Tag Archives: health

Ask the Expert: What Are Probiotics and Why Do You Need Them?

The short answer:
Your gut is filled with bacteria, good and bad. Good bacteria aids digestion, boosts immunity, and combats a number of gut-related illnesses. Emerging research shows it may also impact weight loss and influence mood. Bad bacteria hampers good bacteria and can make you sick in an assortment of ways, oftentimes involving repeated trips to the bathroom.

The two fight constantly.

Probiotics contain good bacteria. You’ll find them either in supplement form or through real foods like yogurt, tempeh, kimchi, miso, and kombucha. By taking them, you’re fortifying the troops. While they’re generally an excellent idea, they’re particularly important after you’ve had an infection or you’ve taken a round of antibiotics, because these things tend to wipe out the populations in your gut.

The long answer:
The therapeutic use of probiotics is an excellent example of ancient wisdom existing long before Western science could pull its head out. There are references to curdled milk in the Bible (Genesis 18:8 and Isaiah 7:15 if you’re keeping score), but the party really got started around the start of the 20th century when Nobel Prize–winning scientist Dr. Elias Metchnikoff reported that Bulgarian shepherds tended to live almost twice as long as urban Parisians where he was living. He pinned this on the formers’ intake of fermented milk, which he felt contained “good” and “anti-putrefactive” microorganisms.

It’s unclear how Metchnikoff made the connection between these two rather disparate groups, but it gave birth to the modern investigation of probiotics, so let’s not complain. For the last hundred plus years, science continues to discover more and more good things about the bugs living in our intestines.

The 100 trillion (give or take a trillion) bacteria that live in your gut can be divided into over 500 types. Many of the important ones fall into one of two genera, Lactobacillusand Bifidobacterium. Under that, there are several species, many of which have specific benefits. For example, Lactobacillus acidophilus has been shown to be especially effective in combating lactose intolerance and Montezuma’s Revenge (or “traveler’s diarrhea” if you want to be boring about it). However, unless you have a specific issue that you’re trying to address, you probably don’t need to stress about all the species.

Fun fact one: the bad bacteria you’re working to keep in check include Helicobacter pylori, Escherichia coli (E. coli), and salmonella.

Fun fact two: we’re born without bacteria in our guts, but the populating begins when we pass through the birth canal. Our first gasps of air provide yet more bacteria, as does breast milk, which is especially rich in probiotics.

It’s well-established that probiotic consumption helps with almost any intestinal issue you can think of, including constipation, lactose intolerance, GI infections, gas, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, IBS, and IBD. It’s been shown to be effective in treating vaginal and urinary tract infections and atopic eczema. There’s also research showing probiotics may reduce the risk of colon cancer.

There are a few theories as to how this all happens. One is that good bacteria simply take up the space in the gut that the bad bacteria would take over. There’s also the fact that some good bacteria stimulate the immune system by promoting the release of various white blood cells that kill pathogens. A third idea is that many bacteria use the same fuel sources. For example, Clostridium difficile, which causes diarrhea and inflames the colon, is dependent on sugar—but so are many good bacteria. It all comes down to balance. If you have plenty of good bacteria in your gut, they’re going to dominate the monosaccharide buffet.

Look beyond GI issues, and current science on gut bacteria and probiotics gets even more amazing. A Washington University study on identical twins—one overweight and one thin—showed that they had entirely different gut microbiota, suggesting certain bacteria in your system promotes weight gain. (A separate UC Berkeley study suggests the evolutionary reason for this is that people in northern climates need more body fat, so their gut bacteria actually shifts to promote weight gain.)

But if you think popping the right probiotics will soon be the key to dropping pounds, don’t get too excited. Yet another study on mice shows that “weight loss bacteria” doesn’t seem to thrive on a high in saturated fat, low-fiber diet. However, they tend to propagate when fed a diet filled with fruits and veggies.

Researchers are also looking seriously into the gut-brain axis. In other words, those little bugs in your belly might actually have a say in your decision-making process. For instance, gut bacteria produce 95% of your serotonin, a powerful “feel-good” neurotransmitter.

And a Texas Tech University study on mice found that feeding mice the bad bacterium Campylobacter jejuni drove up their anxiety levels.

So, yes, you should consume probiotics. How many depends on your situation. Antibiotics wipe out the microbes in your gut, so a supplement is an excellent idea after a round of those. Beyond that, if you have a gut-related issue, it’s worth researching which probiotic might help and supplement thusly.

Quality probiotic supplements can be pricey though. For most people, a solid diet filled with probiotic foods should do the trick. (For the record, Shakeology contains Bacillus coagulans, an especially hearty probiotic that can survive at room temperature when many probiotics require refrigeration.)

Yogurt is also a great source. However, it’s important to read the label. The bacteria that make the flavor and texture that Western society considers yogurt can’t survive the voyage through our GI tract, so manufacturers enhance the stuff with other strains, including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum.

Kombucha, or fermented tea, is another great probiotic food that’s especially trendy right now. It may take a while to learn to appreciate its tangy taste, but it’s worth it. Another benefit of kombucha is that it’s incredibly simple to make.

Beyond that, there are tons of other foods out there that are technically probiotic, including tempeh, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, and various cheeses. Unfortunately, these foods are often heated or pasteurized in such a way that kills the bacteria, so check on the label to verify if the probiotics are still active. Another option is to seek out a boutique producer who deliberately maintains the bacteria in their foods. Or you might want to make them yourself. Sandor Ellix Katz’s The Art of Fermentation is an excellent resource for your bacterial DIY needs.

On a final note, remember that fruit and veggie thing a few paragraphs up? Well, it applies to all the benefits of probiotics. Gut bacteria thrives on certain foods called prebiotics, so it’s crucial to make them part of your diet. Foods especially high in prebiotics include asparagus, onion, leek, garlic, artichokes, oats, and bananas. Yacon root, which you’ll find in Shakeology, also contains prebiotics.

So make prebiotics and probiotics a cornerstone of your diet because if you’re good to all those little bugs in your gut, they’ll return the favor tenfold.

Do you have a question for our experts? Post it below and we’ll try and get to it in a future post. For fast answers to questions only our experts can answer, please post them in our Expert Advice forum here.

*Originally posted HERE, by Denis Faye, M.S.

Start with Simple- Just Breathe

Don’t forget the Simple

When jumping into a plan of a healthier life, we tend to overlook the obvious things. One hugely just breatheobvious thing that is necessary, no matter what the goal or plan, is oxygen. So important, most of us can’t live more than a few minutes without it. Who said water is the first thing to look for? I need my O2!

Sure, you’ll find it everywhere you’ll find yourself, so it’s not something to search for, but it is something many of us have forgotten how to do properly. Sounds absurd, yes? Maybe so, but still true for many unknowingly stuck in a body of their own making.

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Workout Buddy: 5 Reasons Why It’s Important

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Having a workout buddy can mean the difference between success and failure when it comes to your fitness goals. Unless you’re consistently a highly motivated self-starter, your chances of sticking to a long-term fitness plan without a partner are significantly lower than they are with a partner.

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How Dehydration Can Impact Your Performance

When’s the last time you were reminded of the importance of proper hydration during exercise? Odds are fairly recently. In fact, it’s almost customary, after chugging a mouthful of sports drink, to offer a chirpy “Stay hydrated!” to our fellow exercisers.

So we all know it’s good for us, but why? And even more importantly, did you know that proper hydration has a huge impact on athletic performance? Okay, so maybe it’s a stretch to say that nailing your workout takes priority over not dying of dehydration. But still, knowing that fluid replacement can dial up your workouts—and your results—is a powerful motivator, so let’s take a closer look.

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10 Facts You Need to Know About Cast Iron Pans

Cooks seeking alternatives to toxic non-stick cookware often find themselves in a bind. Stainless steel, which seems to be the healthiest alternative, is expensive, and it does not lend itself well to cooking eggs, pancakes and other dishes that non-stick cookware typically excels at. If you have not yet discovered the benefits of cast iron cooking, here are 10 reasons to buy and use a cast iron skillet.

1. Avoid Toxic Fumes

Replacing a non-stick skillet with a cast iron one allows you to avoid the toxic fumes that accompany most non-stick cookware. Cast iron can also replace aluminum cookware, which may also pose health hazards.

2. Use in oven

Besides the stove, you can use a cast iron skillet in the oven, at any temperature. This comes in handy for making corn bread, frittatas, and flat bread.

3. Nonstick

Surprisingly, a preheated cast iron skillet rivals the qualities of non-stick cookware, as long as it is properly seasoned and cared for. You can quickly move up this short learning curve by talking with employees at your local cookware store or by reading a book or Internet article about cast iron care.

4. Easy Clean up

Cast iron is easy to clean up. Not only does food easily lift off from cast iron cookware, soap is not needed or recommended, since it erodes the seasoning.

5. Health Benefits

You can actually boost your iron intake from eating food cooked in cast iron cookware. This vital mineral is crucial for maintaining energy levels, and it helps strengthen immune systems.

6. Inexpensive

Cooks looking to replace non-stick cookware often investigate stainless steel. However, a high-end, 12-inch stainless skillet runs well over $100, while a similar-sized cast iron one costs less than $30.

7. Food cooks beautifully.

Using a cast iron skillet you can create restaurant-quality, homemade fish sticks, potato pancakes and French toast,complete with golden brown, crispy exteriors. Contrast this with non-stick cookware, which makes browning nearly impossible.

8. Sturdy/Wears well

Since it does not scratch, there is no need to use plastic utensils, and there is no fear of using your silverware to stir or scoop. It lasts for so long that many people still use cast iron cookware inherited from their parents and grandparents.

9. Any heat source can be used

In an emergency, cast iron cookware can be used over any heat source. As such, many disaster planning lists include cast iron as the survival cookware of choice.

10. Proven over years

It has been used for thousands of years. Natural News readers already understand how new technologies are often the least healthy, while those used by earlier generations are often more beneficial and more in line with how we are designed. Our cookware choice is no exception.

The Drawbacks of Cast Iron…

Although there are many benefits to cast iron cooking, make sure to understand the drawbacks before you start: cast iron pans are very heavy; they require intentional maintenance in order to keep them rust-free and non-stick; and care is needed if you have a glass-top stove.

With that in mind, they’re still a great choice. Once you take the plunge, you will wonder why it took you so long to start!

**Originally posted Here by: