Hi. My name is Jason Boyd. I am a functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner at Bio+Logical Health and Nutrition. As a functional health practitioner, I get asked quite a bit what’s the most important factor in achieving good health? My answer is something that usually leaves the questioner a bit shocked. Before I continue, let me say that technically speaking, I believe that mindset and self-love and community, those are really the most important factors because without those things, it’s highly unlikely that a person will even be motivated enough to start pursuing better health. Before I ever start working with someone, I really like to make sure that they have a healthy mindset and that they have a good support system in place and that they’ve identified and hopefully eliminated all blocking factors and negative influences that would derail the journey.
For our purposes here, let’s assume that a person has all those things in place and that they’re totally on board with committing to a health program and we’re waiting for all their lab results to come in. Where do I start first? I start by examining their relationship with light. The story of how light affects our health is a fascinating one. If you haven’t heard it, then you’re in for a treat. Now because there’s so many factors involved, I thought that it would be a good idea to make this a multipart series so that I can spend enough time on each one of those factors and how they relate to health.
In the sun sessions, we will be discussing things like circadian rhythms and the pharmacological effects of light on our biology, #lightasadrug, blue light toxicity, our innate biological timekeeping systems. We’ll be discussing grounding or earthing, vitamin D, sleep, melatonin, water, as well as actionable steps and strategies that you can implement to keep your evolutionary biology true to nature while still living in our modern world. Aside from investing in a pair of blue-blocking glasses, these strategies likely won’t cost you a thing.
So why do I consider sunlight to be the most important factor in health and not food or exercise? Because light is the primordial life force that gave rise to every living thing on Earth. Without light, there would be no food. Food exists because of light. The entire food chain on our planet depends on sunlight for photosynthesis, which is the creation of chemical energy from photonic energy, or sunlight, utilizing Einstein’s photoelectric effect, which is the liberation or ejection of an electron from a material when hit by a photon, for which he won a 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for.
Now in plants, this occurs when photons hit the magnesium atom at the center of chlorophyll, which is the green pigment in plants. It starts a chain reaction beginning with the splitting of a water molecule. It’s recently been shown that mammals may also be able to make use of chlorophyll for energy, but humans typically, we make use of another light-absorbing pigment for this purpose – melanin. That’s the pigment responsible for skin color. Photosynthesis is the only known process capable of burning water at room temperature. This process liberates electrons, which then generates energy. What that means is that human beings are able to turn sunlight into energy using water as the source of electrons via melanin in our skin. So we depend on the sun for photosynthesis in much of the same way that plants do. In this way, the water in your body acts as a repository for sunlight, which causes the positive and negative ions in water to charge separate, essentially creating a battery.
What do batteries do? They store and release energy. Besides, melanin, we have other light-absorbing pigments in our body whose sole purpose is to harvest UV and infrared light from the sun to be used as energy for our cells. This idea will become more apparent in an upcoming discussion, when we dive deeper into water and the work of Dr. Gerald Pollack. But for now, let’s just say that the sunlight and water, they work together to create a human electrical current. They’re nature’s go juice. This is important because of something called the electron transport chain, wherein the food that we eat is eventually broken down into electrons, which are then shuttled across the inner mitochondrial membrane to generate chemical energy in the form of ATP as well as other critical components, like infrared light and heat and water. However, keep in mind that when we eat food, we’re still consuming stored energy from sunlight created during photosynthesis.
Some interesting and somewhat controversial research from a long time ago showed that it was virtually impossible to generate the amount of energy we need to power all the body’s many processes from the electrons that come from food alone. This is even more apparent when you take into consideration the slop that passes for food today. How are we still moving when so much of the food we consume has never even seen the light of the sun? The thought was that there had to be another driver of energy production. The work of Dr. Pollack and others suggests that driver is light and water, which again, you’ll learn about soon.
In any case, an electron is an electron, whether it comes from a blueberry or a steak or a glass of spring water or from standing barefoot on the Earth. It doesn’t matter. The body uses all electrons in the same way for the same purpose, to generate energy. Interestingly, the healing power of sunlight has been known for thousands of years, ubiquitously throughout virtually every civilization in history. In fact, Albert Szent-Györgyi, the 1937 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, said in every culture and every medical tradition before ours, healing was accomplished by moving energy. I’d say that photons and electrons are forms of energy, yeah? At our most fundamental level, we are all comprised of electrons and protons and neutrons. We are quantum, whirling balls of energy that have coalesced and organized into our own unique arrangements of matter to create our human form. Or as physicist David Bohm states, all matter is frozen light. As hokey as it may sound, we are all light beings. Using the sun to heal has a long history right up until about the mid-1900s, when antibiotic use became more prevalent or profitable. After all, you can’t patent and monetize the sun.
Prior to that, phototherapy, also called heliotherapy, was considered state of the art treatment in contemporary medicine. Many hospitals have their own solariums or areas completely enclosed in glass to allow sunlight to pour in. One of the pioneers of this practice was a man named Niels Ryberg Finsen, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1903 for his work using phototherapy on the skin manifestation of tuberculosis, a disease known as lupus vulgaris. Finsen was also known for his work treating smallpox with infrared light.
The healing power of sunlight was also known, so well known that it was used as a form of photochemotherapy to combat cancer. This may be of interest, especially considering in the next few years, predicted rates of cancer will be one in two. As we move through this series, you’ll learn how sunlight and circadian rhythms and sleep all work to help fight and prevent cancer.
That brings up my final point. As important as it is to expose yourself daily to sunlight, equally important to this discussion is the lack of sunlight, or something we call night. Light and dark cycles are important for training our circadian rhythm, which is the 24-hour endogenous cyclical ebb and flow that happens within us daily. Every single cell in our body responds to exposure to light. Nearly every single cell in our body is governed by light via clock genes, which are responsible for keeping biological time and allowing for smooth and efficient communication among the body’s trillions of cells and all of their processes. What this means is that human beings are literally activated, animated and controlled by light. However, and equally important, at night, in the dark, we’re meant to be asleep because sleep is the secret sauce that allows us to keep on our repair and regeneration and recycling programs.
Now these programs are designed to happen only during sleep, and complete darkness is the signal that kicks them off with the help of a hormone called melatonin, otherwise known as the chemical expression of darkness. Again, you will become enlightened to all of this in upcoming posts. But for now, I’ll leave you with this. Every square inch of our skin and eyes is one big, beautiful solar panel designed specifically to absorb sunlight so that our body may function properly. Of course, the flip side to that implication of that fact is that our body won’t really function properly if you keep your solar panel out of the sun too much too often. When you consider that our modern social beliefs and our cultural habits indeed promote this very idea, along with technologies that allow us to live, work and play around the clock, it’s not hard to see how modern living is responsible for much of what ails us and why perhaps it’s time you start paying more attention to your relationship to light.
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ve just recently passed the winter solstice, December 21st. This means that your days are progressively getting shorter and shorter as the sun rises lower and lower in the sky. In some of the more northern latitudes, the sun won’t even come up past the horizon. They’ll stay in complete darkness anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. After December 21st, which is the shortest day of the year, the days will progressively get longer and longer, culminating to the longest day on June 20th, the summer solstice, when the sun is in its highest position in the sky. Obviously, this scenario is flipped if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis.
I mention this for a couple of reasons. One, I think it’s important to pay attention to our natural world and the cycles that affect us. It’s easy to become disconnected from our place as a part of nature due to the fact that we’ve constructed lifestyles and habits that keep us living apart from nature. This disconnection fuels our disease process. I also bring up this point to illustrate that in fact, there are periods of time when the sunlight simply isn’t available to us. So what do we do then? How did humans survive in these places, let alone thrive? Well that, my friends, will be a discussion for another day. I’ll see you next time. Have a wonderful day and night.