Article #1: The Weather In Your Health by Mike Benton
It was many years ago. I was a small boy visiting my great-uncle on his farm in the back country.
On a warm and sunny day in early November, he told me, “Better pick all those fall tomatoes. Probably be snow on them by tomorrow.”
I thought he was joking, but I harvested all the tomatoes just the same, sweating in the garden in a pair of shorts.
The next morning I woke up and saw snow all over the fall garden. My uncle met me at breakfast. “It’s my wrist,” he told me. “Better than any weather vane. Always acts up before a snow or a rain.”
How many times have you heard people say that they knew a storm was coming by the “way their bones felt?” How about hearing people complain that they feel “under the weather?” How about yourself? Do you drag around when it’s cloudy and feel great only when the sun shines?
No doubt about it. Weather affects all of us in some way or another. Many people seem more strongly bothered by the weather than other people. Some blame the weather for that ache or pain, or their own poor health in general. But what roles does weather play in how good or healthy we feel? Is the weather responsible for the many symptoms that people feel, or is it something else?
How weather influences living things is what the science of biometeorology is all about. The biometeorologist studies how the daily and seasonal changes in the weather influence animals and humans.
These “weathermen-biologists” say that while changes in the weather affect everybody, about one in three people is extremely sensitive to these changes (like my great-uncle) and that they may express one or more of over forty different symptoms associated with changing weather.
For instance, pains in the joints or other parts of the body that precede a change in weather have been known since the times of ancient Greece. Rheumatism sufferers are the most affected—sometimes up to two days ahead of the changes in the weather. Many people with fractures, dislocations, burns, and even chafed areas or corns have a sort of weather barometer “in their bones.”
Other symptoms that accompany weather changes in sensitive people are migraine headaches, back pain, upset stomach, irritability, loss of appetite, severe depression, feelings of uneasiness, and so on. Some people blame all their ills on the weather.
However, it is important to remember that the weather itself does not produce weather-sensitive people. The sensitivity people experience with changes in the weather is a function of their own physiological makeup.
“A healthy, robust, and well-balanced person is rarely sensitive to changes in the weather,” says Michel Ganquelin, a weather researcher. Generally speaking, people who are overly sensitive to the weather tend to suffer from chronic diseases, and they react with pain to barometric changes.
A strong and healthy person can endure stress on several levels and not exhibit any signs of illness or discomfort. Weather is probably the most basic stress that all humans experience. It changes almost every day, and with these changes come new situations and stresses that we must adjust to.
The Weather Fronts
Perhaps the most stressful weather condition is the passing of cold and warm fronts. William Thomson, author of Climate and Health, believes that people respond more to weather fronts than to any other single weather factor.
A cold front coming through means more than just a drop in temperature. It also means complex changes in the barometric pressure, wind direction, humidity, and even pollutants and radioactive fallout may be carried in. All of these changes affect our bodies, our endocrine systems, our nervous systems, and our cardiovascular systems.
The biometeorologist, Dr. De Rudder of Paris, says that the “death rate often increases while fronts are passing.” For people in good health, fronts may only cause temporary feelings of discomfort. But for the person whose system is weakened, or who has undergone surgery or has high blood pressure, this feeling of discomfort can become something much more critical. Heart attacks often accompany weather front passages, and in general any disease which is aggravated by stress increases in intensity when a front goes by.
While a healthy person does not react as severely to the passing of a front as does a “weather-sensitive” person, all people experience many physiological changes that are being constantly modified by the climate and weather.
Weather and the Changes In Your Body
Here are some of the findings of weather researchers and biologists about how just one weather phenomenon—weather fronts—affect everybody.
- Blood clotting occurs faster just before a front passes.
- Fibrinolysis, or the dissolving of blood clots, increases after the passage of cold fronts.
- The amount of urine passed increases when cold fronts are passing and decreases when a warm front has passed.
- The blood-sugar level is changed by the passage of a front, as are the levels of calcium, phosphates, sodium, and magnesium in the bloodstream.
- The amount of blood in the body decreases and the blood sedimentation rate is lower after the passage of a cold front.
- White blood cells increase in number when the barometer falls sharply.
A Case History In Weather Changes: Rheumatoid Arthritis
In healthy people, the changes that accompany passing weather fronts are minor, almost unnoticed. In an individual with rheumatoid arthritis, however, the changes can be quite serious.
A seven-year-old girl who already had arthritis was asked when her pain was the worst. “Whenever we have a storm, my joints feel stiff and I’m sore all over. Sometimes I get stiff before the storm starts, and sometimes I feel better before it stops raining.”
Weather researchers have found that in 93% of all arthritic pain, there was a major change in barometric pressure. One suggestion for this affect is that people with rheumatoid arthritis have peripheral blood vessels that are easily constricted. The passage of. fronts often causes changes in these blood vessels, causing them to constrict farther, which decreases circulation and increases pain for those with arthritis.
A fall in barometric pressure also leads to a retention of water in the body. The cells of rheumatic tissue are not as permeable as healthy cells, so they retain this fluid more. This retention of fluid leads to the pain and swelling of the afflicted body part.
The weather did not “cause” the condition; the condition already existed, and the weather simply aggravated it. Besides arthritis, there are many other illnesses of the body that can be made more intense by weather changes.
The Weather Thermostats In Your Body
Obviously weather does affect all of us greatly. Depending upon how healthy we are, we can either shake off these effects or succumb to them. To understand a little more how weather affects your body and, consequently, your health, let’s look at some of the inner workings of the body as they relate to weather.
There’s a portion of your brain called the hypothalamus. It controls digestion, water retention in the body, how we sleep, and our body temperature. The front part of the hypothalamus tells us when to lose heat by making us sweat and opening up our blood capillaries to cool us off. The back part of the hypothalamus can make the capillaries contract which helps keep our body heat in.
In older and sick people, the hypothalamus does not always function properly. This is why these people seem to chill so easily in the winter or become overheated in the summer. Toxins in the bloodstream, brought about by improper diet and poor elimination, poison the hypothalamus. Dr. N. W. Walker has said that the best way to keep the hypothalamus healthy is by eating mostly raw foods. Noxious substances from improper foods can slowly destroy the hypothalamus, which is actually the body’s thermostat.
Notice, too, that the hypothalamus also controls such functions as appetite and sleeping. This might help to explain why weather, which affects the hypothalamus, can also make a person lose his appetite or have trouble getting to sleep.
The pituitary gland at the base of the skull controls the body’s metabolism in cold and hot weather. It, too, regulates the water level in our body for heating and cooling. The posterior part of the pituitary also regulates the temperature of the body as the temperature changes. It’s responsible for blood temperature, the perspiration process, and opening and closing the pores of the skin during hot and cold weather. A healthy pituitary gland can help us adapt to weather changes more easily. Again the best foods for optimum functioning of the pituitary are fresh fruits and vegetables, according to Dr. Walker who has made a close study on glandular health and diet.
If we keep the pituitary and hypothalamus healthy by proper diet, we can stay atop the weather more easily. A pure bloodstream from a proper diet, along with regular exercise, can insure the well-being for these two body parts as well as the entire organism.
Diet and Weather
Your diet can help you adjust to the changes in the weather if you’ll remember two things: 1) When it’s hot, you need more fluids for the body; 2) When it’s cold, you need more fuel.
People used to automatically change their diets to meet the seasons because they ate what foods were naturally available, such as fresh fruits and vegetables in the summer and the dried fruits, nuts and greens in the fall and winter. Nowadays, with supermarket and technological junk foods, people can eat the same poor diet all year round.
During the hot months of the summer, my own diet is chiefly melons, tomatoes, and peaches. These are high-fluid foods, and they help to keep the body water-cooled. The summer fruits are also high in potassium and sodium, which are important minerals in maintaining the bock’s water balance.
You do not need extra salt or any salt in the summer. . People that eat salt sweat it out during tie summer because the body is trying to eliminate it. The mistake is made that since salt is leaving the body, it must be replaced, so they eat more salt and the body must work all the harder to get rid of it again. Salt serves no purpose in the human diet, and its use in the summer (or anytime) is not recommended.
When the weather is cold, you’ll need more carbohydrates in your diet for winter fuel—not fats or proteins. A public health nutritionist in New York, Beverly Daniel, puts it this way: “In very cold weather, people need to eat a diet heavy in carbohydrates—like fruits and vegetables. Eating fat is a good way to get fat. Fats are hard to digest in summer or winter. About seven years ago, the army tested soldiers stationed in cold mountain areas. They always picked carbohydrate foods over fats and proteins for their body’s fuel needs.”
Dried fruits and the more-concentrated fresh fruits (like bananas and persimmons) are the best high-carbohydrate sources for winter needs.
Incidentally, a layer of fat is not a good idea in winter or summer. In a 1958 government test, overweight men did feel the cold less than thin people, but when the exposure to the cold was prolonged, the underweight individuals suffered less cumulative effects of cold stress than those with heavy fat layers. Without exception, the thin people also readjusted to the heat much better than those that were overweight.
So don’t use winter as an excuse to pile on layers of fat— unless, like the bear, you plan to sleep and fast until spring!
Another way you can better adapt to weather changes is by avoiding as much “manmade weather” as possible, such as unnecessary heating and cooling.
Humans have a definite metabolic need for fresh air to pass over their exposed skins. Especially while sleeping do we need an open circulation of fresh air.
By living in tightly-sealed, climatically controlled buildings all year-round, we lose our ability to readily adjust to weather changes. In the perfect environment for man, temperature extremes would not require artificial heating or cooling. Actually, air conditioning in the summer is a real newcomer, and with appropriate building design and dress, it could be eliminated.
Don’t make yourself uncomfortable, but do take every opportunity to keep your living and work areas open to the current weather. Don’t let “manmade weather” be your constant year-round environment.
Becoming Less Weather Sensitive
To become less sensitive to weather changes, improve your physical health and review your emotional attitudes. Weather sensitivity can be decreased by changing your lifestyle and the way you view the world. Weather sensitivity does change throughout your life, perhaps reflecting your strength and state of health. Infants and elderly people are the most sensitive to weather changes, followed by adolescents and adults. Young children are the least sensitive of all.
Ever notice how preschool children can play outside in the hottest sun or run around without their jackets in the snow? Their young bodies still possess boundless health and vitality that allows them to rise above the weather conditions.
We can achieve that state again, too, if we follow a few simple rules:
- Reduce your dependence on manmade weather (heating and cooling) while still maintaining a reasonable comfort zone;
- Eat a diet in our natural food (fresh fruits and vegetables) and eat in season—juicy fruits in the summer and more concentrated carbohydrates (dried fruits, nuts, etc.) in the winter;
- Fast or follow an optimum diet to detoxify your body so that it will become less weather-sensitive. This is especially beneficial for arthritis and those that complain of weather-related pains, aches and allergies;
- Exercise outside in the open on a year-round basis, even if only for five or ten minutes (if weather is severe).
- Spend more and more time outside in the open air and less time in buildings. Living in buildings removes us from our natural environment and increases our “sensitivity” to natural changes in the weather, etc. Besides paying attention to such physical details, you might also need to consider your weather sensitivity in a psychological light.
Adapting to weather changes may just reflect a difficulty in adapting to all changes in life. People who complain about the weather all the time may be “set in their ways” and be afraid or resist any kind of change—even a passing cool front!
Weather-sensitive people, according to the biometeorologist, Dr. De Rudder, are often very emotional, perspire profusely when nervous, color rapidly when annoyed, and rarely say that they feel well. Some of these people use the weather as a convenient way to blame their own negative feelings and emotions.
Then, too, weather sensitivity may also be a reflection of our general sensitivity to life itself. Highly aware people are tuned into all aspects of their environment, including the weather. Many famous artists, musicians, and writers have often discussed their oversensitivity to changes in the weather. Being aware of weather changes is one thing; having them dominate your life is another.
Weather You Believe It or Not…
The weather is the great equalizer of mankind. Rich and poor, old and young—we all share the weather again.
Like any other aspect of our environment, the weather is going to affect each of us in different ways. The way your body responds to the weather is dependent on your level of health, both physical and emotional.
You’ve heard it said that you can’t do anything about the weather but talk about it. Well, that’s not true when it comes to your own health. A healthier person does adapt to weather changes better than his sickly neighbor.
So don’t just talk about your health, do something about it, and you’ll never feel under the weather again!