Smorgasbord health 2017 – A -Z of Common Conditions – Chicken Pox and Shingles – A Double Act.


 

I am picking up the A – Z of Common Complaints and Top to Toe Health posts again after the summer.  You may have read some of the posts in the last three years, but I am updating again with any new treatment protocols.

Chicken pox

As children begin school for the first time or return after the long summer break, there is likely to be an outbreak of one of the common childhood infections including chicken pox.

 

Image – MediaIndia.net

Chicken pox is one of the most common childhood illnesses with an estimated 9 out of 10 children contracting the virus. In itself it is usually mild and whilst uncomfortable because of the itching and general feeling of being unwell, it passes within two weeks.

There has been a great deal of research into childhood illnesses such as chickenpox, measles, German measles and mumps and their effect on the immune system. It is generally believed that provided the diseases do not cause complications that it will boost the immune system into adulthood.

There is a proviso with this assumption. It may not be the case if a child is treated with antibiotics previously for bacterial infections which may have already weakened the immune system. Some parents deliberately put their children in the path of others with chicken pox, but it can be a double-edged sword as there is a link between the disease and the onset of auto immune conditions such as asthma and the possibility of shingles in later life.

The symptoms of Chicken pox.

This is a very contagious disease and it is caused by the varicella-zoster virus and can be transmitted by touch or by breathing in the virus particles from a persons breath or sneezing. Symptoms to be aware of in a child is persistent itching in the stomach area, unusual tiredness and a slight fever. Check the stomach for a rash and also see if it has spread to the back or face. It can spread to cover the body with between 250 and 500 blisters. It often forms blisters in the mouth too which can make drinking and eating very uncomfortable.

Catching it an early stage is important to prevent your child returning to school and infecting any more classmates. Consult with your doctor, who will hopefully come to your house to confirm the diagnosis, as they probably will not want you taking your child to the surgery! You should inform your child’s school so that they can check to see if there are any other potential cases. I would hope that if they had already been notified of a case of chicken pox, that they would have notified all other parents anyway.

Chicken pox can be very dangerous for babies in the family and you should make sure that they do not have any contact with their brother or sister. You also need to take some basic but important hygiene precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. Personally I suggest disposable gloves, keep all towels separate and move other children to another room if they share.

The elderly generation is also at risk and should avoid all contact with any members of the family who have been infected. The incubation period from infection to the first spot is 1- 2 days and then they are contagious until scabs have formed on the blisters which is usually between 5 – 7 days.

The chicken pox vaccine

Over the years since babies and toddlers have been vaccinated there have been opposing arguments laid out by both the medical profession and parents. And I suggest that if you are a parent that you do take a look at both sides of the issue. There are a number of government sites that lay out the medical position and then there are alternative therapist and parent sites with their views.. I suggest you search for Chicken pox Vaccination pros and cons.

The old school approach, and certainly when I was a child, was to let a child catch the infection and that it would strengthen the growing immune system.

I had a small pox vaccination very young and yellow fever as we lived in the tropics where the diseases were still endemic. I got measles at three and do remember being in a dark room (measles and sunlight can cause eye damage) and I had chicken pox when I was 11 years old. But, I was one of those who went on to develop shingles in adulthood so on reflection I think I might have preferred to have the vaccination.

Anyway – what is the course of action if your child does have chickenpox.

Apart from taking the hygiene measures to protect yourself and the rest of the family it is recommended that your child has bed rest, is kept hydrated (water not fizzy drinks), pureed (warm not hot) foods that are soft and easy to eat if there are blisters in the mouth.

Paracetamol appropriate for the age of the child and check with your pharmacy. Also calamine lotion for the spots and blisters and if they are particularly itchy talk to the pharmacist for some chlorpheniramine anti-histamine medicine which can help alleviate some of the itching.

Do not give a child or adult with chicken pox ibuprofen as it can make them very ill.

Keep your finger nails and your childs trimmed short to prevent breaking open the skin and it is a good idea to pop some cotton gloves on your child at night or some socks that are tied at the wrist.

If you are going to bathe the child, then use lukewarm water and dab a damp soft cloth over the body and then pat dry with another. Wash cloth after use in hot temperatures.

Dress the child in loose cotton clothing rather than their normal pajamas.

Keep an eye on the progress of the infection and take your child’s temperature twice a day and if it continues to rise despite paracetamol or goes over 39 C.. it is less for babies under 3 months old at 38 C.

Now for the bonus that you can find chickenpox has gifted you.

Certainly there is a higher risk of contracting shingles later in life if you have contracted chickenpox as a child, especially in those over 70 years old whose immune system has naturally declined in function and as a result of lifestyle, diet and prescribed medication.

What is shingles?

Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is an infection of a nerve and the skin that surrounds it and is caused by the same varicella-zoster virus which causes chickenpox.

It results in a painful rash which develops into blisters containing particles of the virus and they are extremely itchy. This itch element is guaranteed to get the host scratching, breaking the blister and dispersing the virus. The person unlucky enough to come into contact that virus will not catch shingles but can develop chicken pox if they have not already had the disease previously.

The other interesting factor associated with shingles is that it usually only affects one area on one side of the body and rarely crosses over your centre line through the body.

For example I had chicken pox when I was 11 years old and had 10 days off school. Apart from the fact that I managed to read War and Peace during that time, I also retained the virus which lay dormant in my body. When I was 24 years old, I developed shingles around one eye but not the other. It was one of the most painful things I have experienced and it was also potentially dangerous as it could have potentially affected the sight of that eye.

At that time I was under a great deal of stress and my immune system was naturally under-performing. Apart from stress and being over 70 years old you are also at risk if you have been on long-term medication or have an underlying chronic infection.

An episode of shingles will usually last between two to three weeks although some people will continue to experience nerve pain in the form of postherpetic neuralgia long-term.

Thankfully it is rare for more than one attack of shingles in your lifetime.

You do need to visit your GP if you begin to suffer from pain in a specific area of the body that develops into a rash. This is particularly important if you are pregnant or already have a diagnosed auto immune disease or weakened immune system.

I mentioned earlier that you will not catch shingles from someone, but could get chickenpox instead, so it is important to visit your GP if this is the case. There is a vaccine available, and as those over 70 are in the high risk category, in the UK a vaccination programme is in place for anyone over that age. Only one dose is usually necessary but a booster is administered at 78 or 79 years old. Most countries also offer this to that age group.

Apart from a preventative vaccination that reduces your risk of developing shingles, there is no cure. It is recommended to keep the area that is affected covered with a non-stick dressing to prevent others from being infected with chickenpox. Painkillers can be taken and if it is a severe outbreak antiviral medication can stop the virus spreading.

There are some commonsense actions you can take that might reduce the length of the infection and pain of shingles.

Wear lightweight cotton gloves at night which is when you will be more prone to automatically scratch the blisters. Also wear when you are watching television or any other activity where you might be tempted to scratch.

You can place a cool compress over the affected area and then use calamine lotion to ease the itching. I have used colloidal silver and tea tree cream on rashes that have helped but ask expert advice in your Health store or pharmacy.

If you go online you will find various sites that will recommend other alternative remedies and I have no doubt that some will indeed shorten the infection or ease the symptoms but my advice is not to buy online, but to speak with a qualified advisor in person. It is important to remember that you might be left with long term nerve pain and that anything you use should be considered carefully. To be honest this goes for prescribed medication too.

Dietary

If you are suffering from an outbreak of shingles then your immune system needs boosting. If you have a diet high in processed foods and sugars you will not be providing your body with the nutrients it needs to sustain this vital health system.

Do not drink alcohol and follow a very simple diet of fresh vegetables, wholegrains fruit, and  of lean protein with plenty of fluids.

Nutrients that can help you limit the extent of the shingles outbreak.

Viruses thrive in a body that is nutrient deficient. There is a particular link to an imbalance of amino acids in a person whose immune system is not functioning efficiently.

This is particularly relevant to the herpes family of viruses that prefer a system high in the amino acid L-Arginine in relation to L-Lysine. Arginine enables the virus to replicate in the nucleus of your cells, which spreads the virus through your body. Lysine however has an antiviral action that blocks the arginine and therefore helps limit the extent of the outbreak.

At the onset of an attack of shingles switch to a high lysine diet including foods such as poultry, fish, beef, chickpeas and up your dairy intake and eggs.You want to build your immune system to include plenty of green vegetables that are particularly high in Lysine such as green beans, Brussel Sprouts, asparagus, avocados, apricots, pineapple, pears and apples.

Drop the high arginine foods such as tomatoes, grapes and the darker berries. The same applies to most nuts, oats, chocolate (sorry) and caffeine (sorry again).

Other ways to boost your immune system

If you have shingles on an exposed area of your skin you do not want to expose to direct sunlight; despite the fact that it will help dry out the blisters. However, Vitamin D is vital to a strong immune system, and if you can get 45 minutes a day in the morning or late afternoon with sunlight onto your bare forearms you will receive a boost of the vitamin.

 

 

Your fresh fruit and vegetables will be providing you with Vitamin C, and your eggs with Vitamin E. However, there is one supplement that I do take especially now I am into my 60s, and that is Vitamin B12. This can be difficult to obtain from food and I take sublingually, under the tongue daily for a few weeks at a time and I find that this helps prevent me from developing infections.

I hope this has been helpful and would be grateful if you could spread the message in any way that you can.

If you have any questions that might be useful for other readers please use the comments section but you can always email via sally(dot)cronin (at) moyhill.com if you wish to have a private word. Thanks Sally

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


Smorgasbord Health 2017

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

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

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

1. WEIGHTLOSS

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

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

2. BOOSTING THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

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

3. REDUCE BLOOD PRESSURE AND UNHEALTHY CHOLESTEROL

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

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

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

YOUR PRE-OPERATIVE EATING PLAN

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

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

A pre-operative eating plan.

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

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

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

THE FOODS

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

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

Per day

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

Per day

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

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

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

FLUIDS

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

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

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

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

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

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Health in the News – Research into alternatives to Antibiotics.


Smorgasbord Health 2017

There has been a great deal of concern in recent years, that the indiscriminate usage of antibiotics has resulted in resistent strains of superbugs that will leave us undefended from disease in the future.

Apart from the global impact of this scenario, there is the effect on our health as individuals. Persistent use of antibiotics weakens our own defences and can result in a number of severe health issues. This includes leaving us wide open to resistent bacteria that can lead to death.

A new CDC study shows that children given antibiotics for routine upper respiratory infections are more susceptible to aggressive antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacteria commonly known as C. diff.

The study found that 71 percent children who suffered C. diff infections had been given courses of antibiotics for respiratory, ear, and nose illnesses 12 weeks before infection.

“When antibiotics are prescribed incorrectly, our children are needlessly put at risk for health problems including C. difficile infection and dangerous antibiotic-resistant infections,” Frieden said in a recent statement.

C. diff, a bacteria found in the human gut, can cause severe diarrhea and is responsible for 250,000 infections in hospitalized patients and 14,000 deaths every year among children and adults.

To read about the other dangerous effects on our health by over use of antibiotics: http://www.healthline.com/health-news/five-unintended-consequences-antibiotic-overuse-031114

A possible alternative to antibiotics

Date: May 23, 2017
Source: American Technion Society
Summary: A combination of metals and organic acids is an effective way to eradicate cholera, salmonella, pseudomonas, and other pathogenic bacteria, researchers report. The combination also works on bacteria that attack agricultural crops.

Antibiotics are an effective means of treating bacterial contamination. But extensive use of antibiotic substances in medicine and agriculture has resulted in increasingly antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that humanity is approaching the post-antibiotic era — a world in which antibiotics will no longer be effective, and even minute contaminations will be life threatening.

Now, encouraging research that combines metals and organic acids as a viable alternative to antibiotics is being conducted at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The findings by a team led by Assistant Professor Oded Lewinson in the Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine were recently published in Nature Scientific Reports.

Numerous alternatives to antibiotics are already being tested by researchers around the world. Two of these are the use of metals such as silver, zinc, and copper (which were used in ancient Egypt and Greece for treating infection and purifying water sources), and the use of organic acids such as food acid that is used as a preservative in the food industry.

Read the rest of this important article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170523084828.htm

The other major preventative for contracting infections in the first place is by boosting and maintaining your own immune system with a health diet and exercise.  If you are eating foods that are included in this directory you will be making a very good start.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-nutrition-directory/

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe – The Incredible structure that keeps us upright.


Smorgasbord Health 2017

Unless we break a bone or crack one, we tend to take our skeleton for granted.  As we get older we can also experience problems within the structure particularly in the joints that limit our mobility and provide an excuse for not doing quite as much exercise as we should!

However, it is never too late to help your bones as our diet and our exercise levels do have an impact on the regeneration of this essential framework.

I am going to give an overview today on our skeleton and then follow that up with a closer look at the essential nutrients needed in the formation and maintenance of our bones and the precious marrow that is held inside them.  This marrow is essential for our immune system and overall health.  Arthritis in its various forms is likely to affect most of us as we grow older and I will cover the three most common – Osteo-Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Gout during the series. The other area that is an increasingly more prevalent problem for the elderly is osteoporosis.

The Skeleton.

We often marvel at the magnificent structures that have been built over the last few thousands of years. The pyramids remain a mystery and their complexity and their resilience to time and man’s destructive influences overawe us.

Instead of being overawed we tend to take for granted our own support structure which is actually as marvellous and as complex as any building or edifice from the ancient or civilised worlds. Buildings are in the main fixed, with the rare exception of a revolving door or floor.

Our bodies on the other hand not only have to be structurally sound but also have to move, requiring intricate and sophisticated engineering systems to maximise strength and mobility.

Every bone in our body, and there approximately 200 of them, is a particular shape because it has a specific role to play. Where flexibility is required, cartilage takes over from bone but it is the joints and ligaments that provide us with our unique ability to stand upright and move with such grace and flexibility

Obviously the skeleton provides an essential framework for our outer layer as well as supporting us as we move through life. But our bones have some vital functions that also are essential to our health and survival.

At birth we have far more bones in our body despite our small size; around 350 which over the years will fuse together into larger units. A baby’s skull has tiny bones with gaps between called fontanelles. This allows the skull to be molded sufficiently to pass through the birth canal without damage to the mother or the baby’s brain.

Not only does a baby have more bones than an adult but more cartilage, which is more flexible. As the baby grows this cartilage will harden into bone and the process continues well into a person’s late teens.

Bones lengthen in the arms and legs at each end at the growth plate, which is made up of cartilage. This cartilage slowly hardens and becomes bone and when no more cartilage is left in late teens or early 20’s, growth stops.

From a nutritional point of view these years of bone growth, fusion of the skeleton and hardening of the bones themselves is critical. Poor diet from birth into early teens can have a dramatic effect on bone health in middle age resulting in Osteo-arthritis and osteoporosis.

Bone health is not just associated with our structural skeleton because underneath this tough and solid outer layer is the soft and vital marrow where all our blood cells are produced that keep us alive. You will find more details in blood health in an upcoming series of posts.

What do we need to keep our bones healthy?

Calcium helps bone to develop. When we make new bone tissue the body first puts down a framework of a protein called collagen. Calcium from the blood then infuses the framework and when the calcium crystals have filled the entire structure the collagen and the calcium form the strength and flexibility of the bone. In a reverse process when we do not get sufficient calcium from our food or fluids, calcium is borrowed from existing bones, which of course weakens them. As calcium is not just used to manufacture bone but also to assist in neural communication and heart and lung functions, demand has to be met by taking in sufficient through diet to prevent further bone density loss.

Bone health needs to be dealt with by age group. Obviously babies, children and adolescents have a different requirement for calcium as they are in such a rapid growth phase. There are some recommendations for calcium daily requirements but because of the complex mechanism of bone development calcium is not the only requirement. Vitamin D is essential for the process as is weight bearing exercise.  Other nutrients such as Vitamin K also play a role which I will cover later in the series.

Children’s’ bodies are an eating machine that is highly efficient in taking what it requires from food and metabolising it into the required components for health. There has been a great deal of research in the last few years into the role of dairy products as a source of calcium for bone health leading to some concerns that excess dairy provided calcium may lead to accelerated bone loss rather than the reverse. However, dairy products still feature high on the list of food sources for this crucial mineral and whatever the results of current research, there is no doubt that bone health requires Calcium and Vitamin D combined with weight bearing exercise.

Best food sources of calcium

The average requirement for a child is as follows:

  • · 1 to 3 years – 500mg per day
  • · 4 to 8 years – 800mg per day
  • · 9 to 18 years – 1,300mg per day

As adults between the age of 19 and 50 we need 1,000mg per day but after 50 we need slightly more and should be taking in at least 1,200mg per day from nutritional sources. Recent research is indicating that it may be harmful to take in large doses of supplemental calcium.  https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/05/04/smorgasbord-health-2017-nutrients-in-the-news-can-take-calcium-supplements-damage-your-heart/

All these food sources will provide 300mg of calcium and it is important to obtain the mineral from as varied a source as possible so that you obtain not just the calcium, but the different nutritional benefits of the individual foods.

  • · Dairy products. Milk 250ml, Yoghurt 175ml, Cheese including low fat varieties 50gm.
  • · Fish products. Canned Salmon with bones 213gm, Canned sardines with bones 213gm.
  • · These products provide 150mg of calcium per serving.
  • · Fruit and vegetables. Oranges x 3, Figs x 6, Baked beans ½ can, Broccoli 250gm, Brussel sprouts x 10 large. Spinach 250gm.
  • · There is also calcium in seeds and nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and sesame seeds and in fortified drinks like orange juice.

The role of Vitamin D in bone health

The importance of this Vitamin that actually thinks it is a hormone, cannot be overstressed.  It is becoming increasingly evident that this vitamin is showing signs of being deficient in many children’s diet and lifestyle resulting in far more cases of rickets or soft bones.  It is essential for so many functions within the body but is difficult to source especially in the winter months and from limited foods within the diet.

Image

Vitamin D enables calcium to leave the intestine and enter the bloodstream. It also works in the kidneys to help reabsorb calcium which might otherwise be excreted in urine.

One of the problems regarding this particular vitamin is that the best way to produce Vitamin D in the body is to get out in the sunshine, unprotected for 30 to 45 minutes 5 times a week. Exposing your hands, arms and face in this way is usually enough to satisfy the body’s requirement. In this day and age of fears about skin cancer, people are either wearing heavy sunscreens or not exposing their skins at all to sunlight. Also, as we age we become less able to utilise sun to make our Vitamin D. As we reach adulthood we tend to play outside far less than children and this limits our exposure to sunlight. Failing exposure to sunlight then we need to take in sufficient Vitamin D through our diet and this means including free-range eggs, salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, cod liver oil.

The last part of the bone health equation is weight bearing exercise

Apart from ensuring that we take in the right ingredients for the production of bone we also need to stimulate bone to continue growing and strengthening.

We all need frequent, weight bearing exercise. Bone is a living tissue and it constantly changes density, gaining and losing strength according to how often it is used. The old saying that I keep repeating ‘use it or lose it’ applies to our bones as well as most other parts of our body. Exercise stimulates calcium absorption in bone and bone also responds to an increase of blood flow during activity. This ensures that not only calcium but other vital nutrients are also absorbed.

The types of exercise that we take part in tends to differ at various ages but are no less important to bone health. Children, particularly during their incredible growth rate, need to not only take in the nutrients but also actively stimulate their bones into normal growth. Bones can also store calcium for later use during exercise, which makes it even more important. Walking and playing team sports, hiking, tennis, dance and martial arts are all good examples of weight bearing exercises suitable for children but certain activities need to be supervised to make sure that children are not exercising beyond their body’s capabilities. Bones are still not fully formed and joints are vulnerable to damage.

Other weight bearing exercises suitable for adults include walking, dancing, jogging, aerobics but these exercises will only benefit the bones being used and in this case it is the legs. To fully benefit the bones in the rest of the body we need to also take part in resistance exercise which uses muscular strength to improve muscle mass and strengthen bones.

The action of pulling on bone by the muscle actually stimulates it to grow so weight lifting and floor exercises such as push-ups will be very effective. Again these types of exercise should be supervised to maximise the benefits.

Our bones are hidden from view and we invariably only know we have a problem when we suffer a fracture. A couple of external indicators might give you a clue to your skeletal health and that is your teeth and nails. If they are strong and in good condition this should indicate that your bones will also be receiving sufficient calcium and Vitamin D.

As we get older a bone density test is a good idea, particularly for women who are going through the menopause and in the years following this natural process. Early detection of a problem will enable you to deal with the problem by making either some dietary changes or working the appropriate exercise into your lifestyle.

More on our bone health and the diseases we can impact by diet and lifestyle changes next time.

Smorgasbord Health – A -Z of Common Conditions- Nothing more common than a cold!


smorgasbord health

In recent years we have had a number of scares as high infectious and contagious diseases that swept through populations. For example the Ebola outbreak in 2014 which actually got very scary for a time.  Whilst there is some debate on how the disease is passed, there is no doubt, that it is the vulnerable with either immature or compromised immune systems that are at the greatest risk.  As with any virus, Ebola is opportunistic and wants a host that provides all that it needs.

This is post is not about Ebola but a very much more common viral diseae that does already impact billions around the world every year. Although it does not have the devastating effect of Ebola, constant and repeated cold infections does weaken the immune system and make you vulnerable to more dangerous pathogens.

The common cold.
This time of year many immune systems are compromised by the short days and variable if non-existent sunshine. Vitamin D has been in short supply since October for many of us, and unless we have taken steps to keep our immune system up to scratch with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit as well as plenty of fluids and moderate exercise… we are at risk of catching a cold and being its host for a week or more.

Colds are spread by contact with another person suffering from one and we need to take some basic hygienic precautions to help prevent contagion but we also need to build up our own defences so that we shake off any unwanted bugs that fly in our direction.

What What exactly is the common cold?

  • 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.
  • There are very few people who do not suffer at least one cold a year and some individuals can suffer 7 to 10 infections.
  • As we mature and we are exposed to more and more viruses our body learns to deal more effectively with them by producing more antibodies.
  • Babies and the elderly are the most vulnerable and likely to develop chest infections. Also at risk are patients on immune suppressing medications or whose lifestyle and diet have suppressed their ability to fight off infections.
  • Remember too, that, in this modern age, viruses are jet setters and can move swiftly from continent to continent on aeroplanes.
  • 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.
  • A cold is milder than influenza but a light case of influenza will share the same symptoms.

There is an old saying that “if you treat a cold it will last a week and if you let it run its course it will only last 7 days”. A mild dose may only last a couple of days, particularly if you have a strong immune system or you react quickly with lots of vitamin C in foods and drink. For someone who has a compromised immune system, the symptoms could hang around for up to 2 weeks or longer if it develops into a bronchial infection.

The common cold is not just one virus.
There is not just one cold virus there are over 200 and this makes finding the ultimate cure very difficult. Rhino viruses are the most prevalent and cause over half of the colds we catch.

Cold viruses can only thrive in a living cell, which means your nose. If someone sneezes or coughs on you the first response is to wipe your body off with your hands. The hands are now contaminated and you then touch your mouth and nose passing the virus on. The virus is also passed hand to hand or by touching contaminated surfaces such as door handles.

A cold develops between two and three days after infection.
Cold viruses only live in our human nose and that of our relatives the chimps and other higher primates. Other mammals are lucky and when your cat sneezes it might be down to too much catnip!

Travelling on trains, buses and aircraft are great collecting points for cold and influenza germs with aircraft being the biggest Petri dish of them all.

What causes the symptoms of a cold?
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 problems. 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 bloodstream. These include histamines, kinins, interleukins and prostaglandins. When activated, these mediators 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 is 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 fewer cold infections. Unfortunately, with so many cold viruses available to us we may not have produced enough different antibodies to give us total immunity.

What precautions can we take to prevent catching the cold virus?
There are two main ways to protect yourself from catching a cold virus. One is to minimise the risk of infection through contact and the other is to build up 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. 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 with decontaminants you will have to make do with the main simple but effective precautions.

  • Wash your hands frequently to avoid passing the virus into your nose.
  • Use a natural anti-viral hand barrier cream. (I use Grapefruit Seed Extract)

There are some interesting areas of contamination – apart from door handles – for those of us who shop, trolley handles have usually passed through many hands…apparently in public toilets the least contaminated surface is the toilet seat but the most concentrated bacterial and viral load is on the tap handles and loo roll holder!

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.

oranges

Boosting the immune system
The second way to protect yourself is to boost your immune system and both Vitamin C and Zinc have been found to help boost the immune system and help with the symptoms for centuries. If you are not able to get out into the winter sunshine at least three times a week with some skin exposure then I do suggest you are eating the few foods that contain vitamin D.. or that you consider taking a supplement during the winter months.

You will find full details of these three vital nutrients in the directory below that gives a breakdown of all the essential nutrients. In the food pharmacy section you find onions and garlic, two very useful ‘over the kitchen counter’ remedies for colds.

pumpkin seeds

A handful of pumpkin seeds as a snack each day will help you boost your Zinc intake.

From a dietary perspective, your diet needs to include all the necessary nutrients for our general health. If you are consciously working on boosting your immune system then certainly you need a high proportion of fresh vegetables and fruit in your diet which contain high levels of antioxidants and other nutrients essential for the immune system.

lemons

Drink the juice of a lemon in hot water every morning when you get up and leave 10 minutes before eating your breakfast – a quick shot of Vitamin C before you start the day and also great for getting the body up and running.

Stress plays a large part in the health of our immune system. If you work or live in a stressful environment then you need to find some way of relaxing on a regular basis. Whilst exercise is very good for this, lying on the sofa listening to your favourite music is also very effective.

What do we do when we have been infected?

Cold symptoms are miserable and I realise that to function in this modern world of ours we are sometimes forced into the situation of taking something to suppress those symptoms.

If you work or have a young family, you cannot suddenly take to your bed for three days until the symptoms subside. However, if possible it is better for you and your cold to work with your body and not against it.

It is important, especially within your own family to limit the amount of contagion and the easiest way to do this is to all wash your hands very frequently. Do not share towels, toothbrushes or flannels and do not share drinks from the same cup or glass. When you use a tissue, use once and then discard safely into a plastic bag that you can dispose of later.

Fluids are very important especially as your appetite is likely to be suppressed. High content vitamin C drinks such as hot lemon with ginger, green tea with a slice of lemon and fresh squeezed juice drinks are the best. Other teas that you may find palatable are mint and elderflower or cinnamon with some lemon and a spoonful of honey. These tend to help sore and itchy throats and warm the chest.

A bowl of hot vegetable soup with carrots, spinach, onions and garlic will help warm you and as you will see from the post on onions and garlic they may help you fight off the infection faster.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/06/23/the-medicine-womans-larder-beware-vampires-onions-and-garlic/

onions

For centuries eucalyptus and menthol have been used to alleviate the symptoms of congestion and you can buy the essential oils in any health food shop. You can put a few drops of eucalyptus onto a hankie and inhale the aroma or dilute in massage oil and rub on your forehead, chest and upper back. Over the centuries the herb  Echinacea has been used to both boost the immune system and also alleviate the symptoms of a cold.

There have been rumours for many years that a cure for the common cold is imminent but in the meantime we may have to resort to some old fashioned remedies to ease the symptoms and help our body do the job it is designed to do, which is protect us.  The cynic in me does wonder at times if a cure for the common cold is ever on the cards since worldwide we spend billions each year on medications that are supposed to ease the symptoms!

You will find more information on Zinc, Vitamin C and Vitamin D in this directory along with the foods that supply our body with them.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/nutrient-directory-a-brief-overview-of-the-nutrients-we-need-and-the-foods-that-supply-them/

 

 

 

 

Smorgasbord Health – Ancient Healing Therapies – Acupuncture.


smorgasbord health

Last week I took a look at Reflexology and this week the focus is on the ancient Eastern healing therapy, Acupuncture first posted in 2015.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/smorgasbord-health-ancient-healing-therapies-reflexology/

Acupuncture is believed to be Chinese in origin, although there is evidence that it might have been used nearly 5000 years ago in India. It is certainly one of the oldest and most respected medical procedures in use in the world. Not only for humans, but also our household pets, farm animals, race horses and exotic animals in zoos are being treated with acupuncture for many different ailments.

As far as the west is concerned, acupuncture really only came to prominence in the last half of the 20th century. Acupuncture means literally the stimulation of certain points on the body by a variety of techniques including massage, but this week we are taking a look at the practice that utilises needles.

Thin, solid metallic needles are used to penetrate the skin and are then manipulated by hand or by electrical stimulation to achieve energy flow through specific points in the body.

 HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?

The body needs to be in balance to work efficiently. Despite our apparent robustness the balance within our bodies is remarkably delicate and it only takes minute shifts in this balance to result in degenerative diseases and illness. In Chinese medicine this balance is between two opposing and inseparable forces called Yin and Yang.

Yin represents cold, slow and passive forces whilst Yang represents hot, passionate forces. To be in a perfect state of health, both these forces must be in balance, however, when one force takes dominance an illness might occur.

When there is an imbalance, the natural flow (Qi) through pathways (meridians) in the body, is interrupted or blocked at various points. It is believed that there are 12 main meridians and 8 secondary meridians and there are over 2000 acupuncture points on the human body that connect them.

Western science has tried to determine how manipulating these points on the body might help treat certain conditions and there are a number of theories. One is that the manipulation encourages the release of endorphins and also stimulates the release of additional immune system defences at those points. Some studies indicate that there might be a change to our brain chemistry stimulating the release of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers between cells) and neurohormones (hormones that are released into the bloodstream but also act as neurotransmitters) that might affect parts of the central nervous system. These may relate to sensations such as pain or functions such as immune system defensive reactions, blood pressure regulation, blood flow and temperature.

There are certain points on the body that have a specific effect. For example there are points on the ear that alleviate tension, increase will power, return the body into a balanced state, relieve withdrawal symptoms and can reduce your appetite. A qualified acupuncturist will have a detailed knowledge of the affects resulting from all 2000 points being manipulated.

What is having acupuncture like?

I have undergone acupuncture treatment a couple of times. One was to help me lose weight, which involved having a stud inserted into the upper part of my ear that I could manipulate myself when I became hungry. It certainly worked, although I unfortunately never let something as basic as a lack of appetite come between me and a tub of ice cream. If my initial commitment at that time had been to really losing the weight it would have been more effective. Either that or locking me away in a junk food free zone for three months!

The second time was definitely a rewarding experience. I have a damaged knee due to the wear and tear of hauling 25 stone out of a car several times a day in my younger life. Despite losing weight, a number of years later the knee gave way and it looked as though I might have to undergo surgery. I visited a physiotherapist who also was an acupuncturist and for the next three months I went to see her twice a week.

It was not entirely painless but within a fairly short space of time the inflammation was much improved, as was the pain. Today I still have the some problems with the knee but I have found that if I manipulate certain points that my therapist showed me, I can make my own improvements.

Acupuncture and animals.

What gives me great confidence is the work done with animals. Animals do not have a hidden agenda in trying to prove that any particular therapy works or not. Either it does or it doesn’t. More and more vets and animal therapists are using acupuncture in their practices with great results. For me that is evidence enough that this form of medical therapy is an option when looking at therapeutic care. As this photograph from

If you are trying to lose weight or give up smoking you must first start with the firm decision that you are going to do so. Then contemplate acupuncture to support that decision. What I have found is that if you do not want to give up cigarettes or the ice cream, you will override any supportive therapy you choose.

Do research therapists and a personal recommendation from someone that has been treated by them is often the best way to find one that will suit you. Be prepared to give a detailed and honest medical history before undergoing treatment.

Thank you for dropping by and look forward to your feeback.. Sally

 

 

The Digestive and Immune Sytems – Short Story – What happens to a chicken sandwich as it digests!


The immune system- The Digestive process.

In my book, Just Food for Health, the chapter on the digestive system is nine A4 pages long (there are a few illustrations). You are used to seeing long posts from me which is why I split the topic over several posts last week. About this time last year I wrote this short story to describe the passage of a very common and tasty snack that many of us enjoy. Usually with only one thing in mind. The taste.. However, perhaps after following this chicken sandwich through your digestive tract you might think about it in a different way. For those who read this last year.. apologies but I wanted to link last week’s digestive system series and the previous immune system together.

Antibiotics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chicken sandwich

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

Salivary Glands

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

Stomach and Pancreas

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

Acid Alkali scale-01

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

Referring back to my cholesterol blogs – https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/cholesterol-2015/ –  this is when total levels are affected by the efficiency of the bile process. Cholesterol not only comes from food but is also manufactured in the liver. It is virtually insoluble in most fluids except for bile where the acids and fats such as lecithin do the job. If this process is not effective cholesterol can collect into stones that block the ducts and cause problems with the digestion of fat. Bile levels in the body are lowest after fasting which is why you have a cholesterol test at least 12 hours after your last meal.

Intestines

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

Intestinal villi

Villi in the intestines

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

Single villus

Single Villus with its complex absorption system

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

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

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

The only foods that provide our digestive system with the raw ingredients to maintain and boost our immune systems are natural, unprocessed vegetables, fruit, protein, wholegrain carbohydrates and healty fats.

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

Most of us have access to an amazing variety of fresh foods but stay firmly fixed on a handful. We need a really wide variety of food to obtain all the nutrients we need for our immune system and this shopping list might help you out.

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

©sallygeorginacronin Just Food For Health 2008

Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share.. your feedback is always very welcome.. Sally

Smorgasbord Health – Mineral of the Week – Zinc for Healing.


smorgasbord healthWelcome 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 travelled a lot less than most fresh food but supports your local economy.

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

Now to this week’s mineral….Zinc

We are currently in the middle of the series on the lungs and many respiratory diseases are due to compromised immune systems.

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.

QUESTION – HOW WOULD WE KNOW IF WE WERE DEFICIENT?

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.

QUESTION – ARE THERE ANY DANGERS BY 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.

beefeggspumpkin seeds

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

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

©justfoodforhealth Sally Cronin 2007

Smorgasbord Health – The Lungs – Part Four – Pneumonia – the most common cause of death of children worldwide!


As part of the series on essential minerals I covered the subject of Asthma recently so won’t include in this series on the lungs.  But if you are interested in reading more about this particular respiratory disease then you can find the details in this post. Asthma

According to the world health organisation Pneumonia is the leading course of death in children. That surprised me too. I know that it the most common cause of death written on a death certificate for the elderly, and it is because these are the two most vulnerable groups in our society wherever we live.

Pneumonia

In the post on asthma, I looked at some common allergic reasons for this condition and now I am going to look at pneumonia which is an inflammation or infection of the lungs most commonly caused by a bacteria or virus.

The origin of the word pneumonia is from the Greek pneuma – meaning air, and pneumon, – meaning lung, with pneumonia meaning inflammation of the lung.

There are approximately 30 causes of pneumonia and before the use of antibiotics over a third of the victims of this disease died. Today it tends to be young children, the elderly, or people with existing debilitating conditions, who are likely to contract pneumonia.

What are the most common types of pneumonia?

There are two categories of pneumonia that all types fall into. One is infective pneumonia and the other is aspiration pneumonia.

Infective pneumonia is when the bronchial tubes and lungs become infected and inflamed by either bacteria or a virus that has entered the lungs and reproduced.

Streptococcus pneumoniae

Bacterial pneumonia

Bacteria are not choosy and anyone can become infected. The most common culprit is Streptococcus pneumoniae or Pneumococcus (pictured above). In these cases one or other of the lobes of the lung are affected. The onset of this form of pneumonia is very rapid with high fever and breathing difficulties within the first few hours and with the very young and the elderly seeking medical help immediately is vital as their immune systems are unable to cope with the ferocity of the infection.

There are are further complications with this specific bacteria as it can affect other parts of the body such as the brain where it becomes meningitis. This diagnosis is a parent’s worst nightmare and this is why understanding the symptoms early can be so important. The bacteria is easily transportable in the bloodstream to all parts of the body, so if not treated can lead to a serious strain on the immune system. Bacterial pneumonia normally responds to a strong dose of antibiotics but as with many diseases today some of the bacteria responsible for pneumonia have become resistant to those currently in use.

Viral pneumonia

Viral pneumonia is the most common form of the disease, although it does not always have the worst symptoms. It quite commonly follows another upper respiratory disease – when viruses coughed out of the lungs get inhaled back into the air sacs to begin another infection. The onset is usually less rapid than the bacterial form of the disease, beginning with a persistent cough, high fever and possibly nausea. The usual treatment unless the problem is very severe is patience whilst the infection runs its course. This is where eating a diet rich in anti-oxidants and plenty of fluids will help to build up the immune system and support the body whilst it recovers.

Aspiration pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia is any condition where a foreign substance such as vomit, mucous or other fluids such as saliva have been inhaled into the lungs. This obviously applies to external contaminants such as chemicals. This can effect young babies who tend to lie on their backs and have not mastered the swallow reflex. Also, toddlers, who play with miniature toys, or sweets, are also at risk and there have been cases where the epiglottis has failed to block their entry into the lungs leading to inflammation and infection. The elderly also are at risk through ill fitting dentures and poor dental health that minimises the amount of chewing of the food in the first place. Because all of the body is working less efficiently, particles of food can be inhaled into the lungs causing an infection.

A chemical inhalant can be extremely damaging in the long term. Apart from the normal inflammation of the alveoli, at the tips of the bronchial tubes, the acidity and reaction of the chemical can also do extensive damage to the lung tissue resulting in permanent damage.

How can you avoid contracting pneumonia?

It is important to boost your immune system to prevent infections, particularly if you are going to be admitted to hospital for an invasive operation. Despite their life-saving capabilities, hospitals are also a thriving incubator for infection and unfortunately most people who are rushed in for an emergency may not be in the best of health.

To me, this is one of the most compelling reasons to eat a healthy diet. It is a form of insurance that should be taken out along with car, house and possibly private health insurance. Many people only begin to eat healthily after the event, when they have been scared into it by a heart attack or a run in with a vicious infection.

The majority of people suffer first and foremost from a repressed immune system, which is why they keep getting repeated infections such as colds. After a relatively short period of time the body becomes more and more vulnerable to more aggressive infections such as pneumonia.

Ensure you are following at least a basic healthy eating plan which should include lots of brightly coloured fruits, such as oranges and apples, and vegetables – particularly dark green leafy kinds such as spinach and broccoli. Do not starve yourself and ensure plenty of variety so that you get the widest possible spread of nutrients. Cook from Scratch is a habit that we should all get into for life. The effect of processed foods on our immune system is long lasting and particularly for the young who are likely to see the results of our modern diet earlier and earlier in their lives.

One of the major problems with the elderly is their lack of appetite, which needs to be stimulated with tasty snacks 5 or 6 times a day, and nutrient dense foods such as bananas, rich vegetable soups, pureed vegetables that are easy to absorb and eggs are perfect for this as you can eat slightly less whilst still getting the nutrients. Soft fruits and vegetable juices are perfect, as they are concentrated and easy to digest.

For children who are picky and will not eat their fruit and vegetables you can make smoothies with vegetables and fruit and pureed soups that hide the fact they are eating Brussel sprouts.

What else should you do to avoid contagion?

  • · One of the easiest precautions that you can take to avoid getting a cold or flu that might turn into pneumonia is to wash your hands thoroughly before eating and after contact with other people. Hot water and soap is usually sufficient although there are a number of antibacterial products on the market.
  • · If you have a cold, or flu, use tissues rather than hankies and always throw them away when you have used once. Not very cost effective but it prevents you re-infecting your nasal passages with the bacteria or flu when you blow your nose repeatedly.
  • · If you have a cold, or a person you know has one, then avoid kissing them or touching them with your hands unless you can wash them straight away. It is so easy to touch your mouth and nose and infect yourself within minutes.
  • · If you are a smoker or are in close proximity to one you will find that the alveoli in your lungs are already damaged and therefore susceptible to inflammation and infection. There is only one thing for this and that is to stop smoking and stub out the cigarette of anyone else in your vicinity.
  • · If you are using strong cleaning products always open a window and if possible use a mask. This obviously applies in a work situation where health and safety regulations should be observed stringently. Those of us who colour our own hair should always open the nearest window for example.
  • · If you are in the garden and spraying weeds or using fertiliser do not do so on a windy day and wear a mask over mouth and nose as well as protective clothing. Always hose off boots and clothing outside.

In summary, you need to build your immune system and adopt some simple everyday hygiene standards and it will greatly reduce your risk of contracting this second stage infection.

Next time – Lung Cancer – and then diet that helps your lungs stay healthy.

©sallygeorginacronin Just Food For Health 2009

Smorgasbord Health – Vitamin of the Week – Vitamin C – Immune System and 3000 biological reactions.


smorgasbord healthVitamin 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!
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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. It helps prevent harmful cholesterol (LDL) from free radical damage, which can lead to plaque forming on the inside of arteries, blocking them.  The antioxidant action protects the health or the heart, the brain and many other bodily tissues.

Vitamin C is an effective agent when it comes to boosting our immune systems.  It works by increasing the production of our white blood cells that make up our defence system, in particular B and T cells.  It also increases levels of interferon and antibody responses improving antibacterial and antiviral effects.  The overall effect is improved resistance to infection and it may also reduce the duration of the symptoms of colds for example.  It may do this by decreasing  the blood levels of histamine, which has triggered the tissue inflammation and caused a runny nose.  It has not been proven but certainly taking  vitamin C in the form of fruit and vegetable juices is not going to be harmful. Another affect may be protective as it prevents oxidative damage to the cells and tissues that occur when cells are fighting off infection.

This vitamin plays a role along with the B vitamins we have already covered in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps determine our emotional well being.

Collagen is the protein that forms the basis of our connective tissue that is the most abundant tissue in the body.  It glues cells together, supports and protects our organs, blood vessels, joints and muscles and also forms a major part of our skin, tendons, ligaments, corneas of the eye, cartilage, teeth and bone.  Collagen also promotes healing of wounds, fractures and bruises.  It is the degeneration of our collagen that leads to external signs of ageing such as wrinkles and sagging skin.  There is a similar affect internally that can lead to degenerative diseases such as arthritis.  Vitamin C is vital for the manufacture of collagen and is why taking in healthy amounts in your diet can combat the signs of ageing.

Our hormones require Vitamin C for the synthesis of hormones by the adrenal glands.  These glands are situated above each kidney and are responsible for excreting the steroid hormones.  The most important of these are aldosterone and cortisol.  Cortisol regulates carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.  Aldosterone regulates water and salt balance in the body and the other steroid hormones, of which there are 30, help counteract allergies, inflammation and other metabolic processes that are absolutely essential to life.

The cardiovascular system relies on Vitamin C that plays a role in cholesterol production in the liver and in the conversion of cholesterol into bile acids for excretion from the body.  The vitamin also promotes normal total blood cholesterol and LDL (lousy cholesterol levels) and raises the levels of the more beneficial HDL (Healthy cholesterol) It supports healthy circulation and blood pressure, which in turn supports the heart.

The other areas that Vitamin C has shown it might be helpful to the body is in the lungs reducing breathing difficulties and improving lung and white blood cell function.  It is recommended that smokers take Vitamin C not just in their diet but also as supplementation.  Exposure to cigarette smoke may severely deplete the presence of Vitamin C in the lungs leading to cell damage.

Many studies are showing that Vitamin C can protect the health of the eye by possibly reducing ultra violet damage.  The vitamin is very concentrated in the lenses of the normal eye which can contain up to 60 times more vitamin C than our blood.  Damaged lenses appear to have a much lower amount of vitamin C which indicates that there is not sufficient to protect the lens from the effects of free radicals or support the enzymes in the lens that normally removed damaged cells.

Research is ongoing with Vitamin C and certainly in the fight against cancer there are some interesting developments.  As usual I will be covering the latest medical research of our featured vitamin and mineral.

Vitamin C works as part of a team helping in various metabolic processes such as the absorption of iron, converting folic acid to an active state, protecting against the effects of toxic effects of cadmium, copper, cobalt and mercury (brain health).

One word of warning if you are on the contraceptive pill. Vitamin C in large supplemental doses can interfere with the absorption of the pill and reduce its effectiveness.

QUESTION – WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF DEFICIENCY OF VITAMIN C.

A total deficiency is extremely rare in the western World.  A total lack of the vitamin leads to scurvy, which was responsible for thousands of deaths at sea from the middle ages well into the 19th century.  Some voyages to the pacific resulted in a loss of as much as 75% of the crew.  The symptoms were due to the degeneration of collagen that lead to broken blood vessels, bleeding gums, loose teeth, joint pains and dry scaly skin Other symptoms were weakness, fluid retention, depression and anaemia.  You can link these symptoms back up to the benefits of vitamin C and understand how many parts and processes of the body this vitamin is involved in.

In a milder form a deficiency has also been linked to increased infections, male infertility, rheumatoid arthritis and gastrointestinal disorders.

Best Food Sources.

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The best food source of vitamin C is all fresh, raw fruit and vegetables.  Avoid buying prepared peeled and cut vegetables and fruit, as they will have lost the majority of their vitamin C.  If you prepare juices at home, always drink within a few hours preferably immediately.  Do not boil fruit and vegetables, it is better to eat raw whenever possible preserving all their nutrient content, but at the very least only steam lightly.

Researchers believe that taking in adequate amounts of Vitamin C is the best private health insurance that you can take out.

The best food sources is of course fresh fruit and vegetables but the highest concentrations are in Blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, grapefruit, guavas, kiwi fruit, lemons, oranges parsley, peppers, rosehip, potatoes, tomatoes and watercress.

I hope that you have found this useful and please feel free to share… thanks for dropping by.. Sally