Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin

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Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin

SunshineHaving left London when I was 5 years old, I grew up in rural Suffolk, a child of the 70s with the heat wave in 1976 being the hottest summer on record.  TV was limited to Play School after school and Swap Shop on a Saturday morning, which allowed my parents to have a lie in.  My brother, sister and I would spend most of our free time exploring and playing in the great outdoors that was our adventure playground.  Our nearest friends were a cycle ride away, the nearest shop, a farmyard tuck shop, was a 15 minute walk across the fields.  Visits to friend’s birthday parties were a rarity.

We made dens with sun loungers, climbed trees, played badminton of sorts over a make shift net made of garden string, painted pictures outdoors, ran amuck amongst the bales of hay in neighboring fields, and squealed with delight as our gorgeous English Pointer of a dog would tow my younger brother, sister and I across the lawn on his blanket, gripping it between his teeth until his gums bled, such was his devotion to us. And after a stupendous Sunday lunch each week, lovingly prepared with local seasonal ingredients by my mother, an inspirational cook, the whole family would go for a ramble across the fields, collecting wild flowers as we went, with my father straddling the ditches to lift us across to the other side.  It was an idyllic childhood.

Today I look on with great admiration at my brother and sister wrangling the ever complex social diaries of my five nieces and nephews.  It is exhausting just to watch, let alone facilitate!  The extracurricular activities after school, the birthday parties, the playdates and the sleep overs.  And in between that, much time spent is spent on screens, TV, computer, tablets and phones.

The change in our lifestyles in just one generation has however seen Vitamin D deficiency becoming an epidemic.  It is currently estimated that 4 in 10 Britons are Vitamin D deficient.  What has been known for some time is that in addition to being important for calcium and magnesium absorption (essential for healthy bones and teeth) it is also essential for the prevention of osteoporosis. More recently, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked other serious diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and kidney failure.  Additionally research has also found Vitamin D is crucial for activating the immune system and in the past few years and numerous studies have shown that optimizing your Vitamin D levels may help prevent 77% of 16 different types of cancer, including breast, colon, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers.  Another study also documents a clear link between Vitamin D deficiency and stored body fat.  It is possible therefore that sunshine may actually promote fat loss too.  Do you need any more reasons to ensure you are getting enough of this vitamin?

What I find most alarming however are the rising cases of rickets among children.  This bone deforming disease, previously associated with the Victorian era, has risen five-fold in the past 15 years.  How can this be?

Although called a vitamin, Vitamin D actually behaves more like a hormone.  It is made in the skin when exposure to UV-B rays in sunlight convert cholesterol in your skin into Vitamin D.  This gets into your bloodstream and then into the liver and kidney where it becomes activated as a key steroid hormone called Calcitriol. From there it makes its way to the intestines, bones and other tissues interacting with almost every cell in your body.

For the last 30 years or so we have been advised by health officials to avoid the sun because without sunscreen, exposure to the sun’s rays will damage skin and cause cancer.  Taking heed of this advice, many people have chosen to protect themselves and their loved ones with sunscreen lotions, with most children now wearing these at school.  However, in totally screening ourselves from the sun, our bodies are prevented from doing what they do naturally, manufacturing Vitamin D.

This problem has been worsened by the increasing amount of time that children nowadays spend indoors, either on computers or gaming consoles or in front of the TV.  It is also now believed that the synthetic chemicals found in many sunscreens may also be contributing to the development of skin cancers, not to mention the disruption they can cause to your hormones.  Don’t’ get me started on that, as it warrants a blog of its own!

Our Vitamin D needs vary.  As a general rule, pregnant and breastfeeding women, the young and elderly, dark skinned and those people who are unable to spend time outdoors, need more.  Symptoms of deficiency include joint pain or stiffness, backache, tooth decay, muscle cramps and hair loss.

The best way to optimize vitamin D levels is through safe, smart and limited sunscreen-free exposure to the sun, which allows our bodies to produce Vitamin D naturally.

 

6 Top Tips for Healthy Sun Exposure and Optimising Vitamin D Levels

1. Respect the sun

It is a powerful medicine with potentially dangerous side effects on your skin.  Use the lowest dose necessary and never fall asleep in the sun without protection.  Always avoid the sun when it is at its hottest, usually between 11am-2 or 3pm.

2. Prepare your skin and build up tolerance gradually

Start early in the morning before the sun is strongest and slowly increase the amount of time you spend in the sun.

3. Aim for 15-30 mins of unprotected sun exposure 2-4 times a week

You need to expose your arms, legs and face.  Frequent short exposures are better than intermittent long ones. You only want enough exposure to cause a very light pinkness 24hrs after, no more.

4. After your sun-screen free time in the sun, use protection. 

Wear a hat to protect your face, light coloured clothing to protect your body and stay in the shade.  If you need to stay in the sun for a prolonged period of time, then apply sunscreen, using one that has as few chemicals as possible.  Check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of safer sunscreens here; http://www.ewg.org/2014sunscreen/   I love Neal’s Yard new organic sun care range; https://uk.nyrorganic.com/shop/sammill/area/shop-online/category/sun-care/

5. Boost your ‘internal sunscreen’

Consuming foods high in anti-oxidants such as blueberries, raspberries, pomegranates and Goji berries and beneficial fats such as fish oils (try Nature’s Sunshine’s Super Omega 3; http://sammill.eu.nspshop.com/super_omega-3_epa_(60).htm) will help boost your body’s natural sunscreen defenses.  If going to a warmer climate on holiday, consider taking an antioxidant supplement such as Higher Nature’s Astaxanthin (4mg) at least two weeks before you go away and for the duration of your holiday.

6. Supplement with Vitamin D3  

It is almost impossible to get your Vitamin D needs from food alone.  The highest sources are from oily fish such as herrings, mackerel and wild salmon. So in the UK it is necessary for us to take a good quality, food state (ie non-synthetic) supplement, especially in the winter months and any others when see less sun.  I use Nature’s Sunshine; http://sammill.eu.nspshop.com/vitamin_d.  An oral spray is available for children from Higher Nature.

Although irresponsible sunbathing is unquestionably harmful and precautions must be taken, regular, moderate, unprotected sun exposure is essential for good health.  It is the only reliable way to generate Vitamin D in your own body as it is impossible to generate too much Vitamin D in your body from the sun.

10 tips on coping with exam stress

Snoopy

Sometimes all you need is a hug from the right person …

and all your stress will melt away.

For many secondary school and university students, May marks the beginning of a stressful time as exams begin. A racing heart, stomach cramps, headaches, migraines, forgetfulness, trouble sleeping, feeling irritable or tearful, loss of appetite or over eating are all symptoms of stress.  High levels of stress and anxiety before or during an exam can also reduce exam performance.  In addition to being prepared, the following can help to combat exam stress.

1. Eat Well

Sugar may give an instant energy hit, but eventually it will make you more anxious. Avoid cereals, biscuits, sweets and chocolate.  Instead eat lean protein like chicken, fish or eggs with carbohydrates that release their energy slowly, like oats, brown rice, quinoa and plenty of green vegetables.  Pulses like chickpeas and lentils are great for vegetarians (and others too) as they contain both protein and slow release carbs.  If you are so nervous before an exam that you can’t eat, don’t worry, you can catch up later, however make sure that you drink plenty of water.

2. Drink Water

Your brain cells work better when you are hydrated. Avoid fizzy and energy drinks which are high in sugar and caffeine which can make you feel jittery.

3. Avoid Caffeine, Nicotine & Alcohol

All of which stimulate the central nervous system and heightens emotions, creating even greater anxiety. Additionally alcohol also makes you forgetful.

4. Gentle Exercise

This increases blood flow to the brain and helps reduce anxiety.  Gentle exercise such as walking the dog, going for a bike ride, or a swim or yoga is best and will help reduce physical tension that can cause aches and pains and release natural feel-good brain chemicals.

5. Sleep

Get 8 hours a night to improve concentration. Spend some time unwinding before you go to bed by avoiding all screens 1 hour before ( this includes TV, computers, tablets and phones). A hot bath will help you switch off and a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow will help you sleep.

6. Supplements

Stress depletes the body of stress-busting vitamins C and B Complex. Use a good-quality supplement such as Nature’s Sunshine’s ‘NutriCalm’ http://sammill.eu.nspshop.com/nutri-calm_(90)_key_product which combines the two and also contains chamomile to calm the nervous system.  An adaptogen such as Siberian Ginseng http://sammill.eu.nspshop.com/siberian_ginseng_(100) can help maintain balance during stressful times.

7. Rescue Remedy

Place 4 drops of Dr Bach’s 5 Flower Rescue Remedy under the tongue 4 times daily, to help relax, focus and calm the mind, or try Elm if you are feeling overwhelmed.

8. Think Positively

Avoiding reinforcing fears with negative thoughts.  Thinking positively can change paralysing stress into motivating stress.

9. Deep Breathing

Is a powerful way to reduce stress.  Practice diaphragmatic breathing by taking deep breaths, expanding your belly as you inhale, rather than shallow breaths from the upper chest.

10. Endocrine Boost

This powerful Kinesiology technique pinpoints where stress is effecting the glandular system and uses nutritional, physical and emotional solutions to remove stress and re-balance the body. Click here to find your nearest Kinesiology practitioner to book your endocrine boost with http://www.balancedwellness.co.uk/clinics/

 

ibs

IBS. The secret bitter pill that drugs won’t sweeten

IBS. It is a big problem with a little name, and it is hideous.

I know, I had first hand experience of this horrendous condition for over 20 years and I’m far from being alone.

The current NHS statistics tell us that 1 in 5 people in the UK experience it at some point in their life with half that being diagnosed as “having IBS” That’s six million people. Despite the prevalence, the current NHS offering of support is distinctly lacking.

People diagnosed with IBS have few options; there is some medication that can be offered but only if you have a specific form of IBS.  FODMAP diets can be recommended, but again these only work for a few people and that’s the sum total of the NHS offering. Distraught clients often tell me that their Doctor was rude or dismissive adding to their suffering.

From the GP’s perspective, I see the frustration, they have waiting rooms full of people with IBS, they have little time and nothing to help, which must be soul destroying.

Having had the privilege of meeting with Senior Consultants about this condition I have learnt the following: IBS lives in the bowel, therefore it is a Gastrointestinal issue, however one of the underlying causes or contributing factors of IBS can be hormonal disturbances, meaning that it can be an Endocrinology issue, but Endocrinologists aren’t working with the bowels therefore there is a huge void that isn’t being filled by either department.

According to this article in the Daily Mail a new drug is being introduced to people who are “constipation dominant”, sadly no new “miracle cure” is on the horizon for those who aren’t. The drug, Currently called “Tegaserod”  is expected to hit the market in October, it works by stimulating serotonin receptors in the bowel and whilst this sounds like exciting stuff my clinical and personal experience is that IBS is more complex than this.

Other than hormonal disturbances IBS has many other contributing factors such as lifestyle choices, food intolerance, psychological factors and malfunctioning ICV to name a few.  A pill isn’t going to sort out that entire list. It might force the bowels to move but it isn’t fixing the problem.

Some people’s diet can also be a glaringly obvious issue, modern diets are low in the right type of fibre and good fats, processed food is high in sugar, salt and preservatives and that’s before we even get started on the “wheat” issue.

And then there is the social aspect, as if griping pain, diarrheoa, constipation, cramping, bloating, nausea and emotional stress weren’t enough it’s harder to deal with because nobody likes to talk about it, therefore support can be minimal.

Even in IBS awareness month the media isn’t awash with information, the problem is that this is a condition where you can have problems with your poo. This is not sexy to discuss, its not easy dinnertime conversation. So it’s kept a bit secret and this can really add to what I like to call the “ IBS spectrum of suffering”

It is hard to find celebrities speaking out however, Blue Peter presenter Zoe Salmon has bravely spoken about her condition but bearing in mind the statistic of 1 in 5 people being diagnosed, there must be a lot of people in prominent positions who aren’t talking.

IBS needs to be discussed openly, honestly and with no holds barred.

It needs to be looked at in the wider context of what stressful lives and high sugar and processed diets are doing to the human body. It cant be looked at from the perspective of a “quick fix pill” but the reality is this is a “functional” disease that doesn’t cause the body real harm therefore the NHS cannot and will not spend time, money and energy creating a real and lasting solution.

This is where Alternative Therapies can be really beneficial.

With Kinesiology we look at all of the factors mentioned before, from Food Sensitivity Testing to Ileo-Caecal Valve manipulation and a whole host of other tools and techniques to boot. As such we have huge success with IBS and other digestive issues.

Isn’t it time therefore to stop the ridiculous “them or us” stand off between Alternative Therapies and the NHS and find ways to work together?

Six million people might just thank us for it.

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