Do I need to take Probiotics?

By Victoria Co, Zhao Su
What are probiotics ?  
We often think that microorganisms will cause problems for our health. And harmful bacteria can definitely get us sick.

However, there are numerous microorganisms, or gut flora, found in our body. And it turns out that some are good and helpful, we call them “probiotics”. And they are essential for our health. For every human cell, there are 10 microbes.  However, because of their microscopic sizes, they only constitute 1-3% of our body mass.

They play several roles. These good bacteria assist with the fermentation of non digestible carbohydrates and convert them into short chain fatty acids.  They can help us to convert vitamins into their active forms, including vitamin K and the B vitamins.   They can synthesize amino acids from ammonia and urea. They also enhance absorption of mineral ions, including calcium, magnesium and iron.
As a result, the dietary energy salvaged can actually constitute up to 10% of our daily energy requirements. These bacteria enable us to have healthy digestion, provide nutrients, and help in the formation of the immune system.

When bad bacteria accumulate in our body, they can result in many health problems including intestinal tract diseases, indigestion, obesity, and diabetes.  The immune system can stop functioning properly which leads to allergic reaction and infections in different parts of our body.

Recent studies also suggest a large part of our emotions are likely influenced by the nerves in our gut. (1) In fact, 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is found in the bowels.  Poor food choices, stress, lack of sleep and drugs (especially antibiotics) that disturb the gut flora may contribute to depression and other mood alterations.

Proper probiotics supplements can bring about the following health benefits:

  • Healthy digestive tracts and normal bowel movements
  • Stronger immunity system
  • Prevention of the growth of harmful bacteria
  • Alleviation from the damage of antibiotics or other forms of medication
  • Reduction in allergic reactions
  • Enhancement of detoxification ability
  • Improvement in the absorption of nutrition, vitamins and minerals in the food we consume.

What kind or brand of probiotics should I take?
Very good question, with thousands of different probiotics on the market that all claim to be the best one, it is one of the most frequently asked questions.  The quick answer is, there will not be a single best probiotic supplement for everybody.
Here are some interesting facts.

There are up to 40,000 different species of bacteria in human gut.

Every person has a pattern of predominant and subdominant species that is unique to them.
Some bacterial strains are unique to each person.

What kinds of bacteria are able to dwell in a person’s gut depends on the internal environment in the gut, and not so much on the kinds of bacteria ingested.

For example, fecal bacteria profile in Burkina (West Africa) children is completely different from the children in Europe (2).
Today, while concerns about antibiotics focus on bacterial resistance, the permanent changes in our protective flora could have more serious consequences: “Each generation could be beginning life with a smaller endowment of ancient microbes then the last.” (3)

After laying out the basics, even there are no perfect probiotics for everyone, people who are experiencing health challenges should consider a 6-10 week gut flora restoration program including a “weeding” period, “preparing the soil” period, and a “feeding/seeding” period.

Here’s a sample protocol with some commonly used products in my office.  With some additional individualized modification, patients can experience great improvement in their overall well-being.

  • Sat & Sun –“Weeding”
  • Gut Flora Complex 2    2X/day
  • Garlic Forte  2       2X/day
  • Monday-Friday-“ Preparing the soil and Feeding”
  • Lactic Acid Yeast   Chew 3    2X/day
  • Prebiotic Inulin  1 ½  tsp      2X/day

References:
1. The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine.   Michael Gershon
2. Greer JB, O’Keefe SJ, Front Physio. 2011 Jan 26;1:168
3. Blaser M. Nature 2011: 476 (7361):393-394

What kinds of sugar should I use (and avoid)?

The average American consumes 150 lbs of sugar a year!  There are many options to sweeten food, often seems like too many.  Glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltodextrin, corn syrup, etc.  Not to mention all the artificial sweeteners that can cause problems.  Sugar is added to processed foods so that you may not notice it. For that and other reasons, you want to ideally only eat desserts you make!

What kinds of sugar should I use (and avoid)? What kinds of sugar should I use (and avoid)?

Chronic elevated blood sugar not only indicates diabetes tendency, it is also a factor for many, if not all, degenerative diseases, such as, autoimmune diseases, hyperthyroid/hypothyroid condition, arteriosclerosis, obesity, arthritis etc.

One description of sugars is the ‘glycemic index’ (GI), which is a comparison to the sugar glucose.  Glycemic Index measures blood sugar level increase from carbohydrate consumption. A lower glycemic response usually equates to a lower insulin demand and may improve long-term blood glucose control and blood lipids, therefore reduce the risk of many degenerative diseases.

However, even if the glycemic index of refined sugars can be low, medium or high, each of them provides about four calories per gram, and none of them constitute a significant source of important nutrients. This information should help indulge your sweet tooth with some better alternatives to white refined sugar.

Most sugars are refined. Although some are marketed as being more natural and healthful, sugar in these forms is not found naturally. A glycemic index of 55 or below is low and is considered a more healthful choice, while a GI of 70 or above should generally be avoided. Medium-GI foods, with a GI between 56 and 69, can be consumed in moderation.

Our goal is to find a natural sugar which has a low glycemic index but is packed with nutrients.  I will list them from the most harmful to the most healthful choices.

 

Avoid

Maltodextrin

Maltodextrin is a sweetener that you probably don’t have in your cupboards, but that is commonly added in many processed foods. Avoid foods with this ingredient in the ingredient list because of its very high glycemic index of 150.

Dextrose or Glucose

Pure glucose is used as a reference when testing the glycemic index value of most foods. Glucose has a very high glycemic index, ranked at 100. Many processed foods contain dextrose as part of their ingredients.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Corn syrup has a GI value of 75, which falls in the high GI category. The glycemic index of high-fructose corn syrup hasn’t been evaluated and may vary, depending on its proportion of fructose to glucose, which varies with the type of high-fructose corn syrup used.  Clinically, I found many patients are highly sensitive to it.

Table Sugar

The regular sugar found in most people’s kitchens is called sucrose. The GI of table sugar is 60, on average, which makes it a medium-GI sugar.  However, it’s ultra refined process makes it totally void of nutrient and the body has to use much reserves to process it.

 

Moderate Consumption

Fructose

Fructose is the natural sugar found in fruits. It can be extracted and is also sold as a white powder, similar to table sugar. It has a sweeter taste, so smaller amounts can be used, and it has a low-GI value between 12 and 23.

Coconut Palm Sugar

Coconut palm sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm tree, which is boiled and then processed into small granules. This sugar has a low GI value of 35.

Cane Juice/Sugar

Sugar cane juice has a GI of 43, and evaporated cane juice has a GI of 55, which are both considered low GI values. These sweeteners are less refined than most sugar and often marketed as healthy sugars but still have to undergo a few processes to be produced. Like all sugars, they should be consumed in moderation.

Brown Rice Syrup

Brown rice syrup is produced from rice, as its name suggests. It has a low GI value of 25.

Raw Agave Syrup

Agave syrup, also called agave nectar, is produced from a plant called blue agave cactus. Because of its high fructose content, agave syrup has a low glycemic index value, ranging between 10 and 19.  It is 1.5 times sweeter than table sugar and does not spike insulin, however it still makes its way in the blood stream to triglycerides.

 

Recommendations

 Stevia

Native to Paraguay, it is a small green plant bearing leaves that have a taste that can be 30 times sweeter than sugar. The human body does not metabolize the sweet glycosides (they pass right through the normal elimination channels), the body obtains no calories from Stevia. Processed forms of pure Stevia can be 70-400 times sweeter than sugar. Whether these products are called Stevia, Stevioside, Rebaudioside, Stevia Extract, or Stevia Concentrate, if they are in their pure unadulterated form they do not adversely affect blood glucose levels and may be used freely by both diabetics and hypoglycemics. For people with blood sugar, blood pressure or weight problems Stevia is the most desirable sweetener.

However, in all of its current forms Stevia has a taste unique to itself. Along with its sweetness there is also a bitter component. If you happen to like it, it will work great for you.

 Note: I personally also use date sugar and maple syrup because of their rich favors and high nutrient content even though their glycemic index is at the mid range.  Try to find the most raw and non processed form, otherwise the nutrient content will be much lower.

Date Sugar

Date sugar is not really sugar but is dried dates, chopped up into small pieces, then ground. It’s considered a natural and non-processed wholesome food with high fiber, vitamins, and minerals. While it can substitute an equal amount of granulated or brown sugar, it doesn’t dissolve in liquids, doesn’t melt, and can clump, making it impractical for some types of baking. Nutritionally, it is superior to sugar.

Xylitol

Xylitol is the commercial name for a naturally occurring sugar called xylose commonly derived from corncobs and birch trees. It is much like many other sugars, but with a significant difference – the xylose molecule contains only 5 carbon atoms rather than the 6 present in most other sugars. This molecular difference is the key to xylitol’s beneficial qualities both as a food source and as a bacterial inhibitor in both medical and dental use.

Xylitol has no Aftertaste.  It has 40% fewer calories then table sugar. Xylitol is an ideal alternative sweetener in foods prepared for weight loss or for anyone concerned about the overuse of sugar in their diet.

5 Everyday Anti-Aging Tips

Do you not want to accept the aging process passively?

How can you ‘slow down’ aging?

You might be tire of hearing your doctor tell you that your symptoms are related to old age.   Or you might have already invested money trying all the anti-aging products on the internet.

It always amazes me how patients do not drink water, have a poor diet, feel depressed and lonely, do not exercise, deprive themselves of sleep, yet are so ready to purchase a supplement or anti-wrinkle cream that will make them look and feel younger.

The aging process happens to all of us, within all cells constantly.  Anti-aging is a lifestyle, not a product or a magic pill.   Here are five tips you can incorporate into your lifestyle that will pay you your life back.

I.      Hydration

70% of our body is water and ALL chemical and enzymatic reactions happen in water.

Drinking sufficient amount of water gives our skin a healthy glow and youthful look.  Water also lubricates joints and increases flexibility, therefore reduces the symptoms of arthritis.  (Water drinking FAQs, click here.)

 

II.    Phytonutrients

The phytonutrients in plant-based foods are essential for health and wellness for our body and mind. Their high anti-oxidants content help fight free radicals (culprits of aging) produced in our body.  Eat plenty of and different varieties of vegetables and low-sugar fruits every day.  (More on animal-based diet and plant-based diet, alkalizing food vs. acidifying food, to be continued)

 

III.  Sleep

Rest is necessary for your body to run optimally.  Cellular regeneration happens primarily during sleep, and the amount of deep sleep and dream sleep you get every night may be a fair indicator of your lifespan.  Research showed that increase quality and quantity of sleep increase the production of anti-aging hormones and weight loss hormones.

 

IV.  Have fun with your love ones

Human are social animals. Research shows that chronic feelings of loneliness can cause a marked increase (14.4 mm) in blood pressure among men and women ages 50 and up. Because elevated blood pressure often is a precursor to the onset of cardiovascular disease, lonely people are at increased risk of disease and death.  Develop a diverse social network of friends and peers, with whom you share common interests and goals.

 

V.    Keep Moving

Our body is not designed for immobility.  Our spine needs movement to bump waste and nourishment in and out of the disc and our lymph system needs movement to remove toxins. Make sure to keep your body moving every day.   Walking up and down the stairs at work or take a stroll around the block after dinner counts.  Exercise is one of the keys to living a long, healthy life!

15 ingredients to Avoid in Cosmetics

A few components of cosmetics can cause harm and should be avoided.  Here is a list of a few things often used in cosmetics that you should watch out for.

1. Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and Ethyl Parabens: found in 75-90% of all products on the market. Used as a preservative to inhibit microbial growth and extend shelf life.

This preservative displays estrogenic activity in several tests. It is a known medical fact that estrogen stimulates breast cancer and anything absorbed through the skin may be as high as 10 times the concentration of an oral dose.

2. Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA),MEA (Monoethanolamine): These are hormone-disrupting chemicals known to form nitrates and nitrosamines. Often used in cosmetics as emulsifiers and/or foaming agents, adjust the pH, and used with many fatty acids to convert acid to salt (stearate), which then becomes the base for a cleanser.

TEA causes allergic reactions including eye problems, dryness of hair and skin, and could be toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time. Where are they found? In most products–lotions, shampoos, conditioners, shaving gels, bubble bath, creams. Nitrosamines are found in mascara and concealer and are banned in Canada and the EU.

3. Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea: Often used as preservatives, the American Academy of Dermatology has found these chemicals to be a primary cause of contact dermatitis (irritation caused by foreign substance). Both these chemicalscals release formaldehyde, which can be toxic.

4. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate: This is a cheap, harsh detergent used in many shampoos for its ability to cleanse and foam. Often derived from petroleum, it causes eye irritation, dry scalp, skin rashes and other allergic reactions.

Be on the lookout for pseudo-natural products that list this ingredient with the phrase “comes from coconuts” – it’s still bad for you. Easily absorbed into body tissues and strongest concern is the potential contamination with 1,4 dioxane. Can cause eye irritations, skin rashes, hair loss, scalp scurf similar to dandruff, and allergic reactions.

5. Petrolatum: Also known as petroleum jelly, this is a mineral oil derivative that can clog your pores. It is an endocrine disruptor and a carcinogen.

Healthy skin needs to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. This in turn disrupts your body’s natural ability to moisturize its own skin, leading to dryness and chapping. Instead, this chemical may suffocate the skin. Found in lotions, hair products, lip balms and lip sticks.

6. Propylene Glycol: Ideally this is a vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol, both of which are natural, but it’s usually made from synthetic chemicals. It has been known to cause hives and eczema. Beware of related chemicals labeled PEG and PPG.

7. 1,4 Dioxane:Found in an alarming number of baby products, this chemical is a byproductof the process ethoxylation (increases water solubility).

Can also be listed as PEG or ingredients ending in “eth” or “oxynol”. The EPA classifies it as a probable carcinogen to humans. It is readily absorbed through the skin and also found in hair products, lotions, face creams and anti-aging products.

8. PVP/VA Copolymer: A petroleum-derived chemical that’s used in hair styling products and some cosmetics. Considered toxic since if inhaled, it can damage the lungs.

9. Stearalkonium Chloride: This toxic chemical was designed by the fabric industry for use as a fabric softener. Companies use it in hair conditioners and lotions because it’s much cheaper than natural conditioning ingredients such as proteins.

10. Synthetic Colors: Labeled as FD&C or D&C and followed by a number, these make products look pretty but can be carcinogenic.

11. Formaldehyde: It’s most commonly used as a water solution called formalin, rather than in its pure form. With the help of preservatives, formaldehyde is released in small amounts over time to help protect cosmetic products against contamination by bacteria during storage and during continued use.

Also referred to as Quanternium-15 or DMDM hydantoin. Where is formaldehyde found? Used in nail polishes, nail hardeners, eyelash glues, hair gels, soaps, makeup, shampoo, lotions and deodorants and hair straightening treatments.

12. Phthalates/Fragrance: DHP, DBP5, DEHP, and dibutyl phthalate are used in personal care products. They are considered probable carcinogens by the EPA and likely to cause cancer. Phthalates are also known endocrine disruptors (may interfere, mimic or block hormones), development toxicants (can interfere with the normal development of a fetus or child), and a reproductive toxicant (can harm the reproductive system).

Phthalates can be inhaled and also absorbed through the skin via perfume, nail polish, skin lotion, deodorant and some hair styling products. Since the ingredients are not required on fragrances, there is no way to know if phthalates are in a fragrance. A safer alternative is to choose pure essential oils instead of perfumes.

13. Coal Tar Dyes: A known carcinogen and made from bituminous coal. Found in dandruff and psoriasis shampoos, anti-itch creams, hair dyes and other cosmetics. Also listed as p-phenylenediamine and colors listed as “CI”, “FD&C,” or “D&C.”

14. Triclosan: A synthetic antimicrobial agent. Also has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties. Endocrine and thyroid disrupter and bioaccumulates in the body. Found in many cosmetic products including anti-bacterial soap, shampoo, facial cleanser, toothpaste and deodorant.

15. Phenoxyethanol: As a preservative, this is a popular alternative to parabens. Restricted in Japan and the EU, this chemical has been linked to reproductive and developmental toxicity and comes with a warning from the FDA.