NorthStar Nutritionals Blog

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  1. Avoiding Sunlight Could Hurt Your Health: 7 Benefits of Sunlight

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    Maybe you’ve wised up over the years.

    Or maybe it only took one good sunburn to teach you a lesson.

    Either way, you’re probably spending little to no time at all in the sun any longer.

    Because the benefits of sunlight just don’t outweigh the dangers.

    Except…  what if that’s not completely true?

    What if there are benefits of sunlight that you’re missing by staying out of the sun so religiously?

    Because that’s what we’re here to discuss today.

    The ways you’re actually harming yourself, not helping, by avoiding the sun completely – and just what you can do about it!

    The True Benefits of Sunlight

    1. Bone health. Vitamin D is known as “the sunlight vitamin” and that’s because it’s possible for some people to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight alone. And while vitamin D is an important nutrient for many reasons, one of the most vital is that it protects bone health. To keep bones strong and avoid osteoporosis, you know you need calcium. But what many people don’t realize is that without vitamin D, your body can’t absorb the calcium. So getting enough vitamin D is key to making the calcium work.

    2. Heart health. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to heart disease. And your body uses the same vitamin D that keeps your bones strong to keep your heart healthy. So get some sun, keep track of your vitamin D levels, and protect more than your just your skin.

    3. Improves mood and mental health. Your body produces serotonin, a hormone that improves mood, help keep you calm, and allows you to focus. Time spent in the sun helps boost levels of serotonin without any additional substance, just sunlight. And the longer you go without sunlight, the less serotonin your body produces. If you just don’t feel quite yourself during winter months, it could be because you’re missing this very important benefit of sunlight.

    4. Lowers blood pressure. Along the lines of being calmer and happier, another benefit of sunlight is that spending time in the sun has been shown to help lower blood pressure – and not just because you’re calmer. Exposure to sunlight (but not necessarily heat) may promote the production of nitric oxide, which is a natural blood pressure reducer.

    5. Sleep better. Wouldn’t you like to sleep better? Not just for a night or two, but every night? Then make sure you get out some during the day. Sunlight helps control your sleep-wake cycle (also known as your circadian rhythm). When you first exposure yourself to sunlight, your body recognizes this is time to be awake, alert, and functioning. So that when night comes, your body recognizes that something has changed, and it’s time to sleep. It seems silly, or too simple, but it really does work.

    6. Treat, possibly even heal, diseases. Psoriasis. Eczema. Jaundice. Acne. Rheumatoid arthritis. Lupus. Irritable bowel syndrome. Thyroiditis. These are all conditions and diseases that can be treated – and sometimes healed – simply by reaping the benefits of sunlight. While research is still ongoing, preliminary results are incredibly positive.

    7. Reduce the risk of cancer. That’s right – cancer. Isn’t that why you stay out of the sun in the first place? But being out in the sun a moderate amount has been linked to lower rates of several types of cancers, including skin cancer.

    Finding the Sweet Spot

    Now, to be very clear – this doesn’t mean that you should slather on baby oil and go out at noon, the way you probably did when you were a teenager.

    There’s a reason you’ve been warned to limit your time in the sun, after all.

    The problem is that, while people were told to limit their time in the sun, too many people took it too far and have started staying out of the sun entirely.

    Doing so has robbed an entire generation of these benefits of sunlight.

    However, there are so many variables – skin tone, geography, time of year - to be considered that it is difficult to pinpoint the exact amount of time you should spend in the sun every day.

    Here are some general guidelines that should help you walk the line between getting the benefits of sunlight and starting to cause sun damage.

    • The lighter your skin, the less time you need in the sunlight. For very pale skin, no more than 10 minutes a day, in the afternoon, three times a week. Try to get sun on your arms, face, and hands. You know your skin, though. The key is to get sun exposure without burning.
    • The darker your skin, the more time you’ll need to get the benefits of sunlight. Some estimates are as high as two hours a day. Try to get sun on your arms, face, and hands. You, too, know your skin. Go inside before you even feel like you’re burning.
    • During winter, it’s very difficult for people in the northern two-thirds of the country to get enough sunlight to enjoy one of the key the benefits – vitamin D. A good rule is that if the shadows are longer than you are tall, you’re not producing vitamin D.

    The key with sunlight, as with so much in life, is moderation. Be smart about your sun exposure, yes, but don’t feel like you have to avoid the sun altogether.

    Look at everything you miss out on if you do!

    It makes you wonder why we’ve only been taught the dangers, and not the benefits, of sunlight. At least now you know!

  2. Can Sitting All Day Shorten Your Life?

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    all day sittingYou’ve heard the back and forth – one side says sitting all day is the modern equivalent of smoking.

    The other side says it’s not that bad, and anyway, standing has its own drawbacks.

    What’s the truth? Just how bad is sitting all day? What can you do to counteract its effects?

    In this article, we’re going to take a hard, honest look at what sitting all day really does to your body, and what it means to you.

    The Impact of Sitting All Day

    Here’s the truth: recent studies have linked sitting all day with some very serious physical conditions that can and will shorten your life:

    • Kidney disease
    • Chronic illness
    • Colorectal cancer
    • Mental health issues
    • And a shorter life expectancy overall

    But that’s not all. People with sitting jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease than people with standing jobs.

    In fact, sitting for six hours or more increases your risk of death by 40% - that’s forty percent – over people who sit for less than three hours.

    Which makes you wonder, just what’s happening in your body when you sit down?

    What’s Happening in Your Body

    As soon as you sit down, the electrical activity in your legs shuts down. Just as importantly, you start burning one calorie a minute. One calorie every minute, and that’s all.

    And the enzymes that help your body burn fat drop by 90%. All of that happens as soon as you sit down.

    Once you’ve been sitting for two hours, your good cholesterol levels drop by 20%. But don’t think that this is a good thing and helps lower cholesterol the way your doctor wants.

    The cholesterol that drops after you’ve been sitting for two hours is the healthy kind, the HDLs, that you want higher.

    After six hours, blood flow in the legs and lower body is diminished.

    So you should stand all day, right? Well….no. You shouldn’t stand all day, either. Standing all day is really no better than sitting all day.

    When you stand all day, say longer than two hours, you are at greater risk for a compressed spine, lower back issues, carotid artery disease, deep vein thrombosis, and more.

    If you can’t sit all day, and you can’t stand all day, what are you supposed to do all day?

    What You Can Do

    The good news is that there are steps you can take, even if you have an office job or spend a lot of time sitting.

    1. First and foremost, MOVE. Simply decide you aren’t going to be sitting all day. There is no such thing as too much activity or movement. Take walks, skip the elevator, park far away. Take walking meetings, instead of scheduling meetings where everyone sits around the table. If you get a phone call, wander the living room while you talk.

    2. Instead of sitting all day, take several short walks throughout the day. Don’t wait for a meeting or a phone call. Get up and take a lap – around your house, your block, your office. It doesn’t matter where or why. Aim for at least ten minutes of walking. Again, this isn’t aerobic exercise that gets your heart moving (or it doesn’t have to be anyway). This is just a stroll from one end of the hall to the other, a couple times.

    3. While you are sitting, remember to fidget. Just bouncing a leg or changing position can help keep all your systems functioning at a better level than simply sitting all day. If you’re going to be sitting all day, consider investing in a stability ball. Sure, they’re usually used in the gym but they make great office chairs – and they keep your body moving!

    4. Stand up every hour. If you really can’t leave your desk – or the airplane, or wherever – you still don’t have to resign yourself to sitting all day. Instead, stand up for ten minutes every hours. Sit for fifty minutes, then stand. You can still be in one place, but the change helps counter the damage sitting for so long is doing. Just remember to keep fidgeting while you stand, too!

    5. Think in terms of overall activity, not just exercise. Yes, you still need your thirty minutes of aerobic activity every day. But it’s not enough to get that and then keep sitting the rest of the day. Eight hours of sitting at the office, followed by another three or four in front of the television, just isn’t counteracted by a single thirty minute workout. Shoot for taking 10,000 steps every day, rather than taking your thirty minute walk or swim and forgetting about the rest of the day.

    6. Spend at least four hours during the day not sitting. This is on top of your thirty minutes of planned aerobic activity, remember. And it doesn’t have to be four hours straight. It just needs to be four hours total. Four hours broken up into ten minute walks, and time standing up, and stretching, and taking the stairs… You get the idea. But four hours is your goal.

    Sitting all day is bad for you. Standing all day is bad for you, too. Don’t get trapped into thinking you have to do one or the other. You don’t! Instead, refuse to sit all day – and move instead!

  3. The Ultimate Guide to Treating Joint Instability

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    instability jointsMost of the conversation about joint health is focused on arthritis, and that’s appropriate. But it also means that joint instability doesn’t get much attention – and that’s not appropriate. Because joint instability can be painful and difficult to live with in its own right. And surprisingly, joint instability can lead to arthritis. Instead of complaining about the lack of information about joint instability, we’re going to talk about it. Let’s look at joint instability, why it’s a problem, and what you can do to keep your joints healthy. Continue reading →
  4. Could Gum Chewing Be Linked to Cancer?

    chewing gumGum chewing can’t possibly be bad for you. It keeps your breath fresh and, for many people, it’s instrumental in kicking the smoking habit and losing weight. Chewing gum is a harmless habit, right? Not necessarily… Turns out, gum chewing – or at least some common ingredients in chewing gum - may actually be linked to cancer. Continue reading →
  5. 7 Food and Drug Interactions to Steer Clear Of

    Drug and food interactions Before you start taking any new medication or supplement, you ask your doctor about it. And that’s a smart move. But do you ask your doctor about the foods you eat? Probably not. Unfortunately, you could be missing food and drug interactions that are making your medications less effective – or even dangerous! Check out these seven food and drug interactions to make sure you’re as healthy as you think you are! Continue reading →
  6. Wintergreen Oil Uses To Boost Your Heath

    uses wintergreen oilYou’ve heard about menthol as a pain reliever. And capsaicin. But have you heard about the way wintergreen can relieve and soothe your pain, and improve your health? If not, you should know about them – because wintergreen oil uses go so much further than just flavoring your gum! Continue reading →
  7. Supercharge Your Colon Cancer Diet

    diet colon cancerColon cancer. Even the phrase is scary. And trying to get information can feel like wandering around alone in the dark. Well, we’re going to turn the lights on! You can protect your colon health and possibly even prevent colon cancer with one thing: diet. Start eating the right delicious foods, stop eating the unhealthy ones, and get on board with a colon cancer diet that can keep your doctor happy and you healthy! Continue reading →
  8. How is My Stomach REALLY? [Take the Leaky Gut Test]

    test leaky gut Are you suffering from symptoms from your head all the way down? Do you really not feel well, in spite of being “just fine”? Has your doctor given you a laundry list of treatments that don’t seem to be working? If any of this sounds familiar, we may have answers for you – finally. Because your symptoms may not be the problem at all. The problem may be in your gut. Take the leaky gut test, and learn if relief is just around the corner…   Continue reading →
  9. What’s My Healthy Sodium Intake? [Quiz]

    Intake healthy sodium You know you should limit sugar…and saturated fats…and yes, salt, too. But you’re not 100% sure what a healthy sodium intake really is. Or even if your sodium intake is healthy or way off the charts. Let’s be honest – it’s not so easy to maintain a healthy sodium intake every day if you’re not sure what that means. So, take this quiz and find out more about healthy levels of sodium and just how much you should be eating every day. Continue reading →
  10. Flu Vaccines: Pros, Cons, Myths, and Realities

    vaccines fluEven though flu season is almost over, it isn’t completely over. And you’ve still got questions about flu vaccines. There’s a lot of information out there about flu vaccines. Some people say they’re safe. Some people say they aren’t. What are you supposed to believe? While we can’t answer that question for you, we can tell you what we believe. We believe you have the right to make your own, fully formed, well-educated decision. So, in this article, we’re going to ask some of the most common questions and answer them as fully and objectively as possible. Continue reading →
  11. The Six Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking That Could Save Your Sex Life

    quitting smoking health benefitsYou know the health benefits of quitting smoking. You do. And yet it hasn’t quite happened so far. As it turns out, quitting smoking may be one of the greatest challenges of your life. You’ve heard the statistic: smoking is as addictive – and as hard to quit – as alcohol, heroin, or cocaine. And if you’re a smoker, trying to quit, you’ve lived out that statistic more often than you probably want to admit. But you’re not alone. In fact, 70% of all smokers wish they could stop. And the average smoker tries to quit between eight and eleven times before it finally sticks. Luckily, the more often a person tries to quit, the better their chances of success become. Since motivation is a key component of successfully quitting smoking, here’s one more health benefit you might not have thought of – quitting smoking can improve your sex life! Check out these six new health benefits of quitting smoking and stay motivated - Continue reading →
  12. The Shocking Link Between Sleep and Blood Pressure

    Blood pressure and sleepWhen you were younger, you probably didn’t even think about maintaining healthy blood pressure numbers. They were just where you needed them to be. Now that you’re older, it’s a little different. These days, your doctor is more likely to look closer at those numbers. And you’re more likely to look closely. Because you both realize maintaining healthy blood pressure is more important than ever. But what happens if, in spite of your best efforts, you just haven’t quite figured out the proper equation for keeping those numbers exactly where you want them? Maybe that’s when it’s time to look at how much sleep you’re getting. That’s right – sleep. Because sleep and blood pressure are linked in ways you may not realize. Continue reading →
  13. The TRUTH About Cartilage Replacement

    replacement CartilageYou may have heard about cartilage replacement and repair. You may have even started to get excited about it if you have sore, achy knees. After all, a joint is made up of bones, cartilage, ligaments, and muscles. The cartilage is at the very end of the bones, where they would rub together – except the cartilage acts as a cushion. When cartilage gets damaged or injured, you end up with creaky, stiff, painful joints. Which certainly sounds like a good time to get excited about cartilage replacement. Unfortunately, that excitement might be premature. Only a portion of people with problematic knees are eligible for cartilage replacement surgeries. The only thing you can do is research, ask your doctor, and see if this option is for you. So let’s look at closer at cartilage replacement and repair, and see if you could be a good candidate… Continue reading →
  14. What You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

    virus zikaGlobal health concern. Travel warnings. Spreading throughout the United States. The Zika virus is everywhere these days. On the news, in the papers, all over online resources. First, it was spread through mosquito bites. Now, it’s showing up in bodily fluids like urine and semen. Some people are even discouraging kissing. With headlines about “public health emergencies,” new cases showing up in our borders, and even fears about athletes attending the Olympics, it’s easy to panic about this new disease and what it might mean for you. But panic doesn’t serve you or your health. So, we’re going to cut through the sensationalism and the soundbites and look at the facts about the Zika virus. What is the Zika virus? How is it transmitted? What are the symptoms? How can you avoid catching it? And how concerned should you really be? Continue reading →
  15. What Physical Pain Does to Your Body

    pain physical No one wants to live with physical pain, let’s be honest. At the same time, though, people tend to think of pain as something you should just deal with….adults shouldn’t be crybabies…everybody hurts a little as they get older… But those attitudes are as much a problem as your physical pain! You should not “just deal with” physical pain. In fact, doing so can actually be unhealthy for you. Continue reading →
  16. 10 Ways to Help Make Joint Pain at Night A Thing of the Past

    night joint painDoes it ever feel like joint pain at night is worse than it is during the day? You’re going along all morning and afternoon, just fine, with your pain reasonably under control. Then night comes and your joint pain gets worse – and worse – until you can’t get comfortable, you can’t fall asleep, and once you do, you can’t manage to stay asleep. It’s enough to make you dread getting in bed. The pressure points, having to roll over, risking tweaking a joint because you turned the wrong way or because you got twisted in the blankets. But you can put that dread to bed because we’ve got ways to help you make joint pain at night a thing of the past! Continue reading →
  17. Is My Heart Healthy Enough for Sex [Take this heart-sex quiz now]

    sex-heartYour heart should be healthy enough for sex – but you’re still a little concerned. After all, it’s your heart. And you’re not a kid any longer. It’s easy to still have lingering doubts. How does your doctor know for certain? How do you? Well, it helps to know some basic information about your heart and sex, as well as to answer some very specific – but not too personal, don’t worry – questions about how your heart health may contribute to your sex life. So, we’re here for you. Take these tests. Between them and your doctor’s advice, you should be able to put aside any last, low-level concerns. Continue reading →
  18. Are There Different Types of Urinary Incontinence?

    urinary incontinence typesHaving a type urinary incontinence isn’t something most people like talking about. At best, it’s embarrassing. At worst, it can lead to social and professional isolation. But it shouldn’t be shameful, or a source of embarrassment, because it’s a medical condition, just like so many other medical conditions. In fact, nearly 13 million people are affected by some type of urinary incontinence – which is why we’re willing to demystify it and talk about it. Talk about the types of urinary incontinence and what, if anything, can be done about them. Continue reading →
  19. 10 Quick Tips to Soothe Dry Chapped Hands

    Winter brings snow…and hot cocoa…and cuddling by the fire…and dry, chapped hands that you just want to hide. Dry, cracked, maybe even bleeding hands are more than unattractive. They hurt! And exposure to the dry indoor heat and cold temperatures of winter will just make it worse. But you don’t have keep your hands hidden beneath the blankets or behind mittens! Soothe your dry, chapped hands with these ten quick tips that will do the trick and have you back to holding hands in no time. Continue reading →
  20. Is Your Nighttime Routine Helping or Hurting You?

    Routine nighttimeYou’re tired every day. You’re stressed every night. You toss and turn, unable to turn off your brain long enough to get to sleep. Or you wake up in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep. If any of these sound familiar, maybe the problem isn’t you – maybe the problem is your nighttime routine. After all, we know a healthy morning routine can make or break your day. Once you think about it, it makes sense that a nightly routine can be just as important. These suggestions can help make up a nighttime routine that will have you sleeping like a baby in no time. Not all of them may work for you, but feel free to pick and choose the ones that do. Continue reading →