Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Sun...Hurtful or Healthful?

Ah, the sun. Remember what the warmth of the sun feels like on your skin? Remember how it tingles, and energizes every pore? Where did it go?

It seems almost cruel to talk about sunshine this time of year. It's been a long time since we saw the sun. Here on the rainy west coast, a break in the clouds sends my wife into a frantic dash to soak up the very brief rays before the clouds consume them again. But shouldn't she be avoiding those harmful UV rays??

For many years we have been told to limit sun exposure, glob on copius amounts of chemical laden sunscreen, and to keep the tender skin of our children away from harmful cancer causing rays. Is this really what's best for us??? The sun is our major source of Vitamin D3, which 85% of the American public is seriously deficient in.

Many of us notice a decrease in energy, and a more lethargic or depressed mood during the long winter months. Our bodies respond to the shorter days and increased darkness during the winter by producing an increase of melatonin. Melatonin is the mood-regulating hormone that modulates the body's internal clock, or circadian rhythms, bringing us down gently at night for sleep. Mood swings, food cravings, and insomnia are influenced by Melatonin. Vitamin D levels are inversely related to those of melatonin. Sunlight shuts melatonin production off, while triggering the release of Vitamin D, which serves many vital functions in the body.

Vitamin D, is actually a hormone itself, the most powerful hormone in your body, rather than a vitamin. Vitamin D plays a vital role in a maintaining a healthy immune system, decreasing the risks of high blood pressure, maintaining blood calcium levels, and promoting healthy insulin secretion and glucose tolerance, and is a potent antibiotic, so it makes sense that Vitamin D positively influences diseases such as:

SO, the question is, HOW do we get our Vitamin D this time of year when we are spending most of our time indoors, or under cloudy skies? And how much Vitamin D is necessary?

The BEST source of vitamin D is through unfiltered sun exposure. 15 minutes of daily sun exposure in the early morning or late afternoon sun on bare arms, legs, and face is enough for most light-skinned individuals to create an ample supply of vitamin D. Those with darker skin may require up to 40 minutes of daily exposure. But leave your sunscreen inside!

Since winters in the northwest prevent us from enjoying the benefits of natural sunlight, it is important for us to be getting our Vitamin D through a quality supplement. 2,000 IU per day is a safe amount for some individuals, while most people need quantities closer to 5,000 IU per day. The only way to know exactly how much Vitamin D your body needs is by testing the levels of vitamin D found in your blood. Ideally, your test results should show blood levels of 25 OH D at 60 ng/ml.

So, what is the best Vitamin D supplement to take? My recommendation is to find an organic supplement that is from a natural source, lanolin or high quality fish. Usually the health food store is your best option. Many supplements are synthetically made, and not absorbed fully by your body. They won't specifically mention their synthetic manufacturing process, but the lower grade vitamin D brands are ones typically found in the grocery store.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year's Food for Thought

Tradition dictates that every 365 days, we make our lists of lifestyle changes as we hang our new year's calendars. What will it be this year? Exercise more, lose weight, stop smoking, eat more veggies? Then March rolls around and Craigslist is flooded with used exercise equipment that people realize they aren't ever going to use, and the idea of giving up our addictive habits is too much for some of us to bear. So, in the (slightly altered) words of the 'Auld Lang Sine' author, Robert Burns....

'Should (res-o-lutions) be forgot, and never brought to mind??'

Not at all!!

Instead of making radical changes to our lifestyles that are hard to achieve, consider simpler goals that are easier to implement. Since we all want a healthier, happier body, a great place for most of us to start is to consider adding more Negative Calorie Foods to our diets. These foods are not only healthy,they use more calories to digest than the calories the foods actually contain! They can be eaten in unlimited quantities and even make you feel full!

Apples are one of the most popular negative calorie foods out there, simply because they are delicious and cheap. A medium apple contains about 80 calories, depending on the variety, and our bodies burn about 100 calories to digest them, and even more as we prepare, eat, and eliminate them. Apples also contain high levels of flavanoids which have been shown to reduce the risks of some cancers.

Pickles are, of course, cucumbers. Cucumbers contain approx. 16 calories per cup, with pickles scoring a few calories higher. Because our bodies burn much more than 16 calories to consume and digest a cucumber, they are a "negative calorie food." My family are personally big fans of pickles and cucumbers, especially the ones my wife cans because they do not contain preservatives, added sugar, (which adds calories) or artificial food coloring chemicals.

Ah, the carrot. One of the sweetest vegetables in the garden. A carrot charts in at 32 calories which, you guessed it, is less than we need to consume it. Carrots are 90% water, which is why eating them makes you feel full with less calories consumed. The water in some fruits and veggies take up space in your stomach, causing you to feel full, and stop eating. Water, is the most effective appetite control substance in the world.
Not to mention, you've probably heard that carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene and vitamin C, right?

Dark leafy greens, such as lettuce and spinach contain only 7 calories per cup, with lighter colored lettuces (iceberg) scoring much lower, but also lacking nutrients. Use caution with salad dressings, however, as they can add as much as 200 calories per tablespoon, and often contain other dangerous additives such as MSG and soybean oil.

Blueberries are an important part of a healthy diet. The calorie count in blueberries aren't exceptionally low, at 81 calories per cup of unthawed berries, but low enough to make it a negative calorie food. The high levels of antioxidant activity in fresh blueberries make them well worth every calorie. In the Vancouver area, blueberries are a large u-pick crop. If you do pick your own, (it's a great activity to do with children, as most farms will let you eat while you pick) find an organic farm, or one that does not spray their berries. Blueberries are a thin skinned fruit and absorb more pesticides and sprays than thicker skinned fruits.

Asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well balanced vegetables in existence. Asparagus contains less than 4 calories per spear, and is high in essential nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin B6, thiamin, and potassium. Asparagus is easy to prepare, and tasty with simple seasonings. Consider a light sprinkling of sea salt and broiling until tender for an excellent snack or side dish.

Celery is 95% water, so it fills you up without adding calories, and contains only 19 calories per cup. Some say you burn more calories just chewing this crunchy snack than it contains! Even though celery contains no contributing calories, it does contain powerful medicine. Celery has been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory, and also contains the flavanoid, apeginin, which researchers from Brigham and Womens and Harvard Medical Center have found may greatly reduce a woman's risk of ovarian cancer.

While Grapefruit may not be a really low calorie food, with approx. 50 calories per 3 3/4" diameter half, it contains an antioxidant called naringenin, which triggers the liver to break down fat! When consumed as part of a weight loss strategy, grapefruits are truly an essential part of your diet.

If you eat more of these negative calorie foods, you'll reap the benefits of calorie reduction without the suffering. So fill your cart with these beneficial fruits and veggies and your body will thank you!
What are YOUR 2011 New Year's resolutions?? Let's make them count!

The Quest for Balanced Living - Vancouver Washington

Welcome to 'The Quest for Balanced Living' a chiropractic blog dedicated to helping readers create happier, healthier lifestyles through proper nutrition, exercise, and mental health.

I am Dr Joe, of Balanced Living Chiropractic in beautiful Vancouver Washington. I enjoy keeping up with the most up-to-date research topics, and relaying that information to those who are interested. It is now more important than ever to educate ourselves and seek information that will help us make good decisions regarding our own health and well-being.

I hope you find our blog both informative and interactive. We welcome comments from all our readers. Please feel free to share your experiences, add your two cents, provide feedback and/or suggest topics that you would like to hear more about. This post is the first of many addressing natural health and wellness, so check in regularly for updates on current health related topics that will have an impact on your life.

To learn more about Balanced Living Chiropractic,
and Dr. Joseph Perin, please visit our website at
or contact us as noted below:

Balanced Living Chiropractic
6405 NE 116th Ave.
Suite 106
Vancouver, WA 98662
(360) 597-4784