Don’t read this… well not for too long anyway!

  • How childhood confusion led to better health thinking
  • Could these foods be the answer to a major problem
  • Eye… eye, here’s how to look after your vision

I am sitting in the office this morning watching yet more rain batter the garden.

My mind was wandering earlier and I happened upon a dim and distant memory of childhood confusion.

You see, as a child, I was confused about the word ‘pancreas’.

I didn’t understand how something with no discernible use (not like a heart, an arm or a thumb, all which made sense to me)… could also be a SAINT and a TRAIN STATION in London.

Of course, I eventually discovered that the martyred saint and the London train station were called Pancras.

Clever boy! (Or as my report card said, ‘Easily distracted, Must Try Harder’.)

This was similar to my problem with the Wombles theme tune.

I thought the lyrics were: ‘The Wombles of Wimbledon…… common are we.’

I assumed they lived beneath Centre Court, and that there were a lot of them about.

But of course it was ‘The Wombles of Wimbledon Common.’ An entirely different scenario.

You see lockdown is badly affecting me!

Anyway, while I was blissfully oblivious to the uses of my pancreas as a young scamp, I later realised how important this organ is for our good health.

What happens when your pancreas stops working

In biology classes I discovered how that the pancreas supplies the enzymes that break down food… and how it produces insulin, the stuff that controls blood sugar.

As I coasted helplessly towards my mid 30s, and began thinking properly about my health, I became more aware of what happens when the pancreas goes wrong.

When it gets inflamed or stops working at its optimum level, your body can no longer absorb the nutrients it needs.

Over the long term this can lead to malnutrition and diabetes. And if the inflammation gets too bad, it can spread though the abdomen, leaking toxins and causing internal bleeding.

In serious cases this becomes life threatening.

So how can you keep yours healthy?

Well it’s a topic that the Good Life Letter has carried many times before, the secret is that simply adding high levels of unprocessed fruit and vegetables to your diet can protect against, and even reverse serious disease.

Pancreatitis is one case that definitely backs up this view.

Studies have suggested that one of the main problems linked to pancreatitis is ‘oxidative stress’.

This is caused by free radicals. These are by-products of your body’s metabolic processes. They create all kinds of havoc if left to run wild and free.

Free radicals are usually dispelled by antioxidants, which march in and cart the little blighters off.

These saviour antioxidants are found in VERY high levels in fruit, nuts and vegetables. But if you don’t eat enough of these foods, and have low levels of antioxidants in your body, then you can’t get rid of the free radicals so easily.

Interestingly one of the reasons I talked about the Kosabei Tea at the weekend was because it contains really high levels of anti-oxidants… and it is great tasting too!

Continually low levels of these important compounds may lead to the development of pancreatitis. So one of the key preventative measures is to dramatically increase your intake of antioxidants.

5 more antioxidants that could protect your pancreas

I’ve discovered that there are some key antioxidants that you need for this. And along with each I’ve listed the best natural food sources:

  • Vitamin C – half a cup of broccoli provides 45 mg of vitamin C. Kiwi fruit has about 55 mg of vitamin C. A Half a mango gives you 95 mg of vitamin C. And even small tomato gives you a little boost of 25 mg of vitamin C.
  • Vitamin E – as a snack throughout the day, try a handful or two of sunflower seeds or nuts. You can also try flaxseed oil capsules or fish oil.
  • Beta-carotene – you’ll get plenty of this in a serving of spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes and red peppers, or yellow fruits like mango, melon, apricots and peaches.
  • Selenium – you can find this in brazil nuts and walnuts, legumes like peas and you can also get this from animal products and seafood. The key is not to overdo the animal products or see them as a replacement for fruit and vegetables.
  • Methionine – this is a an amino acid found in broccoli, Mushroom, Cauliflower, avocado and potatoes.

The beta-carotene, vitamin C and Vitamin E are particularly important nutrients as you get older. Not only will they look after your pancreas… they are among the foods that could help protect your vision.

And it seems one of the unexpected problems of the last year has been issues with our eyes.

Let me explain…

Why vision now needs to be 20-20-20…

We’re all doing a lot more screen time now, which is no surprise.

However, this is leading to more people complaining of sore eyes, deteriorating vision and headaches.

A survey by the charity Fight for Sight found that out of 2,000 people, half used screens more since COVID struck and a third (38%) of those believed their eyesight had worsened as a result.

But one in five were less likely to get an eye test now than before the pandemic, for fear of catching or spreading the virus.

So, as well as thinking about food to look after our pancreas how about something for vision too…

To give yourself the best possible chance of good vision, you need to up your intake of foods rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin , zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin and omega-3 fats.

Now, the first three nutrients I’ve covered already in the section above. Here’s where you can get the others:

  • Zinc – there’s plenty of this in oysters, pumpkin seeds, cashews, liver and chick peas.
  • Lutein-Zeaxanthin – these are found in spinach, peas, watercress, Brussels sprouts and sweetcorn. Some studies suggest that higher intake of lutein and zeaxanthin is linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration AND cataracts too.
  • Omega-3 fats – According to online medical guru, Ray Sahelian, M.D, the oils found in fish are hugely beneficial. He says that when his patients notice ‘improved colour perception and depth of vision, enhanced night and distance vision, and overall enhancement in visual awareness’ after several days.

To back up this last point, researchers at the University of Sydney found that people who ate one weekly serving of omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish, such as salmon and mackerel, reduced their risk of developing age-related macular degeneration by 40%.

Fight for Sight also recommend what they call a 20-20-20 rule to help our eyes rest.

They say that looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds, after every 20 minutes you look at a screen, seems a good idea… as long as you can see 20 feet in this gloomy rain!