Sunday, June 21, 2009

Vitamin D, Sunlight, and Health

Today, being the Summer Solstice and beginning of the season, is an appropriate time to mention vitamin D and sunshine.

First I will remind everyone that I am not a doctor, and anything I say or write does not constitute medical advice. OK? Onward then.

Over the last few years there has been more and more research showing health advantages of maintaining an adequate vitamin D level. Numerous diseases as well as cancer show a correlation to vitamin level. Here is the best overall place to get more information:
There are many outside articles in addition to the ones by that organization.

Health issues linked to vitamin D deficiency:
The Nutrient You Need Now:
"What's most remarkable about vitamin D is the sheer number of health issues it's been linked to. In the past few years, studies have shown that a lack of the vitamin may be the primary culprit in depression, heart disease, pregnancy problems, birth defects, skin and other cancers, and multiple sclerosis."

Here is a good article discussing sunscreen use:
The Sunscreen Dilemma:
"Wearing sunscreen prevents sunburns, but research suggests it might not reduce your risk of developing cancer; in fact, it might actually increase your risk.
That's the sunscreen dilemma. "

A caution regarding vitamin D supplements vs. sunshine:
Vitamin D Deficiency Study Raises New Questions About Disease And Supplements
"...ingested vitamin D can actually block VDR activation, the opposite effect to that of Sunshine."
Other vitamin D research news releases are listed here as well.

A somewhat sensational article, which includes the best form of supplement(D3):
Vitamin D in a New Light
Very informative and not sugar-coated.

Being a massage therapist, I get an additional perspective on the effect of excessive sun- Aged skin. It isn't so obvious when people are walking around and wearing normal clothes, but on the massage table the difference between the appearance of areas with heavy exposure and light exposure can be extreme. For some people, the difference in apparent ages is literally decades apart.

Given the strong evidence of vitamin D benefits, and a strong preference for natural health care over taking chemical supplements, here is my personal approach. I spend a lot of time outdoors. The areas of my skin that get most exposed, and have been burned the most already, get sunscreen. This includes my forearms, shoulders, and face. The rest of me gets no sunscreen, and I try to give lots of sun exposure, but without burning.

Now, consult with a real medical authority, make up your own mind, and enjoy the summer.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Back Pain and core strength

This week the New York Times had an excellent article about dealing with low back pain with exercise. I got a nice bit of smugness reading it, because it said the same things I've been telling clients.

The reason though isn't how bright I am, but that I've read both of the books published by the medical scientist they quote. This gentleman, Stuart McGill, does laboratory research on what actually happens to the spine and spinal muscles in different exercises.

I won't rehash the entire article, but the main point is that contemporary exercise practice over-emphasizes abdominal strength compared to back strength. There is a good video showing proper ab and back exercises.

Read the article here:

Another tip from McGill not mentioned in the article is the value of walking for low back pain. Keeping the spine gently moving keeps it from seizing up and promotes healing. The key is to walk with the arms and body loose. A rigid walk, with the arms and shoulders held in place, will exacerbate the problem.

Low back pain is a problem where I have great sympathy with my clients. I have had debilitating back pain myself. I know how much the smallest movement can hurt, and the dread feeling of the muscles about to go into another painful spasm. I got to practice what I preach, and confirmed that, yes, constant gentle movement does help. Receiving massage from a couple of therapist friends was also a great relief.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

New stretch and new exercise

On my main website is a new stretch for your hamstrings. This stretch, besides the direct benefit, is described because so many people try to do it in a harmful way that exacerbates an existing posture problem. Hint: the nose is not connected to the leg. Look here for the details.

I'm starting to do dumbbell snatches at the gym. This is like the Olympic barbell snatch but with just one hand and a dumbbell. I'm practicing my technique on small weights, then I'll take it from there.

Olympic style lifts involve strength + speed, which equals power, and coordination. Form is critical. The snatch starts with the weight on the floor. In one continuous motion, you lift the weight overhead. Simple! The whole body gets moving, and you still have the satisfaction of picking up something heavy.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Posture Book, Tiny Toms, and Current Cookies

A very good book I just finished reading and will now recommend is "Posture Alignment" by Paul D'Arezzo. It is written for a general audience, unlike most of the technical bodywork books I read. It really conveys why posture matters, and is also good at motivating people to start improving. Here's a quote from chapter 1, page 13:
  • "Others perceive us differently. Like it or not, we are judged and we judge others by their posture. With good posture, we are perceived as more confident, happy, and in control. Older people with correct posture are perceived as younger and sexier.
  • We move better. There is a grace and economy of movement that comes with postural alignment.
  • We feel better. Our posture, how we stand and move, directly affects our emotions and how we feel.
  • All our organ systems work better and more efficiently. Our muscles and bones aren't separate from the rest of our body. A closed chest limits our breathing. A pelvis that is overly tilted forward puts strain on our abdominal organs."
Wow! Boldly said! I agree completely, although I'm more conservative when speaking with clients because I don't want to alienate them.

I don't exactly agree with all the corrective advice given- It's good, just not quite my approach.

The book is available at the Los Altos Library(as soon as I return it), and online at Amazon.

A few weeks back I bought a "Tumbling Tom" hanging tomato plant at the Farmers Market, and I'm thrilled to see teeming tiny tomatoes covering it. The plant itself hasn't gotten any larger, so the total crop will be limited though. My balcony is sunlight challenged, so finding a tomato that could hang from one of the overhead beams is likely the only way I can get such a sun demanding plant to thrive. That being said, a neighbor gave me a tomato seedling which of course I had to plant. We'll wait and see if it grows.

This week I have sweet potato spice cookies. These are my signature cookies, and they go fast!