:: E X P O 5 7 :: HEALTH COACH TRAVELS to Montréal :: editorial

Old Montréal graffiti 
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a  b r e a c h  of  tolerance

Early, in March, I had an experience which made me realize that all of my tolerance for stress had been breached. I had negotiated years of extreme change in my professional and personal life.

I have been recovering for the past year from my employment at a hotel spa; the most unhealthy, unsafe work environment of my 44 years of work - more about that when I review High Tea at The Ritz in part two. In 2016, the HEALTH COACH research project bumped up against the future, and the future is not about health. Devastated, I was forced to ponder my job as a health professional and the future of the project.

Even more demoralizing is the increasing evidence on my massage table, of a health crisis in Canada, as most of the individuals I take care of join the epidemic of chronic inflammatory disease, extreme fitness and weight-loss dieting behaviours, combined with neglect and abuse of health that characterizes a culture of disease and injury.

... and then came that last, cracker-dog experience in early March ...

I reacted spontaneously by asking my daughter if she wanted to get away to Montréal for a long weekend. She immediately said yes.

I started by looking at hotels and phoned my daughter a week later to cancel the trip. Montréal is a has-been, I announced. What are you talking about, Mom? came the reply. The hotels we could afford were dreary, unappealing, with scores of bad reviews, and poorly maintained websites. It gave me a bad impression of Montréal. I was also waffling about the expense and the wisdom of such extravagance at this time. We could wait until I turn 60 and go then, I reneged. What? That's how many years away?

I kept searching and joined Airbnb (the invitation gave us a discount) through a Montreal bloggerMarie-Eve Vallieres and affordable air fare ($465. return - all costs included) made the trip possible.

Oh! The joy of five days, four nights with my daughter! The romance of a long weekend away in Montréal made our imaginations swoon with thoughts of transformative gastronomic, aesthetic, and poetic experiences; unique indulgences; character-filled boroughs; French, sophisticated street style: vive la différence!

I am not an experienced traveler, and that presented some challenges and tested my character. Having a good time is not something I excel at (if there is a calm down party, please get me an invitation), but I welcome the opportunity for personal development. I was curious to learn about myself as a traveler. I am also discovering life as an old person; I will share some noteworthy details ...

We had two months to save, plan, and prepare. We chose to travel in my birthday month of May, thereby avoiding the big tourist crowds, and events celebrating Montreal's 375th birthday, 50 years since EXPO 67, and 150 years of Canadian confederation. I favoured the cooler, springtime weather, especially for walking. 

My weekender bag expanded to include an urban backpack, a small, checked piece of luggage, and the hope that the trip might galvanize my resolve to take the next, big steps in my professional life.

P r e p a r a t i o n

Getting ready for travel can be as expensive as the trip. Here is a checklist of some considerations:
  • Outfitters: footwear; clothing: comfort - weather ready  (transitional, maritime); spa wear; luggage; an urban backpack
  • Body care: body sugaring, chiropractic treatments, skin care
  • Itinerary: purpose and goals of travel; reservations
  • Post-travel food has to be preplanned
  • Responsibilities: Can you pay the bills when you return? Who's looking after the cat? Time off work. Household supplies - you don't want to return to a dysfunctional situation, broke.
  • Basic Health Habits: this is a situation when long term consistency creates resilience, reduces stress, and helps recovery, especially true for an older person.
  • Money: I phoned my bank before I left and used their mobile app; learning how to activate and use it turned out to be one of my successes during the trip. The fully functional app was very helpful, giving me a quick account balance with many other features.
  • Mobile device travel plan/insurance: I phoned my service provider before I left home to take care of all details.
  • Food and hydration while travelling: After consideration of our options and the various complications involved, my daughter made us a lunch to take on the plane, and we bought fresh-pressed vegetable power drinks, and an anti-inflammatory shot for me at an airport vendor, once we were through security.
  • Security Regulations: you can take your water bottle, but you can't put water in it.
  • Health support: argan oil, oregano oil, tea tree oil, dental floss picks

::  E  X  P  O   5  7  ::
p a r t  o n e  ::  n o. 1 - 1 9 

My travel companion 
My daughter is my favourite person. She actively engages with her intelligence - I've never witnessed a more agile, ever-evolving intelligence - so that at any given time, when I come along with an idea or question, the feedback is thoughtful, decisive, and helpful. I enjoy doing everything with Clare; it's always more interesting and fun. Clare is my safe person; the person I trust the most. She is also my honest person, who cuts through any nonsense, especially mine. Add to that, the bonus that Clare is young and beautiful, and I will concede that we live in a physical world of appearances. I knew it would help us to be noticed and treated well ... more about that later 

The gift your child gives you is the opportunity to be your best self. You will be motivated to do the hard things because of your child; things you would not bother doing for yourself.

The gifts of age
My bohemian days are over. The last time I visited Montreal, I was invited to join three friends driving a van load of furniture east. I think I had a couple of days to decide. With vague plans of staying with my friend Louise's family and friends, and with very little money or concern, I said yes. It was a great trip. We spent all of our time in the quaint neighbourhoods of Le Plateau Mont Royal and Mile End; I did not see downtown on that trip. Louise and I saw Leonard Cohen in a 24 hour bagel shop, and took the midnight train from central station to a New Year's eve party in The Laurentians.

:: E X P O  5 7 :: 
This would be a very different trip, thirty-one years later. Carefully planned, indulgent; a mother-daughter trip of a lifetime. We had been entertaining the idea for years.

21st century technological tools like google maps, photos, online reviews, star ratings, blogs, and social media, help to plan a travel itinerary, but MTL cardinal directions are disorienting, especially on the ground. I suggest using the harbour and Mont Royal as directional references.
10 Travel Problems Solved by Technology

Compliments to Montréal Bloggers, Instagrammers, and websites: 
To Europe & Beyond, MTL Blog, Montreal in Pictures, Eater Montréal, Will Travel For Food, Montreal Food Divas, Local Montreal Food Tours  
jfsavariainayalimontrealismesttaavviim_lloydyellowillowpierre_damours_photovesia514ceeeskfrancisduvalnarcity_montrealarr_rosemontppmimilafollevieuxmontreal, 375mtldezjefflivemontreal

compare Winnipeg urban core population of less than 800,000 
to Montréal urban core population of more than 4 million people: 
overwhelming density, scale, volume, construction, 24-7 traffic
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We chose Airbnb for the value of having a condo situated on the edge of Old Montreal and downtown, near the harbour, with two queen-sized beds, and a washer-dryer - all to ourselves. We chose to support a woman entrepreneur. Airbnb is the grownup spin on a hostel, with some of the comforts of home, including familiar and comforting routines. We stocked up on snacks, sparkling and still water, wine, and cream for coffee. We froze, and took home, baked goods, like bagels. Some of the best food I ate in MTL, were the toasted St-Viateur bagels, cream cheese, and smoked salmon at the Airbnb condo. We were able to connect easily to Wifi and to our Netflix account. We walked to all of our destinations. I would choose to be in a different neighbourhood next time because downtown is noisy, everything closes earlier, and it feels lonely.

note: Airbnb is a disruptive, new form of, and an unregulated part of the travel accommodation rental industry, and some Canadian provinces are considering levying taxes and regulations in line with the hotel industry.

Social media is a useful tool to help record and tell a story. It works best if you develop your abilities in using these tools before your trip, especially if you are a novice traveller. I do not use Instagram, so the combination of distress and disorientation during the trip, and lack of habit and skill, resulted in my not taking photos or recording the experience in this form. Thankfully, my daughter, who is my blog photographer, saved the situation. Youth oriented, I am adding my part by coming out in this blog post as an old person ... stay tuned for more in  p a r t  t w o :: n o. 2 0 - 3 8 
and  p a r t  t h r e e :: n o. 3 9 - 5 7

Language: bilingual vs unilingual
Montréal is the second largest french-speaking city in the world. In one of the largest Alzheimer disease research studies (Canadian), the overwhelming evidence showed  a higher level of functional and cognitive ability in the bilingual group vs the unilingual group, even though both had advanced brain damage from the disease. 

Duolingo ★★★★ I used the app for daily sessions which grilled me on french language basics, and the progress was noticeable. However, this app loses a star because it is surprisingly rude, rather than encouraging, which just ended up being distracting.

My favourite way to practice: French Songs to Help You Learn French Faster

Health must be deliberately chosen, planned for, and supported pre, during, and post travel. Travel is also a test of health - one that I welcomed, curious to see if there were noticeable benefits from improved Basic Health HabitsI also viewed Montréal from a health perspective ... stay tuned for more. 

Rest and Relaxation vs Activity 
What is the purpose and goals of the trip? What do you need for your health? How do you want to feel when you return? Rest and Relaxation is a Basic Health Habit.

Basic Health Habits
I woke up the day before we went away at the exact moment of the full moon, unable to swallow. I responded to the infection  with a dose of oregano oil and water and went back to sleep. I continued with a couple doses of oregano oil throughout the work day. The benefits of longterm consistency of Basic Health Habits  in this situation helped my recovery. By the second day of travel, all signs of the infection were gone.


Winnipeg to Montréal 
  • 9:50 - 1:30
  • Private car downtown to Airbnb condo
  • 3:30 - 9 minute walk to Bota Bota , spa-sur l'eau: 4:15 facials, 5:30 Massage (90 min.), snack break, Nordic baths  
  • walk back to Airbnb - change
  • Dinner: to be decided

Old Montréal - Downtown
  • sleep in
  • late coffee/breakfast: Olive and Gourmando - stroll back through Old Montréal 
  • 3:30 Afternoon Tea at The Ritz - reservation
  • Dinner: to be decided 

St. Urbain - Mont Royal, St. Laurent Blvd. - Le Plateau, Mile End, Rue St. Denis
  • coffee/breakfast:
  • walk to the top of Mont Royal - view of city - St Urbain neighbourhood of Mordecai Richler, St. Laurent boutiques, best bagel bakeries, great restaurants, hipster central ... 
  • Lunch: to be decided
  • Birthday Dinner: L'Express - reservation

Lachine Canal - Little Burgundy - Saint Henri - Griffintown
  • Brunch: to be decided
  • Cycle Lachine Canal - walk back through Little Burgundy: Rustique, Atwater Market, Mamie Clafoutis, Founderie Darling ... 
  • Dinner: to be decided

Montréal to Winnipeg
  • Pack - clean up - recycling
  • 9:30 Breakfast
  • Walk along harbour and through the neighbourhood
  • Private car to airport
  • return flight home

Le Petit Dep 
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Power vegetable drinks
Whether it's a bra and spa wear marathon trial and buying session, restrictive air travel, or helping a flatlander power-house hills - these drinks, with added super foods, are best utilized in these demanding and stressful situations - we found them at pop up stands at the airport, at the ubiquitous Starbucks, and at dépanneurs and cafés around Montréal

Security Regulations 
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
On the return home, I forgot and packed a 400ml bottle of body lotion in my backpack. We were put through extra, unpleasant security checks and my lotion was confiscated.
Each month, Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport confiscates more than 900 kilograms of banned items mistakenly packed by travellers in their carry-on baggage. Some of these personal belongings are thrown out, but many other rare and strange knickknacks are sorted and put up for auction to help raise money for the La Maison Victor-Gadbois, a palliative care centre on the city's south shore. While much of the cache consists of confiscated bottles of water and sunscreen, volunteers never know what unusual oddments they might stumble upon. Last month's haul included several oddities, including a blender, a flashy snow globe and a lighter shaped like a gun. Although many of the items are not valuable on their own, volunteers say that as much as $50,000 has been raised for the charity in past years. Bargain hunters also say the auctions are as good as it gets for sale prices. CTVNews.ca Staff 

I felt pure fear when the plane powered up and took off - the Boeing 737 is the subcompact car of the sky; I felt the forceful impact as the wheels folded away, directly under my feet. The problem with fear is you don't know when or how it will end; it seems limitless at the time. It reassured me to identify with a nonchalant traveler and to observe their behaviour whenever I felt concern about turbulence. More about that under the topic: Storm shirts and a hug from Holt Renfrew in Part Two

Clare on Bota Bota, spa-sur l'eau with Habitat 67 in the background

I wonder if practice is needed to enjoy the spa experience? The policing of unfriendly, no-talking policies doesn't help, and poor equipment, like the impossible massage table face cradles, make it difficult to get comfortable and to relax! (Note: It is lovely to be with other people in quiet, relaxed mode, but someone hushed us the two times we laughed. Nour quickly helped me to forget about the face cradle.) Talking is allowed in the garden pools and lounge areas.

Bota Bota is a rare and dramatic setting that showcases the best of French creativity, and the best view of Old Montréal, the harbour, manmade islands of EXPO 67: geodesic dome and Habitat 67; all lit up at night, from the upper deck hot pool. It was the opening night of Cirque de Soleil's Volta, with open air music and lights, magically filling the city. This was a smart de-stress beginning to the trip. Reservations were made easily, without complications, and the welcoming, efficient intake process was friendly and helpful. I loved the Nordic bath experience mixed with bracing, maritime air!

Bota Bota garden 
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Bota Bota restaurant review ★★
Spa food favours the Bauhaus aesthetic with delicate portions, artfully arranged. ★★★★★ for the thinly sliced beets of the Beet variation. The red pepper tart with wilted onions, goat cheese and honey, On my mother’s table, was an interesting rif on pissaladière, but the crust was too dry, especially jarring served with arugula. Pluss for: creativity; great setting; good service - Minus s for: uncomfortable chairs and atmosphere; and for the pretentious and unsatisfying food. The outdoor eating deck was not open.

Valerie, post facial and massage

Marie-Céleste Package: Water circuit journey 90-minute Swedish massage , and a 60-minute Queen of the sea facial 

Best face forward: a relaxing facial ★★★
Tension builds up on the face first, and the head and neck have more sensory nerves than any other area of the body. This can help to relax the entire body. 

Swedish massage with Nour ★★★★★
The treatment unfolded in complete silence, and time stood still. Nour's treatment was generous and skilled. My daughter and I shared the couples massage room, although for most of the treatment I did not know if she was in the room ... the black-painted metal skeleton of the boat formed a room of unique enchantments; combined with the North African music of our therapists - I felt alone; on the edge of an expansive universe. One entire wall was covered with port holes, creating a panoramic view of the harbour, and I felt that I could reach out and touch the waves crashing at my head. My daughter later told me that at one point in her treatment, her therapist massaged her foot and head, simultaneously!

Montreal harbour from Bota Bota, spa-sur l'eau
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Thermal comfort
In internal, public spaces, you are at the mercy of other people; most are not healthy by any standard. The environment on an airplane is dryer than the Sahara desert. It was necessary to make many adjustments to the high heat and stagnant air quality in our Airbnb condo; the building hallways were poorly ventilated and stinky. Opening windows, even downtown, gave us healthful refreshment. For more information about healthy Thermal Comfort Standards, please visit: Basic Health Habit No.11: Hygiene

Things that can go wrong
The magic dice assured us there would be no air turbulence during our flight, our luggage arrived safely, and we suffered no crime, but we experienced:
  • delayed communications about check-in to our Airbnb accommodations, and transportation arrangements from the airport
  • wrong information about the condo location - but easily solved
  • physical and emotional stress beyond our coping skills in the late night situation at the end of a long day of travel, combined with hunger, and dehydration
  • feeling lost and overwhelmed 

You can't always do your best
Sleep deprivation the night before the departure day resulted in a condition I call raggedy eye, where the edge of an eyelid becomes frayed and scratches the eye ball when blinking (the average person blinks 15-20 times per minute). The only fix is sleep, so if you are hours away from bedtime, you are in for some misery. Your eye will water and you will be unable to focus or to see anything properly. You will be in constant and unrelenting pain. Combined with hunger and dehydration, hostility and alienation (stress default behaviours), and other miseries; you will be busy resisting the urge to run home screaming. 

Music you love can be used as torture
So there we were, thrown into the deep end of a bottomless, mean city of more than four million. Our basic physiological needs toyed with: hungry, dehydrated, tired, estranged and scared; we wandered deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of haunted streets of Old Montreal in search of basic sustenance. Everything was closed. The following weekend would usher in an endless wave of tourists, festivities, heat, and humidity. The following weekend, Montréalers would take off their winter coats and boots (I was the first person to wear sandals in downtown Montréal, May 12th, 2017), terraces would finally open, and markets would start a new season. But not this weekend. 

Everything was closed.

At last we arrived at a noisy place; a restaurant by day - nightclub after dark. The sound was so loud it hurts me still. The burgers were great (the only choice), the beer was not. The french lad who served us was valiant and victorious, making us smile, laugh, and helping to restore us - morally, in the end.

end of part one

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Part Two: How Are You Treating Life?
Old Montreal and Downtown


Basic Health Habit No.8: Sunlight

UVB, UVA, and Melanoma

Exposure to sunlight causes vitamin D to be produced in your skin. But only a portion of the solar spectrum, known as ultraviolet B (UVB), has this effect. Ultraviolet B rays are strongest at noon.

Sunshine is a basic health habit. Exposure to sunlight is the best source of vitamin D. However, due to increased UVR levels, this is the one basic health habit that requires careful moderation individually.

Other parts of the solar spectrum can have very different and even harmful effects. UVA can cause cancerous mutations, and can also break down the vitamin D formed in your skin after outdoor UVB exposure.

Vitamin D is a potent defense against melanoma. Melanoma cells convert it to calcitriol, which causes tumour growth inhibition and apoptotic cell death in vitro and in vivo.

New research shows that increased UVA exposures and inadequately maintained cutaneous levels of vitamin D, promote melanoma.

cover up

Sun Protection Behaviour (SPB)
To reduce your ultra violet radiation (UVR) 
exposure risks
    • There are natural ways to protect yourself from sunburn that you can use instead of toxic sunscreens. Two non-toxic ingredients that scatter both UVB and the more damaging UVA rays are the natural minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
    • The most obvious and safest option is to put on a long sleeved shirt, pants and a hat once you’ve reached your limit of sun exposure: 15 minutes maximum for fair-skinned individuals who burn and peel. 
    • UVR exposure risks can be influenced by: poor health, melanin content of skin, skin health, UVR over-exposure, geography, seasons, sun elevation, latitude, cloud cover, altitude, ozone, ground (or water) reflection, neglect of basic health habits, cutaneous levels of vitamin D, unhealthy aging, health complications, illness, medications, and surgery.
    • Know your limit. Cover up and wear a hat. UVR exposure still happens in the shade.

    As sunlight passes through the atmosphere, all UVC and approximately 90% of UVB radiation are absorbed by ozone, water vapour, oxygen and carbon dioxide. UVA radiation is less affected by the atmosphere. Therefore, the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface is largely composed of UVA with a small UVB component.

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    The Circadian Control of Skin and Cutaneous Photodamage

    Biologically, light, including ultraviolet (UVR) radiation, is vital for life. Natural protection against UVR damage has been affected by lifestyle changes over the past century, including changes in our sun exposure due to working environments, and the use of sunscreens. 

    In addition, extended day time through the use of artificial light contributes to the disruption of our circadian rhythms; the daily cycles of changes in critical bio-factors, including gene expression. Circadian disruption has been implicated in many health conditions, including cardiovascular, metabolic, and psychiatric diseases, as well as many cancers. The pineal hormone, melatonin, plays a role in both circadian regulation, as well as protection from UVR skin damage.

    UV light in the eye activates a chemical known as the melanocyte-stimulating hormone which makes the skin thicken and go brown to protect it from harmful ultra violet radiation rays. 

    Light in the eye is an important factor. It helps to short-circuit the body's natural defence mechanism against the sun. Sunglasses reduce the amount of ultra-violet light reaching key areas of the eye, tricking the brain into believing less harmful rays have penetrated the body.

    Please visit:

    Summer Picnic Menu 

    Human skin is repeatedly exposed to various DNA-damaging environmental influences and therefore requires numerous endogenous (internal, physiological) mechanisms to protect against, reduce, and to repair damage. Human skin has developed many defence mechanisms to guard against environmental stress and the damaging effects of UVR: epidermal thickening; the stimulation of melanin synthesis; the synthesis of vitamin D3; DNA repair mechanisms and apoptosis, and antioxidant enzymes.

    Skin pigmentation is the most important photo protective factor, since melanin, besides functioning as a broadband UVR absorbent, has antioxidant and oxygen-free radical scavenging properties. Many epidemiological studies have shown a lower incidence for skin cancer in individuals with darker skin compared to those with fair skin. Melanin absorbs 50-75% of ultra violet radiation (UVR).

    Skin pigmentation influences the effectiveness of vitamin D3 synthesis in the skin as melanin competes and absorbs UVB photons needed for D3 synthesis.

    Hormonal Regulation of Pigmentation
    Tanning is determined directly by the response of melanocytes to UVR, but is also affected indirectly by a complex system of paracrine and autocrine factors such as hormones, cytokines, and growth factors, whose synthesis in epidermal cells is influenced by UVR.

    What Is Vitamin D? 

    Vitamin D (calciferol), is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is found in food, but it can also be made in your body after exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. Vitamin D exists in several forms, each with a different activity. Some forms are relatively inactive in the body, and have limited ability to function as a vitamin. The liver and kidney help convert vitamin D to its active hormone form.

    Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the absorption and maintenance of calcium for bone health, nerve and muscle function, and blood coagulation. The major biologic function of Vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. It promotes bone mineralization in concert with a number of other vitamins, minerals, and hormones. 

    The active form of vitamin D also acts as an effective regulator of cell growth and differentiation in a number of different cell types, including cancer cells. 

    Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with insulin deficiency and insulin resistance.

    Vitamin D Co-factors:
    How well vitamin D works depends on the amount of other vitamins and minerals that are present in your body. The other vitamins and minerals needed to help vitamin D work well are called cofactors. 

    To get the most benefit from vitamin D, you must have other cofactors in your body. The ones listed below are the most important.
    • Magnesium
    • Vitamin K
    • Zinc
    • Boron
    • Vitamin A
    Vitamin D Council

            Vitamin D Deficiency has been associated with:
            • Melanoma 
            • Adrenal insufficiency 
            • Alzheimer's 
            • Allergies 
            • Autoimmune disorders including Multiple Sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis 
            • Cancers of the colon, breast, skin, and prostate 
            • Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)Diabetes, Type 1 and 2 
            • Gluten intolerance, lectin intolerance 
            • Heart disease, Hypertension 
            • Syndrome X 
            • Infertility, sexual dysfunction 
            • Learning and behavior disorders 
            • Misaligned teeth and cavities 
            • Myopia (nearsighted) 
            • Obesity 
            • Osteopenia (low bone mineral density), osteoporosis, rickets, osteomalacia (adult rickets) 
            • Parkinson's 
            • PMS 
            • Psoriasis 
            • Use of corticosteroids 

            Vitamin D is not a vitamin. It is more appropriately classified as a pro-hormone. Not only is it a pro-hormone, it is a sunlight derived pro-hormone. The active hormone D, calcitriol, controls calcium in vertebrates. Calcium controls innumerable processes in the human body, including specific responses in muscles, bones and glands. Calcitriol is a major player in genomic actions determining how our cells express themselves and regulating production of numerous substances including enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters.

            Just one example of an important gene that vitamin D up-regulates is your ability to fight infections. It produces over 200 anti-microbial peptides, the most important of which is cathelicidin, a naturally occurring broad-spectrum antibiotic. Vitamin D can decrease your risk for common respiratory infections as well. At least five studies show an inverse association between lower respiratory tract infections and D levels. That is, the higher your vitamin D level, the lower your risk of contracting colds, flu, and other respiratory tract infections. A 2007 study suggests higher vitamin D status enhances your immunity to microbial infections.

            Vitamin D is an essential part of the endocrine system. It controls several adrenal hormones, the growth of cells, the production of enzymes.

            Hormones have DNA receptor sites, while Vitamin D is a part of non-genomic coenzyme systems. Vitamins A and D are both vitamins and hormones. Vitamin D is also produced in plants such as algae, as well as mushrooms (which are neither animals nor plants) exposed to ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation.

            Serum 25(OH)D levels should be in the 30 to 40 ng/ml (75-100 nmol/L) range for cancer prevention and optimal health. The only way to determine 25(OH)D levels is with a blood test which can be ordered through a physician or nutritionist. However, care
            should be exercised in the choice of a laboratory because the testing methods and quality of the tests may vary. In addition, since 25(OH)D and parathyroid hormone (PTH) are inversely correlated and have opposite effects on calcium in bones, it would also be useful to have PTH levels measured.


            Exposure to sunlight is the best source of vitamin D. Ultraviolet (UVB) rays from sunlight trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin. 15 to 30 minutes per day generally applies to fair-skinned, thin, younger individuals, with the more of the body exposed, the better. Darker-skinned individuals may require several hours per day.

            Melanoma rates in North America are rising as a result of unhealthy UVR exposure, neglected basic health habits, and decreased cutaneous levels of vitamin D. When you stay out of the sun entirely, you effectively avoid the system nature created to help prevent skin cancer naturally, because the key to unlocking this mechanism is vitamin D.

            Vitamin D goes directly to the genes in your skin where it helps prevent the types of abnormalities that ultraviolet A light causes. When you avoid the sun entirely, or envelope on sun block whenever you go out, your skin is not making any vitamin D, and you’re left without this built-in cancer protection.

            Dietary sources of vitamin D are generally insufficient to produce optimal serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D 25(OH)D since milk contains only 400 I.U. of vitamin D3 and 800 to 1000 I.U. per day are probably required. Fish oil with vitamin D can be consumed, but one should see whether and how much vitamin A is included. Vitamins A and D interact and you need the proper balance of vitamin A. Vitamin D is stored in blood for a few weeks and in fat for a few months. Some of the best food sources are mushrooms, liver, egg yolks, and fish.

            Sun exposure benefits your health by stimulating your skin to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D is a hormone-like substance critical for the vast majority of your biological functions, including:

            • Cardiovascular health 
            • Cognition 
            • Sleep 
            • Immunity 
            • Metabolism 
            • Bone health and strength 
            • Digestion 
            • Protection from melanoma and other cancers 

            Every cell and tissue in your body needs vitamin D to function properly. But it does more than just that. Vitamin D is different from other vitamins in that it influences your entire body. Receptors that respond to the vitamin have been found in almost every type of human cell, from your brain to your bones. This is why researchers are finding health benefits from vitamin D in virtually every area they look. For example, optimizing your vitamin D levels can help you to prevent as many as 16 different types of cancer including pancreatic, lung, breast, ovarian, prostate, and colon cancers. 

            When you get your vitamin D from appropriate sun exposure, your body can self-regulate and reduce vitamin D production if you don't need it, which makes it very difficult to overdose on vitamin D from sun exposure.

            D2 and D3

            Supplemental vitamin D comes in two forms: ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). Recent studies have shown that vitamin D3 is a more potent form of vitamin D. Vitamin D2 has a shorter shelf life, and its metabolites bind with protein poorly, making it less effective.

            One unit of cod liver oil (containing vitamin D3) has been shown to be as effective as four units of Viosterol (a medicinal preparation of vitamin D2).

            Basically there are two types of oral vitamin D supplements. The natural ones are D3, and they contain the same vitamin D your body makes when exposed to sunshine. The synthetic ones are vitamin D2, which are sometimes called ergocalciferol.

            Once either form of the vitamin is in your body, it needs to be converted to a more active form. Vitamin D3 is converted 500 percent faster than vitamin D2. Interestingly, it was previously thought that the kidney exclusively performed this function, However, in 1998 Dr. Michael Hollick, the person who discovered activated vitamin D, showed that many other cells in your body can make this conversion, but they use it themselves, and it is only the kidney that makes enough to distribute to the rest of your body.

            However, nearly all the prescription-based supplements contain synthetic vitamin D2, which was first produced in the 1920s through ultraviolet exposure of foods. The process was patented and licensed to drug companies for use in prescription vitamins. The vitamin D that is added to milk is not D3 but the inferior vitamin D2.

            Vitamin D Toxicity

            When you take large amounts of vitamin D, your liver produces too much of a chemical called 25(OH)D.

            When your 25(OH)D levels are too high, this can cause high levels of calcium to develop in your blood. High blood calcium is a condition called hypercalcemia. Hypercalcemia can affect iron absorption.

            The symptoms of hypercalcemia include:
            • feeling sick or being sick
            • poor appetite or loss of appetite
            • feeling very thirsty
            • passing urine often
            • constipation or diarrhea
            • abdominal pain
            • muscle weakness or pain
            • feeling confused
            • feeling tired

            In some rare diseases, you may be at risk of hypercalcemia even if you have low vitamin D levels and haven’t taken much vitamin D. These diseases include primary hyperparathyroidism, sarcoidosis and a few other rare diseases.


            Sunblocks are formulated to shield against UVB rays, while sunscreens protect against UVA. Broad-spectrum protection formulated sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

            Sunblocks and broad-spectrum sunscreen formulations block your body’s production of vitamin D  by as much as 97.5 to 99.9 percent. 

            Prevent Skin Damage
            Ultraviolet light from the sun comes in two main wavelengths: UVA and UVB. UVB helps your skin produce vitamin D. UVA penetrates your skin more deeply and causes more free radical damage. UVA rays are constant during ALL hours of daylight, throughout the entire year, unlike UVB, which are low in morning and evening, and high at midday. 

            Two non-toxic ingredients that scatter both UVB and the more damaging UVA rays are the natural minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. 

            What Makes Sunscreens Toxic? 

            A study in the April 2004 Journal of Chromatography found that there was significant penetration into the skin of all sunscreen agents they studied and it goes straight into your blood stream. Scientists are not even sure whether sunscreen prevents against melanoma. They’ve suggested that sunscreen may prevent sunburn, but may fail to actually protect against cancer because most sunscreens only screen out UVB, which makes vitamin D, not the UVA that causes most of the damage. Some studies have even found a link between melanoma and the use of commercial sunscreen.

            Vitamin A Toxicity
            Retinal palmitate and retinoic acid, two forms of vitamin A, may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight. Too much pre-formed vitamin A in skin creams and make up, including retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate, can cause a variety of health problems, including liver damage, brittle nails, hair loss, osteoporosis and hip fractures in older adults. EWG recommends that consumers avoid sunscreens and other skin and lip products containing vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, retinol, retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate, and retinoic acid.

            Cream vs Spray-on or Powder Sunscreens
            Choose a cream, not a spray or powder sunscreen. Mineral-based sunscreens contain nanoparticles. Research shows that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide do not migrate through skin, but inhaled nanoparticles enter the blood stream through the lungs. Further research is needed into the impact of these particles on the environment and into the safety of skin application. In the meantime, choose mineral-based creams. While you might like transparent options, larger white particles provide better UVA protection.

            As you can see from the list below, compiled from the Environmental Working Group: Skin Deep Website, there are lots of potential dangers lurking in your sunscreens: 

            Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate) The most widely used sunscreen ingredient, known for its low potential to sensitize skin or act as a photo-allergen. Estrogenic effects are noted in laboratory animals as well as disruption of thyroid hormone and brain signaling. Has been found to kill mouse cells even at low doses when exposed to sunlight! 

            Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3) Associated with photo-allergic reactions. This chemical absorbs through your skin in significant amounts. It contaminates the bodies of 97% of Americans according to Centers for Disease Control research. Health concerns include hormone disruption and cancer.

            Octisalate is a weak UVB absorber with a generally good safety profile among sunscreen ingredients. It is a penetration enhancer, which may increase the amount of other ingredients passing through skin. 

            Avobenzone (Parsol 1789) Primarily a UVA-absorbing agent, sunlight causes this unstable ingredient to break down into unknown chemicals, especially in the presence of another active, Octinoxate. 

            Octocrylene Produces oxygen radicals when exposed to UV light. 

            Homosalate Research indicates it is a weak hormone disruptor, forms toxic metabolites, and can enhance the penetration of a toxic herbicide. 

            Micronized Titanium Dioxide Sunscreens with micronized titanium dioxide may contain nanoparticles. Micronized TiO2 offers greater sun protection than conventional (larger) particles. These small particles do not penetrate skin but may be more toxic to living cells and the environment. Inhalation of powders and sprays is a concern. 

            Micronized Zinc Oxide See Micronized Titanium Dioxide above. 

            Titanium Dioxide Appears safe for use on skin, due to low penetration but inhalation is a concern. 

            Ensulizole (Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid) Known to produce free radicals when exposed to sunlight, leading to damage of DNA, this UVB protector may have the potential to cause cancer. 

            Nano Zinc Oxide offers greater sun protection than larger zinc particles. Comparatively little is known regarding potential health effects of nanoparticles. They do not penetrate healthy skin, and thus appear to pose a low health risk in lotions. Inhalation of powders and sprays is a concern. 

            Nano Titanium Dioxide Same as Nano Zinc Oxide, above.

            Zinc Oxide has a long history of use in sunscreen and other skin care products; little absorption and no adverse health effects are reported. 

            Padimate O (Octyl Dimethyl PABA / PABA Ester) A derivative of the once-popular PABA sunscreen ingredient, research shows this chemical releases free radicals, damages DNA, has estrogenic activity, and causes allergic reactions in some people. 

            Menthyl Anthranilate One study found that it produces damaging reactive oxygen species when exposed to sunlight. 

            Mexoryl SX 2 hours of sunlight can degrade as much as 40% of this active ingredient. Low skin penetration. 

            Methylene Bis-Benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol 
            Not an approved active ingredient in the U.S. Few studies exist on this chemical. It is photostable and does not absorb through your skin. 

            Sulisobenzone (Benzophenone-4) Can cause skin and eye irritation. Does not penetrate your skin to a large degree, but enhances the ability of other chemicals to penetrate. 

            Benzophenone-2 Not approved for use in North American sunscreens. Concerns about hormone disruption.

            Natural, Healthy Sources of SPF

            Moroccan Argan Nuts

            Argan Oil SPF: 47
            Carrot Seed Oil: SPF 38-40
            Raspberry Seed Oil: SPF 28-50
            Wheatgerm Oil: SPF 20
            Avocado Oil: SPF 4-15
            Hemp Seed Oil: SPF 6
            Macadamia Nut Oil: SPF 6
            Almond Oil: SPF 5
            Coconut Oil: SPF 2-8
            Olive Oil: SPF 2-8
            Shea Butter: SPF 3-6
            Sesame Seed Oil: SPF 4
            Grape Seed Oil: SPF 4
            Jojoba Oil: SPF 4
            Rice Bran Oil: SPF 2-4
            Sea Buckthorn Oil: SPF 2-4

            Fortunately, there are natural ways to protect yourself from sunburn that you can use instead of resorting to toxic sunscreens. Two non-toxic ingredients that scatter both UVB and the more damaging UVA rays are the natural minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. The most obvious and safest option is to put on a long sleeved shirt, pants and a hat once you’ve reached your limit of sun exposure (you can tell you’ve had enough right when your skin turns the lightest shade of pink).