Summer is usually a time where people take time off and get outside more. There is less on TV and longer days and much more to do. However, when you are suffering from a Chronic Illness such as an Autoimmune Disease, it can be tempting to stay indoors and avoid the heat and humidity. But this season is an important opportunity for our health. You may have seen that meme on Facebook or Instagram that says “Winter Microbiomes are Made in the Summer”. I gotta be honest, this one made me think. But it is true! Below I have made a top ten list of healing activities you can and should do before Summer is over to take advantage of the healing opportunities that this season has to offer you and your healing journey. Each section has a why, but there are more reasons than I was able to list- so make sure you look up more that seem approachable for you and find out more reasons that it may benefit you.
- Eat dinner outside. This one is fun, especially on nights that are not blistering hot. Eating outside reduces stress, and exposes us to increased oxygen levels from surrounding plants. It also removes us from the daily toxin and fumes released by the furniture and building supplies surrounding us inside our homes and offices. Taking a break and breathing in some clean air instead of the formaldehyde, paint fumes and recycled air we breath every other moment of our days. Increased oxygen makes our brain and bodies healthier. It not only helps us detoxify, but feeds and supports healthy cells and helps defend against unhealthy cells. The de-stressing of sitting outside can also help your adrenals and immune system work better by placing your body in a parasympathetic (healing) state and turn off the sympathetic (fight or flight) state in which we often reside at the end of a work day.
- Watch the sunset (as often as possible). Doing this regularly can reset the circadian rhythm, making it easier to go to sleep at night and also allow us to rest more deeply so that we wake up refreshed. Watching the sunset releases hormones in your brain, telling your body what time of day it is and preparing it for bedtime. Avoiding blue lights such as LED lamps, phones, computers and televisions will help this also.
- Put your feet in the grass. Placing your bare feet in the grass, or Earthing as some call it is very healing to the body. The earth releases negative charges that help regulate our electrical systems in the body. This can help heal the body of a wide range of maladies, especially useful in neurological and cardiovascular disease due to the electrical quality of these systems.
- Eat watermelon.. and other fruits. The abundance of both sunshine and fruits during this season is an opportunity to load up on nutrients and their benefits to our body. Potassium, Vitamin C and many others are in high supply during this time while they are in low supply during winter months. By loading up now, you can give your body an advantage during the months that these nutrients are not as available. These days, many fear fruit, even during the summer months. But we are designed to be able to handle more carbohydrates in the summer months than we are able to handle during winter months, when less carbohydrates are available. So having one to 3 servings a day should be fine and beneficial (check with your doctor for your individual recommendations). A rule of thumb is that you can have up to 1 fruit for every 2 servings of vegetables. By using this rule of thumb, you should have no problem enjoy the bounty while keeping things in a healthy range.
- Go to the Beach (Or mountains). Let’s face it- these environments are healing. But the summer, best known for beach trips, is a great time to take advantage of the healing properties of the ocean. The salt, the sand and the sun all offer something to a healing journey. Many feel rejuvenated at the ocean and this is for good reasons. For more information on the healing benefits of the ocean click here and at the end of this article is 2 more articles on how the ocean heals you. Do you think this means we can write off our beach trips as a medical deduction? (just kidding.. sigh)
- Get some Sunshine. Did you know that your body stores Vitamin D (and other fat soluable vitamins) to be used for a later time? This means that by storing up the sunshine we get in the summer, we can protect our immune system during the dark winter months. If that isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is! While sun cancer is a scare, a moderate amount of 20 minutes, unprotected exposure a day is recommended for most, regardless of the season. This amount is great for most Caucasion skin tones, while those with darker skin tones will actually need more and very pale skin tones will need less.
- Swim in a lake. If you have ever been in a “swimming hole” then you know that these are not the places to wear a bathing suit with white on it! That is because swimming in lakes and such is dirty. But a lot of fun! Not only do these places provide good fun but also expose us to the environment that builds a good microbiome and a strong immune system. Being exposed to dirt, mud and lake water increases our microbiome diversity and helps us body, mind and soul.
- Eat fresh Seafood or Fish. I’m talking straight out of the water food. Whether you or your family fish or if you buy it straight off the pier from a local fisherman, this is a great time to get some wild-caught and delicious seafood or fish. While eating seafood, you have an opportunity to catch up on natural iodine and selenium (don’t worry, the selenium balances the iodine!) and lean protein. The fresh caught fish provides good lean protein and a lighter, easily digested meal.
- Eat straight out of the garden. You may have seen the suggestions to “eat dirt” or have seen bottles with “soil based probiotics” listed on the ingredients. Fact is, that eating straight out of the garden exposes our GI tract to beneficial bacteria that help our bodies work better. This can help stomach issues, brain issues and the immune system all work better. While we don’t always know what else is in someone else’s garden and may want to be wary of things like chemicals, pesticides and improper fertilizers used elsewhere, growing something in a pot on our own porch or even in our own raised-bed garden is a great way to enjoy food “straight from the garden” and where we can feel comfortable eating a food that has not been washed. After all, we wouldn’t put anything on our greens, or onions or tomatoes that we wouldn’t eat- would you? If you are new to gardening, I can say that micro-greens, herbs, leafy greens, and spring onions are very easy to grow for first time gardeners. Try growing these and eating a sample as you pick them, before washing them. Your body will thank you.
- Camping. Ok, this may be something you city gals and guys have to build up to doing. But let me assure you that there are places with showers, blow dryers and working real toilets. There are tents (and campers..if you must) with screened in porches. There are electrical plugs at campsites and you can bring a grill. But let me point out that if you do this activity, you can combine all of the first 9 on this list into one weekend. My family goes camping near the beach where we eat fresh seafood from a local fisherman and spend one of our days at the beach. By the time a long, 4 day weekend is over, we have reset our circadian rhythms, have more energy, are better rested, and have an energy boost that lasts all month. It is truly healing. While we do not go in the heat of summer, we do go at Easter and again at labor day weekend. In the heat of the summer, we would like to go into the mountains to escape the heat but still enjoy the fruits of summer (where it is about 20 degrees cooler).
So there it is: Your summer bucket list. There is still time to book your weekend for labor day and get it all done. Remember-life is for living. Summer included.
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