Category Archives: probiotic

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.”


  • Is Calories In, Calories Out the Key to Losing Weight?

    weight loss, apple, nutrition, orange, calorieIf you have ever tried to lose weight, then you probably have been told to track your calories. Most calorie trackers focus on keeping track of the calories you consume through food.  On the other hand, fitness trackers or workout machines may track how many calories you burn during the day. However, is there more to the story of weight loss, or is calories in and calories out the only key to success?  A recent report by health experts reveal that there may be more than simple math in the weight loss equation.

    What are is a calorie?

    A calorie is a unit of energy that is found in food and beverages. The four major macronutrients that consist of calories include:

    • protein at 4 calories per gram
    • carbohydrate at around 4 calories per gram
    • fat at 7 calories per gram
    • alcohol at 9 calories per gram

    Whatever calories you consume that are not used as energy are stored in the body as fat. In simple terms, you may lose fat stores if you consume less calories than you burn.  Calories can be burned by physical activity, but calorie expenditure may also increase in those who are growing, injured, or ill.  This is because your body will need more energy to support such processes that involve cell reproduction and other related processes.

    Are some calories healthier than others?

    Not all calories are created equal. The recent report reveals a growing trend of people focusing solely on the number of calories in and calories out, rather than the quality of calories consumed. Although this may lead to a calorie deficit, and in turn weight loss, it is not necessarily healthy.

    For example, a piece of candy and an apple may both contain 100 calories. However, the candy mostly contains empty calories because they contain little to no nutritional value. The calories in the candy are mainly from simple carbohydrates like sugar as well as fat.  However, in the apple, those same calories contain many nutrients such as fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Therefore, the calories from the apple will provide your body with more health benefits than the candy.

    Weighing in on the “Calories In, Calories Out” equation

    The latest diet craze known as CICO (Calories In, Calories Out), may lead to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies according to experts. If you are not looking at the nutrient quality of the calories you consume, then you may increase your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, anemia, to name a few. In addition, if you restrict yourself of too many calories, then you may develop fatigue and malnutrition, which does your body more harm than good. Contact a registered dietitian to help you determine how many calories you need to support your lifestyle, while still helping you to lose any excess weight.

    How to Work on Weight Loss

    There is no one size fits all plan to help everyone lose weight. However, there are several things you can do today to get on the right track towards healthy weight loss and maintenance.

    • Watch your portion sizes at meals and snacks. A simple way to determine how much food you need to eat at each meal involves your protein and fiber needs. Most adults should consume at least 25 grams of fiber a day through whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Your protein needs, in grams, can be determined by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.75.  Once you determine your fiber and protein needs, use a nutrition tracker to ensure you meet these needs with mostly whole foods, or foods that are minimally processed.  Also, chew your food more per bite, slow your pace of eating to 20-25 minutes per meal, and be mindful of the food choices you make by looking at nutrition labels before you make food purchases.
    • Stay active most days of the week.  Balance out each week with cardiovascular and resistance exercises. Cardio exercises include walking, jogging, swimming, or biking. These exercises work to increase calorie burn. Resistance exercises, on the other hand, such as lifting weights, doing push-ups, or using resistance bands, help to maintain lean muscle mass. Maintaining your muscle mass as you lose weight helps you to maintain calorie-burning power, also known as metabolism.
    • Get plenty of sleep.  Weight loss may be more difficult for those who do not sleep well.  This is because lack of sleep can disrupt the hormones that control hunger and appetite. Try to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble sleeping due to visiting the bathroom regularly, stop drinking fluids at least 2 hours before bedtime.  If pain is keeping you up, visit your doctor to get support.  If you are not sure what is causing your restless sleep, you may have sleep apnea. You can ask your doctor about getting a sleep study done to determine the cause of your sleepless nights.
    • Visit your doctor if diet and exercise are not leading to weight loss. If calories in and calories out are leading to weight plateaus or gains, then there may be an underlying health issue. Research has shown that some people who have a family history of obesity may have a harder time losing weight than those that don’t. This could be due to:
      • genetic factors.
      • increased risk of conditions like hypothyroidism or insulin resistance.
      • environmental factors such as growing up without knowledge of healthy eating behaviors.
    • Fill in your nutrient gaps with vitamins and supplements. At the very least, take a multivitamin such as Zestia by VitaSciences. Zestia contains a blend of Super Food extracts, probiotics, and digestive enzymes helps to support optimal health. If you live in a climate with little sunlight, you may also need to add a vitamin D3 supplement to your daily routine.  Low vitamin D levels can affect many aspects of health such as bone and immune health, to name a few.

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

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (November 16, 2016) “Finding a Balance” 

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (May 2014) “Eating fiber-rich foods helps keep the heart healthy”

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (updated April 11, 2017) “Why People Become Overweight” 

    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (accessed November 27, 2017) “Protein”

    Medline Health News (November 22, 2017) “It’s the Latest Diet Craze, But Is It Safe?”

    Medline Plus (accessed November 28, 2017) “Vitamin D” 

     

     


  • 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”


  • Could Excess Weight Shorten Your Life?

    age, healthy eating, apple, green, aging, healthAccording to the National Institutes of Health, the average American can live an 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?” 


  • 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”