Heliotherapy: Limited sunlight can boost immune system

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Last night I was listening to BBC and a panel of “experts” discussing the challenges of modern medicine.

They discussed new diseases, new germs, global spreading of diseases and much more.

The emphasis seemed to be about how do we get new antibiotics, new vaccines and new methods of control.

Not once did I hear mention of the concept of strengthening our immune system.

How many thousands of years has the human species been on Earth?

True, global travel has accelerated the spread of diseases, but that’s been a relatively recent occurrence. What has protected us for all those thousands of years? It’s been our built-in immune system.

So, the question is why are we disregarding this vital system?

In my past columns we have mentioned that sugar, among other things, compromises or weakens the immune system.

I’ve also mentioned the immune enhancing effects of a factor in lemon rind.

Bacteria have the capacity to develop resistance to every antibiotic we throw at them. According to studies I’ve mentioned, many of these antibiotics themselves are responsible for weakening our immune systems.

T cells, B cells, leukocytes, among other factors built by our bodies, protect us from internal challenges as well as external ones. Fever, fasting and exercise help.

A healthy diet with all of the vital nutrients is certainly important. Staying away from junk foods is also vital. But will there ever be a “magic pill” or a vaccine that will do all of this for us? I sincerely doubt it.

We have all heard that tuberculosis is resurging. The antibiotics that we thought were “wiping it out” are no longer working. The “bugs” are gaining on us.

Which leads me to another thought.

Chances are that you have never heard of a man named Dr. Auguste Rollier. He operated 36 clinics with over 1,000 beds in Leysin, Switzerland.

In the 1930s he successfully treated diseases such as tuberculosis, rickets, smallpox, cancer and so much more. We must remember that there were no antibiotics back then.

Primary in Rollier’s arsenal was sunlight. The concept is called “heliotherapy.”

He followed in the footsteps of Dr. Niels Finsen, who won a Nobel Prize in 1903 for his treatment of TB using ultraviolet light. By 1933, there were more than 165 different diseases for which sunlight proved to be a beneficial treatment.

However, with the death of Rollier in 1954 and the growing power of the pharmaceutical industry, heliotherapy fell into disuse.

By the 1960s, man-made “miracle drugs” had replaced our fascination with the sun’s healing powers, and by the 1980s the public was increasingly being bombarded with warnings about sunbathing and the risks of skin cancer.

Once again I’ll say, “Thank God for antibiotics.” They have saved many lives. But the facts still remain that heliotherapy has been credited for saving many lives, too.

So the question that should be asked is must we abandon one concept in order to embrace the other?

Let’s remember there are two concepts here: Antibiotics function to “kill” pathogens while heliotherapy aims to strengthen the body’s resistance to the pathogens.

A study by Oxford University’s Functional Genomics Unit suggests that nutritional deficiencies of vitamin D may increase susceptibility to autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, some cancers, colorectal disease, Crohn’s disease and even dementia.

Basically the kinds of diseases that Dr. Rollier was curing with “heliotherapy” — which basically involves sunlight.

Let’s remember sunlight changes the cholesterol in our skin to the valuable vitamin D3, which strengthens our immune system.

Your next question will be: “But I thought the sun causes skin cancer”?

Perhaps we’ve taken that warning too far. Yes, fair-skinned people and others do get more skin cancer from the sun, but perhaps there is much value to limited exposure.

Surely this comes down to balance. Once again if a little is good, a lot is not necessarily better.

Retired chiropractic doctor Francis Trapani’s background includes 41 years of practice plus doing investigative reporting and fitness programs for broadcast media in Hawaii. He has written three books and is working on a yoga self-help manual “The Doctor Prescribes Yoga.” For more information, go to drftrapani.com.

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