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Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food Toxin Alert!

13 Ways to Kick Insomnia/Sleep Disorders and Get a Good Night’s Rest

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Are you an insomniac? Do you toss and turn and wake up in the middle of the night? And no matter how hard you try, you can’t  get back to sleep…only to feel as though you’ve been hit by a truck when the alarm goes off and it’s time to start your day?

In our culture, we’ve come to believe many things we experience to do with the way we feel as being normal, such as headaches, stiffness, fatigue, sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, headaches, sore throats, flus, colds, and many others.

We medicate ourselves by going to the doctor and getting on antibiotics or taking over-the-counter products. But do those efforts really get us anywhere? And, are we improving our symptoms, or just covering them up? We take medications for awhile because we think they are working…only to find that the problem rears itself again in a few days, weeks, or months. This frustrating cycle does not cure us of our ailments, but rather just keeps it in a perpetual state.

If you’ve ever taken sleeping pills, you know exactly what I mean. I know hundreds of people or more who take these drugs. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. ultimately what I hear is that people still have trouble sleeping no matter what they do. And they don’t feel rested in the morning when they wake up.

For many years, I had chronic sleep issues. Sometimes I’d lie there awake for 2 hours or more, and not be able to fall back to sleep. Maybe I’d finally go to sleep again just before I had to get up. And getting up at that point was a herculean effort, to say the least. I’d drag myself through the day, wishing so badly I could just have some time to take a nap and catch up on my lost sleep. Usually there wasn’t time and then often I’d find myself feeling exhausted again by 5 p.m. and have to drag myself through dinner. And yeah, I thought this was normal. 

Later I’d get ready for bed but by then I was almost wide awake again, and would watch something my husband and I had rented from Netflix because I wanted some time to myself…only to fall asleep during the video. Then when I finally went to bed I would have trouble falling asleep or I’d go to sleep and wake up again in a few hours…only to start the cycle all over again.

Then there were the times when I’d wake up at midnight, 1 or 2 p.m. and have severe panic symptoms. My heart would be racing, I’d feel as though I couldn’t breathe, and I was in full on anxiety mode in the middle of the night while everything around me was quiet and dark, and the world around me was asleep. Sometimes these episodes would go on for hours. I’d go back to sleep maybe for 20 or 30 minutes, only to be yanked awake again with the same symptoms which would last for another hour or so.

These symptoms went on for more than 20 years. I spent a lot of time researching natural remedies to make my symptoms go away. I had already been to doctors many times, been examined, been tested….only to find that my heart was okay, everything was okay. But, I needed a prescription for anxiety or depression. This didn’t make sense. How could I be okay and need drugs? I never took the prescriptions I was given because I was certain that it wouldn’t really get to the root of the problem and then I’d be hooked on meds. I didn’t want that.

2005

I changed my diet pretty drastically. I cut out most processed foods and started eating more whole foods and regular meals. Instead of processed grains I started eating sprouted grain products. I stated eating more proteins and fats, and more fruits and vegetables. I had some improvement, but there was still something missing.

2007

I went to see a colon hydro-therapist. She suggested that I try giving up wheat, since I was still eating it pretty regularly. I didn’t think I could do it, but I eventually stopped eating most breads, pastas, and grains. I always felt better when I didn’t eat them whether they were properly prepared with sprouting/soaking/fermenting or not.

My husband and son both had issues with dairy, so we decided to try what we’d heard was a success for many people and bought our first gallon of raw milk from Organic Pastures Dairy. We discovered that we could eat these foods and they didn’t bother any of us and they were delicious…and we never looked back.

2009

I discovered traditional foods. I started preparing more of these for my family and our collective health kept improving all the time. But I still had health symptoms that I couldn’t shake whenever I would “cheat” and eat something I shouldn’t have. Usually it was some type of grain, sugar, or food with high carbohydrate content.

2011

Just after the new year, I had a health crisis which forced me to think even more differently about what I was putting into my body. During this time, my family was going through a severe financial crisis and we were facing the prospect of losing our home. I started having chronic anxiety and panic issues during the night again which disrupted my sleep. This went on for 3 months. I tried everything I could to get it to stop, including many supplements, natural remedies, alternative care treatments, and it seemed nothing I did worked and my efforts were to no avail.

Never again will I underestimate the power stress has to deplete the body of essential minerals and other nutrients. If I had realized just how down my body was going to get from all the stress we were experiencing, maybe I could have taken precautionary and supportive steps to ensure that my health state didn’t get as low as it did.

I finally decided that I needed something completely different and made a plan to start Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride’s GAPS protocol. I thought my diet was already  healthy enough, but as it turned out…I was wrong.

GAPS gave me what I needed to get my body back on track, loose the anxiety and panic issues, and start sleeping again. If you’re like me, not getting the sleep you need can set you up for a disaster. If it continues and is chronic, you know you simply can’t function. If I had not decided to do GAPS, I don’t know what would have happened to me.

But what if I don’t want to do the GAPS diet? It’s too overwhelming!

Even if you don’t take on the full GAPS diet, just implementing some of the basic principles of GAPS into your diet can improve your health and quality of your sleep immensely. If you do decide to do full GAPS, there is a good chance that you will be able to solve many or at least some of your major health issues. GAPS is not a cure-all protocol, but it has been helpful for thousands of people and at the very least, you will realize some noticeable health benefit from doing it.

GAPS uses healing and nourishing foods that were some of the most basic nutritional elements discovered by Dr. Weston A. Price in his travels all over the world to find out what healthy societies were consuming and what was causing disease and dental issues in people he knew and treated in his dentistry practice in the U.S.

Here are 13 ways I’ve found are very effective to improve your the quality of your sleep and overall health:

1.   Drink bone broth and/or use it liberally in the foods you eat daily.

This is one of the best agents I’ve ever used to make sure I sleep well each night. Bone broths are full of minerals, and if you are low on minerals, you can be sure you won’t get a good night’s sleep.

Don’t wait until bedtime to drink it. Use throughout the day by sipping a cup with meals or use in soups, stews, chili, casseroles, sauces, rice and bean dishes and other foods. Wherever a recipe calls for using water (that would be savory recipes, not desserts or sweet recipes), replace with broth from chicken, beef, lamb, pork, or fish bones.

Broth is extremely easy to digest, and is a great source of minerals and gelatin which are healing to the digestive tract. It is also a rich source of collagen and amino acids. All of these nutrients are essential for good health and can greatly improve digestion and absorption of nutrients from other foods you eat, which greatly affects sleep.

2.   Make infusions with nettles and other herbals that you like and drink daily.

Nettles are another abundant source of minerals. We make and drink nettles daily and we usually add some type of mint to it because we like the taste (either peppermint or spearmint). Like broth, nettles are easy to digest and are a good source of minerals that help sleep cycles to normalize: calcium, magnesium, potassium, silica, sulfur, and iron, chlorophyll, and amino acids.

Nettles infusions are very effective for their blood-building properties, bone and muscle-building abilities, oxygen transport from the lungs to the cells, reducing inflammation in the body and helping to replace depleted nutrients. For a good recipe to make nettles infusions, visit Susun Weed’s web site.

3.   Prepare and eat fermented foods.

Fermented foods are vital to health as they contain a diverse selection of friendly bacteria (probiotics) which aids in digestion and immune system health, and culturing foods increases the availability and amount of nutrients in foods. Consuming cultured vegetables like pickles and sauerkraut, kombucha, water kefir, dairy kefir, beet kvass, and others are highly beneficial foods that will improve your overall health and quality of sleep.

4.   Eat healthy fats every single day.

If you are currently eating any of the following, eliminate them from your diet: canola or any other type of vegetable oil such as soybean, corn, or safflower, sunflower, peanut oils, margarine or butter substitutes or vegetable shortening. Real fats are nutrient-dense and contain vital elements you need for health – fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K2, Omega 3s, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and minerals.

Replace all unhealthy fats with real fats such as butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil and animal and bird fats such as lard, tallow, chicken (schmaltz) and others from healthy animals and birds raised on pasture without pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Read about the dangers of low-fat foods – Deceptions in the Food Industry: Low-Fat Foods and The Importance of Dietary Fats

5.   Eliminate processed, packaged, and canned foods. 

Processed foods are full of chemicals like MSG (under names you may not even recognize if you read the label such as maltodextrin, citric acid, natural flavors, hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, soy protein, and many others), food dyes, preservatives, genetically-modified organisms (such as soy, canola, corn, and cottonseed oil), sugar, and many other ingredients that are intended to preserve foods and increase shelf life. For more information on how processed foods harm your health, read Is Cheap Food Really Cheap? The Hidden Costs of Industrial Food and Fortified and Processed Food: Are Label Claims About Nutrition True?

6.   Eliminate refined sugars and processed carbohydrates.

Reducing your sugar intake drastically by removing crackers, cookies, juice, soda, cereals, chips, pretzels, bagels, muffins, pastries, etc. and any type of convenience foods that are high in refined carbohydrates.

For many people this also includes eliminating bread and grains, since most breads and grain products you can buy are highly processed and not properly prepared, include many other additives and chemicals, you will want to avoid these foods for a period of time to see how you feel without them. Once you determine if these foods are upsetting your sleep, you may decide to ditch them forever or only to indulge on special occasions.

You will find that the more you eliminate processed foods and add plenty of healthy fats to your diet, sugar cravings often subside. Your body needs the nutrients in real food and healthy fats, and sugar cravings are often a sign of yeast overgrowth, dysbiosis, parasites, and other imbalances which cause our bodies to crave carbs and sugar.  For more information, read Dietary Changes & Supplements for Removal of Candida Overgrowth, Part I and Part II.

For more information on why wheat and grains could cause health issues, read The Truth About Wheat and Grains – Are They Good for Your Health?

Also read 14 Ways to Eliminate Sugar Cravings

7.   Make sure you get some sun exposure everyday and a bit of activity as well.

Regular and safe sun exposure are vital to health, and helps with hormone levels which in turn help our sleep cycles to normalize. If you are someone who has spent a lot of time avoiding the sun, you are probably deficient in Vitamin D and other nutrients such as Vitamin A which are necessary for absorption of minerals like calcium. The more you expose yourself to regular sun, the more your body will begin to produce Vitamin D and it will protect you from disease as well as sunburning.

We also need a good supply of magnesium in our diets to absorb Vitamin D, as well as vitamins in the B complex. This is why good lifestyle and diet are so important. All of these nutrients are contingent upon each other to work in the body successfully.

Applying coconut oil and cod liver oil to your skin can be quite helpful in aiding your skin to be able to absorb nutrients from the sun.

Getting some exercise is a good idea, but don’t overdo it. Too much exercise can damage your adrenal glands and lead to adrenal exhaustion which can be harmful to overall health and take awhile to heal. Gentle and purposeful exercise like walking or moderate hiking or biking is good, but if you are out of shape, anything besides this should be avoided until you heal your adrenal glands. Chronic sleep issues are a sure sign of adrenal exhaustion, so take care of this before engaging in any strenuous exercise.

Read Vitamin D Deficiency – Does It Affect You?

Suggested book reading and web site resource: The Vitamin D Solution, Dr. Michael F. Holick

8. Eliminate commercial sources of meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy foods from your diet. 

Meat and animal products from industrial and factory farm sources are not only harmful to your health due to hormones, antibiotics, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), pesticide and herbicide residue, but they are much less nutritious than their sustainable-produced counterparts that are raised in healthy environments and on pasture, without all the chemicals and above-mentioned substances.

Definitely be certain to eat grassfed meats, game meats, organ meats, pasture-raised eggs and poultry, and other animal foods that are rich in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2, Omega 3s, CLA, and minerals. These nutrients are vital to health and it should go without saying, but if you are lacking in these elements, your health and your sleep are likely suffering. The only real source of retinyl palmitate (true Vitamin A) comes from animal foods. It is then easily converted to retinol in the small intestine.

These foods contain as much as 3-5 times the amount of these nutrients as compared to their industrial counterparts, and should be free from hormones, antibiotics, GMOs, herbicides, pesticides, and other nasty chemicals.

Read Industrial Meat & Pink Slime=More Recalls, Drug Resistance and The Grassfed Meat Challenge: Busting Myths About Meat 

9. Stop using vegetable oils and margarine in your cooking and salad dressings.

If you are using vegetable oils, throw them out immediately. Vegetable oils such as canola, soybean, cottonseed, corn, peanut, safflower, and artificial butter spreads such as margarine (and others like Earth Balance, Smart Balance, and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter) do not reduce inflammation and cholesterol in the body. In fact, they make this situation worse and contribute to Metabolic Syndrome (of which heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, and high blood pressure are a part).

Although medical authorities have told us for decades that these oils are healthy, they are in fact one of the worst “foods” you can eat. They are modern oils which have been highly processed and subjected to heat in a factory. These delicate polyunsaturated oils do not bode well under heat and become rancid after processing. They also contain far too many Omega 6s, which contribute to disease. Most vegetable oils are also from a GMO-source, and if the label says they are “organic” you can bet they aren’t. Contamination from GMO crops is eminent in our agricultural system.

Our ancestors did not consume these modern oils. They thrived on animal fats, and there is plenty of historical and archaeological evidence of this fact. For cooking, baking, and frying use butter or ghee, lard or tallow from healthy animals raised on pasture without antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, pesticides, or herbicides.

Instead of bottled dressings which usually contain these oils and other chemicals, make your own salad dressing from healthy oils like olive and other real ingredients.

If you are still doubtful about the hazards of vegetable oils, read the history of cottonseed oil, the mother of all vegetable oils and how a company named Procter & Gamble replaced animal fats with their flagship product, Crisco.

Read Which is Better for Your Health – Polyunsaturated or Saturated Fats and Why My Family Loves Lard

The Coronary Heart Disease Epidemic : Possible Culprits, Part II – Whole Health Source

Suggested book: Put your Heart In Your Mouth – Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride

10. If you are on prescription or over-the-counter medications or drugs, consider eliminating them.

I know a lot of people who take prescription meds and they also have a lot of trouble sleeping.  Medications alter your physiology, deplete your body of important nutrients,  and can alter your sleep patterns greatly. “Certain heart, blood pressure, and asthma drugs, as well as over-the-counter medicines for colds, allergies, and headaches, can interrupt normal sleep patterns,” says James Wellman, MD, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Georgia in Augusta.

You’ll be surprised at how much better you sleep if you are not on prescription meds.

Read Is Your Medication Robbing You of Nutrients? and Is Your Prescription Robbing You of Nutrients, Part II by Dr. Hyla Cass, M.D.

and Is Reactive Medicine Cheaper Than Preventative?

11.   Make sure your sleeping environment is clean. 

Eliminate clock radios, televisions, computers, stereo systems, cell phones, and anything electrical that you can do without in your room. EMFs (electrical magnetic frequencies) and other interferences can negatively affect your sleep. Keep your room as dark as possible.

If you have a SmartMeter in your home, you should consider moving it or having it replaced with an analog meter. SmartMeters have been shown to cause disturbance in sleep and also affect health adversely.

Read How to Protect Yourself from a Smart Meter by Stanley Fishman’s guest post on The Healthy Home Economist and Harvard Medical Doctor Warns Against Smart Meters

For more information about how EMFs can damage health and cause premature aging of cells, visit Dr. Sinatra’s site (cardiologist)

Suggested book reading: Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? Clinton Ober, Stephen Sinatra, Martin Zucker

12.   Retire at a reasonable hour. 

Although there is no magic number of sleep hours that will do your body good, burning the candle at both ends doesn’t help you to feel rested, even if you believe you are sleeping soundly the whole time you are asleep. Going to bed after 10 p.m. can have a profound effect on how rested you feel the next day. Our digestive tract goes through a detoxification between the hours of 9 and 11 p.m in the lymph nodes (antibody system). If we aren’t relaxed or sleeping during this time, this process isn’t fully completed.

Our ancestors didn’t have modern technology with lights, computers, video games, and television to keep them up late after dark. They went to bed early and rose with the sun.  Since the invention of the light bulb, our overall sleep hours have been reduced by as much as 500 hours per year! The natural circadian rhythm of our bodies dips down in the afternoon and in the middle of the night, causing us to feel tired. Supporting our bodies with nutrients and rest during these times is critical to health.

Do something calming and quiet before bed like meditate, take a hot bath, listen to peaceful music, have a quiet conversation with a loved one, or read. Watching television, playing video games, or looking at a computer screen can have an effect on the chemicals in your brain and entire body, and how easily you fall asleep after going to bed.

Read A Lack of Sleep Can Lead to Heart Attack and Stroke, Dr. Sinatra (cardiologist) and Lack of Sleep Can Lead to Weight Gain, Jennifer LaRue Huget

13. Avoid violence/heavy emotional subjects and conversations or television/movies/computers/bright lights/LEDs before bed. 

Exposing yourself to these influences before bedtime can cause you to become keyed up and make any chronic sleep issues more acute. Do something relaxing and calm before bed. Drink herbal teas such as peppermint, lemon balm, skullcap, astragalus, wood betony, motherwort, valerian, linden flowers, or passionflower.

As recommended in #12, read or engage in something quiet such as prayer or meditation, or listening to calming music. Take a warm or hot bath in filtered water with epsom or magnesium salts. Mineral salts are calming and essential to the body for all functions, and especially sleep.

Related posts:

11 Reasons Why You Aren’t Healing Despite “Eating Well”

My GAPS Experience for Panic Disorder and GAPS Radio Interview

13 Ways to Increase Mineral Intake for Improved Well-Being & Health

Green Living Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food

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

www.mypicshares.com
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