The Coast News Group
Immune boosting compounds can keep surfers in top shape throughout the year. Photo by Chris Ahrens

Waterspot: Winter surfing survival guide (part 3)

In high enough doses, anything can be a medicine or a poison.

— Dr. James Mattioda

When I began surfing in the early ‘60s, there was little thought given to nutrition. After hours in the ocean, we would shovel down anything resembling food: bologna sandwiches, doughnuts, Red Vines — all chased down by brightly colored sugar water.

By the late ‘60s, many surfers became interested in healthier choices. Honey replaced sugar. Yoga replaced dumbbells, and surfers were, overall, on a path to better health. In time, however, many of us backslid into standard American fare: processed meats, packaged potatoes, white bread and all things sugary.

Surfing certainly helps keep us young, but high doses of sun, saltwater and environmental pollutants eventually take a toll. Dr. James Mattioda is a PhD in human science, registered pharmacist, and a homeopathic apothecary. He is a respected resource in the holistic community, and a consultant to Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine.

Interviewed at Arcana Empothecary, Del Mar. Dec. 20, 2019

Question: Should eating habits be altered according to seasonal change?

Answer: In Asia, they prescribe certain foods for certain times of year. Certain herbs and condiments are used for heating the body in winter and cooling it in summer. If I spent my day surfing in winter, I would want some hot ginger tea afterward. It provides what we call “heat energy” to the body, and it is a healing compound.

Q: Are there ways to boost the immune system to cope with colder conditions?

A: There are numerous botanicals or herbal medicines that older cultures have used to boost the immune system for centuries. Most are remedies from Asia, where nature and humans are seen as one and the same. If we see the external world as an enemy and a challenge, we’re going to be constantly in the battle of adapting.

In those cultures, the idea of changing our diet with the seasons is common. We’re just now starting to think about that, here in the west. Several mushroom species are very effective in keeping the immune system built up. If I were going to be out in the ocean in the winter, I would probably use a well-formulated mushroom combination by somebody trained in alternative medicine.

Q: How would you handle stress brought on by increased adrenaline?

A: You can experience real stress when you’re paddling to save somebody, or you can simply perceive something as stressful when there is no danger — the adrenal glands don’t know the difference. Either way, they will secrete adrenaline. After a while, our adrenals can become exhausted and that can show up in the doctor’s office as fatigue. Surfers might consider using adaptogens found in Indian and Asian herbs to support the adrenal glands.

Q: Are there ways to counteract long-term sun exposure?

A: Antioxidants found in green tea, vitamin C and grapeseed extracts are all good for the skin. As for shielding the skin from sun damage, I think zinc oxide still works the best.

Q: What does Arcana Empothecary mean?

A: We decided against the word pharmacy in our business model because we no longer dispense western pharmaceuticals. I wanted to differentiate myself from that or a vitamin store because we have trained, licensed people. We think of ourselves as having empathy for others, so the name is a combination of apothecary and empathy. Arcana means truth or the hidden qualities of natural substances.

To learn more about Arcana Empothecary, visit:

1 comment

Marc Sorenson January 5, 2020 at 7:17 pm

Sun exposure is absolutely essential for human health, and the population does not suffer from sun exposure, but rather from sun deprivation. Nothing could be better than regular, non-burning sun exposure while surfing. Here are a few facts you should know:
•Seventy-five percent of melanomas occurs on areas of the body that are seldom or never exposed to sun.
•Women who sunbathe regularly have half the risk of death during a 20-year period compared to those who stay indoors.
•Multiple sclerosis (MS) is highest in areas of little sunlight, and virtually disappears in areas of year-round direct sunlight.
•A Spanish study shows that women who seek the sun have one-eleventh the hip-fracture risk as sun avoiders.
•Men who work outdoors have half the risk of melanoma as those who work indoors.
•Women who avoid the sun have 10-times the risk of breast cancer as those who embrace the sun.
•Sun exposure decreases heart disease risk.
•Sun exposure dramatically improves mood.
•Those persons who spend many hours daily outdoors have only 1/50 the risk of Parkinson’s disease!
•For each death caused by diseases associated with sun exposure, there are 328 deaths caused by diseases associated with sun deprivation.
•Sun exposure increases the production of BDNF, essential to nerve function.
•Sun exposure can produce as much as 20,000 IU of vitamin D in 20 minutes of full-body sun exposure.
•In the U.S. vitamin D deficiency in children has increased by 83 times during a 14 year period. That is likely due to indoor living and sunscreen use. More information:, and read Dr. Marc Sorenson’s book, Embrace the Sun.

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