Summer fun

While the weather, at least here in Calgary, may still be trying to figure itself out, June is officially here. April and May feel like they have flown by and we are now getting into those Summer months when we want to spend more time relaxing, being on patios and outside in general, doing more outdoor sports and activities, and, getting more social with friends and/or family.  Summer can be a time when our health regimes take a back seat as we engage in socializing, beer drinking, and eating carnival foods.  For others, it may be a time when the hotter weather makes you want to eat cooler foods so you opt for more salads and vegetables rather than heavier and richer foods that are usually those ‘comfort foods’ of Winter.

Here some tips to help you, your family and/or your kid(s) stay healthy and have a fun and safe Summer.

Dr. Suhani's 9 Health Tips For This Summer

1. Sun Exposure

Always remember to use sunscreen when you are going to be outdoors in the sun for extended periods of time to reduce your risk of sunburn and skin cancer. A natural zinc oxide-based sunscreen is the best because there was a preliminary study by Matta et al (2019) that stated the possibility of systemic absorption of chemicals found in sunscreen, some of which can lead to toxicity levels. You can find zinc-oxide sunscreens without added chemicals at health stores.

Yes, it is true that if you wear sunscreen you are preventing your skin from making vitamin D. Here are some recommendations from the National Institute of Health [2] to make the most of the UVB rays from the sun during this time of year to get those vitamin D levels up without damaging your skin. They mention that exposing your unprotected face, arms, hands, and legs to the mid-day sun (around 10am-4pm) daily or at least twice/week is best because that is when the UVB rays are the strongest and they are stronger in the summer than winter. Typically, it is recommended anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes of exposure but darker-skinned people may need about 1-2 hours of unprotected sun exposure to make vitamin D. A good rule of thumb is exposing your skin to the sun without sunscreen for half the time it usually takes before your skin turns pink.  For example, if it takes 1 hour of sun exposure for your skin to turn pink, spend 30 minutes in the sun before putting on sunscreen.

sun exposure

2. Ticks

Always do a tick check when you are out camping, hiking, and/or after you get home to check for ticks on your skin or clothes. We are particularly looking for deer ticks which can carry the spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, that causes lyme disease. Wooded areas and in particular and especially certain areas of Southwestern Ontario and in the GTA have had a recent history of having increased ticks being found.

If you are going to be in a high-risk area, wear long sleeves and pants.

If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers and clean the area with rubbing alcohol and warm water/soap. Place the tick in a sealed Ziploc bag and take it to your MD (family physician) for identification.

Wooded area and ticks

3. Nutrition & Healthy Eating

I know it can be hard to stick to those healthy diets and therapeutic diets when you are traveling, on-the-go, at carnivals and amusement parks, or when the kids are spending more time with friends at the mall. Try to make meals and snacks eaten at home healthier so that if you or the kids consume something unhealthy outside, it still falls within the 80/20 “food in moderation” rule. A well-balanced meal would have protein; Vegetables (more non-starchy veggies to starchy vegetables); a healthy fat like nuts, seeds, olives, eggs, or even cooking your vegetables in a healthy oil, avocado; and a small amount of complex carbohydrates that would include your starchy vegetables and/or whole-grains.

For those day trips that are planned or if the kids are heading off to camp, try to pack some healthy snacks which will save you money from buying food but also reduce the junk food consumption.  Ideas of healthy snacks can be:

  • veggie sticks (bell peppers, carrots, celery, etc.) and hummus
  • apple slices and nut/seed butter
  • fruit
  • smoothies
  • nut/seed butter and whole-grain crackers
  • yoghurt with fruit or granola or just plain Greek yoghurt
  • nuts/seeds
Healthy eating

4. Hydrate

Hot weather means you sweat more. Sweating means you are losing water and electrolytes. Being dehydrated is no fun because you start feeling tired and lethargic and have no energy to do anything. Drinking tea, coffee, or sugary beverages don’t count as that will dehydrate you further. You want to hydrate with water. You can add lemon or fruits to your water to flavour it a little if you don’t like plain water.  If you are playing sports, add some electrolytes into your water to replenish the potassium, sodium, and magnesium lost through sweating.

Hydration

5. Travel Essentials

With travel opening up, the airports will be busy so give yourself plenty of time if you are flying anywhere. Travelling can impact digestion and sometimes, depending on where you are traveling to, you may run the risk of consuming contaminated water or eating street food (super tasty but your gut may not like it).  Perhaps you are prone to traveller’s diarrhea. Keeping a good travel probiotic with you can do wonders. There are various strains depending on your health situation like a multi-strain probiotic with lactobacillus and bifidobacteria or a strain-specific probiotic supplement such as Saccharomyces boulardii. If you don’t have access to a fridge, you will want a good, shelf-stable one.

Consider speaking to your naturopathic doctor or nutritionist on the best probiotic, any immune support to prevent getting sick (you never know which virus you may be exposed to on your travels these days), and any other supplements, such as melatonin to prevent jet lag, that can support you while traveling.

Travelling

6. Digestive Enzymes

More socializing and eating out can mean eating food that may not agree with your gut or make you feel more bloated. Keeping some good enzymes in your bag may help give you some digestive relief if you eat something that makes you feel gassy or bloated.  Tinctures with bitter herbs can be great too for supporting digestion. While there are so many digestive enzymes on the shelves, always speak to a naturopathic doctor or healthcare professional for the best one for you because you might just need a lactase enzyme, an enzyme without hydrochloric acid or maybe you need a supplement that has some added fat digestion support because you don’t have a gallbladder.

Enzymes

7. IV Nutrient Drips and Vitamin Injections

Because summer can get busy with social commitments and being on-the-go, it can be hard to remember to take your supplement regime or with all the late nights, maybe you are feeling exhausted and just need a quick pick-me-up, some hydration, or a few more nutrients into the body bypassing the gut, this is where IV nutrient treatments or even quick 1-minute vitamin injections can help keep you on your toes. More information on this can be found here and if you are looking for a simple injection, you can book a short initial visit by clicking here.

Vitamin injections and IVs

8. Prolotherapy

This is an injection treatment that can support sport injuries because summer is likely when you are wanting to be outdoors and playing more sports which may result in more strains and sprains or maybe even partial ligament and tendon tears or rotator cuff injuries.  While it is recommended to have a slow return to full activity after the injury to enable repair, prolotherapy may help improve the healing time of the injury while strengthening the weakened joint, ligament, or tendon and get you playing what you love sooner.  More information can be found here.

Prolotherapy and sports injuries

9. Take Time For You

While summer can often get busy running around and always doing things, it can also be the time of the year when there is the most slowness because kids are out of school, there are less extracurricular activities, and/or less work deadlines. This can make it a good time to get self-care in and relax so you are ready for September and the last 4 months of the year which can often get hectic. If you feel like there is something you want to address in your health, address it now rather than waiting until it gets worse. It may also be a good time to focus on you and your health when there isn’t a lot of other things going on in your life like running around for the kids or busy work schedules that need to be attended to.

If you are looking for a naturopathic doctor and are in Alberta, I am accepting new patients. If you are elsewhere, you can still contact me and I will do my best to connect you with a colleague in your area.

Self-care and wellness

References:

[1] Matta MK, Zusterzeel R, Pilli NR, et al. Effect of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal Use Conditions on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active Ingredients: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2019;321(21):2082-2091.

[2] National Institute of Health. “Vitamin D Fact Sheet For Health Professionals”. 28 April 2022. Retrieved on May 29 2022 from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

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