Smorgasbord Health Column – Cholesterol and Fat Myths Part Three, Vitamin K2 and Healthy Fats by Sally Cronin


Last week   I explained how cholesterol was essential for a number of functions in the body and that dropping levels too low could impact the balance of hormones and also brain function. I also shared the latest research on the effectiveness of Statins on cholesterol levels for a large percentage of patients who are prescribed it.

Today I wanted to focus on fats which also play a massive role in the balance of LDL – Low density lipoprotein (potentially unhealthy cholesterol) and HDL– High density lipoprotein (healthy cholesterol). It is a slightly longer post and I know from comments and emails that you are keen to get to the dietary changes that may encourage a healthy cholesterol balance.

First a look at some of the reasons behind why your cholesterol levels are out of balance.

  1. Obesity in itself is unhealthy but it usually comes with lack of exercise and high blood sugar levels.
  2. Exercise has been found to boost HDL levels in relation to LDL so if you are static you will see the reverse effect.
  3. High sugar levels damage the walls of the arteries.
  4. In combination with the sugar, the foods eaten to raise the amount in your bloodstream comes with unhealthy transfats in industrially produced foods.
  5. If you are a smoker it also causes the arteries to harden.
  6. Your liver is not functioning effectively and it’s LDL receptor cells are not managing the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream. This can be down to a genetic predisposition but is more likely because of a poor diet, drinking too much alcohol or a natural effect of aging. You can find out more about the liver here
  7. A diet lacking in the nutrients and fibre needed to cleanse and rejuvenate your body.
  8. Certain medications can increase the levels of LDL in your cholesterol

A closer look at LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein)

Hopefully in my last post I established that Cholesterol is something to be cherished and maintained to ensure a healthy balance of hormones and other functions within the body, I will now focus on the LDL – low density lipoprotein, which is the cholesterol with smaller particles, and is the type that can cause the arteries to clog with plaque leading to cardiovascular disease.

Free radicals are formed when we ingest white fats (Trans fats) in processed foods and snacks, too much sugar in the diet (including sodas, light or otherwise) smoking and other bad habits. The LDL and the VLDL (Very Low Density Lipoprotein) particles seem to like the bad boys and react with them making the particles unstable. They in turn react more aggressively with the surrounding tissues, including the lining of the arteries in the body called the endothelium.

This will affect the blood vessels with vital access to your brain and your heart, the carotid artery and the coronary artery, as well as those to your arms and legs.

Once that damage occurs in the endothelium, as with any tissue damage in your body, platelets and blood cells rush to the area, and it becomes a hot spot to catch anything that is moving through the blood stream that can adhere to the growing plaque mass. This includes the smaller particles of LDL that have been compromised by the free radicals. Obviously over a period of time this will grow to block the artery, then the blood flow and that is when heart attacks and strokes are likely.

So whilst cholesterol has a vital role in the body and the HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) is stable and with its larger particles not going to cause you a problem, you have to keep an eye on the unstable member of the family. The key to maintaining a healthy balance of cholesterol is to make sure that you keep the LDL lower than the HDL and that your diet does not encourage an excess of free radicals.

There are some conditions that will elevate cholesterol – apart from the hereditary factors, if someone is diabetic or has low thyroid function their levels can be quite high. This is when it makes sense to take the prescribed medication to maintain a lower overall level, but particularly the LDL.

A healthy balanced diet is still essential however, you cannot just take the pills and expect them to do all the work. However there are other prescribed medications that can also cause the levels to rise such as steroids and hormonal replacement and you should be aware of these possible side-effects and have regular cholesterol checks on your LDL levels.

Back to the diet and healthy fats

And whilst the headlines and medical profession maintain that eating healthy saturated fats is bad for your health and will automatically result in an unhealthy imbalance in your LDL and HDL, this is not the case.

In fact eaten in moderation, healthy fats contain vital nutrients the body needs and do not result in inflammation and diabetes.

One of the main reasons millions now have raised blood sugar levels that contribute to an imbalance in cholesterol levels is that they have been following the 50 year recommendation of governments around the world to eat a food pyramid that is focused on eating a much higher proportion of carbohydrates every day. Here is the old FDA food pyramid

Old FDA Food Pyramid | Food pyramid, Dry beans, Fda

All those carbohydrates.. particularly the white, nutritionally sterile breads, cakes, biscuits, cereals with added sugar and transfats, when eaten in large quantities raise blood sugar levels. Resulting not only in our obesity epidemic but the increasing number of Type II diabetics around the world. After 50 years of following this advice (and I was no exception until I was in my 40s) Obesity and diabetes is increasing each year along with heart disease.

CDC figures for Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes 2019

  • Total: 34.2 million people have diabetes (10.5% of the US population)
  • Diagnosed: 26.9 million people, including 26.8 million adults
  • Undiagnosed: 7.3 million people (21.4% are undiagnosed)

And Pre-diabetes

  • Total: 88 million people aged 18 years or older have prediabetes (34.5% of the adult US population)
  • 65 years or older: 24.2 million people aged 65 years or older have prediabetes

This is mirrored around the Western world and now tell me that the government advice we have been following for the last 50 years is working.

To reverse lifestyle diseases such as obesity, unhealthy cholesterol and diabetes we just need to make some fundamental changes to the food pyramid which is how I prefer to eat with a small amount of wholegrains each day.

Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid Guidelines in 2020 ...

But back to fats…………………………..

We must not cut the good fats out of our diet – they have an essential role to play in our health and without fats and cholesterol our bodies will be open to infections, poor function in areas such as the brain, heart, reproductive system and our eyesight.

It can be tricky because the good fats are fairly easy to spot but the harmful fats tend to be hidden and disguised in the packaged and processed foods we buy. Responsible manufacturers have mainly moved away from using the highly toxic ‘trans fats’ but unfortunately the cheaper your processed family meal for four is, the more likely it is to have few natural ingredients that might be classified as nutritional.

No one person’s diet is the same and you have to find the perfect balance for you and this includes your fat intake – as long as it is not harmful fats………..

Briefly, a quick look at the fats you are likely to encounter in your daily diet.

One fat to avoid all together, is not naturally occurring at all, and that is manufactured Trans Fats. Liquid oil is hydrogenated to extend its shelf life, but in the process Trans fatty acids are formed – found in most industrially produced foods including margarines -snacks such as microwave popcorn, cakes, biscuits, cookies, pies etc.

The fats classified as healthy fats are Monounsaturated fats – which lower total cholesterol and at the same time lower LDL and increase HDL – this is contained in nuts, such as walnuts and olive oil.

Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL and those that have an important component; Omega-3 fatty acids.

Flaxseeds, salmon, tuna, mackeral and other oily fish, olive oil, walnuts, chicken, beef, avocado and even spinach.

These can not only reduce your LDL and support HDL but are also very helpful in reducing blood pressure and the risk of developing blood clots. Even with people who have already suffered a heart attack including Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet reduces their risk of a fatal attack.

salmon

I love fish and it is very easy to include oily fish at least twice a week, although I do avoid farmed salmon and opt for frozen wild salmon. Some of the best for Omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, halibut, mackerel, sardines and Albacore Tuna.

Oils and cooking.

Grilling food or steaming and then adding a drizzle of oil is healthier than frying

Use extra virgin olive oil for cooking (latest research indicates that this can be used at a higher temperature than first identified), and you can combine with some sunflower oil and a small amount of butter for a slightly different flavour. Recently coconut oil has come into focus as an oil to use in the kitchen and I have been using for over a year now and love the flavour it brings to salmon and other fish.

You should not burn any oil, but maintain a temperature that cooks your meat, chicken of fish evenly. I tend to brown the meat in the pan and then transfer to the oven or microwave to finish cooking

For salads, vegetables and on toast drizzle Extra Virgin Olive oil which has not been over processed – do not be tempted to use the light versions on offer as these have been industrialised. Just use the real stuff but a little less. You can now also buy Walnut oil and my favourite which is Avocado oil. Buy organic and whilst more expensive you do find a little goes a long way.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is produced by pressing the white meat from coconuts to produce what is a ‘saturated’ fat which is one that we are normally told to restrict in our diet. However it is claimed that the health benefits of coconut oil is down to its medium chain triglycerides compared to the longer chain forms in vegetable oils, dairy and meat fat.

The health benefits that are mentioned include raising HDL (healthy cholesterol levels) making it better for the heart, brain health, weight loss and thyroid health.

It is important to remember that it is still a fat, and whilst it is important to ingest a healthy balance of good fats, it should only be used in moderation. As with olive oil, a little goes a long way.

One of the most popular cholesterol myths… Eggs and your diet.

eggs

For many years the advice from nutritional experts is to remove eggs from your diet if you have high cholesterol.. Actually there is very little connection between the dietary cholesterol to be found in eggs and blood cholesterol.

If you are not eating a high proportion of processed foods containing high levels of Trans fats and sugars, eating an egg a day is actually going to be beneficial.

The liver produces much more cholesterol than you can consume from eggs or other animal products, however if the rest of your diet is full of industrially manufactured foods, then your LDL – Low density lipoprotein is going to be high, and that is the harmful form of cholesterol.

An egg has so much more than healthy fats going for it. The yolk is vitamin rich with A, D and E. Especially in the winter months when we are missing sunshine to work with our bodies to produce the essential vitamin D it is important to find another source and eggs are one of the few that are available. Eggs are also a great source of readily available and easy to prepare protein.

If you are in the process of losing weight then eating an egg, several times a week should be part of your healthy eating plan.

Cheese

Apart from chocolate… Cheese is probably one of my favourite foods. Unfortunately like chocolate it is something that once I start eating I find it difficult to stop. I did an experiment last summer when I was carrying 14lbs more than I wanted. I ate my normal diet for six weeks and just stopped eating my usual daily ration of cheese. I lost the 14lbs in four weeks.

I do eat an ounce three of four times a week, but I make sure that it is from grass fed dairy rather than corn fed. There is an important distinction. Only grass fed dairy or animal protein contains sufficient amounts of Vitamin K2.

The same applies to real butter – I eat the real thing but make sure it comes from grass fed dairy again. A scrape goes a long way and tastes so much better than margarine.

Research into Vitamin K2 is ongoing and is very exciting.

Dementia – including Alzheimers and neurological diseases including Parkinsons with the vitamin being identified as deficient in patients suffering from irregularities in brain chemistry.

Kidney disease Most patients with stage 5 chronic kidney disease (CKD) suffer from extensive vascular calcifications.4 Matrix Gla protein (MGP) is a powerful inhibitor of vascular calcification, and requires vitamin K2 to be fully activated

Cancer -In recent years, various reports have shown that vitamin K2 has anti-oncogenic effects in various cancer cell lines, including leukemia, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and hepatocellular cancer. Although the exact mechanisms by which vitamin K2 exert its antitumor effect are still unclear, processes, such as cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, appear to contribute to the therapeutic effects of vitamin K2.

To read the full report on the research: K2 research ongoing

Diabetes

If you suffer from diabetes the body is less able to maintain a balanced cholesterol level with an increase in LDL and VLDL (Very low density lipo protein) this leads to an increased risk of heart muscle damage and it is important that you have your levels monitored regularly.

Having said that, it is even more important that you stay away from processed foods, cook from scratch using healthy fats. It is also essential to stay away from high sugar content white carbohydrates instead using a moderate amount of wholegrains. Whilst monitoring by your doctor is available after diagnosis, there are millions of people in the world you are pre-diabetic and are not aware of it.

This is why it is important to take responsibility and visit a pharmacy who offers a panel of tests for Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar and Cholesterol at least once a year to have a clear measurement of these key health indicators. That puts you in the driving seat and enables you to take action as well as work with your doctor to get you back within healthy ranges.

Dietary and lifestyle changes to improve unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Though the first few days might be tough.. it is important that you cut back the refined sugar in your diet and the amount of industrially produced foods in packets, tins and jars you are consuming. This includes shop bought cakes, biscuits, white bread (buy wholegrain) white rice, white pasta, icecream, sweets, milk chocolate, processed cereals, and for six weeks alcohol.

Cook your foods fresh and from scratch using herbs and seasoning to flavour.

  1. Eat lots of vegetables and moderate fruits such as apples and blueberries daily
  2. Eat onions daily both raw and cooked and also some garlic as both may have a cholesterol lowering effect. I certainly eat an onion a day and believe they do help. ( Research)
  3. I have been drinking a large glass of coconut water (a brand that uses just coconut water without additives) the potassium it contains aids in management of Blood Pressure and also in lowering LDL and increasing HDL levels of Cholestoerol.  More clinical studies are being done into coconut water but here is an example. Beneficial effects of Coconut Water
  4. Eat a handful of wholegrains daily such as brown rice, porridge oats homemade bread (2 slices) each day. It is important not to give up carbohydrates completely as wholegrains provide fibre and B vitamins.
  5. Cook with healthy fats
  6. Use real butter and moderate amounts of cheese three times a week.
  7. Enjoy eggs, chicken, oily fish three times a week and other meat proteins twice a week.
  8. Enjoy a meat free day twice a week substituting with avocados and other omega 3 rich foods.
  9. Take a 30 minute walk every day.
  10. Eat a couple of squares of 70% dark chocolate every day.
  11. Drink green tea preferably, three cups a day and a cup of black coffee with a dash of milk is not going to break the process. In fact green tea has been the subject of a number of studies which show promising results in regard to lowering LDL cholesterol.. I drink three cups a day and consider it along with coconut water to be effective components in my daily diet in maintaining both BP and LDL.
  12. Keep hydrated with water.

Cholesterol Levels measurements.

You should fast before a cholesterol test for at least 12 hours, and I suggest that you skip the cheese the day before and have a plant based meal.. fats you have eaten do register in the test so having a Big Mac fully loaded is not going to be helpful!

Blood cholesterol is measured in units called millimoles per litre of blood, (mmol/L) UK – you will note that some articles on cholesterol levels will recommend that normal levels should be lower than the recommended levels for healthy or at risk adults.

However, this may encourage people to drive their total levels down too far and puts them at risk of other diseases that result from a deficiency of cholesterol.

It is important to have a picture of where you are with regard to measurements such as cholesterol. If you do need to reduce the levels of the more harmful form then you can agree a target with your doctor, get help from a nutritionist or a the very least do your research into the diet that can help you reduce your cholesterol healthily.

I cannot stress enough how important the role of cholesterol is for the health of our vital organs including the brain.  A sensible diet over 6 to 12 weeks is far better for your body than a crash diet where all fats have been removed completely.

5mmol/L for healthy adults
4mmol/L for those at high risk
5.6mmol/L to 6.2mmol/L considered borderline high
Above 6.2mmol/L needs to be lowered.

LDL/HDL levels

LDL does have a role in functions within the body and it is only when it is oxidised by free radicals resulting from unhealthy food choices that it becomes dangerous.

3mmol/L for healthy adults and 2mmol/L for those who have high risk factors for heart disease.
3.4-4.1 mmol/L borderline high
4.1-4.9 mmol/ high
Above 4.9 mmol/L very high.

Ideally the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) should be above 1.6 mmol/L.

I suggest that if you are making changes to your diet that you have your cholesterol checked prior to starting.. and then six weeks later. If there has been a significant improvement you can introduce some of your favourites back in again, in moderation such as a glass of red wine. But try to avoid industrial foods and stick to your cook from scratch approach.

To summarise

  • Do not take healthy natural fats out of your diet
  • Use unprocessed, natural ingredients in your cooking and avoid industrialised foods.
  • Use healthy fats and oils in moderation and instead of cooking with fats every day, eat avocados, eat walnuts and oily fish.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables including those high in fibre.
  • Enjoy seasonal fruits,
  • Eat wholegrains for their fibre and B Vitamins,
  • Enjoy an egg at least three times a week.
  • If you are going to eat cheese or other high fat dairy products, opt for grass fed dairy to obtain the Vitamin K2 from these sources.

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2022

About Sally Cronin

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-four 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 21 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, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.

You can buy my books from: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – Follow me :Goodreads – Twitter: @sgc58 – Facebook: Sally Cronin – LinkedIn: Sally Cronin

Your feedback is always welcome and if you do find that following any of the posts that I have shared are beneficial then it would be great to hear about it. If you have any questions you can email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com.

Smorgasbord Health Column – Turning Back the Clock – Anti-Aging the Hormone Factor


Over the next few weeks I am going to be sharing my book on anti-aging.. Turning Back the Clock. Some of the strategies have been included in other posts on the various areas of health that can accelerate the natural aging process, but in this book I bring them all together. Some of you may have already followed the series that I posts in February 2016, but I hope enough time has passed for you to find it worth another look.

This is a natural anti-aging programme. We all age but many of us are assisting the process with diet and lifestyle choices. This book takes a look at the physical, mental and emotional aspects of aging and how a little attitude adjustment goes a long way!

This week’s chapter is about the role that healthy fats and cholesterol play in the production of our hormones. Cholesterol is essential for the production of hormones as well as our brain health and other important functions. Whilst having too much of one kind of cholesterol is not healthy for our arteries or heart a balance of all kinds is needed B3 and cholesterol

As we age our reproductive hormones naturally decrease but they do not disappear and they still need the ingredients necessary to produce them. This requires that we maintain a diet that provides those nutrients. I know that this chapter is quite lengthy but please feel free to save to read later.

CHAPTER THREE – THE HORMONE FACTOR

Isn’t it inevitable that all hormone levels are going to drop as we get older, and will we all be affected?

Most of us, when we talk about hormones, are usually referring to the reproductive ones such as testosterone, progesterone and oestrogen.

We all know that as we get older our reproductive hormones decrease and both men and women go through a menopause. Women are more affected by this, obviously, but men too experience a decrease in testosterone levels and the changes that this brings about.

However, our sex hormones are just three of the many hormones that are produced in our bodies and even though our reproductive abilities may decrease as we get older, the hormones involved are still active within our body. If they, and our other hormones, are looked after they will contribute to a healthy, energetic and youthful appearance. Sex does not stop when we get middle aged it just gets more creative and interesting.

I am not going to cover every form of hormone but it is important to remember that all hormones produced by the body are for a specific reason. They ensure that the complex processes within our bodies are working efficiently. When these processes are not working at an optimum level there is a breakdown in function over time, and damage and aging will take place.

What are hormones exactly?

Hormones are some of the most powerful chemicals to be found in the body. They are bio-chemicals produced in special glands and then carried in the bloodstream to other glands, or cells, where they give instructions that activate certain processes.

They are secreted by a number of different glands such as the Pituitary, Adrenal, Thyroid, Pancreas, Ovaries, Testes and Pineal. Each gland may produce one or more different hormone to affect a process in the body. For example; the Pancreas secretes Insulin, Glucagon and Stomostatin. Insulin and glucagon are secreted according to the level of blood sugar and Stomostatin is the referee to ensure that not too much of either is secreted and that blood sugar levels remain balanced as a result.

Hormones are manufactured from components of food, which means that the type of diet you follow has a major impact on keeping hormone levels in balance! Hormones are either protein-like as in insulin, or fat-like as in steroid hormones.

Since our primary focus is on maintaining our health; through eating an optimum diet, we need to concentrate on providing the body with the most perfect environment for hormone balance and therefore lack of stress; which leads to damage and disease.

The hormone functions I am going to cover are Metabolism, Blood Sugar Levels and Stress Response because these, combined with low levels of the sex hormones Testosterone, Progesterone and Oestrogen, are some of the leading causes of aging.

Whatever the level of hormones produced by particular glands, if they are not communicating when they get to their destinations (such as the Thyroid Gland, Kidneys or Ovaries, they will not be effective – and the on-going functions they are supposed to stimulate will be disrupted.

How do we create the perfect environment?

Well, a good start is to be following a diet which is primarily sourced from all natural ingredients, is low in refined sugars and contains healthy fats. Being near a healthy weight will also help. There are certain foods that are very nutrient dense which are very important in creating the right atmosphere for hormones to work efficiently in balance.

One of the most important food sources is Essential Fatty Acids which are Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids (polyunsaturated fatty acids). The body must have these essential fatty acids, yet cannot make them itself.

One of the main functions of essential fatty acids is the production of prostaglandins which are hormone-like substances that regulate many body functions. Basically, they control every cell of the body on a second-by-second basis by acting as interpreters between the hormones and the cells they are being delivered to. As far as aging is concerned they are required for energy production, increasing oxidation and metabolic rates. Energy levels go up with high stamina with decreased recovery time from fatigue.

Prostaglandins are particularly important in the way that they balance all hormones including the reproductive ones. You also need to note that the brain does not function without essential fatty acids.

Monounsaturated fats are also important, as both these types of fats protect brain cells and the membranes and ensure effective passing of nutrients within the brain.

This last point is particularly important, because when we talk about hormones we tend to ignore the power behind the throne, which is the Hypothalamus. The other name of the Hypothalamus is actually the word Homeostasis, which means balance, which is very appropriate. It is located in the middle of the base of the brain and is connected to the Pituitary lobes, which form the most important gland in the body.

The Hypothalamus regulates body temperature, blood sugar, water balance, fat metabolism, appetite, body weight, sensory inputs – such as taste and smell and sight, sleep, sexual behaviour, emotions, hormone productions, menstrual cycle regulation and the automatic nervous system that controls functions such as breathing and the heart muscle.

So, when we talk about hormones we need to talk about brain health as a priority.

Apart from essential fatty acids – what else does the brain need to function?

I am sure that it is no surprise that I am going to say FLUIDS are essential for adequate brain function. Dehydration causes to cells to dry up and die but also prevents the nutrients and oxygen reaching the brain, uphill through the carotid artery.

Headaches, nervousness, dizziness and nausea are all symptoms that the brain is dehydrated. That’s what you get when you drink too much coffee and alcohol and get a hangover. They are mild diuretics that can drain the body including organs such as the brain, of fluid. Additionally, every organ in the body, including the brain, has a pH balance that needs to be maintained. Without fluid the brain can become too acidic and damage occurs as I explained in the previous chapter on acidity and alkalinity.

B vitamins are critical for the brain.

B1 (Thiamine) essential for the nervous system.

B2 (Riboflavin) works with Vitamin C to help the Adrenal glands and therefore energy levels.

B3, (Niacin) assists Tryptophan in making Serotonin and the formation of the steroid hormones and for warding off senility.

B5 (Pantothenic acid) is required for making neurotransmitter chemicals and for steroid hormones Testosterone and Oestrogen, B6 (Pyridoxine) Serotonin manufacture, sleep patterns,

B12 (Cyanocolbalamin) essential for proper functioning of the nervous system.

Vitamin C a powerful antioxidant that protects the brain from free-radical damage but also works with other vitamins and minerals in a number of vital processes.

Vitamin E which helps increase circulation of oxygen and glucose rich blood to the brain. As an antioxidant it also protects brain cells from damage and destruction. It also protects the essential fatty acids and the Prostaglandins from oxidising (more next week)

Tryptophan that works with B3 and B6 particularly to manufacture Serotonin and Melatonin in the brain.

Calcium which calms the brain and assists in sleeping (hot milk at night). Magnesium to help Calcium work and to help calm panic attacks.

Phenylalanine an antidepressant nutrient that also stimulates memory.

Zinc, which has a calming effect on the brain function and with vitamin C, protects the membranes.

What part do amino acids play in hormone production?

Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins, which of course is what we are made of. Vitamins and minerals can’t perform their specific functions effectively if the necessary amino acids are not present. Amino acids are either classified as essential or non-essential. The non-essential ones can be manufactured in our bodies but the essential amino acids have to be obtained from food.

All hormones require amino acids for their production. For example L-Arginine encourages growth hormones and constitutes 80% of semen, which is why a deficiency causes sterility and is also essential for prostate health. L-Tryptophan helps in the production of Serotonin and Melatonin and helps to control emotional behaviour. L-Glutamine is helpful for Thyroid gland function. Taurine is used for hyperactivity and poor brain function.

What about the health of the other hormone producing glands?

Most of the above applies throughout the body. A diet rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin A, C and E and essential fatty acids and amino acids will promote health everywhere. Having created a near perfect working environment for the bosses (the Hypothalamus and the Pituitary), we can turn our attention to the health of the Thyroid (metabolism, energy and growth) Adrenal Gland (sex drive, stress response and metabolism) and Pancreas (Blood sugar levels). If these organs are producing the hormones they are supposed to in the right quantities many of the problems we associate with old age would be much more manageable. Including energy and the ability to process our nutrients efficiently keeping us away from degenerative disease such as arthritis.

How can we take care of the thyroid?

The Thyroid needs Iodine and Selenium to produce an enzyme, which converts the amino acid Tyrosine into Thyroxine. If Thyroxine is at a less than optimum level there will be weight gain, fatigue, intestinal problems and thickening skin. This gland also produces a hormone that is responsible for calcium balance between blood and bones. If this is not working then too much calcium is leached from the bones leaving, them vulnerable to osteoporosis.

What function does the adrenal gland have?

The Adrenal gland is actually in two parts the cortex (male characteristics, sex drive, stress response, metabolism and the excretion of Sodium and Potassium from the kidneys). The Medulla, which produces the Adrenaline for metabolism and the fight or flight stress response.

If your stress levels remain high for long periods of time there will be an effect on the rest of your body. The body slows down digestion, maintenance and repair so that it is ready to run at any moment. It definitely speeds up the aging process because, like anything that is not maintained and is under stress, it slowly deteriorates. It will have a very big impact on all the rest of the hormones in the body including your sex drive – which is why stress plays a very important role in problems such as impotence.

A note here that if you have food intolerances you will be in a constant state of stress as the body deals with the invader. It will put a great deal of strain on the entire body, contributing to aging, which is why following a rotational eating plan (healthy eating programme) will help.

All the B vitamins, as well as Vitamin C, are necessary for the Adrenal glands as these are the nutrients that the body uses up most when in a stress reaction. Therefore they need to be replaced.

The Pancreas – Insulin production and blood sugar levels. What nutrients are needed for that to function healthily?

Like any of the hormonal glands, all of the nutrients that we have already mentioned are going to help the pancreas function better. In addition, it is important to follow some guidelines about eating certain foods that are going to stress the gland and put excess sugar into the bloodstream in addition to that made by the body.

So it is important to avoid too much refined carbohydrates and sugar (follow the healthy eating programme)

You should not eat too much saturated fat. Do not drink too many stimulants such as coffee and alcohol; be at a reasonable weight.

How about the food sources for the essential nutrients that are required to balance the hormones?

Essential Fatty acids

olivesOmega 3. Flaxseed oil, walnuts, pumpkinseeds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, avocados, dark green vegetables such as spinach, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, tuna.

Omega 6. Flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, olive oil, evening primrose oil, chicken.

Omega 9. Olive oil, olives, avocado, almonds, sesame oil, pecans, pistachio, cashews.

Heat and oxygen destroy essential fatty acids so keep oils in dark glass containers.

vegetablesAntioxidants are found in all fresh fruit and vegetables and if you are eating 50% to 60% you will be doing great.

salmonB vitamins. Apricots, avocado, brown rice, carrots, chicken, eggs, whole grains, lambs kidney and liver, melon, nuts, oats, oily fish, potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, spinach, all salad vegetables and yoghurt.

Amino acids are found in proteins either animal or vegetable. Main sources are Soya beans, peas, beans, whole grains like brown rice, dairy products, poultry, lean meats and eggs.

©Sally Cronin Turning Back the Clock 2013

Next Week

Chapter Four – The Immune System

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. 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. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook fromhttp://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

And Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4: http://www.moyhill.com/html/just_food_for_health.html

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is sally.cronin@moyhill.com. I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Preparing for an operation – Get fit and make good use of the time.


Smorgasbord Health 2017

One of my roles over the years is to prepare some of my clients for surgery.  There are risks to any procedure, but you can make a difference to the level of these risks if you are a healthy weight, have normal blood pressure and boost your immune system.

With the best will in the world, and the best efforts of the NHS, it is still likely that you will be added to a lengthy waiting list for a non-urgent procedure. For most of us this can be a worrying time and the longer you have to wait the more stressful it can become. However, you could look at this period as a positive opportunity, to not only improve your general health, but also reduce the small but nevertheless normal risks of both anaesthesia and post- operative infection.

There are three areas that you can focus on for the weeks or even months before your operation and it is as easy as changing foods in your diet and improving some of your lifestyle choices. It is important to give up smoking and to reduce your alcohol intake. In the two weeks prior to the operation you should stop drinking alcohol completely.

1. WEIGHTLOSS

The nearer you are to your optimum weight the less risk there will be from anaesthesia. There are some practical issues to address. You are going to require more anaesthesia the heavier that you are, and this can affect your recovery immediately following the procedure. If you are very overweight and going to be on your back on the operating table for some hours, the pressure of fat in the chest area will compromise your breathing. The need for intubation is dramatically increased for obese patients as is the pre-operative work up which has to include far more tests than those undertaken for less overweight patients.

If you are scheduled for joint replacement, particularly hip or knee joints, losing weight ahead of your operation will improve your recovery time. For many patients it is the additional stress on the joints from being overweight which has caused the wear and tear in the first place.

2. BOOSTING THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

In the last two or three years there has been a steady decline in recorded numbers of MRSA and other post- operative infections. In many cases the patients concerned have been high risk having suffered long term ill health, being elderly and malnourished, or very young. If you have a number of weeks notice before a stay in hospital then you can take steps to boost your immune system giving your body every chance to not only speed recovery but also avoid contracting an infection. The body requires a very broad spectrum of nutrients to fuel the thousands of chemical reactions going on in the body at any moment in time but there is a specific range of nutrients that are essential for a healthy immune system and I give you an example of some of the foods to include later in the post.

3. REDUCE BLOOD PRESSURE AND UNHEALTHY CHOLESTEROL

Modern anaesthesia practices are very sophisticated and if a patient has high blood pressure it will be monitored throughout the operation to ensure the safety of the patient. There are millions of middle aged patients who are currently on blood pressure medication and you should always continue taking that medication right up to the time of the operation and you will be advised of any changes to the dosage when you are admitted to your ward.

Having said that one of the desirable side effects of losing weight before your surgery will be a probable reduction in your blood pressure. The more stable and nearer to normal levels that your blood pressure is, the less risk of complications during and after the procedure. You are also likely to be taking pain medication following your operation and there is always drug interactions to be considered. You must however, not take yourself off any medication without the support and advice of your doctor and you can discuss this with him after losing weight and improving other lifestyle related risk factors affecting your BP.

Usually patients who are suffering from high blood pressure have also elevated LDL cholesterol levels. Reducing your cholesterol to as normal levels as possible will have a knock on effect on your BP.

YOUR PRE-OPERATIVE EATING PLAN

It is likely that you are not at your most active during the weeks leading up to your operation but there are armchair exercises and also breathing exercises that can help you lose weight and your doctor’s surgery should be able to advise you on these. I have a breathing programme that is easy to complete a few minutes each morning and night that does not require you to become over energetic and you can adapt for your particular health issue.

This post tells you more about the benefit of breathing efficiently and the exercises that will help you achieve that: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/lets-walk-a-marathon-internal-fitness-programme-day-two-getting-enough-oxygen-to-walk/

A pre-operative eating plan.

This eating plan is based on 1500 calories per day but if you are male then you will need to add another 300 calories in the form of wholegrain carbohydrates and lean protein. It is better to eat 3 moderate meals with 3 small snacks rather than eat 3 large meals per day. Your body will process the food more efficiently and your metabolism will remain stimulated throughout the day aiding weight loss.

It is very important that during this plan that you restrict your intake of industrialised factory foods completely as most are both salt and sugar laden, even if they say they are fat reduced and healthy. If you find that you have to use prepared food in any way then ensure that it is low salt. Be aware that hams, bacons and other processed meats are very high in salt usually and will elevate blood pressure even further.

Prepare your own foods from scratch and put a level teaspoon of salt in a small dish and this is your cooking and seasoning allowance per day. Try to move away from sugar and sweeteners and if you enjoy honey then try Manuka honey which you only need a very small amount of. Manuka is the subject of ongoing scientific research and has been shown to have anti-bacterial properties.

THE FOODS

This is just an example – any fresh fruit, vegetables, lean protein that you enjoy is fine. Cook from scratch and if you are only eating around 20% of your foods from processed sources you should be fine.

Whole grains containing Biotin, Vitamin E, Co-enzyme Q10, phosphorus and manganese to boost the immune system. Fibre to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.

Per day

  • At least one bowl of porridge or muesli once a day. (4 tablespoons)
  • 2 slices of multi-grain bread (4 if you are male)
  • 4 tablespoons of cooked whole grain rice (6 if you are male)
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables containing Beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Bioflavonoids, Potassium, manganese and tryptophan to boost the immune system.

Per day

  • I glass of fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 bowl of fresh fruit salad made with pineapples, blueberries, kiwi and fresh apricots
  • 1 banana per day.
  • ½ avocado
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Any dark green vegetables.
  • Walnuts or Brazil nuts
  • Sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
  • Protein containing Vitamin A, Biotin, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Co-enzyme Q10, phosphorus, Potassium, Iron, Selenium, Zinc to boost the immune system
  • Egg
  • ½ pint of fresh milk Cow’s or goats
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Cheese even a small square or used in cooking.

Three times a week. (Spread over breakfast, lunches and dinners)

  • Chicken or Turkey (four times a week if you are male)
  • Salmon or sardines
  • White fish
  • Calves liver
  • Prawns
  • Lamb or beef
  • Pork

FLUIDS

Start each day with juice of half a lemon and hot water this will help boost the immune system, alkalise the body and get the digestive system kick started.

Apart from fresh juices such as orange, apple and cranberry drink (you can buy some brands that are just juice and you only need a small glass) at least 4 cups of Green Tea per day which boosts the immune system and helps reduce both blood pressure and cholesterol. Also Red tea with citrus or any other herbal tea that tastes good.

Tap water to make fluids up to 2 litres per day.

I hope that if you are facing an operation at some point in the future that you will look on it as an opportunity and by taking action beforehand you can save yourself weeks and possible months in rehabilitation. Getting fit before an operation may also save your life.

Thanks for dropping in and please feel free to spread the message as far and wide as possible. thanks Sally