Sizzle Away Sickness: How Summer Sun Beats Inflammation

As the seasons change, so does your immune system. In particular, the transition from winter to summer brings about powerful alterations that can impact your susceptibility to illness. Research conducted at the University of Cambridge in England has shown that the summer sun makes 25 percent of your genes change the way they function, affecting your chances of getting sick. This study adds to previous research which has demonstrated that factors such as heart disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and the way your body processes vitamin D fluctuate depending on the season. The recent findings reveal that many of these changes are rooted in the immune system.

An Unexpected Discovery

The discovery of the effects of seasonal changes on the immune system came as quite a surprise to researchers. “This is a really surprising – and serendipitous – discovery as it relates to how we identify and characterize the effects of the susceptibility genes for type 1 diabetes,” says researcher John Todd, the director of the JDRF/Wellcome Trust Diabetes and Inflammation Laboratory. The researchers now understand that the immune system undergoes considerable changes due to seasonal variations. This finding has important implications for treating diseases such as type 1 diabetes.

How an Important Gene Affects Inflammation

One crucial gene that changes with the seasons is called ARNTL. This gene, which helps to lower inflammation, is much more active during the warmer months. The lack of activity of ARNTL during winter likely contributes to inflammatory diseases like cardiovascular disease and arthritis being exacerbated in colder months. The researchers also found that genes related to how people respond to vaccinations are more active in the winter, indicating that vaccines may be less effective during the summer.

Boosting Your Immune System During the Winter Months

An important takeaway from this study is the need for adequate vitamin D supplementation, particularly during the winter months, to stay healthy. Vitamin D is a hormone and a vitamin with immune-boosting properties. Immune cells called macrophages require sufficient vitamin D levels to effectively fight off invaders and illnesses. Sunlight exposure is limited during winter, which means your body needs additional support to maintain optimal vitamin D levels.

Adjusting to the New Season

As summer approaches, it’s crucial to help your body adjust to the new season. Spending more time outdoors and getting more sunlight, rather than less, can help with this transition. Researchers believe that the regular exposure to sunlight can help keep your body’s molecular clocks in balance and improve your overall health. The disruption of these molecular rhythms due to constantly being indoors under artificial light sources is thought to contribute to the rising prevalence of complex diseases in industrialized countries.

Staying Healthy Year-Round

Seasonal changes can significantly impact your immune system and your overall health. To ensure that you stay healthy and well throughout the year, it’s essential to be aware of your body’s changing needs and to adjust your routines accordingly. As you prepare for summer, remember to spend more time outdoors in the sun, and when winter returns, consider increasing your intake of immune-boosting supplements like vitamin D.

By being conscious of these seasonal changes and adapting your routines and habits accordingly, you can support your immune system and reduce your vulnerability to illness. In turn, you may find that you can enjoy every season with more vitality and well-being.