Smorgasbord Health Column – Major Organs and systems of the body – The digestive system, the Immune System and a Chicken Sandwich.


The immune system- The Digestive process.

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

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

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

As a starter – a bit about Antibiotics.

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

If human DNA only mutates every 10,000 years or so, they are outstripped 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 defense mechanism in place and we would die. Therefore you really need to think of these two major operating systems of the body as working in tandem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Referring back to my cholesterol blogs –Health Column Directory  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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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/smorgasbord-health-column-a-basic-shopping-list-for-a-nutritionally-balanced-diet/

©Just Food for Health 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.

I hope you have found useful and your feedback is always welcome.. thanks Sally.

 

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Smorgasbord Health Column – The Immune system and A Chicken Sandwich


This is a post from my archives… but I do think it does bear repeating, since we tend to look at our food from a taste perspective rather than how the body views it!

The immune system and a chicken sandwich

In my book, Just Food for Health, the chapter on the digestive system is nine A4 pages long (there are a few illustrations).

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 am sure you have eaten several chicken sandwiches in the meantime…..

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

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

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

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

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.

IntestinesBy the time the liquid sandwich reaches the duodenum the particles within it are already very small, however they need to be smaller still before they pass into the ileum, where the final chemical processing will take place. The enzymes that have joined the mix from the pancreas and amylase will break down the food even further into peptides and maltose which is a disaccharide sugar.7.

The small intestine is lined by millions of villi, tiny hair like projections which each contain a capillary and a tiny branch of the lymphatic system called a lacteal. More enzymes maltase, sucrase and lactase are produced to facilitate the absorption of the smaller particles through the villi – including breaking down the sugar pairs into single sugars called monosaccharides which pass through easily.

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

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

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

So there goes the last of your chicken sandwich. I hope it puts a different perspective on the food that you are putting into your mouth – it also is important to remember that if you have a white diet, white grains, fats and sugars, 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, whole grain carbohydrates and healthy 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/2018/04/19/smorgasbord-health-column-the-alternative-way-to-shop-by-nutrient/

©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/

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe – The Immune System and Digestive System and A Chicken Sandwich


Smorgasbord Health 2017

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 Digestive System and the Immune System into shorter posts in the Top to Toe Series.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe/

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

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

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

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

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.

IntestinesBy the time the liquid sandwich reaches the duodenum the particles within it are already very small, however they need to be smaller still before they pass into the ileum, where the final chemical processing will take place. The enzymes that have joined the mix from the pancreas and amylase will break down the food even further into peptides and maltose which is a disaccharide sugar.7. The small intestine is lined by millions of villi, tiny hair like projections which each contain a capillary and a tiny branch of the lymphatic system called a lacteal (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 1998 – 2017

You will find all the posts for the Top to Toe series in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe/

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

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe – The Immune System – Ignorance is not Bliss


Smorgasbord Health 2017

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 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 year old body decided that it was better to get its nutrients from a capsule or tablet? And considering that it does take 10,000 to 12,000 years for a DNA mutation that might make a small change in the way the body processes nutrients for its needs, I think it is clear that we still need to ingest the good old fashioned food to give it a fighting chance.

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

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

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

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.

lemonsThe 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 – 2017

You will find all the post on the Top to Toe series in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe/

If you have any questions about nutrition or health issues then please email me direct on sally.cronin@moyhill.com

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