Healthy Summer Practices

With a beautiful summer upon us, I thought I would talk about some things to think about with regards to health care practices over the summer months. The first thing I will talk about is getting healthy sun exposure and why it is beneficial for you to get some sun. It is beneficial to get some sun because being exposed to bright light helps you make serotonin and improves your mood. Endorphins are released when you bask in the sunlight and they make you feel good.  Being exposed to sunlight during the day helps you re-establish circadian rhythms and sleep better when you go to bed at night.

Sunlight provides you with two types of ultraviolet rays- UVA and UVB. When UVB rays hit your skin, the rays penetrate your skin and converts 7-dehydrocholesterol in your skin to previtamin D3, which is then converted into Vitamin D3. This substance travels to the liver where it is further converted into 25 (OH)D, then on to the kidneys where it is converted into the active form of Vitamin D 1,25- (OH)2D (1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D) . 30 minutes of exposure provides you with maximal production of D3. Fair skin individuals may only need 15 minutes in the sun to get maximal exposure. 3 days a week is typically recommended to get your D3 levels up (without sunscreen). Darker skinned individuals may need to be in the sun 2-3x longer to get there levels up because of the melanin in their skin. UVB rays are most prevalent around 10 am- 3 pm. Have your vitamin D sun break mid-day, then apply sunscreen to protect your skin.

UVA rays are present all the time and they lead to sun damage and wrinkling of the skin. UVA rays not only are present in sun exposure but they are also present when the sun comes through a glass window, therefore sitting in a window getting sun can lead to sun damage. Protecting your skin with a broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA and UVB protection) once you have had your D break will offset the sun damage. I would recommend using a SPF 15 which will block 99% of rays. Vitamin D3 levels should be between 80-200 nmol/l to be optimal in Canada.

Because many of the sunscreens on the shelf contain ingredients that are not healthy for your skin and body such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, retinyl palmitate, parabens, phthalates, etc.,  I recommend using a mineral oxide sunscreen like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These mineral sunscreens block the sun’s rays and are less likely to cause skin irritation. They may be combined with other ingredients like coconut oil, aloe, jojoba, Vitamin E, grapeseed oil, olive oil, shea butter etc. to safely protect your skin from the sun and moisturize your skin at the same time.

Barbecuing is another popular pastime in the summer. The only problem is anytime you cook food at  a high temperature whether you are grilling, frying, broiling or barbecuing you create heterocyclic amines which are linked to cancer. The best thing to do to reduce these harmful compounds is to marinate your meat before you cook it. You could marinate it in red wine for six hours or beer for 4 hours or marinate in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic; you could use spice rubs; you could add berries or cherries to your hamburger meat to make beef patties and reduce harmful compounds.

By taking a little extra time, you can make your summer gatherings a little more healthy and a little less harmful. If you are cooking hot dogs, make sure they are 100% beef or 100% chicken ingredients or 100 % organic tofu. Make sure they do not contain nitrates, artificial flavor, preservatives or high fructose corn syrup. Keep in mind that ingestion of processed meats do lead to increased risk of cancer.

Another thing about the summer to worry about is protecting yourself from mosquitoes. If you are over age 4, I would recommend using lemon eucalyptus oil. This will protect you for about 2 hours from pesky mosquitoes. Mosi-Q is a homeopathic preparation that is safe to use for children over one year. This is also safe to use in pregnancy and is an oral dose that you take 30 minutes before you go outside. Use oscillating fans set on a high speed to prevent mosquitoes from landing on you. Keep in mind that mosquitoes are attracted to sweat and dark colors. Remember to hydrate in the summer with lots of filtered water. Drink until your urine is clear or pale yellow. This is the best time of year in Calgary and we are having a really good summer this year so enjoy it.

References: Dr. Mercola newsletter, Vitamin D monograph, Alt. Med Rev. 2008;13 (2), Rocky Mountain Analytical D-spot Clinical Information for Professionals Version March 2013.

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