Body: 6 Keys To Health Improvement
For the body to function effectively, it is important for a balance to be maintained in digestion and detoxification, blood sugar, hormones, mind and mood, inflammatory response and good immunity as set out below:
Digestion & Detoxification
Factors that influence our digestion include adequate nutrition and absorption, abnormal gut reactions, infection and poor elimination all of which have adverse reaction upon the other body systems referred to in this article. Difficulties with digestion can occur at each stage of the process. For example indigestion can be affected by a lack of excess stomach acid, a lack of digestive enzymes, lack of healthy bacteria in the gut, poor absorption of food and food intolerance to substances such as wheat, dairy or citrus products.
Detoxification refers to the use of methods to remove toxic or harmful substances such as alcohol, recreational and medicinal drugs, caffeine saturated fat and steroid hormones from the body to enable it to rest, recover and function at an optimal level. It is claimed that detoxification assists the function of the liver by removing the level of toxic substances in food and medicine that the body takes in. Poor liver function has also been linked to a range of allergic, metabolic and inflammatory conditions such as eczema, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, bowel disorders, arthritis and hormonal imbalance.
Ways to improve digestion and detoxification include:
- Drinking more water- a minimum of 1 litre per day
- Increasing exercise at least 30 minutes every day
- Eliminating alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, refined sugars and saturated fats
- Increasing foods containing fibre including brown rice and organically-grown fresh fruits and vegetables
- Reducing stress
- Undertaking regular saunas to eliminate toxins via the skin
- Following a regular detoxification regime
As our glucose levels are responsible for controlling our appetite it is important to keep blood sugar balanced to maintain consistent energy levels and a healthy weight. Excess glucose in the blood stream, is converted into energy stores of glycogen and fat and stored in the liver or muscles. Low levels of glucose in blood stream can lead to a range of symptoms such as headaches, irritability, poor concentration, depression and fatigue.
Diabetes is a long term illness, caused by inadequate supplies of the hormone insulin being produced resulting in high levels of glucose circulating in cells and tissues instead of the bloodstream. Symptoms include excessive thirst as the body attempts to dilute the excess blood sugar.
How to identify difficulties with blood sugar:
- Feeling drowsy or sleeping during the day or after meals
- Night sweats and frequent headaches
- Dizziness and irritability when going for long periods without food
- Constant listlessness and lack of energy
- Need for sweet food/drink as a morning pick-me-up
Hormones are powerful fat or protein like chemicals produced by special glands in the body which initiate specific cell activity when released in the blood stream. As hormones are reliant upon the nutrients in the food we eat, it is important that we eat a well- balanced diet. For example the sex hormones require Vitamin A and essential fats to function effectively; our thyroid gland require the amino acid tyrosine as well as minerals selenium and iodine; hormones responsible for brain function, need B vitamins, zinc and magnesium to work effectively. Long term hormonal imbalance can lead to illness and disease, stress and premature ageing.
Hormones are balanced in the following ways:
- Reducing the amount of animal fat in the diet
- Increasing organic vegetables, fruit and meat as this will minimise the effects of pesticides and hormones used in animals
- Cut down on stimulants such as tea, coffee, coke, chocolate
- Manage stress proactively (see Managing Stress mind feature)
- Increase the levels of essential fats in the diet
- Increase levels of Vitamins B3 and B6, biotin, manganese and zinc
Mind and Mood
Emotional wellbeing is as important to our overall health as physical wellbeing. Despite the thousand of thoughts that flow through our minds on a daily basis, psychologists estimate that we do not use more than 1% of our intellectual capacity.
The brain and nervous system consist of specialist cells known as neurotransmitters which are responsible for sending chemical messages across a network of nerve pathways that influence the way we feel and think. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin and adrenalin are essential for mood, motivation and memory are derived amino acids found in protein. In addition, brain health requires a balance of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids such as DHA and EPA to ensure that the cells and pathways in the brain and nervous system are maintained.
Brain health can be improved as follows:
- Stimulants such as tea, coffee, chocolate, cola, sugar and refined foods should be reduced as they have a negative impact upon concentration
- Reducing exposure to smoking and pollutants
- Increasing the levels of essential fats found in oily fish and seeds
- Ensure a balance diet which includes vitamins and minerals
Stable inflammatory response
It is estimated that a third of the population are affected by allergies which range from pollen, house dust mite, animal fur, chemicals in food, household products or environmental pollutants. Allergies are caused when the immune system reacts adversely to a foreign chemical being introduced into the body by inhalation, digestion, touch leading for example.
An immune response includes: migranes, hayfever, recurrent mouth ulcers, eczema, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, hyperactivity, joint pain, abdominal discomfort. Allergic conditions not only lead to illness and discomfort to sufferers, their impact upon the immune system can also impact upon long terms health and wellbeing.
Allergies can be avoided by the following:
- Avoiding known allergens such dust, animal fur, pollen and household products
- Avoiding suspect foods for 14 days reintroduce them one at a time and observe your symptoms
- Reducing the amount of cows milk products and substitute them with soya based products
- Reducing the amount of wheat in the diet by substituting it with oats, rye and rice
The immune system is the body’s self defence system with the ability to rapidly produce millions of antibodies which destroy any form of invading toxins, bacteria and viruses (known as antigens), intent on inflicting the body with illness or disease. The digestive system is the most common entry route for antigens as it is designed to allow digested food to pass through the stomach wall into the bloodstream.
Antibodies are produced by white blood cells, made in the stems cells of the bone marrow, spleen and thymus gland, forming an important part of the lymphatic system. The main types of antibody responsible for maintaining immunity are B cells, T cells and macrophages.
Immunity can be improved in the following ways:
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- Avoiding a diet high in saturated or hydrogenated fat as they suppress immunity
- Increasing the intake of essential fats found in cold pressed seeds such as flax and sunflower
- Increasing foods rich in antioxidants such as berries- blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, spinach, beets, kale
- Building gentle exercise into a daily routine
- Coping with stress by building relaxation into the lifestyle
- Ensuring adequate levels of vitamins B6, B12, C, zinc and folic acid as they are essential for the rapid production of immune cells
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