By Celeste Cooper
Summer is thought of as the season of growth because there are longer periods of daylight and fewer cloudy days making sunshine plentiful. As the sun reflects its healing rays, our energy and our mood get a boost as our brain releases hormones to make us feel good. And, as the sun rests on our skin, vitamin D is made, which combats deficiencies that can lead to pain, muscle weakness and other health problems many of us already experience.
Being in the sun can be very good for us, but it doesn’t come without some precautions, especially for those of us with fibromyalgia.
Twenty minutes in the sun can:
- Boost vitamin D levels.
- Provide an opportunity to get up and get going.
- Improve our mood.
- Improve concentration.
- Improve healing and circulation.
- Boost our immune system.
- Improve sleep.
- Reduce stress and pain.
All of these things are particularly helpful for fibromyalgia. Also quite good is the opportunity to get in the pool and play with our children or grandchildren, do water aerobics, or aqua therapy. But, as all things fibro, hazards can pop up when we least expect it. What looks like a gentle slope can turn into a steep drop off.
Too much sun can:
- Cause skin damage and skin cancer
- Suppress the immune system
- Damage the eyes
Summer activity can take a toll when we aren’t prepared. For instance, dehydration during the summer months can affect several body functions.
Symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration include:
- Decreased urine output
- Urine is a dark color
- Increased thirst
- Loss of energy
Severe dehydration can be life threatening. If in doubt, get immediate help because seemingly mild symptoms can escalate quickly.
For those of us with fibromyalgia, dehydration can perpetuate:
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- Dysautonomia due to low blood volume.
- Unhealthy skin. Skin problems can be genetic, are more prevalent in certain skin tones, and other health problems, such as hypothyroidism or diabetes, can put us at a risk for problems.
- Bowel dehydration. Dehydration can also cause constipation, bloating, abdominal cramping and other symptoms. This is of particular importance if you have irritable bowel syndrome or you are on medications that can cause you to be dry.
- Dry mouth, dry eye, and other dry mucous membranes.
- Sinus problems.
- Decreased energy and physical exhaustion.
- And more.
But, we can still enjoy the benefits of summer if we play safe to stay safe.
Things we can do:
- Enjoy the morning sun. Typically, the highest levels of UV rays are between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Stay hydrated – summer is the perfect time to learn to enjoy the benefits of water.
- Avoid carbonated and alcoholic beverages.
- Replenish electrolytes as directed by your healthcare provider if you find you have overdone it causing you to sweat for a prolonged period.
- Wear sunscreen and cover exposed areas of your skin when you plan to be in the sun for more than twenty minutes.
- Wear a sun hat – As my skin doctor says… NOT A CAP!
- Avoid outdoor activity when it’s hot.
- Relish the sunshine from the shade.
- Enjoy the fruits of summer, which are rich in *bioflavonoids.
*Bioflavonoids are important super antioxidants that help our eyes and other parts of our body function better. They help maintain blood vessel walls and improve circulation, cholesterol levels, and liver function, as well as reducing other health risks and degenerative diseases. Bioflavonoids are found in many sources that are abundant in the summer months, such as red bell peppers, sweet peppers, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, gingko biloba, green tea, apples, tropical fruits, garlic, onions, spinach, citrus fruit, and berries.
Enjoy being able to go outside, my fellow fibro friends. I hope you will appreciate the detail of a flower. Looking at it closely with a camera or magnifying glass gives us an appreciation of details that often are missed. Spend time visiting with a friend. Have a picnic. Listen to the rhythms and tones of songbirds. And, as my friend Toni Bernhard says, find joy in the joy of others as you savor this summer.
~F. Scott Fitzgerald
Celeste Cooper, RN, is a frequent contributor to ProHealth. She is an advocate, writer and published author, and a person living with chronic pain. Celeste is lead author of Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain and Broken Body, Wounded Spirit, and Balancing the See Saw of Chronic Pain (a four book series). She spends her time enjoying her family and the rewards she receives from interacting with nature through her writing and photography. You can learn more about Celeste’s writing, advocacy work, helpful tips, and social network connections at CelesteCooper.com.