As the lockdown continues and I run out of things to clean up, tidy away, re-organise, and generally sort out, I find that my desire to eat food that is sweet or contains refined carbohydrate is rapidly growing.
My horrible self-isolation from my family and, especially, from my two young sons undoubtedly exacerbates my craving for sugary and other refined carbohydrate foods. This is because these foods provide me, and most other human beings, with a good feeling because of a very short-lived increase in a brain chemical called Dopamine.
And I have to dig fairly deep to find the self-control that allows me, instead, to seek out and eat the foods that I enjoy and are healthier options… such as very dark chocolate (containing at least 70% cocoa solids).
In this newsletter I am going to focus attention on the foods that you eat, specifically the foods that put stress on your body (and brain) and the healthy foods that you can substitute for those negatively impacting your immune system.
As is the case with many health professionals whose work is influenced by life events, I too have embraced my personal experience of ill health, in this case both Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) as well as regular colds and flu.
In delving deeply into the underlying causes of these common health problems I realized that the food I regularly ate was having a negative impact on the health of my digestive tract (i.e. my gut) and that my struggling gut was, in turn, having a negative impact on my stress levels, mood, immune system, and on my general health and well-being. And, quite clearly, vice versa!
So, how is it possible that the food you eat can have such a profound impact on the health of your immune system (as well as on most other areas of your functioning)? Well, scientific research clearly shows that there are a number of different mechanisms and pathways involved.
The most important mechanism is, perhaps, through what is termed chronic, systemic inflammation. This is very different to acute, localized inflammation, which is your body’s healthy response to almost all injuries, such as minor cuts, more serious wounds, sprained ankles, etc.
(Quite amazingly, chronic, systemic inflammatory processes are often determined by the health of your gut microbiome, which quite literally involves trillions of microbes, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and other single-celled organisms… but this fascinating ‘story’ will have to wait for another newsletter at some later stage.)
In other words, you need to ask yourself the following question right now:
Does the food that I regularly eat cause chronic inflammation throughout my body (and brain) and, in turn, negatively impact the health of my immune system?
The answer is a definite “YES” if you regularly eat any of the following foods:
- Sugar (all types, including sticky, dark brown sugar)
- Refined carbohydrates, e.g. white rice, maize products, pasta, and most bread, as well as all other products made from refined grains.
- Processed, i.e. chemically-laden, foods
- Seed oil, including sunflower oil and corn oil
You are probably thinking, as I once did, that when you limit the above foods there will be little that one can eat apart from vegetables and some fruit. Fortunately, this is far from the truth.
I recommend that your first small step is to limit your intake of each of the above foods while simultaneously starting to experiment with the huge diversity of healthy and readily available substitute foods, beginning with the following:
Instead of Sugar – try out Stevia or Xylitol and, when baking, try dried fruit purees, such as dates or prunes soaked in hot water and then blended together.
Instead of Refined carbohydrates – try out sweet potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, whole grains such as brown rice, sorghum, pearl millet, quinoa, buckwheat, and legumes and pulses such as beans and lentils.
Instead of Processed foods – eat more foods that are in there natural state such as all fresh or frozen vegetables and any other “whole foods”.
Instead of Seed oil – try out coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, nut oils, butter and ghee.
And in order to determine how inflammatory your diet is click on my article at: https://www.alistairmork-chadwick.co.za/articles/boosting-ones-brain-functioning-through-diet/#start-content and print out and fill in the Personal Food Inventory. This is attached to an in-depth article that provides information on the foods that you should try to limit and the foods that you should be trying to eat more of, including various essential vitamins and nutrients. And, it includes two recipes for Chocolate Brownies made mostly from…black beans and other yummy ingredients.
Keep an eye open for my next newsletter delivered to your inbox in about three day’s time.
With warm regards,
Alistair Mork-Chadwick (Psychologist)
P.S. Please forward this email to family and friends who might unknowingly be eating foods that are slowly but surely having a very detrimental effect on their immune system and significantly compromising their ability to fight the Coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
P.P.S. I am still offering a free, online counseling session to anyone who would like to talk about, and explore options with regard to, the difficulties and challenges that they are currently facing. Please visit my website for contact details.
And don’t hesitate to send me your questions to my email address: