Watch Out: Sunshine Can Make you MORE Fertile
Much has been written about the benefits of getting out in the sun for 20 minutes without sunscreen to ensure healthy Vitamin D levels. From immune suppression to miscarriage, there is a wide-ranging list of conditions that it appears to help with.
With our busy lives spent mostly indoors, we were able to by-pass the problem of minimal sun exposure with Vitamin D supplementation, instead of actually exposing our skin to the sun. Problem solved… or so we thought.
Research from a prominent Scottish scientist has found that there may be more to the power of the sun than we previously thought.
Richard Weller was wondering why it is that the further north you happen to live, the greater your risk of a cardiovascular incident. He discovered that not only does the sun trigger the production of Vitamin D, but when sunlight hits the skin it also impacts the nitric oxide receptors, releasing it into the body with multiple benefits to every aspect of your health.
Nitric oxide, not to be confused with nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas), is an important molecule that has a direct impact on how the cardiovascular system functions. Without it, the endothelial cells, which line our arteries may malfunction, and atherosclerosis is a likely result. While heart attack risk is the more serious consequence of declining nitric oxide levels, it affects other aspects of cardiovascular health, such as maintaining healthy blood pressure and circulatory function. It helps the smooth muscle cells within blood vessels to relax so that blood can flow freely and this is why it is so important when facing fertility issues.
Men who experience erectile dysfunction can improve their symptoms by correcting nitric oxide levels. In fact, drugs used for erectile dysfunction are actually based on the mechanisms of nitric oxide. Improving blood flow to the testes may also support sperm synthesis and reduce DNA damage during development.
Women are equally likely to benefit, with past animal studies discovering that nitric oxide helped to keep egg follicles young and functioning properly. It prevented the hardening of the egg’s outer shell (which would impact fertilisation) and increased the release of molecules from the egg that are designed to prevent fertilisation from more than one sperm. There was even the suggestion that nitric oxide could help to prevent genetic abnormalities during the crucial first few weeks of embryo development within the womb.
Can you increase nitric oxide levels without sun exposure?
Luckily, there are ways to boost your body’s ability to produce nitric oxide, in the absence of triggering the skin receptors with sunlight.
- Exercise daily to increase your body’s release of nitric oxide to relax the blood vessels.
- Drink beetroot juice, a high source of dietary nitrates.
- Eat arginine containing foods- e.g. shellfish, sesame seeds, poultry.
- Eat more leafy green vegetables that are high in nitrates such as chard, rocket and spinach.
- Protect and preserve nitric oxide with antioxidants. e.g. green tea, red onions, berries, grapes.
- Limit greasy foods and high carb diets, which can actually inhibit nitric oxide production.
So there you have it. Now you have the perfect excuse to book that winter sun holiday... it truly is good for your health.
Jessica Bourke is a Natural Fertility Specialist and mum-of-two who deals with all aspects of reproductive health. Her clinical approach is based on evidence-based nutrition protocols, acupuncture treatment, and she also offers functional lab tests to support you on your journey to parenthood. Check out her website jessicabourke.com.