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Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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4 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Eating Organic

The organic food industry is a booming business, and with the recent sale of natural-foods giant Whole Foods to Amazon, it’s expected to grow even larger in the near future. While some consumers buy organic because they believe it’s better for the environment, even more do so for health-related reasons, according to one 2016 survey.

What, exactly, are the health benefits of going organic? That depends on who you ask and which studies you consult. But if you do choose to buy organic foods, here are some science-backed bonuses you’re likely to get in return.

Fewer pesticides and heavy metals
Fruits, vegetables and grains labeled organic are grown without the use of most synthetic pesticides or artificial fertilizers. (The National Organic Standard Board does allow some synthetic substances to be used.) While such chemicals have been deemed safe in the quantities used for conventional farming, health experts still warn about the potential harms of repeated exposure.

For example, the commonly used herbicide Roundup has been classified as a “probable human carcinogen,” and the insecticide chlorpyrifos has been associated with developmental delays in infants. Studies have also suggested that pesticide residues—at levels commonly found in the urine of kids in the U.S.—may contribute to ADHD prevalence; they’ve also been linked to reduced sperm quality in men.

A 2014 meta-analysis in the British Journal of Nutrition found that organically grown crops were not only less likely to contain detectable levels of pesticides, but because of differences in fertilization techniques, they were also 48% less likely to test positive for cadmium, a toxic heavy metal that accumulates in the liver and kidneys.

More healthy fats
When it comes to meat and milk, organic products can have about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated healthy fat, than conventionally produced products, according to a 2016 study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Organic milk tested in the study also had less saturated fat than non-organic.

These differences may come from the way organic livestock is raised, with a grass-fed diet and more time spent outdoors, say the study’s authors. They believe that switching from conventional to organic products would raise consumers’ omega-3 intake without increasing overall calories or saturated fat.

dirty dozen

No antibiotics or synthetic hormones
Conventional livestock can be fed antibiotics to protect against illness, making it easier for farmers to raise animals in crowded or unsanitary conditions. The FDA limited the use of certain antibiotics for livestock earlier this year, but loopholes in the legislation still exist. And with the exception of poultry, conventionally raised animals can also be injected with synthetic growth hormones, so they’ll gain weight faster or produce more milk.

But traces of these substances can make their way to consumers, says Rolf Halden, professor and director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University. Drug residue is believed to contribute to widespread antibiotic resistance, he says, and organic foods—which are produced without antibiotics—“are intrinsically safer in this respect.” Organic meat and dairy also cannot contain synthetic hormones, which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

More antioxidants, in some cases
In a recent six-year study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that organic onions had about a 20% higher antioxidant content than conventionally grown onions. They also theorized that previous analyses—several of which have found no difference in conventional versus organic antioxidant levels—may have been thwarted by too-short study periods and confounding variables like weather.

The research was “very well done,” says Guy Crosby, adjunct associate professor of Nutrition at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. But he points out that this specific study “takes just one aspect of phytochemicals and shows they can be improved under organic conditions.” The question of whether organic foods are truly more nutritious is still debatable, he adds. “Had the researchers chosen to measure a different vitamin or mineral, they may have found a different result.”

The bottom line
Organic products are more expensive than conventional ones, and whether they’re really worth the extra cost is certainly a matter of choice. “If you can afford all organic, that’s fantastic, but it’s not feasible for most people,” says registered dietitian Cynthia Sass. “If it’s not, the most important groups to buy organic, in my opinion, include foods you eat daily and produce on the Dirty Dozen list—those with the highest pesticide residues.” If people eat eggs, dairy and meat, she also recommends buying those organic.

Halden says that vulnerable groups—including pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people suffering from allergies—may benefit the most from choosing organically produced foods. He also points out that a strictly organic diet can still be plenty unhealthy: “Eating too much sugar and meat and too few vegetables is risky, regardless of whether the shopper picks from the conventional or organic grocery selection,” he says.

It’s also important for consumers to make educated decisions about why they choose to buy organic, says Crosby—and not to get hung up on individual studies that haven’t been supported by additional research. If you’re trying to reduce exposure to pesticide residues, organic is a good choice, he says. “On the other hand, if you’re buying them because they’re more nutritious, the evidence doesn’t broadly support that,” he says.

By AMANDA MACMILLAN AND JULIA NAFTULIN        July 27, 2017
source: time.com       #OrganicWeek   September 8-16, 2018
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11 Sneaky Things Other Than Food & Exercise That May Affect Your Weight

And how to make them work in your favor

The great recession

What do economics have to do with health? At most universities they’re not even in the same building! But it turns out that a dip in the economy can lead to a rise in our weight according to a study done by John Hopkins. Researchers found that from 2008 to 2012—the period known as the great recession—weight gain was strongly correlated with the rise in unemployment, increasing the risk of obesity by 21 percent. This makes sense as one of the first things to go when our budgets get tight are luxuries like health food and gym memberships, not to mention the loss of health insurance that often accompanies a job loss. However, it may help to remember that there are many low-cost or free ways to protect your health—and an investment in you is the best one you can make.

How high you are

No we’re not talking about the wave of pot legalization sweeping the country (although that probably would affect your weight too) but rather how high up you live. There’s a reason that Colorado is the both the slimmest and the steepest state in the nation. The altitude at which you live is strongly correlated with your weight, with each gain in altitude corresponding with a drop in weight, according to a study done by the U.S. Air Force. But don’t sell your beach-front property and head for the hills just yet—the effect can be balanced out by other factors known to prevent against obesity where you live, like outdoor greenery, strong social ties, and opportunities to go outside. Case in point: Hawaii is the third thinnest state in America, and it’s the definition of sea level.

 

It’s a generation thing

Ever wondered why your grandma never exercised a day in her life and yet wore a tiny wedding dress that you could never hope to fit into even though you run marathons? Some of it may be due to the difference in generations you were both born into. Bad news for young ‘uns: Millennials, Gen Y, and Gen X all need to eat less and exercise more to stave off obesity than their forefathers did, according to a study from York University. And it’s not just the fact that we have Netflix and take out at our fingertips. Rather, the researchers found that the average metabolism of both men and women has slowed, even after controlling for factors like disease, diet, and fitness. Why? We have no solid answers yet but in the meantime, if you’re under 40 at least you can take comfort that you’re not alone in your struggle.

That cursed smog

The effects of environmental pollutants go far beyond wheezing and sneezing. Rats exposed to highly polluted air were not only much more likely to become obese, according to a study done by Duke University, but also had a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. And it’s not just limited to rodents. People who live close to roadways with a high level of air pollution are also more likely to gain weight, says a study from the University of Southern California. Unfortunately air pollution is likely not under your direct control but we can all work together to lobby for and implement clean-air policies where we live, making for both a healthier physical and celestial body.

Your thermostat

Our delightfully warm and cozy homes and offices might be partly responsible for our less-delightful expanding waistlines, say researchers in a study published in the journal Cell. The scientists found that regular exposure to mildly cold weather—as would have been normal in the days before programmable thermostats—helps the human body regulate a healthy weight. The chilly air seems to increase metabolism by making the body work harder to cope with the changing conditions. Some proponents of “cold therapy” take daily ice baths or “shiver walks” but you don’t have to be that extreme to see results, say the researchers. Just lowering your thermostat by a few degrees or turning the shower briefly to cold can help.
scale

How many antibiotics you’ve taken

Antibiotics are one of the biggest miracles of modern medicine, no doubt about it. But those infection-fighting drugs may have unintended consequences. The more antibiotics a person takes during their lifetime, particularly during early childhood, the greater their risk of becoming obese, according to an NYU study. Researchers speculate that it has to do with killing healthy gut bacteria, decimating your microbiome along with the bad bugs, as good bacteria has been shown to help prevent weight gain. But if you were the kid with chronic ear infections, don’t fret, you can rebuild your good gut bacteria by taking a probiotic and eating plenty of fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.

Fido and Fifi

Owning a pet, particularly a dog, slashes the human companion’s risk of obesity, says the American Heart Association. Why? Dogs need to be walked daily and are often quite persistent, encouraging their owners to walk as well. But it’s not just the extra exercise, especially since 40 percent of dog owners confess to not walking their dog on a regular basis. The researchers add that petting an animal greatly reduces stress and depression, two other known risk factors for weight gain. So if you do have a dog, make sure to walk them daily, and in the meantime soak up all the snuggles, wet kisses, and purrs you can.

The number on your paycheck

Income is one of the biggest factors correlated with obesity, with poor Americans being three times more likely to be obese than richer ones, according to a study published in Nutrition Reviews. Low-income people are less likely to have access to supermarkets with fresh foods (often living in “food deserts”), less likely to have health insurance, and less likely to live in neighborhoods where exercise outdoors is encouraged or even safe. Fortunately this is one area we can all help improve by working to better conditions in our own neighborhoods or helping out others nearby.

Pesticides

Pesticides may help us grow stronger and more plentiful crops but many of the chemicals used in popular formulations are known “endocrine disruptors”: They interfere with your body’s metabolic systems. Pesticides hijack our metabolism by mimicking, blocking, or otherwise interfering with the body’s natural hormones, according to a report issued by The Endocrine Society. Regular exposure to pesticides through food was correlated with an increase risk of both obesity and diabetes. Buying all organic may be one solution but for many people that doesn’t fit in the budget. If money’s tight you can also decrease your pesticide load by avoiding, or only buying organic of, the “dirty dozen“, the most contaminated produce. Or you can always try growing some of your own fruits and vegetables. (Bonus: Gardening is great exercise!)

How many trees you can count from your window

Close proximity to parks, trails, and other types of green spaces is linked with lower body weight, according to research done by the American Diabetes Association. Being able to see, and more importantly walk to, greenery encouraged people to exercise more and made it feel, well, less like exercise. Parks make physical exertion feel like fun but even if you’re not using them to exercise, simply being in the presence of nature has been shown to reduce stress, lower weight and improve your health overall. The vast majority of Americans already live within walking distance of some type of park so get out there and explore your neighborhood.

All that stuff on the food label you don’t recognize

You already know that processed foods do no favors for your waistline but it turns out it’s not just the empty calories and trans fats doing the damage. Some of the most popular food additives are linked with weight gain and obesity, according to a study done by Georgia State University. Emulsifiers, which are added to most processed foods for texture and to extend shelf life, are one of the worst offenders as they interfere with good gut bacteria. But some artificial flavorings, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and even the food packaging have also been linked in research to obesity.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen  
source: www.rd.com


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Lemons: Health Benefits, Cleaning and Storing

Dewax and Cleaning Lemons – Fruit and Vegetable Wash

Lemons are often coated with wax to keep the peel fresh and glossy. This wax is considered safe to eat, but if you need to zest the lemon, you may still wish to de-wax it before proceeding.

1 Combine vinegar and water. Pour three parts water and one part white distilled vinegar in a spray bottle. Close the bottle, then shake well to combine.
A commercial fruit and vegetable wash could be used instead of a homemade one.
Another possible fruit and vegetable wash can be made by mixing 1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh lemon juice, 1 Tbsp (15 ml), and 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water. Mix these ingredients together in a spray bottle.

2 Spray the solution onto the lemons. Thoroughly douse all sides of the peel of each lemon with the vinegar cleaning solution.
Allow the solution to sit on the lemons for two to five minutes before continuing. The acidity of the cleansing solution needs several minutes to weaken and dissolve the wax.

3 Scrub the lemons under running water. Scrub the lemon peels with a vegetable brush under cool, running water, applying gentle yet firm pressure.
The temperature of the water is not as significant for this method since no heat was used previously, but lukewarm to cool water is still recommended since it is the least likely to alter the internal temperature of the lemon.
Avoid using brushes or sponges that were previously used in soapy water.
Each lemon only needs to be scrubbed briefly.

4 Rinse under cool water. After you finish scrubbing the lemons, rinse each one under the running water to remove any remaining wax residue.
If you see any wax debris, you can use your fingers to lightly brush it off while rinsing the fruit. Do not use the brush during this step, however.

5 Dry well. Quickly dry the lemons by wiping off any water using clean paper towels.
If desired, you can let the lemons air dry instead of drying them with paper towel.

  • For best results, use the lemons immediately after de-waxing them. Without their protective wax, lemons can spoil faster.
  • Do not store dewaxed lemons that are still wet. Make sure that the peels are completely dry to prevent possible issues with premature spoilage.
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Storing Lemons

How to Keep Lemons Fresh For up to 3 Months

This tip for storing lemons is so easy. According to Food.com, if you refrigerate lemons in a bowl of water, they will keep for up to three months! It sounds insane, but I’d be willing to give it a try. And if you want to extend the life of a lemon even further, freeze the zest and the juice separately.

ANNA MONETTE ROBERTS      November 29, 2017   

lemon juice

 

Is Drinking Lemon Juice Good for You?

Drinking lemon juice benefits your health, which is why many traditional systems of medicine recommend drinking lemon juice daily. Lemons contain vitamins, minerals and other natural compounds that boost your immune system and even fight cancer. They aid in digestion and mineral absorption, may give you more energy and protect your kidneys and urinary health. Drink fresh squeezed lemon juice, diluted in water, regularly to reap the most benefits.

Good for Your Body’s Defense System
One medium-sized lemon contains 40 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant. Antioxidants counteract free-radical damage that occurs during food digestion and exposure to radiation and smoke. Protecting yourself from free radicals by drinking lemon juice regularly can help slow the aging process and might aid in the protection against chronic diseases. Eating more vitamin C when you have a cold might even shorten it or lessen the severity of your symptoms.

Helps Weight Loss and Boosts Energy
Although there’s no “miracle pill” for weight loss, drinking lemon juice could help in your efforts. In an interview with the “Daily Mail,” the author of “The Lemon Juice Diet,” Theresa Cheung, explained that by improving digestion, lemon helps regulate your metabolism. When digestion is poor, your body can’t absorb nutrients it requires to utilize fat. Improving your digestion also helps you eliminate toxins, which improves your energy levels. In a study published in the “Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition” in 2008, obesity was induced in rats through their diet, which was then supplemented with lemon polyphenols, compounds thought to affect fat metabolism. After 12 weeks, the rats lost weight and body fat and had reduced concentrations of fat in their blood as a result of the lemon polyphenols.

Decreases Cancer Risks
Lemons contain 22 different compounds that have been found to fight cancer cells. A study published in “Food & Function” in 2013 discovered that limonoids found in lemons stymie the growth of cancer cells that depend on estrogen for growth and those that don’t. It concluded that consuming lemon may reduce your risk of breast cancer. In a case-control study published in “Cancer Causes and Control” in 2010, researchers found that consuming citrus in general decreased the risk of throat, pharyngeal, colorectal and stomach cancer.

Helps Keep Your Kidney and Urinary Tract Clean
Drinking lemon juice consistently could help dissolve calcium deposits, kidney stones and gallstones while possibly preventing their occurrence. In a study published in “BMC Urology” in 2007, kidney stones were induced in rats via a solution of ethylene glycol and ammonium chloride. While the toxic solution was administered, three groups of rats were given equal amounts of lemon juice, at various concentrations: 100 percent, 75 percent and 50 percent. The control group was given water instead, and another group was given nothing but the toxic solution. In the rats given lemon juice at 75 percent and 100 percent concentrations, the growth of the kidney stones was blocked, whereas those given no lemon juice at all had large calcium oxalate crystal deposits throughout their kidneys.

BY  KAREN MCCARTHY  AUG. 14, 2017
 
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Lemons and Limes Feature Phytonutrients with Antioxidant and Antibiotic Effects

Like many fruits and vegetables, lemons and limes contain unique flavonoid compounds that have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Of special interest in limes have been flavonoids called flavonol glycosides, including many kaempferol-related molecules. While these flavonoids have been shown to stop cell division in many cancer cell lines, they are perhaps most interesting for their antibiotic effects. In several villages in West Africa where cholera epidemics had occurred, the inclusion of lime juice during the main meal of the day was determined to have been protective against the contraction of cholera. (Cholera is a disease triggered by activity of the bacteria called Vibrio cholera). Researchers quickly began to experiment with the addition of lime juice to the sauce eaten with rice, and in this role, lime juice was also found to have a strong protective effect against cholera.

Several other fascinating research studies on the healing properties of lemons and limes have shown that cell cycles—including the decision a cell makes about whether to divide (called mitosis) or die (apoptosis—are altered by lime juice, as are the activities of special immune cells called monocytes.

In addition to their unique phytonutrient properties, lemons and limes are an excellent source of vitamin C, one of the most important antioxidants in nature. Vitamin C is one of the main antioxidants found in food and the primary water-soluble antioxidant in the body. Vitamin C travels through the body neutralizing any free radicals with which it comes into contact in the aqueous environments in the body both inside and outside cells. Free radicals can interact with the healthy cells of the body, damaging them and their membranes, and also cause a lot of inflammation, or painful swelling, in the body. This is one of the reasons that vitamin C has been shown to be helpful for reducing some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Since free radicals can damage blood vessels and can change cholesterol to make it more likely to build up in artery walls, vitamin C can be helpful for preventing the development and progression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.

Vitamin C is also vital to the function of a strong immune system. The immune system’s main goal is to protect you from illness, so a little extra vitamin C may be useful in conditions like colds, flus, and recurrent ear infections.

Owing to the multitude of vitamin C’s health benefits, it is not surprising that research has shown that consumption of vegetables and fruits high in this nutrient is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke and cancer.

source: www.whfoods.com

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Should we be buying organic lemons?

On a budget?
Buying non-organic lemons should be ok,
as they are currently not among the dirty dozen.
Concerned for the environment or GMOs?
Organic farming is better for the environment,
since some pesticides can contaminate local groundwater
and are made with fossil fuels.

 


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Is Chronic Mouthwash Use Endangering Your Beneficial Bacteria?

New study out of the journal Nitric Oxide links mouthwash use to diabetes.

It sounds like one of those spurious correlations that show up whenever you sift through large piles of data, such as the supposed link between cheese consumption and death from bedsheet strangulation.

But the results of a new epidemiological study linking mouthwash use and diabetes risk are – to all appearances, at least – a real effect, with fascinating implications for our understanding of the complex links between health, athletic performance and the trillions of bacterial cells that inhabit our bodies. A cleaner mouth, it turns out, isn’t always better.

The new study, which appears in the December issue of the journal Nitric Oxide, analyzes data from a longitudinal study of 945 adults in Puerto Rico who were followed over a period of three years. Just less than half of the participants reported using mouthwash regularly, and those who gargled at least twice a day were roughly 50-per-cent more likely to develop prediabetes or diabetes than those who used it less frequently or not at all.

“Most over-the-counter mouthwashes contain antibacterial ingredients,” explains Dr. Kaumudi Joshipura, an epidemiologist at the University of Puerto Rico and Harvard University who led the study, “which could destroy or inhibit oral microbes, some of which may be beneficial for metabolic health.”

This is an idea that’s already familiar to elite endurance athletes. Over the past decade, beet juice has emerged as a powerful and ubiquitous performance enhancer, because it enables muscles to consume less oxygen during exercise. The key component of beet juice is nitrate, which is converted by bacteria in the mouth to nitrite, which is in turn converted to nitric oxide, a powerful signalling molecule with wide-ranging beneficial effects in the body.

Earlier studies had already shown that mouthwash, by killing the bacteria that convert nitrate to nitrite, breaks this chain reaction and negates the immediate performance benefits of beet juice. It also wipes out acute gains in blood pressure and insulin sensitivity. But the new Puerto Rican study is the first to extend these findings to chronic health effects measured outside the laboratory. Since nitric oxide plays a role in determining how muscles use glucose, Joshipura hypothesizes that it is loss of oral bacteria that convert nitrate to nitrite that leads to higher diabetes risk in heavy mouthwash users.

It’s tempting, then, to wonder how we can nurture the “good” nitrate-converting bacteria while suppressing the “bad” oral bacteria that contribute to gum disease, bad breath and tooth decay. But it’s not that simple, says Dr. Anni Vanhatalo, an exercise physiology researcher at the University of Exeter in Britain who studies dietary nitrate but wasn’t involved in the new study.

“It’s about a balance,” she says. “We have around 700 species of bacteria in our mouths, most or all of which have the potential to be pathogenic in large numbers. In that sense there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ bacteria.”

That’s similar to our emerging understanding of the complexity of gut bacteria, where greater diversity, rather than any particular superbug, is associated with better health. And chronic mouthwash use, Vanhatalo says, can be likened to the effect of antibiotics on gut bacteria. “Few would contemplate going on antibiotics permanently,” she says, “while more than 20 per cent of Americans use mouthwash daily.”

Where is the ideal balance? Vanhatalo suggests that brushing your teeth with toothpaste twice a day is about right. Joshipura notes that the people in her study who reported using mouthwash just once a day didn’t have any elevated risk of prediabetes or diabetes, but adds that further evidence is needed to make recommendations.

“People with specific oral conditions may need to use mouthwash as prescribed, usually for short duration,” Joshipura says. “However, we are concerned that mouthwash is often used routinely long-term in the absence of specific oral needs, without awareness of potential long-term effects.”

Finally, if all this sounds a little gloomy, it’s worth concluding on a more positive note. The negative effects of blocking nitrate conversion are, in a way, a reminder of all the benefits you can get from nitrate-rich foods – in addition to beets, leafy greens like arugula and spinach are very high in nitrates, as are rhubarb and celery – if you don’t block them.


Alex Hutchinson’s new book, Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, will be published in February. Follow him on Twitter @sweatscience.

ALEX HUTCHINSON        SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL       JANUARY 14, 2018


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The Microbiome: The Key to Optimal Health

Here’s how the microbiome—the colony go micro-organisms that lives on and in our bodies—might hold the key to a healthy immune system, mood and weight, and our overall well-being.

micro-organisms that lives on and in our bodies—
might hold the key to a healthy immune system, mood and weight, and our overall well-being.

Imagine that from the time you’re born, your body is hosting a daily house party. Who’s on the guest list? Roughly 40 trillion of your tiniest, closest friends. And like any lively party, there’s a mix of good and bad guests. This community of micro-organisms, which includes bac­teria, viruses, fungi and yeast, is collectively known as microbiota, or our microbiome. It’s often called the ‘forgotten organ’ and could be considered one of our largest in terms of cells. In fact, recent research suggests that we have around the same number of bacterial cells as human cells. During a natural birth, you’re first exposed to bacteria from your mother, and it’s estimated that your ecosystem is largely established by age three. We’re used to thinking of bugs as unwanted party crashers, but researchers are discovering that they play an important role in our overall well-being and may hold the key to a host of health-related issues.

MEET YOUR MICROBIOME
If it seems like the word micro­biome just recently appeared on your radar, you’re not alone. It was only in 2008 that the National Institutes of Health Common Fund’s Human Microbiome Project was established to under­stand the microbiome and how it impacts the way our bodies function.

‘We knew that the microbiome was there, but we thought of it only as external and not really in our body. As research expands in this area, we’re discovering how much influence it has on well-being,’ says Kathy McCoy, the director of the Western Canadian Microbiome Centre and a professor at the Cumming School of Medicine in Calgary. ‘One thing we know for sure is that good bacteria benefit our health.’

HAPPY GUT = HEALTHY LIFE
Our gut houses the bulk of our bugs and can carry more than 1,000 different species. The hot spot is the large intestine, which is the most highly colonized by bacteria. ‘Bacteria help us digest foods we otherwise couldn’t, such as complex carbohydrates,’ says McCoy. ‘They increase our meta­bolic capacity, produce vitamins we can’t make ourselves and break down food so our bodies get needed nutrients.’

A healthy gut can determine which nutrients are absorbed and which toxins are blocked. ‘The state of our gut microbiota has drastically changed as we’ve transformed our diets, specifically due to a loss of fibre intake,’ says McCoy. ‘The consumption of more processed foods has negatively influenced the makeup of our microbiota.’

The key to a well-functioning microbiome is a diversity of good bacteria. The latest research shows how our micro­biome can affect our immunity, weight and mood, and reveals how you can nurture and strengthen your gut to improve your health.

BOOST YOUR IMMUNITY
‘Unlike genes or genetic disorders that are hardwired, we can manipulate our microbiome to some degree,’ says McCoy. By nurturing our gut to create a healthy microbiota, we equip it with better ammunition to fight potential invaders, such as bad bacteria (salmonella, for example), making it a strong ally for our immune system.

‘Over the past 50 years, in developing countries, the prevalence of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, has skyrocketed—and some, like Type 1 diabetes, are occurring at a younger age. At the same time, there’s a strong belief that the diversity in our microbiota has decreased,’ she says. By not supporting and nurturing our microbiome, we leave it less able to protect itself and more vulner­able to invaders. ‘The immune system in your gut needs to be equip­ped like an army, alert to recog­nize potential danger and armed to fight disease-causing microbes and pathogens,’ says McCoy.

MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
Trying to shed a few pounds? Take a closer look at the health of your gut flora. ‘A study found that the micro­biota from obese people thrives on low-fibre, high-fat and high-sugar diets,’ says McCoy. Also, research suggests that certain bugs may make you desire specific foods, yet others can keep cravings in check. And multiple studies have demonstrated that if your microbiome is unbalanced, it can affect how efficiently food is metabolized.

IMPROVE YOUR MOOD
There might be more to that ‘gut feeling’ we get. ‘There’s evidence that some bacteria residing in the gut can affect the brain and your emotional state,’ says McCoy. Researchers are working to unlock the gut-brain connection and believe that the micro­biome could hold the answer to a number of mental health conditions. ‘Researchers are finding that changes in the microbiota might be linked to gastrointestinal abnormalities, including anxiety, depr­es­sion, autism and hyperactivity. And there are also studies focusing on the pathway between the gut and several neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,’ says McCoy.

4 WAYS TO SUPPORT YOUR MICROBIOME

1. Feed your microbiome 
One of the best—and easiest—ways to positively impact the gut is through diet. Start by increasing your fibre intake, found in grains, fruit and vegetables. Aim for 25 grams of fibre a day. Avoid high-fat and high-sugar diets, as they promote an unhealthy environment. Instead, eat foods that are full of variety, and include an abundance of fresh produce.

2. Fuel it with fermented foods
Populate the gut with good bacteria by filling up on foods with live and active cultures, such as kefir and some yogurts, and raw, unpasteurized fermented foods, such as kimchi, pickled vegetables and sauerkraut. Support digestive health and nourish the gut lining to more efficiently absorb nutrients by adding a scoop of a fermented yogurt protein powder to your morning smoothie.

3. Pop a probiotic 
‘Although our bodies have bacteria, environmental chemicals, poor nutrition, stress and medication easily affect their diversity. Choose a probiotic with 50 to 100 billion active bact­e­ria,’ says Toronto-based naturopathic doctor Sara Celik. We like a probiotic that’s jam-packed with 50 billion active cultures from 10 strains of bacteria, which is ideal for strengthening the immune system.

4. Monitor antibiotic use
Avoid the overuse of antibiotics, which can reduce the number of bacteria in your gut and break down its ability to resist infection from bad bacteria. ‘They’re drugs that don’t discriminate and kill all forms of bacteria—both good and bad—and can adversely alter the composition of your entire gut flora, which, we believe, is contributing to a host of chronic diseases,’ warns McCoy.

BY: GRACE TOBY         OCT 19, 2017 


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Oil Of Oregano Benefits: 11 Things To Know About Oregano Oil

Most of us would take just about anything if we thought it might keep us healthy during cold and flu season. It turns out that there’s some evidence to suggest that an herb you likely have in your kitchen might be able to help stave off sickness this winter.

Some natural health enthusiasts promote oregano oil as a means to fight cold and flus, keep your digestive tract healthy, and soothe problem skin. But is there any science behind the hype? Here are the 11 things you should know about oregano oil this winter.

Oregano Oil Facts

Yes, it’s from the herb: Oregano oil is, as the name implies, oil from the oregano herb that is extracted by steam distillation. Or at least from an oregano herb — there are more than 40 varieties of the plant. According to Alive, the oil from Oreganum vulgare is believed to hold the most therapeutic benefit.

Stuffed up? You may find some relief by adding a couple drops of oregano oil to a diffuser or vapourizer and inhaling for a few minutes. Drinking a few drops of oil in juice or water may also provide some relief from a sore throat.

It’s also used for GI problems: Because there’s some evidence that oil of oregano has anti-fungal or antiviral properties, it’s thought to be helpful for some gastrointestinal issues. One small study showed that treatment with oregano oil may be useful for parasite infections, but further study is needed.

It could have anti-fungal properties: Some studies have shown that in lab cultures, oregano oil puts up a strong fight against Candida albicans, the bacteria that causes the fungal infection candida. Other research found it may have a similar effect against the mold fungis Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus niger. However, similar studies haven’t yet been done in human subjects.

You can use it on your skin: It’s thought that oregano oil is helpful for skin conditions like cold sores, muscle aches, nail fungus, joint pain, and dandruff. Try diluting it with a carrier oil like jojoba, sweet almond, or grapeseed, at 10 to 12 drops oregano oil per ounce of carrier oil. However, don’t use oregano oil on broken or sensitive skin, as it can be irritating. There is some anecdotal evidence suggestions that it may be effective for treatment of psoriasis, an inflammatory skin condition, but no published research yet.

It’s a natural insect repellent: Oil of oregano contains many compounds, and one of them is carvacrol — a natural insect repellent. This compound is also found in plants like mint and thyme. Try putting a few drops of oil on outdoor furniture — test first on an inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn’t stain — or apply a dilution of it to unbroken skin when heading outdoors.

It may help in the fight against antibiotic resistance: Some people believe that we can stave off antibiotic resistance by turning to natural solutions like oregano oil more often. One lab test in 2001 found that oregano oil was effective in killing staphylococcus bacteria, and another published laboratory study out of the UK found that it showed effectiveness against 25 different bacteria.

It tastes terrible: Don’t expect that you’ll enjoy taking oregano oil, even if you love Greek food. It has a much more potent taste in oil form, so be prepared!

Be careful: Because oregano oil in its pure form is so strong, it should only be used when diluted; try a ratio of one part oregano oil to three parts carrier oil, such as olive oil. Undiluted oregano oil can be irritating to the skin and mucous membranes. It is also possible to purchase diluted oregano oil.

It’s meant for short-term use: In Alive, clinical herbalist Michelle Lynde recommends using oregano oil for acute conditions, by taking four to six drops at a time for seven to ten days.

It’s not for everyone: The therapeutic use of oregano oil should be avoided in infants and children, and pregnant or nursing women. It also should be avoided by people with high blood pressure or a heart condition. It’s always a good idea to talk to your preferred medical professional before starting a new wellness routine, and to disclose your use of alternative therapies in case of counter-indications with other medications or treatments.

 11/14/2013   Terri Coles   The Huffington Post Canada
 


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Gut Bacteria ‘Boost’ Cancer Therapy

Bacteria living in the murky depths of the digestive system seem to influence whether tumours shrink during cancer therapy, say French and US researchers.

They tested the microbiome – the collection of microscopic species that live in us – in cancer patients.
Two studies, in the journal Science, linked specific species and the overall diversity of the microbiome to the effectiveness of immunotherapy drugs.

Experts said the results were fascinating and held a lot of promise.

Our bodies are home to trillions of micro-organisms and the relationship between “us” and “them” goes far beyond infectious diseases.

The microbiome is involved in digestion, protection from infection and regulating the immune system.

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Both studies were on patients receiving immunotherapy, which boosts the body’s own defences to fight tumours.

It does not work in every patient, but in some cases it can clear even terminal cancer.

Survival

One study, at the Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus in Paris, looked at 249 patients with lung or kidney cancer.

They showed those who had taken antibiotics, such as for dental infection, damaged their microbiome and were more likely to see tumours grow while on immunotherapy.

One species of bacteria in particular, Akkermansia muciniphila, was in 69% of patients that did respond compared with just a third of those who did not.

Boosting levels of A. muciniphila in mice seemed to also boost their response to immunotherapy.
Meanwhile, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 112 patients with advanced melanoma had their microbiome analysed.

Those that responded to therapy tended to have a richer, more diverse microbiome than those that did not.

And they had different bacteria too. High levels of Faecalibacterium and Clostridiales appeared to be beneficial, while Bacteroidales species were bad news in the study.

‘Game-changing’

Tissues samples showed there were more cancer-killing immune cells in the tumour of people with the beneficial bacteria.

The team then performed a trans-poo-sion, a transplant of faecal matter, from people to mice with melanoma.

Mice given bacteria from patients with the “good” mix of bacteria had slower-growing tumours than mice given “bad” bacteria.

Dr Jennifer Wargo, from Texas, told the BBC: “If you disrupt a patient’s microbiome you may impair their ability to respond to cancer treatment.”
She is planning clinical trials aimed at altering the microbiome in tandem with cancer treatment.
She said: “Our hypothesis is if we change to a more favourable microbiome, you just may be able to make patients respond better.
“The microbiome is game-changing, not just cancer but for overall health, it’s definitely going to be a major player.”

Promising

Mark Fielder, president of the Society for Applied Microbiology and professor of medical biology at Kingston University, said the study showed the importance of understanding the micro-organisms that call our bodies home.

He told the BBC: “It’s really interesting and holds a lot of promise, we need to do more work but there are exciting glimmers here in treating some difficult diseases.
“Some claim the microbiome is the answer to everything, I don’t think that’s the case.
“But once we understand more, it could be that microbiome manipulation is important in changing people’s health.”

Dr Emma Smith from Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s fascinating.

“One of the big challenges for using immunotherapies to treat cancer is understanding which patients will respond, and this research is a step towards helping doctors to identify these people.”

By James Gallagher    Health and science correspondent, BBC News    3 November 2017 
 
source: www.bbc.com