• Shane

Sunlight, Immunity and COVID19

Updated: Apr 28


In my work as a Building Biologist, I help clients identify, eliminate, and/or shield sources of electromagnetic field (EMF) pollution in their home or office environment. Think of EMFs as the many ways energy travels throughout the universe, taking on various frequencies and wavelengths. Our modern world harnesses these fields to power homes, enable wireless communication of our tech gadgets, and even make light. Harnessing this energy always comes with side effects, which you can think of as energetic frequencies or noise leaking into the environment, outside of a particular device or section of electrical wiring. This leakage, disrupts us at a cellular level. This disruption leads to inflammation. Once inflammation reaches a certain high-water mark, it progresses to various disease processes. Now consider how many devices you have in your local environment that fit this bill. The average modern home has hundreds of electrified devices, all leaking EMF pollution. The last 130 years has seen a rapid proliferation of devices and technologies into the world. Evolutionarily speaking, we can dub these 'non-native' EMFs. They haven't been around long enough to allow life to fully adapt with them. On the flip side, we can also find 'native' EMFs, those frequencies that all life has developed under: the sun, the Schumann resonance, and grounding to the Earth. Again, these are additional ways energy is transmitted throughout the universe, but unlike the recent introduction of so many non-native sources, cellular life has had incredibly long amounts of time to adapt and be in-tune with the native frequencies.

Understanding this distinction between native and non-native sources of EMF is a great way to boil down the various recommendations I might make when assisting clients with electromagnetic field (EMF) pollution in their environment:

1. Disconnect from non-native sources of EMFs

2. Reconnect to native sources of EMFs

I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on the internet, but I have found following these two points have made a big difference in my health, and many of my clients'.

I believe such a simplification can be very helpful, even during the current coronavirus pandemic. So, as I lay out this case, please keep in the back of your head that we can rest on points 1&2 above.

Reconnect to Native Sources of EMFs

Whatever you believe about evolution, the sun has been around longer than our species. We have developed a very special relationship with it. Sun, or absence of sun, is a profound signal-set for our bodies and their processes. Light is such an important dynamic that research on the light/dark cycle, or circadian rhythm, was given the Nobel Prize in 2017 for physiology/medicine[1]. This speaks to the importance of this topic to the overall scientific community.

Fortunately, there is a wealth of studies on the internet about circadian rhythm. In one, tuning-in to A.M. 'circadian-effective' light (AKA sunrise) went so far as to improve sleep quality and reduce the time it took to fall asleep[2]. Participants in the study who had higher exposure to morning light also reported better mood. Benefits were noted in both summer and winter months. Clearly, linking to nature's light rhythms has far-reaching effects influencing us throughout the day, even to the point of positively affecting sleep.

In another study, published in 2014[3], approximately 30,000 Swedish women were tracked over 20 years. Multivariable flexible parametric survival analysis was applied to the accumulated data, and detailed baseline information on their sun exposure habits and potential confounders was considered. The researchers concluded that they had:

"observational evidence that avoiding sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality."

Further, they explained: "Following sun exposure advice that is very restrictive in countries with low solar intensity might in fact be harmful to women's health."

All-Cause mortality means death from ANY cause. Let that sink in for a moment. The Swedish study tells us that even fair-skinned people need sun exposure to assist in resisting virtually any cause of death.

Health benefits of sun exposure have been looked at in multiple studies [4,5] with similar findings.

Regarding the concern that sunlight causes skin cancer I would encourage you to read a wonderful series of short blogs by Dr. Leland Stillman examining the validity of this theory. As Dr. Stillman lays out provocatively, "if the sun causes skin cancer, then spoons make people fat."

Let me clarify that I'm not advocating arriving at your tropical vacation, and spending all day baking in the sun with reckless abandon. There is a right and wrong way to incorporate full-spectrum sunlight into your life in the pursuit of health. You can find out more searching for a Patreon blog by Dr. Jack Kruse regarding 'solar callous'.

Based on the studies laid out above, the sun does seem to play a critical role in health and wellness, but how does it accomplish this?

The Vitamin D link

To answer this query, let's move just a bit deeper into the weeds, or tissues, as it were. When addressing these questions, I think it is wise to look at the role of vitamin D in immune response. It is common knowledge that sun exposure produces vitamin D in our tissues, specifically wavelengths known as ultraviolet, or UV[6]. Did you know that this chemical compound is tied to thousands of important body processes, including our innate immune system? In a fantastic article [6], Dr. David Grimes lays out how we get from sunlight on the skin, to increased vitamin D levels in the blood, to an optimal immune response. He relays that ample stores of vitamin D are required to mobilize defensive T-cells in response to viral or bacterial infection. As long as there is an adequate supply of calcitriol, a metabolized form of vitamin D, immune response can be bolstered as needed by up to a factor of 75. So vitamin D can be seen as fuel for our immunity engine to run strong.

According to Dr. Grimes, the link between vitamin D and immune response was first hypothesized in the tuberculosis outbreaks beginning in the late 19th century. It was noted that when patients were extracted from the big cities and moved out to the seashore of Scotland, or the Austrian mountains, they got better. It was during this time that someone observed that levels of air pollution in cities from the industrial revolution was rampant and was greatly restricting the amount of sunlight reaching the surface.

Further, a study published during this era (1922)[7], studying rickets and tuberculosis in India found a disproportionate amount of these diseases in the wealthy compared to the poor. Dr. Grimes describes the thinking behind this disparity as, "The poor spent all their time outside on the farms whereas the wealthy, and especially women and young children, were able to stay indoors and keep out of the sun."[6]

Looking into the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 (also a corona virus) gives us further support for the link between vitamin D levels and better outcomes. A study published in 2009 looked at the possibility that UV-B light from sunlight and vitamin D had a positive effect on case-fatality rate.[8]

Here are the three main take-aways from this study:

1. "Annual seasonality of influenza was largely due to low solar UVB [ultraviolet B] irradiation and vitamin D biosynthesis in winter and early spring."

Translation: Influenza is stronger in the winter/early spring, when UVB light is less present in sunlight.

2. "The rates in each city, latitude, and UVB irradiance are shown in Table 1. The lowest case-fatality rates occurred in the area with the highest solar UVB irradiance and lowest latitude, San Antonio TX, while the highest rates were in New London CT, which had the lowest UVB irradiance and highest latitude. The lowest rates of pneumonia as a complication of influenza were in Spartanburg, SC and San Antonio, the two areas at the lowest latitudes."

Translation: Lower latitude = closer to equator = more intense full spectrum sunlight for more of the year.

And now for the big news from this study...

3. "There was an inverse association between UVB irradiance and case-fatality rate of influenza and rate of pneumonia as a complication of influenza in the US."There was an inverse association between UVB irradiance and case-fatality rate of influenza and rate of pneumonia as a complication of influenza in the US."

Translation: Those that received more UVB irradiance (full spectrum sunlight on your skin) died less often of this influenza pandemic and associated pneumonia.

From these studies, we can begin to see how connecting to the sun increases endogenous Vitamin D production, and is correlated to better outcomes during two major pandemics of the last 150 years.

Vitamin D and COVID-19

Now for the current matter at hand- Do the benefits of sunlight and corresponding vitamin D have effect on the Coronavirus?

Let's circle back with Dr. Grimes for a bit as he makes some interesting points related to this virus. In his blog[6], Dr. Grimes goes on to link three seemingly unrelated data points surrounding the coronavirus:

1. [Around March 2020] In the UK, six doctors, one nurse, and one health care assistant died from Covid-19. All were of black African or South Asian ethnicity.

2. At the time of his writing, the greatest incidence of Corvid-19 cases and deaths in Europe has been in Northern Italy, which before the pandemic had the highest level of air pollution in Europe.

3. The pandemic of Covid-19 has occurred during the late winter in the northern hemisphere

By now, the similarities to pandemic studies mentioned above should help you in linking these points.

All are factors in our ability to make vitamin D.

In the first example, dark or tanned skin is a protective measure or 'callous' in response to sun exposure. The darker your skin, the greater the sun exposure required to produce the same amount of vitamin D. Second, air pollution blocks the ability of sunlight to reach the surface of the earth. Lastly, during the winter in your hemisphere, the Earth is tilted in such a way that ultraviolet light transmission to the surface is greatly reduced.

So, we begin to see that sunlight exposure and vitamin D levels do play some role in making us more or less susceptible to Covid-19. But how might this work at a more granular level?

If you've read much about Covid-19, and similar viruses, you have no doubt seen the phrase 'cytokine storm'. It is one of the major complications of this virus. This is essentially an over-the-top response by the immune system. How did that ad for Pringles potato chips go back in the day? 'Once you pop, you can't stop'....that's what I picture when I think of a cytokine storm. A cytokine is an important part of our immune response, serving a vital function, but too many cytokines contribute to an unbalanced and ineffective response. Interestingly enough, the same study reviewing the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic, vitamin D was suspected of playing a role in modulating production of cytokines [8].

It is very encouraging that specific research into the link between vitamin D levels and Coronavirus outcomes is growing, and one recently published study looked at 212 coronavirus cases in South Asia, and used fancy math and algorithms to explore association between serum 25(OH)D levels and clinical outcomes. The researcher found that "Serum 25(OH)D level was lowest in critical cases, but highest in mild cases." [12]

Viruses and invaders to the body become involved in a complicated dance with our immune systems, and vitamin D clearly has an important role in that dance, giving our bodies the tools needed to survive.

Killer Sunlight

An interesting side-note to this discussion is that sunlight is an assassin. Yes, the glowing globe in the sky is a *warm* hearted killer. The Department of Homeland Security, Science & Technology published on April 13, 2020 a document[9] outlining recommendations for efforts against Covid-19. One of the weaknesses they have identified of this virus is seen in the images below, clipped from the report:

Further, a simple Wikipedia search will outline the ways in which a component of sunlight, ultraviolet C, has been used for many years, across a wide range of industries as a germicidal agent. According to Wikipedia, UV-C light will:

"kill or inactivate microorganisms by destroying nucleic acids and disrupting their DNA, leaving them unable to perform vital cellular functions."[10]

If you are not a fan of Wikipedia, A study was published in Nature just in February 2020, covering the use of UV-C as a germicidal agent effective against bacteria (even the drug resistant type) and viruses. They summarize the abstract as follows:

"Continuous very low dose-rate far-UVC light in indoor public locations is a promising, safe and inexpensive tool to reduce the spread of airborne-mediated microbial diseases."[13]

Although very little UV-C reaches the surface of the planet from sunlight, many industries will use specialized light bulbs (pictured below) to emit these wavelengths into areas requiring disinfection. What might the implications be of using this light in public, indoor spaces?

Sunlight is Greater than Vitamin D Supplements

Many of you are probably wondering at this point, can't I just take a supplement and be done with it? Not exactly. Remember, light is a form of energy. Sunlight imbues photons (energy) into our bodies, used for many purposes, including production of compounds like vitamin D. It powers the enzymatic reactions needed to produce these compounds. Taking a supplement produced in a laboratory, will supply your body with a specific molecule, however the lab cannot build in the solar energy. This breaks the feedback loop in our body, and is akin to hiring someone to do pushups for you. A 2017 randomized control trial found that:

"vitamin D-deficient Indian men were randomized to vitamin D supplementation or sunlight exposure. The men who received sunlight exposure showed improved metabolic function; the vitamin D-supplemented men didn't." [11]

The sunlight group received at least 20 min sunlight exposure to forearms and face between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. over and above their current exposure, versus the vitamin group, who took 1000 IU daily. Both groups experienced a statistically significant increase in 25,OHD levels in the blood. However, the sunlight group had decreased total cholesterol (TC), as well as HDL, and LDL cholesterol. The supplement group saw an increase in TC as well as HDL levels.

These findings should give us pause when considering a supplement being a better option than sunlight, especially when you consider that cholesterol is needed to convert vitamin D into various active metabolites that our bodies can use. We might hypothesize that the photonic energy from the sun allows for the body to restructure vitamin D into more active and available forms.

So, a pill can raise levels of a compound in your blood, but without the accompanying solar energy, it will not create nor contribute to, the beneficial cascade of downstream metabolites and effects.

Bring it on Home

Let's review the case I have laid out.

1. Sunlight is a healthy, natural form of electromagnetic field.

2. Sunlight has many positive effects on our bodies.

3. Full-spectrum sunlight produces the hormone vitamin D when it hits our skin.

4. Vitamin D is a critical component in a robust, highly-adaptable immune response.

5. Higher serum (blood) vitamin D levels are associated with better outcomes from some of the major pandemics of the last 150 years, including COVID-19.

6. Vitamin D production can be limited in our tissues from many environmental factors that limit sun exposure.

7. A portion of sunlight, ultraviolet, is effective in killing airborne viruses and bacteria, including coronavirus.

8. It's dangerous to rely on a pill versus sun exposure.

My goal in sharing this with you is to attempt to cut through the noise surrounding Covid-19, and remind everyone of the relationship between our immune systems and the sun. It is so simple, and doesn't cost you a dime. When connected to Mother Nature in this way, your body will fine-tune itself, in the background. It will complete thousands of complex processes, and handle many, many threats. All beneath your awareness. All you have to do is make time for the sun.

If you would like to learn more about eliminating electromagnetic pollution in your home or office, please reach out for a complimentary 30-minute phone consult. Plus you can read our blog: "What to Expect When You're Expecting...A Home EMF Assessment"

Practical Steps to Tune Circadian Rhythm

1. See the sun rise every day, with as much of your solar panel (skin, eyes) exposed as possible.

2. During the day, spend as much time as possible outside, in natural light, with as much of your solar panel exposed as possible.

3. Avoid artificial light, especially at night.

As we move into late spring and summer here in the northern hemisphere, the good news is that full spectrum sunlight will become much more readily available. Be sure to take advantage of this seasonal change!

Cites:

1. https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2017/press-release/

2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28526259/

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24697969/

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24038635

5. https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/97/3/195/2544082

6. http://www.drdavidgrimes.com/2020/04/vitamin-d-and-immunity-important.html

7. https://academic.oup.com/qjmed/article-abstract/os-15/58/167/1513032?redirectedFrom=fulltext

8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835877/?mod=article_inline

9. https://www.scribd.com/document/456897616/DHSST

10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultraviolet_germicidal_irradiation

11. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28553593

12. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3571484

13. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-21058-w