THE Sun, we have said, is the Giver of Life. As such he has been worshipped by primitive peoples since the world began. And not only by primitive folk the highly civilized Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans worshipped the Giver of Life.
As Apollo, the sun had more influence upon the Greeks than any other god; it is not an exaggeration to say that the Greeks would not have become the glorious people they were without the worship of Apollo. Apollo was more than the giver of Life. Swiftly and ruthlessly with his arrows he could bring death and pestilence when he was angered. And when appeased he was the god of Medicine, the kindly Healer.
We no longer worship the sun, but more than ever we are aware of its influence on all life. We know that its rays stimulate the . growth of every living thing, and there is no doubt but they exert a chemical action upon living tissue with which we are as yet imperfectly acquainted.
But we do know that through the action of the sun’s rays certain elements in plants are converted into starch and sugar which are necessary for the building of tissue and, above all, for energy. Whether we consume the starch and sugar directly in the form of plants or indirectly in the form of meat, the sun is ultimately responsible.
The sun is our source for vitamin D, so necessary for the prevention of rickets. While we may get this “sunshine” vitamin from food, such as milk, we also get it directly from the sunshine. The rays of the sun, falling upon the skin, convert the tiny deposits of ergosterol a substance found in all animal tissue into the vitamin.
In addition, the sun has a curative and rejuvenating power which is not quite clearly understood, although physicians make use of it through artificial sunlight (ultra-violet and infra-red lamps) as well as through the natural rays. It improves the function of the skin, the nerve action and the nutritional processes; and it enriches the blood.
It is because of these health-giving powers of the sun that our winter resorts are now liberally supplied with sun parlors in which those in quest of health may enjoy the rejuvenating effect of sunshine without exposing themselves to the inclemency of wintry weather. This is a revival of an old Roman custom, for the more opulent of that nation had sun baths on the roofs of their dwellings, the modern counterpart of which are the terraces of penthouses.
For nervous debility and insomnia there is no treatment comparable to rest in sunshine. If a patient is bedridden, draw the bed to the window and let the patient lie in the sun for hours. There is no tonic like it provided the good effects are not neutralized by ill feeling. To restore a withered arm, a palsied or rheumatic limb, or to bring a case of nervous prostration speedily up, a most efficient part of the treatment is to expose the patient or at least the limb to the direct sunlight as many hours as possible. Many forms of tuberculosis, too, seem benefited by exposure to the sun, although in recent years its efficacy in lung conditions has been questioned.
But whether you are in good health or in poor, if you are not accustomed to the sunlight and this applies to most of us who live in the temperate zone, for we must bundle ourselves up very closely in the winter you must avoid long direct exposure at first. Sunburn, headache, sleeplessness, even fever are sure to follow if you don’t. Gradually increase the amount of body surface exposed and the length of time spent in the sunshine.
Keeping this in mind, seize the full enjoyment of it whenever opportunity offers. It is a stimulant and tonic that has no superior.
The next great health agency is Fresh Air. Perhaps we should class it as the most important, for without air your hours would be quickly numbered. Air is a vital necessity to the human organism, and the fresher the better it cannot be too fresh.
The oxygen in the air may be called the “vitalizing” element. This is because the energy stored up in the food which we assimilate requires oxygen in order to be liberated or burned up and then utilized. In other words, by the addition of oxygen, the potential energy which we originally acquired from the food we eat, is transformed into motion, into heat or the functional activities of the glands.
The oxygen is carried to the various parts of the body by the blood stream. The blood corpuscles, when they enter the lungs, through the capillaries (the smallest of the blood vessels) are charged with carbonic acid gas, or carbon dioxide, as it is more popularly called. Now this carbon dioxide that is brought to the lungs is a waste product of the activity of our tissues, just as the feces are the waste products of digestion. And just as the fecal matter must be expelled because it is poisonous to the system, so must the carbon dioxide be expelled for the same reason.
The expulsion takes place through the same capillaries in the lungs. And after the carbon dioxide has been expelled in the process of exhaling, the blood corpuscles, from the oxygen-laden air that has been inhaled, immediately absorb the oxygen for which they have a wonderful affinity. The oxygen is at once carried to the heart, and by that marvelous pumping machine is sent pulsing through the arteries to be used in the creation of energy.
When it is taken into account that the lungs of an average-sized man contain upwards of six hundred millions of minute air cells, the surface area of which represents many thousands of square feet, the danger of exposing such a vast area of delicate tissue to the action of vitiated or impure air can readily be estimated. No matter how nutritious the food may be that is taken into the stomach, no matter how perfect digestion and assimilation, the blood cannot be vitalized without fresh air and hence the various life processes cannot be performed adequately by their respective organs.
It is estimated that the blood is pumped through the lungs at the rate of eight hundred quarts per hour, and that during that period it rids itself of about thirty quarts of carbon dioxide and absorbs about the same amount of oxygen. Think for a moment of the madness of obstructing this interchange of elements which is perpetually going on and upon which life depends!
But the amount of carbon dioxide is not the only “badness” in air. Indeed, experiments have shown that as much as twenty parts of this element to 10,000 in the air is not unhealthful. Improper temperature, the much or too little moisture or humidity, as well as lack of movement in the air all so frequently found in our homes are equally if not more dangerous. While we cannot regulate the weather, we can regulate the air indoors, nor does it require elaborate devices or “systems” to do so.
Generally speaking, a temperature of about 68 degrees F. is the most healthful room temperature. No hard and fast rule can be made, however, because some persons, usually the less robust, feel better in a slightly higher temperature; and frequently persons who are bustling about prefer a slightly lower one. In any case, it is always wise to keep a thermometer handy and regulate the temperature accordingly.
The air should be neither too dry nor too moist. A room heated by hot water or steam rather than by hot air usually has the right amount of moisture. However, if you do have the latter type of heating system, such simple devices as pans filled with water or Turkish towels wrung out in water and placed over the register will furnish sufficient humidity.
The best and simplest way to keep the air moving is by what is known as “cross-ventilation”; that is, two or more outlets doors or windows opposite or nearly opposite each other are kept open. The openings need not be large indeed, smaller ones are usually better, since there is less danger of a “draft”.
At no time is fresh air and proper ventilation so important as during sleep. It is so important that we have devoted several pages to it. You will find them in the chapter on Sleep. If you like, turn to them now.
All the freshest air and all the best ventilation in the world would do you no good unless you utilized them. The way to utilize them, of course, is by breathing by inhaling and exhaling properly. First of all, proper breathing means breathing through your nose, and not through the mouth. When you breathe through your nose the tiny hairs in the nostrils catch many of the particles of dust and soot which are inhaled along with the air. In this way the air is filtered or purified to a certain extent. In the second place, the air is warmed in the longer passage through the nose.
There is another good reason for nose breathing, too. Mouth breathing has a tendency to make the lips thick and shapeless and the jaw weak and “hanging”. So, if you’re a man and want to have a firm mouth and chin, be a nose-breather; and if you’re a woman and yearn for cupid’s bow lips and a single rounded chin, likewise be a nose-breather.
In the second place, proper breathing means filling your lungs to their fullest capacity. This is done by drawing deeply of the air, until you feel that your lungs are full, but without any straining. Many persons have the idea that they must inhale so deeply that in a few minutes they are panting for breath, or feel headachy and dizzy. This is far from the truth. Anything that causes discomfort to your body is certainly harmful.
The chest, moreover, should expand naturally over its entire area. It is only in this way that every part of the lungs will be exercised and made more resistant to respiratory diseases. Here again many people, realizing that chest heaving is all wrong, go to the other extreme and breathe with only the lower part of the lungs, using only the diaphragm. If you fill your lungs easily and naturally, the degree in which your chest heaves and your diaphragm bulges will take care of itself.
If you feel that you have not been breathing correctly or that your lungs need exercise, turn to the chapter on Exercise and you will find some simple but very useful breathing exercises.
The benefits of the Sun and Air cannot be over estimated, but if you are constipated, if your intestines are clogged with poisonous wastes, they are of little avail. Your system must first thoroughly be cleansed by “flushing the colon”. Then, and then only, can you set out on the “Royal Road” to health.