Smorgasbord Health Column – Project 101 – Resilience – Chronic Inflammation and the Immune System and Musical therapy

A robust Immune System is the best form of private Health Insurance and to reduce our risk factors.

When you get to your 60s and 70s or older, it is likely that you will have an underlying health issue. Many do respond to being at a healthy weight such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar and harmful cholesterol. Others require medication. The purpose of this series is to improve issues that do respond to our own intervention.

One of the leading causes of health issues we are faced with in our late middle age are caused by inflammation.

As these health issues impact our immune system function and also the health of our major organs reducing our resilience to disease and our ability to recover from infections. It is important to review our diet and lifestyle to identify areas that we can take responsibility for and decrease our risk factors.

Normally when our body is threatened white blood cells and the substances they produce are dispatched to deal with foreign invaders or the site of an injury. But sometimes they are triggered by a cell or process in the body that it mistakes for an intruder, and blood flow is increased to that organ or part of the body which increases fluid retention and it becomes swollen and painful.

There are two main forms of inflammation

Acute inflammation will take place immediately when there is an infection or injury. Neutrophils, white blood cells called leukocytes are the tip of the spear when it comes to protecting the body from pathogens, and when they reach the breach in the defences, the small blood vessels in the area increase in size to accommodate them and plasma proteins which is the cause of the swelling we experience.

Usually after rest and fluids for a cold or allergic reaction or treatment of a damaged area with cold compresses and perhaps topical painkillers, the swelling and pain subsides.

Chronic inflammation on the other hand can last for months or even years and is associated with long term health issues such as rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), Congestive Heart Disease, skin problems such as psoriasis, diabetes and even obesity.

Chronic inflammation of the brain

If chronic inflammation is triggered in the brain it can lead to shrinkage in areas of the brain associated with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The inflammation also reduces energy production in brain cells that lead to some of the symptoms we put down to getting older, such as memory loss and loss of focus.

In the younger generation who are ingesting a much higher level of fast food, fizzy drinks and other industrially produced food products, it may contribute to the high incidences of neurological and psychiatric disorders including depression, bipolar disorder and Parkinson’s Disease.

In my opinion based on my experience of working with clients of over 50 years old and reviewing their food diaries, there is a reason for this auto-immune response that results in all these lifestyle related health issues. The body and immune system regard refined sugars and many of the chemical additives in our homes and in our food as invaders. They may tolerate them occasionally, allowing the body to remove toxins, but because we are flooding our bodies on a daily basis with these chemicals, the immune system is on alert the entire time and is on a hair trigger.

Add in modern stress, lack of proper sleep and you have the perfect storm. Once the immune system gets into this attack mode, it damages healthy tissue and this can be very dangerous, especially when it directly impacts major organs such as the heart, lungs and even the brain.

As far as lifestyle and diet are concerned there are actions and food products that can trigger this reaction… this includes smoking of course… but also what we might consider to be benign foods that we eat every day.

Some disturbing statistics to think about….Brandon Gaille – 29 Significant soda statistics.

  • Calories from sugary beverages have increased by 60% in children ages 6 to 11 in the last 10 years.
  • 9 out of 10 children in the United States regularly consume at least one soda per day.
  • On any given day, half of all Americans are going to consume at least 1 soda. 5% of them will consume over 550 calories because of their soda consumption.
  • Averaging just one can of a sugary beverage per day had a 20% higher risk of having a heart attack.
  • 75%. That’s the increased risk of gout in women that comes from regularly consuming at least one can of soda.
  • Children who are classified as being overweight are able to reduce or manage their weight more effectively be eliminating soda.
  • Children in the 2-5 age demographic consume the same levels of soda has people in the 60 and older senior demographic.

Foods that can cause inflammation.

There are a number of foods that are increasingly being consumed every day on this list including Fizzy Drinks (Sugar) Fried Fast Foods, Processed meats, Refined carbohydrates (zero nutrients, plenty of Sugar). When eaten in moderation, for example a couple of times a week there is unlikely to bother your immune system. But if you make it a habit to eat them everyday, it may trigger your immune system.

Heavy drinking over an extended period causes several changes in the body that can lead to intestinal inflammation. Over the long term, this inflammation causes organ dysfunction throughout the body, especially in the liver and the brain. Alcohol and Inflammation

It will come as no surprise that industrially produced and fast foods are on the list. Take French Fries or chips that we call them. Potatoes are healthy additions to your diet Food Therapy.

However when the potato has been dehydrated, frozen and then extruded into chip shape with added stabalisers and fried in oil with questionable parentage the food loses both nutritional content and any semblance of health.

Some physicochemical properties of dehydrated potato granules were studied in relation to their suitability for extruded French fries. The freeze‐thaw granules exhibited higher water‐binding capacity (WBC), lower bulk density and larger particle size than the add‐back granules. Microscopic examination revealed that relatively rapid and complete rehydration was associated only with the freeze‐thaw granules. The add‐back granules indicated a thin membrane of insoluble, completely retrograded amylose that was revealed immediately on contact with water while the interior granule absorbed water slowly. These differences were attributed to the respective processing techniques. Trials indicated that the ratio of 1:2.6 rather than 1:2 of granules to water (w/v) is superior for reconstitution and French fry extrusion of the freeze‐thaw granules. Production of good quality extruded French fries from these granules is possible with the use of a mixture of binders such as guar gum, stabilized high amylose corn starch, crosslinked pregelatinized corn starch, and hydroxypropylmethylcellulose.” The Online Library

And to add fuel to the fire….Livestrong – What’s really inside those McDonalds French Fries

THE SUSPECT: McDonald’s French Fries Large (5.4 oz) (from the USA)

THE DETECTIVE: Dr. Christopher Ochner (a research associate at New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center) is very familiar with the McDonald’s menu. A few years ago, Ochner — who holds a doctorate of clinical psychology — conducted his own “Super Size Me”-type diet experiment: Every day for two months he ate one meal at the fast food restaurant as part of a study.

NUTRITION LABEL: 500 calories, 25 grams fat, 63 grams carbs, 350 milligrams sodium, 6 grams fiber, 6 grams protein

LISTED INGREDIENTS: Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*, citric acid [preservative]), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (to maintain color) and salt.

Prepared in Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil) with TBHQ and Citric Acid to preserve freshness of the oil and Dimethylpolysiloxane to reduce oil splatter when cooking.

*Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients.

Reducing Inflammation in the body.

Clearly if you smoke and drink excessively there is going to be a significant risk of chronic inflammation, which may be why you have gout, and other forms of arthritis and respiratory diseases. The statistics show a dramatic reduction in people smoking, although it is becoming evident that some of the alternatives are also dangerous for our health. Governments have been taxing alcohol on the shelves and in Ireland that has decreased the amount bought in pubs but it is still relatively cheap to buy booze if you really want it.

The 80/20 rule to diet.

I have an 80/20 rule with regard to my diet which means that every so often I eat French Fries and have a fizzy soda when I am eating out, although to be honest I have lost my appeal for them having done the research in recent years! However, I do enjoy a bit of ham and bacon, and have taken to boiling my own ham, draining and replacing the water after the first 30 minutes to remove some of the salt. I will also enjoy some white flour products such as home-made scones with jam and cream.

I gave up smoking at age 39 after starting at 14 years old. I hope that I have repaired some of the damage that caused. I also used to drink a lot more than I do now – certainly a couple of glasses of wine per night and possibly more at the weekend or at a party. That gradually reduced over time and a year ago I gave up drinking all together, except for some champagne for our wedding anniversary.

Apart from contributing to a 3 stone weight loss in the last year, my knee and thumb joint which were particularly problematic, are now much improved. I certainly plan to drink some Champagne for our 40th later this year but I actually quite enjoy the fact that I don’t seem to suffer quite so much from brain fog anymore!

But, alcohol and inflammatory foods are only 20% of my diet and I buffer their affect on my immune system by eating fresh, cooked from scratch foods 80% of the time.

There are a number of recent studies that have identified that intermittent fasting can help reduce chronic inflammation in the body.

One form of Intermittent Fasting requires leaving a long gap between your last meal at night and eating in the morning, preferably between 14 and 16 hours.

I have been following that method of eating for the last four years and have adapted in that time to suit my requirements, but I can certainly confirm that it suits me. To test its impact on my weight and health I returned to three main meals a day with a snack between including at 9.00 at night. Effectively eating within a 16 hour window. I felt sluggish after about a week, slept badly and felt bloated.

I returned to a 10 hour eating window again and within a few days returned to better energy levels, no bloating and slept better.

You can find out more in the weight loss programme: Weight Loss – Size Matters The Sequel

Here are some foods and liquids that I find useful in reducing inflammation.

Tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, berries, oranges, oily fish, sauerkraut, green tea, whole grains, garlic and herbs such as thyme and turmeric. 

In fact everything that is on this shopping list including a breakdown of the nutrients you need to be healthy: Weekly Grocery Shopping List and Nutrients it Provides

You can read all the information on the Immune System:

After all that … and to change the mood….

Get moving with Music Therapy

Over the course of these posts I will be sharing my playlists I would warm up the crowd with at charity walks and runs. They should help build your resilience and improve physical, mental and emotional well-being.

If you are not particularly active at the moment then you can walk on the spot, but swing your arms in time to the music so that you activate your breathing. If you are a little bit more adventurous then take to the floor and have fun.

A couple of times should get the blood flowing

I am a country girl at heart and was thrilled to be introduced to Line Dancing when I lived in Texas, even if I was pretty ***** at it… but I was a huge fan of the music before I arrived and so have infiltrated by playlist since then with some foot stompers.  Including 5,6,7,8 by StepsOfficial

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope it has given you something to think about regarding your own diet and lifestyle…

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020

Statistic resource Worldometer – Live updates and breakdown by country Worldometer Info

Here are the links to the pages that support the posts in the series

34 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – Project 101 – Resilience – Chronic Inflammation and the Immune System and Musical therapy

    • When I was a dental nurse back in the late 60s, my boss wanted to impress a young patient about the results of his new addiction to coca cola.. he put one of his milk teeth in a screw top jar and gave it to his mother to take home and monitor.. she rang two days later to say the tooth had dissolved completely and her son no longer drank coke. I buy a whole unsmoked ham and boil for 30 minutes drain and then boil again 30 mins before putting in the oven for the last 30 and then slice, it freezes well too so for under £5 we have 500gm of ham. xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, I’d never thought of buying that amount of ham all at once! The tooth in coke I remember from my school days- one of my science teachers did the same thing. I’m lucky that I’ve never really wanted to drink it.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Always interesting, Sally. Many thanks. (Am keeping a food diary.Problem is, in May, I have a birthday and so do two of our lads, so that’s three cakes…Help! (small slices each time…) Hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this very good series, Sally! You are the best. I can recommend your book “Size matters”. It really gives mental stealth to better living, because one needs a role model, not only for fashion, also for healthy living. 😉 Michael.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, action-packed article Sal. I have to ask about tomatoes on your anti-inflamation list. Too many tomatoes can be very acidic – for me anyway. Interesting to see them on the list. And I know you cut down drinking, but when we finally get together, there will be Margaritas to answer to! Lol ❤ xox

    Liked by 1 person

    • The two types of lycopene in tomatoes is not just anti-cancer it is also an anti- inflammatory, the content rises significantly when tomatoes are cooked as to the anti-oxidant levels… I rarely eat raw but eat in homemade sauces. I do think that tomatoes are one of the reasons the Mediterranean diet is so successful. And yes the lime in margaritas has to be considered medicinal and therapeutic… ♥♥xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, I learned something new. I knew about the lycopene and cooking the tomato will enhance it, but I also know there is acidity, which I thought would hamper the inflammatory properties. Thanks Sal ❤ xx

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations to your later celebration of 40th anniversary, Sally! Thank you for the always helpful health information. I haven’t had processed meat or even MacDonald for more than 10 years. I don’t miss them. I have lucky allergies – I’m allergic to alcohol. I can drink 4 oz of wine or Champaign, or beer. If I drink more than that, my face turns red and puffy in an instance. I’m super sensitive to processed sugar. It keeps me alert and awake. Several times a year in some social events, I allow myself to have sweet and be up all night.

    My immune system is low due to chemo 10 years ago, so I have to watch out for that. I love the music therapy. Thank you for sharing, Sally!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A very informative article, Sally. Good to know these things about inflammation. It is difficult to stop your kids having sugar, especially when you live with your parents. Grandparents like to feed grandchildren, it becomes a bit tense in our house around this issue.

    Liked by 1 person

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