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The Immune Reset

Hand Blocking Green Immune Cells Bursting out from Black background

5 Ways to support immune resilience and improve immune tolerance.

Click here if you missed my previous blog about immune tolerance and immune resilience. And where we spoke about how important it is to strengthen immune tolerance (when it is low) in order to support immune resilience, which in turn promotes a healthy, well-functioning immune system.

Below are the five lifestyle strategies I mentioned in my previous blog, that we need to follow to strengthen immune system health. And to make your life and heart full again. To make you healthy and strong. Here’s to a happy, healthy life. Of course, there are other strategies you can do as well, but these are your starters.

  • Good sleep
  • Proper diet and nutrition
  • Hydration
  • Physical activity at appropriate levels
  • Emotions

Good Sleep

One of the most neglected and misunderstood strategies to improve immune function, immune resilience and to avoid infections is good sleep. Certain immune system cells (natural killer cells and T-cells) that are used to fight infection are boosted and activated when we sleep. When we sleep the body repairs itself and we are at peace. When we wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day, it’s a sign that we have had adequate sleep. When we are grumpy and bumpy, groggy and cranky, that’s a sure sign we didn’t get enough sleep. The day ahead will be long. Adequate sleep is fundamental to a well-working immune system and immune resilience.

Go to bed early. Try to sleep at least 7 hours a night. It is well known that people who sleep less than 7 hours are more prone to heart attack. And 90 minutes before bedtime, turn off all devices and televisions. Let your mind breath…and relax. I know it’s easy to say go to bed early when all you want to do is watch some television or stay on your computer because you feel as if your day has been all work and no play. It seems unfair. But start off by doing it a few nights a week, try reading a book in bed for ten minutes to relax and wind down. You’ll soon see that you’ll get into the habit of it, and start feeling much better.

Remember that there is not a single tissue within the human body and not one process within the brain that is not enhanced with adequate sleep (minimum 7hrs per night), or in the other case, impaired without enough sleep (less than 6hrs per night).

Proper Diet and Nutrition

What is nutrition, is it simply food that fills us up without giving us any health benefits, or is it food that is overflowing with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, etc, that helps us grow, develop, renew, and stay healthy? You guessed it, it’s the latter.

If you look the word nutrition up in the oxford dictionary, it is the “process by which living things (including humans ) 🙂 receive the food necessary for them to grow and be healthy.” Without good nutrition we cannot possibly be healthy and we cannot possibly have a robust immune system.

This, I believe, is what most people in today’s world don’t understand. The foods we eat build us up or tear us down. They build our immune system and push hormone production – hormones, in turn, support a healthy and robust immune system and really improve our immune surveillance…killer cells at work!

So what should we do? Firstly, we need to cut out processed sugars, and concentrated sugars from your diet. That would include concentrated fruit juices, sweets, boiled sugar sweets, candy, etc. Anything that has a high amount of concentrated sugar in it needs to disappear from your diet. Plus they are empty calories that don’t provide you with any nutrition, at all!

We need to eat lots of colourful and varied fruit and vegetables which are high in flavonoid antioxidants, which really help our overall immune system strength. Another major helper is to diversify our microbiome. In other words, we want to have as many different healthy bacterial species in our gut. A healthy gut is essential for a healthy immune system. In fact, believe it or not, approximately 80% of our immune system is found in the gut. Eat multiple kinds of vegetables, but try to change the vegetable you eat. Don’t eat the same fruit and vegetable all the time…change them, this way you will really improve your immune resistance, by improving your gut microbiome.

Last but not least cut out inflammatory foods. Avoid such things as fried foods, processed foods, high floury carbohydrates (eg pasta, breads, pizzas), which cause insulin surges, make you tired (it’s the insulin surge that makes you tired), and they also deplete antioxidant reserves.

Also, avoid partially hydrogenated fats which deplete our antioxidant reserves – they usually come in packets or boxes. Read the labels on the foods you buy.

HYDRATION

Hydration…what is hydration? Again, in the Oxford dictionary hydration means, “The process of making something/somebody take in and hold water.” Water is the key word!. Drink lots of water throughout the day…drinking tea, coffee and alcohol can actually worsen the ‘hydration situation’ as these beverages act as diuretics, so we basically become dehydrated just from that. Please drink water and avoid sugary drinks. Another key to building immune resilience is to stay hydrated all the time. Don’t let yourself get thirsty.

When we are dehydrated the immune system goes into default, and we become more prone to infections. The immune system dysregulates and, interaction and communication (yes our immune system communicates…it talks to our body 🙂 ), and immune signalling becomes compromised. In other words, when we are dehydrated the immune system becomes less efficient. Another thing, dehydration impacts blood volume and can cause miscommunication (yes our body is talking again) between the lymphatic system and the immune system.

If you have an infection or feel you are about to get one, you definitely need to stay hydrated and drink (water!) all the time, as this helps clear the infection quicker.

Of course, you need to cut down on salt intake if you want to stay hydrated. High salt intake makes you urinate more often to try and get rid of the sodium and regulate osmotic pressure.

Physical activity at appropriate levels

Although this might sound strange the immune system communicates throughout the whole body – it has to, to enable us to have optimal immune function, and optimal immune resilience. So, throughout our body and throughout the trillions of cells we have in the body, we have different types of immune cells, from macrophage to antigen-presenting cells. What these cells do is test and sample whatever is coming into the immune system…so when a pathogen, viral, bacterial or other microorganism that causes disease, comes in, they check it out by sending an immune messenger. When a pathogen is detected they (immune cells) let the immune system know that it now needs to manufacture antibodies to protect it from this pathogen. T cells now need to switch on and our natural killer cells need to attack and deal with this infection. To achieve the best immune response this message has to reach the whole body as quickly as possible.

To quicken this process movement of any kind is important…but how much movement, when and how?

Movement promotes better blood flow, circulation, and lymphatic exchange of fluids. When you increase your heart rate, the blood flow and circulation enhances and when you pump those weights, and release and contract, it helps the lymphatic system to work more efficiently, and move fluids throughout the body at a greater speed. If you want to improve, support and/or build overall immune function, it is critical that you do some kind of movement/motion. However, the question is how much?

If you are healthy and have no immune challenges, strenuous exercise is fine, and can actually help release opioids, which have an incredible impact on immune cells like T cells, natural killer cells, and B cells, which of course, will strengthen immune system function and make it much more able to respond to any type of pathogen appropriately.

Instead, if you have an infection and are fatigued it’s best to slow down. Take it easy. High, intense exercise burns up antioxidants and reserves, which will really dampen our immune system. If you are not feeling too good or getting sick a brisk walk is just as good, it’s important not to fatigue yourself. Even a slow walk will activate your lymphatics and immune system function.

So, the key thing here is…

Any kind of movement, whether it’s high intensity or a gentle walk in the park, are critical to vascular dynamics (blood flow and exchange), to help push immune messengers throughout our body. If you want to improve your immune resilience and support tolerance, exercise, movement and motion are critical factors.

Emotions (Laughing and crying)

Really? Yes, really. These emotions can greatly impact immune resilience which help us to fight off infections and be less susceptible to infections that are going around.

Laughing actually triggers a release of opioids, that is of course, why we feel so relaxed and happy after a good laugh. As mentioned previously, opioids greatly impact immune system function by activating key cells such as T cells, natural killer cells and regulatory T cells that help the immune system to be more efficient in dealing with any type of pathogen. So, remember to laugh a lot and watch comedy films rather than tragedy. Laughing can have a profound impact on the immune system. ‘Be Happy – Laugh More – Stay Healthy’.

So what about crying? Hmm! Crying, believe it or not, this also helps us release opioids. For instance, in a critical situation or a crisis many of us cry. If you think about it we feel better after we’ve cried…it seems to relieve us somehow. When we start to cry opioids are released to act as a safeguard, and help dampen stress. In short, they help protect us from dealing with the stressor, which impacts the immune system.

So even crying significantly impacts the immune system by way of opioid release. Think about this next time you want to cry…just cry…and Be Happy!

I know we are all resistant to change, and yes, old habits die hard. But it’s your health we are talking about…it’s your life and the quality of it, no one else’s. Try these changes and see how it can change your life and your health. And if it helps to motivate you…these changes may even help you lose weight.

However, remember rebuilding a strong immune system doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. You need to be consistent…you need to stick with it. Make yourself a New Years resolution, even if it’s not New Year…who needs New Year to make a new resolution? Start now and your summer will be off to a super start. Remember, the longer you leave your immune system to breakdown the longer it will take to repair.

To Your Health

Jill 🙂

How to increase longevity and slow the signs of aging

We’re pre-programmed to resist the signs of ageing and take every step we can to maximise our lifespan. But, with all the distractions of modern life, it’s easy to fall into bad habits that can slowly start to shave years off your life expectancy.

Fighting back against the ageing process doesn’t mean cutting out everything that you love, but with a few minor lifestyle changes you can re-discover your natural vitality and look forward to a long and healthy old age.

Here’s the key factors to consider and how you can naturally optimise your longevity:

1. Sleep

Sleep impacts on all of your body’s systems and a lack of it can double the signs of skin ageing according to a US study, as well as making us feel less attractive.

More importantly, it can be a real risk to our health, with a report from University of Warwick finding that people who sleep less than six hours per night are 12% more likely to die over a 25-year period than those who get the recommended amount of sleep. These deaths were often from heart-related conditions.

Most medical professionals advise that you aim to achieve regular, uninterrupted sleep sessions of six to eight hours per night in order to maintain optimal health and vitality.

2. Stress

Stress is often unavoidable, but could be wreaking havoc on your appearance and life expectancy.

Stress can damage our chromosomes and DNA, resulting in mutations that can increase your risk of overall immune distress, degenerative diseases (like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s) and even cancer. A study by Harvard and Stanford Universities quantified that consistent stress could knock as much as 33 years off your potential lifespan.

To avoid this and stave off those grey hairs a little longer, ensure that your hormones are naturally in balance, optimise your diet, cut out contaminants (like alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes) and try to be mindful about what causes your blood pressure to creep up.

3. Diet

Diet is another all-encompassing factor that can impact severely on your health and wellbeing.

No matter how much you think you’re looking after your body, a bad diet can wreck your complexion and leave you looking pale and peaky. Your diet can also impact on your overall life expectancy, with coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes (which, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, can shave six years off your life alone) are among the most serious risks.

Start taking regular exercise, avoid consuming high levels of alcohol, and eliminate trans fats from your diet. Trans fats are bad and increase your risk of heart disease. In fact, they are so bad that some countries have banned them outright. They also interfere with the body’s ability to produce its own DHA (an omega-3 essential fatty acid). Fill your new diet with wrinkle-fighting antioxidants, whole and non-farmed foods, and ensure your vitamin intake is optimised.

4. Essential oils/serums

Even with a balanced diet and regular exercise, there are certain conditions or individual variables that can prevent us from absorbing the right levels of essential nutrients.

Essential oils and serums have long been used as a way of distilling the essence of integral elements to ensure that we can regulate our intake to match our unique bodily composition. Rather than being a direct means of extending longevity, essential oils will help to maintain your overall wellbeing, boost your immune system, improve skin quality, help you sleep and much, much more.

Once an expensive lifestyle option, you can now easily mix your own essential oils at home using ingredients like jojoba oil, evening primrose oil, pomegranate oil, vitamin E and lavender oil.

5. Genetic mutations

Genetic mutations and free radical damage are most commonly caused by toxic elements entering our bloodstream via our diets, alcohol or cigarettes.

Each mutation has the potential to turn cancerous, or cause degenerative diseases that could dramatically decrease your life expectancy. A study by Treatment4Addiction found that each cigarette was equivalent to 14 minutes off your life expectancy (10 years if you’re regularly smoking 20 per day). But, there are unseen factors too. A nutritional imbalance and the presence of E numbers and other contaminants in our diet might be slowly degrading your overall health.

With cigarettes and alcohol, it’s easy to know exactly what you need to cut out. However, knowing how to adapt your diet can be a little more complicated. Simply revise the ‘Diet’ section above and you can start off on the right foot.

6. Hormones

Our hormones are the oil that keeps our finely tuned machines in proper working order, but decline dramatically with age, often resulting in the onset of numerous degenerative diseases.

This decline is likely to signal that the menopause is now in full swing, complete with the range of unpleasant side effects that this transition brings. Later, your risk of cognitive degeneration, mobility issues and bodily changes (weight gain, wrinkles, hair loss etc.) will increase significantly. And, even if you try to fight back with synthetic hormones, you’ll be increasing your risk of breast cancer and other conditions.

An alternative is bioidentical hormones restorative therapy (BHRT) to help improve your life and protect your long and short-term health.

Conclusion

The further medical research advances, the more we come to understand that many aspects of the ageing process are not set in stone and can be avoided with intelligent lifestyle choices. Follow these simple steps and look forward to excitement and energy in your later years.

10 trans fat foods to body swerve

Confused about trans fats? You are not the only one.  See our handy list of the 10 worst transfat food culprits to avoid below.

Until UK food manufacturers, retailers and fast food outlets eliminate trans fats from their products completely, avoid these 10 processed foods that can contain trans fats;

  1. Margarine. Some brands have removed transfats, but check for ‘mono and diglycerides of fatty acids’’.
    Tip. Use butter sparingly instead.
  2. Artificial (non dairy) creams and instant sauces. Check the label of instant custards and artificial cream for hydrogenated vegetable oil.
    Tip: Make your own custard and use real cream.
  3. Fast food / takeaways. Most fried food; fries, chicken and deep-fried  foods use partially hydrogenated oil. It’s tricky, because even when the restaurant outlet don’t use transfats, foods like fries are sometimes partially fried in trans fat before they’re shipped to the restaurant.
    Tip: Skip the pies and fries.
  4. Baked goods (cookies, biscuits etc). Yes your favourite muffin or biscuit bought from the supermarket may contain trans fats. In fact, trans fats are used in commercially baked products more than any other foods. Watch out for cookies and cakes with shortening-based frostings, some supermarket bakeries use plenty of trans fat.
    Tip: Put your pinny on and bake them yourself.
  5. Cake and biscuit mixes. Look out for partially hydrogenated soybean and / or cottonseed oil.
    Tip: Add baking powder and flour to your shopping basket and do it your self.
  6. Frozen pizza. A serving of certain brands of frozen pizza can contain up to 4 grams of these harmful trans fats.
    Tip: Check the ingredients or make your own.
  7. Microwave meals. Frozen dinners are often loaded with trans-fat.
    Tip: Check the ingredients, or make a bulk pot of home made stew to make dinners quicker and easier during the working week.
  8. Donuts. Even donuts from supermarket bakeries use transfats. Watch out for Emulsifiers (Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids) on the label.
  9. Frozen pies. Often somewhere in a very long list of ingredients you will find emulsifier (Mono and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids). Avoid.
  10. Ice Cream. Yes, that joyful spoon is a fat bomb heading straight for your stomach. Read the ingredients list, and put any products containing emulsifier (Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids) back on the shelf.

If in doubt…

Always check the ingredients lists for hydrogenated fats or hydrogenated vegetable oils because food manufacturers in the UK do not have to label trans fats.

Anytime you read ‘partially hydrogenated oil’ or ‘hydrogenated oil’ on the list of ingredients, it means the foods in question contains trans fats. Also, watch out for  ingredients listed as  ‘mono and diglycerides of fatty acids’ which are often listed on donuts, ice-cream and even bread.

If you enjoy a cheeky take away at the weekend – beware! Fast food shops and chains re-use cooking oils which will create even more trans fats. Always ask them how often they change their oil and which oil they use. Or a better solution – just don’t go!

What’s the fuss about trans fats?

Trans fats are in the news because the US is going to ban trans fats. Yes, coming from the country that has ‘fries with everything’, it’s a big deal.

Since US companies were forced to label trans fats the consumption has dropped by about 78%. The FDA (powerful food banning arm of the federal government) expect an all out ban to reduce the number of patients with coronary heart disease and heart attacks.

The bottom line

Industrial trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils are toxic. They have no nutritional value whatsoever! Avoid them! These artificial fats are introduced into our foods during the making of processed and fried foods. Processed foods typically include anything that is put into a can, packaged into a box or bag.

What are trans fats?

Also known as trans fatty acids or TFA, they are fats that are found in small amounts in a large variety of foods. They are artificially made when vegetable oils are hydrogenated, by using a kind of turkey baster that injects hydrogen atoms into a liquid (eg. unsaturated fat – a good fat) fat, making them more solid. These hardened fats are then used in cooking, baking, to lengthen the shelf life of products you buy in the supermarket.

(Note: Natural trans fats are found in grass-fed meats and dairy products that come from pasture-raised animal. These are the exception to the rule when talking about trans fats and are called conjugated linoleic acids or CLA. CLA has both anticancer and antiobesity properties…and is good for you, unlike man-made trans fats. What we’re concerned about here is, the artificial ones made industrially by food manufacturers to keep supermarket food fresher longer).

Should I be concerned?

Yes. Here in the UK they are not banned. We rely on an informal agreement called the Responsibility Deal that relies on the industry to self regulate and to reduce trans fats in our food. We don’t even label them properly in the UK!

Despite the protestations from the food industry that everything is ‘heading in the right direction’ and that we don’t need to ban them, trans fats are still in a huge range of foods – many of which are aimed at children.

Just think about it… ice creams, sweets, cereal bars, sweets, cookies, chocolate, stuffing mixes, margarine, ready made cakes, microwave ready meals. So although the amounts in each food product may be small, if you are eating a lot of processed foods your overall intake of this toxic ingredient will add up.

Why hasn’t the UK banned trans fats?

All the experts agrees that trans fats have no known health benefits but have clear health risks.  The consumption of trans fats has been linked to coronary heart disease, stroke, elevated blood pressure, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, prostate and breast cancers, Type 2 diabetes, liver dysfunction, infertility, depression, and even aggression. Wow, that’s a lot of problems.

Written in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on the 16th September 2015, experts said around 7,200 deaths from heart disease could be prevented in England over the next five years if the artificial fats were banned. That’s a saving of approximately £265m a year, according to a study in the BMJ.

  • In The Telegraph, Dr Tim Chico, a consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, said it was clear that artificially-manufactured trans fats, “whose use only benefits the food industry”, increase the risk of heart disease.
  • In The Independent, Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said that trans fats had no known benefits and “clear health risks” adding that other countries were “well ahead of us” in efforts to cut back consumption.

Yet, despite Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Sweden, Austria and now the US all banning trans fats outright, the UK government will continue with an informal approach where the food industry is allowed to self regulate their use of trans fat in processed foods.

Where does responsibility lie?

Unlike the US’s decision to ban trans fats by 2018, the UK’s government’s agreement with large manufacturers of processed foods is a voluntary arrangement called the Responsibility Deal. Within the ‘Responsibility Deal’ manufacturers have pledged that they are committed to removing trans fats from their food products.

So, in reality, the responsibility is on you, not the government, food manufacturers or retailers. Trust the food manufacturers to put people before profit or educate yourself and avoid all foods with hydrogenated fats or hydrogenated vegetable oils in the ingredients list.

More reading on Trans Fats