Summer seems to have finally arrived, warmer weather, plenty of sunshine, the chance to enjoy being outside, eat more fruit and vegetables and just relax a bit. Why is it that for many of us, just a few sunny days makes us feel better? The increase in sunlight produces a chemical reaction in our bodies, limiting melatonin production so that we feel more alert and less likely to want to sleep. This also increases the serotonin production, making us feel happier and have a greater sense of wellbeing.
Raised serotonin levels make us feel happier and have a greater sense of wellbeing.
Does this mean that you can give up on your supplements and forget your healthy eating plans because your body feels so much better? In short, probably not.
First, the good news. It is not just a physiological boost we get from the sunshine; we get psychological benefits too. In good weather we are more likely to spend more time outside in the fresh air, maybe lunch in the park rather than at your desk, a family outing to the beach or a get together with friends and a relaxed BBQ. These types of events make us feel happy and relaxed, so we associate sunshine with feel good moments and happy memories.
Vitamin D production is blocked by sunscreens and body lotions, so don’t stop taking your supplements.
In hotter weather, we tend to drink more liquids and are often more hydrated than in colder weather. It also seems so much easier to stick to lighter foods including salads and fresh fruit, we don’t crave those carb heavy comfort foods so much. Simple days out can increase the amount of exercise we are getting, by simply walking more. The of course, there is the fact that our bodies make vitamin D from the reaction of sunlight on our skin. It all looks pretty positive, doesn’t it?
However, it isn’t all good news. Just feeling better and brighter, doesn’t mean that we are, it makes sense to continue to consider your supplement regime and keep an eye on what you eat.
It is true that we have the ability to manufacture our vitamin D from sunlight, but this very much depends on the length of time our skin is exposed to the sun and what barriers might be in the way. We are all to aware of the dangers of sunburn and related cancers, so the majority of people will cover up and use a decent sunscreen while out and about. What many don’t know is that suncreens and body lotions inhibit our ability to make vitamin D. With all the research available research on how important vitamin D is for us, not just for bone health, but also hormonal health, proper growth for children and even our moods, it makes sense to continue with your supplement.
Water is a better for hydration than juices and other drinks.
It is easy to become dehydrated and this can lead to headaches or feeling dizzy, in extreme temperatures some people are also more prone to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If you feel seriously unwell during hot weather, contact your health professional for advice. To help prevent dehydration, drink plenty of water rather than juices and other drinks. Water rehydrates you far quicker than a fruit juice that the body has to ‘digest’ the components of to get to the water.
Research over the last couple of years has shown that many children actually increase their sugar intake over the summer, they may also decrease their activity levels. Regular PE lessons at school, even walking to and from school, might be replaced with lower activity levels especially in the digital age of computer console games and online entertainment.
Less routine and more grazing than set mealtimes can all play a role in increasing our calorie intake, not just for children. Adults can also be affected by weight gain during the summer, not just for the previous argument, but also due to the changes in our sleep habits.
Research has suggested that due to the fact we often sleep less during the summer, either because it is too hot to get a comfortable night’s sleep and the increased amount of daylight we are exposed to. These factors can increase the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in our bodies. Elevated cortisol levels can increase our sugar cravings, swelling and overall weight gain. Plus, if we feel slightly stressed, we may well reach for sugary comforts, increasing our calorie intake.
At the beginning of the summer, we are exposed to massive media pressure to lose weight and get ready for summer clothes. If you tend to go for quick weight loss with a crash diet, this can set your body up for quicker weight gain when you stop the diet. You not only risk slowing down your metabolism, you also risk cutting down on your nutrient intake.
Crash diets at the beginning of summer can set you up for increased weight gain when you stop dieting.
Better preparations could be a sensible reduction in calories and a slight increase in exercise, even a brisk walk every day. If you find it hard to lose weight due to sugar cravings, try using a chromium supplement, chromium plays a role in blood glucose management and can be a useful supplement in helping you make sensible dietary changes.
Green tea has been shown to support thermogenesis, the amount of energy the body uses to digest food, to help maintain a health metabolism, green tea can be taken as a supplement or drink a few cups a day.
If your food intake becomes very restricted, you run the risk of reducing your nutrient intake too, it makes sense to take a good multivitamin and mineral as a top up. Not only to ensure you are not missing out on vital nutrients to support the body, but also lack of nutrients, particularly minerals like magnesium, can disrupt your sleep pattern and we know that poor sleep quality can have an effect on our metabolic rate.
For most of us, the summer can be an enjoyable experience, but for some it can trigger a type of depression. We often associate Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) with the onset of winter and lower light levels, but for around 10% of SAD sufferers, their symptoms appear in the summer. Although the exact cause is not known, research suggests that it is due to increased heat and humidity and longer days. Stress and anxiety about changes in schedule such as school holidays, body image issues and financial worries, may all be triggers.
Make time to enjoy the sunshine!
Good nutrition can help maintain good mental and psychological health, particularly the B Complex vitamins and magnesium. If you are prone to these types of issues in the summer, it is worth investigating these nutrients. Talking therapies such as CBT can also be helpful, so speak to your GP if you notice your symptoms increasing or taking a hold.
Simple adjustments can help you make the most of summer, whatever the weather.