Archive for August, 2015

Internal Sunscreen


I’m not going to rehash the usual sun protection advice because everyone knows about sunscreen. However, given that Coppertone didn’t come on the scene until 1944, have you ever wondered how humans managed to stay alive before that? After all, they were outdoors hunting, farming, building houses, hanging laundry and such.

The answer seems to be common sense and diet. That quote from poet Rudyard Kipling “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” sort of sums up the common sense part. But, diet? Really? If that seems a stretch, consider this. Sun causes its harm because it creates free radicals that damage our DNA. Antioxidants are the antidote to free radicals. Where do we get antioxidants? We get them from food (and supplements). There are dozens of antioxidant vitamins and minerals plus thousands of phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables and other whole natural foods. Our ancestors ate a lot more of those than we do. (French fries don’t count.) Also, produce from even a few decades ago is documented to have contained a lot more nutrients than our factory farmed groceries do. Therefore, many of us believe that our ancestors benefited from internal sunscreen.

A recent Australian study provided modern scientific evidence of the principle. Nicotinamide (a form of niacin or vitamin B3) has previously been shown to repair DNA. The researchers gave subjects who had suffered skin cancers (not including melanoma) either the B vitamin or a placebo. Those taking the vitamin had significantly lower rates of new cancers. There is not any food that contains only one nutrient. Therefore, I recommend taking a complete B complex, not just this one by itself.

Vitamin C is another antioxidant contained in fruits and vegetables. As noted in my blog post on cell phones, vitamin C protects against radiation damage such as those rays coming from the sun.

It seems that nature’s, original plan was for us to be exposed to sunshine. Of course, we need it for our skin to make vitamin D. Also, as noted in an earlier blog, the sun doesn’t just cause sun burn; it also provides healing and rejuvenating far infrared rays. And, another proposed benefit is kind of “out there”—an engineering professor thinks that we may actually harvest energy from the sun a bit like plants do. We learned about how they do that in biology when we studied photosynthesis. The article is pretty deep, but I link to it here for any physicists who might be interested.

So, bottom line: Stay in the shade when the sun is high and hot. Use sun screen if you are going to be out for an extended period such as baking on the beach. Eat more fruits, vegetables and other whole natural foods, not just for their internal sunscreen protection, but because you will feel better and likely live longer.

Cell phones and health

cell phone
We have become pretty dependent on fancy cell phones because their ever expanding list of features gives us good reason to be. But, there are questions about cell phones and health. They can even benefit our health in some ways. For example, there are good references like the Cures A-Z app. (You can also visit our library or even read this newsletter on your phone!) The app that lets you monitor your pulse could help you identify a food sensitivity using the pulse test. However, as is so often the case with technological advances, there are unintended consequences. The following factors are evidence that some caution is in order with how we use the devices.

Brain wave warping
We’ve known that cell phones could mess with the electronics in airplanes and hospitals. Now a new study reveals a significant effect on the human brain when a 3G cell phone is held to the ear for even 15 minutes. The researchers concluded that “significant radiation effects were found for the alpha, slow beta, fast beta, and gamma bands”. Article with a link to the study. We don’t have to know what all those waves do to get that it probably is not a good thing. The latest technology, 4G, may have an even stronger effect. Previous research showed that among the brain waves altered were the ones that help us sleep. Using speaker phone or ear buds seems a safer choice.

Radiation in your pocket
Holding the phone to your head apparently is’’t a great idea, but surely it is okay to carry it around in your pocket, right? The government says there is no proof that the radiation from phones causes cancer or other diseases. (The Mayo Clinic weighs in on that controversy.)  The feds do regulate the amount of radiation relative to the distance the device is held from the body. Those limits date to 1996 when the equipment was quite different. Currently, various manufacturers recommend the phone be carried at different distances away the body—starting at roughly 1/4 of an inch and going to upwards of ½. Unless you wear really really thick pants, it looks like they mean to use a belt clip.  More details.

Text Neck
We know it is critical to have a good ergonomic setup for your work desk because too many hours in the wrong position can cause repetitive stress trouble. The head weighs 10-12 pounds (perhaps less for some folks in Washington) and creates quite a burden if not held directly over the spine. These days some folks spend so much time bent over their mobile devices that even teens are suffering structural problems in their necks, shoulders and backs. Read what the Cleveland Clinic recommends.

Distracted walking
You readers are way too smart to need me to tell you not to text while driving. However, many of us might benefit from a reminder that even talking on the cell phone makes us less safe drivers. It seems that some also need a heads up (literally) that walking and texting can be deadly. Recently a 48-year old Dallas personal trainer died when she was hit by car. You guessed it. She had wandered into its path because she was focused on the phone screen instead of where she was walking. The rest of the sad story.

Depression indicator
Researchers did not say that cell phones cause depression, but usage may indicate a problem. Scientists at Northwestern University said, “The more time you spend using your phone, the more likely you are depressed. The average daily usage for depressed individuals was about 68 minutes, while for non-depressed individuals it was about 17 minutes.” The study also used the phones’ GPS to determine that folks who got around town less were more likely depressed. Again, not cause and effect, just an alert.

Nutritional help against radiation?
It certainly makes sense to reduce our exposure to radiation as much as possible. (Not just phones, but challenging the need for a CT scan, etc.) For extra assurance, note a study that concluded that: “high doses of Vit C can show life-saving radioprotective effects.”

I think that I’m pretty safe because half the time I don’t even know where my cell phone is.

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