Allergen– Any substance that causes an allergy. It may, for example, be pollen that can trigger hay fever or peanuts that can cause anaphylactic shock.
Anaphylactic shock – A life threatening form of allergic reaction (in response to a food or insect sting) in which vast quantities of histamine are released throughout the body causing rapid swelling and breathing difficulty. Rapid medical treatment is required and this condition can be fatal.
Antibiotic – Drugs used to combat bacterial or fungal infections. Taken orally they can upset the balance of the intestinal bacteria resulting in digestive discomfort. Overuse is blamed for the current rising trend of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses.
Antibody – Part of the immune army, capable of destroying bacteria and other potentially harmful substances. They are manufactured in the lymphoid tissue, such as the spleen, in response to an invader such as an allergen or a virus. They are transported around the body in the bloodstream. Each antibody combats a particular infection' for example, a chicken pox antibody would not fight a cold virus. Once the body has an effective antibody it becomes immune to that disease.
Antihistamine – Histamine is one of the substances released by the cells of the body in the case of allergy. Antihistamines are drugs that counteract the effects of histamine and are used in the treatment of hay fever, urticaria, rashes, insect bites and stings. Natural antihistamines mentioned in this book are vitamin C and quercetin.
Antioxidants – Substances that detoxify free radicals. These include vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, zinc, selenium and many other non-essential substances such as bioflavanoids, lycopene, carotenoids, anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins.
Atopy – Hereditary hypersensitivity which may cause familial hay fever, eczema, asthma or migrane.
Autoimmune disease – If the body does not recognise 'self' it goes into self-destruct mode and an immune assault is waged against body cells instead of a foreign invader Pernicious anaemia, rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis are all examples of auto-immune diseases.
Beta-carotene – The yellow-orange pigment that gives food – carrots, apricots, mangoes and cantaloupe melons – their bright colours. It is an antioxidant that can protect the body against free radicals. It can also be turned into vitamin A by the body as and when it needs it.
Bioflavonoid – Compounds found in fruits such as lemons, grapefruit, cherries, blackcurrants and buckwheat. Examples of bioflavonoids are hesperidin, rutin, and quercitin. With strong antioxidant properties these substances are thought to help prevent certain forms of cancer.
Carcinogen – Any substance that may produce cancer in living cells.
Coeliac disease – A condition found in childhood in which the small intestine is unable to absorb food properly. It is due to sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in certain grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Coeliacs have to follow a strict gluten-free diet to prevent damaging their small intestine.
Complex carbohydrates – A collective name for starches and fibre, which have a more complicated chemical structure than sugars (simple carbohydrates) and are the healthier option.
Dairy-free – A diet that avoids all products made from cow's milk e.g. milk, cheese, yoghurt and sometimes butter. Dairy products are mucous forming and some children with recurrent ear infections or chest infections may benefit from an elimination period.
Empty calories – A food that contains calories without any nutritional benefit e.g. refined, white sugar.
Elimination diet – A diet which, carried out under medical supervision, excludes all foods except a very few in an attempt to isolate food allergies or intolerances. Some doctors now provide in-patient treatment during the course of an elimination diet.
Endorphins – Natural painkillers and tranquillisers produced in the brain. They are released at times of severe mental stress or strenuous exercise. Chocolate is believed to boost the endorphin levels in the brain, which may be the explanation for the feel good factor felt by 'chocoholics'!
Enzyme – Proteins produced by cells to act as catalysts, helping to speed up biological processes. They help us digest our food as well as many other functions. Each enzyme has a different function. The enzyme delta-6-desaturase is needed – with the help of zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6 and biotin – to convert essential fatty acids into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.
Free radical– An atom or group of atoms with one or more impaired electron. Free radicals are very damaging to DNA and proteins and to the fat in cell membranes where a free radical chain reaction can be started. Antioxidants such as vitamin E and C, selenium, zinc, copper and manganese usually neutralise these free radicals. However, if too many are produced they can cause degenerative diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Free radicals are created by smoking, pollution, radiation, frying or barbecuing food as well as normal body processes as a by product of combustion.
Gluten – The protein of wheat and other grains. Some people are sensitive to gluten as in Coeliac Disease and need to follow a strict gluten-free diet. The other grains that contain gluten or similar protein and therefore best avoided are oats, barley and rye.
GM foods – Genes are the building blocks of living organisms. They are passed from generation to generation and carry the information controlling that particular organism's characteristics. Scientists have now found a way of identifying individual genes and their functions and transplanting genes from one plant or animal to another. At the moment, over 3,000 genetically-engineered foods are being tested. The ones we hear most about are tomatoes, soya, and maize (corn). Organic foods are not allowed to be genetically modified and therefore are the obvious choice when avoiding GM foods.
Homeopathy – A system of practice that is based on the premise that diseases can be cured by giving substances that cause the same symptoms. It is believed that the more dilute these substances are made, the more powerful their effect. Constitutional homeopathy is based on the premise that there are patterns of symptoms, which make up different constitutional types and will therefore benefit those with that patter of symptoms. Homeopathic 'nosodes' were formulated by Dr Constance Herring. These remedies were made from diseased tissue or bodily tissues. In 1838 he and his colleagues used a homeopathic preparation of infected sheep's spleen to cure anthrax, at one time an almost certainly fatal disease.
Lymph – The clear plasma like liquid found in lymph vessels.
Lymphocytes – White blood cells involved in the body's immune system. B-lymphocytes produce antibodies and are divided into plasma cells that secretes the immunoglobins (Ig) and memory cells that act when the event that stimulated antibody selection occurs. T-lymphocytes help to protect against virus infections and cancer and are divided into helper cells, suppressor cells, cytotoxic cells, memory cells an mediators or delayed hypersensitivity. These are also large granular lymphocytes. These are the killer cells and the natural killer cells.
Macronutrient – General term for those nutrients required by the body in relatively large amounts to produce energy, such as protein, fat and carbohydrate.
Micro-organism – An organism which is too small to see with the naked eye. Bacteria and viruses are both examples.
Mucous membranes – The moist inner surface that lines the mouth, nasal sinuses, stomach, intestines and many other parts of the body. It secretes mucous which acts as a protective barrier and lubricant, as well as a medium for carrying enzymes.
Organic – Food that is produced without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides. Organic animals are given organic feed and are not routinely given antibiotics or any hormones and other growth promoters. Organic food is free from artificial additives. Organic food does not however mean sugar-free so be sure to check the labels.
Oxalates – Found in rhubarb leaves (poisonous leaves), rhubarb stalks, spinach, sorrel and some nuts. They can inhibit the body's absorption of calcium and iron.
Pathogen – a disease causing organism.
Phytares – Occur in grains and pulses. They bind with minerals such as calcium, iron and zinc, making them more difficult for the body to absorb. Excessive intakes of, for example, wheat bran, could inhibit the body's absorption of these minerals. Avoid giving bran to your children.
Phytonutrients – Also known as phytochemicals. They are not vital to life and therefore are not classified as nutrients, like vitamins, as our lives do not depend on them. These substances have health promoting qualities that protect us from diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Phytochemicals mentioned in this book are allium, anthocyanidins, bioflavanoids, capsicum, carotenoids, chlorophyll and curcumin.
Prostaglandins – Substances that act as regulators throughout the body. Essential fatty acids are converted into prostaglandins with the help of certain nutrient co-factors.
Protein – A macronutrient which is needed by every cell in the body for growth, maintenance and repair.
Refined Foods – White sugar, white flour and white rice are all examples of refined foods. All refining results in huge nutrient loss.
Saturated fat – The main type of fat in meat and dairy products, such as butter and cheese as well as palm oil and coconut oil. A high intake of saturated fat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Tempeh – Soya product made from fermented soya beans. You can buy tempeh fresh, frozen, dried or pre-cooked. Like tofu, tempeh can be steamed, baked, fried or grilled.
Thymus gland – The thymus gland lies a the root of the neck behind the breastbone. It grows from birth to puberty and then starts to diminish in size but remains active. Its main function is the formation of T-lymphocytes which are an essential part of the immune system.
Tofu – Soya bean curd. It is an excellent meat and dairy substitute, high in protein and low in fat. There are two types: firm and silken. Firm is good in stir fries, stews and salads and silken is better in shakes and smooth puddings.
Trace elements – Minerals required by the body in extremely small amounts. They are: iron, iodine, copper, manganese, zinc, cobalt, molybdenum, selenium, chromium, vanadium, fluourine and silicon.
Trans fatty acids – Types of fat that are converted from their natural form into an artificial form in foods such as margarines, biscuits and cakes where edible oils have been industrially hardened to ensure they stay solid at room temperature. Research suggests a strong link between trans fats and heart disease and also cancer.
TVP – Texturised vegetable protein. A type of soya product, suitable for making into mince and burgers.
Unsaturated fat– The most important fat to include in our diet. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are divided into two groups: monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. The principal sources of monounsaturated fat are olive oil, rapeseed oil, and foods such as avocados and some nuts and seeds. Polyunsaturated fats are the vital fats. Foods high in polyunsaturates include most vegetable oils, fish oils and oily fish, nuts and seeds and their oils. The polyunsaturates are divided further into two groups of essential fatty acids. The reason the polyunsaturated fats are so important is that the body can only receive these fatty acids through diet. This is why they are called essential. The two types of essential fatty acids (EFAs) are omega-6 and omega-3. Good sources of omega-6 are olive oil, sunflower oil, evening primrose oil, borage oil and blackcurrant oil. Good sources of omega-3 are soya bean and rapeseed oil, walnuts and walnut oil, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and fresh tuna. Essential fatty acids are vital for immune health and brain development.
Vegan – A diet that excludes all meat, fish and dairy products as well as any food derived from a living animal such as eggs. Their diet relies on beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and soya products for protein, grains and starchy vegetables for carbohydrate and nuts and seeds and oils for fat.
Vegetarian – There are two types of vegetarianism: lacto-ovo vegetarians who exclude red meat, poultry and fish and lacto-vegetarians who exclude red meat, poultry, fish and eggs.
Virus – Infectious micro-organism that are the cause of many diseases such as the common cold, chicken pox, flu, herpes, Aids and polio. They can reproduce only by invading another living cell. A healthy cell will produce a substance called interferon which prevents the virus from spreading.