Category Archives: digestion

Could Probiotics Improve Health Outcomes After Injury?

probiotic, fermented food, yogurt, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, gut health, digestion

Fermented foods can provide natural sources of good bacteria.

From hearing your stomach grumble when it’s hungry to the gurgling sounds of indigestion, the gut reminds us everyday of its important presence in our health. Gut bacteria are vital to keeping balance in the body. Also, gut bacteria make sure that any food consumed is being used for energy.  However, recent research has shown that gut bacteria may also be crucial for positive health outcomes after injury.

What is gut bacteria?

Gut bacteria is part of a community of microorganisms such as fungi and viruses that live in the gut microbiome. Also, gut bacteria get along well with the cells of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and are not known for causing disease. Functions of gut bacteria include:

  • breaking down nutrients to be used for energy
  • protecting the body from toxic invaders
  • breaking down and eliminating drugs from the body

Imbalances of gut bacteria in the body can lead to conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  Also, gut bacteria live in harmony with the immune system and work together to keep the body safe from “bad” bacteria. However, an imbalance in “good” versus “bad” bacteria in the gut could have an impact on immune system function.

Gut bacteria and Injury

A study of 12 critically injured adults in the journal Trauma Surgery & Acute Care Open looked at the status of gut bacteria health over time. Stool samples were taken 24 hours and 72 hours after admission to the hospital.  After 72 hours, three types of bacteria had been depleted in the injured group, while two types of bacteria had risen.  More studies need to be done to explore this finding more. However, the researchers suggest that gut bacteria structure could affect patient outcomes after traumatic injury.  Furthermore, probiotics may be one future treatment to help improve patient outcomes in these cases.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics, which means “for life,” are live microorganisms meant to have positive health benefits.  You may see on store shelves many probiotic medicines containing bacteria from the groups Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.  However, since each strain of bacteria benefits a different function in the gut, the more types of strains in a probiotic, the potentially greater health impact. Probiotics may be helpful in preventing diarrhea caused by infections and antibiotics as well as in treatment of those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Basic functions of probiotics may include:

  • maintaining a diverse community of microorganisms
  • maintain a protective barrier for the gut to keep out pathogens
  • recover balance after infection, antibiotic treatment, or other disturbances
  • Stop growth of and fight off unwanted microorganisms
  • Nourish and strengthen the immune system

Biovia30 by VitaSciences provides 30 million colony forming units per dose of diverse strains to help restore balance in the gut and promote immune system strength. Furthermore,  Biovia30 contains various strains of Bacillus, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium to help you build up “good” bacteria stores and keep “bad” bacteria out.

Other ways to protect the gut

  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and other fiber-rich foods to help promote diversity of gut bacteria.
  • Stop smoking or don’t start since smoking can negatively affect gut bacteria and the immune system. Not only does smoking constrict blood vessels, but it also causes inflammation in the body which can cause cell damage.
  • Find healthy ways to manage stress such as yoga, meditation, or exercise since stress can alter gut bacteria populations. Stress is one of the contributing factors of IBS.
  • Lower saturated fat intake to help lower numbers of inflammatory microbes in the gut.
  • Consume phytonutrients such as polyphenols and tannins found in colorful berries, beans, nuts, seeds, and teas. These compounds can nourish microbes in the digestive tract.

Probiotics shown great promise for helping to treat various health conditions. However, potential benefits of probiotics must be confirmed by further research. Please contact your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.

Sources:

Conlon, M. A., & Bird, A. R. (2015). The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health. Nutrients, 7(1), 17–44. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu7010017

Jandhyala, S. M., Talukdar, R., Subramanyam, C., Vuyyuru, H., Sasikala, M., & Reddy, D. N. (2015). Role of the normal gut microbiota. World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG, 21(29), 8787–8803. http://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v21.i29.8787

Medline Plus (October 26, 2017) “Gut Bacteria May Change Rapidly After Severe Injury.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (October 2016) “Probiotics: In Depth”

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Could Excess Weight Shorten Your Life?

age, healthy eating, apple, green, aging, healthAccording to the National Institutes of Health, the average American can live tan average of 79 years.   However, did you know that a few small lifestyle changes could add years to your life? It was found that for every few pounds you lose you could be adding years to your life.

A recent study in Nature Communications looked at genetic data from 600,000 people in North America, Europe and Australia. Smoking, body fat, thought processes and the genes related to such can affect life span.

Of all conditions observed, smoking and traits linked with lung cancer were found to have the greatest impact on reducing life span. Smoking one pack of cigarettes a day over a lifetime can lead to a loss of seven years of life.  However, if a person quits smoking, they can get back those years and live as long as someone who has never smoked.

Obesity is a common risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. However, body fat percentage and other factors linked with diabetes were found to decrease life span. Two months of life can be lost for every 2.2 pounds of excess body fat. This could be related to the increased risk of obesity-related conditions related to excess weight, but the direct reason for this result is not confirmed.

Finally, those with an open mind may live longer than those who were not. For every year of studying done beyond school, a year is added to a person’s life. This could be related to those studying more having sharper minds as they age, but it is not confirmed why. By maintaining mental sharpness, you are helping to keep the body’s software up to date which aids in overall wellness.

Other Ways to Add Years to Your Life

If you want to add years to your life, there are many things you can do.

  • Eat better:  A balanced diet of fruits and vegetables provide fiber that can help manage weight and keep blood glucose levels stable.
  • Stay active: A good balance of cardio, resistance, and flexibility exercises can help you stay young as you age. Resistance exercises such as lifting weights, working with resistance bands, or performing push-ups, can help maintain lean mass. Lean mass can help keep you more mobile as you age and in turn prevent injury. In addition, lean mass can keep bones and joints strong and improve insulin resistance.
  • Sleep more: While you sleep, the body regulates fluid, blood glucose, levels, and blood pressure. Therefore without the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep a night, you may be putting yourself at risk for chronic disease. If you have trouble sleeping, try  reducing screen time before bed, getting blackout blinds, stop eating and drinking two hours before bedtime, or get a white noise machine. Check with your healthcare provider if pain or other health issues that may be keeping you up at night.
  • Practice preventative health: Be sure to visit your doctor every year or more often to check for chronic disease risk factors. Knowing your numbers such as blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, and vitamin levels are important for health tracking. If any of your numbers are out of range, you could increase risk for chronic disease and decrease quality of life.
  • Take a multivitamin: To ensure you are getting your daily nutrients, try the Zestia multivitamin by Vita Sciences. Zestia contains a combination of fruit and vegetable extracts, probiotics, and digestive enzymes to help support an optimal quality of life.

Sources:

Harvard Health Publishing (accessed October 16, 2017) “Tips for  longer life”

Medline Health News (October 13, 2017) “Good Lifestyle Choices Adds Years to Your Life” 

National Institutes of Health News in Health (June 2016) “Can You Lengthen Your Life?” 

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Can Skipping Breakfast Impact Your Health?

breakfast, egg, vegetable, whole grain, fruit, milkDo you skip breakfast? Does your busy schedule make it hard to eat in the morning? Are you just not hungry in the early hours of the day? You may have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Recent research has found that this may be true. Skipping your morning meal can deprive your body of many important nutrients vital to overall health.

Health benefits linked with eating a morning meal include better focus, more energy, lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, among other things. However, a 2011 study found that it is not just important that you eat breakfast, but what you eat at breakfast.

What is a healthy breakfast?

A 2011 study by the Institute of Health and Society in Worcester, UK found that it is lower glycemic and higher protein foods at breakfast that will provide the most health benefits. Therefore, swap out your coffee cake or sugary cereal for more nutrient-dense foods. Recommended morning breakfast protein sources include eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and poultry. Also, protein from soy, hemp, and pea protein powders can provide a great non-dairy source of protein.  In addition, cottage cheese and protein-rich Greek yogurt are great morning meal options. It is suggested that 30 grams of protein should be eaten at your morning meal to provide an adequate energy source.

Along with protein, you should balance out your morning meal with complex carbohydrates for fiber.  Such fiber-rich foods may include high-fiber cereals such as bran or oatmeal. Other fiber-rich carbohydrates may include low-glycemic fruits such as berries, grapes, or citrus fruits.  Also, you could add non-starchy vegetables to your breakfast such as peppers, onions, or leafy green vegetables in your omelette. You could also add spinach leaves, kale, or carrots to your morning smoothie with a scoop of plant-based protein powder and some berries.

Recent research

A more recent study in the British Journal of Nutrition has found that those young people who skipped breakfast were more likely to be low in nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron, and iodine. Nearly a third of students who skipped breakfast had low iron intake versus 4-percent who did eat in the morning. Similar findings were found for calcium intake. One-fifth of students who did not eat breakfast had low calcium intake versus 3-percent of those who did eat a morning meal.

The Centers for Diseases Control have found that students who eat a morning meal have improved performance in school. Students who eat breakfast tend to have better focus, attendance, grades, and memory compared to those who skip.  It is likely that adults would have the same benefits from eating breakfast. However, more studies would need to be done in such age groups to confirm this theory.

Filling in the Nutrient Gaps

If you find that you are not getting a morning meal in each day, here are some ways to ensure you are getting all of your nutrients during the day.

  • Have healthy snacks available with you at all times. Fiber-rich nuts and seeds, protein-rich jerky and protein bars, as well as freeze-dried fruit are healthy snacks that do not need refrigeration. Keep these snacks in your car, purse, backpack, or at work to make sure you always have nutritious sources of energy on hand.
  • Carry an emergency protein shake with you on-the-go. Pre-prepared protein shakes and waters can provide portable nutrition.  If you don’t have time to sit down and eat a solid meal in the morning, you can at least sip your meal while sitting in traffic or during your morning class or meeting. There are many non-dairy sources of protein drinks for those who may have a dairy intolerance.
  • Take a multivitamin daily to fill in the nutrition gaps. Ask your doctor to test for such important vitamins as B12, vitamin D, and iron.  If you are low in any of these vitamins, taking supplements may be necessary to get your health up to speed.  In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to take a multivitamin daily. A great multivitamin choice is Zestia by VitaSciences.  Zestia contains a comprehensive vitamin profile, 45 fruits and vegetables, a superfood complex, and probiotics to help support optimal health.

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

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control (May 2014) “Health and Academic Achievement” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4017414/

Kamada, I., et al. (2011) “The impact of breakfast in metabolic and digestive health.” Gastroenterology and Hepatology from Bed to Bench, 4(2):76-85.

Medline Health News (August 17, 2017) “Young Breakfast Skippers Lack Vital Nutrients” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_167879.html

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Could Heartburn Meds Lessen Life Years?

It may be like second nature popping a heartburn medicine at the first sign of acid reflux. However, what may seem like a habit could be shaving years off of your life. A recent study has found that long-term use of heartburn medications could lessen life years.

Gastroesophageal reflux, or acid reflux, occurs when your stomach contents come back through your esophagus. Furthermore, heartburn occurs when acid from your stomach lining comes back through the esophagus. GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux, is when acid acid reflux, heartburn, GERDreflux occurs for twice a week for more than a few weeks. Uncontrolled GERD can lead to respiratory problems or conditions such as esophagitis, which is an inflammation of the esophagus.

A recent study in the British Medical Journal Open looked at the medical records of thousands of people who use proton pump inhibitors (PPI). PPI’s include such medications like Nexium, Prilosec, or Prevacid.  The study found that those who used the drugs for more than a year had a 51-percent increased risk of premature death as compared to those who did not take them.  Short-term use of 90 days or less did not reveal any health risk.

PPI’s work by blocking the system that produces stomach acid. In turn, long term use of such medicines can increase risk of kidney disease, heart disease, pneumonia, bone fractures and dementia. This is not to say that such medicines are not useful. PPI’s can aid people with acid reflux. However, use of this medicine should be supervised by a healthcare professional. In addition, use of such medicines should not be used longer than truly needed for treatment of acid reflux.

Here are some ways you can naturally lessen your risk of getting heartburn:

  • Eating smaller meals throughout the day versus larger meals. A lot of pressure can be placed on the stomach when eating a lot of food at one sitting. This can cause food particles to be pushed back up through the esophagus.  This can throw acid from the stomach into your esophagus, thus causing heartburn. Therefore, eat more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day to allow time for your body to fully digest your food, and to prevent any stomach acid from causing discomfort.
  • Wear looser clothes. Wearing tight fitting clothes can place pressure on your digestive system, which can increase risk of acid reflux.  Therefore, if last year’s jeans are feeling a bit snug, stop by the store to invest in a looser pair.
  • Exercise more often.  Staying active can help improve digestion and can also lead to better weight management, which both can assist in preventing acid reflux.  Therefore, find ways to get your steps in everyday. Walking, water aerobics, biking, or gardening are just a few ways to stay active. Every movement is one step closer to improved health.
  • Start taking a probiotic such as Biovia 30 by Vita Sciences. Biovia 30 contains a blend of probiotic strains that help to support improved digestive health. This particular probiotic helps to build good bacteria and rid of bad bacteria that may be wreaking havoc on your digestive system.

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

Sources:

Medline Health News (July 3, 2017) “Can Your Heartburn Meds Shorten Your Life?” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_167005.html

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (November 2014) “Symptoms and Causes of GER & GERD”

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Top Three Ways Probiotics Can Improve Gut Health

Probiotics, or gut-loving bacteria, started to blossom back in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s as part of a healthy lifestyle.  It was during this time that Scientist Elie Metchnikoff proposed that consumption of yogurt with Lactobacillus helped decrease the amount of toxin-producing bacteria in the gut and increased life years in hosts.  The advent of probiotics has improved gut health for many.

About Probiotics

You may have heard about fermented foods, probiotics, and how good they are for you. However, do you really know what they are, and why they are so healthy?  The conversion of carbohydrates in the foods to alcohol or organic acids produces fermented foods. This is done by using microorganisms such as yeast or bacteria under the absence of free oxygen.  As a result, the fermentation process can lead to increased concentration of vitamins and  nutrients in the final product. In addition, other benefits of fermented foods include enhanced flavor and increased digestibility. Finally, it is important to note that fermented foods are only probiotics if the bacteria culture survives long enough to provide benefits to the GI tract.  

Probiotic Foods

These are some fermented foods that are considered probiotics.

  • Yogurt, which is milk fermented with bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus. 
  • Kimchi, or spicy pickled cabbage, which is a popular dish in Korean culture.
  • Sauerkraut, which is a pickled cabbage commonly eaten in German culture.
  • Cheeses like Gouda, Cheddar, Swiss, and Parmesan. Not all cheeses have probiotic qualities, but in these particular cheeses the bacteria survives long enough to benefit the GI tract.  Furthermore, during digestion  beneficial bacteria is protected by the fat in cheese.

Probiotic Drinks

There are also some fermented drinks that provide probiotic benefits.

  • Cow’s milk fermented with bacteria creates the sour yogurt-like drink called kefir.
  • Live cultures added to milk creates buttermilk. However, cooked buttermilk can deactivate these gut-beneficial cultures.
  • Sweet tea fermented with yeast and bacteria creates Kombucha.

Probiotic Supplements

With so many different probiotics on the market containing so many different bacterial cultures in so many different amounts, it can be difficult to know which will provide the most benefit.  However, Vitasciences makes it easy for you when it comes to choosing the proper probiotic.  BioVia30 contains a diversity of bacterial strains containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium that helps to increase the good bacteria in your gut. Therefore, choose Vitasciences when shopping for your supplement needs.

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

Sources:

Battcock, M. and S. Azam-Ali (1998) “Fermented Frutis and Vegetables: A Global Perspective.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/docrep/x0560e/x0560e00.htm#con

Cruz, A., et al. (2009 Aug) “Probiotic cheese: Health benefits, technological and stability aspects” Trends in Food Science & Technology, 20(8):344-354.

Ganesan, B. et al. (2014) “Probiotic Bacteria Survive in Cheddar Cheese and modify  populations of other Lactic Acid Bacteria.” Journal of Applied Microbiology, 116(6): 1642-56.

 

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