Say hello to the Sun!
We know that getting sun exposure boosts our vitamin D levels, essential for a healthy immune system, supports most metabolic functions in the body, aids neuromuscular transmission, and bone mineralisation.
A lot of us have been struck this winter with numerous bouts of cold or flu. Soaking in spring's first rays of sun will help give your immune system fight against any lingering pathogens.
Sun exposure also balances our serotonin and melatonin levels which brings me to my next tip...
Reassess your Sleep Patterns
As diurnal creatures we are programmed to be outdoors while the sun is shining and home in bed at night. This is why melatonin (a hormone which helps us sleep) is produced during the dark hours and stops with optic exposure to daylight. This hormone is a key pacesetter for many of the body’s circadian rhythms and plays an important role in countering infection, inflammation, cancer, and auto-immunity. (Mead, 2008) Melatonin has also been found to suppress body weight and intra-abdominal fat in rats. (Hanson et. al. 2011)
When people are exposed to sunlight or very bright artificial light in the morning, their nocturnal melatonin production occurs sooner, and they ease into sleep more readily at night. Exposure to bright morning light has been effective against insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
The precursor of melatonin is serotonin, which is also affected by exposure to daylight. Serotonin (our 'feel good' neurotransmitter) is produced in the day and is only converted to melatonin in darkness. Moderately high serotonin levels result in more positive moods and focused mental outlook.
Our modern-day lives can keep us cooped up indoors during the day and we stay up late at night which plays havoc with our ability to sleep well, depleting our energy levels and affects our mood.
Getting direct sun exposure is a thousand times more potent than indirect sun light and will boost serotonin levels to then be able to produce melatonin to sleep well and repair at night. Honouring your body's natural circadian rhythms is a key to unlocking your body’s natural energy source.
We only have one more week until day light saving starts. This means longer days and earlier starts. Take advantage of the spring sun, soak up its goodness, preferably first thing in the morning, and remember to slip, slop, slap with an SPF if you’re going to be out for more than 10 minutes at a time.
Many of the metabolic processes mentioned above, rely on a healthy digestive system to absorb nutrients from the food we eat, this absorption occurring in our intestines, liver and kidneys predominantly.
Research has shown that doing short-term (3-5 days) fasting or dietary restriction (DR) can help to reset the body's metabolism and immune system in mammals and cancers patients.
Both DR and fasting promote stress resistance by down-regulating conserved nutrient-signalling proteins, or by activating stress resistance transcription factors negatively regulated by these pro-aging pathways. These pathways have many regulatory effects including those on cellular growth, metabolism and protection against oxidants and other toxins (Lee and Longo, 2011).
Fasting and gluten-free vegetarian diet has also shown to have long term reduction of pain, swelling and joint inflammation symptoms in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. (Kraugh et. al. 1991)
Currently there is not much research on the effects of fasting in healthy populations but there is research to suggest fasting increases melatonin levels in rats, and we can postulate that melatonin production is partly responsible for weight control. Not only is fasting giving your body a rest, reserving energy that would normally be spent on digesting food, you are protecting your body against disease-causing oxidants and toxins, rebooting your metabolism, increasing your natural energy and assisting weight reduction.
Cleansing doesn’t need to be extreme. Simply cutting back on half your daily intake of food two days per week or swapping one meal per day (for two weeks) with a green juice or other healthy, low calorie option can reset your metabolism and over time increase your energy levels.
So getting daily, direct sun exposure, sleep at a reasonable hour, and giving your gut a ‘spring clean’ are all essential ingredients to help you function at your best. Implement these 3 key tips to reveal a more energised, happier you!