A Blog For Those Affected By Environmental And Invisible Illnesses Written By Fellow Survivors
Climate, Weather and Environmental Illness
I was lucky enough to spend two weeks on holiday/vacation in Turkey recently to recuperate after over-exerting my body and brain completing my bachelor's degree in nutritional health. Being a resident of the UK with its, let's say temperamental weather, I really notice a change in how I feel (mostly good, some bad) when I spend time in a country where the climate is warmer and sunnier. This got me thinking that a good topic for a blog and dscussion would be how climate and weather affect the health of people suffering from environmental illnesses.
Personally, my moods and energy levels are greatly influenced by the weather and the seasons and I have in the past been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Here in the UK it can be sunny one minute and raining the next at any time of year. When it is sunny my mood is correspondingly bright and I have more energy so I can get things done...when it is overcast and raining my mood is low and I feel tired and lethargic so the same tasks are a real struggle.
For the two weeks I was in Turkey there was only clear skies and sunshine, accompanied by temperatures of around 35C/95F. This certainly lifted my mood (beyond what everyone feels when on holiday) and boosted my energy and I was able to cope with the high temperatures well, albeit with minimal clothing most of the time (yes, it was a beach holiday!).
However, as I have experienced before, after a few days I began to feel somewhat overstimulated and restless/agitated. This has happened on a number of occasions before so I wasn't surprised or alarmed in any way. I am only making an educated guess here but I suspect that this reaction is due to the much increased levels of vitamin D in my body as a result of all that sun exposure. Vitamin D is required for the synthesis and function of many stimulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and noradrenaline/norepinephrine. It also modulates immune function which can have a stimulating effect. Given these activities of vitamin D and the fact the overstimulation wears off after a day or two out of the sun I think this is the most likely explanation. The fact I also suffer from neurotoxicity as most people with environmental illnesses do, as well as adrenal fatigue (healthy adrenal glands prevent overstimulation), only makes this more likely.
Having said all that, all in all, I do feel better on sunny days and in a sunny climate - so long as I don't spend too much time with a lot of my skin exposed to direct sunlight (e.g. sunbathing). An added benefit I experience in countries such as Turkey is a lack of grass pollen allergies (hayfever) that I experience severely in the UK during the summer months. My ideal climate would therefore be sunny, dry, with warm, but not scorching temperatures (extreme heat does get tiring!). I would also be better off in a country closer to the equator with smaller shifts in daylight hours between seasons. Here in the UK it is dark before 4pm in December and January and that is NOT a good thing when you suffer from SAD no matter how well you are able to manage it - there is no substitute for natural daylight.
So that's me...but what other effects could climate and weather have on people with environmental illnesses?
Mold - many people have both allergic and toxic reactions to mold that are the major cause or at least a contributor to their illness. Wet climates that lead to damp living conditions are problematic when it comes to mold so those affected may do better in more arid climates.
Pollution - pollution is a problem throughout the world but is often worse in cities where the climate is hot - the warm polluted air is often trapped near the ground by layers of cooler air above. Pollution can be a major problem for those with asthma and chemical sensitivities and a cooler climate with plenty of rain to wash pollution out of the air may be beneficial.
Allergens - areas that produce the most allergens tend to be temperate with plenty of vegetation - grasses and trees in particular. Those badly affected by airborne allergies are therefore likely to be better off in hot, dry regions where grass and forests and sparse.
These are just a few environmental triggers for illness that are variable with the climate that I could think of off the top of my head. If you can think of others please do add them using the comments box below. I would also love to hear if and how your symptoms change when you travel to different regions or countries...