Everyday, I am asked by someone, whether or not they need to take Vitamin D in the summer. Now that we are in the midst of lots of sunshine and summer is here, I thought this would be a good topic for our August newsletter. Vitamin D is much more than a vitamin. In fact, every cell in your body has a receptor on it for D, which makes it more like a hormone, than a vitamin. It supports your immune health, and is critical for people with autoimmune diseases. It is also necessary for your body to absorb calcium, and women with low vitamin D levels are at a higher risk of osteoporosis. And let’s not forget about mood … many of you might notice you feel bluer in the winter when there is less sunshine.
Yes, Vitamin D is made by sunshine. However, in the northern latitudes where we live (New York), the sun is only strong enough to stimulate Vitamin D production in your skin 3-4 months/year, May-August. During these months, your skin will make enough Vitamin D to support good blood levels, IF you are outside for at least 20 minutes/day, without sunscreen, between 10am – 2pm, in shorts and a tank top. Meaning your arms and legs need to be fully exposed without sunscreen during peak hours of maximum sun. Do most people get this? No. So if you walk or exercise outside, spend time in the garden or other outdoor activities regularly, and don’t use sunscreen every minute, you are probably okay taking the summer months off. But honestly, most of the people I see in my medical practice don’t have an appreciable bump in their Vitamin D levels in the summer. They simply don’t get as much exposure as they think so they need to stay on their normal regimen. And that could be you.
While I am certainly not advocating NO sunscreen, I do think it would be okay, to spend 20 minutes a day without it, if you are trying to get your D. But then be sure to slather up with a broad spectrum SPF!
Here are my suggestions:
By Susan Blum, MD
Are you concerned about your exposure to mercury from the food you are eating? If you eat fish at all, then you should be. This can be confusing, but is very important because mercury can cause autoimmune disease and other health-related problems. That is why I decided to dedicate our April newsletter to this topic…to shed some light on this issue and to help you decide what to eat, and what to do to protect yourself from this environmental toxin.
Where do you find mercury and what is it?
Mercury is part of a group of compounds called heavy metals. There are ‘good’ heavy metals like iron, cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. They are good because humans require these metals to function properly. However, keep in mind that these too can be toxic at excessive levels.
On the other hand, heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and plutonium are ‘bad’ toxic metals and if they accumulate in the body over time, can cause serious illness. For our purpose today, I will focus on mercury because there is plenty of data that explains what it does in the body and how we are exposed.
Where does Mercury come from?
There are 2 main sources of mercury that we are exposed to. First, mercury is released into the air from coal burning power plants and from volcanoes. After it settles in the oceans and soil, we end up eating it from the fish or plants or animals that grow and live in these places. The big fish eat the little fish, and the mercury bio accumulates, which means it gets more concentrated in the bigger fish.
The other main source of mercury is the vapor released from silver fillings. While this is somewhat controversial, there is enough evidence suggesting this is a real issue, and why I recommend replacing your fillings if possible.
There are also other places you can be exposed to mercury, like in the preservative of some vaccines, and old thermometers. But fish and silver fillings are the biggest problem.
How does mercury accumulate in your body and make you sick?
Your body was created with multiple detox systems in place to clear out the mercury you are exposed to. One of these, called the glutathione system, is very active in your liver and also in all the cells in your body. If you are exposed to more mercury than this system can handle, the mercury can build up in your body and cause damage to your nerves, thyroid, immune system (autoimmune disease, for example), and all the cells in your body by causing something we call oxidative stress. This simply means that you run out of the important antioxidants that your body needs to protect itself, resulting in free radicals created by the mercury that can then damage the tissues.
To protect your cells and tissues, it is critical that you keep your liver detox system in tip-top shape by eating lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables with plenty of color. In addition, you can take specific antioxidant supplements to boost your glutathione. Our favorite and most convenient way to do this is by taking our BlumBox Immune & Antioxidant Support Packets, created for just this purpose.
The next step is to support your liver and its ability to clear this metal out of your system. The best strategy is to do a liver detox program once or twice/year, and to make sure you are eating foods with selenium, sulfur (onions), cruciferous veggies, and lots of antioxidants.
Sesame seeds are excellent for healing the thyroid. To boost its potency, we’ve added the sea vegetable kelp to our gomasio recipe for added minerals and thyroid support! Try this salty condiment on your raw cruciferous vegetables, or as a garnish on salads, soups, noodles, and other vegetables.
Serves 12 Tablespoons
- 1/2 cup, sesame seeds – toasted
- 1/4 cup, kelp – toasted
- 1/2 tsp, sea salt with iodine
- In a mortar, grind the sesame seeds, kelp, and salt together until well combined, but not into a paste. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle you can blend this in a coffee grinder in two batches.
- Store in an airtight container.
For your weekly fish dish, we love this low-mercury, flavorful recipe rich in nutrients that will help your body clear out toxins.
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 red chili peppers – dried
- 11/2 cups onion – diced
- 1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger – minced peeled
- 2 tsp garlic – minced
- 2 tsp coriander – ground
- 11/2 tsp, cumin – ground
- 1/2 tsp turmeric – ground
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- Pinch Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 14-ounce can tomatoes – diced
- 1 lb medium shrimp – peeled and deveined
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1/4 cup cilantro – chopped
- Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and red chilies and cook, stirring, until the fragrant, about 30 seconds.Add the onion and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Then add the ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until dark and fragrant, about 3 minutes more.
- Add the tomatoes and cook until somewhat soft, about 3 minutes. You can make the sauce up to this point a day ahead.
- When ready to serve, heat the sauce over high heat. As soon as it starts to bubble on the edges, add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until the shrimp turns opaque. Lower the heat, gradually stir in the coconut milk, and gently heat it through – do not allow to boil.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with cilantro and serve over rice or quinoa.