Project 101 Resilience – The Immune System and Vitamin D

A robust Immune System is the best form of private Health Insurance

One of the best preventative measures and defense against the current Covid-19 virus and any other disease is a healthily functioning immune system. Our immune systems is complex with many elements that require consistent maintenance and our modern lifestyle and diet are not helpful in that regard.

Like most things in life there are two sides to every story, which means there are the good guys and the bad guys. When it comes to our health this involves healthy bacteria and dangerous bacteria.

All creatures, including of course humans, have an amazingly complex but effective system to distinguish between the two, and to ensure that we don’t come to harm. It is our Immune System.

This system has been evolving over hundreds of thousands of years and developing strategies to protect us every time it met with a new threat. This is often; as germs mutate when they meet resistance and our software needs frequent updating.

The majority of the bacteria in our body is designed to be there. These are the friendlies and our home defence team. Without a gut teeming with them many of our systems would grind to a halt, our brains would not function and our blood would uselessly circulate our bodies without anything to transport. Our food would not be processed and nutrients would not reach the organs that depend entirely on them to survive.

Along with the worker bacterial cells there are the front line soldiers who rush to our defence when we are under attack. Provided we have a healthy diet of unprocessed natural foods these fighters are in enough numbers to do the job. However, throw sugars and industrial food into the equation along with laziness. and you rob your immune system of this vital defence component, leaving you open to attack.

One of the issues that is also playing a huge part in our downgrading of our anti-virus software is the overuse of commercial anti-bacterial products.  Not only can the active ingredients be harmful to us, but if too strong, their actions can prevent us coming into contact with bacteria needed for our immune systems to detect or develop antidotes.

Having said that, children need to be exposed to non-lethal germs from an early age to develop their immature immune systems effectively.  Living in a home that is 99% germ free is a great concept but the world outside is 99% germ invested.  A child needs to be able to cope with that, and can only do so if its defence system has been allowed to come up to standard.

In this first post  I will cover the components of this complex defence mechanism, how it works and how to maintain its efficiency with some changes in diet.

It is a system that is usually taken for granted and treated with disrespect until it lets us down, and then we blame it for making us ill.  In fact if we have not provided this vital function within our body, the foods containing the nutrients it requires; it is us who is to blame. Many millions in the world do not have access to fresh produce and are unable to give their immune systems what it needs, causing widespread disease. This means that it is even more important for those of us who do live with the luxury of food choice to make the most of it.

Without an efficiently functioning immune system we would all have to spend our lives in a bubble without any contact with the outside world. Ever. One minor infection could kill you!

There have been a number of cases over the years of children born with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID). They have been forced to spend their lives separated by clear plastic from their family and any contact with bacteria or viruses. Today, thankfully with gene therapy, this devastating disease is curable, but for some a normal life is simply not possible.

The immune system is another one of our silent partners and is an extremely important one. Our most crucial years in terms of this amazing system in our body, is our childhood, when our contact with people, animals, grass, pollens, foods; develops the immune system until it becomes our guardian angel. Watching and waiting for any breach in our system and rushing to our defence within seconds of the alarm being sounded. (Anyone who has had a child going to nursery or school for the first time will have experienced first-hand the process, as the mass contact produces a whole raft of immune system strengthening infections!) It is however, never too late to make the changes necessary to strengthen your immune system.

In a nutshell if your immune system is not functioning well, your entire body including the tissues, organs and systems, suffer damage and cannot repair themselves. Additionally you are wide open to bacterial, viral and toxic invaders who are looking for a nesting site. You have what they need to reproduce and thrive but they like to make some adjustments when they arrive. They like a lovely acidic, toxic, waste filled environment without too much oxygen. (A rubbish diet with little exercise will achieve that nicely)

They are particularly fond of a new home that does not have troublesome neighbours such as anti-oxidants, and they prefer a quiet life without too much exercise so that they get on and breed. They are a class act and make sure that they give you something back in the form of rent. Frequent colds and flu, thrush, skin complaints, fatigue and stomach problems. If you are a really up market landlord and are offering premium accommodation they will pay you back with arthritis, rheumatism, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

One of the leading causes of many of the lifestyle health issues we are increasingly faced with in our late middle age are caused by inflammation. More about inflammation in the next section.

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 which 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. This can impact the function of not just the immune system but our major organs including the heart and the brain.

The components of the immune system.

The skin is our main external protector. If it is not damaged it will not allow harmful substances to enter the blood stream. The problem is that of course it is porous and is designed to allow fluids out and in through the pores. So any substance that touches your skin such as chemical preparations can pass right through. For example if you use strong household cleaners these contain highly toxic substances that will pass through the dermal layer and store in the tissues causing anything to a mild rash to a violent allergic reaction. This is why you must wear gloves when using them. Many of us react to perfume, cosmetics or even simple hand creams that our body obviously thinks of as toxic. If you cut yourself then germs can pass through directly to the bloodstream and from there they have complete access to the rest of your body.

We have special hairs and mucus tissues in our nose, mouth and throat that are designed to catch anything harmful.   If a toxin gets as far as our stomachs, then acid and enzymes will react and cause you to vomit to get rid of it. Should any harmful bacteria, virus or toxin get past these barriers then we have a very complex system of cells and anti-bodies that will rush to our defence. Most of us have suffered stomach upsets before and it is just the body getting rid of the toxins. (More about these in a later post.)

The liver is of course the place where most of these toxins are going to pass through, and it has specific enzymes designed to destroy them so that they can then be evicted from the body. Which is fine if the toxicity is only occasional but unfortunately our modern diet and environment puts the liver under a great deal of pressure and toxins will not all be expelled, going on to do sometimes irreparable damage.

Free radicals running riot through the body.

If you cut an apple and effectively damage it, within a few minutes it will begin to turn brown. If you leave it long enough the tissue of the apple will begin to break down and you will end up with a liquid, bacteria covered and unidentifiable lump on your cutting board. That just about sums up what free radical damage does to your body. We bandy about the phrase Free Radicals as if they are some dissident political group or school yard bullies which is essentially true. Like most bullies they are missing something and want yours.

A free radical is a molecule. A normal molecule has an even number of electrons and is considered stable. Free radicals on the other hand have an uneven number of electrons and are unstable. They are desperate to be like the normal molecules so they have to steal from them to get another electron. This of course means that they have created another free radical. More and more cells become damaged and leave the body open to most diseases including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Like the apple the damage is a kind of oxidation, which is the action of adding oxygen to a substance or rusting and when I wrote about cholesterol, it was the low density lipoprotein with its smaller particles that becomes oxidised by free radicals making it unhealthy.

Do Free Radicals have a positive effect on the body?

Ironically the immune system uses some free radicals to go and steal an electron from harmful molecules that have entered the system illegally. Problem is, like everything else in the body we need balances and checks. The Free Radical police are anti-oxidants and if you have not got enough of them then the free radicals become vigilantes and go after everything that moves.

Also we create free radicals when we exercise energetically and take in additional oxygen. These then assist with the metabolism of foods that enter the body. Again if the balance between these and anti-oxidants is not correct more free radicals are created than are needed. This is why we need a healthy diet including foods that provide these anti-oxidants.

vegetablesTo boost your immune system there are some very easy guidelines to follow.

  1. Cut out sugars from your diet so that you are only ingesting a maximum of 6 teaspoons per day in cooked foods and as a sweetener. Effectively, that means do not eat industrial processed foods, particularly items such as breakfast cereals and most commercial flavoured yogurts. Do not be taken in by low-fat food and those that say artificially sweetened. The chemical stuff is definitely unhealthy and has documented side effects. Too much sugar in the system provides a wonderful environment for all toxic pathogens and your immune system will only be able to stand on the side lines as its defence team fights a losing battle.
  2. Industrially produced foods have been through a machine, rarely has many natural ingredients and has chemical additives. If it is wrapped in plastic, comes in a packet or has very attractive cardboard advertising then treat with suspicion. Most of the time your immune system will spend more time dealing with the toxins than your digestive system will take to consume and process. If after the main ingredients you have a long list of additives and E numbers…. skip it.
  3. Drink sufficient fluids to help toxins pass out of the body. If you are one of those who boast that you manage on a cup or two of tea a day and that you get all the fluids you need from the food you eat; think again. We lose moisture when we exhale, through our skin and when we pee, which adds up to between 1.5 to 2 litres per day. You cannot replenish that from food alone and if you pinch the skin on the back of your hand and it is slow to resume its normal smooth appearance then you are dehydrated. This will impact how your immune system functions.
  4. Adopt the 80/20 rule for your diet. 80% all fresh natural produce that has been grown, picked or dug up out of the ground. The brighter the colour the better. I know that having a busy work and personal life makes this daunting sometimes but I use frozen vegetables all the time.. Especially out of season. The only foods that I usually prefer to prepare myself are carrots, potatoes and sweet potato as the frozen ones do not taste as good. Also economically onions are much better non-frozen but I do in bulk and they keep in the fridge for a week. Green vegetables particularly are very good these days and if you are really in a hurry get a good quality mixed veg bag.
  5.  Combine with good quality protein that has not been mass farmed (farm shops are great)
  6. Include a  moderate intake of whole grains and avoid packaged breads with long shelf lives. I make my own Irish Soda Bread with only whole grain flour and no added sugar and eat a couple of slices per day. (Refined white carbohydrates are treated like sugar by the body so should be avoided) .
  7. Grass fed Milk, Butter, Eggs and extra virgin Olive Oil should also be part of your nutritional shopping list as they provide vitamins and minerals as well as Omega Fatty Acids to boost your entire system.
  8. Follow my ‘Cook From Scratch’ approach to eating. That includes sauces so that you have minimum industrially manufactured produce in the diet. (I hesitate to call it food)
  9.  20% of your diet is where the Red Wine, Dark Chocolate and occasional Guinness comes in!

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

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

How you can boost your immune system’s efficiency to make your body more resilient and resistant to infections.

I spent most of the first 40 years of my life in ignorance when it came to my body. I had studied biology at school and apart from a scary film on childbirth (meant to be the ultimate contraceptive), I knew more about the insides of a frog.

As a family we ate well… But it was not related to our health in any way. Certainly as I stuffed food in one end I gave little thought as to what happened to it on its journey to the other end. I was more concerned that my sugar craving was satisfied and I was then a happy bunny.

It took the short and very sharp shock of finding out that my ignorance had led me to a dark place physically with lifestyle related diseases associated with a woman in her 70s and 80s. Completely self-inflicted and I could not blame my genes, my family nor could I adopt a ‘poor me’ approach to blame.

It is not as though I was stupid. I was a senior executive in a large company with a stressful but very fulfilling job. But I had no control over my eating. I have always devoured books as well as food and now it was time to go into overdrive and learn how to take back control of my failing body.

As I studied medical textbooks and online research by leading nutritionists; a light went on. I had been dismissive for most of my life about my body and the functions it performed, mainly without my assistance 24 hours a day 7 days a week. My only contribution was give it the nutritional and physical support to do its job; and I had been failing miserably.

Supplements and quick fixes

We live in a world of quick fixes. For example, in supermarkets, pharmacies, in the press you find anti-oxidants advertised for your immune system –when do you think our 100,000 year old body decided that it was better to get its nutrients from a capsule or tablet? And considering that it does take 10,000 to 12,000 years for a DNA mutation that might make a small change in the way the body processes nutrients for its needs, I think it is clear that we still need to ingest the good old fashioned food to give it a fighting chance.

I do advocate the occasional use of supplements, when needed, to additionally support the body. You must do your research however, and it is better to buy a reputable brand that gives you all the relevant information and has advisors on hand if you have questions.  Many cheaper brands may be fine, but often the pills will just pass through you without your body receiving any benefits at all.

If you add up how much you are spending on keeping your immune system healthy with supplements, then I think you will find that you could be enjoying a fantastic diet, rich with more than enough fresh foods to do the job better.

The reason for somewhat long winded introduction is that over the many years that I have worked with clients and written about food and nutrition, I have learned that if someone understands how their body works, and how truly amazing it is they will put everything into losing weight, improving their immune system function, working to improve conditions such as diabetes etc.

How does your immune system react to an infection like a cold in more detail.

If toxins and germs get past our first barriers such as the skin etc then the body needs to muster its troops very quickly to contain the situation. Apart from our blood stream we have a network throughout our bodies which is called the lymphatic system. It is a little like a railway network with stations along the route, which are called glands. You will often hear people say that the glands are up for example when they have an infection.

The most noticeable are usually the lymph nodes in your neck, under your armpits and in your groin. The lymph fluid, which is called plasma, travels along the network, reaches one of the stations and drops off any harmful bacteria in the node. The lymph system contains a number of cells that sound like something out of James Bond movies. B-cells, Killer T-cells – Helper T –Cells macrophages and lymphocytes and these and all other blood cells are produced in our bone marrow. (Which is why bone marrow transplants from healthy marrow can save the life of another person)

All these cells have specific roles to play (for example the macrophages swallow bacteria to kill it) and to give you an idea of the immune system at work this how the common cold virus is dealt with in the body.

A common cold is an illness caused by a virus infection located in the nose but which can also affect the sinuses, ears and the bronchial tubes. The symptoms include sneezing and sore throat for the first 24 to 36 hours followed by blocked nose, scratchy throat with possibly headaches, feverishness, chilliness and coughs.

It is not actually the virus that causes all the unpleasant symptoms of a cold. The virus attaches itself to a small proportion of the cells in the lining of the nose. It is in fact the body’s response to the invasion that causes all the symptoms. The immune system is activated and also some of the nervous system reflexes. A number of white cells from our defence system, including killer cells, are released into the blood stream such as histamine, interleukins and prostaglandins. When activated these cells cause a dilation and leakage of blood vessels and mucus gland secretion. They also activate sneezing and cough reflexes to expel infection from the nose and the lungs.

It is these reactions caused by our own killer cells that are treated by the over the counter medications, not the actual virus itself. By suppressing our bodies own reactions to the virus we can drive it further into the system causing more harmful infections, particularly if we have already got a weakened immune system.

After the killer cells have dealt with the initial infection, antibodies are released that help prevent re-infection by the same virus. This is why as we get older we should suffer from less cold infections.

Avoiding colds and influenza in the first place.

There are two main ways to protect yourself from catching a cold or flu virus. One is to minimise the risk of infection through contact with people and objects that have been infected, and the other is to build your immune system to enable you to deal with viruses if they do attach themselves to you.

As this current pandemic has demonstrated, it is people to people transmission and sharing of surfaces that those who are infected have touched with either their bare hands or sneezed on that are the key areas to avoid.

Face Masks and Latex Gloves.

I made homemade masks from a couple of old t-shirts which are washable in hot water and then blasted in the tumble dryer.. now that the PPE shortage here in Ireland has become less critical we have ordered a box of disposable masks to use on an ongoing basis. There is mixed messages about wearing masks, but I do believe that as so many who have contracted the virus have been asymptomatic in the first few days, a face mask is essential. I also wear latex gloves when shopping and spray them with hand sanitiser as an added precaution and take them off before I get back in the car again.

When I get back from shopping, I leave my shoes outside in the sunshine upside down having wiped them down.. and then get straight in the shower to wash my hair and my glasses before throwing my clothes in the washer.

Sounds excessive doesn’t it. However, the last thing that I want to do is pick up the virus and bring it home to my husband. I am protecting not just myself but him.

Wash your hands frequently with ordinary soap and hot water to avoid passing the virus into your nose.

For the elderly avoid shaking hands and kissing family and friends. If you have a baby ask kindly meaning admirers to not touch or kiss it.

Also you should exercise regularly in the fresh air and avoid over heated, unventilated living spaces. If your nasal passages dry out they are more likely to become infected and this applies to those of us who live in air-conditioned and centrally heated environments most of the year.

Some natural anti-virals.

Vitamin C and Zinc are great nutrients in the fight against the cold. Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid is water soluble and cannot be stored in the body and is the most powerful water-soluble anti-oxidant. Not only does it protect us from free-radical damage but it works to neutralise potentially harmful reactions in the water-based parts of our body such as in the bloodstream and in the fluid around each cell. In the immune system it works to increase the production of our white blood cells that make up our defences. It can also modulate the reaction to a cold for example by lowering the levels of histamine which is causing the runny nose.

I also take bee propolis which is not honey but the substance that bees manufacture to protect their hives from pathogens.

The best source for Vitamin C is all fresh, raw fruit and vegetables – and the highest concentrations are in black currants, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cherries, grapefruits etc… A word of warning – if you buy already prepared and cut vegetables they will have lost varying percentages of their Vitamin C depending on how many days old they are. You may only be obtaining a third of the initial amount of the vitamin by day four or five. Frozen food on the other hand that is picked and frozen is a great option if you can only shop once a week.

If you are starting a cold; drink hot water with the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of honey. One of the herbs that I use during the winter months is Echinacea  and I will take from November through to January to help boost my immune system.  If you take as a cold begins, rather than suppress the immune system it will support it. However, the old saying that a cold will be gone in ‘a week or seven days’ is usually accurate. The very young and the elderly are vulnerable to more serious respiratory complications and extra care should be taken.

pumpkin seedsZinc is often referred to as the healing mineral -there is evidence to suggest wounds heal faster and certainly it supports a healthy immune system. So foods to include are: – Seafood, pumpkinseeds, sesame seeds, wheatgerm, egg yolks and tofu. Sprinkle the seeds over your porridge in the morning – or make your own home-made muesli – enjoy an egg a day for breakfast.

The importance of adequate Vitamin D to maintain a healthy Immune System.

Vitamin D is a subject of many research projects that are identifying new elements of our health that this vitamin that thinks it is a hormone is involved in.  It has mainly been associated with bone health, and we have come a long way since Victorian times when rickets was at its worst. But this vitamin plays a vital role in our fight against some of the life-threatening diseases we face today.

What is Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is found in some food sources. We are primarily designed to make the vitamin in our body after exposure to the ultraviolet rays from the sun. When it is manufactured in the body it takes on a number of different forms, each of which have a different function to perform.

The main function is to maintain the correct balance of calcium and phosphorus in the blood and then to ensure that calcium is absorbed efficiently so that new bone is formed and maintained throughout our lifetime.

This link to calcium resulted in the first major nutritional breakthrough nearly 100 years ago when it was identified that children with rickets, usually from poor and industrial areas suffered from Vitamin D deficiency and were supplemented with fish liver oils resulting in a virtual eradication of the disease.

Calcium plays a crucial role in other functions in the body but one of the most important as far as cancer is concerned is its ability to maintain the acid/alkaline balance within all our operating systems.

There is also a strong link between magnesium and calcium in the role of balancing hormones and are used very successfully in the treatment of PMS and menopausal symptoms.

Oestrogen the female hormone has been identified as the fuel that breast cancer cells prefer and this is why during the menopause when levels are likely to be elevated, we are more likely to develop tumours. This can therefore be linked back to a deficiency in Calcium and by definition a lack of vitamin D which enables the mineral to be absorbed and used by the body.

Vitamin D also works to promote healthy cell growth and actively prevent the formation of abnormal growth which strengthens the link between not only breast cancer and a deficiency but other cancers as well. Incidences of breast, prostate and colon cancer in the cloudier, Northern parts of the United States are two to three times higher than in Sunnier states. A link has been established to a deficiency of Vitamin D with all these types of cancer.

Apart from working with other nutrients to provide a healthy balance, Vitamin D is also associated with a number of other chronic diseases including Osteoporosis (calcium) Diabetes, Heart disease, arthritis (immune system) Multiple sclerosis (autoimmune system) Obesity ( lowers the levels of leptin hormone produced by the fat cells which regulates weight) , PMS and infertility, chronic fatigue and depression.

Many people in countries with long wet and dark winters suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Vitamin D which has been activated in the adrenal gland regulates an enzyme called tyrosine hydroxylase which is necessary for the production of neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine and epinephrine. Not only do they regulate how we feel but also are linked to some interesting parallel conditions associated with a lack in Vitamin D namely obesity, PMS and menopausal symptoms such as migraines, and chronic pain associated with arthritis etc.

How do we get sufficient Vitamin D?

There are actually two types of vitamin D found in nature – D2 is the one activated by sunlight in plants and D3 is found in animal foods. D3 is the one that is most commonly used in supplementation usually in combination with calcium as it is the most biologically usable and effective for humans.

If you have a liver or kidney condition then you should not supplement without your doctor’s advice. When we take in Vitamin D from food or sunlight it firsts goes to the liver and gets converted to one form and then onto the kidney to be converted into another form before being active and usable. If you have a liver or kidney problem you will be unable to convert the vitamin and will need the already activated form on prescription from your doctor.

Vitamin D taken in excess can be toxic and you should not supplement more than 1000 IU to 3000IU per day. The upper limit for safety has been set at 10,000 IU per day and if you are getting adequate sunlight provided vitamin D you should not need to supplement in summer months.

The recommended daily levels are confused as since 1997 when the original levels were set at between 200 and 600 IU An IU represents 5 micrograms. Researchers now believe that we need a minimum intake of 1000 IU rising as we age to 3000 IU

Most of what we require on a daily basis is produced in the skin by the action of sunlight and many of us who suffer from depression through the dark winter months are actually missing around 75% of our required daily dose this represents over 2000IU of vitamin D for someone in their 70’s

There is quite a lot of information available regarding the amount of time that you need in the sunshine to produce sufficient Vitamin D and unfortunately it is also very confusing. Some researchers say that you only need 15 minutes per day in the sun and others recommend two to three hours of exposure.

What is crucial is the type of ultraviolet light, the time of day, the latitude and altitude and amount of bare skin exposed.

Ultraviolet light is divided into 3 bands or wavelength ranges which are UV-C, UV-B and UV-A. UV-C is the strongest and it is the band that causes our skin to burn in a very short space of time. This band is absorbed by the ozone level and thankfully never reaches our skin – yet.

UV-A is responsible for our tans as it activates the pigment in our skin. Usually we will not burn in this range unless we are photosensitive (some anti-depressants and St. John’s Wort can cause this) or very high and frequent doses are used. This range is used for tanning beds and there have been incidences of skin cancer resulting from over use. Until very recently this UV-A was not blocked in any sunscreens and of course sunbathers would lie out in extremely strong sunlight believing that they were protected completely from harmful rays. Of course they were not which is believed to be the reason for the increase in the level of skin cancers.

The ultraviolet wavelength we need to produce Vitamin D is UV-B and unfortunately despite its benefits also is the burning ray and the primary cause of sunburn.

It also however, produces the beneficial effects of stimulating Vitamin D production, causes special skin cells to produce melanin which protects our skin and also for those of us trying to lose weight also stimulates a hormone MSH (Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone) that helps in weight loss and energy production.

A drawback is that although UV-A is present all through the day the UV-B available is dependent on a number of factors including the angle of the sun rays and cloud cover as well as latitude and altitude. The upshot is that the most beneficial time to take advantage of the UV-B rays is in the peak burning zones of 10.00 a.m. to 2.00p.m.

The sensible approach is to build up you tan slowly and carefully over a period of time so that the melanin in your skin provides protection from burning. Start by getting five minutes exposure to very bright sunlight if you have very fair skin and then increase this as your tan builds. Walking at other times of the day will also benefit you and try to expose as much skin as is decently acceptable (don’t frighten the tourists) You need to try and reveal around 85% of your skin to be effective.

I don’t advise anyone to sit in scorching sunshine in the middle of the day for hours – If you do make sure you have adequate protection to begin with and then reduce the factor down to 8 over a period of time. Any sun blocks over 8 will not allow the UV-B rays through to produce Vitamin D so when you are ready and you have sufficient protection in your own skin reduce the sunblock to under 8.

Food Sources for Vitamin D

Our ancestors mainly worked outside until the industrial revolution and activities such as farming, fishing and hunting meant that we were exposed to sunlight throughout the day depending on the latitude and altitude of our immediate vicinity. Those not lucky enough to get adequate sunshine would have instinctively sought other sources of Vitamin D from food. In those days it was the intestines, livers, kidneys, skin and fat of the animals they caught as well as seafood, oily fish and insects. It is obvious from this list how many foods have disappeared from our plates in the last 100 years. When was the last time that you ate liver, kidneys, the fat on your steak or the crispy skin on your chicken. We certainly have been told not to eat most of these to preserve our health but ironically it means that we are also missing out on viable sources of Vitamin D.

This has limited the available food sources of the vitamins and some of them are rather inadequate anyway.

eggsAn egg contain approximately 24 with a 100g serving of herring or tinned salmon providing just over 400 IU. Dairy products such as milk contain the vitamin but an 8oz glass only contains 100 IU of the vitamin.

Pork fat contains 2,800 IU per 100gms so start eating the crackling again (do not attempt if trying to lose weight. Herrings contain 680 IU, Oysters contain 640 IU (would need a lot more than a dozen) Sardines 500IU. Mackeral 450 IU and butter 56IU

This compares to 2,000 IU to 5000IU produced from sunlight dependent on the factors we have already covered.

Cod Liver Oil

For those who live in a northern climate where the sunshine is restricted, I do recommend that you take high quality cod liver oil. Apart from the Vitamin D you will also be supplying your body with an excellent source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids essential for a great many of our bodies functions and the subject of another programme. Cod liver oil also contains rich amounts of vitamin A and the whole package will help protect you against age related diseases.

As children we were given spoonfuls of cod liver oil and thanks to that simple breakthrough in the early 1900’s we did not get rickets. Today if you cannot face a tablespoon of the oil, you can obtain high quality cod liver oil capsules. There are lots to choose from so I suggest you shop around to find the best quality you can.

As we get older our skin thins and we are less able to manufacture Vitamin D naturally, which is when supplementation is really quite important.. It is a good idea to take not only cod liver oil but also an additional supplement of calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D. This is important for both men and women to maintain the correct acid/alkaline balance and also to balance hormone levels during midlife when breast and prostate cancer is more of a risk.

For the last two years I have been using a Vitamin D3 spray – one spray on the inside of the cheek supplies me with 3000 IU. It is absorbed much more efficiently in this form and I take all year round now that we are not living in a place with 300 days of sunshine a year.

The immune system- The Digestive process.

There is an old saying ‘You are what you eat‘ which came originally from the French Anthelme Brillat-Savarin author wrote, in Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante, 1826: “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” (Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.) A time when gout was a huge problem for those who indulged in rich foods….thanks to Phrases.org.uk

I thought I would take this concept a little further by demonstrating the actions that take place following the consumption of food… and since most of us who eat meat, will indulge in a chicken sandwich regularly, I have selected this to be the test subject.

I wanted to describe the passage of a very common and tasty snack that many of us enjoy. Usually with only one thing in mind. The taste.. However, perhaps after following this chicken sandwich through your digestive tract you might think about it in a different way.

As a starter – a bit about Antibiotics.

Firstly, though a little about antibiotics. Most of the stories in the media are about the concerns of scientists and doctors that we are fast running out of effective antibiotics to kill the many strains of bacteria that threaten our health.

If human DNA only mutates every 10,000 years or so, they are outstripped byFormula 1 bacteria. They are mutating in a heartbeat to survive and this is where the problem lies with antibiotics. We have over prescribed them in the last 50 years or so, pumped them through the food chain resulting in damage to our immune systems and we have created a group of superbugs that don’t care what you throw at them.

Our immune system is our own personal health insurance and we need to make sure that it is boosted so that it can handle the minor bacterial infections we will all have from time to time and only have antibiotics if our system cannot overcome the problem itself.

The purpose of this post is to illustrate how the food that we put in our mouths is critical to the efficiency of our Immune System. Without the right ingredients that have to be processed at every stage of digestion, there would be no defense mechanism in place and we would die. Therefore you really need to think of these two major operating systems of the body as working in tandem.

Our body is pretty amazing but it is not a magician. You do not eat a meal and are suddenly flooded with vitamins and minerals. It is necessary for the food to go through a complex process before its nutrients can be utilised to combat bacteria and provide us with energy.

For that task we need enzymes and other ingredients produced by our organs. For the purpose of this post I am going to use a sandwich that many of us might eat and then forget about. What happens to it after the juicy chicken and tangy mayo has left our mouth is not our concern surely?  But it is!

One of the most complex systems in our body is already at work having begun the process the moment you started to chew the first mouthful of the sandwich.

The journey of the chicken sandwich from first bite to fuelling your immune system.

chicken sandwichYou take your first bite of a wholegrain sandwich with chicken and salad, a bit of butter and a smidgen salt and mayonnaise (lovely)- in the meantime your teeth, tongue and salivary glands that produce the first phase of enzymes begin the digestive process before passing the food (properly chewed is helpful) into the pharynx at the back of the throat. For example amylase produced by the salivary glands converts the bread in the sandwich into pairs of sugars, or dissacharides.

Salivary GlandsThe food then passes into the oesophagus through to the stomach where hydrochloric acid modifies pepsinogen, secreted by the stomach lining to form an enzyme called pepsin. Pepsin breaks down the chicken into smaller units called polypeptides and lipase will break down any fatty globules into glycerol and fatty acids. The acid in the stomach will also kill as much harmful bacteria as possible (not only in the food itself but passed on from the hands that made it and the board it was made on). The end result is a highly acidic liquid that is passed into the duodenum.

Stomach and PancreasThe duodenum will secrete a mucus in response to two hormones (secretin and pancreozymin) that are released to neutralise the acidic liquid that was your chicken sandwich. Bile is also passed into the duodenum either directly from the liver or from the gallbladder where it has been stored.

Acid Alkali scale-01Bile is a complex fluid containing water, electrolytes and organic molecules including bile acids, cholesterol, phospholipids and bilirubin essential for the digestion of fats and their absorption along with fat-soluble vitamins as they pass through the small intestine. The bile has also picked up the waste products that have been accumulating in the liver so that they can be passed through the colon for elimination.

Cholesterol levels are affected by the efficiency of the bile process. Cholesterol not only comes from food but is also manufactured in the liver. It is virtually insoluble in most fluids except for bile where the acids and fats such as lecithin do the job. If this process is not effective cholesterol can collect into stones that block the ducts and cause problems with the digestion of fat. Bile levels in the body are lowest after fasting which is why you have a cholesterol test at least 12 hours after your last meal.

IntestinesBy the time the liquid sandwich reaches the duodenum the particles within it are already very small, however they need to be smaller still before they pass into the ileum, where the final chemical processing will take place. The enzymes that have joined the mix from the pancreas and amylase will break down the food even further into peptides and maltose which is a disaccharide sugar.7. The small intestine is lined by millions of villi, tiny hair like projections which each contain a capillary and a tiny branch of the lymphatic system called a lacteal. More enzymes maltase, sucrase and lactase are produced to facilitate the absorption of the smaller particles through the villi – including breaking down the sugar pairs into single sugars called monosaccharides which pass through easily.

The glycerol, fatty acids and the now dissolved vitamins are sucked up into the lymphatic system through the lacteal and into the bloodstream. Other nutrients such as amino acids, sugars and minerals are absorbed into the capillary in the villi which connects directly to the hepatic portal vein and the liver. It is here, in the liver that certain nutrients will be extracted and stored for later use whilst others are passed onto the body.

The carbohydrate in the sandwich we have eaten has been broken down into first pairs of sugars and then into single sugar molecules and have passed through the villi into the liver. Glucose provides our energy and the liver will determine current levels in our system, how much glucose to convert to glycogen to store and how much to release directly into the bloodstream, as long term imbalance can cause diabetes.

Once all the nutrients have been extracted and passed into the bloodstream, lymphatic system or liver, any insoluble and undigested food moves into the large intestine. Any water and salt remaining in the mixture is absorbed into the lining of the intestine and the remainder mixes with all the other waste products produced by the body such as bacteria and dead cells – it is then pack and pressed and stored for excretion.

So there goes the last of your chicken sandwich. I hope it puts a different perspective on the food that you are putting into your mouth – it also is important to remember that if you have a white diet, white grains, fats and sugars lacking in sufficient healthy fats, vegetables and fruits, you are giving your body a great deal less to work with, and your body and immune system will struggle to get what it needs to be healthy.

The only foods that provide our digestive system with the raw ingredients to maintain and boost our immune systems are natural, unprocessed vegetables, fruit, protein, wholegrain carbohydrates and healthy fats. This does not mean that you cannot eat white flour products, for example sourdough bread because of the live nature of the fermentation process is a healthier alternative to store bought plastic cheap white bread.

If 80% of the time you are consuming these foods cooked from scratch then 20% of the time eating foods that have are not as healthy is not a problem.

Hopefully you will not be infected with Covid-19, however each year we have a flu season when all of us, particularly if our immune systems are compromised are at risk of becoming infected. This specific eating programme may help you boost your immune system and  prevent you getting the virus.

Also if you do unfortunately succumb, it will help aid your recovery.

Before I take a look at the foods, herbs and natural supplements that you can take to help fight, alleviate and protect you from an infection, I am going to give you the golden rules to follow that will support your body and let it heal when you are suffering from an infection of any kind.

For those of us who have a pretty good immune system a cold will last approximately 7 days, and for children and young adults, being exposed to the virus will in fact mature and strengthen our resistance to future viral infections.  The problem is for babies, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems following long term illnesses or the treatments such as for cancer.

So for the rest of us, provided you treat the cold symptoms and your body’s defense mechanism with respect you should not suffer beyond the initial misery of the first few days.  Here are some tips to getting through them without complications to yourself or passing it on to others.

As we have been repeatedly reminded during the last three months, social distancing is one of the key precautions we can take to avoid infection. It is lovely when you meet someone you know to stop and have a hug, a kiss or two on the cheek and to hold their hand in yours…..

But do you know where they have been… and if they have a cold or flu?  Be a little more circumspect from October to May…. might save you 7 days or longer of very unpleasant symptoms..

If you do get a viral infection……

 

  1.  Rest is critical: your body, although great at multi-tasking under normal operating circumstances, needs to focus all its energies on fighting the invaders. Sleep is a great healer and you should just go with the flow. If you go to work you are going to pass on your cold to everyone anyway and you will also extend the length of the cold and possibly develop a more serious chest infection. Go to bed or lie on the sofa with a box of disposable tissues and plenty of fluids to hand.
  2. Fluids are also absolutely essential as your body will not only dehydrate but will be forming thick mucus in great quantities, blocking airways. You are likely to have a slight fever, which will raise your body temperature and you will also suffer chills that will make you feel cold. A combination of fresh fruit and vegetable juices and soups, along with 2 litres of fresh water will help flush the toxins from the body efficiently.
  3. The body, as I have just mentioned, needs to focus on getting rid of the infection and it has not got the resources to digest large and stodgy meals during the first few days. Little and often is the key and this is where the soups come in. I will give you the recipes for a chicken and vegetable soup, onion and garlic soup and a beef tea that are great, packed with infection fighting nutrients and can be served with brown rice, a little fresh-baked wholegrain bread or toast. Easily digestible foods such as milk free scrambled egg or spinach omelettes are ideal during this time.
  4. Dairy products increase the production of mucous and therefore congestion and I strongly suggest that you avoid them during the early stages of an infection. Also if bronchitis or other lung problem develops you should also give them a miss. Calcium however is very important in the battle against infection so you need to include other foods that contain this vital mineral.
  5. Bacteria and viruses love warm, moist, sugary and acidic conditions and so processed and sugar based foods and drinks are definitely off the menu. This includes all fizzy drinks, sugar on cereal and in tea and coffee, chocolate and heavily processed meats such as ham.
  6. The symptoms of a cold, flu and of bronchial infections are a detox process, with your body working extremely hard to get rid of the bacteria or virus. Taking suppressive over the counter cold remedies therefore drives the infection back into the body – and this is one of the reasons why something that begins as a simple cold, that the body can deal with, can turn into a more entrenched condition such as bronchitis.
  7. Use tissues rather than a material hanky and throw away after using – it may sound wasteful but if you continually apply infected nose mucus to your hands you will not only re-infect yourself but also others who your hands come into contact with. Put used tissues in a plastic bag and knot securely and dispose of safely.
  8. Wash your hands regularly or use a natural anti-viral hand lotion(see avoiding colds and influenza)
  9. If you are in bed or using a pillow on a sofa do remember that you will be sneezing and contaminating the pillow case during your infectious period. Change every morning and wash at high temperature.
  10. If you have a partner then if possible as soon as you have symptoms go and sleep elsewhere and do not share toothbrushes etc for the duration. Love might be blind but it is certainly not bug resistant!!
  11. If you feel a sneeze coming on then do cover your mouth and nose with a tissue so that you do not dispense germs across the universe.

Components of the immune boosting and recovery eating plan

This plan contains all the elements to help relieve symptoms and boost your immune system. The purpose is to boost your immune system as well as naturally support your body as it fights the infection on your behalf. It will also aid your recovery should you be unlucky enough to catch the virus.

Fluids

  • Two litres of fresh water. Combats dehydration and helps flush toxins from the body.
  • Fresh squeezed grapefruit and orange juice. Use ½ grapefruit to one large orange. Juice of a whole lemon in hot water with some Manuka Honey. Vitamin C and Manuka honey 15+ has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
  • Cranberry juice –  Antibacterial and for Vitamin C.
  • Herbal Teas – Drink as many of these as you like.
  • Green tea with juice of ½ lemon & teaspoon of honey. Antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidants, Vitamin C and energy. Soothing for throat and chest.
  • Fenugreek & thyme tea with a slice of lemon and spoon of honey. Expectorant – ridding the body of mucous, tonic and soothes sore throats.
  • Camomile tea with a slice of lemon and ginger. Soothing and anti-inflammatory. Ginger also promotes sweating part of the bodies defence system for getting rid of toxins.
  • Elderflower tea – Immune stimulating, anti-inflammatory and relieves catarrh. You can mix this tea with Green tea and serve hot or cold with lemon.
  • Soups – Have three times a day with a small piece of wholegrain toast or mixed with a tablespoon of cooked brown rice. Garlic and onion soup might leave your breath less than fragrant, but the combination of these ingredients provides many health benefits. Garlic, like the onion is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. With the current concerns that we have about potential ‘Super bugs’ it is interesting that garlic appears to be an effective antibiotic, even against some of these resistant strains.
  • Chicken and vegetable soup – Chicken contains Cysteine an amino acid that has a similar action to a drug called acetylcysteine, which is used to treat patients with bronchitis and respiratory infections. This soup relieves nasal congestion, reduces inflammation caused by active white blood cells, and provides most of the essential immune system nutrients and fluid and warmth. Recipe coming up.
  • Beef tea soup – This is an adaptation of the tea that has been used for hundreds of years to help invalids recover from most infections, particularly if they were bedridden for days or even weeks. This provides lean protein which the body needs to recover, the B vitamins essential to combat the stress of infection and rehydrates the body. Recipe coming up

Light Meals

  • As I have already mentioned, it is a good idea not to overload the body with heavy stodgy meals while it is trying to fight infection. Salads tend to be unappealing which is why soups are so good at this time.
  • If you feel like eating something more solid then omelettes and scrambled eggs are light and easy to digest. Add spinach and onions to the omelettes to give you a nutrient boost and serve with a slice of toast.
  • A bowl of porridge with honey and a mashed banana and rice milk makes a creamy and nutritious breakfast or snack. You can also make a rice or semolina pudding with rice milk and add dried fruit or honey.

Fruits

  • Apart from the fluids and juices that I have mentioned, eat whatever fruit appeals to you while you are feeling unwell. Any will give you a great boost to the immune system.
  • One in particular though is great at this time and that is pineapple. Apart from the usual healthy properties it contains Bromelain which reduces inflammation in general but also in the glands that tend to be swollen during an infection.
  • Pineapple also works to cleanse the body and blood and increase circulation, allowing toxins to be moved from effectively from infected sites and out of the body.

Supplements

Thankfully, I do not often get colds but if I feel that I am getting some of the symptoms such as a scratchy throat and runny nose, I immediately start a course of 1,000 mg of Vitamin C three times a day with 30 mg of Zinc. I also up my Echinacea herb to 10 drops three times a day.

Zinc is also available in lozenge form and is great for sore throats. Both Zinc and Vitamin C are covered in these posts Vitamin C and Zinc

Increase the amount that you are eating as you begin to feel better but still stay with six light meals a day for a period of time until your body is fully recovered.

Recipe for Chicken Soup

Cook whole chicken. Take out of water and remove flesh before returning the carcass to the water for further hour to simmer. Remove carcass and add two finely chopped carrots (vitamin A and C), finely chopped large onion (antibacterial) ½ clove of crushed garlic (anti-bacterial and antiviral), bag of fresh chopped spinach (magnesium, iron and calcium). Bring to boil and cook for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add back chopped chicken meat and bring back to boil. Either add a tablespoon of cooked brown rice to the bottom of a soup bowl or serve with wholegrain toast with olive oil.

Recipe for Beef Tea

This is an adaptation of the tea that has been used for hundreds of years to help invalids recover from most infections, particularly if they were bedridden for days or even weeks. Take 1 lb. of lean beefsteak (lean protein and vitamin Bs) and cut into cubes. Place 1-½ pints of cold water in a pan and bring to the boil. Skim of excess fat that accumulates on the surface. Add the salt and simmer for about an hour. Remove any scum on the surface during this time. Liquidise. Store in the refrigerator until needed and then bring required amount to the boil in a saucepan. Serve again with a little brown rice or whole grain bread and olive oil.

onionsRecipes for Onion and Garlic Soup

Onion Soup
2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
2lbs (1kg) of peeled and thinly sliced onions
11/2 pints (900ml) of vegetable stock or water
2 garlic gloves, peeled and crushed
Lemon juice
Salt and black pepper to taste
Chopped parsley or chives.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and then fry the onions until they are soft and deep golden brown but not burnt. Add the stock or water, garlic and a few drops of lemon juice. Bring the soup to the boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the chopped parsley or chives and serve with warm wholegrain bread or add two tablespoons of cooked brown rice.

Creamy Garlic Soup
8oz (225 gm.) potatoes scrubbed and diced but not peeled.
2 garlic bulbs broken into cloves.
1-tablespoon olive oil.
Salt to taste
2 ½ pints (1.5litres) water.

Put the potatoes and the garlic in a pan with the water, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potato is tender. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then liquidise and pour through a sieve into a clean pan. Add more water to adjust the consistency to your liking. Whisk in the olive oil and add salt to taste.

Gently reheat before serving with wholegrain bread or Pitta bread.

I hope you have found this useful. There is no time like the present to boost your immune system and although this means reducing the sugar in your diet…. it does not have to be boring or tasteless. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Thanks Sally

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty 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 in ebooks you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.

Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.