The Life-Giving Sun

Well summer does seem to be here doesn’t it? One day of sun and a thunderstorm! It’s all good – nature needs both and frankly, so do we. The sun gives us huge amounts of vitamin D3 amongst other things.

I am still largely opposed taking supplements of vitamin D3. I have written many times about the problems with taking supplements and maintain my stance. Buying them is fraught because we don’t know how they have been made or whether they contain what they are supposed to contain and even if they do, whether it’s in the right form for humans to absorb! It is just too costly and complicated

We need the sun for our lives

Let’s take the benefits of the sun. Everyone knows that the sun makes vitamin D3 in our file000336228048(1)skins. Just think about that for a moment. Isn’t it absolutely astounding? This is just one example of how we are dependent upon our environment. (There are many others but I’ll save them for another time.) We need the sun for our lives – literally in every sense. We cannot survive without it and we become sick if deprived of it. We would not be here without the sun – and neither would anything else. It is vital that we appreciate and accept this fact. Our to-date evolution, over hundreds of thousands of years has depended upon the sun more than anything else. Most other factors in life have alternatives or can be foregone for a while.

..we have an epidemic of diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency

There is much evidence that certain diseases are more prevalent the further north in the hemisphere one looks. But we have lived in these places for many thousands of years and these diseases were not prevalent in our ancestors. “Modern” diseases are to be evidenced from remains that are less than 10,000 years old – giving grounds for the popular belief that these illnesses started during the time when we became farmers and had more permanent forms of shelter. Personally, I doubt that many of these illnesses were due to lack of sun exposure – we were very much outdoor people at this time. Their health change was more to do with their rapidly changing diet but as time continued, even more permanent buildings were constructed and much work was done indoors.

Even in the last couple of hundred years or so, we spent much time outside – walking (to get from one place to another, not necessarily for pleasure), farming, gardening and doing all those other necessary jobs that involve us stepping outside the house. Not anymore. Bringing it bang up to date, we travel to our place of work by car where we then enter an artificially lit, windowed building which allows no UVB light to enter. We travel home by car and spend the rest of the day inside. For many, the main source of UVB light is once a year on holiday. And then what do we do? Smother ourselves in sunscreen! We are in real trouble. Now, here in the northern hemisphere, we have an epidemic of diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency – and it is true – the further north you look, the more of these diseases you find.

How we obtained our vitamin D through pre-history

If you accept that we originated in Africa about 100,000 years ago and migrated northwards, you will also understand that at this time our skins were dark which protected us from the relentless equatorial sun whilst still allowing us to obtain the benefits. The northward journey took time – no jumping on Easyjet and arriving a few hours later! It possibly took thousands of years to inhabit the most northerly areas. Remember that at this time the Asia and Europe we know now, didn’t exist and the countries were merged making the migration easier.

As we very gradually moved northwards, our skins lightened. Why do think that was? In order that we could still benefit from the now much weaker and less reliable UVB rays from the sun! Our skins had to lighten in order to scavenge these less frequent rays at a much quicker rate than our African cousins – and the further north you live – the paler your skin will be and the faster you will get your dose of vitamin D! So, given that we need the same levels of vitamin D, the same amount can be obtained in just a few minutes if your recent ancestry is Scottish, a bit longer if you’re English but much longer if you are dark-skinned and living in Africa!

Vitamin D3 is not really a vitamin. It is a pre-steroid hormone and as such, can affect your DNA (unlike true vitamins). My take on this, is that many of the diseases that we label as genetic may in fact be acquired. Chronic vitamin D deficiency can be passed to our offspring. I have lots of reasons for believing this but one factor that I have come across many times when I am asking people about their health, is the “Welsh Tale” as I have named it. If someone has several generations of miners in their family, there is more risk of disease in that person. I’m sure you get the connection. Another scenario which is well documented is that of recent immigrants (within a few generations) to the northern hemisphere. It is this group of people who are the sickest in the western world – more diabetes, heart disease, obesity etc. Whilst there is a dietary factor, there is also a lack of vitamin D from the sun. Life is indoors and even if some time is spent in the sun, it is rarely enough for vitamin D to form. Each generation does seem to have lighter skin even if both parents are dark-skinned – nature knows what has to be done, but this takes time.

Sunbathe!

To prevent vitamin D deficiency, we must sunbathe. It must be taken like medicine. If the sun is high in the sky and your shadow is shorter than you are tall, the UVB rays are reaching Earth. Depending on your skin colour, sunbathe as near to naked as possible for as long as it takes your skin to go pink. Not red. When this has been achieved, cover up, use sunscreen (try to find a non-toxic one or use coconut oil which offers a little protection) or go indoors.

Don’t use soap/shower gel for at least 24 hours as this will remove the skin oils that contain the vitamin D. Use just water on the main parts and maybe just a little soap where you feel you must. Moisturise your skin with something natural such as coconut oil. With this amount of sun exposure you can make up to 20,000 IU of vitamin D but your body will stop the manufacture when it has sufficient to deal with. This takes 24 – 48 hours – then you can go out and make some more! You won’t find this quantity in a supplement and indeed, if you took this amount, it would be harmful.

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Since the fat-soluble vitamins work together, make sure you get plenty of vitamins A and K2 as well. Cheese is a good source especially Brie and Gouda.

Vitamin D is just one reason why we need the sun but there are others. For example, there is evidence that we need it for energy – just like plants. Lots of people feel energised when in the sun. Also, UV light through our eyes regulates our Circadian rhythms, thus helping us sleep. There will be more evidence to come I feel quite sure. Here is another article about the effects the sun has on us.

I have written about it before, but for completeness, I will give you a run-down of the diseases that seem (research is showing) to be related to vitamin D deficiency: around twenty types of cancer; diabetes; depression; heart disease; bone abnormalities; auto-immune diseases; infections. More about vitamin D3 here.

This is one way to boost your health enormously – it’s all of the above and more – and you can do it for free! Now what are you doing here? Outside you go!

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The Importance of Digestion (From Top to Bottom!)

file3011257997439 In my view, even if you smoke or are obese, the food you put into your mouth is the most important factor to determine your overall health. If you eat well your health improves; if you eat badly, your health deteriorates. Simple.

 

 

Well it should be simple but food and nutrition have become complicated over the last century. When we “process” food it can become difficult or impossible to digest. Add to that these other factors – we now eat foods that are not from our evolutionary diet, foods are often genetically modified, traditional food preparation has been replaced with super-fast methods and in many instances, cookery skills have been lost. Probably the most important is learning to cook from scratch using tried and trusted traditional methods and starting with the best ingredients, preferably organically produced.

We eat because we need nutrients which our bodies convert to compounds which are used in the hundreds of body processes that go on every second of our lives. Even if the food is the best, we still have to absorb and utilize these nutrients – and therein lies the rub!

Nutrition is not just filling our stomachs with any old food or a few vitamin tablets. Nutrition encompasses all of the following – the correct food being chewed, swallowed, digested (see below) absorbed and utilized. When any of these stages are omitted either within our control or without it, proper nutrition is forfeited. Let me explain.

When we anticipate or smell food, already our bodies begin preparation for digestion. We salivate, our stomachs rumble which indicates that the digestive juices are being produced. This enables various digestive enzymes to do their work before the next stage can commence.

Chewing food begins the digestion of carbohydrates and it is made more liquid. giant_panda_eatingThis is necessary if all nutrients are to be extracted. Swallowing begins the muscular wave (peristalsis) throughout the intestines to push food to the next stage of digestion. When food enters the stomach, protein is broken down by the hydrochloric acid contained in the digestive juices. The enzymes present continue the digestion of carbohydrates and begin the break-down of fats and proteins. When this is achieved, the small intestine continues the process using bile from the gall bladder and enzymes from the pancreas. Providing there is no disease in the small intestine, many nutrients and water are absorbed here. As the process continues into the large intestine, more fluid is absorbed and some of the B vitamins are created. The end of the scenario is a trip to the loo! This removes that which cannot be digested and other unneeded substances.

As you can see, there are many stages to digestion – which means that there are many ways for things to go awry. The food you eat makes the enzymes, saliva and gastric juices, so if your diet is poor, the situation moves from bad to worse.

Addressing the stages -
In the mouth:  If teeth are bad, the mouth is sore, dentures are poorly fitting, food may be poorly chewed or even avoided altogether.
In the stomach: Too little acid, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), ulceration of the stomach lining, frequent heartburn or a hiatus hernia and many more conditions can interfere with the initial break down of foods. This is especially true of vitamin B12.
In the small intestine: Food insufficiently digested in the stomach will be problematic, poor microbial mix or insufficient beneficial bacteria, Crohn’s and celiac disease, duodenal ulceration, poor bile and pancreatic enzyme production and other diseases  and insufficiencies will produce incomplete digestion here.
The large intestine: Diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis (IBD), poor muscle tone (from years of the wrong diet), insufficient good bacteria, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) will all disrupt the final stages of digestion.

There are all sorts of ways that we can become mal-nourished, even in our land of plenty. Of course, if there was nothing you could do about it, I wouldn’t be writing this! There is plenty you can do to optimise your nutrition.

  1. Choose the best food you can afford and learn how to cook it. (This book is an excellent start!) I won’t go into the minutiae of as there is lots of advice in my other blogs.
  2. Ensure your teeth are in good condition.
  3. Eat slowly. Chew thoroughly and don’t drink much with food as this dilutes the needed acid in the stomach. People who suffer indigestion and GERD should not drink half an hour before or an hour after meals.
  4. Eat fermented foods sometimes – sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, kefir, yogurt.
  5. Practice relaxation. Stress is very damaging on the digestive system at every stage.
  6. Ensure that meal times are just that. Make time to sit down and enjoy your food. I absolutely believe in chatting over a meal as this slows things down and is conducive to good digestion and not overeating.
  7. When you first feel the urge to go to the loo, please go!  Putting it off is damaging to the muscle tone of the bladder and the rectum.

There has to be at least one thing you can do to improve your digestion. One step at a time..

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