7 Benefits of Sea and Sun for Autoimmune Conditions

7 Benefits of Sea and Sun for Autoimmune Conditions

Megan Essential Oils & Supplements, Health & Nutrition 22 Comments

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I’ll tell you a 2-part story.

The first part happened almost 2 years ago when our family traveled to California to visit Disneyland. At that time I had some rather extreme food sensitivities. I got a terribly itchy set of blisters and inflammation on my fingers if I ate any raw vegetables, chicken, beef or lamb. My diet was limited to cooked vegetables, pork, eggs and seafood.

After a few days in CA I needed to eat chicken. We were in our hotel room with a cooler-full of GAPS-friendly food that we’d brought along. The rest of my family was eating chicken soup. There weren’t a bunch of alternatives. So I tried it, very reluctantly, expecting a flare and regret. Yet I didn’t have a breakout.

In general I felt well in an unusual and vibrant way and sensed that the California climate was benefiting my health. Over the course of the week this proved true. I dared to eat the foods that just one week before had caused a flare, but I remained symptom-free.

When I returned home to Oregon the food sensitivities remained in my past. The trip had apparently propelled my healing to a new level. While the low stress environment of having a vacation was certainly beneficial, I believe the warmer climate was key, allowing me to synthesize more vitamin D. Despite all my (yes, helpful) efforts with supplements and methods of detoxification, it was the change in climate that my body needed.

7 Benefits of Sea and Sun for Autoimmune Conditions

 

My husband and I actually (briefly) discussed moving to a sunny climate after that trip, because the sun’s effect on my body was so profound. One source states vitamin D “improves autoimmune protection.” (source)

Part 2 of the story began a month ago, when we departed for a 3-week trip to the sunny Bahamian islands. Honestly, I had forgotten Part 1 until we got back! But as I meditated on Part 2, Part 1 rushed back into my memory.

We learned quickly that our grocery options were limited on the islands: very little organic or grass-fed, lots of available grains and processed foods (sadly) and an abundance of starches. We chose to eat white rice and sweet potatoes regularly (which we usually limit) so we’d have enough to eat. We hoped our Paleo/GAPS Diet bodies would digest the foods well, which, surprisingly they did.

During the trip my energy levels soared. I never got stomach aches (which I occasionally get here in the States), even when I missed adding in digestive aids like bitters or Betaine HCl! My youngest son, who for as long as we can remember has had little bumps all over his legs, had this symptom disappear entirely. My daughter’s stubborn eczema on a small spot of her shoulder went away. (Dermatologists have often affirmed the phenomenon of sea water healing skin ailments. [source])

We attribute some of our improvements to the sunshine and some to the sand and ocean. As I’ve discussed before in my articles about grounding (also called earthing), connectivity to the earth (like going to the beach provides) indeed re-balances our bodies. Our organs get more energy for effective function and healing from the earth’s negative ions.

Toward the end of our trip I ingested a toxin from a local fish. I had an upset stomach for a few days and decreased energy intermittently. I got into the ocean water one day when my energy was particularly low (no good sitting in our rental cottage!) and felt a surge of happiness, wellness and a spike in energy. Amazing!

(By the way, if you ever have food poisoning that affects your bowels, I recommend this. I didn’t have activated charcoal with me, so instead I increased my zinc and took the above linked-to prebiotic, excellent for colon health, the immune system and gut healing. I didn’t figure out the cause of my tummy trouble right away, but once I did and treated it, my bowels improved dramatically from that point on, and I was fully well quickly.)

What does the ocean provide that vitamin D from the sun does not?

Ocean water is mineral rich. It contains calcium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, sulfate and potassium. (The practice of

Benefits of Sea and Sun for Autoimmune Conditions

An 18th-century British physician named Richard Russell popularized the use of sea water therapy.

intentionally swimming in mineral-rich water is called balneotherapy.) The sea heightens circulation and the immune system.

Our pores are opened, too, allowing our bodies to absorb trace elements and to usher out toxins. Even inhaling the sea mist is beneficial, as it contains negative ions. (source) Negative ions help our bodies to absorb more oxygen; and they help regulate seratonin levels. Yes, I slept beautifully during our travels!

The sea is also rich in iodine, a supplement my body responds well to, and one that helps to regulate the thyroid. I have Hashimoto’s; so for me especially, ocean water may be powerfully balancing and energizing. (source)

What about swallowing small amounts of ocean water? Yes, it’s beneficial! Swimming will quickly get you coughing up phlegm. And any ingested water is great at cleaning toxins from the colon. (source and source)

The ocean and swimming also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in a calm state, efficient organ function and a healthy brain-gut connection!

As aforementioned, traveling to a tropical, sunny location invites low stress and an active lifestyle. These factors add to the benefits that are already being provided from the sun and ocean, contributing to proper detoxification and overall wellness. And living near the coast has been proven to increase physical activity. (source)

In conclusion, what health issues and autoimmune symptoms were affected by our exposure to sun and sea?

  • food sensitivities
  • eczema
  • stomach aches/poor digestion
  • food borne illness
  • low energy
  • thyroid regulation
  • detoxification
  • sleep

Leading health websites tell us, “Autoimmune diseases are chronic conditions with no cure. Treatment involves attempts to control the process of the disease and to decrease the symptoms, especially during flare-ups.” Ironically, limiting sun exposure is one of several medical recommendations for controlling the disease. (source) While the sun and surf did not cure me, my exposure to nature improved my symptoms and overall feeling of well-being.

I’d like to hear from you. What have your healing experiences been from sand, sun and surf?

  • Renee Kohley

    THIS THIS THIS! Megan my Hashis flares every November…it is so frustrating. I am doing light therapy and supplementing vitamin D this winter and I seem to be better than my usual actually. We have tossed around jokingly that we need to move to a warmer climate for me as I am so affected by the lack of sun. I feel a difference when we are at the beach all summer too however our water is not the sea – it is a lake. But our sand is super rich in minerals – I wonder if there is benefit to our waters here on Lake Michigan…

  • Megan Stevens

    I really appreciate hearing your experience, too!! I haven’t done light therapy before. I guess that and sole are things I need to add in. I think you’re right, that your lake must be high in minerals, too, and very beneficial to swim in. The cold water would offer hydrotherapy in the fall and winter months, but…!!! That would be a hard pill to swallow on a regular basis! Blessings…!

  • Marjorieann1977

    This is so true! My eczema is so much better in the summer months when I can soak up the sun!

  • This is so wonderful, Megan! We’re in Houston, so sunny (and humid) are our specialties 😉 But I definitely notice my son’s eczema (which has nearly healed after a year on GAPS) still slightly flares almost immediately when the weather turns cold. Are you familiar with halotherapy (“salt spas”)? It has miraculously healed my mother in law’s chronic, degenerative lung condition and is claimed by some to help with eczema and other skin conditions too. There’s some literature support for lung benefits, but not as much for skin. But might be worth looking into as a supplemental therapy if there are any in your area?

  • Emily @ Recipes to Nourish

    This is so fascinating! I loved reading about this and your experiences on both trips. It truly is amazing what the sea can do and how healing she can be. I’m so thrilled to hear how vibrant and well you felt while you were on your trip!

  • linda spiker

    Your trip looked so amazing Megan! I am a big believer in sun and sea for autoimmune diseases. My dad had psoriasis and it always got better in the summer when we spent more time in the sun. xo

  • Dina-Marie @ Cultured Palate

    This looks like a wonderful trip! I have been suffering from eczema and can’t wait until summer. We live in dry west Texas so we are definitely missing the humidity!

  • I never ever would think that swallowing ocean water would be beneficial! ha!

  • Megan Stevens

    😉 Kind of like a neti pot! (or an enema) Not pleasant but… 🙂

  • Megan Stevens

    Aw yes, indeed. We used to live in East Texas, and there I did not trust all the man-made lakes; they harbor disease. Maybe you could head south to the ocean water this summer!

  • Megan Stevens

    That’s great to know, about your dad. I really love hearing so many testimonies supporting what we experienced and what I’ve read. xo too! 🙂

  • Megan Stevens

    Thank you, love! At least you’ve got the sun down there, even if you don’t have sea super close…

  • Megan Stevens

    Yes! I’ve read especially about the salt spas in Israel. Where did your MIL go for her therapy? Thank you for the suggestion!

  • Megan Stevens

    Yes! Cool. Thanks for sharing!

  • She initially drove to Austin a couple times/week, but one opened up in Houston several months ago and she’s been going there 2-3 times/week. They’re actually in the process of building an addition onto their house to create a salt room and sauna in their master bath! And they live just across the street…thinking we’ll be spending a little more time over there once it’s finished! 😀

  • Living in Texas for the past five years (I previously lived in eastern Kansas), I’ve grown accustomed to lots of sunshine and warm weather. I’ve considered myself a lover of cloudy days and storms practically my whole life, but now I’m realizing my body craves vitamin D from the sun and when its gone for weeks on end, my mood dips. I’ve only swam in the ocean once (I know, right?!), but it was glorious and made me feel amazing. I’d love to do it again after reading your story.

  • Megan Stevens

    I’d love you, too, to have lots of ocean swimming in your future!! 😉 The Bahamas were cool, because many beaches did not have breakers– so no dangerous waves to worry about, so freeing! I’ve had the same history as you in regard to my love for cloudy weather and storms. Only as I “age” do I find I now love summer and sun best of all. Quite a change!

  • Josefin Moberg

    I have just returned from a sunny week in Tenerife and read this now! living in sweden I barely get daylight in winter time and this winter i have been very ill with my chronic fatigue and lyme disease. I was on tge verge of not going but decided to give it a try and it was soooo worth it! I still don’t get how it is possible that I was so well during the stay. From day nr two all my pain was gone and my enegy levels where so much higher! I do think it has to do about the sun, not only vitamin d since i supplement with that, and also i have seen reasearch lately on bigger health benefits from sun then from vitamin d supplements.
    But since I am allready worse again now after three days without sun I don’t think the sun did it all for mer. I have suspected sensitivity against mold before and this trip strengthen that since the complex we where living in was super dry (we both got dried out and even had bleeding from our noses!).
    There is usually the opposit problem when going to sunny exotic places- humid and full of mold in the buildings.
    Thank you for your blogging! /Josefin from Sweden

  • Megan Stevens

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I’m sorry for how you are feeling now again and wish there was a better solution for those of us living without much sun during fall and winter. I just made sole (pronounced SO-lay) and am going to see if that’s beneficial. And there is light therapy. Have you looked into either of these? Sending love and well-wishes!

  • Betty-jo Melchiorre McKeon

    I’ve been saying this!!! I always feel great and energetic on vacation when it involves the ocean and sun…I even felt great in ireland.. I guess no stress, ocean air and sunshine puts me in remission..

  • lovelifelesson

    I too feel better in the ocean as I have recently decided to get a wet suit to get into the ocean after a visit to Catalina Island. Before and after photos show little to no inflammation and after swimming- not one painful night of sleep. I have lymphatic issues and have just slipped out of the thyroid roller coaster- I take Kyogreen with Emergen-C everyday and eat seaweed and veggies on a regular basis. Nature always has the best doctors!
    I plan on swimming a lot this summer without the wetsuit and for now- I am using a sauna to sweat out some toxins once a week.
    “Just keep swimming!”

    Prayers for healing and happiness.

  • Elizabeth

    I experienced similar results from a trip 3 years ago to Florida. I took my girls to Universal Studios by myself and I worried that my IC would flare with long, stressful days at the amusement park. Instead my energy levels soared, pain disappeared and I found I could eat whatever I wanted. After returning to Oregon, the adrenal fatigue and bladder pain came back, but not nearly as bad. It was like a “reset”. I’m thinking I need to plan another trip soon!