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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!

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.

Supplement Spotlight: Pantethine

17 Jul

Last time, we looked at PS and it’s cortisol lowering effect. Today, let’s take a look at pantethine:

Pantethine is a stable form of vitamin B5 that is a precursor to co-enzyme A. Because of this, it is used mainly for the liver to increase HDL (the good), lower LDL (the bad), and lower triglycerides (the ugly). However, it is best to consult your physician prior due to interactions with statins.

Pantethine is also used to help restore adrenal function after the damage sympathetic dominance has done. Pair this with PS, any you have coverage at both ends of restoring proper cortisol rhythm.

Taken in the early and mid morning, 900-1200 mg of pantethine may help restore morning energy as well as support the fight against dyslipidemia.

Next time, we’ll take a look at ‘stacking’ supplements together, using an AM and PM protocol that is aimed at addressing cortisol…stay tuned!

Supplement Spotlight: Phosphatidylserine

9 Jul

Phosphatidyl Serine (PS) is a rather potent brain nutrient that causes a calming effect due to lowering the ‘fight-or-flight’ system. It acts to lower the stress hormone cortisol at the wrong time of day. If you find yourself restless and unable to fall asleep, your stress hormone may be out of control.

It’s also especially effective for minimizing cognitive decline that occurs with age, and it has even been shown to improve your golf game by calming the mind under stress! It has also been shown to significantly decrease ADHD symptoms, especially when paired with sufficient omega-3s. This is because it works to support specific neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine.

Studies have shown that 600 mg for 10 days yielded significant effects on lowering cortisol after high-intensity intervals, more favorable testosterone to cortisol ratio than a placebo group. Another study demonstrated that 400 mg of PS significantly decreased cortisol and led to lower activation of the pituitary adrenal axis (another measure of stress) in comparison to a placebo after a social stress test.

3-4 capsules (150 mg each) of PS in the afternoon is recommended. At FIT, we currently carry phosphatidylserine as well as other nutraceuticals that may be the missing support to your fitness program. Feel free to ask Jeff P. if you have any questions!

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!

Last chance for the Whole30(60)

12 Apr

I know how much fun you all had on the Whole30 this past month or two, and I don’t want you to feel unrewarded for all that hard work – besides the weight loss, better skin, PRs in the gym, and overall feeling better.  Make sure that you have submitted your pictures to challenge@focusedtrainers.com in order to be eligible to win!  We’ve got some great prizes in the mix.

Grassmilk – good or gross?

4 Apr

Take a moment to look at FIT’s take on an optimal food pyramid and guess what question we most frequently hear. food pyramidIf you are like the majority of people we have discussed our food strategy with, you probably guessed: ‘What about dairy?’

The simple answer is that our strategy is based primarily on nutrient density. Once dairy has been pasturized and homogenized, the quality and density of nutrients is questionable. Add to that the fact that most dairy in this country comes from grain-fed confinement herds which are no healthier than their conventially raised beef cattle counterparts. And then there’s the question of the saturated fat in milk which for years we have been led to believe was bad but are beginning to understand how vital quality saturated fat is to longterm health and vitality.

st benoit

Until recently, there were no mainstream options for high quality, minimally processed dairy beyond organic. Months ago, I saw that St. Benoit (a local dairy, renowned for minimal processed, delicious yogurt) began selling VAT pasteurized milk from grassfed Jersey cows.  Jersey cows produce a richer, higher fat, sweeter milk than the other common dairy cow here in the US, holstein/fresien.  Organic Valley has introduced Grassmilk but doesn’t list what type of cows are in their herd. Because St. Benoit’s Jersey Milk and Organic Valley’s Grassmilk come from pasture raised/fed cows, their milk also has much higher levels of Omega 3s, linoleic acid and vitamin E (compared to grain-fed confinement herds). VAT pasteurization complies with FDA standards but seems to be less likely to significantly alter the quality of nutrients making this process preferrable to HTST (high temperature, short time) or UHT (ultra high temperature) processes routinely used – think of it like how heating olive oil to it’s smoke point degrades the fat destroying it’s health benefit as we have discussed previously.  While both St. Benoit and OV’s milks are non-homogenized, OV does use standard HTST pasteurization which might degrade nutrients more so than VAT.

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So, while we stand by our statement that dairy is not a requirement of an optimally nutritious diet, we recognize that no one eats an optimally nutritous diet pasteurization. St. Benoitavailable at Whole Foods and Palo Alto’s Cal. Ave Farmers market on Sundays year round.100% of the time. So, when it comes to dairy, go for whole milk but drink less of it. Some ‘better’ options than what was previously available are St. Benoit’s Jersey Milk or Organic Valley’s Grassmilk – if both are options – choose St. Benoit based on the method of pasteurization.  I haven’t tasted OV’s Grassmilk but can vouch for St. Benoit’s – it’s delish!



What’s going on with YOUR Whole 60?

6 Mar

So we’ve passed the 30 day marker!  How many of you are staying on for the Whole 60?  I know that Kendra and myself are going strong, as well as some of you.  Who else is on board?  We need to hear from you.  As a little kick-start, I wanted to post a photo of what I have been up to lately in the kitchen.  

As some of you may know already, I’m kind of a kitchen geek, always trying out different things, tinkering with recipes, and trying to expand my boundaries.  Most recently, this has meant canning and fermenting.  While I have made kimchi and sauerkraut in the past, my most recent obsession has been kombucha.  In essence, it is a slightly effervescent, slightly bitter fermented tea beverage with a multitude of purported health benefits.  Anyways, check out the picture of the tasty fermented and canned foods that I have made recently.

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Delicious canned and fermented foods: Brewed black tea kombucha, habanero salsa (top), preserved lemons (bottom), fermenting ginger tea kombucha, pickled beets, canned roasted red and yellow peppers

What have you been up to in the kitchen lately?  Let us know any new discoveries you have made or challenges you have been having.

WHOLE 30 Meet-up: Sunday 2/17 at 9:00am

12 Feb

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They say that the best organic food is what’s grown closest to you. In light of this, our first WHOLE 30 meet-up will be at the Mountain View Farmers Market on SUNDAY, 2/17, at 9:00am. We will be meeting at the west end of the Market (by the taxi turn around). A pack of fun and seasonal recipes will be provided to help guide your Sunday shopping. So bring your re-usable shopping bags and come join us for a fun and FIT morning at the Farmers Market.Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 8.00.41 AM

 

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A family fave Whole 30 compliant lunch

7 Feb

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Cucumbers in place of crackers
Avocado in place of cream cheese
Topped with smoked salmon.

As I pack this lunch for my 5 year old, I always smile thinking ‘just like mom used to make’ or not:).

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