March has arrived with more daylight and warmer weather. The snowdrops and crocuses have been in bloom for a couple weeks and now the first daffodils have opened. Everything has started blooming, which means my hay fever has kicked it up a notch for another season.
Unfortunately I am one of those people whose immune system is on chronic overdrive. Normally the immune system protects us from harmful bacteria and viruses by attacking any foreign substances that enter the body. But allergies are when the immune system is fighting off foreign substances that are not actually harmful, like pollen or dog hair. If left untreated, either through medication or avoiding the culprit, allergies can lead to chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is a natural and normal process by which the immune system protects us from disease. When we are injured or sick, the body produces extra white blood cells which ingest germs, damaged cells, and foreign materials. In order to get these white blood cells to the problem area, blood flow is increased to the site of the injury or illness, producing redness and swelling (such as your nose when you have a cold). However, in some cases, the immune system triggers an inflammatory response when there are no foreign invaders to fight off. The white blood cells swarm, but there’s nowhere for them to go and nothing for them to do, so they eventually start attacking the body. This is what happens in autoimmune diseases – the body’s defence system turns against itself. Diseases with chronic inflammation include asthma, arthritis, coronary artery disease and coeliac’s disease.
In my case, not only does my body start attacking itself when I eat gluten, but I also have asthma and myriad environmental allergies. No real food allergies thank goodness (being gluten free is bad enough), but I’m allergic to horses, cats, dogs (anything with fur really), house dust, grass, and most pollens.
What does this have to do with diet? Well, there are several foods that have potent anti-inflammatory effects on the body, and many that can make inflammation worse. One of the reasons sugar is so demonised these days is that it is highly inflammatory. In fact, studies suggest diets high in sugar are as big a risk factor for heart disease as diets high in saturated fats. Of course, saturated fats from animal sources are also inflammatory, as are certain artificial sweeteners like Aspartame. There is also a study showing a link between high consumption of processed meats (bacon, sausages, lunch meats, etc.) and an increase in symptoms in people with asthma.
But it turns out that a healthy diet is an anti-inflammatory one. Diets high in fruits and vegetables, oily fish, nuts, and whole grains help to reduce inflammation. Green tea and several spices also have anti-inflammatory properties. One of the most potent of these is fresh ginger, which is why I take the trouble to make ginger tea. I simply peel and grate a knob of ginger root into a small teapot with a tea strainer and add boiling water. I then keep it in the fridge and make the tea by mixing 100mL of the ginger infusion with 150mL of boiling water. I usually add a squirt of lemon juice as well and a bit of honey, as it’s pretty strong on its own.
As the hay fever season swings into high gear, expect to see more ginger and less ham in my diet!
The Score for 6 March:
|Calories burned through exercise:||297|
What I ate:
|07:30||Centrum Multivitamin, Vitamin E 400IU, Vitamin D 25 µg|
|Soft boiled eggs, 2 large||115g||150||14.49||0.00||0.00||0.00||10.35||2.88||0.00|
|Free From pure oats||50g||171||6.40||30.30||0.60||4.30||2.70||0.50||0.00|
|made with boiling water||250mL||0||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|topped with sultanas||25g||74||0.68||17.35||17.35||0.50||0.10||0.03||0.00|
|and ground flaxseed||10g||45||2.21||0.30||0.18||2.37||4.00||0.45||0.00|
|10:00||Fresh ginger tea with a splash of lemon juice and 1 tsp honey||250mL||25||0.00||6.25||6.25||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|13:30||Evexia Ricotta Spinach tortellini, gluten free||125g||270||8.13||44.75||1.38||7.88||4.88||2.75||0.00|
|topped with homemade tomato sauce with onions, mushrooms, green pepper and cannellini beans||250g||168||8.19||17.53||7.60||7.05||5.79||0.91||0.00|
|Tesco Parmigiano Reggiano||3g||12||0.97||0.00||0.00||0.00||0.89||0.59||0.00|
|Honeydew melon, peeled and sliced||245g||49||1.47||10.29||10.29||2.45||0.25||0.00||0.00|
|17:00||MaxiNutrition Lean protein powder, chocolate||40g||140||20.00||13.00||12.00||0.00||0.90||0.30||0.00|
|Genius brown bread, two slices toasted||61g||153||1.53||27.45||1.46||6.10||4.03||0.31||0.00|
|Sunpat crunchy peanut butter||36g||219||8.93||5.22||2.41||2.63||17.53||3.31||0.00|
|20:00||Baked chicken breast||100g||135||31.90||0.00||0.00||0.00||1.90||0.60||0.00|
|Potato and parsnip mash||234g||202||4.41||40.21||6.25||6.97||1.10||0.17||0.00|
|Frozen peas, microwaved||100g||79||5.90||9.00||2.60||5.50||0.90||0.20||0.00|
|Gravy made with Bisto Best chicken gravy granules in boiling water||75mL||34||0.60||6.99||0.23||0.09||0.50||0.06||0.00|
|Glass of rose wine||150mL||120||0.15||3.75||3.75||0.00||0.00||0.00||14.91|