I am PRObiotics

Bacteria have a reputation for causing disease, so the idea of gulping down a few billion a day for your health might seem — literally and figuratively — hard to swallow. But research suggests that you can treat and even prevent some illnesses with foods and supplements containing certain kinds of live bacteria. Northern Europeans consume a lot of these beneficial microorganisms, called probiotics (from pro and biota, meaning “for life”), because of their tradition of eating foods fermented with bacteria, such as yogurt. Probiotic-laced beverages are also big business in Japan.
Enthusiasm for such foods has lagged in the United States, but interest in probiotic supplements is on the rise. Some digestive disease specialists are recommending them for disorders that frustrate conventional medicine, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Since the mid-1990s, clinical studies have established that probiotic therapy can help treat several gastrointestinal ills, delay the development of allergies in children, and treat and prevent vaginal and urinary infections in women.
Self-dosing with bacteria isn’t as crazy as it might seem. An estimated 100 trillion microorganisms representing more than 500 different species inhabit every normal, healthy bowel. These microorganisms (or microflora) generally don’t make us sick; most are helpful. Gut-dwelling bacteria keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function.
Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics. When probiotics and prebiotics are combined, they form a synbiotic. Fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir, are considered synbiotic because they contain live bacteria and the fuel they need to thrive.
Probiotics are found in foods such as yogurt, while prebiotics are found in whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic, honey and artichokes. In addition, probiotics and prebiotics are added to some foods and available as dietary supplements.
Although more research is needed, there’s encouraging evidence that probiotics may help:
  • Treat diarrhea, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics
  • Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
  • Treat irritable bowel syndrome
  • Reduce bladder cancer recurrence
  • Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections
  • Prevent and treat eczema in children
  • Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu
Probiotics are generally considered safe — they’re already present in a normal digestive system — although there’s a theoretical risk for people with impaired immune function. Be sure the ingredients are clearly marked on the label and familiar to you or your health provider. There’s no way to judge the safety of unidentified mixtures.
In the United States, most probiotics are sold as dietary supplements, which do not undergo the testing and approval process that drugs do. Manufacturers are responsible for making sure they’re safe before they’re marketed and that any claims made on the label are true. But there’s no guarantee that the types of bacteria listed on a label are effective for the condition you’re taking them for. Health benefits are strain-specific, and not all strains are necessarily useful, so you may want to consult a practitioner familiar with probiotics to discuss your options. As always, let your primary care provider know what you’re doing. 

All You Need is a Little Relaxation

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. It originally was meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. Today, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction. Meditation has long been used in Eastern philosophy and those who practice it report feeling calmer and happier. Now modern scanning technology has started to reveal why it is such a useful technique. Meditation helps to reduce activity in the amygdala region of the brain, which is responsible for governing feelings of stress. It is also involved in the insula, the part of the brain allows us to feel deep emotions, which is why those who meditate are more likely to be less aggressive. This part of the brain also regulates how we view arguments with loved ones and gives us our sense of regret when we emotionally harm someone, triggering an emotional need to put things right.  It is evident through these findings that meditation is no longer just a practice that people claim makes them feel better but now has scientific data to back up its claims. 
Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Meditation produces a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. During meditation, you focus your attention and annihilate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process results in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.
Meditation also might be useful if you have a medical condition, especially one that may be worsened by stress. While a growing body of scientific research supports the health benefits of meditation, some researchers believe it’s not yet possible to draw conclusions about the possible benefits of meditation.
With that in mind, some research suggests that meditation may help such conditions as:
  • Allergies
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Asthma
  • Binge eating
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Substance abuse
It is evident that meditation holds a lot of promise for future treatment of diseases and health conditions. Meditation therapies are a safe, drug free way to resolve issues by returning control to the patient when they feel that they can’t control thoughts or emotions. This is a great natural benefit to your health and life.  If you are wondering how you can start using meditation in your life, here is a link that gives steps for mediation beginners and another for some music for you to try your first daily meditation!  

Let Them Eat Dirt

But what if eating dirt was actually a suggestion for better health? A tip for improved digestion, reduced risk of cancer, or slowing memory loss. Would you do it?  If eating dirt could smooth wrinkles, promote heart health, or even protect you against the next outbreak of swine flu, would you take a great big bite of mud pie?  What if it was proven that actually eating dirt could boost your health and vitality, thanks to a rich mixture of special compounds found deep within the soil? How about then?
            For decades, gardeners and farmers across the country have used peat moss to boost the health of their flowerbeds and crops. But did they know that the nutrients found in that soil could also boost their own health. Fulvic acid is one of the main components of humus—the dark, nutrient-rich organic soil layer. It is considered organic because it is comprised of partially decomposed plant and animal matter. Fulvic acid contains more than 77 macro and trace minerals, most of which occur in their ionic form. This means that they are masters at conducing electricity and aiding in absorption.  Fulvic acid is often added to the soil to help hold water in the soil, thus promoting better hydration of the soil. When you apply this to the human body, this means that fulvic acid keeps you well hydrated, helps transport much-needed minerals directly to your cells, and then helps those cells properly absorb the nutrients. Of course, when these critical minerals get into the circulatory system, they are used as electrolytes. That’s when they really go to work, especially when it comes to heart and vascular health.  While fulvic acid has clear cardiovascular benefits, its strength seems to really lie in other areas, namely immune function. In one study, researchers tested the effects of both fulvic and humic acids on rats. They fed rats different concentrations of either fulvic for 26 days. The rats exhibited significant increases in immune response. In fact, these increases were seen as soon as day 14.  Whether it is due to its detox benefits, super-hydration, or more, it appears that fulvic acid benefits your body inside and out.
            Researchers collected more than 480 reports from missionaries, plantation doctors, explorers and anthropologists. These included who was eating dirt and under what circumstances. Seems that dirt doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrition—but it may protect against toxins, pathogens and parasites.  Dirt is most commonly eaten by women in early stages of pregnancy and preadolescent children. Both are particularly at risk from parasites and pathogens. Also, people tend to eat dirt when they’re suffering from gastrointestinal distress. The distress probably doesn’t come from the dirt, which is usually clay found deep in the ground and that doesn’t house pathogens. Plus people often boil the clay before eating. Scientists say more research is needed to confirm the hypothesis that dirt has health benefits. But they hope this offers evidence that eating dirt isn’t, well, as bizarre as it may seem.

Much Ado About Vitamins

            To take vitamins or not to take vitamins that is the question. This week I am exploring a subject that I have been wondering about.  How necessary is it to take a pill form of vitamins and minerals verses just eating a micronutrient rich diet?  How does taking pills with high concentrations of certain vitamins and minerals affect our bodies? These are important questions because it is clearly evident vitamins and minerals are necessary for our bodies to function properly, but what is the right way to take and handle them.
Vitamins and minerals are substances your body needs for normal growth and functioning. Some facilitate crucial chemical reactions, while others act as building blocks for the body. It’s easy to get enough micronutrients from your food if you maintain a healthy diet. But most people fail; they’ll eat two or three servings of fruits and veggies per day rather than the recommended five.  Because of this doctors suggest a multivitamin as a sort of nutritional safety net for many of their patients. But, this is just a safety net.  So-called “whole foods” like veggies and whole grains contain fiber and a host of other important nutrients that can’t be adequately delivered through pills. In fact, scientists are still finding new “trace elements” in whole foods that may someday be labeled essential to health — but aren’t found in any pill.  This is why many times you need to be wary of what brand and where you are buying vitamins.
As you seek the proper multivitamin or dietary supplement, it’s best to keep your guard up. The supplement industry is relatively unregulated, and you can injure or even kill yourself with “natural” products bought at your neighborhood supplement store.  Although most health claims attached to multivitamin formulations are doubtful, but harmless.  The exception is in relation to recommendations of vitamin megadoses.  It is just important to watch what vitamins are in high concentrations. So-called fat-soluble vitamins — that is, vitamins A, D, E, and K — accumulate in the body, making overdosing a real threat. Vitamin overdoses have been associated with liver problems, weakened bones, cancers, and premature mortality.  To prevent these problems, you just need awareness.  Spread the word about vitamins that they are helpful and recommended but not essential if getting enough vitamins and minerals from the food you eat.