Saturday, December 29, 2012

How Friendly Are Your Bacteria?

When we are born, our gut is pure - free of any bad bacteria - like a garden free of weeds.  But as we grow and are exposed to “life,” a lot of the good bacteria is replaced with bad stuff.  Like an untended garden where the weeds take over, bad bacteria can take over in our intestines, creating all sorts of problems.

Where do the bad guys come from?
As you mature, you're faced with many threats to the beneficial bacteria in your gut... from chlorinated drinking water... to overly-processed foods; antibiotics, steroids, birth control, chemotherapy, diabetes, stress, low thyroid and much more.  As these enemies infiltrate the gut, they destroy the good bacteria and can result in many health challenges.  Beneficial bacteria are necessary to re-establish or rebalance intestinal microflora.  This is where probiotics can have a profound effect... not just on your GI health, but on your overall health as well.
Since 70% of our immune system lives in the gut, it behooves us to be sure that we are keeping a healthy supply of the good guys in there.

What do friendly bacteria do for us?
First of all, they keep our immune system strong.  They also are helpful for yeast infections, infections of any type, immune issues, digestive issues, bowel health (constipation/diarrhea, IBS, Crohn’s), skin issues and much more.  They should also be taken along with &/or after antibiotics to replenish “good” bacteria destroyed by the antibiotics.  

Where do we get beneficial bacteria?  
I am sure you have heard the term “probiotics”.  It seems to be all the buzz these days.  The term probiotic literally means "good for life."  Probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut. They are the “friendly bacteria” or “good bacteria” that benefit the colon and therefore the immune system. 

They are produced for human consumption most often in dairy products containing two types of microbes, lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. More recently, probiotic dietary supplements are becoming popular as a way to balance and promote a healthy digestive system.

However, there are a few things to be aware of when talking about adding probiotics to your diet.  There are a lot of ads on TV promoting the use of probiotics in such products as Activia, or the supplement TruBiotics touted by Erin Andrews.  In fact there are many products on the market that contain good bacteria.  However, in the case of yogurt for example,  you would have to eat a lot of it to see any benefit.

At the TruBiotics web site, it says that they “assure the number of probiotic bacteria are live and active up to the product expiration date, so you know how many good bacteria you’re putting in your body with every capsule.”  It sounds good, but they really have no idea how many are still alive when the product is consumed or how many actually make it to the colon; moreover,  while we know probiotics absolutely have nutritional value, what you see on the label may NOT be what you get.  In fact, two researchers at Bastyr University in Washington recently tested a wide variety of probiotic supplements and found that in four out of twenty products no sign of living friendly bacteria was present.

The unfortunate truth is that too many probiotic supplements vary widely in quality and potency and cannot survive harsh stomach acid in order to get to your intestines.

The key to an optimal probiotic formula is through science-backed research by a qualified non-biased laboratory... and through a manufacturer with rigorous high-quality process standards in place.
The most important fact is that when you consume probiotics in a form that is not protected from the hydrochloric acid and digestive enzyme pepsin of the stomach, such as in yogurts or non-enteric coated capsules, as much as 90% of the probiotic is destroyed.

But, do not despair!  There are some good probiotic products out there.  And I am not saying that you shouldn’t eat yogurt.  But I believe supplementation with a good-quality probiotic is the best way to ensure that you are getting enough of the good guys to make a difference.  Look for a company that uses science-backed research, conducts their own quality tests and has a product that is properly encapsulated to make it through the stomach and into the intestines.

Here’s to a happy colon!  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Primer on Immune System Function & Dysfunction

You probably know people who are sick all the time and others who never get sick. Why is that? We are all exposed to the same viruses and bacteria, yet our immune systems handle these exposures quite differently. The mystery surrounding the differences in our immune systems is found at the cellular level of the body. There are several factors that affect immune function:

1. Genetic composition – we all have different genetic material making up our immune systems

2. Cell care – cells require proper nourishment and environment to stay strong & healthy. Good foods, water &  air strengthen cells; also vitamins, minerals, amino acids, carbs and essential fatty acids are required.

3. Protection – from environmental pollution, poor diet, stress which damage cell function. (and thus weaken immune function)

What causes immune failure?  I have alluded to it above, but will explain it more fully here.

Immune cells operate at a very high metabolic rate which enables them to react quickly to invaders (bacteria, viruses, allergens, etc). They must, therefore, reproduce more frequently and accurately to replace the damaged and exhausted cells – our soldiers. To accomplish this recurrent demand, we must maintain optimum levels of nutrients in our blood at all times.

The things we eat, drink and inhale can depress our immune system. It is well proven that alcohol, sugar and second-hand smoke all depress immune cell activity, and they also deplete many of the nutrients in the blood stream. These two events are closely associated. This interaction is a key to explaining why supplementation provides such dramatic support for a strong immune system.

High cholesterol levels suppress immune function; emotional stress is also a major contributor. There’s another kind of stress – environmental stress – which is wreaking havoc with our immune system health.

Our environment is saturated with chemicals and the numbers are growing every day. We live in a toxic soup! Pesticides, food additives (artificial coloring, nitrites, artificial sweeteners), fragrance, phthalates and other chemicals in personal care, toxic cleaning products, indoor air…the list goes on and on! These are all enemies of the immune system.

Friends of the Immune System:

1. Diet & Nutrition – you probably already know about eating a healthy diet. Eliminate the white stuff and eat whole grains instead; eat healthy fats, lots of fruit & veggies, plenty of pure water and lean proteins. This is where supplements come in as well. Diet alone – no matter how good it is – can’t supply everything our cells need to stay healthy. Supplementing with good quality products is essential.

2. Air & Breathing – air purifiers if necessary and deep breathing. Cells need oxygen.

3. Exercise – regular exercise, including cardio and weight workouts, is important for immune system health. Exercise impacts our physical and emotional wellbeing; both of which affect our immune system.

4. Sleep – the body needs rest to allow energy to be concentrated on regeneration. 7-9 hours is optimal for adults.

Personal Testimony: Fifteen years ago, I suffered from sinus infections and frequent colds. I also had seasonal allergies. At the time, my diet was good, and I exercised. Maybe I didn’t get quite enough sleep, but I did take vitamins that I purchased from the drug store. Even though I was “sick” a lot, I thought I was pretty healthy.

One day, a friend came to me and asked me if I would take a look at the supplements she was using since they had worked so well for her and her family. I did and within six months my allergies were gone. No more meds! And the most amazing part is that I haven’t had a single sinus infection since switching brands. What I learned was that by taking better quality products that actually worked at the cellular level, I was building up my immune system; I increased the strength of my soldiers who were better able to outmaneuver the enemies - allergens, viruses and bacteria.

Feeding the cells what they need to stay healthy, breathing clean air, getting plenty of exercise and sleep will go a long way to keeping our immune function in tip-top shape. What are you doing to keep your body’s army strong against the enemy?

The Immune System Handbook (Your Owner’s Manual) by Charlene A. Day
Health Quest Newsletter, volume 24, Number 2 by Dr. Frank M. Painter

Sunday, February 5, 2012

February Is Heart Health Month

  • Heart disease is still our #1 killer disease in America.  
  • 80 million Americans have high cholesterol.

Everyone understands the importance of a healthy heart, but maintaining one can prove difficult. Cardiovascular health can be compromised by diet, genetics, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and an array of other factors. Moreover, our bodies are often deficient in substances critical to healthy heart function.

Following a good prevention program of exercise, a diet high in fiber, low in fat, and keeping our cholesterol level at 180 or below, can significantly reduce our risk. Including 6 to 9 fresh vegetables (in soups and salads) every day ... nature’s primary source of vitamins and minerals, especially antioxidants ... is essential for heart health. The following supplements may also help:

Top 10 Supplements for a Healthy Heart

CoQ 10 - which supports energy production in the cells and is especially important for heart health. Increases oxygenation of heart tissue. Strengthens the heart muscle.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – reduces clots in blood vessels, lowers triglycerides, and raises HDL (good cholesterol). Helps prevent hardening of the arteries.

Probiotics – lower cholesterol in three ways: limit cholesterol production in the liver, the probiotics create an acid environment which converts cholesterol into a form the body cannot absorb, probiotics consume the cholesterol (like pac-man).

B-Complex - The New England Journal of Medicine reports that high homocysteine levels create a 30 times greater chance of heart attack, no matter what our cholesterol level is. B-complex with folic acid protects from having high levels of homocysteines. 90% of Americans are deficient in B-complex. Stress, sugar and processed foods rob the body of B vitamins.

Vita-E – Heart disease risk factors are reduced by 30%-40% when taking 400 IU of vitamin E. (That’s four pints of peanut butter). Strengthens the immune system and heart muscle, improves circulation, and destroys free radicals.

Calcium-Magnesium – Studies show that calcium & magnesium help balance the delicate ratio of minerals in our cells that affect blood pressure and proper heart function. Vital for a healthy heart.

Vita-C – Tufts University recently reported that higher levels of vitamin C relate to higher HDL (the good stuff). Extremely important as a regulator of high blood pressure.

Garlic – It lowers cholesterol and has been shown to lower blood pressure, triglycerides and blood glucose in diabetics. Promotes good circulation.

The last two products are specific to Shaklee. Although I always recommend the Shaklee products, I am sure there are other high quality products out there (not drug store brands), that would produce the same results. But these two products are very unique and highly effective:

Cholesterol Reduction Complex - a proprietary formulation with clinically proven ingredients that help prevent the absorption of cholesterol and lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. It contains plant sterols and stanols that, when added to a healthy diet, have been shown in numerous studies to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol.

Fiber Plan Drink Mix – has been clinically tested and proven at Stanford University School of Medicine to lower cholesterol. One serving is the equivalent of 20 slices of whole wheat bread, 6 apples, or 3 1/2 bowls of oatmeal.

 In addition to the ten supplements listed above, You also want to be sure that you are taking
  • a good-quality multi vitamin/mineral product - shortage of levels of basic nutrients will put blood lipids out of balance.

  • a high-quality soy protein powder - the heart is a muscle and muscles need protein. The American Heart Association, in a November 13, 2000 press release, recommended using soy protein to reduce saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you would like to discuss a program specific to your goals, please feel free to contact me.

What are some of the things you are doing to maintain heart health?