Originally published February 3 2009
The Effects of Weather on Health and How to Prepare
by Melanie Banzer
(NaturalNews) The weather really does affect our moods and health as dramatically as it can affect our roads. Everyone has noticed it to some degree throughout their lives. Folks living in hot climates with the sun looming viciously overhead notice an energy level entirely different from those living further north. Even people just visiting climates completely different from their own are often taken aback by the vast differences in the general attitude of locals compared to that of people back home.
Of course, there are more variables that affect mood than just the weather, but the role of atmospheric conditions on our overall health is a proven field of study of its own. It's not just psychological that there are significantly more suicides in winter months. It's not just a coincidence that mortality rates increase by means of heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia, influenza, etc. during the winter. Claiming that disease is simply more rampant during the winter doesn't explain the increased heart attacks, strokes, or suicides. Rather than blaming a change in disease, we should look at the change within our own bodies.
The field of science that studies the effect of weather on our health is called human biometeorology. Next time you're feeling glum on cloudy days, remember that there is a physiological explanation. Depression is a chemical process and without understanding and tending to those chemical malfunctions, it's a hard one to beat. This country has an ever escalating number of people who fall victim to the pharmaceutical sales traps that claim to solve all their psychological problems in a convenient daily pill. Doctors don't tell these people about the link between antidepressants and school shootings or the side effects like gastrointestinal bleeding, reduction of sperm count, increased diabetes risk, and brain lesions. They don't brief patients about the overwhelming dependency or the severe withdrawal symptoms that have led numerous people to suicide. In this over-prescribed corporate America, pharmaceutical companies have nothing to gain out of revealing the fascinating anti-depressant qualities of such free sources as sunlight, which can't be patented.
The sun is a person's most crucial source of vitamin D, a nutrient that is actually insufficient coming from pasteurized, homogenized cow milk (the synthetic vitamin D added to your milk is called vitamin D2 and converts in your body 500% slower than the natural Vitamin D3 from the sun). Vitamin D from cow's milk is inadequately absorbed without the supplementation of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. A vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a host of physical ailments, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, allergies, Alzheimer's, obesity, and of course depression. Without enough sunlight, vitamin D deficiency is a great possibility and depressive tendencies may follow. Knowing this, it's no wonder that suicide and depression rates are increased during the winter months, when the days are shorter and people shack up in their homes to avoid the cold, inadvertently also avoiding the essential Vitamin D2.
It's more than just vitamin D that makes sunlight the best antidepressant on the market, though. There's a neurotransmitter in your brain called serotonin and the levels of this chemical have a profound effect on your mood. SSRIs, the most popular form of antidepressants, work by affecting levels of serotonin in the brain. But guess what else affects serotonin production in the brain and is absolutely free of charge? You guessed it, the sun! A half hour walk around the block during the sunniest hours of the day just might be a more effective and less harmful prescription than Zoloft.
The effect of changes in the weather on our health is undeniable. Just ask the severe rheumatoid arthritis patient about his joint pain during rainy days. Atmospheric pressure can be felt by those with achy joints or metal implants in their bodies. They can predict the weather better than some network television meteorologists. How can you be wrong when the atmosphere is in your bones, literally?
Most people have experienced difficulty conjuring up energy on cloudy days. For some, that difficulty hits a lot harder than for others. Those exhaustive sunless days affect us as immediately as they come. Calm tranquility is a staple of rainy days, so much so that people listen to tapes emulating that noise just to fall asleep. Sleepy cloudy days plus the therapeutic sound of rain on the rooftop amounts to ultimate relaxation! And think about how energetic you feel when there's a storm screaming outside. Our bodies reflect the very energy of lightning, just as they reflect the energy of the sun or lack thereof. Storms excite some people, filling them with adrenaline while they fill others with an apprehensive fear. Even this nervous energy is energy though, and it gets the heart pumping faster than do those calm, cloudy days!
Energy levels are also directly affected by temperature. When people are hot, their blood vessels expand, allowing blood to rush through their bodies towards the skin. Their faces and chests blush a bright red as a biological cooling mechanism. When people are cold, their blood vessels do just the opposite, constricting to trap heat inside. This built-in system is the human body's HVAC, keeping it from reaching dangerous levels of extreme temperatures.
An inconvenient side effect of this automatic heating system is that with constricted movement of blood, circulation slows down considerably. Every part of the body, including the brain, requires oxygen to function properly. Oxygen is distributed throughout every organ by means of blood circulation. So when people get cold, their bodily functions are slowed down in an attempt to retain heat. If external heating isn't found, this poor circulation can lead to numbness, eventually stopping all vital organs completely. If someone already has poor circulation prior to a cold season, that season's onset can accentuate health problems by limiting blood flow. If someone has a weak heart, for example, poor circulation can cut off vital oxygen to the heart, resulting in a heart attack. A stroke is nothing more than a disturbance of blood to the brain. If someone is already lacking in brain oxygen, cold weather and poor circulation can be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Not only are there more strokes during winter months, but the severity and fatality of strokes are also increased. This is why it's so important to exercise regularly, to improve circulation and get that oxygen flowing!
Being aware of these subtle environmental changes in health, we can prepare for the changing seasons the responsible way. We don't need a pill with endless side effects to shake off Seasonal Affective Disorder. The affective influence of the seasons is not a disorder, but a normal relation between our bodies and the world around us. For some people (depending on blood circulation, brain chemistry, physical conditions, preexisting diseases, etc.), the effects of seasonal and environmental changes will be more drastic than for others. Taking an antidepressant, though, doesn't clear up the root of the problem. It simply covers up the symptoms for the duration of time that you're on the drugs. Meanwhile, it suffocates your body with threatening side effects, some that you notice and others that add up silently over time until it's too much for your body to take.
By being aware of your body's sensitivity to the world around it, you can guide it to a healthier place. If you get tired easily, chances are your circulation isn't all up to par. Warm weather promotes blood circulation, but in these winter months it is more important than ever to be proactive about exercise. Even light exercise like yoga and stretching make a considerable impact on circulation. Dancing is a fun way to get oxygen to those tired organs. Prescribe your brain with oxygen by exercising daily. It doesn't even take two weeks to notice the difference, unlike with Prozac! Additionally, the effects are longer lasting and there are absolutely zero negative side effects. Get sunlight when it's available, but when it's scarce, force yourself to get up and get that blood moving. Remember the serotonin that your brain releases when you nourish it with sunlight? Well, it is also a side bonus of exercise! Exercise jump starts your brain's production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. There aren't any antidepressants on the market that do all that, and with no side effects!
What you eat plays a substantial role on mood and by eating an alkaline diet, you can encourage optimal blood oxygenation. The food you eat can be used to combat the effects of nasty weather on your health. According to a study discussed on the Harvard University website, "researchers report that omega-3 fatty acids and uridine, two substances in foods such as fish, walnuts, molasses, and sugar beets, prevented depression in rats as effectively as antidepressant drugs." The "cure" that comes with dangerous drugs is artificial and unnecessary once you examine your healthier alternatives. .
With sunlight, exercise, diet, and an understanding of your body's sensitivity to the climate you live in, you can be healthier than you've ever been, even in the winter. With a concentrated effort towards making lifestyle changes, you can achieve a long-term solution that drugs cannot offer. By feeding your brain the neurotransmitters it craves through sunlight, exercise and food, you will notice profound improvements on your overall well-being. On cold, cloudy days, remember the healing effect of exercise and on sunny days, don't let that burning ball of free medicine sink to the horizon before getting your fill!
"Brain Serotonin Production Directly Related To Degree Of Sunlight" by Harvey McConnell, http://www.docguide.com/news/content.nsf/new...
"Weather and our Health" on BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/weatherwise/liv...
"Food ingredients may be as effective as antidepressants" on Harvard.edu, http://harvardscience.harvard.edu/medicine-h...
About the authorMelanie Banzer is an independent research journalist with a passion for health, political truth, and raising babies as nature intended! She believes it is everyone's personal responsibility to take charge of their own well-being and pursue an ongoing quest for knowledge.
Her website http://www.ohbabybabyblog.com provides holistic pregnancy-related information as she explores an alternative approach to first-time motherhood.
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