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Green Living Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food

Get Your Sunshine While You Still Can…Prevent Flus and Colds!

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Vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic problem in the modern world. In 2010, a large study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism revealed that 59 percent of the population is vitamin D deficient.

Almost 25 percent of the test subjects had extremely low levels of this critical hormone. Source (Department of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology, Nutrition, and Diabetes. Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory, Boston University Medical Center, Boston University School of Medicine).

If you think you aren’t affected by Vitamin D deficiency, read this post I wrote from 2010.

Have you ever wondered why there seems to be a particularly bad few months of flus and colds during the waning months of winter and into spring – around the end of January stretching into April? When I say this, I’m not saying there aren’t any flus and colds during the other winter months, but simply that this seems to be when these illnesses are at their most acute.

I believe this is because these are the last grey months just before spring, and our bodies stores of Vitamin D – if we have any left – are running out or we are greatly depleted.

Summer’s leaving!

Now’s your chance! It’s September and if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is on a fast ticket to the southern hemisphere. Where I live, Boise, ID, which is in the Northern U. S. , there are still some hot days and good sun exposure time left until at least November.

With each successive winter season I find that I am able to resist illness with even greater ease than I did the previous season. Besides a good diet including real food and plenty of healthy fats, one of the things I’ve changed in the last 7 years is that I make sure I am getting plenty of sun exposure to store up Vitamin D for the winter.

Between working in the yard and going on hikes in the foothills with my dog, I generally try to get at least an hour or more of sun daily. I also go out in my back yard and lay in the sun for 30-45 minutes whenever I can (sometimes it’s hard to find the time). But I really try to make time because I know it’s an insurance policy against flus, colds, and other illnesses. I really find that I don’t burn the way I used to, that I get tan more than anything else. I’ve also almost never used sunscreen on my son who also has had really only 2-3 sunburns in his whole life, which were very mild.

During the month of August we had numerous fires around the Boise, ID area where I live, making it unpleasant and downright unbearable to go outside. I feel as though I’ve had a whole month of summer ripped away, so I’m going to make the most of it while the sun is still here and get exposure as much as possible.

Increasing disease rates, despite medical recommendations to avoid the sun

Do you ever wonder why we still have such high rates of cancer and skin cancer, even though we are told to avoid sun exposure and use sunscreen every time we walk out the door?

With so many people being told to avoid the sun and slather on the sunscreen which contains toxic chemicals and blocks our bodies’ ability to absorb Vitamin D, and people working indoors in offices – it should be obvious that we are not getting enough Vitamin D. It’s no wonder this health issue is such a problem. Disease rates in developed countries where we avoid the sun, consume processed foods regularly and also use many personal  care products,  it’s no secret that disease rates are increasing all the time:

For more information on how toxic sunscreens can be due to their ingredients and harmful because they don’t allow us to get the Vitamin D we need from the sun, read this post I wrote from 2010.

Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Frequent flus and colds
  • Muscle weakness or fatigue
  • Diabetes and blood sugar issues
  • Other auto-immune disease such as M.S., Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Periodontal disease
  • Obesity and weight problems
  • Bone loss or osteopenia/osteoporosis, fractures and breaks
  • Behavior and mood issues
  • Learning disabilities
  • Autism
So what can we do in an age where we are told to avoid the sun and are sorely deficient in Vitamin D?  We could just keep eating the way we’ve been for years with processed foods that offer little nutritional support and contain loads of chemicals and toxins and continue to use sunscreen which has a lot of chemicals.  Because that’s what we’ve been told to do by our health authorities. But, you might say, if that worked, wouldn’t we be seeing a decrease in sunburns, skin cancer, cancer and other disease in general? Now we’re getting somewhere!
What if the answer was to get regular, gradual exposure to the sun and increase your time in the sun as you do expose, and maintain a healthy diet with real food and real fats, and a good lifestyle? Seems too simple, doesn’t it?  What if what we’ve been doing hasn’t worked? Doesn’t it seem like it’s worth it to make a change and see if it might actually improve our health?

Tips for sun exposure:

  • If you haven’t been out in the sun much, use common sense. Don’t just go out for hours on end without a break or covering up. Start slow and regular, and work your way up gradually. For the first week or two, limit your time to 10-15 minutes daily if you are sensitive to the sun or have allergies, and increase your time by 5-10 minutes. As you go along, you should be able to be out in the sun for longer periods of time without burning.
  • Uncover as much of your body as you can, including your stomach, back, neck, arms, and legs. Total exposure is important for your body’s ability to adequately absorb Vitamin D.  Read this interesting post from The Healthy Home Economist about exposing your belly to the sun for digestive, immune, and overall health.  I definitely spend as much time as I can sunbathing with my belly exposed. What can I say, I love my bikini!
  • When you know you are going to be out in the sun for long periods of time and you are worried about sunburn, use long sleeves and long pants or skirts/dresses, hats, scarves, and wraps for your head. Seek shade when you’ve had too much.
  • Hydrate with nourishing beverages like kombucha, water kefir, home-made infusions from dried herbs like nettles, or filtered water with minerals. Water is not necessarily going to give you the minerals you need to keep disease and illness away. Most water we drink is full of chemicals and depleted in minerals we need, and there are other beverages which provide the nutrients our bodies need. Find out why.
  • If you wear sunglasses, consider not wearing them all the time or discontinuing the use of them altogether. Our eyes are meant to react to sunlight and absorb Vitamin D not by looking at the sun directly, but by being exposed without cover, to the sun. Closing your eyes and facing the sun directly while sitting is very healthy and also helps the body to more readily absorb Vitamin D. Remember that people didn’t use to wear sunglasses, so this may be yet another modern invention designed to make money that can contribute to Vitamin D deficiency.

Exposure to daily sunlight helps to correctly regulate our waking/sleeping cycles.  When light penetrates the eye, it causes stimulation in the hypothalmus part of the human brain. The hypothalmus is connected to the pineal gland, an organ which helps to correctly regulate when our bodies rest and when it’s time to wake up. This is largely due to secretion of the hormone melatonin.

If we don’t get adequate sun exposure, it will affect all kinds of things in our bodies including cortisol levels (a stress hormone), which cause us to react to stimulus. It should be highest in the morning and taper off as the day wears on. It should be lowest at night so our bodies can sleep. If we don’t get enough sleep at the right times, we are unknowingly altering our cortisol levels. This results in suppressed thyroid, lowered immunity, higher blood pressure, increased abdominal fat, decreased bone density, higher blood pressure and blood sugar imbalances.

  • A healthy diet makes a big difference as to whether your skin will absorb sunlight in a healthy way or will be vulnerable to burning. If you eat a lot of processed foods with chemicals that also have little or no healthy fats, you can expect to have a lot of health problems and trouble with absorbing Vitamin D from the sun.

Grass-fed meats, lard, tallow and organ meats from healthy animals on pasture, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, raw, whole dairy foods, cod liver oil - which are all good sources of Vitamin D (especially cod liver oil), and other foods such as olive oil, coconut oil, seafood, organ meats, and other foods like organic fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and fermented foods and beverages will help you stay healthy and enable your body to absorb Vitamin D and store it.

  • In cold winter months, get outside regularly and if you can, on warmer days, peel the clothing off and expose your skin. If you have very little in the way of sunny days, bundle up and go outside anyway.

Update 9/14/12: apparently, the $5 bulbs I wrote about in this post don’t do anything for Vitamin D absorption. What you need is a product like this from Sperti, which isn’t cheap, but will get the job done in the winter months when there is no Vitamin D to be had from the sun (especially in locations that are in the Northern Hemisphere).

I do think the $5 bulb I used last winter did help my mood though. I used it most days last winter on my desk in my office on cloudy days. This past winter we also had a lot of sunny days and a very mild cold weather, so even though there is purportedly no Vitamin D available during the winter months in Idaho, you can bet I was out every chance I got! I was only sick once this past season and it was in the mid-spring after we had a lot of really cloudy, rainy days.

  • Use a good, natural moisturizer/protectant on your skin.  If you want to help keep your skin from sunburning, extra virgin coconut oil used topically in liberal amounts and applied often, with its natural anti-0xidative and anti-inflammatory qualities is a natural healing and protector of the skin.  In his book, Virgin Coconut Oil: Nature’s Miracle MedicineDr. Bruce Fife has recounted how for many years, traditional people living in island locations used coconut oil daily to protect from sunburn, maintain skin tone and repel insects.  He also describes other ways which these cultures used this amazing oil: “When a mother gave birth one of the first things she would do is to rub coconut oil all over her newborn. Every day coconut oil would be used on the skin. As the children got older they applied the oil themselves. They would continue this practice throughout their lifetime up until the day they died. Many islanders, even today, carry on this practice.”

The use of commercial personal products such as shampoo, soaps, lotions, moisturizers, and others have a negative effect on our body and skin’s natural ability to protect us from the sun.

Cod liver oil applied directly to the skin is really moisturizing and healing. Green Pasture Products makes a fantastic body balm and also calm balm that are really healthy for your skin. These both contain fermented cod liver oil, shea butter, high vitamin butter oil, and coconut oil, and essential oils. If you have sunburn, this stuff is perfect and can really help healing that repair process.

Aloe vera is another good skin treatment, whether it’s the gel or the whole leaf.

Avocado smeared on your skin and left for about 1/2 and then gently washed off is also extremely healing and moisturizing.

Other good skin emollients include lard, tallow, olive oil, and palm oil – from pastured/sustainable sources, of course.

Testimonials on sun exposure and what it does for health

Read these great testimonials from moms with kids or grown children about the healing effects of being in the sun with gradual and safe exposure, who have used real food in their diets, and how they have either stopped using sunscreen altogether or only use it rarely:

Katie Packwood, Boise, ID:
I am on my second summer of no sun screen. Last year I even spent an entire week in the Dominican Republic and didn’t use sun screen once. I used to get burned very easily and could never get a good tan. Now I make a point to get regular sun exposure during the peak UVB hours. I am building a nice base tan and I feel great. I also get unsolicited compliments all the time about my glowing skin. I credit healthy fats and a cleaner diet. Another thing I have noticed…for 25 years I had small bumps on the backs of my arms and on my back. I asked many dermatologists what they were. I was told repeatedly that I just needed to exfoliate more. But, I have since learned that these bumps are a sign of Vit A and fatty acid deficiency. They completely disappeared when I changed my diet.

Lidia Seebek, CO:
Using D3, cod liver oil (well sometimes) and LOTS of good old sunshine has definitely helped me this year. If you’re not tanning, it could be a sign that you’re THAT deficient in Vitamin D. Getting more D has cut back the amount of infections in this house.

Darcy Ludeman, Billings, MT:
I have never used sunscreen, to date I am fine & healthy. I also besides eat/take what you have posted (referring to the posts I put up on Facebook), drink 3 cups of loose leaf green tea w/nettles infused in it. I never sunburn, (I am olive skin ) but I am also outside quite a bit too.

Julie S.:
I totally notice I don’t sunburn as much now that I eat real food… and haven’t used sun screen in two years and am fine with it. Also havent put any sunscreen on my toddler this year and he hasn’t been burnt at all.I used the Badger sun screen on him the last two years but after reading all the sun screen stuff I decided not to use any at all. Plus I am in the Pacific NW where there are a lot of trees to hide under so we are not in the direct sun all day long- however its still easy to get sunburnt here just like anywhere. I don’t get too much judgement because people don’t notice, but I think if I was more open about it I think I would. People are big on their sunscreen and how it is keeping you safe. I understand though, I used to think sunscreen was really important, I had a hard time coming around :)

Mary March, Calgary, Alberta (Canada):
I am really noticing how my skin has changed and is getting more used to our beautiful sun. I am a very pale redhead, so I used to cover up and use some natural-ish sunscreens, but now I shun all types of hats, sunglasses and clothes and try and soak in as much of it as possible (while still taking shade breaks when I feel it time). With the addition of that PLUS eating better fats and lots of juicing I haven’t had a sunburn yet this year and have spent some serious outdoor time in the blazing hot sun… it’s my testimony that this is true! :D

Thea S., Louisville, KY:
I’m have been Paleo for 2 years and I rarely ever use sunscreen. As you know, the Paleo diet is rich in good animal fats, which I gladly consume on a daily basis. I refrain from eating processed foods as much as possible and no dairy, soy, legumes and grains. I think it’s helped with my skin. I used to have terrible acne and no dermatologist had any help except to give me drugs to control them. My skin is great now. No breakouts and I look very young for my age. I often get mistaken to be a teen Mom! Anyway, I avoid using sunscreen as much as possible and soak as much natural Vitamin D as I can. I don’t burn at all, I mostly tan.

Wendy Rose, Boise, ID:
I don’t use sunscreen and I don’t put it on my children either. We spend a regular amount of time out in the sun and we don’t get burned, so there are never LONG exposures, and this is key. I think if you pace yourself in the sun, wear a hat, etc., and find shade on a regular basis it’s not necessary to use sunscreen. I DO worry about the ozone and I wonder about the effects of being exposed to the sun today compared to when I was a kid, but feel that sunscreen’s chemicals are far more damaging.

Susan Roth, NJ
I live in NJ and take D3, FCLO, and don’t use sunscreen. If I were to go to the beach (which I have not in years) I would probably have to cover my legs after a short while because they just don’t get much sun. But sunscreen can actually let the harmful rays through and gives a false sense of security, just because you don’t get the burn to warn you.

Nicki Lovins, Tulsa, OK:
My kids eat deep sea fish daily, along with cod liver oil. We have never used sun screen. We don’t burn. We can be outside for hours on end and not burn. It’s because of the amount of omegas we are consuming and the amount of Vitamin D we are getting.

If we are around people who are sick with the flu, tummy bug, upper respitory infections; we don’t get it at all! We aren’t even down for a day. I run a small daycare and when the kids I watch get sick I don’t even worry about it because…I am not kidding when I say we won’t get it!

Suzanne S, U.K.:
I don’t use sunscreen and didn’t with my children. We live in the northern hemisphere so when we do see the sun it is very strong. Our firstborn has naturally tanning non burning skin and it was easy enough to keep him safe by timing his exposure until his skin was dark enough to prevent burning, but our second child has fairer skin and would burn in a minute so was covered up well and very gently exposed to the sun over time and she would eventually tan.

Now that I know more about how the skin and sun exposure works, I continue to ensure she gets controlled exposure before the summer holiday and full on daily sun worshipping kicks in but what seems to make all the difference is her diet. She gets grassfed Jersey raw milk and butter, as do we all, and this one change in the past couple of years has meant her skin just doesn’t burn, despite being fair. She got her first decent tan this summer. ;)

More information: 

Sunscreen – what’s the damage? 
Vitamin D deficiency – does it affect you?
Why my family loves lard – a great source of Vitamin D!
The surprising cause of melanoma (and no, it’s not too much sun), – Dr. Mercola
Photo credit: EarthTimes.org

Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food

16 Ways to Avoid Flu and Colds this Holiday Season & Through the Winter Months

www.mypicshares.com

Winter is here, and if you get sick a lot this time of year, there are many natural ways you can improve your body’s ability to stay healthy – especially with the foods you eat and lifestyle you maintain.

Many people believe that hand-washing is one of the best ways to keep illnesses away. In the last two decades we’ve seen a huge increase of the use of anti-bacterial substances which are supposed to keep our bodies healthier. But actually, these substances are toxic and don’t help our bodies to maintain health. They wipe out all bacteria, and our bodies need good bacteria to function optimally.

There are also many other factors which come into play toward keeping healthy. If your body doesn’t have the right nutrients every day – especially during times of stress, when you consume processed foods and especially those with sugar, exposure to illness from others, and days where sunlight is in short supply – your body will weaken and succumb to sickness and disease.

Whether you are a person who tends to catch every cold or flu that comes along or you just get sick once in awhile, here are some tips that really work for keeping away bacteria, illnesses, and viruses:

  • Avoid eating processed foods and refined sugars   Fall and winter months are times when people tend to eat more sugary and processed foods due to holiday activities and gatherings. Sugar is a poison to your body and lowers immune system function. This includes foods such as crackers, chips, most breads, bagels, pastas, cookies, desserts, candy, juice, soda pop, and other related items. All of these items contribute to lowered immune system function and poor health. A good rule of thumb to follow – if it is not a whole food, avoid eating it regularly. Load up on real, raw, whole foods for snacks and meals alike.
  • Consume plenty of healthy oils and fats   Real, organic butter (grass-fed and raw is a plus), ghee, extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oils, coconut oils, sustainably-produced palm oil, and healthy animal fats from organic, grass-fed sources such as lard, chicken, duck, or goose fat, tallow (from beef), and drippings from those same types of animal meats. Avoid vegetable oils and trans fats including vegetable shortening, margarine and fake butter spreads, soybean, cottonseed, canola, corn, sunflower, safflower, and peanut oil, which are rancid, contain too many Omega 6s, and have inflammatory and hormonal disrupting properties. These foods are often from genetically-modified sources which are hazardous to health. Read about why GMOs are harmful here.
  • Be certain to obtain essential fatty acids and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) in your diet Take fish oil daily (good source of Vitamin D), eat grass-fed meats, pasture-raised eggs, raw dairy, and safe-source fish. Green Pasture Products sells the only fermented cod liver oil in the world and is the best source for fish oil nutrients like Omega 3s, Vitamins A & D, and other trace nutrients. Good sources of other EFAs include healthy oils like cold-pressed organic flax seed oil and coconut oil. A good brand is Udo’s Organic 3-6-9.  Read this FAQ about why we need good essential fatty acid support for health.
  • Continue to eat plenty of organic, GMO-free and pesticide-free fresh fruits and vegetables   Especially those in season in your local area. Vegetables and fruits are high in nutrients and antioxidants which help thwart the development of disease and illness when properly prepared such as cultured or eaten with healthy fats like butter, lard, tallow, coconut oil, or olive oil.
  • Drink mineral water or add liquid minerals or fulvic acid   There is some controversy about whether filtered water with added minerals is actually healthy for us to drink because it’s not much different than a lot of processed foods which have been stripped of nutrients and have synthetic added back in. Avoid plastic containers, tap water, and bottled water. Tap water contains toxins and plastic contains pthalates – both of which supress immune system and health.  Two other great ways to get minerals is to drink nettles infusions (made with filtered water) or add real sea salt to water and drink throughout the day. Good salt brands include Premier Pink Salt, Celtic Sea Salt, Maine Sea Salt, and Himalayan Pink Sea Salt. Lack of minerals is one of the leading causes of illness and disease.
  • Drink bone broths and incorporate them into your meals as well    Bone broths made from the bones of healthy animals and birds on pasture are full of easily-digested and essential nutrients which can help your body stay healthy such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, amino acids, and glucosamine (for bone health), and gelatin (muscles, metabolism, weight, skin, digestion, hair, fingernails, joint health). Read this post for more information on health benefits and recipes for making your own bone broths at home.
  • Eat real, fermented foods like home-made yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut Making your own at home is best for optimal preservation of nutrients and beneficial bacteria, as well as immune supporting and digestive enhancing. Commercial yogurts, sour cream, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, and other foods do not have the health benefits or probiotic activity of home-made cultured foods. See this post for more information.
  • Be certain to take a good probiotic each day – especially if you are lacking fermented foods Good brands include Biotics ResearchNature’s Life liquid probiotics (great for kids), Bio Kult, and Prescript-Assist for especially low immune function. Also, try the great recommendations by Rockwell Nutrition including a great line of HLC Probiotics by Pharmax.
  • Use digestive enyzmes If you have maintained the Standard American Diet at any time in your life, your digestion is likely compromised.  Altered digestive function is one of the cornerstones of disease and illness. Digestive enzymes can help you to digest foods – proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. I use Enzyme Formulations, live enzymes with healing herbals, or try Dr. Ron Schmid’s Pancreatic enzymes.
  • Watch intake of alcoholic beverages, which tend to increase during holiday months     Drinking excess alcohol can have adverse affects on appetite, blood sugar, blood pressure and cardiovascular function, metabolic processes, and weight. If you are a binge drinker during special occasions, cut yourself off after two drinks and make certain you are eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water at the same time. Consider unpasteurized beer and wine.
  • Make sure you are getting adequate rest and not overextending yourself    If necessary, say no to extra tasks that you know you really won’t have time or energy to accomplish. Stay home on a night where you might normally go out and rest, relax, catch up, and go to bed early. Go to bed by 10 p.m.
  • Set aside time for some regular exercise, preferably outdoors   In the colder months people tend to go to health clubs more. Many more toxins lurk indoors during colder months, so bundle up and go for a walk, hike, or bike ride. You’ll be pleased with how exhilarated you feel afterward. If you are a winter sport enthusiast, get out on the slopes and go skiing, snowshoeing, or snowboarding. If you are an equine enthusiast, make time to get out on your horse or a friend’s mount during weather that is not icy.
  • Set aside time for contemplation, stress reduction, and relaxation   Whether that is a hot bath, a massage, tai chi, yoga, stretching, meditation or some other method you prefer, make sure you give yourself this time to recharge.
  • If you do get sick, load up on probiotics, foods with healthy fats, and everything else mentioned above   Take time to pamper yourself (but not with toxic products that contain harmful chemicals – remember -read labels and if you cannot pronounce something or don’t know what it is, avoid!), rest, and put off things that aren’t necessary so you can get back to a state of health quicker and easier.  Read this informative post about my home medicine cabinet and things you can do to remedy illness and other health issues.
  • Avoid taking pharmaceutical drugs and antibiotics   These substances rarely help your body to heal sooner, are over-prescribed, and actually cause nutrient depletion and lowered immune system function by wiping out friendly bacteria that is vital to health. For information on nutrient depletion caused by drugs, read Supplement Your Prescription: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition by Dr. Hyla Cass, M.D.
  • If you cannot shake a cold, flu, or illness, consider visiting an alternative health care practitioner such as  a chiropractor, naturopathic physician, or other qualified individual  These practitioners are often very successful in alleviating health issues and perform treatment based on the cause of the problem rather than just treating symptoms.

If you maintain a good schedule of eating healthy, avoiding processed foods and beverages, take proper supplementation, obtain moderate activity, exercise, rest, and relaxation, you will notice an enormous improvement in the way your health responds. You will have more energy, feel more productive, and avoid catching flus and colds.

This post is part of Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday blog hop.