Health on Vacation

June 9th, 2015

Summer time is here. Families all over are taking vacations. Some families are getting away for weekend excursions. Others are traveling for a week or two at a time. Last year our family is less than a mile from Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida spending a week with my dad. We know keeping everyone fed and happy is an adventure in itself. Here are the tips and strategies we are using to make sure everyone is having a magical adventure.

First is sleep.  Sleep is crucial when the days are full of walking and caloric expenditure. Each adult is getting at least 7 hours and every child is getting a minimum of 8 hours at night. During the hottest part of the day (between 2 and 4 pm),we are leaving the parks or finding an activity in the shade for an afternoon rest. Exhaustion and sunburn can put a damper on the fun quick.

Staying hydrated is the next important tip. Everyone is drinking at least 8 ounces of water first thing in the morning.  Most summer recreation spots will let you bring water. The goal is to consume over half of our body weight in pounds as ounce of water. We are using frozen water bottles to help keep things cold in our cooler and then drinking the ice cold water later in the day after it has melted. We are also packing Emergen-C packets around with us. Without taking up too much space, an Emergen-C packet adds a quick flavor burst while also providing electrolytes and antioxidants. We are limiting each person to 1 soda per day.

The next important tip is to use sunscreen.  When we spend time in the sun, everyone is using an EWG (environmental working group – approved sunblock and reapplying sun protection hourly. Using wide brimmed hats and long sleeve shirts is another great way to protect the face and arms from sunburn. Do not forget to apply sunblock to the feet and the backs of the calves.

On vacation we have a realistic expectation regarding food and nutrition. It is not the same as eating at home, yet it need not be all fast food and junk food either. We start each vacation day with a typical breakfast at our condo – eggs, gluten free granola and yogurt, fruit, and some sauteed veggies. This is a great foundation for the rest of the day.

Packing snacks is the difference between overspending on food that you slows you down for the rest of your day and having the energy to keep up with the “vacation” schedule. Here’s a few of the staples that keep us going:

Homemade trail mix – Use a variety of nuts and unsweetened fruit. Avoid chocolate, avoid a melty mess and portion out into individual servings before heading out for the day.

  • Apples and squeeze peanut or almond butter.
  • Beef Jerky.
  • Gluten Free Almond Butter and Banana sandwich.
  • Cut veggies – cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers are perfect.
  • Snack Bars – We usually take less than 1 per person and share when we eat these. Snack bars are convenient and also often high in calories and sugar. They are perfect when you need a quick snack and can be kept in easily accessible locations for a quick bite.

By keeping health a priority when on vacation we are showing our children that health is an everyday investment. We are also encouraging an easy recovery when we return back to our normal routines at the end of the vacation. Too often when we need a vacation to recover from our vacation, food and drink can be to blame. With a little planning, we need not take a vacation from our health.

~Dr. Swanz

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Posted in Nutritional and Lifestyle Support/Modification |

Summer Fun In The Sun

May 15th, 2015

Summer is the time of year when individuals and families are playing at the park, cooking out in the backyard, swimming and boating, and just generally soaking up the sun.  The sun, much like food, has the potential to be harmful if not approached with balance and knowledge.  We want to be exposed to enough sunlight for our bodies to make Vitamin D but need to know how to do so safely.

The sun produces two main types of radiation we should be concerned with, UVA and UVB.  UVA radiation penetrates deeply into the skin.  It is less likely to cause a superficial sunburn, while causing premature wrinkles and DNA mutation.  It is the DNA mutation from the UVA radiation that is considered a strong contributing factor for skin cancer development.  UVB radiation from the sun affects the skin more superficially causing tanning (or sunburns) and vitamin D formation.  Vitamin D encourages the absorption and metabolism of calcium and helps maintain your immune system.

In June 2008 the Archives of Internal Medicine stated that “lower levels of vitamin D increases risk of dying from all causes.”  Regarding cancers, a vitamin D deficiency has been correlated with: breast, colorectal, brain, melanoma, stomach, kidney, ovarian, lung, pancreatic, leukemias, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and esophageal cancers.  Other illness that have been shown to be related to a vitamin D deficiency include: Diabetes, autoimmune diseases, mood disorders, autism, developmental delays, osteoporosis, immune function, gum disease & dental health, and cardiovascular disease.  We need to make sure we are getting enough Vitamin D on a regular basis and in the summer the sun can offer this protection.

It was in the late 1980’s that we were advised to limit sun exposure and began to use sunscreens regularly.  Since then cancer incidence has increased, including the prevalence of skin cancers.  The chemicals in most sunscreens are primarily blocking the UVB radiation to prevent sunburns (and hence Vitamin D formation) while doing very little to protect the skin from the UVA radiation.  To help increase vitamin D levels through sun exposure, we only need 15 to 20 minutes of mid-afternoon sun daily.

To protect ourselves and our families from sunburn, wrinkles, and DNA mutation from extended sun exposure use a sunblock that protects from both UVA and UVB radiation.  I recommend a block with zinc or titanium dioxide as the blocking agent.  This creates a physical block that inhibits sun radiation absorption at the skin.  Avoid products that contain: parabens, oxybenzone, and benzophenone-3 because of the potential allergic and hormone concerns from these chemicals.  Spray sunscreens with these ingredients pose a particular risk because of the potential for inhalation when applying them.  For extended periods of sun exposure away from water, tight knit clothing and hats are the ideal way to protect skin from solar radiation.

Also remember the protective benefit of naturally occurring phytonutrients from vegetables and fruits. The same phytonutrients that help to protect the plants from the UVA and UVB radiation will minimize the oxidative, inflammatory, and DNA damage at our cellular level.  So eat lots of fresh and local fruits and veggies this summer and enjoy the sun responsibly.

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Posted in Nutritional and Lifestyle Support/Modification |

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