Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health. It’s Summer time! The perfect time to develop healthy habits for taking care of yourself, which hopefully will lead to healthy habits for the whole year!
Let’s dive in!
The Benefits Of Sunlight
The first thing I want to say is GO OUTSIDE. I know there are misconceptions about the dangers of sun exposure, but sunlight is IMPORTANT. It feels great to be out in the sun. Get outside, and tell your kids to get outside! We talk a lot about the health benefits of Vitamin D, and real sun is the best way to get Vitamin D!
Note: Burns can cause cancer, not the sun. Don’t be afraid, just don’t get burned.
When you get up in the morning, get outside and look up towards the sun. When you do this your retina will get good Vitamin D from the morning light. It helps wake you up. Andrew Huberman, MD, a Stanford Professor/Ophthalmologist/Anti-Aging expert, talks a lot about the benefits of sunlight, as well as sleep. I love his podcasts!
Think about sunlight as a nutrient.
- Sunlight produces nitric oxide. Note: I did a post on the all important vasodilation effects of nitric oxide.
- Sunlight produces endorphins. Note: It helps you release your own “feel good” chemicals (called endorphins) in your brain.
- Sunlight helps immunity and heals wounds. Note: When people had Tuberculosis, doctors would put them in Solariums (sunrooms) to heal. During the Flu outbreak of 1918 there were no good treatments. During that summer in Boston, they put a group of patients outside in the courtyard because there were no more hospital beds. Those patients got a lot better than those who were inside. This was because of the sun.
- Sunlight activates the melatonin in your mitochondria which decreases ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species), a harmful byproduct of energy production. That’s why melatonin is so good for you. It’s not just for sleep. It’s for cancer protection as well. Note: You can take Melatonin during the day. It won’t make you sleepy unless it’s dark.
- Sunlight helps regulate your microbiome (your gut).
Sun And Melanomas
Everybody worries about skin cancer, especially melanomas because they can kill you. When I was in medical school, I spent time with my Dad who operated on Melanomas. I quickly learned Melanomas were bad. They can definitely kill you, but it’s not necessarily the sunlight. There are a lot of misunderstandings around sunlight and melanomas.
It’s a fact that outdoor workers have less risk of melanomas than indoor workers. The key here is to not get burned. There is no doubt that sunburns may be a factor for getting melanomas. That’s why it is important to gradually expose yourself to the sun.
I’ve had skin cancer three times in my life. All three were Squamous cells on my arms. I’ve also had actinic keratosis on my face, which is a precursor to skin cancer. Most of us will get a basal cell in our lifetime. This is the mildest form of skin cancer.
Make sure you get your skin checked annually by your family doctor or dermatologist. Some people will ignore an obvious skin cancer for a long time. Melanomas are often found in areas never exposed to sun.
Note: It’s postulated that linoleic acid makes your cells more fragile in sunlight and can lead to melanomas. Linoleic acid is something we measure on the Cleveland Heart Panel. It’s an Omega 6, polyunsaturated fat, that isn’t good for you. Think vegetable oil, seed oils, and almost any processed foods. Watch out for melanomas if you have high linoleic acid levels.
Almost all cancer rates increase the further you get away from the equator. Large amounts of Vitamin D are very protective for you. It upregulates the ability to fight infections and produces antimicrobial peptides.
Sunscreen can be toxic. I’m not against sunscreen, but you want to avoid those with oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, octocrylene and paraben preservatives. If you have to use sunscreen, use one with Titanium dioxide and Zinc. You can be more at risk from certain toxic sunscreens than from the sun itself.
Note: You have to be careful with kids. Make sure you cover them up so they won’t get burned. I think covering up is more important than toxic sunscreens.
More Health Tips For The Summer
HYDRATE. Use the 8×8 rule. Drink eight 8 ounce glasses of water per day. That is two liters or half of a gallon. This is the baseline. If you are sweating a lot, you need more than that. This is important because there are obviously more heat strokes in the summer than in the other seasons.
Note: Remember your electrolytes, especially salts (sodium). Only 20% of people with hypertension are sensitive to salt. Most people do not get enough.
EXERCISE. It’s a lot easier to get out and exercise during the summer. Create a routine and carry it on through the winter! In my opinion, it’s best to get out and exercise either early or late in the day. The older I get, the less tolerant I am to the heat.
USE COLLAGEN SUPPLEMENTS. Your skin gets thinner as you get older. It’s more likely to break down, so definitely use your collagen supplements.
BE CAUTIOUS. There are generally more accidents during the summer months.
TICKS. Watch out for ticks! You definitely don’t want Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted fever. If you get a tick bite make sure you go see your doctor. Early treatment is curative.
MOSQUITOS. Watch out for Mosquitos! They love me, but I hate them. Note: Did you know Mosquitos cause more disease and kill more people than any other creature in the world? Think Malaria, Dengue fever, West Nile, Zika. How do you protect yourself? DEET is somewhat effective, but it can be toxic and it stinks. Picaridin is safer. Some essential oils work well too: Citronella, tea tree oil, lemongrass, peppermint, and cinnamon. I also love local honey for mosquito bites.
SPIDERS. Watch out for Spiders! They can be bad, too. We see a lot of Brown Recluse where I live in East Tennessee. They can eat through the skin and cause some problems. Vinegar helps with spider bites. One trick I’ve done before is fill a spray bottle with half Apple Cider Vinegar and half water, with about 5-10 essential oil drops (lavender, lemongrass, clove, eucalyptus, citronella). You can spray this around the entryways to your house. Both mosquitos and spiders don’t like it.
SLEEP. Get your sleep this summer!
ENJOY YOUR FAMILY.
LISTEN TO MUSIC. I love all the live music that goes on during the summer.
Hopefully, these tips will help you develop healthy habits that can be carried on throughout the year! Have a great summer!