Project 101 – Resilience a reminder of the aim of the series.
Let me say upfront, that I cannot promise that what you will read over the next few weeks will prevent you catching a viral or bacterial infection, but what I would like to do is to encourage as many people as possible to take themselves out of the identified high risk categories by making some small changes to their lifestyle and diet.
One of the highest risks is to those over 70, particularly those who have underlying health problems. However, those health problems are predominantly lifestyle related and do not have to be for life. For example, Obesity, Type II Diabetes, Inflammatory diseases, nutritional deficiencies such as Vitamin D and High Blood Pressure.
I see a window of opportunity for all of us to review our health, diet and lifestyle and see where we can make improvements to boost our immune systems, reduce our risk factors and feel more confident about going back out into the world again. A chance to get our bodies fighting fit.
Over the last 20 years or so of working with 100s of clients as a nutritional therapist, I have discovered that making sweeping changes does not work. There are three elements that require attention, physical, mental and emotional, and making small but key changes in these areas is much more effective.
Life threatening underlying illnesses.
In this series I am looking at underlying health issues that may be improved with losing excess weight, reducing sugar in the diet, increasing flexibility of the lungs and joints and getting enough nutrients, hydration and sleep. Most of these health issues are lifestyle and diet related and reversible including Type II Diabetes, high blood pressure and some inflammatory diseases.
However, there are those of you I know from our chats, have health issues that require a great deal more than a change in diet or simple exercises and I appreciate this lock down has resulted in a delay in vital treatment including operations and chemotherapy which is devastating and must be very worrying. I hope that now restrictions have been lifted on elective surgeries in most countries, that these life saving treatments will be resumed.
It is not only our lungs that stiffen as we get older, as unused muscles and joints also begin to lose flexibility through lack of use. I used to be able to do the splits, thanks to early ballet training, but now would need a tackle and hoist to get me back up. However, I do walk a lot and complete some stretching exercises which enable me to still touch my toes without any outside assistance.
Even if you are not able to get out and exercise on a regular basis I suggest that you spend some time increasing your flexibility.
And rather than get down on the floor at first (and be found months later very thin but in a fixed position) that you lie down on the bed or use a chair for some of the movements that follow.
We can maintain our flexibility and actually improve it as we get older. The main reason we get stiff as we age is because we stop moving our bodies into different positions. The body is designed to move, not stay sitting, or slouching, the majority of the time!
3 simple exercises to increase flexibility
Stand with hands by your side and as you inhale your breath, raise your arms slowly until they are above your head in a straight line with the rest of your body. At the same time as you raise your arms, also lift your heels to stretch the whole body upwards, whilst on tip toe. When you exhale lower the arms slowly and the heels back to the floor it is also a balance exercise so it helps develops concentration and focus. Keep your eyes fixed on a point during the exercise. Repeat 7/8 times.
It is important not to do this exercise if you have a chronic back problem. Also only do a gentle arch to start with and increase the height over a period of weeks. Also it does help to have a solid surface so a bed is not the best option.. if you are using the floor have a buddy ready to help you back up again!
Go onto all fours. Hands placed on the floor under the shoulders and your knees under the hips. Imagine what a cat looks like when it gets up to stretch after napping. It arches its back up into the air.
Now with the back flat, exhale and arch the spine up, dropping your head into a relaxed position. Your abdomen is drawn up to support the spine in the arched position. Pause to feel the stretch. Inhale slowly flattening the back again. Pause. Exhale; slowly arch the spine up again etc. Always work slowly. Repeat at least 8 times.
This posture is universally recognised as one of the best to help lower back pain but again make sure that you do not attempt if you are very sore. Take it gently over a period of time.
Lie down on your back. Inhale taking your arms back above your head, exhale bringing the right knee to your chest with your hands around it, to draw it in closer. Inhale as you lower your arms back down to your side and your leg back on the ground. Exhale bringing the left knee up with hands on it…and continue 8 times to each knee. Then 8 more times with both knees coming to chest together.
Then relax and lie flat for several minutes to appreciate what you have done and enjoy the benefits of the movements and deep breathing. You can find some breathing exercises in a previous post
Does an apple a day keep the doctor away?
I don’t know about you but I was brought up with that saying and studies have actually established why this might be close to the truth.
Nutritional supplements are easy to take, you can buy 90 capsules at a time and the manufacturers (well the marketing department) tell us how good they are for us. I do take some supplements, especially now I am older and also during the winter months. This includes Vitamin D now that I have swapped 300 days of sunshine for 300 days of rain.
However, our bodies have their own methods of extracting the nutrients that we need and they prefer food rather than pills. And sometimes we remove the richest part of the fruit or vegetable before we eat. In the case of the apple, that is the skin.
Here is an extract from a study at Cornel University
Using colon cancer cells treated with apple extract, Liu and colleagues found that 50 milligrams of apple extracted from the skins decreased the cancer cell growth by 43%, while the same amount of extract from the flesh of the apple decreased cancer cell growth by 29%. Likewise, 50 milligrams of extract from apples with the skin on decreased liver cancer cell growth by 57%, compared to 40% for samples extracted from apples without the skin.
Some interesting facts about apples that hopefully will encourage you to eat one a day.
One apple is equal to 1,500 milligrams of supplemental Vitamin C.
Vitamin C – Ascorbic Acid – Involved in over 3000 processes in the body!
Vitamin C is probably one of the best known of our nutrients. It is rightly so as it has so many important functions within the body including keeping our immune system fighting fit. The best way to take in Vitamin C is through our diet, in a form that our body recognises and can process to extract what it needs. For example a large orange a day will provide you with a wonderfully sweet way to obtain a good amount of vitamin C, but to your body that orange represents an essential element of over 3000 biological processes in the body!
Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid is water-soluble and cannot be stored in the body. It therefore needs to be taken in through our food on a daily basis. It is in fact the body’s most powerful water-soluble antioxidant and plays a vital role in protecting the body against oxidative damage from free radicals. It works by neutralising potentially harmful reactions in the water- based parts of our body such as the blood and within the fluids surrounding every cell. Find out more about this nutrient: Vitamin C – Ascorbic Acid
Phytonutrients that are anti-cancer and anti-oxidant are mainly found in the skin of apples and that protective layer has kept the apple safe throughout its life cycle.
If you cut an apple, puncturing the protective layer of skin, 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 running riot in our own bodies operate and the damage they can inflict in the process.
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 form 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.
The phytonutrients such as the flavanoids found in apples have been shown to prevent several cancers including prostate and breast cancer.
They also have been shown to help prevent heart disease.
And neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Phenols present in apples can improve healthy cholesterol and reduce unhealthy cholesterol
N.B Phenols and autism.
Phenols are present in most foods but are at higher levels in some, such as apples.There have been studies that have identified that children with certain forms of autism are sensitive to phenol rich foods. This includes apples, tomatoes and peanuts.
Adults too can sufferer symptoms if they have difficulty processing phenol rich foods.
- Mood swings
- Intestinal problems.
Since phenols tend to be concentrated in the skin of fruit such as apples, if you do find difficult to digest then peel them.
With the fun stuff out of the way!! Time for some more Music Therapy.
One of the perks of being a radio presenter was being asked to MC charity events and my job was to warm everyone up before the walk or race with some motivational music… over the course of these posts I will be sharing my playlist for those events and to help build your resilience and improve physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Give yourself a break after reading this post and get up and get moving. Ideally every two hours of inactivity should be followed by at least 15 minutes of activity.
If you are not particularly active at the moment then you can walk on the spot, but swing your arms in time to the music so that you activate your breathing. If you are a little bit more adventurous then take to the floor and have fun – Here is one of my all time favourites when exercising ..Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival uploaded by masterofacdcsuckaS
Music by CCR: Bad Moon Rising Collection
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will join me Thursday for some more Resilience training. Sally
Here are the links to the pages that support the posts in the series
©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2020
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020