Archive for the ‘Gut Health’ Category

The Truth about the Gut Microbiome

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The Truth about the Gut Microbiome

Recently, gut microbiome health has been a subject with increasing popularity in many health publications. What, if any, is the truth behind this? First, it is important that we define what the gut microbiome really is. Essentially the gut microbiota, or gut flora, are the 100 trillion bacteria, microorganisms, viruses, and fungi that live in the intestines. Research has found that the gut microbiome plays a role in nutrition, metabolism, immune function, and physiology. If there is an imbalance of microbes in the gut, it could lead to gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease. There is ongoing research asking whether nonpathogenic strains can be used for recovering immune responses to pathogenic causing diseases.Bacteria reside throughout the entire human body, but the vast majority can be found in the gut.

The gut microbiota is split up into four groups

  • Firmicutes,
  • Bacteroidetes,
  • Proteobacteria, and
  • Actinobacteria

How the Gut microbes Impact Overall Health

The balance of these microbes in the gut can be affected by diet, stress, environment, birthing, and stages of the lifecycle. The imbalance of microbes is referred to as Dysbiosis and causes a lower number/variety of commensal bacteria, which are the microbes in the flora of the mouth. Studies have found a relationship between gut dysbiosis and chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and cancer. The gut microbiome also plays an integral role in protecting your body against harmful bacteria by competing for nutrients and producing antimicrobial substances. These substances are made with the commensal bacteria and products of bacterial metabolism, thus providing host protection against invading pathogens.

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The gut is referred to as the “second brain” due to its many critical functions in the body. It is responsible for the immune system, digestive system, absorbing minerals and vitamins, the capacity to remove toxins from your body, and even the well-being of your mental health. Many are surprised to find out gut health can affect mood and mental health overall. This is why it is important to maintain a healthy microbiome. The Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is what lines the gastrointestinal tracts, and this is important because the ENS is not only responsible for the immune system, but also for communicating with the brain about your gut. When there is dysbiosis in your gut microbiome, it damages the mucosal layer in your gut. As a result, this leaves you susceptible to the food you consume entering your bloodstream, thus triggering your immune system, and causing food sensitivity, inflammation, and other symptoms. The ENS also sends messages to your Central Nervous System (CNS), which can affect mood, memory and cognitive function. Lastly, most of the body’s serotonin is cultivated by certain bacteria in the gut’s microbiome, which can also affect your mood.

One of the most popular “health trends” has been gut health, and it’s for good reason as more and more information shows gut health is related to overall health. Diet is a lifestyle change you can make to promote a healthy gut. The type of food or diet you follow can alter the bacterial composition in your gut. It has been found that higher consumption of simple sugars/carbohydrates and fats is likely to cause changes in the gut bacteria that contribute to chronic inflammatory diseases. Another aspect of diet that can affect the gut microbiota is dietary fiber. Fiber is easily fermented by the bacteria in your GI tract and is believed to sustain a variety of microbes. People who consume a high fiber diet are thought to produce more short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) which provide nutrients to intestinal cells, and in turn, promotes regulatory T-cells that prevent immoderate inflammation. Some examples of foods that are high in fiber and nutrients that you can incorporate into your diet include

  • almonds,
  • cruciferous vegetables,
  • avocado,
  • lentils,
  • popcorn,
  • chia seeds, and
  • dark chocolate.

Food additives are another aspect of your diet that can have detrimental effects on the balance of the gut microbiota. Processed foods add compounds made of synthetic molecules to enhance color, texture, and flavor, or to help it preserve for longer periods of time. Artificial sweeteners have been found to cause an abnormality in blood sugar stability, otherwise known as dysglycemia, and can cause changes to certain microbes in the GI tract. Emulsifiers are another additive that can cause dysbiosis, and they are a compound similar to the detergent that helps stabilize mixtures. This additive is typically found in liquids as it prevents distinct parts from separating and creates the desirable texture. Emulsifiers cause an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine thus promoting metabolic syndrome and the increasing likelihood of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS). Some foods that contain emulsifiers are ice cream, salad dressings, low-fat spreads, and margarine. Additionally, you can positively affect your gut microbiota through increased consumption of fermented foods. Fermented foods are foods that have been through the fermentation process, which is the process of transforming carbs into alcohol or organic acids by using yeast or bacteria. Not only does this process help to preserve the food, but it also creates strains of probiotics, enzymes, B-vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids that promote a healthy microbiome. Due to the high demand for fermented foods, there are many tasty options on the market you can choose from like the plethora of different kombuchas, kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut. So, overall to promote a healthier and balanced gut you should opt to increase your fiber and fermented food intake and reduce food additives as much as possible.

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Taking probiotics to nurture your gut is something that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Some of the claims that many health advocates make about probiotics include digestive balance, help one to lose weight, and boost the immune system, however  the Food and Drug Administration, often referred to as the FDA, loosely regulates the companies creating these probiotic supplements so they can imply all the claims mentioned previously without any consequences. The supplement business has found ways around FDA regulations by having claims on their labels that suggest they will treat a condition without actually saying that. For example, they are able to say that their supplement promotes healthy sugar levels as opposed to saying that it will treat diabetes. The wording can be tricky for consumers as they tend to be very persuasive, which is why it is important to be aware of this. A common misconception surrounding probiotics supplements is that they colonize in your gut and become part of your microbiome, however, there is not enough research to prove that this claim is true. Most research indicates that probiotics just pass by your gut, which may or may not have some benefits for your microbiome. Many doctors do prescribe probiotics as different strains have been found to help with different things, such as Clostridium difficile, which is an infection that causes inflammation of the colon and diarrhea. If you believe that taking a probiotic supplement would be beneficial to your overall health. It is important that you consult your primary care physician first so that they can recommend the probiotic strain that would be most favorable for you.

The gut has an effect on many aspects of your health, so it is crucial to have knowledge on its many functions and actions you can take to promote a healthy variety of microbiota in your gastrointestinal tract.

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What is Leaky Gut?

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What is Leaky Gut?

In ancient medicine, it was believed that certain diseases originated in the stomach. Over time, this concept was rejected due to research, however recently leaky gut syndrome has become more popular. The leaky gut syndrome is also called increased intestinal permeability,

Causes of Leaky Gut

It is caused when the gut lining has holes allowing food, toxins, and bugs to penetrate tissue underneath it. This could lead to inflammation and an imbalance in the gut flora, which in turn could cause digestion issues among other things. Everyone has leaky gut to some extent as the gut lining is not impassable. Some people have a genetic predisposition that makes them more sensitive to digestive changes, but it is becoming more evident that the leading culprit is the lifestyle many people follow. The standard American diet is high in saturated fats and sugar, and low in fiber, which is a contributor to the leaky gut syndrome. Chronic stress and excessive use of alcohol also disrupt gut flora.Leaky Gut

Symptoms of leaky gut

Studies have found that leaky gut could be responsible for diseases like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. Although mainstream medicine has not accepted leaky gut, alternative medicine practitioners have. The first thing they may advice is following an anti-inflammatory diet. They may also recommend reducing intake of alcohol, processed foods, and foods that may cause allergies. So, even though mainstream medicine hasn’t accepted the idea that leaky gut leads to diseases outside of the gastrointestinal tract, eating an anti-inflammatory diet and reducing the intake of processed foods is never a bad idea.

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What you should know about CRP

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What you should know about CRP

CRP is C-reactive protein, a protein found in the body that reacts to the inflammatory response. Called a complement protein, CRP and other proteins like it respond to tissue damage. These proteins and other aggregates of the inflammatory, cause a reaction to help repair when there is an injury anywhere in the body. This quick reaction to tissue damage and inflammation is part of our immune response.

Reactions to Inflammation

Due to this reaction, CRP levels are understandably elevated after surgery or accidental physical trauma. CRP levels are also affected when the body undergoes vascular events that leave tissue without oxygen, such as heart attacks or strokes. CRP levels are often watched after myocardial infarction or heart attack, along with other blood tests to prevent another episode.

CRP & Infection

When someone is actively fighting infections, like appendicitis, influenza, or pneumonia, CRP levels will also be elevated. CRP levels, along with white blood cell counts, are a big determinant when physicians decide if a treatment is effective at eliminating the infection.

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Autoimmunity and CRP

When the body’s immune system starts to target its own cells, it is called Autoimmune disorder.  Some examples of autoimmune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, lupus, and hypothyroidism in some cases. In addition to physical symptoms of pain and fever, autoimmune diseases will increase the inflammatory response. C-reactive protein levels are often evaluated by doctors, again, with other tests, to help determine the severity or progression of the disease or episode.

CRP & Heart

Because CRP is elevated after a heart attack, most doctors will follow its levels in patients after coronary events. If initial levels of CRP are over 2.4 mg/dL, they are considered at risk for coronary events.  It is desirable to have CRP levels less than 1.0 mg/dL. Statin drugs treated for hyperlipidemia reduce CRP levels, another reason to keep at-risk patients on these drugs. It is evident that patients who have consistently higher CRP levels are more likely to have hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

Some cancers may elevate CRP levels and is often very high during acute or chronic kidney failure. A CRP blood test alone will not diagnose a single disease but can be significant in the presence of other symptoms.

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Why is a Complete Blood Count blood test important?

A complete blood count (CBC) is the go-to test to analyze the three main types of cells within the blood: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Red blood cells contain a molecule called hemoglobin that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. A CBC shows the number of red blood cells, their size and shape, and the concentration of hemoglobin within each cell. Red blood cells can be low if a person has been losing blood or if they have anemia (low hemoglobin levels). If you are diagnosed with anemia, your doctor will then order more specific tests to determine if your anemia is the result of recent blood loss, low iron levels, or a vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency.

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The white blood cells are a key player in the body’s immune system, defending you against potentially harmful organisms. A CBC gives a total white cell count and the percentages of the different types of white cells, which can help your doctor determine what sort of infection your body is fighting (bacterial, parasitic, etc.). Additionally, leukemia, which is a cancer of the bone marrow, can be diagnosed if abnormal white cells are present in the blood.

A blood platelet count in the normal range is necessary to ensure the blood clots as it should, preventing excessive blood loss from injuries or surgery

 


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What is the best nut butter?

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What is the best nut butter?

Peanut butter is the most popular nut butter, but it may have some competition. To name a few there is almond butter, sunflower butter, and cashew butter. Most of these provide protein, magnesium, vitamin E, zinc, and copper. It is becoming increasingly popular to add things like collagen, omega-3s, and coconut to nut and seed butters for added health benefits, but are all of these additives necessary? The answer is, it depends. The most important thing when determining if a nut butter is healthy is reading the label. Look for nut butters that have no more than 3 grams of added sugars, less than 3 grams of saturated fat, 6-8 grams of protein, less than 150 mg of sodium.

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A good rule of thumb when reading food labels is if you can pronounce the ingredients, then there is a good chance that it’s a good option. There are also options that are similar to nut butters for those that are allergic to nuts such as sunflower butter, soy and pea butter, and tahini. When looking for the healthiest versions of these nut-free butters look for options with minimal ingredients. Lastly, you should beware of spreads that resemble nut butters, but are actually spreads with more sugar than nuts. A few examples include cookie butter, chocolate spread, and granola butter. Overall, nut butters are a great snack option full of vitamins and nutrients, but it is important to select options made with clean and minimal ingredients.


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Does daily physical activity boost your mood?

It is widely known that regular exercise is key for overall good physical health, however, it is possible that it could prevent depression. A study done by JAMA Psychiatry found that there was a 26% decrease in chances for individuals to become depressed for each major increase in physical activity. It was even something as simple as replacing 15 minutes you would usually spend sitting with a 15-minute run. Before this study, it was unsure whether exercising improves mental health or if moving less is an effect of being depressed.

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The study found that exercise independently reduced the risk of depression. It was also found that everyday tasks and activities like walking to get coffee or taking the stairs to count towards your daily physical activity. This is great because it means you don’t necessarily have to exercise the conventional way every single day on a treadmill or Stairmaster, but simply making small changes like walking instead of driving makes a big difference. This also increases your chances of staying active daily because exercise doesn’t have to be daunting, but should be time to unplug and de-stress.To live a healthy active lifestyle you have to find what works for you, whether it’d be going to a group exercise class or going on a walk. Ensuring you exercise daily will help improve your mental well being, so go out there and find physical activities that are enjoyable to you.


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Why Low-Fat Diets Fail?

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Why Low-Fat Diets Fail?

One of the most common misconceptions people have when trying to lose weight is that they need to cut out fat or eat foods that are labeled low-fat in order to achieve their goal or live a healthy lifestyle, however by doing this you could actually be doing more harm than good. Reducing fat often leads to a higher intake of refined carbs, and cuts out healthy fats that your body needs. Research has found diets with high amounts of saturated fats are associated with a higher risk of heart attacks and high blood cholesterol levels.

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So, instead of taking an approach that completely eliminates or significantly reduces fat, you should opt to include healthy unsaturated fats in your diet. Healthy fats are actually an essential macronutrient because they help your body absorb nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K, and antioxidants. Omega-3 fats optimize heart, nerve, and brain function. You should include healthy fats into your diet like avocados, olive oil, nuts, and fish, and try to limit your consumption of “reduced-fat” fat foods that are high in refined carbs and added sugars. A healthy diet includes healthy fats, primarily unrefined carbohydrates, and protein.


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What type of water should you be drinking?

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What type of water should you be drinking?

There is no question that staying hydrated is key when it comes to your health, like reducing fatigue, preserving sensitive tissues, and keeping your immune system healthy. There are many options when it comes to your drinking water such as:

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  • alkaline,
  • spring,
  • purified,
  • mineral, and
  • artesian,

but does it matter which one you are drinking?

Mineral water natural water that contains at least 250 part per million total of dissolved solids. Artesian water is acquired from a well that taps a layer of rock or sand. Spring water is derived from an underground source in spring. Purified water is highly treated through distillation, and deionization in order to meet certain standards. Lastly, alkaline water just has a higher pH than tap water,  with a pH of 8 or 9 as opposed to tap water’s pH of 7. So with all of these choices, which one is the best one? There is not much evidence that one type of water is superior to others, however, there is proof that states everyone is drinking enough water. It is recommended that men drink 125 ounces and women drink 91 ounces. That’s about 15 cups of water for men and 11 cups of water for women. Your body is made up of water, so it is important to stay hydrated regardless of your choice of water.


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The Relationship Between Blood Sugar and Dementia

Keeping your blood sugar levels under control is a proven practice to help prevent diabetes. A simple blood test can provide you with important information about your fasting blood sugar level, glucose levels, and your risk for diabetes. But there may be other uses for measuring blood sugar than diabetes alone. Research shows that seniors that keep blood sugar levels low can help keep your brain healthy and prevent dementia. Among non-diabetics, those who develop dementia have higher fasting blood sugar levels. Those with higher glucose levels are 20 percent more likely to develop dementia. Among diabetics, the increase in the risk of dementia is even higher – 40 percent higher in those with higher blood sugar levels. Whether you’re diabetic or not, adopting a lifestyle to help control blood sugar levels is good for the brain and may help you avoid developing dementia. Here are three proven ways to lower your blood sugar:

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  1. Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, even losing 10 to 15 pounds can help lower blood sugar levels.
  2. Get regular aerobic exercise such as brisk walking for 30-plus minutes daily. The exercise helps burn up extra sugar in the blood in both diabetics and non-diabetics.
  3. Choose healthy meals – high in fiber from whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and legumes. Eat foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and limit red meats and high-fat dairy products. Follow a low-glycemic diet by avoiding soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages and snacks. And limit potatoes, white bread, white rice, and other refined grains.

If you are a diabetic, you should monitor your blood sugar levels daily and adopt healthy lifestyle habits to prevent complications from this disease. Your doctor may also adjust your medications to keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range, as measured by an A1C level of less than 7 percent.


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Why you should care about Carotenoids

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Why you should care about Carotenoids

Carotenoids are substances in fruits and vegetables that give them their bright colors. They are prevalent in many orange colored vegetables. Typically, more carotenoids are in foods that have a darker pigment. Carotenoids act as antioxidants which prevent damage to our cells. It is easy to add antioxidants, especially carotenoids to your diet from the following produce:

  1. carrots
  2. sweet potatoes
  3. pumpkin
  4. cantaloupe
  5. apricot
  6. papaya
  7. red and orange peppers
  8. tomatoes
  9. beets

It has been found that women with the most carotenoids in their blood are less likely to develop breast cancer than those with lower levels.  Lycopene is the best carotenoid to protect against breast cancer. Tomato products are loaded with lycopene.

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So, besides the red and orange colored fruits and veggies in your diet, you can add tomato sauce, salsa, fresh tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit. Carotenoids are fat-soluble, it is important to add a little healthy fat to your diet.  An example of healthy fat is adding olive oil to your salad or vegetables or saute some garlic in olive oil before simmering tomatoes in the sauce. This will allow the body to absorb the nutrients and providing the benefit of lowering the risks of cancer. You can order your own lab tests to measure carotenoids with a simple blood test for Vitamin A


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