Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Leave a comment

This Little-Known Supplement Improves Sleep

Supplement found to buffer the body against stress and improve sleep.

For a long time probiotics — the so-called ‘good bacteria’ in fermented foods and elsewhere — have been linked to all sorts of physical and psychological benefits.

Now the lesser-known prebiotics are getting in on the act.

Prebiotics are dietary fibres found in foods such as:

  • Onions,
  • leeks,
  • artichokes,
  • and chicory.

Prebiotic fibre — also available as dietary supplements — can improve the health of your gut by helping beneficial bacteria to multiply.

New research has found that prebiotics can help improve sleep and protect the body against stress.

Dr Agnieszka Mika, one of the study’s authors, explained:

“Acute stress can disrupt the gut microbiome, and we wanted to test if a diet rich in prebiotics would increase beneficial bacteria as well as protect gut microbes from stress-induced disruptions.
We also wanted to look at the effects of prebiotics on the recovery of normal sleep patterns, since they tend to be disrupted after stressful events.”

The study, carried out on rats, found that prebiotics increased both major types of sleep (REM and NREM).

The study’s authors write:

“Given that sufficient NREM sleep and proper nutrition can impact brain development and function and that sleep problems are common in early life, it is possible that a diet rich in prebiotics started in early life could help improve sleep, support the gut microbiota and promote optimal brain/psychological health.”

Dr Robert S. Thompson, the lead author of the research, explained that the rats were also stressed:

“The stressor the rats received was the equivalent of a single intense acute stressful episode for humans, such as a car accident or the death of a loved one.
A next set of studies will be looking exactly at that question – can prebiotics help humans to protect and restore their gut microflora and recover normal sleep patterns after a traumatic event?”

Professor Monika Fleshner, another study author, thinks it is too early to recommend prebiotic supplements for sleep problems.

However, Dr Mika said:

“So far no adverse effects from prebiotics have been reported, and they are found widely in many plants, even present in breast milk, and are already commercially available.”

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience (Thompson et al., 2017).

source:  PsyBlog     MARCH 8, 2017
Advertisements


Leave a comment

Are Prebiotics the Stress Reliever You Never Heard Of?

Before you spend another night tossing and turning from stress, a new study shows that the secret to peaceful Z’s starts with what you’re eating.

There are traditional methods for coping with stress, from relaxing in the tub to keeping a bullet journal, but according to the newest study, an effective way to bounce back from stress is to get your fill of foods rich in prebiotics.

While probiotics—those friendly gut bugs—are often lauded for their digestive benefits, prebiotics are less understood. WebMD defines prebiotics as “good carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the human body. They are food for probiotics, and their primary benefit along with probiotics is to help your body maintain a healthy digestive system.”

Researchers from the University of Colorado discovered that regular amounts of prebiotics in your diet can help promote a better balance of gut bacteria and help the body recover following a stressful event. Their study, which appeared in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, found that including prebiotics—from sources like asparagus, oatmeal, and legumes such as lentils and chickpeas—help our bodies resume normal sleeping patterns following a particularly stressful event.

“Acute stress can disrupt the gut microbiome,” Agnieszka Mika, MD, a lead author of the study told sciencedaily.com. “We wanted to test if a diet rich in prebiotics would increase beneficial bacteria as well as protect gut microbes from stress-induced disruptions. We also wanted to look at the effects of prebiotics on the recovery of normal sleep patterns, since they tend to be disrupted after stressful events.”

For the study, test rats were given a diet of prebiotics for several weeks prior to a stressful test condition. They were then compared against control rats that didn’t eat a prebiotic-rich diet. Researchers found that the rats that ate prebiotic foods prior to the stressful event didn’t demonstrate any stress-induced disruption in their gut and were able to resume healthier sleep patterns more quickly than the rats on the non-prebiotic diet.

Although the study was conducted on rats, the researchers say the results are applicable for humans. According to the study’s lead author, Robert Thompson, MD, “the stressor the rats received was the equivalent of a single intense acute stressful event for humans, such as a car accident or the death of a loved one.”

No adverse effects have been reported from the use of prebiotics, and with the non-digestible fiber found widely in many plants, breast milk and as commercial supplements, Dr. Mika encourages us to get our fill. These are the best foods you can eat to boost your good gut bacteria, because both probiotics and prebiotics are critical to a healthy microbiome, or gut bug community.

BY LAUREN REARICK
source: www.rd.com
Garlic

7 Foods to Boost Your Good Gut Bacteria (That Aren’t Yogurt)

One of the most astonishing recent health discoveries is how much our gut microbiome impacts our health. But when it comes to growing good gut bacteria you have plenty of delicious probiotic foods to choose from.

Cold potatoes

Cold potatoes—that is, taters that have been washed, cooked, and cooled—are one of the best sources of resistant starch. Resistant starch is a prebiotic, a type of indigestible carbohydrate that acts like food for gut bacteria, encouraging the good bugs to grow and flourish. While resistant starch has many health benefits, one of its most promising aspects is its ability to increase insulin sensitivity, helping people reduce diabetes risk and even lose weight.

Kefir

Think of kefir as yogurt’s tangier but more powerful cousin. The drink is made by seeding milk with kefir “grains,” which are tiny bundles of yeast and bacteria, and letting it sit. Over time the grains ferment the milk, producing a tart drink full of probiotics, or healthy bacteria. A 2013 study found that kefir can help relieve gastrointestinal problems and allergies and may even have a positive effect on heart health. One caveat however: Many commercial kefir drinks contain very high amounts of added sugar, which feeds bad bacteria in your gut, so make sure you read the label and ingredient list. These are sneaky signs you might be eating too much sugar.

Green bananas

Most people go out of their way to avoid green bananas but there’s good news for people who just can’t wait until they’re fully ripe. Green bananas are a rich source of prebiotics, particularly resistant starch. They also have a healthy dose of both soluble and insoluble fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The combo provides a feast for good gut bacteria and helps protect your heart and bones. Can’t get past the taste? Try them boiled or fried or sub some green banana flour in place of regular flour. Here’s how sniffing bananas could help you lose weight.

Kimchi

Don’t let the name throw you—this Korean dish is not only tasty but a health superstar. Kimchi is made by fermenting vegetables with probiotic lactic acid bacteria, which gives it the same boost of healthy bacteria as other fermented foods, like yogurt. Plus, since it’s made from cruciferous veggies like bok choy and cabbage along with healthy spices like garlic and peppers, it provides a mega dose of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. One study found that kimchi helps protect against cancer, obesity, and constipation while lowering cholesterol, boosting brain and immune function, and even providing some anti-aging benefits. Here are other proven cancer-fighting foods.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is kimchi’s German cousin, a lacto-fermented brine filled with cabbage, carrots, and spices—not to mention plenty of healthy bacteria for your gut. And not only does it have similar benefits as other fermented veggies but a study done by William & Mary college found that eating a daily serving of sauerkraut helped significantly reduce social anxiety. The researchers believe it’s because more than 80 percent of the calming hormone, serotonin, is manufactured in our guts (not our brains!) and the good bacteria boosted serotonin production.

Chocolate

Yes, it’s true! Chocolate can help encourage the growth of healthy gut bacteria. A study published in the International Journal of Food Biology found that combining chocolate with probiotics magnified the benefits of both. The chocolate protected the bacteria as it passed through the stomach, making sure it was absorbed in the small intestine while the bacteria helped the body properly digest the chocolate, enabling it to extract all the micronutrients and antioxidants. Talk about a win/win! Here are more healthy reasons to eat chocolate.

Garlic

Everyone’s favorite way to get bad breath also has powerful gut bacteria-boosting properties. Garlic is not only Americans’ number-one favorite spice (after salt) but is also beloved by bacteria thanks to its rich supply of prebiotics, their preferred food. Raw garlic is the best source but for those who don’t like the burn (or who feel like kissing someone later); cooked garlic also works well—so well in fact that a study published in Food Science and Human Wellness found that eating it is an effective way to prevent many gastrointestinal illnesses. Here are more surprising benefits of garlic. Feeling motivated? Try these seven other foods that also boost gut health.

BY CHARLOTTE HILTON ANDERSEN
source: www.rd.com


Leave a comment

Does Your Gut Bacteria Affect Weight Loss? Simplifying The Science

Researchers have learnt so much about our gut bacteria in the last decade.

The potential effects they have on health is quite extraordinary.

Some suspect they may have a strong influence on metabolic diseases, including obesity.

This article looks at how gut bacteria may affect weight, as well as what you can do about it.

The potential effects they have on health is quite extraordinary.

Some suspect they may have a strong influence on metabolic diseases, including obesity.

This article looks at how gut bacteria may affect weight, as well as what you can do about it.

What Are Gut Bacteria?

What are gut bacteria?Gut bacteria refers to the community of micro-organisms that permanently reside inside our intestinal tract (1).

These bacteria are also commonly referred to as gut microflora, gut microbiota, or the gut microbiome.

Studies over the past decade have begun to reveal just how influential these bacteria are on our immune function, metabolism, nutrient absorption, and risk of numerous metabolic diseases.

In fact, the gut microbiome is often considered a hidden or extra “organ” due to the way they can positively or negatively influence our health (34).

Summary: Your gut bacteria is a community of micro-organisms that live in your intestines. They can positively or negatively influence many aspects of health.

Can Gut Bacteria Affect Weight Loss?

If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.

While this is fundamentally true of a positive energy balance, gut bacteria transplant studies indicate it’s not nearly as simple as “calories in calories out”.

The class or type of bacteria in your gut also appears to influence energy balance to some degree.

Studies on rodents found that transplanting the gut bacteria of obese mice into lean mice (fecal transplants) caused the lean mice to gain fat cells rapidly (5).

Since then researchers have found striking differences between the gut bacteria of lean and obese individuals (678).

Faecal sample analyses indicate that relative proportions of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes – both “classes” of bacteria in the gut – can influence energy balance to some degree (5910).

Specifically, human studies found that the ratio of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes was decreased in obese individuals, as was overall diversity of gut bacteria (1112).

In other words, more Firmicutes and fewer Bacteroidetes is not ideal.

Researchers hypothesize that this “obese microbiota” may enhance signals that trigger the amount of energy we harvest from food. This in turn increases the amount of calories absorbed, and therefore weight gain (312).

Summary: Early research suggests the types and proportions of bacteria in our gut may influence likelihood of weight loss or weight gain. This may be due to its influence on mechanisms that affect energy storage and energy balance.

probiotics-prebiotics

Probiotics and Weight Loss

Probiotics are bacteria that we eat specifically for health benefits.

They enter the digestive tract to alter and improve the current makeup of our gut bacterial community.

Researchers are now looking to see if regular probiotic supplementation can influence weight. So far only a handful of human clinical trials have been published, but findings do support the idea that gut bacteria affects weight loss.

From the weight of evidence currently available, Lactobacillus gasseri appears to be the probiotic strain that can best assist weight loss in humans.

Note that some strains of bacteria appear to “protect” from gaining more fat, while others are linked to weight gain (131415).

Summary: Some clinical studies have found that certain probiotic strains can influence weight gain. This supports the idea that our gut bacteria environment influences weight management.

Diet Recommendations to Improve Gut Health

It’s unclear what specific strains of bacteria we need more or less exposure to for improved gut health.

The same goes for promoting weight loss.

Unfortunately, this means specific dietary recommendations are limited.

What we do know is that consuming more probiotic-rich food, as well as nourishing our existing gut bacteria, are fundamental for overall health.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods naturally contain lots of beneficial bacteria and should become a regular addition to your diet.

Think of them as a kind of natural probiotic supplement that “top up” the bacteria in your gut.

Fermented foods are actually very common in our diet, but healthier options include quark, plain yogurt or kefir, sauerkraut, and other non-pasteurized pickled vegetables.

Prebiotics

In order to nourish existing bacteria, you must regularly eat prebiotic foods (not to be confused with probiotics).

Prebiotics are a form of carbohydrate (mostly fiber) that humans can’t digest. It acts as “food” for the beneficial bacteria in your gut to grow and thrive.

Foods rich in prebiotic fiber include:

  • Oats
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Beans and legumes.
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Asparagus

As though we needed additional reasons to eat more legumes and berries!

Limit Junk Foods

Not only are junk foods high in calories, but high sugar foods appear to promote the growth of potentially harmful bacterial species (1617).

Feeding the wrong bacteria enables them to colonize and grow more rapidly, without as many beneficial bacteria to prevent them from thriving (181920).

The growth of this harmful bacteria may indirectly influence many aspects of health, including weight gain. Individuals who eat a high calorie diet appear to have a poorer ratio of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes, which is associated with absorbing more calories (21).

Summary: To maintain a diverse gut bacteria that promotes health, ensure your diet includes lots of prebiotic foods and fermented foods, and limit junk foods.

Conclusion

Current evidence suggests the balance and diversity of our gut bacteria can influence how easily an individual gains or loses weight.

Until we learn more, the best way to nurture a healthy gut bacteria is by eating a diverse diet rich in prebiotic foods and fermented foods. If this is not possible, probiotic supplementation may be a good option.

It’s also a good idea to limit junk foods, but you knew that already.

 


2 Comments

How to Improve Digestive Health

Sick? Overweight? Depressed? Blame It on the Bacteria in Your Belly

Many types of bacteria are fighting it out in your digestive tract, and the winners can determine your risk for a range of health problems. Here’s how to get the right mix.

By Celeste Perron

Your belly is a popular place: As many as 100 trillion microbes call it home. Many of them are beneficial bacteria that process hard-to-digest foods, produce nutrients, and—as we’re now learning—guard against disease. “Studies suggest that these bacteria may protect you not just from food-borne pathogens but also from cold-causing germs,” says Justin Sonnenburg, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford School of Medicine.

Yet your gut is also filled with “bad” bacteria that release toxins and are increasingly associated with a range of health problems. “If you have an autoimmune disorder, depression, allergies, or any number of other illnesses, the underlying cause may be an unhealthy balance of gut bugs,” says Mark Hyman, MD, founder and medical director of the UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. Having the wrong mix of microbes may even contribute to obesity.

So how do you cultivate beneficial bacteria and force the harmful ones out? Here’s where new research says to start.

Feed the good bugs.

Intestinal bacteria need to eat, and mounting evidence indicates that beneficial bugs prefer nutrients called prebiotics, which are primarily found in high-fiber foods including onions, garlic, bananas, artichokes, and many greens. Bad bacteria, on the other hand, prefer the sugars and fats found in processed foods. “There are indications that a low-fiber, high-fat diet results in more harmful gut microbes,” says Hyman. A 2010 study compared a group of European children who had a diet high in fat, sugar, and starch, with tribal African children who ate high-fiber, plant-based foods, and found that the Africans had more health-promoting bacteria.

Pick the right probiotics.

You can also tilt your balance toward good bugs simply by eating more of them—in the form of probiotics, which are live bacteria contained in foods and supplements. But if you have a specific health goal in mind, check the bacteria a product contains. “There are different species, and different strains within species, and they all have different functions,” says Mary Ellen Sanders, PhD, executive director of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics. A 2010 Georgetown University study found that the strain Lactobacillus casei (available in the yogurt drink DanActive) reduced the frequency of ear infections and gastrointestinal infections in children, while a 2006 study found that Bifidobacterium infantis (available in the probiotic supplement Align) relieved the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Avoid bacteria-harming drugs.

The antibiotics we take to kill pathogens also lay waste to the bacteria in our digestive tract. Research from Stanford University published last September found that taking two courses of antibiotics, spaced six months apart, changed the composition of good and bad intestinal bugs, disrupting the overall balance. Hyman recommends avoiding antibiotics when you can—if you have a virus that antibiotics won’t help, don’t ask for a prescription anyway. He also suggests laying off heartburn pills; although less harmful to gut flora than antibiotics, they alter the proportions of intestinal bacteria as well. The upside is, if you’re already getting the right prebiotics and probiotics, you may be less likely to need such meds in the first place.

Celeste Perron is a freelance writer and blogger in San Francisco.