In regards to health, one of the ways that I have learned to evaluate things is in terms of the natural world and which of our habits, preferences or practices go against what nature intended. Being human, we strive to prove that we are above nature and its laws. We seem to want to believe that what applies to the rest of the animals on this planet does not necessarily apply to us. This is where the trouble begins.
One example of this tendency is our consumption of cow’s milk. We are the only animal on this planet that drinks the milk of another animal and drinks milk after we’ve been weaned. Is this healthy? My contention is that it is not. Casein is a protein in cow’s milk that humans do not have the ability to completely digest, causing a chain reaction of events leading to allergies, sinus conditions, and even panic attacks. The sugar in cow’s milk has been implicated as a cause of juvenile diabetes in susceptible children.
There is another aspect of our modern, technologically advanced world that we take for granted that has the most profound, negative effect on our health that you could imagine. This is something that literally every person that you know does or is exposed to every single day, almost without fail. It is something that is so common place, so universally accepted and deemed necessary, that we don’t even question its existence any more. Only the very oldest of us even remembers a time when they did not exist, or when only the very wealthy could afford to use them.
I’m talking about the light bulb.
The invention of the light bulb has indelibly changed the course of human kind on this planet. Once the light bulb, and the needed electricity, became affordable we were able to extend not only the day, but also more importantly, the workday. All of a sudden companies were able to have workers “burn the midnight oil” and increase productivity.
The light bulb has extended our pursuit of leisure activities into new realms. The term “night life” has taken on a whole new meaning. Late night television, midnight movies, and all night diners… the list goes on and on.
But how does artificially extending the day affect our health? This question has been asked and answered… but no one seems to be paying attention to the scientific evidence. I have long believed that every time we mess with nature we mess up. This adage has never been truer than with the case of the light bulb.
Before we examine the negative health effects of extending the day, let’s look at the ways in which we are intended to live in harmony with nature.
We are creatures regulated by cycles living in a universe regulated by cycles. Our cycles are supposed to be in sync with the cycles around us. Our Earth rotates around the sun in a very specific cycle. This sequence of rotations is what causes the seasons to occur. Throughout the year our days become longer and shorter, as measured by the time the sun is shining.
The physiological functioning of our bodies changes to coincide with the cycles of nature. Our hormones, including insulin and melatonin, and neurotransmitters, like Seratonin, are affected by the time of day and the time of year in which we happen to exist. Simple homeostatic (life-preserving) drives are actually affected by these cycles.
For example, animals crave certain types of foods at certain times of year… and for very good reason. In the summer, the days are longest and our pineal glands are exposed to the most hours of sunlight. This triggers a biological response that is truly a life preserving sequence of events. It has to do with the fact that on the heels of late summer comes autumn and winter, a time when food is scarcer and the temperature drops. Here is the way it works…
The pineal gland (located in the brain, roughly behind the forehead, between and above your eyes) is exposed to the most amount of time of sunlight. This tells the body that summer, and plentiful food, is about to end. The body begins to crave carbohydrates and starches. (Note that it is this time of year that many carbohydrate and starchy type foods become available… isn’t nature neat?) The reason for this is that during the winter the body needs an extra padding of fat for insulation and stored energy because food will not be as plentiful.
So what happens when you expose your pineal gland to extended hours of light and we artificially create longer and longer days?
What happens is that our bodies think that it is August… continually. And the physiological response is that we continue to crave carbohydrates and store energy. In the society in which we live our bodies are thrown into a constant state of craving sugars and storing fat. Craving sugars and storing fat… that pretty much is a description of America!
Of course… there are all sorts of diets and activities centered on trying to get us to crave fewer sugars and store less fat. An entire cottage industry, including special “low fat” and “low cholesterol” foods, weight loss centers, physicians and dieticians specializing in losing weight, exercise palaces, etc., has sprung up over the past 30 years to get us back into shape. And what has happened to us in those few decades? We are fatter and craving more sugar!!
And, of course, all of the health implications from this fact are too numerous to list. But the three most important ones are diabetes, heart disease and cancer. It is truly interesting to note that the spread of the epidemic numbers of people with diabetes across America very closely resembles the spread of the light bulb and affordable electricity, both from East Coast to West and from urban to suburban centers, and they occur at the same time.
A strictly holistic viewpoint dictates that we find the root cause of a problem, and correct it, to have that problem go away for good. Maybe the proper way to look at the problem of excessive sugar cravings and surplus fat storage is to realize that it really is just a symptom of living out of sync with nature.
So here is the solution…
Realize that we are creatures of nature, with the requirement that we live in sync with her.
Get proper sleep at the appropriate time. What nature wants is for us to get to sleep soon after the sun goes down and wake up with the birds, a little before dawn. At the very least, turn off the television a little earlier than you are used to and see how you feel a month later.
Make sure that your bedroom is completely dark when you sleep. You should know that your pineal gland is aware of light regardless of whether or not your eyes are open. This means that you should either turn off or cover over everything in your bedroom that emits light… your alarm clock, the cable box, the VCR or DVD player, the television, the nightlight, etc.
I invite you to put these rules to the test and see what happens. I am willing to bet that you will start to have more energy, sleep better, wake up more refreshed, crave less sugars, store less fat, control your blood sugar better and become happier. Other people will begin to like you more at the same time that you begin to like them. There are countless other benefits that you will gain… just try it!