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Homemade Yogurt Resolves Irritable Bowel Symptoms

The daily consumption of homemade yogurt can lead to a complete resolution of symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, a prospective study shows.

“We were surprised by the response. We had 189 patients in the study, and 169 had remission within 6 months,” said Manju Girish Chandran, MBBS, from the Mary Breckinridge ARH Hospital in Hyden, Kentucky.

And some of the participants had lived with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome for 9 or 10 years, she reported here at the World Congress of Gastroenterology.

“Our study is based on the fact that there is an internal gut–brain microbiome axis,” Dr Chandran told Medscape Medical News. “If you modulate the intestinal microbiome, you can actually achieve remission in some cases.”

Medication does not adequately treat the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome for many people, she said. As a result, “they just live with it.”

That is one of the reasons Dr Chandran and her colleagues wanted to assess the potential of homemade yogurt with Lactobacilli to influence the gut microbiome.

Part of a Regular Diet

For their study, the team enrolled 189 consecutive patients diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome at one of two medical centers in Eastern Kentucky.

Patients were instructed to consume 2 to 3 cups of yogurt every day and record their symptoms in a chart. Their responses were assessed every 2 months for 6 months.

Complete remission — defined as the relief of pre-existing irritable bowel syndrome symptoms and one or two normal bowel movements daily — was achieved by 89% of the study participants.

The yogurt is inexpensive and easy to make. First, boil a gallon of milk for 5 minutes and let it cool to lukewarm. Next, mix in 1 cup of Dannon plain yogurt, which is used as a starter and source of Lactobacilli. Place in an oven with the light on overnight (do not turn the oven on), and then refrigerate the next morning. Save 1 cup from each batch to use as a starter for the next batch.

“You can make enough yogurt for 1 week, and it’s pretty cheap,” Dr Chandran pointed out. “And it doesn’t have to be eaten as plain yogurt.” Because it can be mixed with fruit or used in a smoothie, it doesn’t “feel like it’s a medicine; it is part of a regular diet.”

Results Difficult to Interpret

The study design makes the results difficult to interpret, which is disappointing, said William Heizer, MD, a gastroenterologist in private practice in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

“At the very least, the consenting patients should have been randomly assigned to either a treatment or control group,” Dr Heizer told Medscape Medical News. Also, “review of the self-reported charts should have been done by individuals blinded to which group the patient was in.”

This was a pilot study, Dr Chandran explained. The next step will be to study the effectiveness of the homemade yogurt in patients with different subtypes of irritable bowel syndrome — constipation or diarrhea — and to randomize some participants to a control group.

Dr Chandran and Dr Heizer have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Damian McNamara      December 07, 2017
 
SOURCE: Medscape, December 07, 2017.
The World Congress of Gastroenterology at the ACG 2017:
Abstract P1152. Presented October 16, 2017.


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The Natural Dietary Add-On Found To Treat Depression

64% of depression and anxiety patients saw reductions in their symptoms.

Probiotics relieve the symptoms of depression, as well as helping with digestion problems, a new study finds.

The research was carried out on people with irritable bowel syndrome who were also depressed.

Twice as many reported improvements in depression symptoms if they took a specific probiotic.

Dr Premysl Bercik, senior study author, said:

“This study shows that consumption of a specific probiotic can improve both gut symptoms and psychological issues in IBS.
This opens new avenues not only for the treatment of patients with functional bowel disorders but also for patients with primary psychiatric diseases.”

The probiotic is called Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001.

Half of the 44 adults with IBS and mild to moderate anxiety or depression took a daily dose.
Over 10 weeks those taking the probiotic showed improvements in their IBS and depression and anxiety.

64% of those taking the probiotics showed psychological improvements compared with just 32% in the placebo group.

Brain scans revealed changes in multiple brain areas related to mood control.

Dr Bercik said:

“This is the result of a decade long journey — from identifying the probiotic, testing it in preclinical models and investigating the pathways through which the signals from the gut reach the brain.”

The study’s first author, Dr. Maria Pinto Sanchez, added:

“The results of this pilot study are very promising but they have to be confirmed in a future, larger scale trial.”

Other studies have also shown that probiotics have promise in treating depression.

One mouse study in which they were fed Lactobacillus, found that the probiotic reversed  their depression.

Another study found that a multispecies probiotic helped stop sadness from turning into depression.

Recent studies have repeatedly underlined the importance of diet for how we feel.

The new study was published in the journal Gastroenterology (Pinto-Sanchez et al., 2017).

source: PsyBlog


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Gut Microbes Linked To Brain Structure In People With Irritable Bowel Syndrome

 Summary:
Research shows for the first time an association between the gut microbiota and the brain regions involved in the processing of sensory information from their bodies. Also, the researchers gained insight into the connections among childhood trauma, brain development and gut microbiome composition.

A new study by researchers at UCLA has revealed two key findings for people with irritable bowel syndrome about the relationship between the microorganisms that live in the gut and the brain.

For people with IBS research shows for the first time that there is an association between the gut microbiota and the brain regions involved in the processing of sensory information from their bodies. The results suggest that signals generated by the brain can influence the composition of microbes residing in the intestine and that the chemicals in the gut can shape the human brain’s structure.

Additionally, the researchers gained insight into the connections among childhood trauma, brain development and the composition of the gut microbiome.

Previous studies performed in mice have demonstrated effects of gut microbiota on brain function and behavior, as well as the influence of the brain on the composition of microbes in the gut. However, to date, only one study performed in human subjects has confirmed the translatability of such findings to the human brain.

Studies have also reported evidence for alterations in the composition of gut microbiota in people with irritable bowel syndrome, but there has been little consistency among studies regarding the specific microbial alterations and the relationship of such alterations with the cardinal symptoms of IBS, recurring abdominal pain and altered bowel habits.

In relation to a person’s history with childhood trauma, it has been shown to be associated with structural and functional brain changes; trauma in young children has also been shown to alter gut microbial composition. But how they are related has been unknown.

The UCLA researchers collected behavioral and clinical measures, stool samples and structural brain images from 29 adults diagnosed with IBS, and 23 healthy control subjects. They used DNA sequencing and various mathematical approaches to quantify composition, abundance and diversity of the gut microbiota. They also estimated the microbial gene content and gene products of the stool samples. Then the researchers cross-referenced these gut microbial measures with structural features of the brain.

Based on the composition of the microbes in the gut, the samples from those diagnosed with IBS clustered into two subgroups. One group was indistinguishable from the healthy control subjects, while the other differed. Those in the group with an altered gut microbiota had more history of early life trauma and longer duration of IBS symptoms.

The two groups also displayed differences in brain structure.

Analysis of a person’s gut microbiota may become a routine screening test for people with IBS in clinical practice, and in the future, therapies such as certain diets and probiotics may become personalized based on an individual’s gut microbial profile. At the same time, subgroups of people with IBS distinguished by brain and microbial signatures may show different responsiveness to brain-directed therapies such as mindfulness-based stress reduction, cognitive behavioral therapy and targeted drugs.

A history of early life trauma has been shown to be associated with structural and functional brain changes and to alter gut microbial composition. It is possible that the signals the gut and its microbes get from the brain of an individual with a history of childhood trauma may lead to lifelong changes in the gut microbiome. These alterations in the gut microbiota may feed back into sensory brain regions, altering the sensitivity to gut stimuli, a hallmark of people with IBS.

 
Story Source:
Materials provided by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
 
Journal Reference:
Jennifer S. Labus, Emily B. Hollister, Jonathan Jacobs, Kyleigh Kirbach, Numan Oezguen, Arpana Gupta, Jonathan Acosta, Ruth Ann Luna, Kjersti Aagaard, James Versalovic, Tor Savidge, Elaine Hsiao, Kirsten Tillisch, Emeran A. Mayer. Differences in gut microbial composition correlate with regional brain volumes in irritable bowel syndrome. Microbiome, 2017; 5 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s40168-017-0260-z
 
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences.
“Gut microbes linked to brain structure in people with irritable bowel syndrome.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2017.
 
source:  University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences    www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170505151656.htm


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Are Gut Bacteria Linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Intestinal bacteria yield clues to the mysterious ailment, researchers say

Scientists have found differences in the gut bacteria of people with chronic fatigue syndrome versus their healthy peers.

The finding is among the first to link abnormalities in the makeup of gut bacteria – the “microbiome” – and chronic fatigue, a mysterious and debilitating malady.

Whether these differences are merely a sign of chronic fatigue syndrome or an underlying cause isn’t clear, said study lead author Dr. W. Ian Lipkin.

But they could be tied to disease severity, said Lipkin. He is director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Chronic fatigue syndrome affects about 1 million Americans – women more often than men, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People with the syndrome typically complain of extreme fatigue after exertion, muscle and joint pain, thinking difficulty and sleep problems. But only about 20 percent of people who have the syndrome actually know it, because it’s difficult to diagnose, the CDC notes.

Scientists have begun to look to the microbiome for answers to a host of medical mysteries.

Your microbiome is the community of bacteria living on and in your body. “In this case, we are describing the bacteria in your intestines,” said Lipkin.

“These bacteria influence how we feel, how our immune systems respond to our environment and our resistance to disease,” he added.

To explore a potential association between chronic fatigue syndrome and an imbalance in the gut environment, researchers recruited 50 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and 50 healthy peers from four U.S. cities. Most were women, average age 51.

Fecal samples from all participants were genetically broken down to identify the types and quantity of bacteria present. Blood samples were also analyzed.

What the investigation found is that people with chronic fatigue syndrome “have different bacteria in their intestines than healthier people,” Lipkin said.

Specifically, the research team observed that chronic fatigue patients – but not the healthy participants – had high quantities of several intestinal bacteria species.

Also, among people with chronic fatigue syndrome, investigators found that bacterial composition appeared to shift depending on disease severity.

Both associations held up regardless of whether or not a person with chronic fatigue syndrome also had irritable bowel syndrome. The two often go hand-in-hand.

“This study is an early but important step toward determining the composition of a healthy microbiome,” said Lipkin. Ultimately, the findings may aid diagnoses and point to new treatments targeting subtypes of chronic fatigue, he and his colleagues suggested.

“As the work continues,” Lipkin added, “we anticipate that physicians will be able to make specific recommendations that influence the composition of our microbiomes, and reduce some symptoms of [chronic fatigue syndrome].”

Currently, there are no approved treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome in the United States.

However, one doctor cautioned that much more research is needed first.

There is unlikely to be a single explanation or “silver bullet” for the syndrome, said Dr. Jim Pagel. He is an associate clinical professor with the University of Colorado Medical School System.

Pagel noted that microbiome abnormalities might reflect just one “secondary” factor related to, but not causing, chronic fatigue syndrome. Numerous factors could be involved.

The bottom-line: “We have only a very limited understanding as to what makes up an appropriate diet and the associations of gastrointestinal flora with illness,” said Pagel. “There is far more we don’t know than what we do know.”

The findings were published online April 26 in the journal Microbiome.

By Alan Mozes     HealthDay Reporter    THURSDAY,  April 27, 2017    HealthDay News
Sources: W. Ian Lipkin, M.D., professor, epidemiology, and director, Center for Infection and Immunity, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York City; Jim Pagel, M.D., associate clinical professor, University of Colorado Medical School System, and director, Sleep Disorders Center of Southern Colorado, Pueblo, Colo.; April 26, 2017, Microbiome, online
source: www.webmd.com


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How Probiotics Can Be Good for Your Brain

Did you know that there are roughly 40 trillion bacteria living in and on you?

Most of these bacteria reside in your gut and don’t cause any health problems.

In fact, scientists have begun to realize that these bacteria are essential for your physical health.

Now compelling new research has found these bacteria may also be beneficial for your brain and mental health.

This article explains how your brain is affected by gut bacteria and the role probiotics may play.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms, usually bacteria. When consumed in sufficient quantities, they provide a specific health benefit.

The word “probiotic” is derived from the Latin words “pro,” meaning to promote, and “biotic,” meaning life.

Importantly, in order for a certain species of bacteria to be termed “probiotic,” it must have a lot of scientific evidence behind it showing a specific health benefit.

Unfortunately, the word probiotic has become overused by food and pharmaceutical companies who were calling some bacteria probiotics even if they had no scientifically proven health benefit.

This led the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to ban the word “probiotic” on all foods in the European Union.

However, there is a lot of new scientific evidence showing that some bacterial species have true benefits for health.

They may benefit those with conditions including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), eczema, dermatitis, unhealthy cholesterol levels and liver disease.

Most probiotics belong to one of two types of bacteria: Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria. There are many different species and strains within these groups, and they may have different effects on the body.

Bottom Line: Probiotics are live microorganisms that have a proven health benefit for the body.

How Are Your Intestines and Brain Connected?

The intestines and brain are connected physically and biochemically.

The physical connection between the intestines and brain is through the central nervous system, which controls all of the activities of the body.

The vagus nerve is a large nerve that sends signals between the intestines and brain.

The brain is also connected to the intestines through your gut microbes. Molecules that they produce can act as signals that the brain can detect.

In the past, scientists have estimated that a person has approximately 100 trillion bacterial cells in their body and only 10 trillion human cells, meaning your own cells are outnumbered by 10 to 1.

However, recent estimates suggest that you have roughly 30 trillion human cells and 40 trillion bacteria. This is still pretty impressive and means that, by number of cells, you are more bacteria than human.

The majority of these bacteria are in your gut, so they’re in direct contact with the cells that line your intestines and with everything that enters your body. That includes food, medicines and microbes.

Alongside your gut bacteria, there are many other microbes, such as yeasts and fungi. Collectively, these microbes are known as the gut microbiota or gut microbiome.

Each of these bacteria can produce different compounds, such as short-chain fatty acids, neurotransmitters and amino acids. Many of these substances have effects on the brain.

In addition to producing brain-altering substances, gut bacteria can also influence the brain and central nervous system by controlling inflammation and hormone production.

Bottom Line: There are thousands of different species of bacteria in the human body, mostly in the intestines. In general, these bacteria are good for your health and may even influence brain health.

An Altered Microbiota May Contribute to a Number of Diseases

The term “gut dysbiosis” refers to when the intestines and gut bacteria are in a diseased state. This may be due to the presence of disease-causing bacteria, which may also lead to chronic inflammation.

An altered microbiota has been observed in people with obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other diseases.

Some studies have shown that certain probiotics can restore the microbiota to a healthy state and reduce symptoms of these diseases.

Interestingly, some studies have shown that people with certain mental disorders also have an altered microbiota. However, it is unclear if this is a cause of such diseases or the result of an altered diet and lifestyle.

Since the gut and brain are connected, and gut bacteria produce substances that can influence the brain, probiotics may be able to benefit the brain and mental health.

A number of recent studies have investigated this, but most have been in animals. However, a few have shown interesting results in humans.

Bottom Line: A number of diseases, including mental disorders, are associated with higher disease-causing bacteria in the intestines. Some probiotics may be able to restore healthy bacteria to reduce symptoms.

Taking Probiotic Supplements May Reduce Symptoms of Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Stress and anxiety are increasingly common and depression is one of the leading causes of disease worldwide.

A number of these disorders, especially stress and anxiety, are associated with high blood levels of cortisol, the human stress hormone.

Only one study has examined how probiotics affect patients with clinically diagnosed depression.

In the study, consuming a mixture of three Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria strains for eight weeks significantly reduced depressive symptoms. The probiotic also reduced inflammation in the patients.

A handful of other studies have examined how probiotics affect depressive symptoms in healthy subjects. In healthy people, certain probiotics may reduce:

  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Psychological distress
  • Academic stress

Bottom Line: Certain probiotics may reduce anxiety, stress and depressive symptoms in healthy people. More research is needed about potential benefits for people with clinically diagnosed psychological disorders.

 

probiotic foods

 

Taking Probiotic Supplements May Reduce Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is directly related to the function of the colon, but the disease is sometimes considered a psychological disorder.

Anxiety and depression are common in IBS sufferers. Interestingly, people who have IBS also tend to have an altered microbiota.

Many studies have shown that certain probiotics can reduce symptoms of IBS, including pain and bloating.

Bottom Line: IBS is commonly associated with elevated levels of anxiety and depression. Probiotics appear to help reduce IBS symptoms.

Certain Probiotics May Enhance Mood

In healthy people without a psychological disorder, some probiotics may help improve mood.

One study treated participants daily for four weeks with a probiotic mix containing eight different Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria strains.

The researchers found that taking the supplements reduced participants’ negative thoughts associated with a sad mood.

Another study showed that consuming a milk drink containing a probiotic called Lactobacillus casei for three weeks improved mood in people who had the lowest mood before the treatment.

Interestingly, this study also found that people scored slightly lower on a memory test after taking the probiotic. Further research is needed to validate these results.

Bottom Line: A few studies have shown that taking certain probiotics for a few weeks may slightly improve mood.

Certain Probiotics May Have Benefits After Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury usually involves admission to an intensive care unit. During this time, food is usually administered enterally, meaning through a tube.

In some cases, breathing also has to be assisted with a tube, which can increase the risk of infection. Infections in people with traumatic brain injuries can lead to further complications.

A few studies have found that adding certain probiotics into enteral nutrition can reduce the number of infections in the patients with traumatic brain injury and the length of time they spend in the intensive care unit.

The effects of the probiotics on these outcomes may be due to their benefits for the immune system.

Bottom Line: Administering probiotics after traumatic brain injury may reduce patients’ rate of infections and length of stay in intensive care.

Other Beneficial Effects of Probiotics on the Brain

A handful of other studies have shown that probiotics may have interesting benefits for the brain.

One intriguing study looked at images of women’s brains after they consumed a mix of Bifidobacteria, Streptococcus, Lactobacillus and Lactococcus strains.

Consuming the probiotic affected regions of the brain that control emotion and sensation.

Other studies have shown that providing specific probiotics may reduce certain symptoms of multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia, but much more research is needed.

Bottom Line: Some probiotics may influence the function of the brain and symptoms of multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia. However, this research is still very new, so the results aren’t clear.

Should You Be Taking a Probiotic for Your Brain?

At the moment, there is not enough evidence to definitively say that probiotics benefit the brain. Therefore, they cannot yet be considered a treatment for any brain-related disorders.

If you’re looking to treat such disorders, consult a doctor.

That said, there is good evidence that probiotics can benefit other aspects of health, including heart health, digestive disorders, eczema and dermatitis.

Thus far, scientific evidence does show a clear connection between the gut and the brain. It’s an exciting area of research that is expanding rapidly.

A healthy gut microbiota can usually be obtained by a healthy diet and lifestyle. A number of foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi usually contain beneficial bacteria.

If necessary, taking probiotic supplements can help you increase the beneficial bacterial species in your intestines. In general, consuming probiotics is safe and causes few side effects.

If you’re buying a probiotic, choose one that has scientific evidence behind it. Lactobacillus GG (LGG) and VSL#3 have both been widely studied and shown a number of health benefits.

Bottom Line: Probiotics have been shown to benefit other aspects of health, but not enough research has been done to definitively demonstrate whether probiotics have positive effects on the brain.

Take Home Message

Although the research is promising, it is too soon to recommend any probiotic specifically to boost brain health.

Still, current evidence gives some food for thought about how probiotics may be used to enhance brain health in the future.

By Dr. Ruairi Robertson


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9 Reasons To Eat Honey Daily

 The possible health benefits of honey have been documented in early Greek, Roman, Vedic, and Islamic texts and healing qualities of honey were referred to by philosophers and scientists all the way back to ancient times, such as Aristotle (384-322 BC) and Aristoxenus (320 BC). – Joseph Nordqvist, Medical News Daily
For something that tastes so good, honey isn’t consumed all that often. Besides being delicious, honey is also densely packed with valuable nutrition, such as nutrients. Honey is also quite healthy: a tablespoon of raw, unadulterated honey contains 64 calories, and is free from cholesterol, fat, and sodium.
The ideal nutritional composition of honey almost assuredly helps give the natural sweeter its health-promoting properties. Here, we’re going to discuss nine such health benefits of this sweet nectar.

HERE ARE NINE AMAZING HEALTH BENEFITS OF HONEY:

1. RELIEVES ALLERGIES
Honey has anti-inflammatory properties that many believe can help with reducing allergic reactions. Honey itself contains traces of pollen that can initiate an immune response when exposed to it. Over time, the body will produce enough antibodies to the pollen, which effectively causes the body to release less histamine. Consequently, the body will exhibit a more limited immune response.
2. SUPPRESSES COUGH
The viscus texture of honey causes it to accumulate a sort-of coat around the throat area. This coating can help with throat irritation often experienced during a coughing episode. Honey also stimulates the nerve endings of the throat, which serves as a protection mechanism while coughing.
The American Academy of Pediatrics released a comprehensive study pertaining to the cough suppression properties of honey. Using three different honey varieties – citrus, eucalyptus, and labiatae – researchers administered a 10-gram dose to 300 children aged 1 to 5 years. According to the study, “there was significant improvement from the night before treatment to the night of treatment.”
3. NATURALLY PROMOTES SLEEP
Honey can be a beneficial for a sleepless night. Consuming honey causes an increase in serotonin and insulin levels, while the body systematically converts them into melatonin – a compound that both promotes and regulates sleep. Consequently, consuming honey improves both the desired duration and quality of one’s sleep.
4. TREATS BURNS AND WOUNDS
It surprises many to learn that honey is a natural antibiotic. Medically, the antibiotic uses for honey span a multitude of both internal and external uses. It is a natural disinfectant against many bacteria, making it a powerful agent against wounds and sores.
Honey

In a study published by the British Journal of Medicine, honey was applied to 59 patients that had failed to heal using traditional medicine. Astonishingly, 58 of the 59 patients showed “remarkable improvement” after honey was applied to the wound.

5. IMPROVES MEMORY
Oxidation of the brain can lead to structural damage and cognitive decline. Honey products help in this regard, as the substance contains high levels of antioxidants that may reverse this adverse effect. Honey also helps to absorb calcium – a vital nutrient for brain nourishment. It is believed that these two mechanisms of honey can aid cognition, including memory.
6. PROVIDES ENERGY
Honey can also provide a much-needed energy spike. This all-natural sweetener contains fructose and glucose, which can quickly enter the bloodstream and produce a burst of energy. Even those seeking to gain muscle mass can benefit from the unique energy properties of honey. Honey which can actually help them build bulk via release of insulin-life growthfactor-1 (IGF-1).
7. TREATS DANDRUFF
Kind of an odd-one-out sort of deal here, but as already mentioned, honey is a potent natural healer for the skin. In a study published by the US National Library of Medicine, patients that applied diluted honey to areas of flaking scalp three hours before rinsing “responded markedly with application.” In the same study, scalp itching disappeared within one week; skin lesions in two weeks, and some patients even showed “subjective improvement in hair loss.”
8. HELPS ACID REFLUX
According to RefluxMD, honey supposedly reduces the symptoms of acid reflux. Honey coats the lining of the esophagus, which may lead to soothing of irritation. Consumption of honey is also thought to counteract any internal damage caused by acid reflux. Further, the heavy concentrations of enzymes within honey assists with digestion, which may help to prevent the occurrence of acid reflux. So, forget the Alka-Seltzer…reach for the honey!
9. STRENGTHENS THE GUT
Honey can be used as a prebiotic, which in turn provides sustenance to the healthy bacteria in our gut. Healthy bacteria are required to properly digest food, absorb nutrients, and equalize the immune system. It is also suggested that honey, because of its prebiotic properties, can deter problematic digestive conditions such as Celiac Disease, Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and others.


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Foods That Double as Medicine

By Ben Smart, Special to CNN    Thu July 23, 2015

(CNN)A typical visit to the doctor might leave you with a bottle of pills and instructions to take them twice daily.

But a small, growing number of physicians are “prescribing” foods not only for weight management, but also to prevent and treat chronic diseases.

CNN spoke with medical nutrition experts to unearth the specific foods they recommend. And you don’t have to be a chef or nutritionist to take advantage of these healthy choices.

While one food might be recommended as treatment for a specific ailment, it’s important to remember that a single food item doesn’t work in isolation, said Dr. Melina Jampolis, a board-certified physician nutrition specialist.

“True nutrition experts prefer to speak about dietary patterns or groups of foods, as nutrients in foods work in combination to improve certain conditions,” Jampolis said.

However, there are notable exceptions to this rule, said Dr. John La Puma, a practicing physician and professionally trained chef. Here are 10 you may want to stock your kitchen with before reaching in the medicine cabinet.

Buckwheat honey for a cough

Derived from the bee nectar of flowers of the buckwheat grain, buckwheat honey might eventually make its way into every parent’s medicine cabinet.

“Buckwheat honey is better than cough syrup for nocturnal cough in kids,” according to La Puma. This is an especially useful food-as-medicine for children under 6, who are ill-advised to take over-the-counter cough medicines.

“Foods can work like medicine in the body — and they do,” said La Puma.

Pickled foods for diarrhea

Fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, pickled vegetables, miso, kimchi and poi. These foods contain living bacteria that help maintain the health of the digestive tract, said Dr. Gerard Mullin, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and author of “The Gut Balance Revolution.”

These bacteria-filled foods can be used to prevent and treat antibiotic-associated diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, infantile diarrhea, eczema and allergies, according to Mullin. “But the hottest use of fermented foods is to burn stubborn fat,” Mullin said.

A study from 2012 that reviewed data from 82 clinical trials found probiotic foods were indeed effective at treating antibiotic-associated diarrhea. However, the data for using probiotics as a treatment for eczema are mixed. Some research found supporting evidence while other studies did not.

Ginger for menstrual cramps

Ginger is a pungent spice originating from Southeast Asia. “As a digestive disease specialist I frequently recommend the spice ginger in the form of tea for nausea and abdominal discomfort,” said Mullin.

Ginger could also be a helpful food-as-medicine for women. “Ginger probably works as well as ibuprofen for menstrual cramps. It works taken as a ginger capsule or chewed,” said La Puma.

One scientific review of seven clinical trials found that 750 to 2000 milligrams of ginger powder taken during the first four days of menstrual cycle was an effective treatment for cramps.

Peppermint

Peppermint for IBS

Think beyond candy canes and chewing gum. Peppermint is also found in supplement, essential oil and tea forms. When used medicinally, peppermint is prescribed to help treat abdominal cramping and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

“What I find interesting about peppermint is that when compared to the various medical therapies for IBS, peppermint is the most effective and the least toxic,” Mullin told CNN.

Peppermint oil is effective — and could be the first line of treatment — against irritable bowel syndrome, according to a 2005 scientific review of 16 clinical trials.

Hibiscus tea for high blood pressure

“Hibiscus tea has a greater anti-hypertensive effect than blueberries,” said La Puma. Infused as an herbal tea, hibiscus flowers contain anthocyanins, which could help to lower blood pressure.

The steeples of the flower are dried and made into a tea drink, which has a tart cranberry taste, La Puma said.

Multiple studies back up the blood-pressure-lowering abilities of hibiscus, including one published in the Nigerian Journal of Physiological Sciences.

Turmeric for arthritis

Native to southwest India, turmeric has a warm, bitter flavor. Used medicinally, Jampolis recommends turmeric to help treat inflammatory conditions.

“Turmeric is used especially for brain-related conditions and to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It can be also be used for arthritis,” said Jampolis.

Add black pepper to turmeric to maximize the disease-fighting benefits. “This helps your body absorb more of the curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric that delivers the positive health effects,” said La Puma.

Indeed, an article published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology explains the various disease-fighting benefits of turmeric.

Chia seeds for high cholesterol

Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are nutrient-dense and often labeled as a “superfood.”

Dr. Jampolis said she recommends them to patients with high LDL cholesterol as a bonus to other healthy food choices. “I can actually say that I’ve seen great results just adding chia seeds to an already healthy diet for lowering cholesterol,” said Jampolis.

Steel-cut oatmeal for high LDL cholesterol

“This is a no-brainer for lowering LDL if you haven’t tried anything else,” said La Puma. “There are lots of studies showing that foods high in soluble fiber lower LDL cholesterol.”

One such study found that eating at least 3 grams of oats daily is associated with lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Try mixing in a spoonful of chia seeds to maximize the cholesterol-lowering impact.

Beans for high blood sugar levels

Beans are useful in lowering blood sugar levels and managing high cholesterol, according to Jampolis. And because they’re loaded with fiber, beans can help induce that “full” feeling to help with weight loss.

“I have certainly seen improvements in blood sugar with encouraging more fiber-rich foods like beans that are also rich in magnesium, but it is harder to isolate that effect alone,” said Jampolis.

Salmon for inflamation

With its pink-orange hue and distinct smell, salmon is one of the best dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats are an important part of treating any inflammatory or autoimmune condition, according to Dr. Jampolis.

Jampolis also recommends salmon to those dealing with high triglyceride levels, metabolic syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis or MS.

“I think most people think food can’t possibly be as potent as drugs, but I see the powerful direct benefits all the time,” said Jampolis.

source: www.cnn.com