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All probiotics are created equal, right?  We understand that within our digestive systems, is a bacterial flora that is responsible for breaking down the food we eat, into useable minerals and energy for our bodies.  But do you know how probiotics really work, and how to evaluate high-quality sources, both dietary and in supplements?

Without probiotics and a healthy, balanced bacterial ecosystem in your digestive tract, the body is actually incapable of absorbing all the nutrients from the foods you eat.  In fact, you could eat the healthiest diet on the planet, but without a balanced G.I. tract, your body would be wasting valuable fiber, minerals and essential nutrients.  When things are not working well in the gastrointestinal system, it can have broader impacts on our immune system, making us more susceptible to viral, bacterial and chronic infections.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about probiotics out there, and much of it online, encouraging people to buy more, and take more active probiotic supplements on a daily basis. Did you know that taking too many probiotics can actually harm you?   We will share five myths about probiotics that will help you better plan your own personal dietary and supplement needs.

  1. All Probiotics Are the Same

Just because it’s labeled a probiotic, doesn’t mean the supplement is the same as all other brands in the market.  There are literally hundreds of species of probiotics that the medical community is studying, and they haven’t all been evaluated.   Each probiotic capsule or drink contains live organisms that are beneficial for treating certain conditions, like inflammation.   

Different sources of probiotics can have different effects, depending on the individual, lifestyle, prescription medications and chronic health issues.  Some can even impact the efficacy of the prescription medications you may be taking, which is why it is important to talk to your doctor about all dietary supplements you plan to take daily.

  1. All Probiotics Are Live and Active

 Did you know that live probiotics have a limited shelf-life?  Food labels do a poor job of explaining in detail, the type of bacteria, or cultures that are being provided in a probiotic.  Labels on many retail supplements simply state ‘live bacterial culture” without microbe counts, and they can be a single type of bacteria, or multiple types in one bottle.

Look for a supplement that indicates it is ‘shelf-stable’ probiotic.  What that means is that your daily supplement won’t work less efficiently over time.   Shelf-stable probiotic supplements are typically in capsule or tablet form, and must have an expiration date (like all vitamin and nutritional products).

A company called ConsumerLab.com acts like a watch dog for consumer products, and in 2013 an independent test found that 5 out of 19 probiotic supplements on the market, contained less live microbes than were indicated on the packaging and through advertising.   The testing revealed 16-56% less live bacterial culture, than advertised.

  1. Probiotics That Have to Be Refrigerated Are More Potent and Effective

A marketing tactic used by brand manufacturers, has mislead the public into believing that fresh probiotics are the only live or activated microbes, and superior to shelf-stable alternatives.   Some probiotics (depending on the microbe strain) do have to refrigerated, but because the shelf-life of those products are so much lower than tablets, many consumers choose shelf stable probiotics instead.

Vitamin manufacturers use microencapsulation and cryoprotectants to stabilize active probiotic cultures.  Additional dietary sources can also help balance the gastrointestinal tract, including many types of cheese, and of course, high-quality yogurt.   Remember, not all yogurts contain active, probiotic benefits; read the label to learn more.

  1. You Can’t Combine Probiotics and Antibiotics

When the body is undergoing a course of prescription antibiotics, the natural balance of the gastrointestinal tract is disrupted.  In an attempt to eliminate a bacterial infection, frequently the good bacteria (the stuff your G.I. tract counts on for digestion) can be killed off, and discarded too.   What follows next is inflammation, bowel irritability, upset stomach and other signs that indicate that the chemical balance of your digestive tract has been temporarily derailed.

Certain strains of probiotics are clinically proven to help the body recover, after taking antibiotic medication.  Chronic conditions like psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, and chronic fatigue syndrome have been scientifically linked to damaged digestive tissues, but probiotics are proven to help.   Ask your doctor for advice about increasing your probiotics while being treated.

  1. You Can’t Feel Probiotics Working

It would be more than a little strange, if you could feel the impact of millions of bacterial working inside your body, right? The truth is that you can’t feel when the probiotic is promoting internal health, but if you have been taking a supplement on a daily basis and stop, a few things may happen.

First, you may notice that you experience more indigestion after eating certain foods.  Consumers who stop dietary and supplement consumption of probiotics also sometimes report a sudden drop in mood, and energy level.  

No, you may not be able to feel them working, but when your body does not have enough of them, it becomes very apparent quickly, and it impacts general health. Urinary health is also positively impacted by daily probiotic consumption, and women who stop taking a probiotic may find themselves more susceptible to bladder and reproductive bacterial infections.

 

While ‘bad’ bacteria represents a threat to health and wellness, allowing the body to become even more prone to infect, probiotics are ‘the good guys’, helping to ensure that the gastrointestinal system remains in good balance, to support a healthy immune system.  And that’s a pretty big job for millions of good bacteria you can only see under a microscope.

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Uncategorized
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) tobacco products kill approximately 5 million people annually, worldwide.  Tragically, 600,000 deaths annually are non-smokers who contract diseases or health implications from second hand smoke.   The latest data shows that tobacco kills up to half of its users; 50% of people who smoke will contract cancer, heart disease or die from other complications as a result of tobacco use, and the World Health Organization estimates that the are more than 1 billion chronic tobacco users in the world, as of 2016. Continue reading “Smoking and Vaping: Is One Healthier Than the Other?” »
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Life Balance
We all sleep, but is it healthy sleep? You may be surprised to learn that according to research by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the National Sleep Foundation, unhealthy sleep behaviors of adults in the U.S. are now a public health concern. Approximately 35% of those surveyed reported insufficient sleep (less than 6 hours) and 62% said that they experience a sleep problem several nights a week. An estimated 40-70 million Americans suffer from sleep or wakefulness disorders.

Unhealthy sleep patterns increase the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, and depression.  They have been linked to traffic accidents, occupational hazards and reduced productivity.  Factors contributing to poor sleep hygiene include 24-hour access to media and technology, unconventional work schedules, and medical issues such as chronic pain or obstructive sleep apnea.

Healthy sleep is vital to good health and emotional well-being:
  • You fall asleep easily.
  • You regularly sleep 7 to 9 hours in a 24 hour period (sometimes including a nap) without long periods of wakefulness.
  • Upon waking, you feel refreshed and alert.

During sleep, our brains are active and our bodies replenish themselves. There are five stages of sleep: stage 1 is light sleep; in stage 2 the brain waves are slower; stages 3 and 4 are deep sleep; and stage 5 is REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, when breathing and heart rate increase, blood pressure rises, and we dream.  This cycle takes 90 to 110 minutes and repeats three to five times a night for healthy sleep. Most adults experience occasional insomnia, due to stress or worry or excitement, but if you are frequently unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, or if you suspect that your sleep insufficiency is related to a medical issue (e.g., if you snore loudly or stop breathing regularly in your sleep,) your doctor may order a sleep study or other tests to determine a course of treatment. If you find yourself feeling stressed or anxious and you just can’t quiet your thinking, here are some  things you can do to promote relaxation and restful sleep.

Before bed:
At bedtime:
  • “The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise” may not put you to sleep in 60 seconds, but it really does promote relaxation and a calm feeling.
  • See: http://www.medicaldaily.com/life-hack-sleep-4-7-8-breathing-exercise-will-supposedly-put-you-sleep-just-60-332122

What are your favorite tips for improving the quality of your sleep?  Leave us a comment or share a link to some online resources, and help everyone train healthy sleeping habits for improved wellness.
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Antioxidants, Probiotics, Recipes and Nutrition
Summer is here and we’re busy making plans for barbecues, picnics and outdoor fun.  As the days get longer and warmer, our activity levels often increase and our dietary needs change.  Some of the important things to remember are to maintain a balanced diet, to avoid dehydration, and to try to choose proteins and carbohydrates that require less energy to metabolize. Oh yes, and remember to use sunscreen!  Did you know that recent studies suggest augmenting sunscreens with antioxidants to boost immunity to sun damage?

Summertime offers us a wealth of choices for fresh produce, and buying foods in season provides optimal flavor and lower prices.  Visit farmers markets and roadside stands or even your local supermarket for healthy fruits and vegetables that are perfect for summertime meals and snacks.  Some of the best at this time of year are summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, apples, pears, plums, grapes, strawberries and melons.

Have you ever tried frozen grapes on a hot summer day?  They’re sweet and refreshing, and so good for you! Here are some more summer treats that offer health benefits along with great taste.
  1. Sweet summer corn contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help to protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays.
  2. Watermelon is about 90% water and helps to keep you hydrated while satisfying hunger with minimal calories.
  3. Tangy and refreshing, raspberries are a great source of dietary fiber and they contain pectin, which helps lower cholesterol.
  4. Tropical fruits contain vitamins, antioxidants and enzymes. Pineapples contain bromelain, an enzyme that helps to digest proteins. Oranges are a good source of potassium, which can lower the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
  5. Cauliflower is the new superstar in healthy foods. You’ll find it in everything from cauliflower fried “rice” to cauliflower pizza dough, and pureed, it’s a wonderful substitute for mashed potatoes.
  6. Iced coffee. Yes, really. While caffeinated beverages act as diuretics and in quantity can lead to dehydration, a single cup of coffee each day may reduce the risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer by about 10%. And a frosty glass of iced coffee on a hot day is heavenly.
  7. When grilling burgers, try using lean ground meat and whole wheat buns; add unexpected toppings such as guacamole, pineapple slices and feta cheese. These substitutions can reduce fats which require more energy to digest and lead to increased body temperature.
  8. Instead of meats, there are other wonderful sources for proteins such as nuts, seeds, sprouts, beans, soy products, yogurt and cottage cheese.
  9. Adult beverages seem to go hand in hand with summer parties, but alcohol is a powerful diuretic. Alternating drinks with water or fruit juice can prevent dehydration.
On the subject of picnics and barbeques, it’s important to remember hot weather safety tips. Food spoils more quickly in the warm temperatures, especially on sun-filled patio buffets. Make sure grills and prep surfaces are cleaned often and foods are not left out in the sun.

Here’s to summer fun and great seasonal foods. Bon appetit!
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Fitness, Health
Beautiful weather, vacation time and retirement bring thoughts of rest and relaxation. Imagine yourself basking on a sandy beach or swinging in a hammock by a lake. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

But it’s important to remember that a sedentary lifestyle invites numerous health problems including cardiovascular diseases, obesity, bone and muscle weakness, and metabolic disturbances. Inactivity can also impair balance and affect mental health and mood. Good health requires a balance between relaxation and regular physical activity.

How do people know if they are really fit? One way would be to visit the President’s Fitness Program web site at (https://www.presidentschallenge.org/challenge/adult.shtml).  These guidelines were originally established in 1956 by President Eisenhower, and they now have challenges for adults as well as for children.  There is an online evaluation addressing four vital areas:
  1. Aerobic fitness
  2. Muscular strength and endurance
  3. Flexibility
  4. Body composition
You can use the results to help shape a sensible fitness program for yourself and your loved ones. It’s a good idea to review the plan with your health care professional before engaging in any new exercise program.

Whether you choose to engage in moderate exercises such as walking and swimming, or more strenuous activities like playing a game of tennis or beach volleyball, being active outdoors in hot weather puts extra stress on your body and can be dangerous if you don’t take precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses.

When you exercise in hot weather, your core body temperature rises, triggering dilation of the blood vessels in the skin; your body radiates more heat, you sweat, and your temperature goes down.  But this takes blood from your muscles and increases your heart rate. High humidity inhibits evaporation of perspiration and body temperature goes even higher. According to the Mayo Clinic Staff at (www.mayoclinic.org), heat-related illnesses occur when
natural cooling systems fail:

  • when you are exposed to high temperatures and humidity for too long
  • if you sweat heavily
  • when you don’t drink enough fluids

Common heat-related illnesses include heat cramps (painful muscle contractions), heat syncope (lightheadedness or fainting) and heat exhaustion (body temperature as high as 104° [40 C], headache, queasy stomach, weakness, cold clammy skin). If left untreated, this can lead to heatstroke. Heatstroke is a life threatening emergency condition that can develop when your body temperature rises above 104° (40 C). Other symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and visual disturbances.  If you notice any of these symptoms, stop exercising immediately and drink fluids. Find a shady spot or wet yourself down in a cool shower or with a hose. If the symptoms persist or get worse, emergency medical attention is warranted. Remember, heat-related illnesses can be prevented by planning ahead and following these simple suggestions:
  1. Check the weather forecast for heat-index warnings.
  2. Avoid strenuous activities between noon and 3 PM, when the sun is strongest.
  3. Dress for the heat with light-weight, light-colored breathable fabrics. Wear a hat and sunglasses.
  4. Use sunscreen and re-apply every two hours.
  5. Stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water and/or sports drinks that contain electrolytes.
Fitness outside has a number of health benefits, and it is fun!  Invite a friend for a walk, explore new bike paths or a new outdoor sport or hobby that keeps you moving.  Remember to always consult with your family physician before changing your physical activity, for advice and health guidance.
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