Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

Sun Safety

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Mother Daughter Suncreen SafetySunscreen usage isn’t without controversy. Although the deeply-bronzed look has slowly gone out of style, skin cancer and premature aging is still prevalent in our society. To add to the confusion, each new study reveals conflicting research as to whether you should even be wearing sunscreen at all. In an attempt to clear this up, the FDA has passed a new set of regulations directed at the sunscreen industry, in order to force consistency in labeling and to protect consumer rights.

The New FDA Regulations
As the next step in their ongoing efforts to ensure consumers are receiving a safe, effective product, the FDA passed a new set of regulations on June 14, 2011, to regulate over-the-counter sunscreens. These new laws do not apply to prescription products and will go into effect next summer.

The major difference with this new set of regulations is that the older guidelines were mainly concerned about a particular sunscreen’s ability to prevent sunburns, something that most products are fairly good at. The problem with this approach is that burning is caused by UVB rays, but skin cancer is caused by both UVA and UVB rays. The new regulations mandate that any product labeled as a broad spectrum sunscreen must protect the consumer from both types of radiation equally. To take this one step further, only sunscreens with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating of 15 or more are able to claim they can prevent sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer.

Here are a few more details about the final FDA regulations:

  • Because the FDA felt that the terms waterproof, sweatproof, and sunblock overstated the effectiveness of sunscreen products, these claims are no longer allowed.
  • Sunscreen rated less than SPF 15 must specifically state that there is no proof that it prevents either skin cancer or wrinkles.
  • New labels must report the water-resistance of the product in hours according to official testing.
  • Sunscreen packaging must contain a standard list of “drug facts” on the side or back.
  • Cosmetic products and moisturizers that advertise an SPF rating must follow the same regulations as traditional sunscreens.

Additional requirements in the works include a plan to restrict the upper limit on the SPF rating to 50+. This change is warranted due to the fact that the FDA has no information showing that products with an SPF rating higher than 50 offer any additional benefits. If you happen to know how long you can stay in the sun without sunscreen before burning, multiply that number by the SPF to find out how long you should be protected by a specific product. For example, if it takes you 10 minutes to burn without sunscreen, an SPF 15 product should allow you to stay in the sun for about 150 minutes without burning. Of course, you have to use common sense along with the number; sunscreen wears off with exposure to water or sweat and must be reapplied frequently.

The Toxicity of Commercial Sunscreens
Much of the skin damage caused by sun exposure is due to the release of free radicals triggered by the radiation present in both UVA and UVB rays. It’s ironic that the very thing people apply to their skin to prevent the release of free radicals may actually create a chemical reaction that releases another set of the same damaging elements.

Even though the FDA clearly states that the ingredients in commercial sunscreens are perfectly safe, others disagree. Many products contain high amounts of Vitamin A, and the combination of sunlight and a specific form of this vitamin, retinyl palmitate, actually promotes the growth of skin tumors. When sunscreen absorbs the energy from the UV rays and diverts it away from the skin, free radicals are created as the molecules release the absorbed energy.

In practical applications, sunscreen appears to do more good than harm, and some manufacturers include antioxidants in their products to offset the damage. However, it continues to be a delicate balancing act. This following list of chemicals have been approved in the US for use as UV filters in sunscreen products, but they are also known to release free radicals of their own:

  • Beach Couple Sunscreen SafetyOctylmethoxycinnamate
  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • Octocrylene
  • Titanium dioxide
  • Zinc oxide
  • Padimate O,
  • PABA
  • Menthyl anthranilate
  • Mexoryl SX

Although many people feel that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are safe ingredients when it comes to sunscreen, that’s not always the case. Many manufacturers are breaking these minerals down into nano particles to make a product that goes on clear instead of white. These items may look more attractive, but they can be dangerous. The smaller particles are quickly absorbed by the skin and can then be toxic to the human body.

The most common chemicals used in non-mineral products, oxybenzone, can cause allergic reactions and act as a hormone disrupter. In fact, many experts claim that sunscreens with this ingredient should never be used on a child’s skin because it is easily absorbed though the skin and can enter the bloodstream.

Natural Options for Sun Safety
If you’d prefer to skip the potential dangers that come with commercial sunscreens, here are a few natural options for sun safety:

  • Enjoy the sun early in the day or later in the evening. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Wear protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses with both UVA and UVB protection. New lines of clothing with built-in SPF protection are designed to be cool in the hot weather while protecting the wearer from the sun’s rays.
  • Mix your own sunscreen by purchasing zinc oxide at the drugstore and adding it to your favorite lotion. The raw zinc will look white against your skin, but it won’t be absorbed.
  • Add plenty of bright-red, vibrant-orange, and deep-green produce to your diet to protect against skin cancer. The carotenoids and lycopene found in these foods have been proven to boost your skin’s natural sun protection.
  • View the Environmental Workers Group website,  This website shows the toxicity levels of all consumer products, including sunscreen.  It also provides you with information about which sunscreens have little or no toxins.

Summer: The Time to Take Exercise Outside

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

T-shirt and shorts weather makes for perfect conditions to take your exercise routine outside. Whether you’re gardening, running through your neighborhood, tossing a Frisbee in the park or playing volleyball in the sand, summer exercise can increase your cardiovascular health, bone strength and mood levels, as well as be a fun part of your day.

Warmer weather allows us to change many of our car-related activities to bike errands or walking sojourns. Take advantage of your nearby grocery store or farmers market by walking or biking. You will be less inclined to purchase unnecessary junk foods and more apt to select healthier, natural foods. The benefits of walking or biking not only extend to your body, but also to your mind. You have a chance to appreciate your surroundings in a way that you seldom would see from the windshield, and exercise has been proven to be one of the most beneficial preventative measures for mental health issues like depression, anxiety and even Alzheimer’s.

Try taking a yoga or weight-routine outside.  These stress reducing activities help to keep your blood pressure normal and prevent heart disease.  Also, the natural effect of sunshine can boost your mood through Vitamin D synthesis, which helps to increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Numerous studies have shown people suffering from depression, especially those living at latitudes of 35 and higher, tend to notice improvements in mood as their levels of Vitamin D naturally increase during the summer months.  The recommended daily intake of Vitamin D is 400 IU for adults and 600 IU for those age 71 and up.  Erica T. Goode, MD, MPH, a physician at the California Pacific Medical Center’s Health & Healing Center-Clinic in San Francisco, says that everyone should try to get at least 1,000 IU per day through a combination of diet, sun and supplementation.

In addition to increased mood levels, the vitamin D you get from the summer sun also helps to improve the strength of your bones.  A 2010 Surgeon General report shows that lack of exercise and deficiencies in both calcium and Vitamin D, especially in women, has subjected as many as 48 million Americans to osteoporosis.  Adding a few weight exercises can  improve bone health by slowing down the replacement of bone marrow by fat inside the bones.  In as little as 15 minutes a day, you can  increase your bone strength by trying these resistant band exercises at your local park or in your back yard.

Here are a few simple exercises you can take outdoors:

  • Squat Press: Using a resistance band, stand with your feet on the middle of the band a little further than hip distance apart.  With the handles in your hands at shoulder height, palms up, slowly squat down like you are sitting in a chair.  Once your knees are at 90 degrees slowly stand up and press the handles up over your head in one fluid motion.  Lower back down to the squat without pausing and repeat 10-15 times.
  • Rows: Wrap the resistance band around a pole at about shoulder height.  Step back from the pole until you feel some resistance on the band with arms fully extended in front of your body.  Pull the handles towards your body, palms facing in, keeping your elbows in towards your rib cage and always keeping resistance on the band. repeat 10-15 times with slow, smooth movements.
  • Chest Press: Keeping the resistance band and distance from the pole in the same place as the previous exercise, turn around and face away.  Start with your arms bent, elbows facing out, at shoulder height.  Push the handles straight out from your chest.  Always keeping resistance on the band,repeat 10-15 times with slow, smooth movements.
  • Calf Rises (no band needed):  Standing on the edge of a curb or step with one foot, lower the dangling foot to the ground. Straighten the supporting leg and come all the way up onto your toes before lowering the opposite foot again.  Repeat 10-15 times per leg in slow motion.

One important aspect of the above exercises is quality not speed.  Remember the longer you hold the resistance the more effective the exercise will be.  Don’t have a resistance band?  Use your natural body weight by flexing the target muscles.

Try to schedule your summer activities during the time when the sun is low in the sky. This is important, as exercising during peak sun hours, usually between about 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., can cause heat exhaustion, increase dehydration and even result in sun stroke.   Always be sure to drink plenty of water  and as an added treat, take some unsalted nuts as a high-protein, post workout snack..

However you choose to spend time outside during the warm summer months, be sure to have fun, stay hydrated and always look for new ways to naturally improve your life.


Best Summer Fruits

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Oh the Joy of Summer Fruits!

Summer fruits glistening with their dew in the morning sunshine beckon us with the promise of sweetness and succulent juices. They remind us of roadside stands with homemade signs; of fresh berry pies and picnics. The summer fruits are more than nostalgia and watering mouths though. These fresh summer fruits pack a powerful punch of health benefits, including cancer fighting antioxidants, daily requirements of vitamins and minerals, and live enzymes used to aid digestion. Some of the most powerful summer fruits include  berries, mangoes, watermelon and peaches, just to mention a few.


Mangoes, though difficult to peel (see picture for easy slicing method), contain more beta-carotene than any other fruit, which helps to prevent cell damage leading to heart disease and stroke.  These multi colored fruits also contain high levels of fiber which help to control appetite and aid in metabolism. One cup of sliced mangoes supplies 25 percent of the needed daily value of vitamin A, important for the promotion of good eyesight.


Watermelons are a significant source lycopene, a carotenoid only obtainable through diet, known to help prevent and treat many types of cancer, including prostate cancer.  A watermelon contains about 6% sugar and 92% water by weight.  making it a perfect snack for any outdoor summer activity due to its natural hydration.  Watermelons are rich in electrolytes, sodium and potassium which are lost through perspiration. FUN FACT: Did you know that Watermelon is a vegetable?  It is part of the cucumber and squash family and your average American eats approximately 17lbs of watermelon each year!


Strawberries, like other berries, are famous in the phytonutrient world as a rich source of phenols.  Strawberries’ unique phenol content makes them a heart-protective fruit, an anti-cancer fruit, and an anti-inflammatory fruit, all rolled into one. Strawberries are a great diet food as well.  The low calorie and high fiber content helps to keep you feeling full.  A one cup serving of halved strawberries contains 49 calories and 3g of fiber.   Dip them in melted dark chocolate for a delicious heart-healthy dessert.


Sometimes referred to as “brainberries,” these little fruits help reduce the effects of mental health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the high content of anthocyanins found in blueberries  improves cognitive health by increasing signaling in brain centers associated with memory. This is important to help slow memory loss naturally associated with aging.  Other studies have shown that these magnificent berries also protect the brain from stress caused by oxidation.


Blackberries rank highly among fruits for antioxidant strength, particularly due to their dense contents of polyphenolic compounds, such as ellagic acid, tannins, ellagitannins, quercetin, gallic acid, anthocyanins and cyanidins. One cup of these bumpy berries contain more than 30% of your daily fiber requirements and 47% of the recommended intake for manganese.  This mineral promotes healthy skin, nerves and bones, and is important for muscle tone.  If only the aptly named smart phone were this healthy, too!


These favorites of the summer stone fruits are rich in Vitamin A & C as well as iron and potassium, which promote proper cell function, nerve signaling and electrolyte balance.   Peaches comprised of more than 80 percent water and have a mild laxative effect, beneficial for constipation symptoms.  Like many other fruits and vegetables, a large majority of the health benefits are contained within the skin of the peach, so try to enjoy all the fuzzy goodness the peach has to offer.

To keep enjoying them during the winter months look for unsweetened dried varieties, or plan ahead and freeze some for use with smoothies and desserts. Whether you enjoy these sumptuous summer fruits, whole, sliced or baked, you’ll be sure to get high levels of cancer-fighting nutrients and minerals that tantalize your palate and keep your body well-hydrated for all your summer activities.