Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Why Suicide Is More Than A Mental Health Issue

Suicide prevention efforts shift towards improving mental health of everyone

Renowned chef Anthony Bourdain has been found dead in France while working on CNN program. He’s part of an age cohort with rising suicide rates in the U.S. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)
The deaths this week of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade come at at a time when new numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show suicide is on the rise.

The CDC said suicide rates in the U.S. increased more than 30 per cent between 1999 and 2016. The reasons for the rise are complicated and multidimensional.

“Suicide is more than a mental health issue,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, told reporters on Thursday.

“We don’t think we can just leave this to the mental health system to manage.”

Multiple circumstances

Bourdain took his own life, CNN said Friday. New York City’s chief medical examiner ruled that Spade’s death earlier this week was also a suicide.

Spade’s husband and business partner, Andy Spade, said she suffered from depression and anxiety for many years, but was seeing a doctor regularly and taking medication.

In its Vital Signs report, the CDC said that nearly 45,000 Americans died by their own hand in 2016. The latest U.S. data suggests in 54 per cent of completed suicides, there were no known mental health conditions.

In a sampling of 27 states, relationship problems were considered a contributing factor in 42 per cent of all suicides in 2015. “Problematic substance use” was listed in 28 per cent of cases.

Even so, the CDC acknowledges that poor mental health isn’t always easy to detect. The agency said there could be a number of reasons why the reported level of mental illness could underestimate its actual effect, including:

  • Not all illnesses are formally diagnosed.
  • Stigma still surrounds a diagnosis.
  • Loved ones might not have been aware of a mental health condition.

 

‘Disturbing’ age findings

Bourdain and Spade died at 61 and 55, respectively — an age cohort with strikingly high suicide rates in the U.S., according to the CDC.

“Middle-aged adults had the largest number of suicides and a particularly high increase in suicide rates. These findings are disturbing,” said Schuchat.

Patrick Smith, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association in Toronto, said he isn’t aware of a similar increase among that age group in Canada. But he said Bourdain and Spade’s deaths show that high-profile status is no bulwark against depression and other mental illnesses.

“Someone doesn’t say, ‘Wow, they had everything. I can’t believe they got cancer.’ But we still say that about suicide or depression,” said Smith.

“That’s really the societal challenge — to try to understand that depression and other mental illnesses can be found in every postal code and every income bracket.”

In the U.S., middle-aged adults also have higher rates of drug overdoses, Schuchat said. She pointed to emerging social science research suggesting increases in suicide correlate with “deaths of despair” among middle-age populations who may be harder hit by economic downturns.

suicide

 

The need for intervention

Suicide ranked as the ninth-leading cause of death in Canada in 2009, the last year for which numbers are available, and is the 10th-leading cause of death overall in the U.S.

In both countries, suicide prevention efforts are shifting toward meeting people’s needs before they reach crisis. Just as doctors don’t wait until cancer reaches stage 4 to intervene, Smith said experience in the U.K. shows that after community-based programs to provide support to people in workplaces and schools were introduced, prison populations were reduced and there was a dramatic drop in emergency room visits.

In countries with more community support, rates of feeling suicidal will be similar, Smith said, but there’s a better chance of having lower suicide rates.

Everyone has to take care of their mental health and the goal is to normalize conversations to improve and enhance it, Smith said.

Bourdain spoke to CBC last year about some of the psychological challenges he faced separating from his second wife and missing his daughter while travelling the globe for his show Parts Unknown. He’d also talked about his struggles with mental health and a history of drug use.

The CDC recommends teaching children, teens and adults coping and problem-solving skills, building social connections and maintaining dialogue. The agency also encourages safe storage of pills and guns.

Where to get help:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service

Toll-free 1-833-456-4566

Text: 45645

Chat: crisisservicescanada.ca

In French: Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)

Kids Help Phone:  1-800-668-6868 (Phone), Live Chat counselling at www.kidshelpphone.ca

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre

If you’re worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them about it, says the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

Here are some warning signs:

    • Suicidal thoughts.
    • Substance abuse.
    • Purposelessness.
    • Anxiety.
    • Feeling trapped.
    • Hopelessness and helplessness.
    • Withdrawal.
    • Anger.
    • Recklessness.
    • Mood changes.
CBC News      Jun 08, 2018
With files from CBC’s Amina Zafar and Associated Press
source: www.cbc.ca
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How Your Next Meal Could Help Fight Depression And Stress

Do you find that food deeply affects your mood? Science is beginning to back up such gut feelings.

The link between poor diet and mood disorders has been long known, but what has been less clear is the direction of causality. When we’re depressed, we tend to reach for lower-quality comfort foods, but can more comfort foods contribute to depression? And if we’re depressed, can improving our diets improve our symptoms?

New research is helping to pave the way toward greater clarity. One small but important trial was recently published from Deakin University’s Food and Mood Centre (the center’s very name a testament this burgeoning line of research). It involved men and women who were taking antidepressants and/or were in regular psychotherapy.

All of the 67 subjects had unhealthy diets at the start, with low intakes of fruits and vegetables, little daily dietary fiber and lots of sweets, processed meats and salty snacks. Half of the subjects were then placed on a healthy diet focusing on extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, eggs, fruits, vegetables, fatty fish and grass-fed beef. The other half continued eating their usual diets and were required to attend social support sessions.

Before and after the three-month study, the subjects’ symptoms were graded on a common depression scale. After three months of healthier eating, those in the intervention group saw their scores improve on average by about 11 points. Thirty-two percent had achieved scores so low that they no longer met criteria for depression. Meanwhile, people in the social support group with no dietary intervention improved by only about 4 points; only 8% achieved remission.

What this early research demonstrates is that even for patients with major depression, food may be a powerful antidepressant. And with no negative side effects.

One way a healthier diet may improve one’s mood is through our bodies’ immune systems. The same process by which we respond to acute injuries or threats also puts out fires initiated by our diets and lifestyles. That’s why poor diet can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation, a risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease. These sorts of illnesses now account for 60% of deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

disease & diet

Though the mechanisms linking inflammation to depression are just beginning to be understood, other studies involving compounds with a known anti-inflammatory effect, such as curcumin (a component of the spice turmeric), have also demonstrated some efficacy in reducing symptoms. Though the studies are small and warrant further research, they strengthen the notion that depression may be the brain’s response to inflammation in the body, at least for some.

Whole, healthy foods also provide micronutrients that help the brain better cope with daily stress. Today, with 90% of Americans deficient in at least one vitamin or mineral, it has left our brains weaponless as it attempts to repair from the damage. Case in point: Nearly 50% of Americans don’t consume enough magnesium, a mineral involved in DNA repair. And yet it is easily found in foods such as almonds, spinach and avocado.

Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, eggs and even properly raised red meat. A large study found that women who consumed less than three to four servings of red meat per week were twice as likely to have a diagnosed depressive or anxiety disorder. The study was performed in Australia, where more of their meat comes from grass-fed cows, a caveat the researchers call out as noteworthy.

What foods should we avoid consuming to maintain a healthy, balanced mood? Sugar and highly refined, processed oils, which include canola, corn and soybean oil (the use of which has skyrocketed up to 1,000% over the past century). These foods have been linked to mental health issues including depression, and both now saturate our food supply, constituting in large part the ultra-processed foods that now make up 60% of our caloric intake. These foods, when consumed chronically, drive inflammation and deplete our bodies’ protective resources, compounding the damage done.

Although the science regarding diet and mood has a long way to go before being settled, there’s little reason to wait given that switching to a healthier diet may help and is definitively better for your overall health. Research suggests that a better diet may even be easier on your wallet.

Max Lugavere is a health and science journalist and the author of “Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life.”

By Max Lugavere     Tuesday, March 20, 2018
 
source: www.cnn.com


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Everyday Items That May Be Hindering Your Health

Everyday items could be causing everything from mood swings to infertility and even cancer.

Chemicals found in plastic water bottles, lipsticks, tampons, receipts and even tap water are wreaking havoc on people’s hormones, which is linked to a growing number of health problems.

Research published earlier this week reveals more than 90 percent of receipts contain the so-called ‘gender-bending’ chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) and its ‘healthier alternative’ Bisphenol S (BPS), which are associated with autism, ADHD, type 2 diabetes, premature births and early onset of puberty, reports the Daily Mail.

Researchers from the Michigan-based non-profit organisation The Ecology Center analyzed 207 paper receipts from a variety of businesses collected between January and April 2017.

However despite their health concerns, such chemicals are frequently added to day-to-day products to provide scent and extend their shelf life.

In a piece for Healthista, editor Anna Magee speaks to reproductive experts, nutritional therapists and dentists on how to avoid such chemicals and detox your life.

Most of us take the mood swings, grumpiness and weight gain of fluctuating hormones for granted.

Yet toxic chemicals in our everyday lives could be making things worse.

Known as ‘xenoestrogens’, these substances, which are found in plastics, cosmetics, sanitary products, receipts and even tap water can mimic the hormone oestrogen and are linked not only to middle-aged spread but also reproductive problems, learning difficulties and even cancer.

Dr Channa Jayasena, a clinical senior lecturer and consultant in reproductive endocrinology at Imperial College London, said: ‘We know little about such hormone altering chemicals but our increasing exposure to them is a cause for concern.

“The risk of these endocrine-disrupting chemicals is enormous and we’re just at the start of learning what they do.
“My concern is that by the time we work out what they actually do, they might be causing diseases we don’t know about.”

So, what can you do? Start by identifying the sources of fake oestrogens in your life and take simple steps to detox them.

Water bottles and other plastics

Dr Jayasena said: “Chemicals in plastics behave like oestrogen in our systems when they reach our bloodstream.”

Chief offender is BPA found in plastic containers, water bottles and linings for tinned foods and drinks. A 2016 study revealed that two out of three canned foods tested positive for BPA.

A survey by the US Centers for Disease Control found that 93 per cent of the population had measurable amounts of BPA in their systems.

According to the Food Standards Agency, there is European legislation in place which sets a maximum limit on BPA from plastics, however, such risks are being re-evaluated by European authorities due to new scientific information emerging on the dangers of such exposure.

BPA and other xenoestrogens not only effect our waistlines but also our reproductive systems.

Dr Jayasena said: “Men’s sperm counts have decreased dramatically in the last decade and we’re now looking at the part hormone disrupting chemicals in our packaging, food and water play in this.”

Dr Sara Gottfried, a US gynaecologist and author of “The Hormone Cure” and new book, “Younger: The Breakthrough Programme to Reset our Genes and Reverse Ageing”, added: “Many problems are co-related with BPA from weight gain to endometriosis and breast cancer.

“This and other xenoestrogen chemicals build up in the body, accelerating ageing and hindering weight loss.”

While some companies market plastic products as “BPA-free”, substitute chemicals, known as BPS and BPF, may be just as dangerous.

A study in April this year by the Endocrine Society in the US found that exposure to BPS could increase the aggressiveness of breast cancer, while a paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2015 reviewed 32 studies on the subject and found that all three chemicals are hormone disruptors linked to problems such as weight gain and reproductive issues.

• How to detox

Dr Gottfried said: “Heat, microwave use, dishwasher use or leaving a plastic water bottle in the sun can all release such chemicals.

“Avoid microwaving your food with cling film over it or while it’s in plastic containers.
“Use stainless steel water bottles where you can, cook and store food in glass, ceramic or stainless steel, and use glass or microwave-safe ceramics for microwaving.
“If you must use plastic containers, don’t heat them up”.

She also recommends people try and avoid tinned food or rinse their contents carefully before eating.

BPA is found in plastic water bottles, containers, and linings for tinned food and drinks.

Tap water, fruit and vegetables

Dr Jayasena said: “Xenoestrogen chemicals are in our water supply, fruit and vegetables thanks to their use in farming.”

For example, while DDT, a pesticide with proven hormone-disrupting effects, has been banned, glyphosate, a similar xenostrogen chemical linked to breast cancer and obesity, which is found in the common garden weedkiller Round Up, is still commonly available.

Round Up is one of many pesticides used in Britain that is made from chemicals with endocrine-disrupting effects, the residues of which leech into our tap water and rivers, and remains on the skin of fruit and vegetables.

• How to detox

Dr Gottfried recommends people drink filtered water, using carbon to absorb impurities and contaminants. Reverse osmosis filters can remove more chemicals but require fitting to taps at home and can be expensive.

Nutritional therapist Daniel O’Shannessy, who is also director of Bodhimaya Health Centre, says people can remove pesticides from the skin of fruit and vegetables by soaking them in water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before cooking.

They can also check websites such as the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) for their “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen”; lists of the most and least contaminated produce.

More than 90 percent of receipts contain the so-called ‘gender-bending’ chemical BP.

Receipts, sanitary products and napkins

Dr Gottfried said: “The shiny coating on receipts is giving you a dose of BPA every time you touch it and we know the skin absorbs such chemicals almost as well as when we ingest them.”
France is seeking an EU-wide ban on till receipts containing BPA, with most of its receipts being marked “sans BPA”.

Such sources of synthetic oestrogens contribute to your overall toxic load, increasing your risk of oestrogen dominance.

Other paper sources of synthetic oestrogens include sanitary towels and tampons, which contains xenoestrogens called dioxins – and are linked to fertility, immune issues and endometriosis – as well as table napkins, which may be coated in BPA.

• How to detox

Try and go receipt free, and look for organic or dioxin-free sanitary products that have not been bleached or dyed. Also opt for unbleached, uncoated napkins.

Dental fillings

BPA is used in plastics, with the resins making composite fillings.

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Dental Hygiene found that BPA was found in the saliva of all 30 dental patients surveyed, while further research in 2012, published in the journal Paediatrics, found that children fitted with fillings made from a substance containing BPA show more behavioural problems compared to their peers.

• How to detox

Dentist James Goolnik of Bow Lane Dental Group, said: “Composite fillings are the least expensive [around £200 a tooth (NZD $380)] of all fillings after mercury and, as mercury has so many confirmed dangers, many people opt for composite.

“But while many contain synthetic oestrogen chemicals such as BPA, it’s now possible to ask for BPA-free composite fillings”.
“Alternatively, porcelain won’t contain toxic chemicals, is tooth coloured, more durable than composite and is about £500 (NZD $952) a tooth.
“If the filling isn’t visible, the best option is gold as it virtually lasts forever, is kinder to your tooth and also contains no toxic chemicals but at around £800 (NZD $1,523) a filling, it’s pricey.
“I still wouldn’t recommend having plastic fillings removed because of the BPA effect as the removal process not only leads to more tooth tissue being damaged it can aggravate the release of more chemicals into the system.”

Cosmetics

That lipstick you cannot live without could be adding to your ostrogen load.

In the 1990s, chemicals known as parabens in body creams, lipsticks, scrubs, shampoos and more were identified as xenoestrogens, while in 2004, British researcher Philippa Darbre found them in breast cancer cells.

Likewise, a family of chemicals known as sulphates also have an oestrogen-like effect on the body and are responsible for create lathers in shampoos, body washes, detergents and soaps.

• How to detox

Dr Gottfried said: “Ignore labels such as chemical-free, ‘natural’ or ‘for sensitive skin’ as these have no regulated meaning.

Instead, opt for organic skincare and make-up, or products that are sulphate- and paraben-free.

Perfumes and scented candles

Dr Gottfried said: “Many commercial perfumes and scented candles contain phthalates, a class of chemicals found in a surprising number of common household products such as shampoos, deodorants, body washes, hair gels and nail polishes.
“There’s little doubt phthalate chemicals are a key contributor to the inability to lose weight caused by oestrogen dominance.
“Research into the effects of phthalate is ongoing but we know they cause birth defects in male foetuses, are associated with poor egg quality and early menopause in women, and may also be linked to breast cancer and type-2 diabetes”.

• How to detox

Look for phthalate-free cosmetics and unscented candles, ideally made from soya wax.

High-grade essential oils in water used with an oil burner are also a great alternative to scented candles.

Three ways to detox excess oestrogen

Simple lifestyle measures can help, according Daniel O’Shaunnessy, a nutritional therapist at the Bodhimaya Health Centre.

• Eat flaxseeds

Constipation can lead to hormonal imbalances by slowing down the passing of hormones from food and water through the gut. Flaxseeds contain fibre that helps ease this.

Try a tablespoon soaked overnight in a glass of water and then added to smoothies, porridge or taken neat.

• Eat broccoli

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, help detoxify fake oestrogen from the liver.

• Take a probiotic

This will help balance the beneficial microflora in your gut, which can help increase motility, meaning you eliminate toxins faster.

By: Anna Magee, Alexandra Thompson       Daily Mail      21 Jan, 2018 
 


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Improve Your Health, Well-Being And Happiness With Plants

As we enter a new year, it’s a great time to consider a few ways of adding greater value to our lives.  Engaging the world of plants will improve our sense of well-being, happiness and health, whether that means growing our own food in containers or a garden, nurturing indoor plants or simply walking in a green space.

In terms of growing the healthiest food, the latest research has found that not all varieties are created equal.  Certain varieties of vegetables have far more nutritional value and antioxidants than other varieties in the same food group.  Eating nutritious foods is one of the best ways to stay healthy and maintain a better quality of life, so it’s important to know which varieties offer the most significant health benefits.

Plants promote good health in so many ways

Food gardening has skyrocketed in popularity, mainly because folks want more control over the food they eat. They want fruits and vegetables that are free of harmful pesticide residues, and they want to savour flavours that can be achieved only by harvesting fresh, naturally-ripened produce.  It seems logical that today’s food gardeners should focus on the varieties with the best nutritional, vitamin and antioxidant qualities.

Leeks are great for flavouring many dishes, and the ‘Kilima’ leek has the highest nutritional value.  This variety contains vitamin C, B-complex, potassium, magnesium, silica, iron and calcium. If you enjoy leeks, it makes sense to grow this variety.

Onions are also right up there for flavouring salads, soups and meats, and the variety ‘Candy’ is the most valuable because of its ability to fight bacteria and reduce blood pressure, harmful cholesterol and blood sugars.

Peppers, both sweet and hot, are healthful in many ways, but the hottie, ‘Mucho Nacho’, is high in vitamin C, phenolic acids, plant sterols, and it has lots of carotene.  The sweet peppers, ‘Red Beauty’ and ‘Blushing Beauty’, are chock full of vitamin C, and, ounce for ounce when mature, have more vitamin C than oranges,

Tomatoes, the most popular garden fruit, contains cancer-fighting lycopene, a very strong antioxidant and free radical neutralizer, and ‘Health Kick’ has 50 per cent more lycopene than other standard varieties. Research has shown that men, who consumed a minimum of 10 servings of high lycopene-enriched tomatoes a week could reduce their risk of prostate cancer by 45 per cent. Very few foods contain lycopene — watermelon, apricots, pink grapefruit and guava have varying amounts.

oregano

Combine your favourite edibles to make a beautiful container

Leafy vegetables, particularly the darker green varieties like spinach and kale, contain high levels of lutein and zeathanthin, two carotenoids helpful in protecting eyes, arteries and lungs from those nasty free radicals.  Advanced Nutraceutical Research Inc. has found that folks consuming lutein every day have a 43 per cent less chance of developing macular degeneration.  Two to five servings a day of leafy vegetables will provide adequate amounts.

We often hear of the value of garlic, and garlic researcher Dr. Eric Bloch suggests that regular consumption of garlic lowers the incidence of stomach cancer and reduces the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Yu-Yan Yeh indicates that regular use of garlic results in lower cholesterol levels. Historically, garlic was used in treating infections because of its anti-microbial agent called allicin.  In addition to flavouring so many dishes and keeping vampires away, it also inhibits many harmful bacteria.

All these plant foods simply need to be grown, harvested and enjoyed. Over winter, as you await the arrival of spring and a new opportunity to grow these wonderful foods, do a little research on the varieties that will provide you with the greatest health benefits.

Revive your spirits when you surround yourself in a canopy of green

Our gardens provide another opportunity for improving our lifestyles: exercise. The regular, natural movement of the body is one of the best prescriptions for good physical health, and the anaerobic nature of gardening is an exercise we can enjoy.  The Royal College of Physicians in Britain has produced a list comparing various activities and the number of calories each burned over 30 minutes of exertion.  Here is part of that list:  90 calories when walking, 162 when raking, 182 when weeding, 202 when digging, 243 when using a push mower, and 243 to 364 when shovelling.  Clearly, our gardens can be our new gyms.

Green spaces also afford us the opportunity to engage with plants.  Arizona State University has identified a name for a “connection to plants and nature”:  biophilia.  Creating this connection by bringing the outdoors inside is the latest trend in “interiorscapes.”  Using water, living walls, larger indoor plants, and other natural elements boost people’s mood, productivity and health.  After a long, arduous flight, arriving back at the Vancouver airport to the sound of water and loons and the natural look of weathered stumps is a relaxing and comforting welcome.

The importance of green spaces in urban areas is now recognized as critical to people’s mental health and sense of well-being.  As little as five minutes in a park can have a positive impact.  Japanese researchers found that spending just 20 minutes walking in a natural area enhances mood, vitality and creativity.  They call it shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing”.  They discovered that trees in forested areas give out aromatic phytoncides, and “forest bathers” inhale these compounds.  They also learned that a forest walk, two days in a row, stimulated the human immune system in a significant way, as well as the production of a type of white blood cell.  Apparently, this effect remains 23 per cent higher after a month of forest exposure.

It’s hard to beat the sound of rushing water

According to the World Health Organization’s report, Urban Green Spaces and Health, increasing children’s exposure to green spaces influenced their cognitive ability in a positive way, improved their social inclusiveness and behaviour and lowered the risk of ADHD.  There’s also a growing understanding that the quality of “streetscapes” enhances social cohesion.

WHO also compared the proximity of green spaces and the corresponding health benefits.  Ideally, there should be 1.5 hectares of green space within a five to 10-minute walk from any home; a 20-hectare park within a 2km distance; a 100-hectare park within 5km, and a 500-hectare green space within 70 km.  Scientists have determined that one-hectare of green space per 1000 people in the surrounding area is the optimal situation.

This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the benefits of connecting to plants and green spaces.  To be happier and healthier in the new year, grow, nurture and eat healthy, fresh foods.  Enjoy the plants inside your home, the ones growing on your patio or in your garden, and visit the parks, gardens and forests around you.


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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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Selenium: What It Does and Where To Find It

Selenium Protects a Specific Type of Interneurons in The Brain

Exactly 200 years ago, the Swedish scientist Jöns Jacob Berzelius discovered the trace element selenium, which he named after the goddess of the moon, Selene. Besides its industrial applications (chemical industry, production of semiconductors and toners), selenium is an essential trace element and indispensable for humans, many animals and some bacteria. A team led by Dr. Marcus Conrad, research group leader at the Institute of Developmental Genetics (IDG) at Helmholtz Zentrum München, showed for the first time why selenium is a limiting factor for mammals.

Scientific ‘by-catch’ solves decades-old mystery

The scientists have been investigating for years the processes of a novel type of cell death, known as ferroptosis. In this context, the enzyme GPX4, which normally contains selenium in the form of the amino acid selenocysteine, plays an important role.

In order to better understand the role of GPX4 in this death process, we established and studied mouse models in which the enzyme was modified,” said study leader Conrad. “In one of these models, we observed that mice with a replacement of selenium to sulfur in GPX4 did not survive for longer than three weeks due to neurological complications.”

In their search for the underlying reasons, the researchers identified a distinct subpopulation of specialized neurons in the brain, which were absent when selenium-containing GPX4 was lacking. “In further studies, we were able to show that these neurons were lost during postnatal development, when sulfur- instead of selenium-containing GPX4 was present,” stated first author of the study, Irina Ingold.

Furthermore, the scientists were able to show that ferroptosis is triggered by oxidative stress, which is known to occur for instance during high metabolic activity of cells and high neuronal activity. “Our study demonstrates for the first time that selenium is an essential factor for the postnatal development of a specific type of interneurons,” said Dr. José Pedro Friedmann Angeli, a scientist at the IDG, describing the results. “Selenium-containing GPX4 protects these specialized neurons from oxidative stress and from ferroptotic cell death.”

Thus, the study explains why certain selenoenzymes are essential in some organisms, including mammals, whereas they are dispensable in other organisms, such as fungi and higher plants. In future investigations, study leader Marcus Conrad and his team aim to investigate how ferroptosis is triggered in cells. As a long-term goal, he wants to elucidate the role of ferroptosis in various disease conditions in order to be able to alleviate diseases, such as cancer or neurodegeneration, which are currently difficult to tackle.

Journal Reference:

Irina Ingold, Carsten Berndt, Sabine Schmitt, Sebastian Doll, Gereon Poschmann, Katalin Buday, Antonella Roveri, Xiaoxiao Peng, Florencio Porto Freitas, Tobias Seibt, Lisa Mehr, Michaela Aichler, Axel Walch, Daniel Lamp, Martin Jastroch, Sayuri Miyamoto, Wolfgang Wurst, Fulvio Ursini, Elias S.J. Arnér, Noelia Fradejas-Villar, Ulrich Schweizer, Hans Zischka, José Pedro Friedmann Angeli, Marcus Conrad. Selenium Utilization by GPX4 Is Required to Prevent Hydroperoxide-Induced Ferroptosis. Cell, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.11.048

Story Source:
Materials provided by Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health.
Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
December 29, 2017
www.sciencedaily.com

10 Foods Rich in Selenium

Selenium Function

This important nutrient is vital to immune system function. Selenium works in conjunction with vitamin E, vitamin C, glutathione and vitamin B3 as an antioxidant to prevent free radical damage in the body. It’s thought to help prevent cancer by affecting oxidative stress, inflammation and DNA repair. Selenium has been found to be important to male fertility; increasing selenium levels leads to improved sperm motility. There is preliminary research that suggests that selenium supplementation may also help with asthma symptoms, but more studies are needed.

Selenium Deficiencies

Deficiencies of selenium can occur in areas where soil content of this mineral is low. Diets high in refined foods may also lead to deficiency, as selenium can be destroyed by food processing. Taking anti-inflammatory drugs may reduce the body’s supply of selenium.

Low selenium levels can contribute to autoimmune problems, such as psoriasis and thyroid disease. Low levels have also been tied to stomach, throat and prostate cancers, although more research is needed to determine if this is a cause or a result of the disease. Some studies suggest that selenium deficiency is linked to mood disorders. There’s indication that deficiencies in selenium may contribute to the progression of viral infections.

10 Selenium Food Sources

The selenium content in foods depends on the concentration of selenium in the soil where the crops were grown. The following foods are generally considered good sources of selenium:

  • Brazil Nuts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Fish (tuna, halibut, sardines, flounder, salmon)
  • Shellfish (oysters, mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops)
  • Meat (Beef, liver, lamb, pork)
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey)
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms (button, crimini, shiitake)
  • Grains (wheat germ, barley, brown rice, oats)
  • Onions

Recommended Daily Allowance

  • Children (under 3): 20 mcg
  • Children (4-8): 30 mcg
  • Children (9-13): 40 mcg
  • Adolescents (14-18): 55 mcg
  • Adults 19 and older: 55 mcg
  • Pregnant women: 60 mcg
  • Lactating women: 70 mcg

Toxicity

Exceeding 400 mcg per day can lead to selenium toxicity. Side effects may include hair loss, white spots on fingernails, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and nerve damage. There’s some evidence that high selenium levels may increase the risk of squamous cell skin cancer. Another well controlled study found a correlation between higher levels of selenium and an increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes.

Because of the possibility of toxicity, selenium supplements are controversial. The safest way to ensure a sufficient level of selenium in the diet is by eating a variety of selenium rich foods, like those listed above. Brazil nuts can be very high in selenium and should only be eaten occasionally. One Brazil nut can supply a whole day’s requirement of selenium, although this can vary depending on soil conditions. A multivitamin that contains some selenium is safe for most people to take and can help to fill the gap in a diet that is lacking.

source: www.fitday.com


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Does Christmas music turn you into the Grinch?

Does Christmas music put you in the spirit of giving or turn your heart two sizes too small?

If you find yourself relating to a hairy, green, holiday-hating beast known as the Grinch when your ears are filled with the sounds of the season, you’re in good company.

A 2011 Consumer Reports poll found that almost 25% of Americans picked seasonal music as one of the most dreaded aspects of the holiday season, ranking just behind “seeing certain relatives.”

A survey this fall of 2,000 people in the US and Britain by Soundtrack Your Brand, a Spotify-backed company that says it’s on a mission “to kill bad background music,” found that 17% of US shoppers and 25% of British shoppers “actively” dislike Christmas music. Bah! Humbug!

Health benefits of music

When it comes to your health, science says music is good for you. Studies show that music can treat insomnia; lessen the experience of pain (even during dental procedures); reduce your heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety; boost your mood and reduce depression; alter brainwaves and reduce stress; help you slow down and eat less during a meal; help your body recover faster; and engage the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, remembering and making predictions. Many studies say the best type of music for health is classical in nature, full of rich, soothing sounds.

With all those positives, what’s the problem with Christmas tunes?

One reason you might find yourself cringing is oversaturation. Due to “Christmas creep,” music and decorations seem to go up earlier each year, much closer to Halloween than Thanksgiving. That gives you ample time to hear Mariah Carey’s hit “All I Want for Christmas is You” for what seems like the googolplex time before you get far on your shopping list.

It makes sense that too much of anything can cause annoyance, even stress, and put a damper on your holiday spirit, much like a certain famous “nasty, wasty skunk”: “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch … you have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile … ”

That’s certainly the case for retail workers who are forced to listen to holiday tunes on a seemingly endless loop in the workplace. Soundtrack Your Brand’s survey found that one in six employees believe Christmas music repetition negatively affects “their emotional well-being,” while a full 25% said they felt less festive.

Or … more Grinchy?

Putting aside the auditory attack on holiday retail workers, there’s another way to look at survey statistics: About 75% of us enjoy listening to Christmas music. And it’s not just baby boomer nostalgia that fuels those facts. According to Nielsen’s 2017 Music 360 report, millennials are the biggest holiday music fans (36%), closely followed by Generation X (31%) and then the baby boomers (25%).

Stores use music against you

Retailers are quite aware of those statistics and have learned how best to use our emotions to tap into our wallets.

Studies show that Christmas music, combined with festive scents, can increase the amount of time shoppers spend in stores, as well as their intentions to purchase. It turns out that the tempo of Christmas music plays a role as well.

Faster-paced pieces like “Jingle Bells” will energize shoppers and move them more quickly through a store than retailers might like. That’s why many rely on slower-tempo tunes, like Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” to relax shoppers and entice them to spend more time and money.

That makes sense to University of Cambridge music psychologist David Greenberg, who studies the relationship between our cognitive styles and musical preferences. He believes that how you think is an excellent predictor of what music you will like.

According to Greenberg, if you like to analyze rules and patterns in the world, like those that apply to technology, car engines and the weather, you’re probably a “systemizer.” If instead you enjoy focusing on understanding and reacting to the feelings and thoughts of others, you’re likely an “empathizer.”

Want to know your personal thinking/musical style? Take Greenberg’s in-depth quiz 

If you found yourself scoring somewhere in the middle, Greenberg says you’re a “balanced” thinker, and your musical choices will probably contain a mixture of high- and low-energy pieces.

“About a third of us fall into each grouping: systemizer, empathizer and balanced,” Greenberg explained. “But it also depends on gender. Females score higher on empathizing and males on systemizing.”

Just how does that apply to holiday music?

“Empathizers prefer mellow styles of music, soft rock, R&B and soul, music that is slower,” Greenberg said. “It can be sad or nostalgic and certainly has an emotional depth to it. That profile that matches many Christmas songs such as ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,’ songs with features that get you in the Christmas mood.”

A “systemizer,” he says, will like more complex, high-energy music. Examples include hard rock and heavy metal, such as Metallica, The Sex Pistols and Guns N’ Roses. It’s safe to say that most holiday tunes don’t fit into that category.

It’s possible, says Greenberg, that those of us who don’t like Christmas music from the start of the season might fall into the “systemizer” category. Or that you might prefer listening to the more upbeat hits on Billboard’s Holiday 100, such as this year’s No. 2, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee, or No. 4, “A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives.

So the next time the sounds and smells of the holiday season start to overwhelm you at your favorite retail store, relax. Understand that it’s all about personal style. Take a tip from the Grinch and let your heart grow – three sizes, perhaps?

By Sandee LaMotte, CNN     Fri December 15, 2017
source: www.cnn.com