Last Updated on September 6, 2021
Light is medicine. In this post we dive in to Serotonin, Melatonin, and Vitamin D production and their impact on health outcomes. Sunlight exposure promotes better health outcomes.
Sunlight & Serotonin/Melatonin Production
Melatonin is a hormone that helps control sleep and wake cycles. It’s produced by the pineal gland in the brain and is released when it gets dark.
You want to increase melatonin naturally and the best way to do it is to increase exposure to sunlight. The sun helps your body produce serotonin, which is the precursor of melatonin. After the sun goes down at night, leftover serotonin converts into melatonin; this means that your body needs ample sunlight (especially early in the day) in order to produce the serotonin needed to bolster melatonin production.
I’ve written a comprehensive blog post on how to naturally improve melatonin, check it out!
Sunlight & Vitamin D Production
The sunlight your body is exposed to is not filled with vitamin D. Vitamin D is actually a hormone and sun exposure is the best method to improving Vitamin D production in your body.
How does sunlight create Vitamin D in your body?
When your skin is exposed to sunlight, the Vitamin D production process begins. UVB rays hit cholesterol in the skin cells, this is the first step for vitamin D synthesis to occur. After this cholesterol connection, Vitamin D is held captive in the body’s fat cells. Vitamin D is stored in fat cells for use when needed (fat itself is stored for use later when the body needs it too). Too much fat is a symptom of an underlying health issue BUT the right amount of fat serves a whole bunch of purposes (including Vitamin D storage) and is absolutely needed to survive.
Then, when needed, on to hydroxylation… Hydroxylation is when the liver and kidneys turn the stored vitamin D into the active form the body needs (called Calcitriol). Sunlight to produce Vitamin D production in the body is not only free, it’s a superior method in Vitamin D synthesis in the body.
Benefits of Adequate Vitamin D
- Vitamin D facilitates normal immune function. “Vitamin D has important functions beyond those of calcium and bone homeostasis which include modulation of the innate and adaptive immune responses.” – source
- Vitamin D improves insulin sensitivity. “In humans, it has been shown by majority of observational studies, that vitamin D is positively correlated with insulin sensitivity and its role is mediated both by direct mechanism through the availability of vitamin D receptors in several tissues and indirectly through the changes in calcium levels.” – source
- Vitamin D improves anxiety and depression. “This proof-of-concept study found that weekly administration of 50,000 IU D2 in women with T2DM who had significant depressive symptoms and low 25 (OH) D levels had an improvement in depression, anxiety, and mental health outcomes.” – source I think more studies are needed to confirm the connection with Vitamin D and depression but everything we have so far points to a strong correlation.
- Vitamin D helps build strong bones. Vitamin D promotes absorption of calcium in your gut, this helps facilitate mineralization of your bones.
- Vitamin D helps strengthen muscles. “Consistent relationships exist between vitamin D status and muscle function, especially in the elderly frail patient. There is evidence that hypovitaminosis D is associated with a decline in muscle function.” – source
Magnesium is Required for Vitamin D
“Magnesium assists in the activation of vitamin D, which helps regulate calcium and phosphate homeostasis to influence the growth and maintenance of bones. All of the enzymes that metabolize vitamin D seem to require magnesium, which acts as a cofactor in the enzymatic reactions in the liver and kidneys.” – PubMed
Taking a Magnesium Supplement
It’s very difficult getting the proper amount of Magnesium your body needs without supplementation. Take a look at this post on 9 Reasons You Should Supplement Magnesium.
Knowing the role of sunlight in Vitamin D and Serotonin/Melatonin production, we’re able to point to a list of health benefits from a completely free and incredibly powerful resource: the sun.
8 Positive Health Outcomes of Adequate Sunlight Exposure
- Exposure to sunlight improves sleep (Serotonin/Melatonin)
- Sunlight assists in normal and improved immune function (Vitamin D)
- Adequate sunlight improves insulin sensitivity (Vitamin D)
- Sunlight reduces anxiety (Serotonin/Vitamin D)
- Sunlight aids in reducing feelings of depression (Serotonin/Vitamin D)
- Sunlight exposure helps strengthen bones (Vitamin D)
- Promote muscle strength with adequate sunlight (Vitamin D)
- Sunlight encourages feelings of well being and happiness (Serotonin)