Vitamin D and Sun Exposure: Shedding Some Light on The Issue

February 17, 2010

The media and healthcare professionals have highlighted the harms and consequences of exposure to sunlight, however, there are many important benefits to sun exposure as well, which are often overlooked.  Furthermore, sunscreen is often seen as the healthy choice for sun protection, but this also may have harmful consequences that rival those of sun overexposure that people are not aware of.


Sunshine is a vital ingredient for staying healthy and is your best source for essential vitamin D. Sunlight also provides you with numerous other health benefits such as fighting depression. In recent studies, vitamin D has been shown to even protect against several types of cancer.  Vitamin D is also important for proper absorption of calcium and in maintaining strong bones.


We hear a lot about skin cancer due to overexposure to the sun, but did you know that tens of thousands of North Americans die of cancer and other illnesses every year due to inadequate sun exposure and dire levels of vitamin D? In the U.S., the annual cost of treating illnesses due to the lack of sun exposure hovers around $56 billion – and only $6 billion is spent on treating illnesses due to overexposure to sunlight. Of course, it’s true that the sun can cause cancer when skin is exposed to excess amounts, so it’s important to avoid getting sunburned. But don’t avoid the sun altogether as it is still the best source of vitamin D and is better than taking it in tablets!


Most people are aware of the effects of Ultra Violet (UV) rays through painful sunburns, but the UV spectrum has many other effects, both beneficial and detrimental to our health. Darker-skinned people, however, will produce more of the natural skin-protecting substance called ‘eumelanin’, which may offer some protection from the negative effects of UVB and UVA. For starters, it’s important to be UV-knowledgeable; the sun emits ultraviolet radiation in UVA, UVB, and UVC rays and not all rays are created equal. The stratosphere filters out UVC rays, so they are of little concern. UVB rays are responsible for vitamin D production – something your body benefits from. On the downside, UVB rays are also responsible for sunburn and damage to the surface of the skin. These rays cause moles, skin aging and some types of skin cancer. UVB rays only make up a fraction of UV light. Looking at UVA in a “positive light”, these will not cause sunburn but rather a tan and they cause less cancer than UVB rays. UVA rays make up the majority of UV light. Unfortunately, the cancer that UVA rays do cause is the most dangerous – melanoma. It also contributes more to skin aging and DNA damage than UVB rays and often times is less effectively blocked by sunscreens.


Skin cancer represents the most commonly diagnosed malignancy, surpassing lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer. But despite what we have been led to believe, a reasonable amount of sun exposure reduces the risk of skin cancer because of the vitamin D stimulated by skin exposure to sunlight.


Another point to take into consideration is that skin cancers have been linked to a large disproportion in the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3. Our North American diets are often much higher in Omega-6 and may place us at a greater risk of developing skin cancer. Increasing your intake of Omega-3 is therefore very important to rebalance your Omega-6 to Omega- 3 ratio.


For more information about vitamin D, Omega-3 and Omega-6, as well as more tips for living at your best, check out Dr. Nathalie’s book Wellness On The Go at






Setting goals and shaping your future…with Dr. Nathalie

January 3, 2010

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Unknown

I often start my Wellness On The Go™ workshops with information about the importance of setting goals.  By a show of hands, I ask the audience to demonstrate how many of them have goals, and whether or not these goals have been documented. Throughout the course of my workshops I have come to recognize that very few individuals actually make up goals for themselves, which quite frankly shocks me. On average, two or three of these individuals will admit to having goals out of the fifty individuals in attendance, and typically only one of these people will actually have their goals written down.  I then ask the group what would happen if I got into my car after the presentation, not knowing my next destination. Where would I end up? Most people laugh and answer “nowhere!”—which is my point exactly. It seems like a silly question to ask, but if we don’t know where we want to go with our lives, where are we going to end up? We spend more time planning our vacations than we do planning our lives.  Why is that?  A goal is nothing but a dream with a deadline. Creating a road map is necessary if we are to become successful individuals.

Ask Yourself…

  • Have I established goals for the next year, 5 years, 20 years?
  • Am I truly living the life that I want to live?
  • Have I made myself accountable for what I want in life?
  • Will my failed goals lead to unwanted consequences?


Our goals drive us, they allow us to shape our future, and provide us with the ability to grow and excel in each of our endeavors. That being said, it is important to remember that in order to achieve our goals we must first document them.  When we do write down our goals something amazing happens; we become creators, creators of our own paths. Remember, what the mind can imagine, it can create: Anything is possible. HOW we are going to achieve our goals at the time of setting them may not be clear, but if reasons come first answers will come second. If you have a big enough WHY, the HOW will manifest itself—you will find a way to make things happen!

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein



Ask Yourself…

  • Do I have goals that have been left unaccomplished for an extended period of time?
  • Am I truly making strives towards accomplishing my goals, or am I hindering my own efforts either consciously or unconsciously?
  • Am I willing to look at things differently, so that things can change?
  • Am I open to new ideas or strategies that may positively assist me in the achievement of my goals? Where can I get ideas? Who could help?


Each year on the first of January, I take the time to reflect upon my goals from the previous year. I like to evaluate what I have accomplished, and review everything that has manifested throughout the year. It always makes me smile, how things have unfolded for the goals which had a strong  enough WHY even if I did not really know at the time how I would get them accomplished…amazing how that works! To continue, now that I have reviewed my previous year’s goals, I am ready to set new goals and design a roadmap for the next year’s journey. My successes motivate me to create new goals for the coming year and open up my mind to all the future possibilities.

My Goals, Categorized



  1. Personal development and relationships– What skills do I want to develop? What do I want to learn? What relationships do I want to create?
  2. Career– What do I want to accomplish? What kind of impact do I want to have?
  3. Fitness, nutrition and food for the soul– What level of physical fitness do I want to maintain or achieve? What can I do to improve my eating habits? What practices can I partake in that will cultivate my spirituality? 
  4. Material things and time savers– Have fun with this one – have I been dreaming about purchasing a new car or installing the latest home entertainment system? Or do I want to hire help for household duties, so that I can have more time with my family and friends? 
  5. Economic– What income level do I want to achieve? Are there investments that I would like to make within the next year?
  6. Legacy– What do I want to leave behind?  What do I want to be remembered for?


7 Steps Goal Setting Strategies


  1. Brainstorm each of the categories for 5 minutes, don’t think too hard and allow your thoughts to come naturally.
  2. Next, establish a timeline for each of your goals, whether it be a year, 5 years, 10 years or 20 years.
  3. Decide upon a few goals (three or four from each category) that you wish to focus the majority of your attention on.
  4. Now determine the WHY of each of your top three or four goals.
  5. Decide if the WHY of each of your top three or four goals is “strong” enough—does it empower you enough? If not, pick another goal from that category which does get you motivated and excited.
  6. After that, put your goals through the “SMART” system.


 S – Specific – Is your goal too vague? Specifics help us to focus our efforts and clearly define what we are going to do. Answered by what, why, and how.

M – Measurable – How will you know when you have succeeded? Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

A – AttainableA goal needs to stretch you slightly so you feel you can do it and it will need a real commitment from you. 

R – Realistic – To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. Your goal is probably realistic if you truly believe that it can be accomplished.   Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement!

T – Time-bound – Do you have a timeline? Putting an end point on your goal gives you a clear target to work towards.

  1. Finally, beside each goal – write one action step you can take this week to get you closer to your goal. (i.e.- If you want to start doing Yoga – Your action step would be to contact the Yoga school you wish to attend, and ask about their classes and schedule.)
  2. Make sure to place your goals in an area of your home, or office, which is frequently visited. The probability of accomplishing your goal(s) is increased when your ambitions are reviewed on a day to day basis.  (Stay tune for my article on vision boards and how you can create a powerful visual tool for your goals).


Finally, have fun with your goal setting – you can do this goal setting session with your partner/spouse or a close friend. Personally, I refer to my goal setting sessions as a shopping list, a shopping list to the universe!  Remember to THINK and PLAY BIG—the more successful and fulfilled you are, the more you will contribute to the people around you and ultimately, to the world. Furthermore, embrace the fact that what we can think about, we can create—leverage the power of your sub-concient to plant the “right” seeds in your brain and watch what can happen!

To living with passion, purpose and a plan!

Dr. Nathalie

Not sleeping well? Tips and Strategies for better sleep!

November 12, 2009

The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep

Do you have trouble sleeping? You’re not alone. An estimated 3.3 million Canadians aged 15 and older, or about one in every seven people, have problems getting to sleep or staying asleep – contributing to insomnia.   Part of the problem is 80 percent of North Americans say they believe it’s not possible to sleep enough and be successful at their jobs. As a result, 75 percent experience daytime sleepiness and 34 percent say sleepiness interferes with their daytime activities – that’s certainly no way to live.


Sleep is important for a multitude of reasons but mainly to rebuild, repair and recharge your body. When you’re asleep, your immune system is most active and repairs what it needs to while your brain re-organizes your cerebral ‘files’. Without sleep, you get sick in both mind and body.  

Symptoms of Sleep Deficit

• Daytime fatigue

• Poor memory, mental performance

• Irritability

• Depression, apathy

• Heart Disease

• Morning headache, wake-up feeling un-refreshed 

• Heartburn

• Need to urinate in the middle of the night

• Loud snoring

• Diminished sex drive

• Decreased exercise tolerance

• More than five pounds of weight gain in the past year

• Need for stimulants


Why Does Your Body Need Sleep?


Sleep Regulates Hormones and Prevents Cancer

Lack of sleep affects hormone levels. A disrupted circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle) may create shifts in hormones like melatonin. Melatonin is made in the brain by converting tryptophan into serotonin and then into melatonin, which is released at night by the pineal gland in the brain to induce and maintain sleep. Melatonin is also an antioxidant that helps suppress harmful free radicals in the body and slows the production of estrogens, which may activate cancer.

 A link between cancer and the disrupted circadian rhythm lies with a hormone called cortisol, which normally reaches peak levels at dawn then declines throughout the day. When you don’t sleep enough, your cortisol levels don’t peak as they should. Cortisol is one of many hormones that help regulate immune system activity, including natural-killer cells that help the body battle cancer.

 Heart Attack and Stroke

Lack of sleep has been associated with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both potential risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Your heart will be healthier if you get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.


When your body is sleep-deficient, it goes into a state of stress – creating an increase in blood pressure and production of stress hormones. The stress hormones unfortunately make it even harder for you to sleep. Since reducing stress will allow your body to get a more restful sleep, learn relaxation techniques that will help counter the effects of stress.

 Energy level

A good night’s sleep makes you energized and alert the next day. Being engaged and active not only feels great, it increases your chances for another good night’s sleep. When you wake up feeling refreshed, and you use that energy to get out into the daylight, be active and engaged in your world, you sleep better that night.


Researchers don’t fully understand why we sleep and dream but a process called ‘memory consolidation’ occurs while we sleep. While your body may be resting, your brain is busy processing your day and making connections between events, sensory input, feelings and memories. Getting a good night’s sleep will help you remember and process things better.


Researchers have found that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese. It’s believed that the lack of sleep impacts the balance of hormones in the body that affect appetite. The hormones ghrelin and leptin, important for the regulation of appetite, have been found to be disrupted by lack of sleep.


 Ways to Maximize Your Sleep

  • Listen to white noise or relaxing music
  • Avoid before-bed snacks
  • Avoid grains and sugar.
  • Keep a schedule
  • Create a bedtime routine
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise daily
  • Make your bedroom dark
  • Get some sunshine
  • Avoid caffeine after noon

 For more tips on maximizing your sleep, and other tips and tricks for living at your best, check out Nathalie’s book Wellness On The Go at



Omega-3 and Omega-6: Striking the Right Balance

October 19, 2009

Do you remember when you were young and your parents forced you to take fish oil by the teaspoon, saying that it was good for you? Guess what?

They were right! Omega-3 and Omega-6 are called essential fatty acids (EFAs) and are poly-unsaturated fats. Since your body cannot manufacture EFAs, they need to be obtained from the food you eat or the supplements you take. Linoleic Acid (LA) is a primary member of the Omega-6 fatty acids and can be found in leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, and vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil. Vegetarian diets tend to be very high in Omega-6.

Omega-3 fatty acids have three main types. The first two, EPA (eicosapen- taenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid), are both found in cold water fish. Fresh seaweed is the only plant food that contains a significant amount of EPA and DHA. The third type of Omega-3, called ALA (alpha- linolenic acid), is found in oils (like flaxseed), although small amounts can also be found in some nuts and seeds. In order for your body to benefit from DHA and EPA, your body must be able to convert the ALA to DHA and EPA. Your body may not always be able to make that conversion if your organs are not working as efficiently as they should, therefore, the only way to truly ensure your body gets the powerhouse benefits of DHA and EPA is to take it directly in the form of fish oil.

Most North Americans currently consume between 20 and 50 times more Omega-6 than Omega-3, although for optimal health, the ratio should be about 3:1. As you can see from this ratio, most people don’t need to supplement with Omega-6; since they already get enough from their diet.

Science is now pointing to the fact that a major cause of the current high incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and some forms of cancer is the imbalance between Omega-6 and Omega-3. Many ailments or diseases can be traced back to a deficiency in Omega- 3 fatty acids, they have been shown to support a healthy cholesterol level along with musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, endocrine and immune system functions. Research shows that imbalances between Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids can increase inflammation, coagulation and the growth of adipose and cancer cells.

Fish oil has also been shown to play a crucial role in weight loss. Fish oils turn on your lipolytic (fat burning) genes, turns off the lipogenic (fat storage) genes and increases the use of fat stores from your adiposities (fat cells).

Other Benefits of Fish Oil Include:

• Promotion of good heart health • Decrease in triglycerides and high blood pressure • Enhancement of circulation • Decrease in depression • Reduction of symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder • Better memory, learning and help with Alzheimer’s Disease • Reduction of allergies • Clearer skin • Reduction of inflammation from arthritis • Regulation of insulin • Improvement of immune system health • Better women’s reproductive health • Enhancement of vision • Reduction of inflammatory bowel disease

As mentioned earlier, the most efficient way to ensure that you get DHA and EPA is to take it directly in the form of fish oil. While I usually promote the value of getting your nutrients directly from the source, cold-water fish, unfortunately, often contains metals that are harmful to humans, such as mercury. Therefore getting your Omega-3 from fish oil supplements might be a healthier option, especially if you don’t know the origin of the fish you’re buying. Adding Omega-3 to your diet is important. If you opt for a fish oil supplement be very careful of the source.

Look for fish oil that:

 • Is pharmaceutical-grade • Is third party certified for purity and quality • Has an antioxidant blend for freshness and stability • Is free from pesticides and heavy metals such as mercury, PCBs and dioxins • Is custom-made in small batch production

The antioxidant in fish oil is important because it is perishable. The antioxidants are needed so that the fish oil does not oxidize in your body, causing free radicals that are hazardous to your health. High-quality fish oil supplements are stabilized with adequate amounts of antioxidants. To help protect the fat in the oil from oxidation, 400 units of vitamin E is commonly used. For more information about fish oil and Omega-3 and Omega-6, check out Dr. Nathalie’s book Wellness On The Go at