This summer my family has acquired a love for paddleboarding. I do love the outdoors, and spend as much time as I can there when weather is favorable doing activities I love including walking, bike riding, horseback riding, hiking, swimming, and sunbathing.
I even bundle up in the cold weather almost daily to take our dog for a run in the hills during late fall, winter, and early spring months. But, discovering paddleboarding for summertime has taken things to a whole new level for me. I cannot adequately express the amount of joy and happiness it has added to my life.
You may ask: what on earth does paddleboarding have to do with digestion?
Well, a lot, actually. You see, digestive health isn’t solely dependent upon what we eat. Our digestion is greatly affected by the amount of rest we receive, toxins we are exposed to, bacteria in our environments, and relaxation and stress reduction we seek. Being outside and getting a break from stress, exposing ourselves to Vitamin D from the sun, and beneficial microbes in dirt, fresh water and air actually contributes to our health in many positive ways.
Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride discusses how toxins and lack of exposure to sunlight and the beneficial bacteria and nutrients from the earth and water can have long-term debilitating effects on our digestive tracts and overall health in her books Gut and Psychology Syndrome and Put Your Heart In Your Mouth (via Amazon affiliation). She recommends regular exposure to the outdoors in the sunshine and dirt for all aspects of digestive, immune, bone, caridovascular, brain and nervous system health.
There are hazards associated with drinking, bathing and swimming in chlorinated water as it destroys beneficial bacteria on our skin and in our digestive tracts and immune systems. I have had highly recommended to me by several friends a good whole house water filtration for the home here (via Amazon affiliation). We are currently in a rental and will be installing a whole house filtration system when we move sometime next year into a new home.
Chris Kresser shares how stress can cause a weakened digestive system which can lead to various health issues, “the biochemical changes that occur in times of stress have significant and immediate impact on gut function.”
Why I used to hate exercise … and why I love it now
For the first nearly two decades of my life, I dreaded exercise. That’s because when I was a young child, my desire to be active and move was diminished by classes and programs in school, as well as a few other experiences I had, that weren’t at all suited to my abilities or interests.
During the time I was growing up, school physical activities did not provide many options for those who weren’t into team or group sports. All through elementary school, junior high, and even high school, the choices were activities that didn’t appeal or simply weren’t within my ability range including running, baseball or softball, tetherball, soccer, volleyball, and a few others. It wasn’t until high school that I became interested in tennis and played with some of my friends who also loved the sport. I actually enjoyed this activity a lot, and did compete in some high school tournaments, but I wasn’t interested in competition as much as I just wanted to hit the ball and have fun.
Like many kids, I took swimming lessons as a young child. But, most swimming I did was in a public pool environment, which I have never enjoyed due to chlorine and other chemicals used in the pool. So it was hard for me to really become interested in swimming.
I have loved horses since I was a small child, but never owned one. The alternative was riding horses of friends, neighbors, and taking riding lessons at a local stable. Horseback riding has always been and always will be one of my favorite activities. But, owning a horse is something I’m not willing to commit to at this juncture in my life. Horse ownership is a time and money-intensive activity, and I would be concerned about investing in a horse and then not having adequate time to spend.
We adopted a large dog 4 years ago, and although I have enjoyed hiking and walking for many years, having a dog has definitely ensured that I get outside and moving every day. Plus, the beautiful views of the city and amazing foothills and mountains that are here in Boise, ID where I live are spectacular incentive to spend time in the great outdoors.
But … I always have always had an adoration for water, lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, and of course, the ocean. I feel so happy and peaceful around water. Being in land-locked Idaho doesn’t make access to beaches very accessible. We do have some rivers, lakes and ponds here, but I had not yet found my niche … until now.
My husband started suggesting we buy a paddleboard about six months ago. It sounded great. We did some reading and purchased our first one a couple of weeks ago. It has seriously been one of the best investments we’ve ever made!
One of the benefits of paddleboarding is that it doesn’t require a lot of skill and aptitude for those who feel they aren’t athletically inclined. You can certainly become skilled at paddleboarding if you feel a special passion and interest for this sport. If not, you can experience great benefit from sun, water, and dirt just by standing or sitting, and paddling leisurely around in the water. The first time my son, husband, and I tried it we found it very easy to just get up on the board and start paddling, even without practiced balance, upright. Like me, both boys found they love this activity and look forward to it so much!
Why the sun, dirt, and water are so enjoyable AND beneficial to our health
The benefits of spending time in an outdoor source of fresh or salt water are many: there are important microbes , bacteria, and minerals in lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers and the ocean our bodies need exposure to which can greatly boost our immune systems and overall well-being. Being barefoot in the dirt and sand also has many benefits, including reduction of pain in the body, more energy and focus, improved sleep, and much more. Read more about making contact with the earth in this book, recommended via Amazon affiliation: Earthing by Clinton Ober.
Besides being a sun-worshipper, I have discovered I am truly a person who feels at home in both the sun and water. Although I do enjoy swimming, I don’t always feel the need to dive underwater and do a full swim. Although I don’t advocate being sedentary, you can be less active in a water environment and still achieve great benefit and enjoyment from it. I am sometimes found just sitting with my lower body in the water in the shallow end of the lake because it is so relaxing and rejuvenating. The combination of sun and water exposure is truly a replenishing and healing experience for me.
As I mentioned earlier, getting outside with bare feet and exposing your bare skin to the sun is important for gut, immune, bone, joint, brain and nervous system, and overall health. That’s why, by the way, you will almost always see me in a two-piece swimsuit. Like many people, I have scars from childbirth and other imperfections I might sometimes wish were otherwise. However, since my main goal is to expose as much of my body to the sun as possible each time I am out in it, I have made a conscious decision to look past my own body issues for the sake of my health.
If you are female and aren’t comfortable wearing a two-piece suit in public, I highly recommend laying out in the sun in the privacy of a fenced backyard or other similar environment at least several times weekly, with as much of skin exposed to the sun as possible. Gradual and moderate exposure is key to avoiding sunburn and getting immense benefits of Vitamin D from the sun. I can’t say enough about the positive elevation in my mood and improvement this has had on my health, especially when the weather isn’t warm enough to permit paddleboarding or other water activity, but is still warm and sunny enough for sunbathing.
This year I started exposing my bare skin to the sun for roughly 1/2 hour each day in March, and by late April I already had a good base tan and was able to increase my time in the sun each day without burning. I plan to continue doing this through October and possibly early November (weather depending), which will be beyond the days when the temperature would allow for lake swimming, beachcombing, and paddleboarding.
I highly recommend reading The Vitamin D Solution: A 3-Step Strategy to Cure Our Most Common Health Problems by Michael F. Holick, M.D., PhD., and discover fascinating research which reveals just how important Vitamin D from the sun is for preventing many chronic diseases and illness experienced by modern populations.
Here in southwestern Idaho, outdoor water sports are not an activity to indulge in year-round, but I am so grateful and happy that my family can do this during the hotter months of the year, which are roughly 4 months in duration. If you are fortunate enough to live in a region where you have access to fresh or salt water, you may be able to participate in water activities more months during the year, or even year-round (how awesome is that!). No matter whether you live near water, you can obtain daily benefits from sun exposure … which I recommend you start as soon as possible, if you haven’t already.
What if I don’t have access to a local water resource, don’t want to invest in a paddleboard, or simply don’t have an interest in paddleboarding?
This activity won’t necessarily appeal to or work for everyone. But finding an activity you do enjoy and have aptitude or interest in, and getting outside in the sun, dirt, and/or water is vitally important for your health. I highly recommend cultivating whatever your own interest and inclinations are, whether it is biking, hiking, sailing, swimming, gardening, sunbathing, fishing, running, dancing, walking, horseback riding, yoga, or other. Making the effort to be outside, exposed to sun, dirt, and water, or at least several times weekly can provide immense benefits to your health.
If you are budget conscious, just getting outside and being in the sun, dirt, or around water is in many cases, free, or only requires the cost of gas to get there in your vehicle. Going outside in your own yard costs nothing, and you can avoid gas expense if you walk or bike to your preferred location for outdoor fun.
Why diet matters
I also consume a traditional foods diet, which includes fermented foods, plenty of traditional fats such as butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, lard, and tallow, and broths made from the bones of animals and birds on pasture which are abundant sources of Vitamins A, D, K2, and minerals. Vitamin A is critical to fortifying the skin and to aiding the body in absorption of Vitamin D obtained from our diets, as well as the sun. Read more about the benefits of nutrients from food and the sun for our health from these helpful articles posted on the Weston A. Price Foundation web site.
I also avoid processed foods, vegetable oils and industrial fats such as canola, soybean, and corn oils, and artificial butter products, refined sugar, and eat very few grains. These ingredients contribute to chronic illness and disease, and our body’s inability to absorb Vitamin D from the sun, and can also contribute to sunburn.
I have found that the nutrients in real foods have enabled me to avoid sunburn and achieve a deep tan. Typically, I only spend 8-10 hours weekly in the sun, sometimes less depending on my daily schedule. Over the last few years, I have witnessed my ability to tan and not burn has increased as I continue to expose myself to regular sunlight during warm and hot days, and eat a diet of traditional foods. Although my son and husband spend less time outdoors than I, they have also noticed beneficial effects, both from eating a traditional diet and spending time outdoors in the sun, dirt, and water.
What activities do you enjoy which allow you to get exposure to sun, dirt, water, and air?