Sublock or not?

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I am heading for a week at the beach with my family!  I’m super excited.  I am looking forward to spending some time with the ocean and sun :).  This made me think of an article I wrote a year ago about sunblock.  For those of you who haven’t read it, here it is. And for an updated list of safe sunscreen here is the Environmental Working Group’s current guide .

Ok, I know this will raise a few eyebrows, but before you start chasing me with a pitch fork hear me out.  I am not saying you should never use sunscreen.  However,  you should be mindful about when it is necessary and choose your brand wisely.  Personally I don’t use much of it, for me or my family, but  I also understand it can come in handy under some circumstances.

Now let’s be clear about one thing, a sunburn is a big leap from moderate sun exposure.  As you probably know already, a sunburn causes cellular damage from ultraviolet radiation.  There are two types of UV rays, UVA and UVB, both can cause sunburn but they are different. UVA penetrates deeper in the skin and causes more cellular damage.  It is present all hours of daylight , year-long,  regardless of the weather.    Healthy exposure to UVB rays is necessary for the natural production of vitamin D in the body.  UVB rays are low in the morning and evening and high during the middle of the day.  Of course once you start getting burned , there is no extra production of vitamin D to save for a rainy day, you are just damaging your skin.

My biggest issue with the whole sun exposure dilemma is this pandemic fear of the sun.  A lot of people are terrified to spend a few minutes outside without a SPF of over 100!  They triple coat their kids before going to the park and would wear a sweater at 80 degrees if it would save them from sun exposure.  This is causing some serious health issues.

Here are two reasons to re-consider sunscreen.

Toxicity

Most commercial sunscreens are loaded with toxic chemicals.  Our skin is our largest organ, not only does it protect us but it also absorbs what we put on it. ( Ladies take note, you might be ingesting pounds of chemicals through your skin, courtesy of your beauty products.)  The damaging effects of chemicals found in sunscreen range from hormone disruption to various forms of cancer.  One of the offenders is retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A,  that seems to have carcinogenic properties when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight.  Most sunscreen products contain retinyl palmitate, amongst other synthetic chemicals that can get into your bloodstream.  The Environmental Working Group provides a very useful list of what products to avoid  (that includes  spray sunscreens!) and which are safer to use.  A note to parents, please be careful with the lotions you use on your child.  Young children tend to be more susceptible to harmful chemicals because their systems are still developing, especially babies.  And if you care about this, sunscreen also has an adverse impact on the environment!

Vitamin D deficiencies

I am vitamin D deficient at the moment.  I have struggled with ups and downs for a few years now and let me tell you, it is not fun.  I take this issue very seriously. Vitamin D deficiency is not uncommon in this country, though for some reason it remains a secret to most.  I am willing to bet if you go get tested tomorrow you will have some degree of vitamin D deficiency (unless you live in a land of perpetual warm months).  Low blood levels of this vitamin can lead to a lot of trouble and has been associated with increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, severe asthma in children and cancer to name a few.  One of the most common problems with vitamin d deficiencies is bone health, since the body needs this vitamin to assimilate calcium.  Yes you can obtain vitamin from nutritional sources, such as fatty fish, egg yolks and fortified milk, but you are unlikely to get your fill this way.  There are also supplements, I highly recommend  a good quality vitamin D3 (not D2!).  Some health experts say 2,000 IU a day is ok, but get tested to find out the best amount for you.  This link from Cancer Connect provides some tips on choosing the right kind.  Now ideally we would get our vitamin D from the sun, but if you are constantly coated in sunblock, indoors or avoiding the sun like the plague,  it is not going to happen.  Keep in mind sunblock, even in small amounts, impedes vitamin D absorption.  In order to get the amount you need from the sun you would have to expose most of your skin (sans sunscreen) and be in the sun between 10 to 20  minutes depending on your skin.  For more information check this article by Dr. Mercola.

 

With summer here you might want to pay some attention to what you are putting in your skin.  We obsess over the right swimsuit, the least you can do is spend a few minutes considering your health. Here are a few suggestions

Consider Astaxanthin supplements

Recently Astaxanthin, a very powerful antioxidant mostly found in krill, has been touted to protect your skin from sun damage!  You could call it the internal sunscreen. So you might want to add this supplement to your diet.  We use Nutrex Hawaiian  Astaxanthin.

Enjoy sun exposure in moderation

Once you start turning pink its time to go, this could be little as 10 minutes for very pale people.  Use a beach umbrella, a hat, a shirt or just find some shade and relax.  Let your kids get some sun exposure, you can always take them out of the pool and apply a safe sunblock.  I know it can be daunting but given the choice of coming out for sunblock or going home, I have a feeling they will choose the first.  If you make it a routine it won’t be as hard, and remember you are the boss!  Besides it’s a small price to pay for your health and that of your family.

Use safe sunscreen

I will accept that some circumstances call for sun protection.  If you work outside all day (like my husband and father in law) and you can’t shelter yourself from the sun, if you are at high risk for skin cancer,  if you just can’t get out of the sun after a safe period of time; by all means wear some sunblock.  Just make sure you are not making matters worse by adding dangerous chemicals to your skin.  Some of the chemicals in sunscreen could increase your risk of skin cancer!  This is your health; take a little time and do the research.  I use Badger but there are many other safe alternatives.

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Show your face outside, the sun wont bite if you are mindful.  Be safe and have fun!

Home made paint

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Another summer day arrives.  And with it a gazillion: “what are we doing now?!”  The little’s don’t skip a beat and I suddenly feel myself aging rapidly :).  What is a mother to do so she doesn’t earn a one way ticket to the loony bin?  Activities, lots of em.  This summer I have done everything I can think of and afford.   The pool, fruit picking, the aquarium, playdates, dancing, pretending to be a superhero, reading and lots and lots of painting and crafts.

Today Lucas and I tackled another project, home-made paint.  A while back my mom shared this recipe with me and I finally got around to doing it. I have to say the paint isn’t really great but there is a lot of fun to be had with it.  For one, making the paint is something a 3-year-old can help with.  Basically you mix equal parts of flour, salt and water then add a few drops of food coloring.

Lucas especially enjoyed shaking the mixture

Lucas especially enjoyed shaking the mixture

"can we shake it some more pleeeeasseeeee"

“can we shake it some more pleeeeasseeeee”

 

Here is what we did:

mixed 2 spoonfuls of flour, 2 spoonfuls of salt and two spoonfuls of water in a jar.  Then we closed it with a lid and shook it, that was pretty fun.  Then we added a few drops of food coloring and shook it again.  We put the mixtures (we did 4 colors red, blue, yellow and green) in separate containers.  Then we proceeded to test the paint.

Lucas experiments with the new paint

Lucas experiments with the new paint

As I mentioned before it’s not great quality, it looks a little like watercolor but it has a grainy consistency.  But the best part of it is that it’s not toxic at all, it could even be edible (thou I wouldn’t recommend it yuck 🙂

This paint is most suitable for babies, its all natural and safe

This paint is most suitable for babies, it’s all natural and safe

It’s also so cheap to make I don’t mind just letting the baby play with it.  In the end I figured that was the best use for it anyways.  Baby body painting :).

Marcos prefers painting his cute little footsie than the paper.

Marcos prefers painting his cute little footsie than the paper.

 

I also figured we could use this type of paint for a paint fight a la Pollock 🙂  We could lay out some cheap white fabric on the ground (preferably outside) and then give everyone a couple of squirt bottles filled with paint.  The paint war would be limited to the area of the fabric.  In the end I’m sure an interesting and fun work of art would turn up.  If anything it would be a fun way to kill a few summer minutes :).

Eating with the seasons

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Saturday when I picked up my vegetables at our local CSA I noticed the crops had changed.  As we enter the summer season we got tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and less of the leafy greens.  As the weather gets hotter our bodies cry for lighter fresher foods and the earth provides.

Eating seasonally is not something everyone is familiar with.  With big grocery stores carrying the same kinds of foods all year round we have grown a costumed to eating that way.  But maybe its time to make a change for our health and the environment.  Eating seasonally provides us with great benefits plus it helps the soil heal and prosper.  According to Natural News, “The seasons are a source of natural diversity, and this is why changes in growing conditions from spring to summer or fall to winter are considered essential for balance for both the earth’s resources and its life forms.”  Eating seasonally is one of the best things we can do for our health! Yet it is one of those things most people don’t consider when trying to improve their health.  

You see, just as the weather changes so do the crops.  It’s a natural cycle and our bodies benefit from this.  Think about a warm pumpkin soup in the fall, when its cold and windy.  Now imagine having that warm soup on a hot summer day.  Not only that, but a pumpkin will be most nutritious, fresh and delicious during the fall and winter season.  My point is that in order to enjoy the health and flavor benefits of whole foods, we should consume them when they are naturally at their best.

There are more benefits to eating mind fully.  By eating seasonally you are supporting responsible agriculture .  By rotating crops according to season farmers can keep the soil nourished and use less pesticides.  It is also greener because you can consume more local produce. When produce is out of season it is picked while it’s still green, then chemicals are used to ripen it and keep it looking “fresh” while it travels, sometimes for thousands of miles, to get to your local grocery store.

While it is ok to eat fruits and vegetables that are not in season,  the bulk of our produce should be seasonal.  It is just another way to find balance in our lives.  Being in synchronicity with our environments includes our nourishment.  And the better we nourish ourselves, in all aspects, the healthier and happier we will be.

I know it can be confusing to figure out what we should eat every season so here are some tips.

During spring eat more leafy greens, your plate should look like the beginning of spring with all those green sprouts.

During summer eat light cooling foods.  Think of tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, peppers, broccoli and corn.

During fall emphasize on carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, and garlic. Use warmer spices like ginger or mustard seeds.

During winter focus on root vegetables.

Listen to your body, it will always tell you what it needs (not to be confused with what it craves in the form of sugars or junk food).

For more information on what foods are harvested when in your area you can visit local harvest.

Lucas supervises as Marcos picks some delicious blueberries

Lucas supervises as Marcos picks some delicious blueberries

 

Hugs, hugs, hugs!

I love hugs!  I do, and I give them often and freely.  They cost nothing and are full of rewards.   They are super healthy, people!

Hugs raise oxytocin and serotonin levels, which helps you relax, feel all warm and fuzzy and help with depression.  They make muscle tissues relax so they are helpful in relieving pain.  They can even help strengthen the immune system and are healthy for your heart!  They are an inexpensive form of therapy.  For more benefits you can check out this article.

And when it comes to our youth there has never been something so important as far as I am concerned (along with proper care ).  According to an article by Discovery News,  “A new study shows that the brains of early nurtured kids have a larger hippocampus. That may make it easier for them to learn, improve their memory, and even respond to stress.”  The difference in oxytocin levels can really affect your child’s development, since it acts both as a hormone and a brain neurotransmitter.  This interesting article on Scientific American expresses concern for the ability of a child to recover from neglectful environments.  So just in case, and because it’s the most delicious thing in the world, hug your child often and like you mean it.    

But hugs are not just for kids, we can all benefit from hugs.  Hugs are like meditation in a way.  They put us in contact with our human essence and they ground us in the present moment.

With so many benefits I can’t think of many reasons not to give a bunch of hugs every day, duration may vary according to freshness or lack there of  🙂 .  So what are you waiting for, start reaping the benefits of a hug today!

 

The best things in life really are free

The best things in life really are free