A Guide to Your Best, Healthy Summer!
by: Anne Zauderer, DC
Summer is a great season. Flowers are in bloom, vegetables are ripening, and the days are long. The new growth and life are motivating for us to form new habits, get more active, and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. In this article, we are going to be talking about how to make the most of our summer months by avoiding common chemicals used in the summertime and creating new routines and habits that will fuel a healthy lifestyle.
Spend Time in the Sun
Ultraviolet (or UV) rays from the sun come in two main wavelengths: UVA and UVB. In high amounts, both can be damaging to the skin. However, there are differences between the two. UVA penetrates the skin deeper, causing more free radical damage. UVA is also present in higher amounts during most hours of daylight. UVB, on the other hand, is present in low amounts in the morning and evening and in high amounts during midday. UVB is the wavelength that stimulates the production of vitamin D in the skin. This supplies greater than 90% of the body’s requirement for vitamin D. The active form of vitamin D, in addition to regulating calcium metabolism, also has anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer) and anti-melanoma properties (1). In addition to this, vitamin D has also been shown to provide photoprotection against the damaging effects of UVB rays.
Recommendations: The best time to expose your skin to the sun for adequate production of vitamin D is during midday (approximately 10:00am – 2:00pm) during summer months. People with fair skin will only need about 10 -20 minutes in the sun to provide enough exposure to produce enough vitamin D. Individuals with a darker complexion might need longer. On average, sitting in the sun during this time of day for 10 minutes will stimulate the body to make 10,000 units of vitamin D. If you are going to be in the sun longer, it is recommended you use a natural sunscreen to protect yourself from the harmful effects of UV rays (2). Please see the sidebar about how to make your own sunscreen.
This is a great, simple recipe for making your own sunscreen. The SPF is not exactly known, but is more likely on the lower end. Make sure to continually reapply, especially after swimming or sweating.
Total Time: 30 minutes
- 10 drops lavender
- 1 tbsp pomegranate oil
- 3/4 C coconut oil
- 2 tbsp Zinc Oxide
- 2 tbsp shea butter
- Glass Jar
Combine all ingredients except zinc oxide in a jar.
Place a saucepan with 2 inches of water on stove over medium/low heat.
Place jar in saucepan and stir contents until ingredients start to melt.
Once all ingredients are combined, add in zinc oxide and stir well. Store in a cool place.
How do you know if you are at risk for vitamin D deficiency? Unfortunately, if you are living in the United States, you are at risk. The distance of the United States from the equator puts it in a position where most states don’t get enough sunlight during most days in the year to produce adequate vitamin D levels. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the population most at risk is people with darker skin. More than 90 percent of African Americans, Hispanics and Asians living in the United States now suffer from vitamin D insufficiency. Even those with lighter skin are at risk, with 75% of Caucasians having insufficiency as well (3).
According to the research, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with the following conditions (4):
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Autoimmune diseases
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Chronic pain
Recommendations: If you are not able to have sufficient time in the sun, supplementation might be necessary. You will want to supplement in the form of cholecalciferol (otherwise known as D3). Most prescriptions for vitamin D are in the D2 form. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, “D3 is approximately 87% more potent in raising and maintaining vitamin D concentrations and produces 2- to 3-fold greater storage of vitamin D than does D2.” The best way to know what amount to take is to get your levels measured. At the Riordan Clinic, we recommend optimal levels be between 60 -80 ng/ml. For most people, it takes a dose between 5000 IU – 10,000 IU to reach and maintain this level. Vitamin D3 is also better utilized when it is combined in a supplement with vitamin K2 (in the MK-7 form).
Avoid Chemical Herbicides and Pesticides
Everyone loves having a beautiful yard full of green grass and flowers. However, as you embark on your outdoor endeavors, be very mindful of the chemicals you are using this summer in your yard and especially if you have a vegetable garden.
Glyphosate is the most heavily used agricultural chemical of all time. It is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. Worldwide, more than 9.4 trillion tons of it have been sprayed onto agricultural fields since it was introduced in 1974. Up until the mid-1990s, the use of Roundup was more contained because in higher amounts it was toxic to not only weeds, but also food crops. In the 1990s, Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology company, started to introduce “Roundup ready” seeds. These are genetically engineered seeds that are resistant to Roundup. From that point forward, the use of Roundup soared. Levels have increased from 11 million pounds used per year in the U.S. in 1987 to current levels of over 300 million pounds used per year (5). The result is that this chemical residue is pervasive in our food supply, it has seeped into our groundwater, and it is affecting our health.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. They have cited years of research that shows genetic toxicity and oxidative stress from glyphosate. It has also been shown to be an endocrine disruptor, meaning it interferes with the hormone signaling systems in our body. Research also shows that glyphosate inhibits cytochrome P450 pathways in the liver (6). These pathways are responsible for detoxifying the chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis. By inhibiting these pathways, glyphosate is compounding the damaging effects of all the chemicals we are exposed to in our environment. Finally, the biochemical pathway that glyphosate disrupts in plants is one called the shikimate pathway. This pathway is involved with the synthesis of the amino acids tryptophan, phenylalanine, and tyrosine. By disrupting this pathway, glyphosate effectively kills weeds. Humans and other animals do not have the shikimate pathways, therefore glyphosate was deemed harmless for humans. However, what scientists failed to take into consideration, especially during the mid-1990s when the use of glyphosate soared, was that the trillions of bacteria that live in our gut do have a shikimate pathway. As we have learned more about the important role our microbiome plays in our overall health, this greatly increases the concern over using this chemical, especially amid increasing rates of irritable bowel syndrome and food allergies.
When choosing produce, opt for organic as much as possible. Refer to the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” for the 12 worst fruits and vegetables with a pesticide residue.
Try replacing the chemical herbicides and pesticides you use with natural alternatives. You can make your own natural weed killer using the recipe below. You can also strategically plant certain herbs in planters or surrounding your garden to repel the following insects (7):
Basil: Repels house flies and mosquitos
Lavender: Repels moths, fleas, flies and mosquitoes
Lemongrass: Repels mosquitoes
Lemon thyme: Repels mosquitoes
Mint: Repels mosquitoes
Rosemary: Repels mosquitoes and a variety of insects harmful to vegetable plants
Bay leaves: Repel flies
Chives: Repel carrot flies, Japanese beetle and aphids
Dill: Repels aphids, squash bugs, spider mites, cabbage loopers and tomato hornworms
Fennel: Repels aphids, slugs and snails
Lemon balm: Repels mosquitoes
Oregano: Repels many pests and will provide ground cover and humidity for peppers
Parsley: Repels asparagus beetles
Thyme: Repels whiteflies, cabbage loopers, cabbage maggots, corn earworms, whiteflies, tomato hornworms and small whites
Natural Weed Killer:
- 1 gallon white vinegar
- 1 cup salt
- 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and treat weeds by spraying directly on them. For best results, use at the sunniest time of day.
Environmental Working Group’s 2018 “Dirty Dozen”
Investing in buying these fruits and vegetables from an organic source will significantly reduce the amount of pesticides and herbicides you are consuming.
- Sweet bell peppers
Sweat and Detox
Sweat is one of the body’s main modes of detoxification. An inability to sweat or a lack of an opportunity to sweat can impair your body’s ability to rid itself of toxins. Summertime is a great season to begin and develop habits around exercise that induces a sweat. In addition to the higher temperatures, foods that are readily available (and easy to grow in a garden!) support detox of the liver. Some of the best foods to consume in a whole form or in a pressed juice form are: garlic, apples, beets, carrots, leafy greens, avocados, lemons, and cruciferous vegetables. Fresh herbs used in cooking or steeped as teas also promote detox in the liver are: turmeric, dandelion root, peppermint, milk thistle, and ginger.
Make healthy, fresh, organic fruits and vegetables the centerpiece to your diet this summer! Grow an herb garden and incorporate fresh herbs and dried spices into your cooking to help reduce inflammation and promote detox. Find ways to spend time outside and induce sweating. If you have a hard time with the sun or heat, a great alternative that can promote detox and sweating is infrared sauna use.
In addition, make sure you choose a deodorant that does not contain toxic ingredients (like aluminum) that block the action of sweating. Aluminum has also been shown to interfere with estrogen receptors and alter DNA, consistent with the promotion of breast cancer (8).
In conclusion, it can be overwhelming with all of the choices we have to make when it comes to our health. Educating yourself is always the best first step. As Dr. Hugh Riordan used to say, “Once you know, you can never not know, and you are forever changed.” Find what works best for you and gradually incorporate changes that fit in your lifestyle.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. (Lao Tzu) Here at the Riordan Clinic, we are glad to have you on this journey with us! For more information about who we are and what we do, please visit riordanclinic.org.
- Slominski AT, Brożyna AA, Zmijewski MA et al. Vitamin D signaling and melanoma: role of vitamin D and its receptors in melanoma progression and management. Lab Invest. 2017 Jun;97(6):706-724. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2017.3. Epub 2017 Feb 20.
- Adams JS, Hewison M. Update in vitamin D. JClin Endocrinol Metab.2010 Feb;95(2):471-8. doi: 10.1210/jc.2009-1773.
- Samsel A, SeneffS, Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases. Entropy 2013, 15(4), 1416-1463; doi:3390/e15041416
- Darbre PD. Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer. J Inorg Biochem. 2005 Sep;99(9):1912-9.