Summer. Just the word evokes memories of lazy days spent sleeping late, trips to the beach, delicious barbecues with friends, vacations to exciting, new places, and trips home to see family. When I was a child, it always felt as if the world stopped for a few months and the longer days were filled with endless hours of freedom. Unfortunately, we all have to grow up and undertake adult responsibilities, but we should never lose that childlike zeal for life and quest for spontaneity.
Studies show that spending time in nature improves vigor, sharpens brain function, enhances sleep, brightens the mood and reduces stress. The Japanese refer to spending time in nature as “forest bathing” and in our technology driven world the desire to escape our “cages” has become more prevalent. Interestingly when our bare feet, which contain 7,000 nerve endings, touch the electron-enriched earth, an improvement in the nervous system occurs. Multiple studies have shown that lying down directly on the grass, may be extremely healthy for your body with improvements seen by reduced inflammation and stress, and general well-being. In fact, grounding may be the cheapest way to attain high antioxidants as electrons are essential for the proper functioning of immune systems and many other physiological processes. Shoes made of leather conduct electrons and therefore maintain a conductive contact with the earth, while modern day rubber and plastics block this beneficial flow from the earth to the body.
Summer is an opportunity to eat delicious freshly picked berries and fruits such as cherries, plums, peaches and nectarines. These fruits should be considered healthy candies because of their bright colors and delicious taste, yet without the harmful sugars, corn syrup and artificial flavors or colorings of manufactured sweets. Blueberries have the highest antioxidants of all fresh fruits, containing Vitamin C, B Complex, Vitamin A and E, copper, selenium, zinc and iron. Strawberries, preferably organic, contain 149 percent of Vitamin C while raspberries enhance eye health with their unique God-given antioxidants. Our Creator, in his wisdom, designed fruits and vegetables to have antiseptic qualities that naturally clean our bodies. Research continues to prove that increasing fruit and vegetable consumption not only improves health but offers disease prevention. Hydration is also increasingly important in the hot summer season. A good guide is to drink eight 8 oz glasses of fluid a day at regular intervals.
Eye protection, particularly here in South Florida, is necessary, especially in the scorching summer months. It is not uncommon for ER doctors to see people with burned corneas after attending outdoor concerts or going to the beach without a hat or sunglasses. Protect your eyes from intense sun by wearing sunglasses that block 90 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Most good sunglasses protect from UVB and will have a sticker on them if they protect from UVA too. Glasses should be close to the face or wraparound, which will also help prevent cataracts and wrinkles. It is important to boost our Vitamin D, which lowers cancer risk, by exposing our skin to the sun between 10 am and 3 pm. Sunlight not only makes Vitamin D in your skin but also makes beta-endorphins, which help us feel good, and nitric oxide, which is known to lower blood pressure, as well as many other necessary chemical reactions that cannot happen through Vitamin D supplementation alone. Vitamin D is vital because it regulates up to 2,000 genes and also plays a role in cardiovascular health through the production of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and reduces blood pressure. Nitric oxide is also known to enhance wound healing and has an antimicrobial effect. Interestingly there is now an app available, DMinder.info, which helps track your Vitamin D intake.
Despite an increase in sunscreen use, more than 2 million Americans are diagnosed annually with skin cancer. Astonishingly, it is estimated that 75 percent of sunscreen may be toxic, increasing the risk of cancer and additional health problems. Unfortunately, sunscreens have not been regulated since 1978. Problem chemicals include oxybenzone, methoxycinnamate and PABA, all estrogenic chemicals linked to cancer. Non-mineral sunscreens penetrate the skin and have the potential to disrupt hormones. Mineral sunscreens contain zinc or titanium dioxide, are not usually absorbed or allergenic and are more efficient at blocking UVA rays than non-minerals. The most useful sunscreen may be a hat and a shirt, but eating a diet high in blueberries, red grapes, salmon, green and white tea, pumpkin seeds, almonds, asparagus, carrots and red bell peppers will also go a long way towards skin cancer prevention.
Guard against Zika
Bugs may be the downside of summer. Mosquitoes can transmit serious diseases, the most recent being the Zika virus. Standing water becomes a breeding ground and should be drained. Female mosquitoes nourish their developing eggs with protein-rich blood and spit an anticoagulant under our skin depositing whatever disease they carry. Natural preventative remedies include lemon eucalyptus oil, baby oil, imitation vanilla extract and if you don’t mind the smell, cider vinegar or garlic rubbed onto the skin. Dragon flies and bats should be encouraged around the home since one bat can consume over 600 mosquitoes in an hour. While very effective, and sometimes necessary when dealing with epidemics, repellents containing DEET may on rare occasions harm the nervous system.
Summer is a time to stop and smell the roses. Don’t allow this season to race by without taking time to lie down in freshly cut grass and contemplate the brevity and incredible gift of life.