Summer is finally here! It's time for sun, and beaches, and barbecues, and more sun! I love the sun and it loves us too! Without it, life wouldn't exist, but too much? Well there is unfortunately such a thing as too much sun. Sunburn is only one of the side effects. Overexposure to sun can lead to sun poisoning, heat exhaustion, skin cancer, eye damage, and even speed up the look of aging. Does that mean we should avoid it? Absolutely not! Getting out in the sun helps alleviate symptoms of depression and seasonal affective disorder, regulates sleep, and can even support weight loss (and your mood) by increasing the levels of serotonin being released. It's also our best source of vitamin D which is crucial in calcium absorption and phosphorous regulation (meaning healthy bones and muscles), supports the brain, cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems, regulates insulin, and supports lung health. So how do we get all these benefits without going overboard? The key is to limit (NOT eliminate) your exposure. Our skin makes vitamin D from the UVB rays from the sun and this requires some unprotected exposure. In my research, I've found that the recommended amount of unprotected sun per day ranges from 1 to 15 minutes but overall, that amount of time is determined by skin tone. As we all know, darker skin tones will absorb more light before getting damaged. That doesn't mean you're exempt from using sunblock! What I recommend is applying sunblock just before going outside. By the time it kicks in, you've met your unprotected sun quota. Be sure to re-apply because it does come off with sweat and water and you will burn. For those who are of lighter skin tones, wait the full amount of time before going out. Broad spectrum SPF 50 blocks about 98% of the UVA and UVB rays, so that 2% is probably all the "unprotected" sun you really need.
Lets talk about vitamin D deficiency. Firstly, sunscreen doesn't cause vitamin D deficiency. Spending your life indoors or hiding in the shade does. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include osteoporosis, osteopenia, and brittle bones, chronic pain, fatigue, increases in blood pressure, weak muscles, and decreased endurance. In Chinese medicine, we call this yang deficiency. If you're unfamiliar with what yang energy is, read this blog post before continuing on. Now that we're all on the same page, symptoms of yang deficiency include everything above in addition to cold limbs, loose stool, and spontaneous sweating. Yang deficiency in specific organs can lead to crashing periods in the day, heart palpitations, difficulty focusing, poor appetite, sexual dysfunction, and difficulty urinating. If it gets extreme, you can develop what we call yang collapse. This conditions exhibits symptoms similar to heat exhaustion: cold body, cold sweats and chills, low blood pressure, confusion, dizziness, and a very weak pulse. Heat exhaustion might sound like it would be an excess of yang energy but think of it like your computer overheating and shutting down- the overload ends up causing the collapse.
Finding the right balance of sun is going to be different for everyone. If you're sensitive, use an SPF of 50 and make sure you're taking breaks in the shade, especially between 10a-3p when the sun is at it's strongest. If you're not, a minimal SPF of 15 has been shown to decrease your chances of melanoma by 50%, and premature aging by over 20%. When picking the right sunblock for you, always make sure it's a broad spectrum and try to pick one made with mineral zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Popular ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate and methyl paraben are damaging to the coral reefs and therefore, the ocean ecosystems. You can read more about this topic and discover reef safe sunscreens here thanks to Badger Balm. Lastly, if you do burn, treat it with aloe! You don't need to get fancy bottles with extra ingredients. Just get yourself a plant, leave it on your windowsill, and break off leaves as you need. If you follow all the guidelines above, you shouldn't need much!
Our first lesson in the basics of acupuncture theory starts here: the tai chi. Probably the most famous symbol representing the Chinese understanding of the universe. Everything in the known universe can be broken down into yin and yang, something and it's complement. Nothing can exist without it's complementary force because everything is defined by it's complementary force. I choose not to use the word "opposite" here because opposition suggests separation or conflict. In Chinese numerology, the number two represents division without separation. As you can see, though the symbol is divided into two colors, they are unified as one whole circle. Another reason why I choose the word compliment is because comparing yin and yang is relative. Take men and women for example. When comparing one to the other, men are yang, women are yin. If you were, however, to compare two women to each other, one being a ballet dancer and the other a construction worker, the former would be yin in relation to the yang of the later. To move a level deeper, there are yin and yang aspects within every individual. Referring back to our female construction worker, she may be yang while at work, but yin while she's home knitting.
As I'm sure you already know, yin and yang are more than a simple way of comparing and organizing things of the universe. It's also the fundamental understanding of how the universe works. The white represents yang: energy that rises, associated with the sun and day, activity, and the male gender. The black represents yin: energy that descends, associated with the moon and night, rest, and the female gender. The larger portions of black and white are representative of balance and harmony, and the dot of the opposite color in each half represents their root of existence. Let's start with balance and harmony. Think of a relationship in your life. If you're with someone whom you consider your equal, there's little conflict and what differences you do have can be used to strengthen your bond. If you're with someone and there isn't a balance of power, turmoil ensues (and we've all been there). The same logic holds true for everything else in the universe and it's where we acupuncturists do some of our work- harmonizing the relationships between organs so everything functions as it should. Now to explain the root of existence. Yin cannot exist without its root in yang and yang cannot exist without its root in Yin. Nothing can be entirely yin just as nothing can be entirely yang. If anything is purely one or the other, it actually creates separation and therefore death. To use men and women as another example, if one was to separate them from each other, the population would eventually go extinct. When we put those two aspects together, the symbol in it's entirety represents the transformative properties of yin and yang. Because each is rooted in the other, they have the ability to change from one form to the other, and continue to do so in an endless cycle shown by the buta-like shapes made with the larger black and white portions. We see this transformation every day as it changes into the night, or when children (yang) evolve into the elderly (yin).
A lot to be said of such a simple symbol, right?
I am using this blog...
to provide a basic education in the theories of acupuncture. I feel that the more one understands about acupuncture and how it works, the better connection they have to their treatments and the better their response. I also would like to use this space to give my professional opinion on some hot (and confusing) topics, offer advice in the grey areas of medicine, and answer some of my most frequently asked questions. If you have any questions or would like more detail on a subject please leave a comment or message me directly.