Archive for the ‘Immune System’ Category

Ingredient Spotlight: Mackerel

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Mackerel is classed as an oily fish, along with other fish such as salmon, herrings, tuna etc. Oily fish provide us with important Omega 3 oils, which can help to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, soften the skin, increase immune function, increase metabolic rate, improve energy, help with arthritis (as they have an anti-inflammatory effect) and help with skin problems such as eczema. 100g of mackerel can provide 1000mg of Omega 3 fatty acids, while the same size piece of cod can contain only 300mg.

Mackerel not only contains these Omega 3 fats but is also a good source of selenium, vitamins B3, B6 and B12 and also vitamin D.


The Department of Health recommends that we should double our intake of Omega 3 oils by eating oily fish two to three times a week. But concerns have been raised about mercury intake from oily fish. The research has shown that the health benefits from eating oily fish definitely outweigh the risks. And that in fact we are not eating enough fish in general. The Harvard School of Public Health has shown that eating about six ounces of mackerel each week can reduce the risk of death from heart disease by a third.












Boosting your immunity (continued!)

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

In the last few issues of Natural News we’ve looked at how simple diet and lifestyle changes can help boost your immunity during the long, cold winter months. This month we’ll explore how turning down the volume, changing your light bulbs, saying grace and buying a gold fish can make a big difference to your immunity!


Turn down the volume

Try to take control over the noise in your environment, even if it means wearing earplugs to block out the sound of your partner’s snoring or asking the shop or gym manager to turn down the music.


Noise pollution is a growing problem in our 24/7 wired world of technology, machinery, traffic and gadgets; but noise hurts more than your ears. Any unwanted and intrusive sound can trigger muscle tension, speed heartbeat, constrict blood vessels and cause digestive upsets – exactly the same responses your body has to being startled or stressed.


Chronic exposure to noise can lead to even longer-lasting changes in blood pressure, cholesterol levels and immune function. Researchers at Cornell University found that women who work in moderately noisy offices produce more of the stress hormone adrenaline and may be more vulnerable to heart disease than women who work in quiet offices. Even worse are unwelcome sounds you perceive as uncontrollable, such as car or house alarms, barking dogs, noisy neighbours, lawn mowers, snoring partners and mobile phones.


You can keep noise to a minimum by wearing ear plugs when appropriate, using a humidifier at night to block out traffic sounds or sitting in designated mobile phone-free areas on public transport. Hanging wall coverings, carpets or paintings on your wall to break up flat surfaces that reflect sound will also help. And, if you can, try to keep a quiet place or time in your house – a room or time of day where or when you can relax without unwanted background noise.


Change your light bulbs

Switching from cool white fluorescent lights to full-spectrum lights could boost your immune function in the manner of natural sunlight.


Centuries ago our predecessors spent most of their time outdoors, whereas the opposite is true for us today. There is mounting evidence that this generally experienced lack of light places a heavy toll on our mood, behaviour, productivity and general health. Light is as vital to our health as vitamins and minerals, and the manufacture of vitamin D is dependent upon adequate exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. Recent research also suggests that light is essential for healthy immune function.


German researcher Dr Fritz Hollwich discovered that when subjects sat under standard cool white fluorescent lights, levels of stress hormones rose considerably. High levels of stress hormones are known to have a depressing effect on immune function. By contrast, those sitting under full-spectrum lights experienced no such rise in stress hormones. Inspired by Dr Hollwich’s research, German hospitals no longer use cool white fluorescent bulbs.


Others studies have found that switching to full-spectrum lights significantly reduced the number of workplace absences due to illness. So if you aren’t able to get enough natural daylight during the day invest in some full-spectrum light bulbs and use them at home and at work.


Say grace

Whether you are religious or not, taking a moment to give thanks or say grace before meals can do your immune system a great deal of good.


In recent years scientists have taken a look at the influence prayer has on our health and well-being, and some fascinating results have emerged. In one preliminary study, researchers wanted to investigate whether prayer had a beneficial impact on digestion by measuring the after-meal comfort of those who said grace and those who didn’t. Volunteers were asked to rate their level of comfort and satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being low and 10 being excellent. They were then asked to sit down and enjoy a meal and rate their level of satisfaction afterwards – the average rating was 3. On another day, the same group of people were asked to say a silent prayer of thanks and the number rose to 4. On yet another day, one member of the group was asked to say a prayer of thanks aloud and the average score increased again. On the following day, each group member was asked to say the prayer aloud in unison before the start of the meal and the number rose further. Finally, all the group members prayed aloud in unison and held hands at the same time and the number rose to an average of 8. This study was preliminary and it is hard to draw conclusions about whether or not prayer does boost digestion, but it does suggest that prayer can increase feelings of well-being and satisfaction.


I think that what it is also doing is slowing the body down, so that the volunteers did not come in from what they were doing and just down and eat. Saying grace requires a person to sit still for a minute or so, slow down the breathing and just relax. The digestive system will work more efficiently and easily from having that moment to pause.


This study also raises the fascinating question of whether or not praying for someone who is ill or praying for yourself to get better can boost your immunity. In one study of 393 coronary care patients, 192 received prayer from anonymous patients while the other 201 received no prayer. Patients had no idea they were being prayed for and at the end of the study the patients who were prayed for experienced fewer medical complications than those who were not prayed for. Other studies have shown that anonymous prayer can have a significant effect on the success of couples going for IVF treatment.


Prayer is not a miracle cure and will not keep you or someone you care about from getting ill, but there is no doubt that prayer can give people a boost of strength, courage and motivation, and that this in turn can boost immunity. Therefore saying grace or taking a moment to give thanks could be doing you a power of good.


Get a new best friend

Owning a pet – even if it’s just a goldfish – can have surprising immune-boosting benefits. For nearly 25 years, research has shown that living with pets provides certain health benefits. Pets have been shown to help lower blood pressure and lessen anxiety, but now research shows they may also be able to boost your immunity.


It was once thought that if your family had a pet, the children were more likely to become allergic to the pet. A growing number of studies, however, have suggested that children growing up in a home with pets – whether it’s a cat or dog, or on a farm and exposed to large animals – will have a lower risk of allergies and asthma. In one recent study scientists analysed the blood of babies immediately after birth and then one year later. They were looking for evidence of allergic reactions, immunity changes and for reactions to bacteria in the environment. If a dog lived in the home, infants were less likely to show evidence of pet allergies. In addition they were less likely to have eczema, a common allergy skin condition that causes red patches and itching. In addition, they had higher levels of some immune system chemicals – a sign of stronger immune system activation.


In addition to boosting immunity and easing stress, the simple act of taking care of a pet – whether you own a dog, cat, rabbit, hamster, snake or goldfish – can add structure to your day and make you laugh. Unless you’re someone who really dislikes animals, has a severe allergy or are absolutely too busy to care for one, getting a new best friend may be one of the best investments in your health that you ever make.

Quick Tip: Immune boosting smoothie

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Blend five clementines, three apples and a handful of raspberries and strawberries. These fruits are all packed with vitamin C and minerals that can keep your immune system strong as the winter months finally end. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron from food, preventing anaemia.