Tap into a little lizard wisdom for better health

lizard basking in the sun

Lizard basking in the sun. Photo taken at Sigiriya, Sri Lanka by author

The lizard, which resides in our garden, routinely has his sunbathing sessions disrupted, when “he” gets watered, along with the flowers. But once his nerves have gotten over the unexpected shower, he is back on his perching, soaking up the sun.

I always believed lizard sun worship was driven by a need to keep warm. If you remember from high school biology, lizards are cold blooded creatures, which means they need to be in front of a heater (the sun), to keep warm.

NOTE : Humans don’t need heaters because we are warm blooded.

Sun worship is not just about “heat”

Researchers at Texas Christian University have found “lizard” sun worship, is not just about keeping warm, but about getting enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D is a vitamin-cum-hormone that is critical for health. It can be obtained from food (making is a vitamin) but it can also be manufactured by the body (making it a hormone).

Vitamin D manufacture involves nuking cholesterol, into 25-hydroxyvitamin D, using UV rays from the sun.



Chameleons taking extra vitamins

The researchers studied exactly how long chameleons spent in the sun, when taking a vitamin supplement.

The chameleons were fed the standard chow for a chameleon – which is crickets. In the study, one group had their cricket dinner doctored a bit, so that it had extra vitamin D, the other group ate regular crickets.

The chameleons were then monitored. The time spent basking in the sun, versus the time spent hiding in shade, was recorded for both groups.

The rhythm of the sun dance changed

Chameleons typically move in and out of the sun all day.

Vitamin D supplementation changed the rhythm of the sun dance. Chameleons who were forced to make their own vitamin D (no supplement) spent more time in the sun.

Chameleons know they need vitamin D

It is not clear exactly how they do it, but they do it very well. They kept their vitamin D content at an optimal level.

Humans don’t know they need vitamin D

Most humans are not running on optimal levels, in fact, a high percentage of humans are deficient / insufficient. Shortages of vitamin D has been implicated in a long list of health problems – including bad bones, bad metabolism and bad immunity

Our crickets (food) is also vitamin D poor – so it’s easy to not get enough.

Use a little reptilian wisdom

Ancient human cultures worshipped the sun, but modern human societies shun it – opting to spend time indoors or shielding our skin from the UV rays with layers of sunblock.

Practise a little sun worship and spend a little time in the sun. When you get too hot (i.e. start to burn), be a lizard and head for the shade.

If you don’t have the time, energy or enthusiasm to practise sun worship, then take a supplement. But get the vitamin D levels up.

NOTE : I’m not advocating baking in the sun for hours and hours – this is likely to cause damage to your DNA, which could result in skin cancer. But a few minutes (10 – 15 minutes) daily will enhance your vitamin D status and your overall wellbeing.

Panther Chameleons, Furcifer pardalis, Behaviorally Regulate Optimal Exposure to UV Depending on Dietary Vitamin D3 Status. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 2009; 82 (3): 218 – 225. Karsten et al.

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Further reading

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Vitamin D gets the blood vessels bending it like Beckam Eggs are the ultimate superfood Does sun aversion trigger allergic reactions ?

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Balance Eicosanoids Rein in insulin Dial down stress Sleep ! Increase Vit D Culivate microflora Think champion

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