Summer Sun Safety

sunshine-summerSummer in the Northwest brings a variety of outdoor activities, which results in higher sun exposure. At this time of year, it is important to remember the good and bad results of increased sun exposure to keep you and your family safe.

VITAMIN D is produced by our skin after exposure to sunlight; therefore summer is a great time to increase your body’s production. This vitamin plays an important role in controlling your immune system, bone health, and hormone production. Healthy levels of vitamin D are important for everyone, but especially for people with autoimmune diseases or chronic diseases. If you don’t know your vitamin D levels, consider asking your doctor about having this tested.

MOOD SUPPORT is generally noticed during the sunny seasons. During the winter months, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is common and results in many people feeling depressed or unmotivated. This is naturally alleviated during the Spring and Summer as the sun begins to shine more often. If you suffer from this condition, consider talking to your doctor about ways to cope during the winter months.

SUNBURN is an inflammatory reaction of the skin cells from excessive exposure to UV rays. It is usually temporary and the redness and pain will resolve within a couple of days. Serious sunburns include blistering and peeling of the skin, which takes longer to heal and can cause more complications. The more sunburns a person has in their lifetime, the higher their risk of skin cancer and pre-cancerous skin conditions. People with naturally lighter skin tones will burn more easily.

SAFETY TIPS FOR THE SUMMER SUN

-Watch your dose: know your limit to sun exposure and limit your unprotected outdoor time accordingly. People with lighter skin can tolerate less sun exposure than people with darker skin.

-Cover up: a wide brimmed hat and a shirt with sleeves can do wonders for sun protection. Also consider coverage from an umbrella or other shade if you will be outside for a longer duration.

-Stay hydrated: generally I recommend 1/2 of your weight in ounces of water per day (ie if you weigh 150lbs, you drink 75oz of water per day). When you are outside sweating, the needed amount can increase greatly. Also, remember to add a glass of water for every alcoholic or caffeinated drink you consume.

-Sunscreen: I recommend wearing sunscreen if you will be out in the sun for more than 30 minutes (or less if you are very fair skinned). Look for an SPF 20-30 sunblock, anything higher is not necessary. There is quite a bit of controversy over which sunscreen is the safest. I think that decision depends on your priorities. Please look into the database and articles on the Environmental Working Group website to read more: www.ewg.org/2012sunscreen

Essential Oils- Some of My Favorites

EssentialOils900

Essential oils can be a powerful health tool, and they are known for their subtle and gentle effects.  I love essential oils and have used the extensively in my life and in my clinical practice, but I do not proclaim myself as an expert in essential oils.  Many of my colleagues and teachers are more knowledgeable than I am in this area.   That being said, here are some of my favorites!

Notes:

*This information is from my personal experience and from my education in naturopathic medical school.  I don’t have any references for this material, it is mostly been verbally passed down from the experts.

*Essential oils are generally safe to try for people of all ages and most health concerns, but it is best to speak with a holistic medical provider before using.

* If you know that you have an allergy to any of these plants, then DO NOT use the essential oil.

*Also, essential oils are generally safe when used externally, and most should be diluted before applying to the skin (best diluents include almond oil, jojoba oil, your lotion/moisturizer, olive oil). With very limited exceptions, it is usually not recommended to take essential oils internally unless properly diluted.

Lavender- the good-for-everything oil.  Great for mental health, helps with nervousness, anxiety and depression.  It can either bring up the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) or bring down the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), it is very balancing.  Apply it to the inner wrist or bottom of the feet for relief.  Can be applied directly to minor skin burns, as it helps decrease the sensation of pain and heat and can prevent blistering.  It can relieve migraines when combined with peppermint.

German Chamomile- great for bug bites, skin injuries like scrapes/rugburn, hives and eczema.  It is a powerful anti-inflammatory, so it is great for any skin condition with redness.  Mix with calendula oil for a powerful healing oil, or mix a few drops into your moisturizer.

Tea Tree- a potent antimicrobial.  This works well for skin and nail fungus, but can be too strong for the skin if not diluted.  This is a great addition to liquid hand soap or shampoo.  It can also be used in a diffuser to clean the air in a room, although some people do not enjoy the smell of this oil.  Interestingly, manuka honey is honey from bees pollinating the tea tree, and has many healing properties.

Peppermint- Great digestion tonic, helps to stimulates digestion by increasing saliva and bile production. It can also relieve gas and nausea. For these uses one drop followed by a glass of water is sufficient.  Topically it is good for hot flashes because it gives the skin a cool sensation. This is also great in a diffuser to clean the air in a room.  Almost everyone likes this smell.

Eucalyptus- This is great for respiratory infections and allergies.  It has antiviral activity, and is cooling to swollen, irritated tissues.  Add a few drops to a pot of hot water to breathe in the steam when you’re sick.  You can also apply one drop to the bottom of your nose when allergy season hits to keep your sinuses clear.

Rose Geranium- Great for women’s health conditions.  You can rub a few drops on your lower abdomen for menstrual cramps.  It may be able to balance the female hormones if used regularly, and it is one of those “feel good” smells which may be related to increasing the parasympathetic nervous system.  Good for those who crave sugar during their menses.

{Disclaimer: this is not considered personal medical advice, and you should speak with a physician before making diet and lifestyle changes. I’m happy to be that physician; all you need to do is schedule an appointment with me}

“Obamacare” from My Perspective

ACAThis post is more of an editorial than usual, so bear with me.

There aren’t many other topics lately that spark such a heated debate as the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  People love it and hate it, some think it’s socialist and some think it’s long overdue.  Some think it’s completely overboard and others think it is not nearly enough.  Some think it’s expensive others think it’s only a mere fraction of our actual healthcare costs.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and no one can really expect us all to agree on whether it is right or wrong.  Surely we will not agree on what is “enough”, as the scale varies wildly from “provide nothing to nobody” to “provide everything for everybody”.  This post is only to provide an inside scoop from a Naturopathic Physician’s perspective.

ACCESS TO CARE: Since January 1st I have seen an influx of patients coming in to the clinic for general checkups or to take care of their known health problems.  Some of them have been without health insurance for years because they could not afford it. Patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, psychiatric issues, and other conditions have been without medications, labwork and imaging for extended periods of time.  For those of you lucky enough not to have any chronic health conditions, let me stress how critical it is to get regular care.   Unmanaged health issues can result in heart attacks, blindness, pain, nerve problems, and much more.  It has been truly amazing to provide care to these patients who are so greatly in need.  I’ve also seen patients who have insurance for the first time in their lives, and are being diagnosed with serious conditions that they did not know they had.  The sooner we diagnose a problem and address the cause, the healthier they will be.  It is LONG overdue that everyone has equal access to healthcare.

ACCESS TO NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE: On a more political level, the ACA contains a clause which states that insurers cannot discriminate against medical providers who practice within their scope.  Therefore, medical providers will be reimbursed the same rate for similar services.  This is a huge step for Naturopathic Physicians who practice in primary and specialty care.  First of all, many insurance companies do not cover Naturopathic services, which excludes a large population from seeking our care. Second of all, if it is covered, often times the reimbursement rate is significantly lower than if the patient saw an MD (sometimes as low as 15% of the typical reimbursement rate for an MD visit).  Interestingly, Naturopathic visits are often twice as long and therefore much more in depth, and also involve much more counseling and education (such as dietary advice, supplementation, herbal medicines, exercises, physical treatments, etc).  This makes it extremely difficult to have a sustainable business.  Although much of the population does not know what Naturopathic Physicians do, and maybe wouldn’t choose to utilize our medicine, we deserve to be reimbursed at the same level for those who choose to use our services.  I take great pride in offering my patients safe, effective and thorough care, which should be reimbursed as such.

It has been truly inspiring and motivating to see so many people take charge of their health since January 1st.  I imagine that this year will continue to bring many new people to healthcare, and hopefully more people to Naturopathic Medicine.  I know the plan isn’t anywhere near perfect. I know that it is expensive.  But, if you have been fortunate enough to have access to healthcare and insurance your whole life (such as I have), you may not realize how life-changing the ACA is.  It has taken me seeing it through the eyes of my patients to realize this. I hope that sharing my side of things has helped others see the benefits of the ACA.

Here’s a great link about the ACA and Naturopathic Medicine: http://www.bastyr.edu/news/general-news-home-page/2013/01/health-care-reform-extends-reach-naturopathic-medicine