatic proportion. Is there anything a mother can do to decrease the risk of asthma in her children?
The science says yes. I spell out a number of proven strategies in my book on asthma. Let’s talk about one of them:
Mothers’ Sun exposure decreases child’s risk of asthma
Researchers from the University of Kansas, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University conducted analyses of hospital discharge data from two states and compared this with national data.
More specifically, the researchers investigated the timing of births among different states – and then compared the sunlight data among those different states. This was qualified by a statement from Dr. David Slusky, a professor of economics at the University of Kansas:
“We’re not looking at sunny places versus non-sunny places. We looked at the relative differences of the level of sunlight at a particular place at a particular time of year.”
The researchers found that those regions and times that were sunniest during the mother’s second trimester resulted in fewer asthma cases among those children. This relates specific to the month, the year and the part of the country. This is because sunlight levels can change in the same month from year to year.
“If that place is relatively more sunny during the second trimester, we found relatively lower rates of asthma,” said Dr. Slusky.
Why the second trimester?
The second trimester lasts from the 14th week to the 16th week gestational (12-14 age of the fetus). During this period the baby is developing lymph and sweat glands and the liver and pancreas begins to produce fluids. In other words, the baby’s immune system and mucosal system is developing. As I discuss in my book on the subject, asthma is a condition of the mucosal membranes.
Is it the vitamin D?
The researchers assumed that the benefits were based solely on the vitamin D the body produces as a result of sunlight exposure. It could be, but the sun’s effects upon the body is much more complicated than just vitamin D production.
Many immediately jump to vitamin D supplementation as the solution. The question then is whether supplemented vitamin D will produce the same result as vitamin D produced from the sun.
This in fact was indicated by the research. Many women take prenatal vitamins, which include vitamin D. These are taken regardless of the sunshine exposure. If it was vitamin D, then there would be no conclusive effect of sunshine because vitamin D is included in all prenatal vitamins, taken throughout the U.S.
This was also evident from the University of Kansas release:
'Vitamin D can be acquired from dietary supplements, too, but Slusky and his colleagues point out that the prenatal vitamins many pregnant women take already include vitamin D and that they may not be getting the full benefit from them.'
Barcomb-Peterson E. If you don’t have asthma, maybe it’s because Mom experienced a sunny second trimester, health economist finds. University of Kansas, 03/30/2016.
Adams C. Healthy Sun: Healing with Sunshine and the Myths About Skin Cancer. Logical Books, 2014.