Smorgasbord Health Column – The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Herbal Medicine – A little health insurance with Echinacea


What is Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine has been part of our ancient and more modern history for thousands of years. Unfortunately there is no money to be made by the pharmaceutical companies when only a plant is processed. Therefore in the last twenty years particularly there has been a focused effort, at a very high level, to downgrade all alternative therapies including herbal remedies to quackery.  We can only now suggest that an alternative therapy MAY help you.

A commonsense warning about herbal medicines.

Herbal medicines should be treated with respect and should only be used if you have read all the contraindications, possible side effects and never with any prescribed medication unless you have cleared with your doctor first.

This is particularly important if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant as taking specific herbal medicines can cause harm.

Go to a qualified herbalist or if you buy over the counter on online read all the instructions beforehand or enclosed in the packet. I always buy the more expensive and professionally prepared tinctures and have stayed with that brand for the last twenty years.

Having established that; I want to introduce you to herbs that can be taken as a prepared tincture but also those that you can include in your diet which may improve and maintain your health. This week I am sharing the benefits of Echinacea, a herb that may boost your immune system.

This year has already been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and the fear is that as we approach this year’s flu season, we might tip over into another wave. That remains to be seen as there are fundamental differences between the two. However, it does pay to be careful and I will certainly continue to use a mask for shopping through the winter months and take the precautions that are now in place for social distancing.

Normally at this time of year I have a few drops of the good stuff every day.. and no I am not referring to the medicinal brandy in the sideboard in the dining-room. I am talking about Echinacea in the form of a tincture. From October I have 15 drops in a little water daily and touch wood…..I had not had a cold for many years or the flu until just before Christmas 2019 after a routine visit to Wexford hospital where we both sat in a small waiting room with a lady coughing and spluttering. We went out and stood in the hall for two hours, but three days later on Christmas Eve we both went down with a very heavy dose of flu that lingered for weeks. I lost my sense of taste and smell and it was only when that appeared on the probable symptoms list that we wondered if we had in fact had Covid.

Thankfully I had already done our Christmas shopping.. not that we ate much and did not go out until the first week in January when we were on the mend. We did not see anyone over the festive season even neighbours as we did not feel like socialising. Just as well. However, we later found out that other family members had the same flu around the same time. We believe it was around a lot earlier than first identified.

If it was indeed Covid 19 then we managed to shake it off although my sense of taste only came back a few months later. We invest quite a bit of time in keeping our immune systems robust and are grateful that we did not develop the more dangerous respiratory complications. But it is not something I wish to repeat.

Recently I ran a series designed to boost the resilience to any opportunistic pathogen and you can find details here: Smorgasbord Health Column – Project 101 – Resilience – An opportunity to get fighting fit – Round Up –

Unfortunately, if you have not been following a varied and healthy diet and providing your body with the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy immune system, taking 15 drops of echinacea is not going to be much help.

Echinacea is a herb that is very widely used to boost the immune system and help to alleviate the symptoms of colds and flu, naturally.

The Latin name for this herb is Echinacea Purpurea (Purple coneflower). It is considered to be the primary herbal remedy for the immune system and was first used in a healing capacity by the Native American Indians. They used it primarily for boils, abscesses and snakebites. They also chewed the roots for toothaches, colds, sore throats and coughs. The herb itself actually has no direct effect on bacteria or viruses but instead it is its effect on our own immune system that aids treatment of an infection.

Other possible therapeutic benefits need further investigation but Echinacea may be helpful for yeast infections.. anxiety, migraines, bladder infections and eye infections. However, most of these are the result of an impaired immune system, which is where the benefit of the herb may lie.

Buying Echinacea.

The herbal tincture that you will see in health food shops and pharmacies is made from the roots, flowers and seeds of the plant. You can now buy capsules but I still prefer to use the tincture as I feel it is easier for the body to absorb and faster acting.

When choosing an herbal tincture it is important to buy a high quality product that is holistically standardised. This means that the chemical constituents of the plant are not tampered with in any way and the end product includes the whole spectrum of healing benefits. It is believed that the active ingredients in a plant work together to provide the overall effect. Some processing practices remove or reduce some of the elements of the plant making them less effective. Do make a point to check your labels, or the details of the product, before you buy.

One of the other things that I have to mention is that we are not allowed to claim that any diet, remedy or therapeutic therapy can cure you of anything. Please consider that said.

Echinacea acts as an immune stimulant that mobilises our defence system by activating and stimulating the release of white blood cells (leukocytes) which fight infection. The function of our T-cells is enhanced and there is an increase in the number of macrophages, the cells that consume and destroy foreign bodies such as bacteria.

One of the plant’s components is Echinacin, which promotes the growth of new tissue, activating fibroblasts, which are the cells that are responsible for encouraging wound healing.

Echinacea can be taken when an infection begins and it can reduce the symptoms and speed recovery by enhancing the immune system’s own abilities. It can also be taken over a longer period to increase the body’s resistance to infection.

  • I usually recommend that a person start taking 15 drops once a day in the middle of October through to the middle of March if they are prone to colds.
  • Children can take 7 drops of the herb for the same time span if they are under 12 years old.
  • If you start a cold or the flu you can take 15 drops, two or three times a day in a little water and children can take 7 drops two or three times a day.
  • It is recommended that you do not stay at this dosage for longer than a couple of months but the usual time is the duration of the infection plus a week, then reduce down to the long term daily dose.

You will find that there are a number of products available that contain Echinacea and two of the most effective, in my book, are the toothpaste which helps prevent bacterial build-up in the form of plaque and skin cream which works well on dry and infected skin.

You can buy Echinacea tea in health food shops and with the addition of a slice of fresh lemon and a teaspoon of honey this can be very soothing in the early stages of a cold and also may help you reduce the symptoms.

Echinacea can also be used for pets but there are specific guidelines that need to be followed.

Contraindications for the use of Echinacea.

  1. If you notice a reaction such as flushing in your face or a rash
  2. You suffer with an autoimmune disease such as arthritis or psoriasis
  3. Check with a qualified herbalists if you have exhibited allergies to certain plants such as ragweed, marigolds or daisies)
  4. Check with a herbalist if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  5. Do not give to children under the age of 12.

The rule is that if you are taking any over the counter or prescribed medication you must always check for interactions before taking herbal medicine. Just because it is labelled as alternative you have to remember that it is a medicine that has an effect on your body.

©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

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 and if you have any questions you can email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com.

Smorgasbord Health Column – Project 101 – Resilience – Flexibility – An Apple a Day – Music Therapy by Sally Cronin


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.

Flexibility

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

No1.

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.

No 2.

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.

No 3.

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.

  • Headaches
  • Rashes
  • Insomnia
  • 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

Smorgasbord Health Column – Project 101 – Resilience – An opportunity to get fighting fit – Sally Cronin


Welcome to the new series – Project 101 – Resilience.

As with most of you, I have spent the last 10 weeks in lock down with only a visit to the supermarket for fresh produce once a week. Thankfully, and touch wood, none of our family or close friends have been infected and slowly we are all coming out of hibernation and preparing to face the world again.

I am sure I am not alone in feeling somewhat nervous about this and will continue with my early shopping to avoid the crowds, wear gloves and a mask when shopping and decontaminate when I get home again.

I have been making good use of the time by continuing to work on keeping myself fit plus resurrecting some writing projects. I have also been planning the direction I would like the blog to take in the next year. For example, I wanted to make use of all the health posts that I have in the archives which number in their 100s, and re-purpose them in a way that readers would find useful.

Project 101 – Resilience.

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.

Some background for anyone new to the blog reading this.

Although I am 67 years old and in good health, it was not always the case and I am very grateful that I took this approach  25 years ago to take back control of my life and health.

When I was 42 years old, I ticked all the boxes in the list of risk factors of becoming critically ill if infected by the Covid-19 virus.  I weighed 330lbs – 24 stone, had high blood pressure, was pre-diabetic with high blood sugar levels, and had frequent respiratory infections and I was working in a high stress environment.

I experienced my wake-up call in 1995, when a doctor told me bluntly that I would be very lucky to reach 45. Which was why it was probably not advisable to ride a mechanical bull…especially as it struggled to move, much to the concern of the operator!

I had experienced weight issues since the age of ten, littered with crash diets and bingeing that had led to this crossroads in my life. I started studying nutrition and medicine, spending hours reading complex medical books in an effort to find the reasons behind my inability to lose weight and keep it off. Most of it was double Dutch to be honest and I began taking notes in plain English so that I could understand better. I came to the conclusion that the medical profession did not actually want you to understand your body and health issues!

Once I knew how the organs and the operating systems of my body worked, including my brain which was key in my weight and health issues, and had a better understanding of my body’s nutritional needs, I set about losing weight. I knew that unlike in the past when I had rushed into every new fad diet that hit the media, I had to adopt a healthy and sustainable approach to the challenge by developing a project plan, in the same way I had for years in a business environment. As I worked through this project plan I also continued to study nutrition and medicine which I had now found completely fascinating.

After 18 months I had lost 154lbs, no longer required blood pressure medication, my blood sugar and cholesterol levels were normal and I felt at least ten years younger.

Me in 1998 after 154lbs weight loss

I have had some lapses in the last 25 years, usually due to being in stressful environments, but I have managed to pull myself back from regaining all the weight I had lost by reverting to my original project plan. Now at 67 I am at a healthy weight and still do not need any prescribed medication as all my key indicators are within normal ranges.

Read the complete weight loss guide: Weight Loss – Size Matters The Sequel

Risk Factors.

This leads directly into the identified key risk factors for all ages during the pandemic which include obesity, underlying health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, respiratory diseases such as COPD and heart conditions. Being deficient in Vitamin D for example has also been included in this list.

The most at risk members of our society are those over 65 years old, not just because they are more likely to have underlying health issues, but because the human body as it ages goes through some fundamental changes in structure and function.

For example, we are more likely to become less active and our lungs, which are the organs most impacted by a respiratory virus, stiffen and do not have the flexibility to work effectively enough to get rid of the infection.

There is also a likelihood of a suppressed immune system and that can be the result of a deficiency of essential nutrients. This happens when a person begins to eat less due to lack of activity and appetite, but also due to a less efficient digestive system. More older people have dental issues and opt for foods that are easier to eat and are missing components such as fibre. Stomach acid may be less and therefore food is not in the right format when it passes into the intestines to have nutrients extracted and passed into the bloodstream.

There is also a severe risk of Vitamin D deficiency in older members of our society who are less active and particularly those who are in care homes who have restricted access to the outside. This risk however, is not limited to the older generation as scientists have identified a high percentage of Covid – 19 patients are deficient in the vitamin.

The majority of men and women over 65 are also on a cocktail of prescribed medication that have side effects such as blood pressure pills, other heart medications and Statins for cholesterol. And whilst you should not stop taking any drugs that have been prescribed for you by your doctor, there is an opportunity that working with them, you could reduce your need for them over time.

One of the key issues facing us as we get older is inflammation within the body and is a result of our own immune system going into overdrive resulting in arthritis, myocarditis – inflammation in the heart resulting in breathing problems, inflammation in the small vessels in the lungs, water retention and in the kidneys resulting in high blood pressure. Inflammation in  the brain is also a cause of memory loss and dementia. I will look at this key issue in  more detail later in the series, and share some ways we can limit its influence on our health.

What I will cover in Project 101 – Resilience.

It is not my intention to repeat all the posts on weight loss, the immune system, digestive system, diabetes, the brain and the lungs in all their detail.

Instead the posts will be about making small changes over a period of time to improve both function and resilience of the body so that should you catch a virus, including Covid-19 you are better equipped to fight off the infection.

To back up the posts I am creating pages of the relevant series such as weight loss that you can read in full should you wish to find out more. This includes the entire Size Matters the Sequel series of 17 Chapters that I have put into one page that you can bookmark and read at your leisure. As we go through the project I will upload more pages on the other topics for you to access easily. You may well have read the posts in the last few years, but I hope putting them together in this way will make them easier to access for reference.

Among the topics I will be covering:

  • Weight loss and some hacks that helped me lose over 150lbs
  • Inflammation in the body and brain one of the leading causes of disease
  • Lung function improvement.
  • Immune system boosting
  • Vitamin D and its vital role in keeping our bodies safe.
  • Exercise – keeping moving and the body functioning.
  • Flexibility – not just in body but in mind.
  • Blood Pressure – we need it to pump blood around our bodies, but too high and it can be dangerous.
  • Type II Diabetes and Pre-diabetes – risk factors that are simple to reverse
  • The Brain – The control centre of the body and it needs to be treated with respect.
  • Stress and its impact on weight and major organs such as the heart.
  • Acidity and Alkalinity in the body and how are creating the perfect environment for pathogens.

Whether you need to lose 7lbs or 100lbs you need to know where you are now.

It is important to have a start point when you are planning to lose weight so that you have a road map to follow, with a destination that is attainable. I often hear clients say ‘I would just love to lose 10 kilos or 2 stone or 10lbs’. This is based not necessarily on the actual weight they need to lose but what they consider to be an acceptably achievable goal. To be honest you need to be a little more specific than this. You may only need to lose 7lbs or 100lbs or you may need to lose more to reach a healthy weight for your age and activity level.

There are two common methods of measuring your weight with regard to health and that is a straightforward weight/height/sex comparison and BMI or Body Mass Index. I believe that it is easier to manage and track your actual weight rather than focus on just BMI – certainly if you are a body builder and fit, determining your health with BMI is not relevant.

Most ideal weight profiles are derived from insurance company statistical tables. These tables however were produced nearly 60 years ago when physically we were shorter and our diet following the war years was still restricted for many people.

I don’t believe that these tables are appropriate today and if you take the ideal weights in that table and treat it as the minimum weight for your height then I believe that it is more realistic for this generation. It is a guideline only and the important factors are the indicators of how healthy you are internally as well as externally.

Of greater importance to me, are your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

As you lose weight it is a very good idea not to just look at the lbs lost and inches but also improvement levels in all of the key indicators such as BP, Blood Glucose, Cholesterol. If you have high blood pressure for example, every 14lbs you lose could relate to a drop of 10% in your blood pressure.  This is particularly important if you are taking BP medication and you should work with your doctor to bring you off medication when you BP had dropped to normal levels. Pharmacies very often offer these tests so that you can check your improvements every 6 weeks or so.

It is very satisfactory to see those numbers coming down to normal levels and it is as important as the weight lost. I will cover these in more detail as we go through the series.

Feed the body, don’t starve it.

I also do not believe in starving the body into submission – when I was studying to correct my own weight issues, I realised that despite being 24 stone I was suffering from malnutrition. Lots of calories but too few nutrients in my diet – hence mal–nourished. You have no idea how funny most of my overweight clients found that notion.

You will often hear the expression “starvation syndrome” which is where the body loses weight under famine conditions (crash diet) and then rebounds with extra weight when there is a time of harvest (when you start to eat normally again) I have always preferred to call this “nutritional deficiency syndrome” .

Some of the other important issues also need to be taken into account.

During your weight loss do you have plenty of energy and is your immune system functioning efficiently? Losing weight successfully involves a number of other factors apart from the food you eat, including exercise, willpower and your emotional involvement.

However, we do need that start point and I have a basic ready reckoner that you can adapt for your own physical build. I have used this for years for both myself and my clients and I have found it the easiest to combine both frame size and weight.

How much should you weigh?

There are a number of sites that will work out your frame size for you – it involves your wrist measurement and your height. Take your wrist measurement with a tape measure and plug in with your height. So for example.. I am 5ft 11inches and my wrist measures 6.5 inches which gives me a medium body frame.

Women: Height under 5’2″

Small = wrist size less than 5.5″
Medium = wrist size 5.5″ to 5.75″
Large = wrist size over 5.75″

Height 5’2″ to 5′ 5″

Small = wrist size less than 6″
Medium = wrist size 6″ to 6.25″
Large = wrist size over 6.25″

Height over 5′ 5″

Small = wrist size less than 6.25″
Medium = wrist size 6.25″ to 6.5″
Large = wrist size over 6.5″

Men: Height over 5′ 5″

Small = wrist size 5.5″ to 6.5″
Medium = wrist size 6.5″ to 7.5″
Large = wrist size over 7.5″

Source: Medline Plus

Working out your weight.

For medium framed women as the average. As a base, use 100lbs up to five foot and then 6lbs for every inch over that height. Modify by 5% either way if you have a light frame or heavy frame.

For medium framed men. As a base, use 106lbs up to five foot and then 7lbs for every inch over that height. Modify either way by 5% if you have a light frame or heavy frame.

Examples

 A woman who is a heavy frame and 5’ 6” would have an optimal weight of: 100lbs + (6lbs for every inch over 5ft) 36lbs = 136lbs – Add 5% for heavy frame = 6.8lbs

This gives an optimum weight of 142.8lbs, 10stone 2lbs or 67.7Kilos

A light framed man of 5’ 10” would have an optimum weight of: 106lbs + (7lbs for every inch over 5ft) 70lbs = 176lbs – Subtract 5% for light frame = 9lbs

This gives an optimum weight of 167lbs,  11stone 13lbs or 75.9Kilos.

Another motivating way to measure your progress is to take an honest (really honest) Before Photograph and then at set intervals along your path to health. Having the After Photo – framed and on display will help you keep you on target.

Here are just three of mine that marked my weight loss project.

Me at 330lbs — then after 100lbs lost….then 145lbs almost at the finish line.

I will be sharing more weight loss hacks over the next few weeks as part of  the series.

Get moving with 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 Bee Gees with Jive Talking thanks to beegees

Buy music by the Bee GeesAmazon US

I will also be offering to help anyone who wishes to have a review done of their current diet with a two week food diary analysis.  This might be useful if you need to loose weight or feel that you are not getting the full range of nutrients you need.

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

Weight Loss – Size Matters The Sequel
The Lungs
Stress
The Immune System and Vitamin D
The Digestive and Immune System
Pre-Diabetes and Diabetes

I hope you will join me again tomorrow but if you miss any posts they will be linked in the weekly round up next Saturday and also in a page in the main menu.  thanks Sally

©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

 

Smorgasbord Health Column – The major Organs and systems of the body – The Immune System and how it works by Sally Cronin


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 and you are 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 andidotes.

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 the posts on the immune system I will be looking at how it works and what it needs to do so effectively.

In this 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.

The immune system is not involved in just our internal defences. It actually has a pretty formidable array of physical barriers that are designed to keep pathogens, which is all harmful substances out of our bodies.

Our first line of defence

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.

vegetablesThose of you who read my articles on a regular basis know what is coming next!… To 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) and moderate intake of grains and whilst I enjoy my whole grains I have developed a taste of fresh sourdough bread which has additives (you know it goes stale in 24 hours)also Basmati rice. (Carbohydrates are treated like sugar by the body so moderation is the key) . Milk, Butter, Eggs and 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.
  6. 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)
  7.  20% of your diet is where the Red Wine, Dark Chocolate and occasional Guinness comes in!

Next time – ignorance is not bliss.. your body is your only real asset and its well-being should be your primary concern.

© Sally Cronin Justfoodforhealth 1998 -2019

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: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

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.

Thanks for dropping in and please help spread the word by sharing..Sally.

Smorgasbord Health Column – Food Therapy Onions and Garlics – Delicious ways to include in your regular diet – Recipes from Carol Taylor


Here are some delicious ways to include onions and garlic in your regular diet to accompany the Food Therapy Series 2020 courtesy of Carol Taylor.

Onions and garlic…Not as easy as it first seems as I use onions and or garlic in practically every dish I make on a daily basis….

But making the Onion or the garlic the hero of the dish as all these cookery programmes like to say…Is much harder than first thought…

Cooking head on and into the kitchen…first job though is to get my ham on…There is nothing like Home cured ham but after teasing you with the thought that recipe unless you trawl through my archives is for another day….lol.

Onions…. Do you know your onions???? Sally has given us the low down at the beginning of this post and the health benefits of the onion…I would say most people use the onion every day as part of their cooking whether it is shallots, red onion, brown onions, spring onions( green onions) so many varieties.

They can be eaten cooked, raw or pickled.

Lovely with some fresh bread, cheese and either pickled or raw they make a lovely Ploughman’s lunch.

Raw in a cheese and onion sandwich….

Spring onions are lovely in an omelette or quiche… A cheese and onion turnover which is a pastry eaten as a snack.

Who hasn’t has Onion Bhaji with your Indian meal?

Popped into cold water they curl up and look so pretty decorating a green salad.

This stuffed Onion is one I have made many times and it is lovely for a vegetarian and quite special so looks like you have made an effort to cook something nice and tasty. But equally as nice for a light meal with a glass of vino…

Stuffed Onion with goat’s cheese and sun dried tomatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large onions.
  • 150 gm goats cheese
  • 50 gm fresh breadcrumbs ( I use olive oil breadcrumbs)
  • 8 sun dried tomatoes in oil chopped and drained. I am lucky that I live somewhere nice and sunny so I can sundry my own tomatoes please click  HERE to see how.
  • 2 tbsp oil from the sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/2 Tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 Tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Just reading that list of ingredients makes my mouth water….I am salivating.

Let’s cook

  • Add the onions in their skins to lightly salted boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the onions from the boiling water, drain and cool. When they are cool enough to handle cut in half and remove skin.
  • Using a small dessert spoon scoop out the centre leaving a thick outer layer… 3 layers are sufficient.
  • Reserve the flesh for later.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 190C/375F
  • Place the onion shells in an oiled oven proof dish.
  • Add all the other ingredients except for the tomato oil and pine nuts to the scooped out onion flesh and season well. Stir in the pine nuts.
  • Divide the mix between the 4 scooped out onion shells and cover the dish with foil.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, remove foil and drizzle with the sun-dried tomato oil cook uncovered for a further 25-35 minutes until bubbling and cooked.
  • Baste occasionally during cooking.
  • And smell…. your kitchen will be filled with such a lovely aroma and even those who are not onion lovers will be salivating…I have had many a convert to this dish.
  • It is lovely just served with warm bread or as a side to some lovely grilled sardines.

Now all of those ingredients have amazing health benefits.

Some lovely variations to this recipe include using Feta cheese instead of goat’s cheese and substitute mint and pitted green/black olives instead of the other ingredients for a real Mediterranean taste. Just stir into the scooped onion mix; you could also add some currants or sultanas.

If you don’t want sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts use 75 gm chopped walnuts add them to the scooped out onion mix add 115 gm chopped celery and cook in a tbsp oil until the celery is soft and put in the onion shell.

Experiment by substituting your own favourite ingredients that is what cooking is all about.
Onions and garlic are also lovely pickled.

Pickled Garlic

Ingredients

  • 8-10 garlic bulbs
  • 500 mls white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 90 gm sugar
  • 1 tsp salt…I always use salt mined here locally or Himalayan salt.
  • 1 tsp per jar of either mustard seed or fennel seeds (optional)
  • 2 x 250-300 ml jars with good lids

Let’s Cook!

Separate the bulbs of garlic into cloves and peel.

In a saucepan bring the vinegar, salt and sugar to the boil, stirring occasionally to make sure the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the garlic cloves to the pickling liquid. Bring it back to the boil and simmer for five minutes.

Transfer the garlic cloves to sterilised jars. Add the mustard or fennel seeds if using. We actually couldn’t decide Fennel or mustard seeds so I normally do some of both they are equal in taste to us. Carefully fill the jars with the hot pickling liquid. Seal.
The garlic will be ready to use in about a week but improves over time.

Pickled onions I have tried many ways and this way seems to produce the crispiest onions and we love a crispy pickled onion…Don’t you?

Pickled Onions. There is nothing like your own crispy pickled onions… I use shallots…But pickling onions are fine.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb Pickling Onions, peeled.
  • 11/2 pints pickling vinegar…I use white vinegar or a mix of apple cider and white vinegar.
  • 2tbls Pickling spices or your mix…again I mix black, white peppercorns, coriander seeds.

Method…2 days before mix 2pts water with 4 oz salt pour over onions, cover and keep in cool place. I keep in the fridge due to the heat here.

Then drain onions and pat dry. Pack into sterilised jars layering pickling spices as you go then pour over vinegar making sure onions are completely covered. Store for 4-6 weeks and they ready…They are the crispest onions I have eaten, far better than shop bought and generally don’t get to 4 weeks let alone 6 weeks as they get dipped into …men!

Pork Belly in Onion Sauce.

This recipe has been handed down through the generations.

I just roast belly pork until it is nearly cooked, then scatter with 2 onions sliced then pour over some white sauce and then pour over some gravy.

I then cook for a further ¾ of an hour until the onions and the white sauce are all bubbling with the gravy. This is very tasty and again my 20% comes into play…lol

Fried Onions.

Ingredients

  • 2 large onions , sliced
  • Milk to soak
  • Flour to dredge onions
  • Oil to fry.

There is nothing like lovely, crispy fried onion with a hot dog or a steak sandwich… Top a lovely Biryani or Indian curry and it is then to die for…That’s healthy gone right out of the window but hey ho….That’s why I follow a 80%/20% diet (not every day)

Just slice those onions and soak them in milk for 5 mins them lightly take them through the flour with a fork and pop into a pan of hot oil…Stirring to brown evenly….

Enjoy!

Baked garlic and shallots with sherry.

This to me is perfection…. Lovely young garlic cloves and beautiful banana shallots… Serve on grilled bread, with a spoonful or two of goat’s curd, or as an accompaniment to a simple roast chicken. Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 garlic bulbs
  • 8 banana shallots
  • 5 lemon thyme sprigs (or ordinary thyme)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 600 ml fresh chicken stock
  • 180 ml sherry
  • 50g unsalted butter, in pieces
  • 50g parmesan, freshly grated
  • Salt and black pepper

Let’s Cook

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
  • Slice the garlic bulbs in half horizontally and place in a roasting tray. Halve the shallots, slip off their outer skins and add to the garlic. Season, with salt and pepper, and then scatter the lemon thyme and bay leaves over the garlic and shallots…
  • Bring the chicken stock to the boil in a small pan; pour over the garlic and shallots. Drizzle over the sherry.
  • Cover the tray tightly with foil and roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes, until the shallots and garlic are golden brown and the stock has reduced down and thickened. Add the butter and parmesan and stir to combine. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and then serve.

Garlic is also a lovely thing infused in Olive oil and is a base for many dishes, a lovely garlic aioli or roasted garlic puree alleviates a dish to new heights. It is such a versatile little bulb as well as being packed with health benefits.

That’s all for now on Onions and garlic…I could go on and on….but I won’t… I hope you have enjoyed reading about the health benefits of these bulbs of goodness and if you have any favourite recipes for onions or garlic then please share with us….

My thanks to Carol for all the amazing ideas on how to bring these two powerful immune boosting foods into our daily diet.

About Carol Taylor

Enjoying life in The Land Of Smiles I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them.

I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.

Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I use have to improve our health and wellbeing.

Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!

Connect to Carol

Carol is a contributor to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology: https://www.amazon.com/Phuket-Island-Writers-Anthology-Stories-ebook/dp/B00RU5IYNS

Blog: https://blondieaka.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheRealCarolT
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carol.taylor.1422

Please feel free to share thanks Sally and don’t to pop back later today for the Halloween Party and a chance to leave your links to blog and books…

Smorgasbord Health Column – Nutrients the body needs – Amino Acids by Sally Cronin


There are two types of amino acid, essential and non-essential. There are approximately 80 amino acids found in nature but only 20 are necessary for healthy human growth and function. We are made up of protein and we require adequate amounts of amino acids if we are to maintain and repair the very substance that we are made from.

We need to obtain essential amino acids from our diet and our body will produce the nonessential variety on its own if our diet is lacking in the essential type.

Essential Amino Acids

These are Histidine (essential in infants can be made by the body in adults if needed), Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Cysteine (essential in infants, nonessential in adults), Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan and Valine.

Non-Essential Amino Acids

Alanine, Aspartic acid, Arginine, Carnitine, Glycine, Glutamine, Hydroxyproline, Norleucine, Proline, Serine and Tyrosine.

The Role of Amino Acids in the body

Amino acids help make neurotransmitters, the chemicals that convey messages in the brain and also hormones like insulin. They are needed for the production of enzymes that activate certain functions within the body and certain types of body fluid and they are essential for the repair and maintenance of organs, glands, muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, hair and nails.

An example of one of the essential amino acids – Tryptophan.

I have often written about tryptophan when featuring healing foods, and it is an excellent example of the role of amino acids within the body.

When we eat foods that contain tryptophan the body will use that to form the very important vitamin B3 or Niacin. Niacin is necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins to obtain the fuel we need (ATP) as well as helping to regulate cholesterol. It is necessary for the formation of red blood cells and hormones. Read more about B3 here.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/smorgasbord-health-column-nutrients-we-need-vitamin-b3-is-also-known-in-different-forms-as-niacin-nicotinic-acid-nicotinamide-and-nicinamide/

When niacin is formed it continues to work with the tryptophan along with B6 to stimulate the production of the serotonin and melatonin transmitters within the brain that not only help regulate our mood but also our sleep patterns. Without tryptophan we would be more likely to suffer from insomnia and depression.

Some studies also show that tryptophan is also a natural painkiller and interestingly it may eventually be used to prevent tooth decay.

Tooth decay is usually the result of the action of our own saliva on carbohydrates that we eat. Those people whose saliva composition resulted in a rapid rate of starch decomposition in the mouth, were more likely to suffer from excessive cavities in their teeth. Those people whose saliva caused a slow decomposition of carbohydrates were found to suffer very few dental problems. Taking in dietary tryptophan has been shown to slow down this process and may well be included in toothpaste and chewing gum in the future.

Other studies indicate that autistic children suffer from a deficiency of tryptophan. Also that it might be useful as an appetite suppressant. In combination with with another amino acid, Tyrosine, it could help with drug addiction and is recommended to overcome jet lag.

Differences between babies and adults.

Due to the enormous growth rate of babies there is a difference in the essential or nonessential properties of amino acids.

An example of this is cysteine, which is considered to be essential in babies, which is why breast milk is very high in the amino acid and non-essential in adults. Due to its high antioxidant effects it may in part be responsible for the important boosting of the immune system in newborn babies that is supplied by breast milk.

When we are adults, we still require cysteine, but instead of obtaining it from our diet it is synthesised from another essential amino acid methionine.

Cysteine plays a role in our antioxidant processes protecting us from free radical damage and therefore chronic disease and ageing. It is currently being studied in relation to a number of medical conditions including peptic ulcers, liver health, the treatment of paracetamol overdose and metal toxicity.

It may also benefit respiratory disease due to its antioxidant properties but also its ability to help break up mucous. In the form of N-acetyl cysteine it may protect the body from cancer and there is a possibility that during treatment for cancer with chemotherapy or radiotherapy that it will protect the healthy cells but not the cancerous cells from any damage.

When I covered heart disease I looked at the role of homocysteine levels in the blood and how excess levels can lead to heart disease. Taking N-acetyl cysteine in supplement form may help reduce these levels as well as the LDL (lousy cholesterol levels) in the blood.

Brief description of some of the other amino acids and their role in the body.

There is not room to cover the roles within the body of all the amino acids but here is a brief look at the diverse roles of some of the individual amino acids within the body.

Alanine – a very simple amino acid involved in the energy producing breakdown of glucose and is used to build proteins, vital for the function of the central nervous system and helps form neurotransmitters. It is very important to promote proper blood glucose levels derived from dietary protein.

Arginine – plays an important role in healthy cell division, wound healing, removing ammonia from the body, boosting the immune system and in the production and release of hormones.

Carnitine – is produced in the liver, brain and kidneys from the essential amino acids methionine and lysine. It is the nutrient responsible for the transport of fatty acids into the energy producing centres of the cells, known as the mitochondria. It also helps promote healthy heart muscle.

Creatine – is synthesised in the liver, kidneys and pancreas from Arginine, Methionine and Glycine and functions to increase the availability of the fuel we need ATP (adenosine triphosphate). It is stored in muscle cells and is used to generate cellular energy for muscle contractions when effort is required. This is why many athletes will supplement with Creatine to increase stamina and performance.

Food sources for Amino Acids.

The best food sources of amino acids are dairy products, eggs, fish, meat, soybeans, quinoa, nuts and seeds.

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2018

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.

You can find all my books here with links to Amazon: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

You can find all the other post on thenutrients the body needs in the directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

Thank you for reading the post and your feedback is always welcome. Thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Health Column – Nutrients the Body Needs – Zinc – The Immune System, acne, infertility, prostate


health column final

Welcome to this week’s look at essential nutrients that our bodies need to be healthy. We tend to regard food as something that looks pretty on a plate, smells and tastes good. Often the cost factor comes in because when you have several mouths to feed that is important. We don’t walk around a market looking for a bunch of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and a bag of zinc but we do need to ensure that we have a wide enough variety of fresh produce in our diet.

When I look at the food diaries for my clients for two weeks of meals, it is often evident that they have settled into a routine.. Fish on Friday, shepherd’s pie on Tuesday, chicken casserole on Thursday. There might be the occasional variation but usually it is the same shopping list week after week.

You might find it useful to check this post out which is the basic shopping list for health and also to make a calendar up for your local area to remind you to buy seasonal produce as that has not only traveled a lot less than most fresh food but supports your local economy.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/smorgasbord-health-column-a-basic-shopping-list-for-a-nutritionally-balanced-diet/

Now to this week’s mineral….Zinc

I have featured a number of posts in the health column on various diseases resulting from compromised immune systems. From the threat of a common cold to cancer, the immune system is on alert and then in action all our lives.

Zinc has been called ‘the healing mineral’. There is evidence to suggest that wounds heal faster when the body has sufficient zinc in reserve and a patient who has a healthy diet including foods containing zinc may find that recovery from operations is speeded up. In some cases additional supplementation is recommended, particularly in a person who has not got a healthy diet.

Zinc is also plays a major role in respiratory infections, burns and skin conditions and certainly has shown that if used in the form of lozenges at the start of a cold, it can alleviate some of the symptoms.

Like Vitamin C, Zinc is a component of more than 300 enzymes needed to repair wounds, maintain fertility in adults and growth in children. It helps synthesise protein, helps cells reproduce, protects vision, boosts immunity and acts as an antioxidant, protecting us from free radical damage.

Main areas of health that require Zinc

The primary areas of health that the mineral is most effectively used are for acne, the common cold, infertility, night blindness and wound healing. It is also used therapeutically in certain cases of anaemia, anorexia nervosa, birth defect prevention, coeliac disease, cold sores, Crohn’s disease, Diabetes, mouth and gum disorders, liver disease, and peptic ulcers. This list is only a partial representation of the areas of health that Zinc is involved in and including it in your daily diet is very important.

One of the areas that I have used zinc as part of a diet programme is for men in their mid 40’s onwards. Prostate problems such as enlargement or even cancer are quite common in that age group and zinc is one of the minerals that may help prevent future problems. In this case a handful of pumpkinseeds twice a day provides a healthy dose of zinc as well as other nutrients.

How do you know you might be deficient in zinc?

A major deficiency is unlikely in the western world. In under developed countries children who are deficient suffer from stunted growth, weight loss, gastrointestinal problems and pneumonia.

In our environment there is some evidence that if there is a poor diet prior to and during pregnancy that zinc will be deficient that could lead to birth defects and illness in the mother. Drinking alcohol to excess can result in liver damage, particularly liver cirrhosis and there appears to be a link to zinc deficiency.

An interesting line of research is in the management of Down’s syndrome. Children born with this syndrome are commonly deficient in Zinc and are treated with a supplement and diet and this helps boost their immunity and thyroid function, which is suppressed due to the condition.

The most common age group for deficiency is the elderly whose digestive systems, along with many other operational activities has slowed down and is complicated by a decrease in appetite and the resultant lack of food and nourishment. If kidney disease is also present the effects the deficiency could be worsened.

Are there any dangers to including zinc in your diet?

Including zinc in your everyday diet is unlikely to cause problems. If you are deficient a supplement containing 15mg per day is sufficient unless your doctor advises higher doses for certain illnesses.

There is evidence to suggest that once you start taking in excess of 300mg per day in supplements you could impair immune system function rather than boosting it.

Some people find that zinc lozenges that are taken at the start of a cold leave a metallic taste in them mouth and some experience gastrointestinal problems but it is usually due to taking more than the recommended dosage, in excess of 150mg. This is one of those cases where less may be more.

The best food sources for zinc are: seafood particularly oysters, pumpkinseeds, sesame seeds, wheatgerm, egg yolks, black-eyed peas and tofu.

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2018

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.

You can find all my books here with links to Amazon: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

Thank you for dropping by as always and look forward to your feedback.  Please feel free to share.

Smorgasbord Health Column – The Immune System – Your role in protecting the body from a virus


I am continuing with the re-run of the Immune System series as it is a message that I believe is well worth repeating.

Most diseases today that are not genetically passed on to us are lifestyle induced. This means that as a rule we are masters of our own health outcomes and need to own the responsibility. I know that most of you that are reading this do just that and that I am only underlining the steps you have already taken. If you do know someone you feel does not share that healthy outlook on life, perhaps you might pass this on. I needed that nudge 25 years ago and it certainly set me on a different path.

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 manager 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 to give it the nutritional and physical support to do its job; and I had been failing miserably.

Supplements

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 plus 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 advice 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.

So, fasten your seat belt! Here we go with part three of the immune system -how it reacts to an infection like a cold, and some more foods to help support your defences in the massive task of keeping you alive.

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 in the first place.

There are two main ways to protect yourself from catching a cold 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. It is almost impossible to avoid contact with people or with objects they have touched with their hands. Some of those people are going to have a cold or influenza and short of doing a ‘Howard Hughes’ and retreating into a sealed room you will have to make do with the main simple but effective precautions.

P.S – Shoppers.. Worth investing in some natural antiseptic wipes with peppermint, citronella, lemongrass,orange, patchouli oils etc and wiping down the handles of supermarket trollies. All these in laboratory tests were effective against 22 bacterial strains and fungi. Think about it!  And wash your hands before you touch any of the raw food you bring home with you.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8893526

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.

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 supress 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.

Next time – How your immune system fights more serious disease, the use of anti-biotics and more tips on how to build your immune system and foods to include in your diet.

©Just Food for Health 1998 – 2018

You can find all the other health column posts in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

A little bit about me nutritionally.

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 from:  http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

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

I would love to connect to you on social media.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sally.cronin
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58
Google + : https://plus.google.com/+SallyCronin/about
LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sallycronin1

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have found of interest.. thanks Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Health Column – The #Immune System – How it Works


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.

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 and you are 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 antibodies.

Having said that, children need to be exposed to un-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 the posts on the immune system I will be looking at how it works and what it needs to do so effectively.

In this 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.

The immune system is not involved in just our internal defences. It actually has a pretty formidable array of physical barriers that are designed to keep pathogens, which is all harmful substances out of our bodies.

Our first line of defence

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.

vegetablesThose of you who read my articles on a regular basis know what is coming next!… To 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 has 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.
  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 two 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) and moderate intake of whole grains. (White carbohydrates are treated like sugar by the body. Milk, Butter, Eggs and 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.
  6. Follow my ‘Cook From Scratch’ approach to eating.
  7.  20% of your diet is where the Red Wine, Dark Chocolate and occasional Guinness comes in!

Next time – ignorance is not bliss.. your body is your only real asset and its well-being should be your primary concern.

©Justfoodforhealth 1998 -2018

A little bit about me nutritionally.

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

You can find all the previous posts in the Health Column in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

Thanks for dropping in and please feel free to share.. thanks Sally

The Medicine Woman – Aromatherapy – Frankincense Essential Oil – Immune, reproductive systems, Anti-aging, Antiseptic


Twenty years ago I ran a health food shop and diet advisory centre here in Ireland and we sold essential oils for aromatherapy. I thought that I should learn more about it and took a course on the subject. It is not something that I have covered here on the blog, and I am looking forward to refreshing my memory from my course notes. and introducing you to this relaxing therapy at the same time.

What is Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses essential oils which have been extracted from specific sweet smelling plants for therapeutic massage. They are blended with specialised carrier oils to ensure that they are used in a diluted form and are easily absorbed by the skin. The oils can also be used to add these therapeutic aromas to our environment as well with the use of burners.

This week one of the most exotic and ancient essential oils that is also one of my favourites which is also used in the skincare industry. If you see Boswellia on the label it contains Frankincense.

Frankincense from Somalia and Oman is extracted from the resin.

  • Scent: Incense, warm, spicy, with a hint of citrus.
  • Usage: Inhalation, Bath, Skin Care, Massage
  • Note: Middle, Base
  • Mood: Calming
  • Safety: None indicated.

The brief history of Frankincense.

Originally this essential oil would have been known as olibanum in Hebrew and al-luban (that which results from milking) in Arabic. It is obtained from the resin (known as the tears) of the Boswellia genus of trees (sapindales), particularly the Bosewellia sacra and more recently the Indian B. thurifera.

It was only when the Frankish Crusaders reintroduced the oil to Europe that it became known by the French name derived from Francencens (high quality incense).

There is evidence that Frankincense was traded as a valuable commodity in Arabia over 5000 years ago with paintings depicting sacks of the resin on the walls of the tomb of the Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut. Clearly something she wanted to take with her. The resin was traded mainly from Southern Arabia at the time and was exported as far as China.

It was mentioned in Ancient Greece and Herodotus mentioned that it was dangerous to extract due to the venomous snakes who also enjoyed being in close proximity to the boswellia trees.

Frankincense was a consecrated incense and has numerous mentions in the Hebrew Bible, Talmud and used in the Ketoret (burnt incense offering ceremonies), blended to a secret recipe. The essence is also mentioned in the New Testament and was offered together with gold and myrrh to the infant Jesus. It is known as a symbol of not just holiness but righteousness and symbolic of the sacrifice as in the burnt offerings in the Ketoret.

There are four main species of boswellia that produce the true, high quality frankincense and the resin comes in various grades that depends on the time of harvesting. It is then hand sorted for quality

The resin from the boswellia genus of trees is used extensively in the pharmaceutical industry particularly in anti-inflammatories and traditionally has been used for skin complaints. For use in the perfumery and skincare industry, the essential oil is extracted by steam distillation.

Although there are no indications of danger in using frankincense topically, I do recommend a skin test at least 24 hours before using.

Health benefits of Frankincense essential oils.

As an antiseptic it may be used on wounds to prevent infection and stop bleeding and the smoke from a diffuser can also help eliminate germs in the immediate vicinity.

It is an astringent which is why it is used in facial skincare. Used diluted in a base cream or lotion it may help prevent acne or to clear the spots effectively. It helps to constrict the skin smoothing out wrinkles. As an inhalent that helps maintain a healthy hormonal balance it may prevent acne associated with monthly periods.

It also is used in body lotions for stretch marks and cellulite with the bonus of making you smell very good. If rubbed into the lower abdomen it may also help with cramps and other PMS symptoms, and is particularly useful during the menopause. Because it is calming.. a regular massage using the oil, in combination with others can alleviate mood swings and stress.

When inhaled the oil can regulate hormone production helping PMS symptoms and also maintaining a healthy reproductive system, boost the immune system, improve digestion, improve inflammatory related health issues, help stop diarrhea and may help internal wound healing. It may also promote urination and water retention eliminating toxins from the body, reducing blood pressure and helping to maintain a healthy weight.

It can be used in homemade toothpaste along with baking soda and peppermint oil to help prevent cavities, improve gum health and you can use in water as a mouthwash. From time to time I will put a drop on my toothbrush and use instead of toothpaste and also after brushing, wash the brush head thoroughly in very hot water and then rub in a drop of frankincense as an antiseptic cleaner.

Some of the many other essential oils that Frankincense blends well with. When combined with their health benefits, you have a powerful arsenal in your natural medicine cabinet.

Geranium from Egypt, Madagascar, China is made from the whole plant.

  • Scent: Floral
  • Usage: Skin Care, Massage, Baths
  • Note: Middle
  • Mood: Harmonising
  • Safety: None Indicated.

Mandarin is made from the peel of the fruit and comes from Brazil, Algeria and Argentina.

  • Scent: Citrus
  • Usage: Bath, massage, skin care
  • Note: Top
  • Mood: Soothing
  • Safety: Avoid exposure to sunlight.

Neroli is made from the flowers and comes from Morocco, Tunisia and France.

  • Scent: Floral
  • Usage: Skin care, massage, baths
  • Note: Top
  • Mood: Calming
  • Safety: None indicated

Patchouli is made from the leaves and comes from India, Malaysia and Indonesia.

  • Scent: Musky
  • Usage: Burners, massage, baths
  • Note: Base
  • Mood: Calming
  • Safetly: None indicated.

Rose Otto is made from the flowers and comes from Bulgaria and Turkey.

  • Scent: Floral
  • Usage: massage, skin care and baths.
  • Note: Middle/Top
  • Mood: Balancing
  • Safety: None indicated.

Sandalwood is made from the wood of the tree and comes from India.

  • Scent: Woody
  • Usage: Massage, inhalation, skin care, baths.
  • Note: Base
  • Mood: Balancing
  • Safety: None indicated.

Ylang Ylang is made from the flowers and comes from Madagascar.

  • Scent: Floral
  • Usage: massage, baths, skin care
  • Note: Middle
  • Mood: Seductive
  • Safety: None indicated.

Just a couple of notes.

This is not a full list of essential oils and you can discover the full range at any specialist shop or website. You will also find that they have carrier oils and also a range of accessories for blending and keeping your finished preparation fresh.

Secondly it is not advisable to take essential oils internally especially in their concentrated form. However, I have used peppermint oil … just one drop to a large glass of water for IBS. Do ask an expert before experimenting.

©Sally Cronin 2018

Additional information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankincense

Thank you for joining me today and I hope you have found interesting… thanks Sally