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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.
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
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
- stomach aches/poor digestion
- food borne illness
- low energy
- thyroid regulation
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.