Category Archives: digestion

Could you work schedule be hurting your gut health?

overtime, work, night shift, tired, nightNight shifts, or working from evening to morning, can be rough on your body and mind.  Your meal patterns can become confused. Sleeping patterns can become thrown off course. And in turn, weight gain and sleeping issues can develop over time. A recent study has found that night shifts can cause digestive problems over time by throwing off the body’s internal clock.

What is circadian rhythm?

Think of your circadian rhythm as a clock inside of your body telling you when to sleep, eat, and digest, among other things.  The internal clock in the body releases hormones at certain times to help you stay awake, provide energy, and help regulate processes such as digestion and blood pressure. Working night shift or traveling across time zones can disrupt this internal clock. This is because being awake when the body is programmed to sleep can confuse the body’s natural rhythms. Previous studies have found that those who work night shift have an increased risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Circadian rhythm and gut health

A recent study looked at the effects of night shift work on various health markers. One group of people had a normal day shift and nighttime sleep schedule. The second group worked night shift three days in a row and slept during the day.  Hormones such as melatonin and cortisol were also measured. Melatonin usually increases at night to help you sleep. On the other hand, cortisol is normally higher in the day to help with metabolism and blood glucose regulation, among other things.

Study results show that those who worked night shift had a shift in their brain’s internal clock by two hours.  Although significant, even more so is that the digestive system was thrown off course by 12 hours. These results suggest that night shift work can cause digestive problems over time.  Therefore, researchers will continue to study ways to help minimize this impact of night shifts on gut health. They hope that further studies will help identify ways to tailor meal time to minimize night shift’s impact on gut health.

How to help your gut health

In the mean time, there are several things you can do now to help improve your gut health, no matter what time of day you eat.

  • Eat smaller meals to help prevent heartburn or indigestion. Smaller meals will make it easier for your body to break down the nutrients from the food you eat.  Eating a large meal at one sitting can put a lot of pressure on your digestive system, especially if you have a job that involves a lot of sitting. Smaller meals can reduce bloating after meals and has been found to help reduce symptoms in those with a history of acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Drink plenty of water to help improve the flow of waste out of the body and to help improve nutrient absorption from the foods you eat.
  • Stay active to help stimulate digestion and prevent constipation, which in turn can cause symptoms such as gas, discomfort, and bloating.
  • Take probiotics to help restore or maintain a healthy balance of bacterium in the gut to aid digestion.  Probiotics that are diverse and potent such as Biovia 30X by Vita Sciences can help boost the immune system and promote gut health.  Those with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome have especially found probiotics to be helpful in reducing symptoms. Consuming foods that contain probiotics such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir, to name a few, can also help improve gut health.
  • Eat plenty of fiber such as that found in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods.  This is because fiber can help bulk the stool and slow down digestion to help improve nutrient absorption from foods. Fiber-rich foods can also act as prebiotics. Prebiotics are compounds from certain fruits and vegetables such as bananas, asparagus, soybean-based foods, and whole grains that feed probiotics. In other words, the prebiotics help promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

References:

Liverpool, L. (July 9, 2018) “Nightshifts disrupt rhythm between brain and gut, study shows.” The Guardian Online

NIH News in Health (May 2017) “Keeping Your Gut in Check: Healthy Options to Stay on Tract.”

NIH News in Health (April 2018) “Tick Tock: Your Body Clocks: Understanding Your Daily Rhythms.”

Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, T. (February 27, 2018) “Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Online

 


  • Free your gut from inflammation with probiotics

    probiotic, fermented foods, health, gut healthProbiotics have become the talk of the town, and for good reason. Every day more research shows that taking probiotics can reduce inflammation in the gut, and in turn, may help reduce risk of inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, eczema, and inflammatory bowel disease. Therefore, adding a probiotic to your daily routine may be the answer to help free your gut, and in turn your body, from inflammation.

    What is inflammation?

    Inflammation is a response to injury, infection, or foreign bodies in the body. This process is often linked with redness, swelling, and pain. In the body, however, can be a good thing since inflammation helps to get rid of any toxins and help the body heal.  However, too much of just about anything can be a bad thing.

    Oxidative stress, along with inflammation, is often associated with chronic disease risk. When the body’s cells encounter oxidative stress, cell damage may occur, and in turn, chronic disease risk may increase.  Oxidative stress occurs, by definition, when there is an imbalance in prooxidant stress and antioxidant defense.  This occurs when free radicals, or any species with one or more unpaired electrons, steal electrons from other cells to become paired. In doing this, a chain reaction of free radical formation is set off. This  in turn can lead to cell damage.

    What are probiotics?

    Probiotics are living organisms such as bacteria or fungi, that have health benefits.  You may see probiotics in your local grocery store or health food market. It can be confusing to know which strain(s) will be most beneficial for you.  The key will be to find a probiotic product that is diverse in the amount of strains that it contains, so that you can benefit from a wide variety of bacterium.

    For example, one diverse probiotic product is Biovia 30 by Vita Sciences. This probiotic product contains 30 billion colony forming units of 10 important Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains.

    How can I benefit from probiotics?

    Probiotics can help restore balance of bacterium in the gut. This can help reduce inflammation in the body and reduce chronic disease risk.  The benefits of probiotics range from lowering cholesterol to strengthening the immune system.  In addition, probiotics can help improve symptoms in those with digestive conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease. Furthermore, there is evidence that those with skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and acne may benefit from probiotic treatment.

    You can add probiotics in your diet by consuming more fermented food or by taking a probiotic supplement. You can add some probiotic-containing foods to your diet such as:

    • sauerkraut
    • kimchi
    • kefir
    • yogurt
    • miso
    • tempeh

    It is also beneficial that if you consume probiotics in any form, that you also consume prebiotics, or foods to help feed the probiotics in your gut.  Examples of prebiotic foods include:

    • fruits such as bananas
    • vegetables such as asparagus, soybeans, garlic onion, leeks, and artichokes
    • whole-grain foods such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, and bran cereal
    • Flaxseeds

    Therefore, free yourself from inflammation in your body today by adding some pre- and probiotics to your daily routine.

    References:

    Baek, J. and Lee, M-G. (2016) “Oxidative stress and antioxidant strategies in dermatology.” Redox Report, 21(4): 164-169.

    Biswas, S.K. (2016) “Does the Interdependence between Oxidative Stress and Inflammation Explain the Antioxidant Paradox?” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, Volume 2016(Article ID 5698931): 9 pages.

    Nagpal, R., et al. (2012) “Probiotics, their health benefits and applications for developing healthier foods: a review.” FEMS Microbiology Letters, 334(2012): 1-15.

    NIH News in Health (May 2017) “Keeping Your Gut in Check: Healthy Options to Stay on Tract.”

    Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, T. (February 27, 2018) “Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Online.

     


  • Could your sleep patterns affect your mental health?

    sleep, mental health, stress, anxiety, depressionSleep. Work. Eat. Repeat. Does that sound like your day, or something like it?  Sleep is often set aside as just something that a person does at the end of the day. It is often overlooked as a very important part of optimal health. A recent study found that it is so important in fact, that not getting enough sleep may increase your risk for mental health disorders.

    The Importance of Sleep

    The average adult needs at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.  This may seem like a lot if you live a busy life which many of us do. And you may shrug it off and say, “Who needs sleep. I don’t need sleep.” The fact is that sleep is more important than you think, and without it your health could suffer.

    So many things happen while you sleep. For example, at rest your body conserves energy, regulates blood pressure, and restores tissues and muscles.  Furthermore, your body regulates fluids and controls hormone levels in the body while you sleep.  Without enough sleep, your circadian rhythm can go off course. In turn, this can lead you to eat when you’re not hungry, which can lead to weight gain and increased chronic disease risk over time.

    And if these weren’t enough reasons to hit the snooze button, sleep also has an impact on the immune system.  Lack of sleep can cause yo to get sick more often, which in turn could put more stress on your body and mind.

    Sleep and Mental Health

    A recent study looked at about 90,000 residents from the United Kingdom in regards to sleep patterns.  Study subjects between the age of 37 and 73 years wore accelerometers for 24 hours a day for 7 days.  In other words, these devices measured the rest and activity levels of participants. Those with reduced activity during the day or increased activity at night were described as having a disrupted circadian rhythm, or lower amplitude.  Comparing these patterns with questionnaires filled out by participants found links between lower amplitudes and health measures such as:

    • higher risk of unstable moods
    • lower levels of unhappiness
    • lower health satisfaction
    • greater reported loneliness

    Among other findings, it is clear that this study shows that lack of sleep can greatly impact mental health measures, and in turn quality of life.

    Ways to Help You Get More Sleep

    There may not be enough hours in the day to get everything done.  However, it is really important to make sure sleep gets a priority on your to-do list. Therefore, if you have trouble sleeping, try some of the methods below to help.

    • Stick to a sleep schedule: Just like your other daily tasks, put sleep on your daily planner. Although it can be hard to do sometimes, setting a time to prepare for bed each night can help you develop a new healthy sleeping pattern over time.
    • Start a bedtime ritual: When it is coming close to that time of night, start a bedtime ritual that will help your body prepare for bed. Whether it is drinking a cup of herbal tea after dinner, or diffusing some lavender essential oils to relax your body, this type of ritual can reduce your risk of tossing and turning into the night. It is also helpful to reduce caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake in the latter part of the day as well as turning off any screens during your bedtime ritual to help your eyes and mind rest.
    • Exercise each day: Any type of movement for at least 30 minutes each day can tire your body out a bit, so you can rest better in the evening. Otherwise, your body will have energy to expend with no outlet to provide it with. In turn, you will likely stay up late and have trouble sleeping. Besides that, exercise is good for keeping your body and mind healthy.
    • Take a supplement for sleep like Somnova by Vita Sciences. Somnova contains melatonin and l-theanine to help relax your mind, feel refreshed, and get more peaceful sleep. Add a sleep supplement to your bedtime routine about 30 minutes before you plan on going to sleep.
    • Visit your healthcare provider: If you have tried all of the above, or feel particularly tired upon waking, you may need to see your healthcare provider. This is because your sleep problems may be related to other conditions such as pain issues, sleep apnea, or other health conditions and should be treated under medical supervision.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (December 18, 2007) “Why Do We Sleep, Anyway?”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed May 16, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

    NIH News in Health (April 2018) “Tick Tock: Your Body Clocks.”

    Paddock, Ph.D., C. (May 16, 2018) “Sleep-wake disruption strongly linked to mood disorders.”


  • Drinking more alcohol than suggested could shorten life

    alcohol, health, beer, wine, liquor, unhealthyIt’s Friday night and the weekend is just beginning.  After a long week of work, you may be thinking about that glass of wine or pint of beer to help you relax.  In moderation, there is nothing wrong with a few drinks on the weekend. However, a recent study has found that drinking more than the suggested amount each week can shorten your life.

    What is the recommended alcohol intake for most adults?

    General recommendations in the United States suggest that men consume no more than 2 standard alcoholic drinks a day and women consume no more than one daily. A standard drink is equal to:

    • 12 ounces beer (5% alcohol content)
    • 8 ounces malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
    • 5 ounces wine (12% alcohol content)
    • 1.5 ounces liquor (40% alcohol content)

    Any more than this recommendation is heavy drinking and can have negative health effects. More than 4 drinks at one occasion for a woman or 5 drinks for a man is considered binge drinking. Negative health effects of such heavy drinking include:

    • short term effects such as increased risk of falls, injuries, car crashes if driving while intoxicated, and increased likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or violent behavior.
    • if pregnant and drinking, your unborn child could have increased risk of fetal alcohol syndrome, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
    • increased risk of heart disease, stoke, liver disease, and digestive problems
    • increased risk of anxiety and depression
    • learning and memory problems

    In addition to such health problems, long term drinking could lead to problems with family and friends if you become dependent on alcohol. Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for resources on how to get help if you think you may have a drinking problem.

    Alcohol and life span

    A recent study in the medical journal Lancet found that for each alcoholic drink over 6 standard glasses of wine or 7 standard 12 oz beers a week could shorten your life by 30 minutes. This may not seem like a lot, but every minute can add up over time. This recommended amount is equal to about 12.5 units of alcohol.

    You may ask, “How did they come up with this number?”  The answer to this comes in the form of a study of about 600,000 current drinkers included in 83 studies from 19 countries. It was found that a 40-year old drinking just 2-3 standard drinks a week more than the suggested tipping point can lower their life expectancy by about 2 years.  This is likely due to the health effects listed above such as increased risk of heart disease, among other things.  This study helped support the United Kingdom’s proposed reduction in alcoholic drink recommendations. When following these guidelines, people had a 20-percent lower heart disease risk. Also, there was no increase in harm to health seen in terms of death rate in those who were compliant with the guidelines.

    Although some studies show that moderate drinking may help heart health, this study reports different results. Researchers suggest that a glass of red wine now and then may reduce the risk of a non-fatal heart attack. However, this positive health effect is offset against the increased risk of other health issues.

    Other ways to relax

    If drinking alcohol is a method you use to relax, then perhaps it is time to try healthier methods of lowering stress. Try a few of the methods below to replace happy hour, so you can live out the highest quality, and quantity of life possible.

    • Exercise each day with something as simple as a short walk. Just getting fresh air and sunshine on your face can help you feel better and more relaxed. Try to walk at least 3 to 5 times a week.
    • Breathe. Taking five deep breaths when you are stressed and practicing relaxation breathing before bed can help you to reduce stress.
    • Meditate and focus on all of the positive things in your life such as those things you have accomplished, what you are grateful for, to name a few.
    • Take breaks throughout the day. Even just a 5 minute break here and there during your work day can help. Rub some relaxing essential oil scents on your wrist or neck, go to the bathroom stall, sit down, and take several deep breaths. Release the stress from your mind and focus on your breath and the scent. You can also do this at home when you are feeling overwhelmed or just want to decompress after a long day.
    • Detox your life in a variety of ways to lighten your load of stress. You can do this by:
      • giving away clothes you don’t wear anymore.
      • cleaning your house and reorganizing your belongings.
      • self care such as a hot bath with relaxing essential oils like lavender, getting a massage, or getting your hair done.
      • writing in a journal or talking with a trusted friend, family member, or counselor. Talking can help you to unload your brain of any fears, anxieties, or stress that may be bogging you down.
      • taking a supplement such as Sereneo by Vita Sciences to relax your mind. Sereneo contains ingredients such as valerian root, magnesium, and chamomile to help increase your levels of feel good serotonin.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Boseley, S. (April 13, 2018) “Extra glass of wine a day ‘will shorten your life by 30 minutes.'” 

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (January 3, 2018) “Fact Sheets- Alcohol Use and Your Health.”

    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (updated April 18, 2018) “SAMHSA’s National Helpline.”

    Tartakovsky, M.S., M. (May 23, 2013) “20 Ways to Relax & Unwind.” 


  • Could probiotics improve gut health?

    yogurt, probiotics, fermented, gut health, fruit, fiberDo you get cramps in your side after eating certain foods? Do you feel bloated, gassy, or suffer from constipation?  If so, then you may have an imbalance in your gut bacteria.  Probiotics may be able to help you improve your digestive health.

    What are probiotics?

    Probiotics are live bacteria strains found in fermented foods or in supplement form. They help to balance levels of good as well as bad bacteria in the gut.  Examples of fermented foods and drinks include:

    • yogurt (fermented milk)
    • sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
    • kefir (fermented cow’s milk normally consumed as a beverage)
    • kombucha (fermented black or green tea)
    • miso (paste made from fermented soybeans)
    • tempeh (fermented soybeans)

    A diverse ecosystem of bacteria in the gut may reduce inflammation in the body. In fact, animal studies show that probiotics could lower levels of inflammation in the body related to such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.  However, you should take probiotics on a regular basis for the most health benefit.

    If taken in a supplement form, try to get a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria since each strain provides different benefits.  Also, those found in a refrigerated form, such as those found in health food stores, may provide a more potent formula. For example, there is a quality probiotic called Biovia 30X made by Vita Sciences. Biovia 30X  contains 30 billion colony forming units (CFUs) in 10 different strains of probiotics.

    Other ways to improve gut health

    Besides probiotics, there are other ways you can help improve your digestive health with just a few tweaks in your healthy lifestyle.

    • Avoid foods that can cause inflammation. Examples of foods to limit in your diet include red meat, high-fat dairy, fried foods, and foods high in additives.  Also, processed foods such as sausage and candy that contain advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs should be limited since they can reduce the number of healthy bacteria in the gut.
    • Eat more fiber since it helps to feed the healthy bacteria. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as oats, quinoa, brown and wild rice, and bran, to name a few.
    • Live a balanced lifestyle.  Getting enough sleep, staying active, and staying hydrated is important to keep your gut happy.  Most adults should get about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to help regulate a healthy blood pressure and healthy blood glucose levels.  Also, exercise at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week. This is because studies show that exercise can help enrich the growth of a diverse population of bacteria in the gut. Finally, when you add in more fiber to your diet, drinking enough water each day is important to lower risk of constipation. Aim for about half of your body weight in ounces. If you are 200 pounds, then this means you should drink about 100 ounces, or 12.5 cups of unsweetened fluid each day.
    • Manage stress.  Meditation, yoga, relaxation breathing, talking to a counselor, or just finding time each day to relax and do something you enjoy can help lower stress.  It is important to manage stress not just to sleep better, but for gut health as well.  For example, studies have shown a potential link between the brain and gut health. For example, if you get stressed or depressed, studies show that this could trigger gut health issues.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Harvard Health Publishing- Harvard Medical School (October 2016) “Can gut bacteria improve your health?”

    Harvard Health Publishing- Harvard Medical School (accessed April 3, 2018) “The gut-brain connection.”

    Monda, V., Villano, I., Messina, A., Valenzano, A., Esposito, T., Moscatelli, F., … Messina, G. (2017). Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity2017, 3831972. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3831972

    Mayo Clinic (August 20, 2016) “How much should the average adult exercise each day?”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed April 2, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

    NIH News in Health (May 2017) “Keeping Your Gut in Check: Healthy Options to Stay on Tract.”

    Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (accessed April 3, 2018) “Healthy Gut: Prebiotics and Probiotics.”


  • Could more fiber improve your diabetes?

    fruits, vegetables, fiber, healthEat your veggies, they say. Whether you are trying to lose weight, improve your blood pressure, or just simply trying to live well, you may be told to eat more fiber in your diet. Fiber is not only good for managing weight or keeping your heart healthy though. A recent study has found that more fiber in your diet may actually help improve the health of those with type 2 diabetes.

    What is fiber?

    Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in certain foods that is not digested in the body.  Therefore, when consumed, it provides many health benefits such as:

    • making you feel fuller longer
    • slowing down digestion so more nutrients can be absorbed from the foods you eat
    • bulking your stool, in turn helping improve digestive health
    • helping to lower cholesterol levels in the blood

    In addition, fiber intake can help control blood glucose levels. A healthy, balanced diet should include such fiber-rich foods as:

    • fruits and vegetables
    • high-fiber cereals made with bran or whole grains
    • whole grains such as oats, quinoa, or corn
    • high-fiber pastas such as bean, lentil-based, or whole wheat
    • brown or wild rice
    • nuts, nut butters, and seeds such as flax seed, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds

    A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people who consumed 50 grams of fiber each day were able to control their blood glucose levels much better than those who ate far less.  However, since most Americans only consume on average 15 to 18 grams of fiber each day, this task would be impossible. Therefore, most adults should consume between 20 and 35 grams of fiber each day for optimal health. If you consume between 2 cups of both fruits and vegetables each day, you can easily hit this daily goal.

    Fiber and diabetes

    Type 2 diabetes is the type of diabetes that develops when the pancreas makes too little insulin or the body cannot use insulin very well. In turn, people with type 2 diabetes have trouble controlling their blood glucose levels since insulin is a hormone in charge of using glucose for energy in the body.

    Within the digestive system, certain bacteria are in charge of breaking down carbohydrates  in the body. These broken down carbohydrates produce short chain fatty acids that help reduce inflammation in the gut and control appetite. Recent study findings show that a shortage of these amino acids may increase risk of type 2 diabetes.

    A recent study based in China looked at the effect of a high fiber diet on those with type 2 diabetes. One group of adults with type 2 diabetes were given standard dietary recommendations and patient education. The other group was given a high fiber diet. After 12 weeks, the group of patients on the high fiber diet had had greater reduction in their HgA1C, or three month average of blood glucose levels. In addition, their fasting blood glucose levels and weight dropped more than those not on the high fiber diet.

    Other ways to help control your diabetes

    In addition to consuming more fiber, there are several other ways you can help control your diabetes.

    • Know your numbers such as blood glucose levels, HgA1C, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol levels. Keeping track of these numbers will help you see where you stand in terms of heart health and controlling your diabetes. This way, if your numbers are reaching unhealthy levels, then you can take action before complications arise.
    • Stay active for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity most days of the week. Moderate activity includes walking, water aerobics, light dancing, and gardening, to name a few. A step counter or fitness tracking device can be helpful to keep track of your movements each day and keep you accountable.
    • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Also, when you are increasing your fiber intake, it is important to drink plenty of water to avoid constipation.  Water is an important nutrient to help flush waste out of the body and keep the body functioning effectively.
    • Meet with your healthcare provider on a regular basis to help control and treat your diabetes and keep track of any risk factors. In addition, your healthcare provider can provide support if you have any questions or concerns in regards to your overall health.
    • Take supplements as needed such as vitamins for any deficiencies you may have as well as supplements such as Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains ingredients such as alpha lipoic acid and cinnamon that have been shown to support healthy blood glucose levels.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Joslin Diabetes Center (accessed on March 12, 2018) “How Does Fiber Affect Blood Glucose Levels?” 

    National Center for Health Statistics (March 2017) “NCHS Nutrition Data.”

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (January 2016) “4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life.”

    Rutgers University (March 8, 2018) “Fiber-fermenting bacteria improve health of type 2 diabetes patients.”


  • Could Vitamin D Help IBS Symptoms?

    constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramps, stomachache, irritable bowel syndrome, healthDo you get stabbing abdominal cramps after eating a fatty meal?  Does dairy or gluten cause uncomfortable gas and bloating?  Are doctors unsure of the origin of your chronic constipation or diarrhea? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may have what is called Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  Although changes in the diet may be helpful in many cases of IBS, research shows that vitamin D may also help those with this condition.

    What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the large intestine.  If someone is suffering from the following symptoms, then they may have IBS.

    • abdominal pain, cramping, or bloating
    • less pain after bowel movement
    • excess gas
    • diarrhea or constipation, or a little of both
    • mucus in the stool

    A diagnosis of IBS is usually given after testing has found that such symptoms are not related to another condition. Other conditions where such symptoms may be present include:

    • inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
    • celiac disease
    • malabsorption
    • colon cancer

    What is Vitamin D?

    Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is well-known for its link to bone health.  D rich foods include:

    • vitamin D-fortified milk, orange juice, and yogurt
    • fatty fish like tuna and salmon.
    • cod liver oil

    However, sunlight exposure can also provide vitamin D. Those who live in cloudy climates may have trouble doing this though. Therefore, vitamin D-rich foods and supplements may be needed for some to meet their vitamin D needs.  Research suggests that just 5 to 30 minutes of sunlight twice a week can help a person meet their vitamin D needs.

    Ostoeporosis is a common condition linked to vitamin D deficiency. However preliminary evidence has also linked low vitamin D to diabetes, hypertension, and glucose intolerance.  Recent recommendations suggest that most adults should consume at least 600IU a day. Although, those with a low vitamin D level may require up to 4000 IU/day to help them normalize their levels.

    It is important to ask your doctor for a vitamin D test at your annual visit. This is because vitamin D is not a typical test that healthcare providers include in your common annual visit lab panel. If you fail to get a vitamin D level test, then you may never know if symptoms such as weakness or bone pain could be helped with vitamin D treatment.

    Vitamin D and IBS Research

    A study in the European Journal of Clinical Medicine has found a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and IBS. An analysis of four observational studies and three randomized controlled trials found a link between vitamin D deficiency in IBS patients. Furthermore, high dose vitamin D supplements were found to help ease IBS symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.

    Even though evidence is limited, researchers suggest that anyone with IBS symptoms should get tested for vitamin D.  If you have low vitamin D, you may be prescribed a Vitamin D supplement, or asked to purchase an over-the-counter softgel or liquid supplement. You can also purchase vitamin D in an absorbable cream like Maxasorb by Vita Sciences. Maxasorb comes in 1000IU or 2000IU and provides a convenient way to take your vitamin D daily.

    Other Ways to Help Your IBS

    In addition to keeping an eye on your vitamin D levels, there are other ways to help control your IBS symptoms.

    • Increase fiber intake by adding in more whole grains like oats and quinoa, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fiber can help bulk stool and make it easier to pass.
    • Drink plenty of water each day to help flush waste out of your body, along with water’s other very important functions.  It is especially important to increase water intake as you increase fiber intake. If you increase fiber intake without drinking enough water, this could worsen constipation symptoms in some people. An easy rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs, you should drink 100 ounces, or about 12 cups of fluid each day. This fluid could include:
      • water or low-calorie flavored water
      • unsweetened tea, hot tea, or herbal tea
      • broth or boullion
      • decaf coffee
      • other low-calorie, low sugar drinks that do not contain caffeine or alcohol
    • Exercise on a regular basis. Exercise can help promote healthy bowel movements in those who have constipation.  Any movement counts, so get outside and take a walk, dance in your living room to a workout tape or to the radio, or go to the gym and join a group class. Whatever movement is fun to you, is movement that you will stick with for the long run.
    • Get plenty of sleep. Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep each day for good health. Sleep helps your body regulate fluids, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, as well as digestion. Therefore, not enough sleep could be affecting your gut health.
    • Start on a probiotic since the gut may be lacking the good bacteria it needs for healthy digestion. Ask your healthcare provider for specific brands of probiotics they may recommend. You can also check out Vita Sciences for gut health aids such as Biovia 30.
    • Eliminate certain foods from your diet. These foods may vary from person to person, depending on your specific allergies or intolerances. However, some common food triggers of IBS include:
      • FODMAPs, or fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols found in certain fruits, vegetables, grains, or dairy products
      • gluten-containing foods such as breads, pastas, and baked goods
      • gassy foods such as alcohol, carbonated beverages, or certain vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Mayo Clinic (November 18. 2017) “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”

    Medline Plus (accessed January 29, 2018) “Digestive Diseases.”

    National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements (February 11, 2016) “Vitamin D- Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.” 

    Williams CE, et al. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018;doi:10.1038/s41430-017-0064-z.


  • Could the DASH Diet be the Answer to Your Weight Loss Goals?

    balanced diet, diet, healthy, haert health, fruits, veggies, proteinLike millions of other people, you may be hoping to lose some weight in this new year. However, the confusing part may be what eating plan, or shall I say “diet,” should you choose to follow?  There is so much information in the media today making all sorts of weight loss claims.  They may all seem promising, but not all may provide you the nutrients you need to succeed long-term.  However, a recent report found that the DASH diet may be the answer to get you to your weight loss goal.

    What is the DASH Diet?

    The DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet regimen, is a eating regimen promoted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It involves a flexible and balanced diet that focuses on using whole foods to meet daily and weekly nutritional goals. Basic tenets of the DASH diet include:

    • Eating plenty of fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
    • Consuming adequate protein daily from minimally processed sources such as fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
    • Limiting foods high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and certain oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
    • Reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets

    Calorie and activity goals recommended will be a little different for each individual based upon your energy needs. Energy needs can be calculated using your BMR, or basal metabolic rate, multiplied by an activity factor.  A good BMR calculator is provided online by MyFitnessPal. To calculate your activity factor, multiply your BMR by the following activity factor based on your activity level. Exercises considered moderate versus active can be found in a variety of sources such as the American Heart Association website.

    • 1.0 if you are sedentary, or do little to no activity
    • 1.1-1.2 if you engage in light activity 1-3 times a week
    • 1.2-1.3 if you are active, or engage in moderate exercise for 150 minutes a week or vigorous activity 75 minutes a week
    • 1.4-1.5 if you are very active, or engage in moderate exercise  closer to 300 minutes per week , and vigorous activity closer to 150 minutes per week

    For example, of your BMR is 1500 and you work out for 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week, then you would multiply 1500 by 1.2-1.3. Therefore, you would need to consume about 1800 to 1950 calories each day to maintain your current weight. As an estimate, subtract 500 calories for every pound you wish to lose per week.

    Based on the example provided, if you wanted to lose one pound per week, then you would need to consume between 1300 to 1450 calories each day.  Be sure though, that within those calories that you are eating enough protein and fiber daily for optimal health.  Such specific nutrient goals can be found on the NIH website. You can visit your healthcare provider such as your doctor or dietitian for more specific macronutrient goals that are appropriate for you.

    Diet Research

    Studies such as the DASH-Sodium and PREMIER trials looked at the effects of the DASH diet on blood pressure. Both of these studies found decreases in blood pressure with either a low sodium diet or established treatment plan that included nutrition counseling, respectively. However, those who followed a DASH diet in addition to these factors had even greater reductions in blood pressure.

    A recent study of 38 different diets by the U.S. News and World Report ranked the DASH diet the top diet for the eighth year in a row. The Mediterranean diet, which includes plenty of heart-healthy fruits and vegetables as well as healthy fats in the diet, was ranked second. Diets were scored according to:

    • How easy is the diet to follow
    • the nutritional quality of the diet
    • the safety of the diet long-term
    • the effectiveness of the diet for weight loss
    • the protective quality of the diet against diabetes and heart disease

    The DASH diet was found to be rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, protein, and fiber. Also, this plan was found to adapt to any healthy lifestyle without deprivation or restriction of important nutrients.

    Ways to Make Your New Year’s Goal Become a Reality

    Finding a diet that you want to follow is one thing, but sticking to it is a whole other ballgame. Therefore, use the following tips to help you make your new year’s health goal a reality.

    • Make it a family affair: If you have others in your household that eat with you at meal time, include them in your healthy eating efforts.  This does not mean that everyone has to go on a diet with you. However, you can help instill healthy habits at meal time to benefit everyone. For example, you can include more vegetables at meals, limit the sugary and salty foods purchased, and reduce meals eaten out.
    • Get a healthy “buddy” for accountability: Since you are likely to have a co-worker, neighbor, or friend that also vows to be healthier in the new year, designate each other as your “buddy.” Basically, this means that you can help each other be accountable for your food choices and exercise.  You can do this by:
      • taking walks together during the week
      • attending exercise classes together
      • batch cooking or prepping healthy meals together on the weekend

    In regards to exercise, studies have shown that those who have an exercise partner can have about twice the overall increased intensity and duration of exercise than those who work out alone.

    • Track your eating and exercise regularly: Food tracking can get cumbersome over time. However it can be really useful in the early stages of a healthy eating regimen to make sure you are meeting your nutrient needs.  Once you feel comfortable with your eating plan you can get away with tracking less frequently. However, it is useful to track every few weeks for the long term to make sure you are eating enough of important nutrients like protein and fiber. Some great examples of tracker apps include MyFitnessPal, LoseIt!, and MyPlate.
    • Don’t get caught up in the numbers:  Weighing yourself everyday or tracking every macro can get overwhelming. Such excessive tracking can cause you to lose sight of important non-scale goals. Focus more on losing weight to feel more energy, feeling less pain in your joints, or being able to be active in ways you have not been able to  because of your current health status. This is not to say that tracking such numbers is not important. However, these numbers are just one small part of the healthy lifestyle equation.
    • Add in vitamins and supplements to fill in any nutrition gaps: A balanced diet ideally should give you all of the vitamins and nutrients you need daily. However, no regimen is perfect. There may be days where you do not consume enough of certain vitamins or minerals due to sickness, travel, or other reasons. Therefore, it is important to have a multivitamin in your regimen to help fill in any nutrient gaps.  An example is Zestia by Vita Sciences, which contains Super Food compounds, probiotics, and 100% or more of 19 vitamins and minerals.
    • Take it one step at a time: A long-term goal is great, but can be daunting to accomplish. For example, saying you want to lose 50lbs this year may seem like an impossible task. However, if you break your long-term goal into shorter pieces then it becomes more practical. In this case, setting a goal of one pound each week seems more possible and allows you to celebrate each small progression towards your ultimate goal. Therefore, take your new year’s health goals one day at a time.  Each small success should be celebrated. For example, when you reach eight cups of water consumed each day or reach 5000 steps a day, you should be proud and treat yourself to a non-food reward. Examples of such rewards include a movie night at home, a relaxing bubble bath, or a massage. Before you know it, your new year’s goal will be accomplished and you can start off the next year with confidence and better health.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    American Heart Association (March 2014) “Moderate to Vigorous – What is your level of intensity?”

    American Heart Association (February 2014) “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults.”

    MedlinePlus (January 3, 2018) “What’s Your Best Diet for 2018? Experts Rate Them.”

    MedlinePlus (January 1, 2018) “For a Healthier New Year, Try Making It a Family Affair.”

    MedlinePlus (January 4, 2018) “Need Motivation to Exercise? Try the Buddy System.”

    MyFitness Pal BMR calculator

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (accessed January 7, 2018) “DASH Eating Plan.”

    National Institutes of Health (January 3, 2018) “DASH ranked Best Diet Overall for eighth year in a row by U.S. News and World Report.”

    National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements (accessed January 8, 2018) “Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs).” 

     

     


  • Could Women’s Hearts be More Sensitive to Stress?

    heart, mind, health, stress

    Stress of the mind can hurt your heart.

    Your heart is racing. Your palms are sweaty. Sometimes you may feel dizzy, disoriented, or nauseous. These are all potential symptoms when you are faced with a stressful situation. However, one of the most dangerous symptoms of stress is constriction of blood vessels. A recent study has found that women may be more at risk for heart-related health problems in response to stress.

    What is stress?

    Stress is a normal reaction to the demands of life that can affect both the body and mind. A little bit can be healthy to remind you to be more alert or more motivated. However, too much can contribute to a variety of health conditions such as:

    • ulcers
    • digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome
    • asthma
    • headaches
    • back pain

    In addition to such conditions, stress can also increase blood pressure, which can in turn increase risk of heart disease. This is due to the body’s response to a perceived threat. The body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode in which the body constricts blood vessels to provide more blood flow to the major organs. Also, digestion slows to keep the body focused on providing blood to the brain and the heart.  However, if anxiety or chronic exposure to the perceived threat(s) occurs, then this response can negatively impact health.

    Women, Stress, and the Heart

    A recent study in the journal Arteriosclerosis looked at 678 people with coronary artery disease, or plaques in the major arteries that affects blood flow. Each person was asked to engage in public speaking, a commonly known fear of many, to see if it triggered myocardial ischemia, or a reduction of blood flow in the heart.

    About 15-percent of study subjects triggered myocardial ischemia. Men and women were affected by this condition at a similar rate, but the cause was different.  In men, blood flow was mostly affected by high blood pressure and increased heart rate. On the other hand, in women it was caused by a constriction of blood vessels, also known as microvascular dysfunction. The difference between the two reactions is that in men, the perceived fear increased workload on the heart. However, in women, the dysfunction of vessels impaired blood flow.  It is not known whether this increased incidence of myocardial ischemia can increase risk of heart disease, but such studies are being planned.

    Healthy Ways to Deal With Stress

    You can help decrease stress, and in turn, lower risk of heart disease in a variety of ways.  The following list includes way you can lower stress on both your body and mind.

    • Limit coffee and caffeine since such constrict blood vessels, thus impacting blood flow. Two to three cups a day is suggested for adequate health benefit.
    • Quit or don’t smoke since smoking can also constrict blood vessels, and in turn blood flow, this increasing heart disease risk.
    • Live a balanced life. It is important to make sure that as hard as you work in your job and in exercising, you should also rest your body just as readily. A good balance of rest and activity is around 30 minutes a day of moderate activity such as walking combined with about 7 hours of sleep each night.  Being both active and resting well each night are important for the regulation of body fluids, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels in the body, among other things.
    • Be mindful in everything you do. When you are more mindful and aware of the choices you make each day, it can eliminate a lot of stress on the body.  The following are a list of small things you can do each day to be more mindful and in turn reduce stress on your body inside and out.
      • Plan and prep meals and snacks ahead of time.
      • Make healthy choices at meal and snack time such as less processed food and more fresh foods.
      • Portion out food choices to prevent excess intake.
      • Set a designated bedtime to help your body get more rest.
      • Make a to-do list to keep track of your weekly tasks and delegate any tasks that you can to others.
      • When you get stressed, give yourself a time-out with relaxation breathing to help you better face the situation at hand.
      • Make time for yourself in your schedule by setting aside 15 minutes a day to meditate, read, or do something your enjoy to give your body and mind a break.
    • Take supplements to help with sleep and managing stress. There are many herbal supplements on the market that claim to help with sleep and stress. However, it is important to do your research. Perhaps the supplement most well-known for its sleep-inducing properties is melatonin. It is actually a hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland that affects the sleep/wake cycle and produces drowsiness. Those that may be deficient in this hormone may experience trouble sleeping or insomnia. However, it is important to remember that since it is a hormone, it may not be suitable for everyone, so be sure to check with your doctor first before starting a melatonin regimen.

    Another supplement to try is Sereneo by Vita Sciences. Sereneo contains a combination of magnesium, chamomile, and valerian to help promote a feeling of calm by working to help reduce stress and anxiety. Valerian and chamomile have been found to be safe, natural herbal remedies to help induce sleep, while magnesium has been found to help promote reduced anxiety and irritability. Be sure to let your healthcare provider know before starting any new supplement regimen to be sure it does not interact with any of your currently prescribed medications.

    -written  by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    American Heart Association (June 2014) “Fight Stress with Healthy Habits”

    American Heart Association (June 2014) “Stress and Heart Health”

    Berkeley Wellness (October 1, 2013) “Can Supplements Help You Sleep?”

    Centers for Disease Control (March 2, 2017) “How Much Sleep Do I Need?”

    Deans, M.D., E. (June 12, 2011) “Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Chill Pill.” Psychology Today.

    Harvard Medical School: Division of Sleep Medicine (December 18, 2007) “The Characteristics of Sleep”

    Mayo Clinic (March 31, 2017) “Stress Management”

    Medline Plus (December 21, 2017) “Are Women’s Hearts More Vulnerable to Stress?”

    Rodale Wellness (August 25, 2017) “4 Sleep Supplements That Actually Work”

     


  • Could Coffee Help You Live Longer?

    coffee, lengthen life, health

    If you’re like me, the day does not begin until I have had my cup of coffee. Whether it be the aroma, the caffeine, or the wake up signal to my digestive system, my body craves coffee from the moment I rise from my evening slumber.  Over the years, there have been mixed reviews about whether or not this common habit was helping or harming us. However, a recent report has found that coffee may actually help you live longer.

    Coffee and Health

    Caffeine may be the first benefit you think about receiving when consuming your cup of joe. However, research has found that energy is not the only good thing that comes from consuming this beverage. Three cups of coffee a day has been found to be the magic number that can provide lower risk of many health conditions including:

    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Uterine and liver cancer

    The only exceptions to these positive findings include some studies of unfiltered forms of coffee. French press or espresso, which contain the substances cafestol and kahweol, may slightly increase cholesterol levels.  However, the decreased risk of many health conditions seems to outweigh such negative findings. A 2015 study found that consumption of the beverage is linked to an approximate 8 to 15 percent reduction in risk of death, with more benefits linked to those who drank more.  In addition, a June 2016 report by the World Health Organization removed coffee from its list of potentially carcinogenic foods.

    Coffee and Longer Life

    A recent report has found that moderate consumption of coffee, or about three cups a day, has been linked to:

    • lower risk of cancers of the prostate, endometrium, skin and liver.
    • decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and better insulin and blood glucose control.
    • decreased risk of liver disease, gout, and gallstones.
    • Lower incidence of cognitive conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s, depression, and Alzheimer’s.

    The health benefits of decreased heart disease and diabetes risk have been linked to the antioxidant effect of chlorogenic acid.  Also, the coffee lipids cafestol and kahweol have been linked to possible lower risk of certain cancers and liver disease.

    Researchers are not sure of the exact component of the beverage that provides the most health benefits. Also, there is no solid proof that coffee lowers risk of any disease. However, the link between decreased incidence of death and coffee intake is suggested to be a good enough reason to add a bit of the beverage to your daily routine.

    Other ways to Improve Length of Life

    Besides drinking coffee, there are many small things you can do each day to help improve your quality and quantity of life.

    • Eat a fiber-rich diet of fruits and vegetables. Sounds simple enough, but unfortunately just 12-percent of Americans actually eat the suggested 2 cups each of fruits and vegetables each day.  Not only do these types of foods contain digestive-friendly fiber, but also contain phytonutrients. Phytonutrients have been found to provide many anti-inflammatory benefits that have been found to help lower risk of chronic disease.
    • Stop smoking and lower alcohol intake.  Any substance that your body sees as a toxin will put strain on a your health. Smoking in particular constricts blood vessels, therefore increasing risk of heart disease. On the other hand, alcohol can put a strain on your liver since it will have to work extra hard to filter this toxin from your body.
    • Reduce stress and get plenty of sleep. Stress can affect sleep and lack of sleep can be stressful. Therefore, it is important to manage one to help the other.  Relaxation breathing, yoga, or talking to someone can help you manage stress. For sleep, talk to your doctor about specific medications or supplements, such as melatonin, that may help you catch some more Z’s.
    • Take vitamins and supplements daily.  If you are not getting enough nutrients from the food you eat, a vitamin and supplement regimen may help. A recent study in China has found a potential link between the health of the gut and longer life.  A probiotic supplement daily, such as Biovia 30X by Vita Sciences, may help improve diversity of gut bacteria in your body and promote improved digestive health and immune support.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Bian, G., et al. (2017) “The Gut Microbiota of Healthy Aged Chinese Is Similar to That of the Healthy Young.” mSphere, 2 (5): e00327-17 DOI: 10.1128/mSphere.00327-17

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (January 2012) “What is it about coffee?”

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (September 25, 2017) “The latest scoop on the health benefits of coffee.”

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (September 2014; reviewed and updated October 31, 2017) “How to boost your immune system”

    Medline Health News (November 30, 2017) “Could Your Coffee Habit Lengthen Your Life?”

    Medline Health News (November 16, 2017) “CDC Wants America to Eat Its Fruit and Veggies”