Category Archives: digestion

Could a vegan diet improve your mood and your diabetes?

vegan, vegetarian, health, dietVegan diets have seemed to gain popularity over the years for several reasons. First of all, a plant-based diet full of fiber and antioxidants seems to improve heart health risk factors. Secondly, it’s a way for people to show they support animal rights. Also, it’s an eating regimen that can be fitting for those who may have dairy and or egg allergies. However, recent research shows that a vegan diet could also help improve the health of body and mind of those with type 2 diabetes. 

What is a vegan diet?

A vegan diet is one that avoids any animal products. This includes meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, as well as dairy products. No to mention, that this type of diet avoids ingredients like gelatin, honey, beeswax, casein, and whey that come from animals or insects.

Many vegan-certified products sit on store shelves. From meatless burgers, cookies, and dairy-free cheese, these products make this diet regimen easier to follow long-term. However, it’s important to remember that these foods are still processed. Since this diet’s health benefits stem from its plant-based nature, you should consume mostly whole foods for optimal health.

Vegan diet and diabetes

A recent study shows that eating a meat-free, dairy free diet full of plant-based foods can improve mood and overall health. This evidence review looked at studies of those with type 2 diabetes following a vegan diet.  Study results show that those with diabetes on such plant-based diets had better control of their diabetes and overall health.  These individuals had better control of their blood glucose levels, lipid levels, and cholesterol levels.

And if that wasn’t enough to convince you to eat plant-based, these individuals saw several other benefits too. In over half of the studies reviewed, those with diabetes were able to cut down or discontinue their diabetes medicines. Also, some individuals reported reduced diabetic nerve pain as well as improved mental health factors and quality of life.

Other ways to improve your diabetes

A plant-based diet is not the only way to help improve your diabetes. Read below for more tips on how to feel better in body and mind whether you have diabetes or not.

  • Stay active: It’s important for just about everyone to stay active for overall health. Exercise can help you manage stress, keep your heart string, help you to manage weight, and can also improve diabetes risk factors. When it comes to diabetes, staying active can help improve insulin resistance in the body. Therefore, try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day most days. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous. Just walking, gardening, or cleaning house can count towards your exercise. And you can split it up into smaller fragments of exercise like 5 or 10 minutes of exercise several times a day to make it more practical.
  • Sleep enough each night: It’s important for most adults to sleep at least seven and nine hours a night for your best health. This is especially true for those with diabetes. This is because a lack of sleep, which throws off hormone levels in the body, can  increase risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Manage stress: When you are stressed, your blood pressure can rise. Not only that, but stress can also increase blood glucose levels. Therefore, it’s important to find ways to manage your stress to help improve your diabetes or lower risk for diabetes. Some ways you can try to manage stress include relaxation breathing, yoga, talking to a counselor, or taking a walk when you feel stressed.
  • Add a supplement to your daily regimen: If you are deficient in any nutrients like iron or vitamin B12, you may feel fatigue which can make it hard to stay active an healthy. Therefore, be sure to have your nutrient levels checked each year and supplement if needed. You can also try a supplement made just for those trying to control diabetes like Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains compounds like chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon to help support weight loss, healthy metabolism, and healthy blood glucose levels.

References:

Kahleova, H., Levin, S., and Barnard, N.D. (May-June 2018) “Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Cardiovascular Disease.” Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 61(1): 54-61.

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

National Sleep Foundation (accessed November 12, 2018) “The link between a lack of sleep and type 2 diabetes.”

Thompson, D. (October 30, 2018) “For Diabetics, Going Vegan May Boost Mood Along With Health.” HealthDay online

 

 


  • Is there a link between diabetes and depression?

    depression, mental health, anxiety, healthDepression on its own can be a very challenging condition to deal with. This diagnosis not only affects the mind, but can affect the body as well. It can make everyday tasks difficult to deal with such as sleeping, working, and even eating. Because of the effect of depression on eating behaviors, weight gain or loss can occur through appetite changes unrelated to diet.  Not only that, but because of the many lifestyle changes that come with a diabetes diagnosis, depression is seen two to three times more often in such patients than those without diabetes. A recent study looked at how diet and exercise factors can affect the relationship between depression and metabolic syndrome.

    What is depression?

    We all may feel depressed from time to time. However, a diagnosis of depression is a chronic display of such feelings that can affect daily life, relationships, and can cause both psychological and physical symptoms. If the following symptoms occur for two weeks or more, then you should see a doctor for possible diagnosis and treatment of depression.

    • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
    • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
    • Changes in appetite
    • Weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
    • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
    • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
    • Slowed movements and speech
    • Feeling worthless or guilty
    • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
    • Thoughts of death or suicide

    Conditions related to the thyroid, nutrient deficiencies, or tumors of the brain can mimic symptoms of depression. Therefore, such underlying causes should be ruled out by a qualified healthcare provider.

    Metabolic syndrome and depression

    Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that can increase a person’s risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and stroke.

    • A waist circumference of more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men
    • A triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or higher
    • An HDL cholesterol level of less than 50 mg/dL for women and less than 40 mg/dL for men
    • A blood pressure of 130/85 mmHg or higher
    • A fasting blood sugar level of 100 mg/dL or higher

    Research shows that there is a relationship between those with depression and metabolic syndrome.  A recent study looked at this relationship to see what exactly is causing it. Researchers looked at data from over 64,000 adults. Study results show that those with depression are highly linked to a high fat, high sugar diet regimen and low levels of physical activity.

    Researchers suggest that diet and exercise may link depression and metabolic syndrome. However, they also state that inflammation and genetic factors have a greater causal link between the two conditions. Inflammation can develop as a result of the stress on the brain due to depression that may cause an imbalance in gut microbiome. This link is a theory known as the gut-brain axis. This in turn, could cause inflammation in the body that could increase risk of chronic diseases like heat disease and diabetes.

    How to lower risk of metabolic syndrome

    Besides diet and exercise, you can use the tips below to help lower your risk of metabolic syndrome.

    • Add more fruit and vegetables to your diet: More fruits and vegetables means more antioxidants. And more antioxidants in your diet means more anti-inflammatory power. In turn, you can help reduce inflammation in your body by adding more colorful fiber sources to your plate at each meal.
    • Move more: Exercising at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week can help you manage your weight. It can also help you manage stress and strengthen your heart. All of these factors can help reduce inflammation in your body and lower chronic disease risk.
    • Stop smoking or never start: Smoking can constrict blood vessels and in turn can increase heart disease risk. Therefore, if you already smoke, visit Smokefree.gov to quit. If you have never started smoking, then don’t. Your body will thank you.
    • Take a daily supplement: If you are deficient in nutrients, then this could put you at risk for conditions like depression that have an inflammatory link.  Certain supplements can also help you gain better control over your blood glucose levels too. Glucarex by Vita Sciences is one such supplement that uses chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon to help support weight loss, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.

     

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Psychiatric Association (January 2017) “What is Depression?”  Physician Review By: Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.

    Matta J, Hoertel N, Kesse-Guyot E, et al. (2019) Diet and physical activity in the association between depression and metabolic syndrome: Constances studyJ Affect Disord., 244:25-32.

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (accessed November 6, 2018) “Metabolic Syndrome.”


  • Could the Meditterranean diet provide longer life?

    healthy fats, mediterranean diet, diet, health, fat, unsaturatedThe Greek-style diet has long been touted as one that is full of heart healthy benefits. These benefits are thought to stem from the vast array of healthy fats from plant-based sources and limiting of saturated fats from red meats as well as the rich source of fruits and vegetables in this Mediterranean regimen. However, the health benefits may extend much further than initially realized. A recent study shows that the Mediterranean diet may help to lengthen life of older adults.

    What is the Mediterranean diet?

    The Mediterranean diet is a heart healthy eating regimen that has been linked with such benefits as low LDL cholesterol and improved overall heart health. These benefits are suggested to be from the emphasis of fruit and vegetable intake on this regimen as well as the following diet guidelines.

    • Consuming plenty of fiber-rich legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
    • Limiting salt intake, and instead using herbs and spices to flavor food.
    • Only eating red meat a few times a month, and instead loading up on lean proteins, fatty fish, and plant-based protein and fat sources.
    • Eating fish or poultry like chicken or turkey at least twice a week.
    • Focusing on whole grains versus refined grains and cutting out trans fats from the diet.
    • Drinking antioxidant-rich beverages like grape juice or wine, about five ounces a day (optional).
    • Staying active most days of the week.

    Health benefits of the Greek-style diet 

    The heart health benefits of the Greek-style diet are the most well-known. However research shows that health benefits of this eating regimen may extend beyond heart health. Other health benefits that come as a result of the Greek-style diet include:

    • improved digestive health
    • enhanced cognitive function
    • lower risk of certain cancers
    • improved blood glucose levels

    Mediterranean diet and longer life

    A recent meta-analysis study in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on length of life in older adults. This long term study observed data of over 5000 people aged 65 years or older. These individuals were observed for around 8 years or more on average. Study results show that those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet had prolonged survival as compared to those who did not follow such a diet. Researchers suggest that the Mediterranean-style eating regimen could be beneficial to older adults to help reduce chronic disease risk factors, and in turn potentially lengthen their life.

    Other ways to improve health

    Besides eating a diet full of health fats, there are also other lifestyle changes that could lengthen your life.

    • Get plenty of sleep: Sleep can impact blood pressure regulation and hormone regulation, to name a few. Therefore, be sure to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.  If you have trouble sleeping, try such strategies as blackout curtains, limiting screen time at night, or natural supplements like Somnova. Somnova by Vita Sciences contains melatonin, which is a non-habit forming supplement that can help promote better sleep.
    • Drink enough water every day: Staying hydrated is an important part of any healthy lifestyle. Check your urine daily to make sure you are staying hydrated. If your urine is darker than lemonade, then it is time to drink more water. A good rule of thumb to follow is about half of your body weight (in lbs.) in ounces per day of fluid. For example, someone who is 200 pounds, should drink about 100 ounces, or 12.5 cups of fluid each day. Fluid can be any unsweetened beverage like water, low calorie drinks, flavored water, tea, or decaf coffee, to name a few.
    • Take heart healthy supplements to fill in the nutritional gaps: If you don’t think you are getting enough healthy fats from your diet, then add in a supplement. One such supplement is fish oil, which has been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels. The fish oil from Vita Sciences in particular is a pure, burpless brand with 1000 milligrams of EPA and DHA shown to support brain, heart, and immune health.
    • Reduce stress: It will be important to keep your stress levels low for optimal health. This is because not only can stress affect blood pressure, but it can also lead to emotional eating and poor sleep, which can affect overall health. Therefore, talk to a friend, family member, or professional for stress management strategies. Also, engage in meditation, yoga, relaxation breathing, or other relaxing activities like walking to help manage stress.

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

    References:

    Bonaccio, M., Di Castelnuovo, A., Costanzo, S., Gialluisi, A., Persichillo, M., Cerletti, C., . . . Iacoviello, L. (n.d.). Mediterranean diet and mortality in the elderly: A prospective cohort study and a meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition, 1-14. doi:10.1017/S0007114518002179

    Mayo Clinic (November 3, 2017) “Mediterranean diet: a heart-healthy eating plan.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed September 12, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

    Romagnolo, D. F., & Selmin, O. I. (2017). Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases. Nutrition Today52(5), 208–222. http://doi.org/10.1097/NT.0000000000000228

     


  • Could breastfeeding and probiotics help infant gut health?

    breastfeeding, world breastfeeding week, healthProbiotics are getting more press each and every day for their health benefits. From skin health, improving bone health, and of course, enhancing gut health, the possibilities seem endless. In fact, a recent study shows that combining a probiotic with breastfeeding in the first year of life can have improvements in the gut health of infants.

    Basics of probiotics

    Probiotics are simply any bacteria, fungi, or other living organism that has the potential to improve health to the host. The health of the body depends on a balance of different bacteria in the gut.  An imbalance could lead to health problems such as gas, bloating, constipation, and other gut health issues.  You can maintain a good balance of probiotics in the gut by consuming a diverse probiotic supplement every day. You can find good bacteria in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, or kimchi as well.

    To feed such probiotics, it is important to consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole grains like oats or wheat bran.  Prebiotic foods like these are important to maintain healthy levels of good bacteria.  Together, probiotics and prebiotics can improve the health of the gut, immune system, and in turn overall health.

    Breastfeeding and probiotics

    A certain type of bacteria, known as Bifidobacterium infantis, is found naturally in the gut of infants upon birth.  This bacterium helps to keep the gut healthy. It is usually in lower concentrations in the gut of babies from developed countries. This bacterium is nourished by breast milk from the infant’s mother, acting in the same way a typical prebiotic food would to a probiotic strain.

    A study of mothers and breastfed infants looked at the effect of Bifidobacterium infantis supplements on infant’s gut health.  One group of mothers and babies received the supplement with lactation support from day 7 to 21 after birth.  Meanwhile, the other group received only lactation support.  Study results show that those given the probiotic had positive changes in the make-up of the infant feces for up to a year after treatment. During this year, the “good” bacteria crowded out “bad” bacteria linked with asthma, allergies, and other immune-related diseases. This study suggests that this probiotic, upon further study, could help prevent immune-related diseases in babies from developed countries.

    Which probiotic should I take?

    There are so many types of probiotics on the market today. This can make it confusing to know which one to choose. Every probiotic strain has its unique benefits, so you may want to do your research before choosing one.  A qualified alternative healthcare provider, such as a naturopath, may be able to assist you in making your choice.

    Regardless of which strains you choose, a diverse group of strains is recommended.  Diversity of bacteria is important to help your gut create a balanced population.  Also,  a capsule or other medium will allow optimal survival of the bacteria as it travels to your gut.  One example of a high quality probiotic is Biovia 30 by Vita Sciences.  This probiotic contains 30 billion colony forming units of bacteria and 10 different strains.  Furthermore, Biovia 30 can help boost the immune system and improve digestive health with regular use.

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

    References:

    Healthline (accessed July 31, 2018) “The 19 Best Prebiotic Foods You Should Eat.”

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

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (accessed May 17, 2018) “Probiotics: In Depth.”

    Science Daily (June 9, 2018) “Bifidobacteria supplement colonizes gut of breastfed infants.”


  • 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.”