Summer time health tips
Summer is right around the corner. The weather is warming up, and the days are getting longer.
You may be wondering why as nutritional therapist I am focusing on the theme of summer. My answer is simple. Health is for all seasons, and there are seasonal concepts we can incorporate into our health regimen.
This post focuses on how to harness the season of summer to the greatest benefit of your health.
Sunshine and fresh air
Have you ever wondered why most jobs require year-round engagement, but schools close down during the summer? It’s true that in some parts of the world it gets so hot that children may have a hard time focusing in the classroom. But that’s only a small part of the answer. Traditionally, cultures around the world prize the sun and sunshine.
You probably know that sunlight is the first step in our body’s production of vitamin D. Did you know that historically doctors used to prescribe time in the sun and fresh air to sick patients, as well as children who were not growing optimally? Doctors noticed that people cooped up indoors developed rickets, and had poor immune function.
Is sunshine replaceable?
With vitamin D supplements so widely available today, do we still need the sun? I really don’t think that a supplement can have the same power and effect on the body as exposure to sunlight and clean, fresh air in rhythm with the seasons and the time of day.
Whether in the mountains, in the countryside or in the seaside, sunshine and fresh air restore health. Vitamin D is of course part of the story. Other important factors include being more relaxed and breathing cleaner, fresher air. Additionally, the sun supports hormonal and neurotransmitter balance.
Alan Christianson, functional medicine doctor and author of the book The Adrenal Reset Diet, mentions the importance of natural sunlight, particularly early in the day. This, he notes, helps the body produce the right hormones at the proper times of day. Sleep is crucially important for immune function, energy, mental clarity, metabolism, blood sugar regulation and more. Thus, exposure to natural light as a hormone balancing strategy can make a huge difference in your overall health.
Additionally, sunlight helps balance neurotransmitter function, which is just one reason why it is helpful against depression and anxiety.
Of course, I’m not saying that we should never use vitamin D supplements or medications. However, we may need less of both and enjoy better physical and emotional health if we get as much sunshine as practically possible for the context we live in.
Summer is not the only season when we get sunlight, but it is definitely the season where it is most abundant.
Enjoying the outdoors this summer
Healthy summers should include plenty of time in nature, unplugged. Go camping, go to the beach, have a picnic, take a hike in the mountains, spend time fishing or gardening. Teach your children, and be the first to set an example, to lay down any electronic devices they may be attached to, and tune in to their experience.
Sunshine provides the most benefits if you are not slathered in sunscreen and have plenty of exposed skin. However, like all good things, more isn’t always better. If you’re not used to spending time in the sun, build up your sun exposure time gradually and learn your limits to avoid getting sunburnt.
Staying safe in the sun
If you’re fair-skinned or burn easily, cover up with light linen or cotton clothing to prevent burns. Wide-brimmed hats are helfpul, and you can use a safer natural sunscreen for prolonged sun exposure. Everyone has a different level of tolerance for the amount of time they can spend in direct sunlight.
If you are well-hydrated and have balanced minerals and balanced essential fatty acid stores, your sun tolerance is higher. I used to think that my easy burning was all about my mostly-Irish heritage, but after working on my nutrient stores, and especially mineral balance, I no longer burn when out in the sun!
If you have a medical condition or taking medication that contra-indicates time in the sun, pay attention to your doctor’s or pharmacist’s guidelines. Ask questions if you’re unsure.
What about natural sunscreens?
Did you know that jojoba oil, hemp seed oil and macadamia oils have a mild sun-protecting function? In fact, with a natural SPF that ranges between 4 and 6, these offer light sun protection when applied to the exposed areas of your face and body, allowing you to protect your skin during everyday exposure yet absorb more vitamin D than you would with a commercial sunscreen.
Coconut oil has a somewhat higher SPF (7-10), and red raspberry oil may have an SPF over 30. So you can mix and match different oils to adjust to your activities and the rhythm of the seasons. But be careful, because every product and batch and product/person/experience combination is different, so don’t assume you can play all day in the sun with coconut or raspberry oil on! Always go slow and play it safe. Because who wants to turn into a blistering lobster after a nice day in the sun?
For longer sun exposure, make you use a wid-brimmed hat and other protection, or consider using a commercial cleaner sunscreen product.
Nutritional therapy: the gift of health in all seasons
Want to take your health to the next level this summer? Set up an appointment for nutritional therapy for yourself and/or your family. For a brief description of how I work, see http://buildnurturerestore.com/what-to-expect/. I offer a complimentary 30-minute discovery call to prospective clients. Get in touch to schedule yours!