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Your Gut Health, Part 1: How the Bacteria in your Gut could be Used to Treat Mental Illness

There’s a lot of speculation about the origins of so many diseases such as ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar, anxiety, depression and multiple sclerosis. And why are we seeing it now more than ever? A lot of research is going into the study of the gut’s microbiome, its healthy and unhealthy gut flora, and the possible contribution of the unhealthy gut flora to the increase of these diseases. But how?

 
gut brain relationshipAccording to new research published recently in the journal eLife, scientists with New York City’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai propose that altering the gut bacteria has a direct impact on the myelin in the body. Myelin is an insulating layer, or sheath, that forms around nerves, including those in the brain and spinal cord. It allows electrical impulses to transmit quickly and efficiently along the nerve cells. If myelin is damaged, neural communication is impaired and these impulses slow down. This type of damage results in diseases such as multiple sclerosis and mental illness.

In the study, facilitated by NYC’s Icahn School of Medicine, it showed that when the unhealthy gut flora taken from depressed mice was transferred into the healthy mice, there where changes to the myelin sheath of the healthy mice. These mice even began to “engage in social avoidance behaviors” that are similar to depression.

There are many studies found in PubMed that show similar results between the gut-brain axis and the illnesses mentioned above. I am a firm believer of the influential relationship between the gut and the brain and I look forward to studying the ongoing research on this topic. I also agree that our gut, widely referenced as our second brain, is a root of so many of these diseases.  

 

Acupuncture is of great support with any digestive discomforts you may be experiencing. We work closely with the Spleen, Stomach and Liver organs. By supporting these organs and/or moving any excess energy among them, we reach and support the root of many gastrointestinal diseases. A healthy gut is the first stage of overall health.

 

Sources:
 

Fiber as an Essential Role in your Diet

Fiber plays an essential role in your heart, digestive and skin health. Many benefits include:

  • Blood Sugar Control – by slowing down digestion, the breakdown of carbohydeat yo' fiber!rates, and the absorption of sugar
  • Heart Health – by lowering cholesterol levels, and reducing your risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke
  • Healthy Weight Management – by increasing your feeling of fullness; eat less and feel satisfied longer
  • Healthy Skin – by removing yeast and fungus out of your body by means other than your skin (which usually results in acne and rashes)
  • Supports Digestion – by reducing your risk of hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, gall and kidney stones, and providing relief from IBS

So, what are our options when it comes to fiber? Well, whole grains have been known as the best source of fiber, but why are so many people going gluten-free?According to a growing number of experts, humans aren’t actually designed to eat grains and, by doing so, it might be damaging your gut. In fact, to improve uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas and abdominal pains, it is recommended to maintain a very low fiber diet for a while. We will explore this topic more in depth next week, but for now, let’s look at all the options available for those that have a healthy gut and are not drawn to going gluten-free.

 
Fiber is commonly classified as soluble, which dissolves in water, or insoluble, which doesn’t dissolve. Most plant-based foods, such as oatmeal and beans, contain both fibers. It’s just the amount of each type that varies in different foods.
 
Soluble fiber dissolves and forms a gel-like material in water which helps lower glucose and cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, psyllium, and chia seeds.
 
Insoluble water absorbs water while going through the digestive track, which increases stool bulk and promotes bowel regularity. It acts like a scrub brush in your colon, which helps with constipation and irregular stools. Good sources of insoluble fiber are whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, gluten-free whole grains, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans, potatoes and chia seeds, as well. 
 
I encourage you to be mindful when you are shopping for snacks such as healthy chips or crackers. Read the labels. Ideally, you don’t want to buy anything with less than 5 grams of fiber, 3 at the least. You need the fiber to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and absorption of sugar. Otherwise, it will only lead to a significant spike in blood sugar.
 
Along with the adequate fiber intake, make sure to drink plenty of water and get your daily exercise to support the movement in your digestive tract. 
Sources:
 
 
 
 
  

The Benefits of Papaya

Christopher Columbus once called it, “the fruit of the angels”. And indeed, it is. Papaya is not only delicious, but is packed with a long list of nutritional benefits.

Once considered exotic, we can now find papayas throughout the year in almost anypapaya market. t has a slight peak season in early summer, but generally, the papaya tree bears fruit all year long.

Papayas are rich sources of antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes, vitamin C, E and flavonoids; the B vitamins, folate and pantothenic acid; and the minerals, potassium, copper, and magnesium; and fiber. Furthermore, papaya contains, papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins.

With all of the above nutrients, here are the reasons why you should include it in your diet.

Papaya:

  • lowers cholesterol
  • helps weight loss
  • boosts immune support
  • good for diabetics & heart disease
  • great for your eyes & macular degeneration
  • has an anti-inflammatory effects that protect against arthritis & asthma
  • promotes digestive health
  • helps ease menstrual pain
  • prevents signs of ageing
  • promotes hair growth
  • prevents cancer (especially when combined with green tea)
  • helps reduce stress
Sources:
 

The Benefits of Eating Foods in Season

Foods are the tastiest when they are in season. They hold the most nutritional value and are also much for affordable. According to Chinese Medicine, we are what we eat and our bodies function and flourish in direct relation with the external environment. If we consume foods according to season, we remain in harmony with the environment, adapt better to the season changes and stay healthy.

 

spring seasonal foodsIn different parts of the world, and even in distinct regions of one country, seasonal menus differ. But here are some overriding principles you can follow to guarantee full nourishment according to each season:

Spring is the season of new birth and new growth. So enjoy a wide variety of tender, leafy green veggies that represent the fresh, new growth of the season. This is the best season for sprouts, spinach, chard, leeks, onions, basil and parsley. Furthermore, according to Chinese Medicine, uncooked, frozen and fried foods should only be taken in moderation since these are harmful to the spleen and stomach if consumed in large amounts.

In the summer, since it’s so hot and we tend to sweat more, it’s best to keep to light, cooling foods that maintain the fluid and electrolyte balance. Fruits are great in the summer such as strawberries, watermelon and cucumber. Tomatoes are also great in the summer along with summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, and fish. The cooling herbs of the season are peppermint and cilantro.

The weather in autumn tends to be dry, so it’s ideal to eat foods that promote the production of body fluids to help lubricate the body. It also cools off in the autumn so it’s the perfect time to start eating warmer foods. Some examples of autumn foods are nuts, seeds, pear, pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot.

Lastly, winter is very cold and we tend to hibernate, preserve energy, and build strength for the spring. This is when we want to eat the most warming foods and maintain a diet higher is fats and proteins. This is the best season for meats such as duck, beef or lamb. Other common foods for this season are mushrooms, onions, ginger, potato and garlic. Both autumn and winter are great for root vegetable and warm soups.

So be creative, have fun and let nature be your guide!

 
Sources:
 
 

Exercising on Different Surfaces

runningWhat kind of surface do you normally walk or jog on?

Most people, now-a-days, run on concrete or a treadmill. Other options include asphalt, tarmac, rubber, or natural surfaces such as grass or dirt.

Which is best for your joints?

Most research claims that running on concrete is the hardest on your joints and is the cause of most stress fractures and shin splint injuries. Sport medicine doctors warn that forceful landings on concrete can be strong enough to shatter blood cells and reduce the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry to organs. If concrete is your only option, it’s highly recommended maximum level of cushioning and support in order to avoid landing with too much force. Furthermore, replace your shoes every 500 – 600 miles.

Asphalt tends to be a bit softer than concrete, but all in all, it’s common to experience similar injuries to running on concrete. In addition, running on asphalt exposes you to dangerous drivers, traffic, and toxic fumes from cars.

Running on a treadmill, interestingly enough, is stressful, as well, as it requires you to to flex your knees six degrees more compared to other surfaces. Ankles had to be flexed more as well. In addition, treadmill runners ran with greater force and used unnatural body formation.

Tarmac and rubber are better choices than the above options because they are less taxing to joints.

Most doctors advocate running on natural surfaces. It is much easier on your joints. And most runners prefer it as these surfaces provide for a more challenging and comprehensive workout. Grass, dirt and sand provide uneven surfaces for runners, which allows the body to work the full range of muscles, joints and tendons. The down side to this, however, is these uneven surfaces require extreme focus and awareness to prevent falls, ankle twists and injuries.

So which is best? All of them! In conclusion, it is recommended to switch surfaces, avoiding concrete the most. Switching surfaces teaches the body to adapt and avoid injuries due to repetition.

Sources:
http://www.livestrong.com/article/505422-how-to-jog-on-concrete/
http://www.outsideonline.com/1784266/best-running-surface-your-knees
http://www.runaddicts.net/health-nutrition/how-running-on-different-surfaces-affects-your-body

Which is More Important? Your Inhale or your Exhale?

How often do you hear this piece of advice? “Take a deep breath!”exhale

Whether you’re stressed, in an argument, at the gym or in a peaceful yoga class, this is probably one of the most common pieces of advice now-a-days.

And which part of the deep breath feels better?

It may seem like the inhale, but for your body, it’s actually the exhale. This is because, when you exhale, you release all the tension and stress.

So why does it seem like most people focus or emphasize on the inhale? Well, that’s simply because most of us don’t exhale completely and this causes the body to crave that next inhale. By holding your breath, breathing shallowly, or not exhaling all the way, you are actually retaining CO2, which is a known stressor on the nervous system. The only thing the body knows to do after that is force the inhale.

Ideally, we should all be breathing using, what Betsy Polatin, a Movement and Breathing Specialist calls, the “optimal” breath. “Optimal breath means you do not suck air in to “take” a breath or “push” air out to expel a breath. You allow air to flow in and out, so the lungs easily exhale carbon dioxide and effortlessly fill with oxygen. As your whole system slightly expands and contracts, your nervous system has the potential to settle and reduce stress, says Polatin.

So, the next time you find yourself stressed, angry, or breathing shallowly, don’t force the inhale. As Polatin recommends, “Try putting your hands on the sides of your ribs and gently pushing your ribs down and in a tiny bit as you exhale and then let them spring open for your inhale. Be sure not to collapse your whole torso as you exhale, and instead, lengthen your spine. Let your breath find its own rhythm.”

Sources:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/betsy-polatin/breath-in-motionwhy-exhal_b_4769819.html
http://www.swimsmooth.com/exhalation.html

Have you developed “Text Neck”?

Do you experience neck and/or back pain? Do you know someone that does? Spinal posture pain is becoming more and more prevalent now-a-days and there is controversy on whether itext neckt’s due to texting/gaming or simply a poor lifestyle.

Your head ways 12 pounds and the pressure put on your spinal column is quite substantial and rises the further you tip your head forward. According to New York spine surgeon Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, “Text neck may lead to early wear and tear on your spine and early spinal degeneration. As you repeatedly pull and stretch this area, it may become inflamed over time, which can result in muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated discs, and abnormalities to your neck’s natural curvature.”

According to CTIA, The Wireless Association, “Smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day hunched over their devices, which amounts to 700 to 1,400 hours per year that they are exerting this stress on their spines.  High schoolers may be even worse off, spending an additional 5,000 hours in this position.”

Some argue that we have been leaning over, reading book all our lives. What’s the difference now? Well, it’s the sedentary, inactive, stress filled lifestyle that a lot of are leading right now. Washington University neurosurgeon Ian Dorward argues, “The biomechanical forces on the spine and poor posture related to obesity and excessive sitting are a far more serious concern.”

The estimated amount of neck/back pain is substantially incrementing for children as well as adults. This can easily be due to our modern technological habits, but if we look at the whole picture, poor diet, inactivity, excessive sitting, and obesity is by far of greater importance and must be addressed.

 
Sources: 
http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-text-neck-20150404-story.html
http://www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=54612
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/12/27/text-neck-posture.aspx

The Surprising Benefits of Yoga & Stretching

Research has proven that the practice of Yoga is enough to keep you fit as well as key to improving the results of weight lifting. What is keep fit anyway? According to The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), fitness is defined as the ability to maintain good health and physical activity which is measured under four categories: cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular fitness, flexibility, and body composition. 
 
The results of one of the studies done in the United States that examines the relationship between yoga and fitness showed that the muscular strength of the subjects had increased by as much as 31%, muscular endurance by 57%, flexibility by as much as 188%, and VO2max (milliliters of oxygen per your body weight per minute that you can move or utilize) by 7%. Another study showed the improved lung capacity of subjects involved including athletes, asthmatics, and smokers. Other beneficial results of yoga include weight loss, increased energy, better sleep, risk reduction of injury and speedier recoveries. yoga pose
 
So how does yoga build fitness and how does it support weightlifting? It depends on who you ask.
 
– Robert Holly, PhD, a senior lecturer in the Department of Exercise Biology at U. C. Davis says, “Muscles respond to stretching by becoming larger and capable of extracting and using more oxygen more quickly, which result in muscle strength and endurance. An increase in muscle endurance allows subjects to exercise longer, extract more oxygen, and reach an increased maximal oxygen uptake.”
– Study author Dee Ann Birkel, an emeritus professor at Ball State’s School of Physical Education says, “Yoga poses help increase lung capacity by improving the flexibility of the rib area, shoulders, and back, allowing the lungs to expand more fully. Breathwork further boosts lung capacity and VO2max, by conditioning the diaphragm and helping to more fully oxygenate the blood. Poses also increase the heart rate, making yoga aerobically challenging and standing poses, balancing poses, and inversions build strength because they require sustained isometric contractions of many large and small muscles. Holding the poses longer increases this training effect.”
– Dina Amsterdam, a yoga instructor in San Francisco and graduate student at Stanford University, is one of many researchers conducting a three-year study that compares the psychological and physiological benefits of tai chi as to those of traditional forms of Western exercise such as aerobics. She states that, “When you bring your breath, your awareness, and your physical body into harmony, you allow your body to work at its maximum fitness capacity. Yoga class is merely a laboratory for how to be in harmony with the body in every activity outside of yoga. This improved physical wellness and fluidity enhance not just the physical well-being but also permeate all levels of our being.”
 
Sources
http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/is-yoga-enough-to-keep-you-fit/
http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/06/5-reasons-you-need-yoga-to-improve-your-body-building

 

2016 – New Year, New You!

New year new youHere are a few tips on how to start your New Year off right…

First and foremost, be gentle and forgiving with yourself. 2015 is in the past. Find the space to be grateful for all that it offered. Lessons were learned and now it’s time for the stronger, healthier, new & improved You!

Let’s start off with your body. I recommend a 2-3 week cleanse eliminating sugar, gluten, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, soy and peanuts. The idea is to remove the foods to which many people are mildly allergic. This allows the body clean out the bad bacteria in your digestive system. Also be sure to take a quality probiotic to support in replaces the bad bacteria with good bacteria.

The New Year is a great time to create new habits. We’ve all heard how beneficial meditating is. Why not give it a try? Start with just 5 minutes per day and you’ll be surprised how fast you build up to 15 or 20! Keep it simple. Either find a guided meditation online or find a quiet space to focus on your inhale and exhale. Thoughts are bound to funnel in. Simply allow them to pass and bring your focus back to your breath.

Meditating and exercising are great ways to deal with your emotions. I recommend finding a balance of both of these practices in your life.

Lastly, stop judging yourself so harshly. We tend to assume that there is something terribly wrong with us. Even our resolutions for the new year are based on the premise that there is something wrong with us. You are whole and you are loved. Focus on what makes you feel good and follow it!

 

 

Trillions of tiny creatures call your body home

Trillions of tiny creatures call your body home, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and others. They’re not always bad news, and in fact, our health depends on having a thriving collection of microbes.research-microbiome

Your large intestine is the largest repository of microbes—about three pounds’ worth according to some estimates. If you could count the number of individual bacterial cells, you’d find that although they are small, they vastly outnumber our own, human cells.

I’m going to see The Secret World Inside You at the American Museum of Natural history next week. A great time to remind everyone about the importance of the health of our digestive tract (aka gut).

“While each of us has a unique microbiota, it always fullfils the same physiological functions, with direct impact on our health.  ”

Some of the functions are:

  • It helps the body to digest certain foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest.
  • It helps with the production of some vitamins (B and K).
  • It helps us combat aggressions from other microorganisms, maintaining the wholeness of the intestinal mucosa.
  • It plays an important role in the immune system, performing a barrier effect.
  • A healthy and balanced gut microbiota is key to ensuring proper digestive functioning.

Taking into account the major role gut microbiota plays in the normal functioning of the body and the different functions it accomplishes, experts nowadays consider it as an “organ”. However, it is an “acquired” organ, as babies are born sterile; that is, intestine colonisation starts right after birth and evolves as we grow.”

“Millions of microbes enter your body at every meal. Indeed, after your skin, the digestive system is the main place where your body comes in contact with microbes.

The microbiome of your gut doesn’t just effect what happens there. New research shows that the state of your gut can impact your moods and behavior. Mood-affecting chemicals like serotonin are produced in large quantities in the gut…..”

“The immune system doesn’t develop properly without signals from skin microbes. Microbes can influence obesity and have been linked to a variety of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Clearly, our health is linked with the health of our tiny passengers…..”

There are a number of factors that contribute to the health of your gut microbiome, including your environment, the amount of exercise and sleep you get, and of course, stress. But the number one factor that determines what microbes live in your gut (and which ones die off) is your diet.  

Come back for a future article outlining the optimal food plan for your gut microbiome….and ultimately, your health.

 

Some great resources for your self discovery:

(http://vitals.lifehacker.com/beyond-probiotics-can-you-hack-your-microbiome-1689720231)

(http://vitals.lifehacker.com/beyond-probiotics-can-you-hack-your-microbiome-1689720231)

(http://www.gutmicrobiotawatch.org/en/gut-microbiota-info/)

(http://www.drnorthrup.com/how-to-improve-your-gut-microbiome-in-a-day/)