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Probiotics

3 Oct

For the past couple of months, I have received several questions concerning probiotics, what are they and why or if we should use them. Probiotics seem to be appearing more on the shelves of health food stores and, as such, the research is steadily increasing. When I went to the store to get an idea of how many there are, I was completely overwhelmed. No wonder there is so much confusion about probiotics! Those shelves are loaded with so many brands and names that who could keep them all straight? Is there any reason to have that many brands? Lets see…

What are probiotics?
Probiotics are a group of live microorganisms including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus species and yeasts, that may beneficially affect the body upon ingestion by improving the balance of the body’s microflora (i.e. bacteria that are naturally occurring in the small and large intestine, mouth and vagina). The scope of this article will be focused on the benefits of probiotics for our intestine.

Thus far, scientists suggest that a healthy human digestive tract contains about fourteen various types of genus of microorganisms, making a grand total of approximately 400 types of bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system.

The largest group of probiotic bacteria in the intestine is lactic acid bacteria, of which Lactobacillus acidophilus, found in yogurt, is the best known however, there are other species of Lactobacillus that have been shown to be beneficial. The genus Lactobacillus is lactic-acid producing bacteria that thrive in the presence of lactose, a sugar
found in dairy products such as cheese and yogurt.

Élie Metchnikoff, the father of modern immunology, believed the health benefits of the lactic acid-bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus could prolong life at the turn of the 20th century. He wrote in his book, The Prolongation of Life: Optimistic Studies, that consumption of live bacteria, such as L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus, in the form of yogurt was beneficial for gastrointestinal health, as well as for health in general, and for longevity. He “proved” his theory by drinking sour milk daily and dieing at the ripe age of 71, well above the average life expectancy in 1916.

Mention of cultured dairy products is found in the Bible and the sacred books of Hinduism. Soured milks and cultured dairy products, such as kefir, koumiss, leben and dahi, were often used therapeutically before the existence of microorganisms was recognized.

The Function of Microbes in the GI Tract
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract of animals represents a complex ecosystem in which a delicate balance exists between the intestinal microflora and the host. The host and micoflora live in a synergistic environment – the host providing a comfortable environment for the microbes to survive while the microbes thrive and produce beneficial metabolic byproducts that aid the host’s GI tract and immune system.

This synergistic relationship begins developing while breastfeeding from our mother and receiving kisses from family and friends while we are babies. The inhabitation of microbes in a developing GI tract is proving to be important not only in the neonatal period and during infancy, but it is becoming increasingly evident that microbial colonization in early life may affect the individual’s health throughout life.

The small intestine is lined with lymph nodes that support our immune system. The byproducts and metabolites of the intestinal microflora are important for maturation of the immune system, the development of normal intestinal form and structure and in order to maintain a chronic and immunologically balanced inflammatory response. The microflora reinforce the barrier function of the intestinal lining, helping in the prevention of the attachment of pathogens and the entry of allergens. Some members of the microflora may contribute to the body’s requirements for certain vitamins, including biotin, pantothenic acid and vitamin B12. Alteration of the microbial flora of the intestine, which may occur with antibiotic use, disease/sickness and aging, can negatively affect its beneficial role. This is where the potential benefits of supplementing with probiotics may enter in order to balance what the antibiotics, disease/sickness or aging destroyed.

Uses and Mechanisms of Probiotics
In most circumstances, people use probiotics to prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics. Antibiotics kill “good”(beneficial) bacteria along with the bacteria that cause illness. An imbalanced ratio of “bad”:”good” bacteria may lead to diarrhea. It has been hypothesized that taking probiotic supplements (as capsules, powder, or liquid extract) may help replace the lost beneficial bacteria and thus help prevent or treat diarrhea. Consumption of a probiotic drink containing L. casei, L. bulgaricus, and S. thermophilus has been shown to reduce the incidence of antibiotic associated diarrhea and Clostridium difficile associated diarrhea.  Supplementation of infant formula milk with B. bifidum and S. thermophilus reduced diarrhea caused by a rotavirus in children.

The antimicrobial activity of probiotics is thought to be accounted for, in large part, by their ability to colonize the
colon and reinforce the barrier function of the intestinal mucus membranes.

In infants infected with rotavirus, L. casei, L. acidophilus and B. bifidum have been shown to enhance the “eating ability” (i.e. phagocytic activity) of various circulating white blood cells, perhaps via an increase in the levels of circulating immunoglobulin A (IgA), an antibody that aids in the removal of a chemical or organism.

In healthy individuals, L. salivarius and L. johnsonii have also demonstrated to produce an increase in the phagocytic activity of circulating white blood cells. This shows it is nice to know that you do not have to have an infection in order to receive any benefits of certain probiotics. With this in mind, this would place taking
probiotics as more of a preventative measure.

L. casei and L. rhamnosus, have even shown anti-tumor activity by inhibiting the initiation and/or promotional
events of the chemically-induced tumors in rats and by actually binding to some chemical carcinogens.

Other probiotics, such as Saccharomyces boulardii, are believed to have their protective effects by digesting the
toxins that infectious bacteria create. S. boulardii has been found to secrete a protease which digests two protein
exotoxins, toxin A and toxin B, which appear to mediate diarrhea and colitis caused by C. difficile. S. boulardii is usually given to those who get antibiotic-induced diarrhea.

Probiotics that colonize the colon may be helpful in the management of some people with food allergies by
maintaining optimal functioning of the mucosal layer. L. rhamnosus and B. lactis were found to produce significant
improvement of atopic eczema in children with food allergies.

Finally, perhaps the beneficial effects of some of the probiotics mentioned in this article are because of their anti-oxidant abilities, which include chelation (i.e. binding a substance to a toxic metal, such as iron or copper), binding to reactive free-radicals and reducing free-radical activity.

When to Use Probiotics
If you believe that probiotics may be beneficial for you, but you do not know what to look for on a product’s label to
help with your condition, here is what the research has to say.

Antibiotic-Related Diarrhea. Among the probiotics, only S. boulardii, Enterococcus faecium and Lactobacillus species have been useful in preventing antibiotic-related diarrhea. S. boulardii appears to be the most superior form of treatment when
diarrhea is caused by C. difficile. The use of probiotics in the attempted prevention and treatment of traveler’s diarrhea, most commonly caused by an E. coli toxin, has produced inconclusive results. The results of some early studies suggest that probiotics found in yogurt may help prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics. However, more studies are needed to confirm that yogurt is effective. To offer benefit, the yogurt must contain active cultures. Most yogurt containers indicate whether active cultures are present.

Anti-Inflammatory for GI Conditions. Because of a reduced fecal concentration of various probiotics in individuals with active ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, active pouchitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome, researchers have noted that probiotics may be beneficial for individuals with these conditions. However, thus far, the results are inconclusive and more research is needed.

Allergies. Some lactic acid bacteria, including L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, L. casei and L. bulgaricus, have demonstrated immunoregulatory effects that might help protect against some allergic disorders. There is some
evidence that some of these probiotic strains can reduce the intestinal inflammation associated with some food
allergies, including cow’s milk allergy among babies. Breastfed infants of nursing mothers given Lactobacillus
had significantly improved atopic dermatitis or eczema, compared with infants not exposed to this probiotic.

Anti-Carcinogenic. There are in vitro, animal and some preliminary human data suggesting that some probiotics
can bind and inactivate some carcinogens, can directly inhibit the growth of some tumors and can inhibit bacteria
that may convert pre-carcinogens into carcinogens. L. acidophilus and L. casei have exhibited the latter activity in
human volunteers. There is some preliminary evidence that L. casei may have reduced the recurrence of bladder
tumors in humans. Confirmatory trials are needed. Animal work has suggested that some lactic-acid bacteria might
help protect against colon cancer. Again, more research is needed.

Lower Cholesterol. Dairy products containing L. acidophilus have been credited with lowering cholesterol levels in some animal experiments. It has been hypothesized that bacterial assimilation of cholesterol in the intestine might
reduce cholesterol stores available for absorption into the blood. To date, there is no credible evidence showing that
any of the probiotics can lower cholesterol levels in humans. More study may be warranted.

Summary

The effectiveness of probiotics is dependent upon their ability to survive in the acidic stomach environment and
the alkaline conditions in the upper small intestine, as well as their ability to adhere to the intestinal mucosa of the
colon and to colonize the colon. Some probiotics, such as L. casei, L. rhamnosus, and L. plantarum, are better able to colonize the colon than others.

A major problem is that there are many probiotic products available, and not all of them have been tested for every
potential treatment listed above. These products contain various Lactobacillus strains, various Bifidobacterium
strains, combinations of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria and combinations of probiotics and prebiotics. Typical doses of probiotics range from one to ten billion colony-forming units (CFU) a few times a week. Whether or not you should have more of one that another is unknown exactly, but I have provided a couple of examples of diseases/ailments that you may want to try using probiotics in order to prevent/cure.

Because of the inconclusive data of probiotics, we still do not know what is the optimal number of CFU’s that should be administered for a healthy GI tract. As mentioned earlier, there are approximately 400 species of bacteria alone in our gut, and I have not even mentioned the number of fungi or archaea that are present and how these may interact with our immune system and other bacteria. The idea that we are always “balancing” our gut with probiotics should be used with caution considering that if you are adding more bacteria to an unknown concentration of microbes, one does not know if it is actually helping or not, depending on the circumstances. Trial-and-error are needed on an individual basis, and this will require trying an assortment of probiotic products. Also, if you eat foods with active bacteria, such as kimchi and sauerkraut (both contain high amounts of lactic-acid forming bacteria), you are constantly affecting the microflora concentration of your gut; and the majority of the research suggests it is for the better. The animal and in vitro studies continually show promise that there may be more benefits of probiotics around the corner.

Probiotics need to be consumed at least a few times a week to maintain their effect on the intestinal microecology. Overall, I would suggest getting as much variety in your diet and trying various probiotic products, almost on a monthly rotation, to get as many benefits from these products as possible while not getting too much of a certain species of bacteria over another. Happy shopping!

Sweden Rejects “Low-Fat for Health” Dogma

22 Jul

Sweden Becomes First Western Nation to Reject Low-fat Diet Dogma in Favor of Low-carb High-fat Nutrition

Finally. It would be nice if the United States would follow Sweden’s lead. It would appear that a national case study of the US population for the past 40 years would suggest that the low-fat dogma has been an absolute failure. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, various cancers, etc. can be attributed to the high-carbohydrate, low-fat lifestyle.

Last month, Time Magazine published a great article explaining the low-carbohydrate research that has been available and it has also been apparently ignored for several decades.   There seems to be some momentum that maybe the “fat is bad” mantra is wrong (except for trans-fats) and it is healthy to eat healthy fat sources while minimizing/eliminating sugar, starch and processed white flour instead. But that would also require the FDA to admit that they were and have been wrong for so long, and there’s too much money in Washington DC to allow that to happen so easily. I still hope to see it happen.

Skratch is Here!

11 Feb

If you are an avid endurance athlete, hiker, recreational athlete, or you just feel the need for a sports drink to stay hydrated and help your athletic performance, then you may be interested in trying Skratch by Skratch Labs. We asked the developer of Skratch, Alan Lim, why do you call it Skratch? He said that it is because it is made from scratch. It is quite possibly the most all natural sports supplement on the market. Just mix it with water and it is already to go.

Check out more information about Skratch at their website, http://www.skratchlabs.com/.

ExHydration_MultiCollage_copy_large

FINALLY!! A High Protein Diet study That Has Been Repeatedly Recommended

31 Aug

Doubling the Daily Allowance of Protein Intake With Diet and Exercise Protects Muscle Loss

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130829110430.htm

I hope it means that the health community will actually believe it, instead of thinking that this is “bad for your kidneys.” I wish I could say more, but this tends to sum it up very well.

 

Three Cups of Dairy A Day: All Hype with No Science?

7 Aug

Anybody who may study the evolution of the human diet would know that we did not eat dairy in the quantities that federal dietary guidelines recommend today, but over time, dairy was included as a main staple. Today, the guidelines recommend that we ingest three cups of dairy per day. However, Walter Willett, Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, questions this recommendation, suggesting that this recommendation comes more from dairy industry lobbying rather than supported scientific data. Read more

I am not surprised. One can see the same trend when it comes to grains. The  guidelines published in 2011 encourage Americans to cut back on refined grains and replace them with whole grains, but they still suggest that it is okay to consume up to half of our grains as refined grains. That’s unfortunate, since there’s been even more research evidence in the past five years that refined grains, such as white bread, white rice, and white pasta, have adverse metabolic effects and increase the risks of diabetes and heart disease. “Big Agriculture”, “Big Dairy” and “Big —” [you fill in the blank], somebody is pulling somebody’s else’s strings to keep America “healthy”. But whether or not today’s dietary guidelines are entirely based on scientific evidence versus special profiting interests is debatable, and more than likely, wrong.

The Cure for Gray, Not Far Away

6 May

A couple of months ago, I was laying face-down on my [then] nine-year-old daughter’s bed and she climbed on my back. She began to run her fingers of both of her hands through my hair and said, “Wow, Daddy, you have so much gray hair!”

“You do realize how it all got there, right?” I replied.

“No.”

“Well, before you were born, I didn’t have any. After you were born and as you have gotten older, it has increased. So clearly, it’s your fault,” I sarcastically replied.

“Daddy!”

Good thing she understands my sense of humor.

However, there really is some good news in the world of science that was recently published. It appears that the reason we get gray is because of a tremendous accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the hair follicle that causes our hair to bleach itself from the inside out. A topical treatment of narrowband ultraviolet B (UVB) phototherapy-activated compound called PC-KUS (a modified pseudocatalase) appears to do the trick and get rid of the gray. Catalases are natural enzymes that breakdown hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen.

Even better, this same treatment may appear to benefit people with vitiligo, a condition that causes depigmentation of sections of the skin. Exposing the skin to UVB light from UVB lamps is the most common treatment for vitiligo. Therefore, it did not seem too far fetched to see if the PC-KUS might benefit people with vitiligo besides helping those get rid of the gray in their hair.

To read more about this potential treatment of gray hair and vitiligo, please click the link below:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130503132958.htm

And regardless of what my daughter said about my gray hair, I STILL get carded!

“Just a Bite” of Chocolate May Be All You Need

6 Feb

A summary of a recent published study showed that a small bite of chocolate may be all you  need to satisfy that craving. Without fully reading the study, it is good to see that there is some science backing just how little we actually need for our in-the-moment craving.

I would be curious to see a follow-up study looking at the psychological effects (such as endorphin concentrations) of various doses of foods we crave.

Too Many Sick Bodies

18 Dec

Hello All,

Currently, I have 5 clients that are currently dealing or they have already been infected with the flu. So, because everybody seems to know the “usual prescription” of chicken soup, vitamin C, reduce stress, etc., I did some research and came up with this article from one of my favorite websites, the Vitamin D Council. Here is some advice for you and your family.

http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health-conditions/infections-and-autoimmunity/influenza/

Influenza Patient friendly summary

 Artistic rendition of influenza virus.

Influenza is a viral infection of the lungs. There are many symptoms:

  • fever
  • body aches and muscle pain
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • dry cough
  • runny nose
  • dry or sore throat

The lining around the lungs may become inflamed. This can lead to bacterial pneumonia.

Risk factors

Influenza is most common in winter, a time when:

  • Solar ultraviolet-B (UVB) doses are low.
  • The weather is cold. This prevents white blood cells from reaching the lining of the respiratory tract and fighting the virus.
  • The humidity is low. Dry air allows the virus to live longer outside of the body.

Sunlight exposure and influenza risk

 Influenza is more common in winter, when reduced sunlight causes vitamin D levels to fall.

Influenza rates peak in winter. There is less solar UVB light in winter, especially in areas farther from the equator. Thus, vitamin D levels are at their lowest.

Vitamin D and influenza

Vitamin D from sunlight or supplements reduces the risk of influenza.

Two randomized controlled trials found reduced incidence of influenza for those taking higher doses of vitamin D. A study involving African-American postmenopausal women in New York found a 60% reduced risk of colds and influenza for those taking 800 IU/d vitamin D3 and 90% reduced risk for those taking 2000 IU/d.

Another study in Japan, involving school children taking 1200 IU/d vitamin D3 vs. 200 IU/d, found a 67% reduction in Type A influenza, but no effect for Type B influenza. Type A influenza includes H1N1 varieties, which was the type involved in the 1918-19 pandemic influenza and the 2009 “swine flu” infections.

According to an observational study, vitamin D provides protection against influenza. This occurs when vitamin D levels in the blood are more than 38 ng/mL (95 nmol/L).

How vitamin D works

To enhance the body’s immune system, vitamin D:

  • Produces cathelicidin and defensins—These proteins have antiviral effects to combat viruses.
  • Reduces inflammation—As a result, body temperature does not rise as much, and the lining of the lungs is less disturbed. This makes it harder for bacteria to give rise to pneumonia.

Prevention

High levels of vitamin D may prevent or lower the risk of influenza. Vitamin D may also reduce symptoms of influenza and reduce the risk of developing pneumonia following influenza. Vaccines strengthen the body’s ability to fight infection. Therefore, combining high levels of vitamin D and anti-influenza vaccines provide the best protection.

Vitamin D

Based on several studies, raising vitamin D blood levels to 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/l) may reduce the risk of influenza. For most people, this involves taking 1000–5000 international units (IU) (25–125 mcg)/day of vitamin D during the influenza season.

Treatment

On average, 2000-5000 IU/day vitamin D3 may provide protection against influenza. Vitamin D3, the true form of vitamin D, is produced in the skin. Larger doses of vitamin D taken for a short time strengthen the immune system. This allows the body to fight infection.

Need to know more? Read on with our detailed evidence summary on Influenza.

Vitamin D Deficiency and Pregnancy Risks

18 Dec

From the Vitamin D Council:

December 13, 2012 — John Cannell, MD
Professors Carole Wagner and Bruce Hollis and ten of their colleagues at the Medical University of South Carolina recently conducted the largest randomized controlled trial to date using meaningful daily doses (2,000 vs. 4,000 IU) of vitamin D during pregnancy.

Wagner CL, McNeil R, Hamilton SA, Winkler J, Cook CR, Warner G, Bivens B, Davis DJ, Smith PG, Murphy M, Shary J, Hollis BW. A Randomized Trial of Vitamin D Supplementation in Two Community Health Center Networks in South Carolina. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Nov 3.

The ethics committee would not let them use a control group of 400 IU/day, as the committee felt this would endanger the women and their newborns. Sadly, most women in this country only take the 400 IU/day in their prenatal vitamin.

The researchers randomized 256 pregnant women, 160 of whom completed the study. They were separated into two groups, 2,000 or 4,000 IU per day, beginning at 3-4 months of pregnancy. They followed the 160 women through delivery and found the following:

  1. At the beginning of the study, pregnant African American women had a level of 18.5 ng/ml, while Whites had notably higher mean values of 29.5 ng/ml.
  2. Neither group had any side effects; in fact the blood calcium levels of the 4,000 IU group actually went down.
  3. At delivery, the average cord blood vitamin D level was 22 ng/ml in the 2,000 IU/day group and 27 ng/ml in the 4,000 IU/day group, still slightly less than cord levels of hunter gatherers.
  4. Overall, only 37% of the 2,000 IU group and 46% of the 4,000 IU group achieved vitamin D levels of 40 ng/ml by the end of their pregnancies. Furthermore, 40 ng/ml was the threshold level at which conversion of 25(OH)D to activated vitamin D finally flattened out during pregnancy. In other words, the more 25(OH)D the pregnant woman had, the higher the activated vitamin D level, until a 25(OH)D level of 40 ng/ml was reached, and activated vitamin D stopped increasing any more at higher levels.
  5. The 4,000 IU group participants had 2.40 times higher odds of having an infant in the 50th percentile of birth weight, compared to the 2,000 IU group. That is, the 4,000 IU group was more likely to have normal weight babies.
  6. Lower pre‐delivery 25(OH)D was significantly predictive of preterm delivery (p=0.001)
  7. Lower pre‐delivery 25(OH)D was associated with more infection (p=0.026).
  8. Overall, complications of pregnancy were less with the 4,000 IU/day group than with the 2,000 IU/day group, though not statistically significant.

In my opinion, this is once again great research that shows that pregnant women should have levels over 40 ng/ml, and I think it’s preferable to target levels between 50-60 ng/ml.

This is why the Council recommends 6,000 IU/day, to ensure these kinds of levels. We also recommend checking 25(OH)D levels periodically throughout pregnancy to make sure your 25(OH)D levels remain in the natural range, about 50-60 ng/ml. Some women may need more than 6,000 IU/day.

The “Fat Bet”

1 Nov

Image

Several weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were talking about a topic I hold close to my heart: bacon. She happened to say that she believed if you ate as much bacon as you wanted, you would gain weight. I asked why? She said because of all of the fat. I said, well I guess there is only one way to find out: eat nothing but bacon for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Realizing that may be a little extreme and kill the love for bacon, we decided to include eggs – as much as she wanted for each meal – for one week and see if she gained or lost weight. We decided she could prepare the bacon and eggs how ever she wanted. I said she would lose weight after 5 days, she said she would gain after 5 days. What was on the line? Bragging rights. However, because I thought it might be fun to see how it might affect me, I decided to do it as well.

Turns out the bet was made on a Saturday night, we had agreed to start on the following Monday, and she had awaken with cold-like symptoms and so she dropped out immediately. However, I continued with the diet as planned.

Monday morning was a treat: 4 hardboiled eggs and 8 strips of bacon, solid grease adhering to each strip. By the end of that day, I ate approximately 8 eggs and 16 strips of bacon. In terms of exercise, I did a moderately intense workout during the day and played basketball that night in a league game. Tuesday and Wednesday, a little smaller breakfast and my typical Crossfit workout that day.

On Thursday, I was too busy at work, therefore I did not get in a workout. However, I did notice that Thursday morning, I was less hungry than usual – 2 hardboiled eggs and 3 strips of bacon. I noticed my hunger decreasing in the morning and more so throughout the day. On Thursday, I also used a ketostick to see if I was in ketosis, and I had a positive reading.

Friday was another Crossfit workout and another day of bacon and eggs – approximately 6-8 eggs at this point and 12 strips of bacon for the day.

After five days of the bacon and egg challenge, it was time for the moment of truth and see who the Bet Winner was. And the scale said…(drum roll please…) I was down 6 pounds!

Reflection:

This was a fun experience but it did have some positives and negatives:

Negatives:

* Prep time for the bacon while on-the-go so often. I ate mostly hardboiled eggs and oven-cooked bacon because it minimized the smell throughout the house.
* A salty taste in my mouth which required a lot of water to minimize it.
* By Saturday, I had some noticeable acetone breath. My girlfriend had a serious problem with this. Keep the Altoids close.

Positives:

* My energy level did not seem to decrease throughout the 5 days as I had expected from reading about the “keto crash” that sometimes happens to people that have to adapt to a low-carbohydrate diet.
* It was easy to figure out what I needed to eat: bacon or eggs. I enjoyed the simple structure of the diet.
* I lost 6 pounds in 5 days and felt slim and trim.

I realize that this was an experiment of n = 1, but I did like how I felt and I did enjoy the experience. I’m not 100% able to put my stamp of approval on this and call it “Healthy” for somebody to live on, but it may be at least a good kick start on getting onto the path of entering a ketogenic diet. I may do it again, but for a longer amount of time and more breath mints for both my benefit and those I may speak to…just for kicks and giggles. ;)

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