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It Really Is A Gut Feeling

The feelings you experience are related to the health of your gut.  As our understanding of the microbiome evolves, new understanding of the gut-brain link is unfolding.  

The link between the gut and the brain, known as the microbiome-gut-brain axis., is a two way communication system.  Researchers are asking:  do the bacteria in our gut affect our psychology and behavior? 

The trillion single-cell organisms that reside in the intestines creating the microbiome influences our health in a variety of ways.  Recent discoveries reveal that the microbiome is involved in the synthesis of vitamins B and K; the production of short-chain fatty acids; inflammatory and autoimmune conditions as well as obesity.

Those minuscule creatures that lie in different parts of your gut, most of them sitting at the mucus layer just on top of your gut surface.   That allows them to be just microns away from receptors and sensors with which your gut records the chatter that goes on between them and measures what does on inside.  So the microbes know what state of mind you are in, and at the same time, our brain knows the signs that microbes send up to us.  The chatter between the brain in the gut is cross-talk with a huge impact on our immune system, hormones, mood and behavior.

 Most of us have experienced the relationship between stress, anxiety and a soft bowel movement…the brain impacting the gut.  However, studies, also, show a relationship between gut dysregulation impacting anxiety and depression.  Other studies have shown that  gluten-induced gut inflammation can show up in images of brain inflammation. Lastly, the majority of serotonin (a neurotransmitter related to emotional well-being) is produced in the digestive system.

Bottom line:  the cross-talk chatter between the brain and the gut depends on the health of the digestive system.  Improving the quality of your emotional life and cognitive function requires attention to the health of your gut.

Sugar Undermines Sobriety

Sweet foods, and even just the taste of sweetness, contributes to relapse from substance abuse.  Dietary interventions play an important role in recovery from a decade of epidemic opioid abuse.

Long before I became a nutrition professional I worked in a residential drug recovery program.  Everyone in recovery drank lots of coffee with lots of sugar and smoked a log of cigarettes.  Thirty years ago, we had no idea how these behaviors undermined the recovery of our clients.

Today, multiple research studies demonstrate that sugar stimulates two brain factors that are also stimulated with drug use.  D-1, dopamine (the reward factor) and Mu-1 the opioid receptor in the brain are similarly stimulated by both sugar and addictive drugs.  At the same time, acetylcholine (the satiety response) is reduced, sometimes to elimination.

In addition, research studies have shown that the withdrawal symptoms from sugar  has the same physical response, teeth chattering, anxiety and imbalance, as withdrawal from addictive drugs.

This overlap between mechanisms mediating drug reward and palatable food reward have significant implications for maintaining painfully achieved sobriety.  In short, activating the reward mechanisms in the brain with sweet foods can result in addictive drug cravings.

A diet low in sugar and sugar-like tastes and high in nutrients often depleted during addiction ranks high among the factors that support sobriety. Among the self-care skills required for recovery is learning how the recovery client can nourish themselves for long-term success.

In this epidemic of opioid abuse, the nutrition professional has become an essential member of the recovery team.  To view research citations, visit the blog at www.wellbelly.net/blog  

  

  

Supporting Research:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1038/oby.2002.66

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763407000589

https://journals.lww.com/neuroreport/Abstract/2001/11160/Excessive_sugar_intake_alters_binding_to_dopamine.35.aspx

https://www.nature.com/articles/ijo200973

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306452205004288

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306452205015034

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938408000103

 

Gut Health Reduces Risk for Heart Disease

Your Gut Health Impacts Your Risk for Heart Disease

Researchers have linked the health of the gut microbiome to the risk for obesity and diabetes. Now, we have substantial evidence that the microbiome can impact the risk for atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).

How does the gut microbiome influence disease?  Humans actually have 2 genomes:  human genes and the collective genes (the gut microbiome); trillions of microbes that coexist within each human gut.  In fact there are 100 times more genes in the microbiome than there are human genes in the body.  

These microbiota genes generate proteins, including hormones, neurotransmitters and molecules of inflammation that can enter the circulation and affect human health. This activity of the microbiota creates not only a second genome, it is also like an additional endocrine organ.

A recently JAMA published article gives considerable evidence to how the human gut microbiome may affect the development of atherosclerosis by influencing risk factors for heart disease and by directly effecting the initiation and progress of atherosclerotic plaques.

 Conclusion:  Improving the health of your gut microbiome can modify your risk for three major causes of death:  diabetes, obesity and hearth disease.

For more than a dozen years, Dr. Sandy Muran has helped her clients measurably reduce their risk for disease.  Contact her for more information at drsandy@wellbelly.net.

Coffee Jitters?

 

Jittery hands, rapid heart rate, difficulty sleeping….you have a sensitivity to caffeine.  Thanks in part to your genetics, you are caffeine sensitive…your body breaks down caffeine more slowly which makes it stay in your system longer. 

Here are ten ways to wake up without coffee and be kind to your body:

Turn on some tunes that make you happy

Stretch your body to increase blood flow

Break the fast with a morning meal that includes protein

Drink a tall glass of water to rehydrate from hours without a drink

Get moving with a short stretching routine

Replace the coffee ritual with another hot drink such as hot water with lemon or herbal tea.

A cold water splash on your face rattles your alert button

Expose yourself to sunlight

Smell your way to alert with essential oils such as peppermint and eucalyptus

Meditate with a few moments of deep breathing to oxygenate your brain

Good Morning!!!   Great Day!!!

Run for Your Neurons

Another?  new study on the benefits of exercise? Yes!  A new study with mice finds that physical activity not only increases the quantity of new neurons in the brain, but are qualitatively different than other neurons.

We know that the brain is a dynamic, active organ in which new neurons and neural connections are created throughout life, especially in the areas of the brain related to memory and thinking.

In this study, the neurons created by cardiovascular activity looked unique.  They ware larger, displayed more and longer dendrites after only one week of exercise than brain cells from inactive mice.

Although this study was conducted with mice and not people, it’s a good bet that any physical activity that raises your heart rate for 20 minutes benefits the brain just as cardiovascular activity does for all the other organs.

Remember next time the sofa looks more appealing than putting on your running shoes think about all of those new, high-quality neurons that are going to interact on your behalf to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Fire in the Brain

Fire in the Brain

A friend is moving cattle through a wild fire damaged area in the Sierras to  the protection of green pastures.  She describes the earth as a surreal canvas of black and white staying alert to the hidden danger of smoldering fire just beneath the surface.

Of the three primary threats to brain health, inflammation smolders beneath the surface while the brain protects the neurons with the amyloid plaques of Alzheimers Disease (AD). Inflammation is the natural immune system response to invaders; however, chronic exposure to invaders results in an immune response in overdrive – smoldering fire in the brain.

Once believed to be impenetrable, the blood/brain barrier is now known to be comprised by infectious invaders such as viruses, oral bacterias, spirochetes of lyme disease, fungi such as candida albican and black mold as well as proteins modified by binding with glucose to form AGEs, advanced glycation end-products.

Smoldering Fires

Just beneath the surface of everyday life are the the smoldering fires of brain inflammation grow into the flames of AD.

Elevated blood glucose leads to insulin resistance and diabetes.  In addition, excess glucose silently attaches to many different proteins, like remoras to a shark creating AGE’s (Advanced glycation end-products).  These AGEs cause free radicals to form.  Free radicals are unstable molecules which damage anything they bump into such as DNA, cell membranes and blood vessels thus reducing nutritional support to the brain and causing leakiness of the barrier between blood and brain.

Compromised gut health weakens our immune system defense against to the impact of exposure to viral and bacterial invaders.  Digestive incompetence; SIBO (small intestine bacteria overgrowth and Candidasis (overgrowth of fungi in the large intestine and colon) disrupt the fueling of the body with nutrients and damages the immune system.

Poor oral hygiene allows damaging bacterias in the mouth to dominate the oral micro-biome and permits the migration of these bacterias across the blood/brain barrier.

Fire Prevention

Preventing chronic inflammation prevents fire in the brain.  The following three habits cools systemic inflammation:

Balanced diet of clean, whole foods dominated by vegetables, healthy fats and proteins reduces blood glucose preventing insulin resistance and diabetes. Ketonic and paleo are examples of brain healthy dietary choices.

Gut health supported by adequate digestive enzymes and gastric acid; maintaining a balanced micro-biome builds the critical foundation of a resilient immune system.

Regular oral hygiene takes on a new importance as it discourages the growth of damaging bacteria.

Need a “Smokey the Bear” to make your way though the fire zone to green pastures of brain health?   Functional medicine physicians, nutritionists and holistic dentists know where to look for the smoldering fire beneath the surface and how to stamp out the Alzheimers flames in the brain.

How to Choose a Probiotic

 Probiotics can improve the health of your all-important microbiome but choosing one can be mystifying.  There are hundreds of probiotics on the shelves at your favorite health food store.  Equipped with the right information, you won’t need a degree in biology to choose the best product to get great results without doing harm to your community of friendly bacteria.

Who should take a probiotic?

Probably everyone.  Certainly, everyone with digestive symptoms should take a probiotic reflective of their individual condition.  Even healthy people can benefit from a probiotic to protect against daily assaults and expand diversity to the microbiome.

Contemporary life delivers daily environmental injury; nutrient deficient foods and medications  to challenge our gut balance.  Adding a probiotic to a diet that includes a variety of fermented foods within a fresh, whole food diet creates a solid foundation of diverse organisms. Diversity is key and relying on one food source, such like yogurt with live and active cultures does not provide enough variety of organisms. (https://wellbelly.net/blog/page/2/).

How to choose the right dosage and the right match for me?

The dosage of probiotics varies from 1 to 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units). One billion meets the needs of a healthy digestive tract.  Think closer to 10 billion if you are taking antibiotics or showing signs of an imbalanced microbiome (https://wellbelly.net ). Pricing and marketing claims can be tricky so it’s important to read the label to determine how many capsules it will take to get the dosage you need.  A less expensive product may be misleading as it may take several capsules to reach an adequate dosage or not contain human strains.

How to take an oral probiotic. 

Avoid taking an oral probiotic at the same time as taking an antibiotic.  Mixed together the antibiotic will destroy many of the CFU’s in the probiotic.

Best to take the probiotic away from a meal so less harm is done to the CFU’s by gastric acid and digestive enzymes.  Right before bed can be ideal.

Storage has become more convenient.  Extreme heat and light exposure can damage the organisms but most products, today, are safe at room temperature if packaged in a dark container.  Requiring refrigeration does not make a probiotic more effective, but following the directions on the package does preserve the efficacy.

What bacterial strains should be contained in my probiotic?

The best products contain a minimum of seven, varied bacteria strains most common to humans.

Many probiotics will be derived from soil-based organisms (SBOs).  SBOs are generally less expensive but are not naturally found in the human digestive tract and have never been part of the symbiotic relationship.  SBOs are in the form of spores which can compete with the normal residential community of organisms.  This competition  can be detrimental to the microbiome that is out of balance.  Once established, the SBO spores can be difficult to get rid as they  occupy precious space that human strains need to flourish. Ask the store personnel to direct you to the human strain probiotics.

The research surrounding the microbiome is evolving on a daily basis.  Current thinking indicates that there are at least 500 species of bacteria and yeast that comprise the average 2.2 pounds of microbiome.

Two dominate families of friendly bacteria organisms comprise human strain probiotics, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.  The following describes the strengths of the most common strains.

Lactobacillus

Lacto Bulgaricus, Acidophilus and Casei assist with lactose intolerance.  In addition, Acidophilus may be helpful at reducing cholesterol and Casei supports brain function. Lacto Plantarum can reduce inflammation and Rhamnosus supports the immune system, GI health and eczema.

Bifiodobacterium

Bifido Lactis and Bifidum support immunity, Longum supports brain function and constipation and Beve supports GI health and has anti-aging properties.

Others:

Streptoccus thermophilus which is not related to strep throat is a friendly bacteria that assists lactobacillus bulgar by making nutrients that assist with growth.

Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast that competes with candida albican (an opportunistic yeast), supports immunity, GI health and reduces diarrhea.

Pre-biotics

Some products contain pre-biotics which are nutrients to foster growth of friendly bacteria.  More information on pre-biotics  can be found in the blog dated:

Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to select a perfect match.  The science continues to evolve at this time but is not positioned to offer products with an exact match for every individual need.

Use this information as an engaged consumer in evaluating the multitude of probiotic products and can make an informed purchase that will contribute to your overall health.

Keep it simple: Consider the primary reason you are considering probiotics and select a product that has dominate numbers of CFUs which reflect your general condition.  Probiotics are good for you and should be considered an important tool for maintaining health.

Surprisingly, Heartburn Relief has Serious Health Risks

Nearly 20% of Americans suffer from chronic indigestion sometimes called heartburn, acid reflux or GERD.  Widely used remedies can cause even more problems for your health.

The uncomfortable burning of “ I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” can lead to real damage to the esophagus and throat making acid-reducing remedies such as Prilosec one of the most widely used medications.

Common theory is that heartburn is caused by too much stomach acid and the solution is to simply reduce or bind the gastric acid.  Heartburn medications fall into a category of proton pump inhibitors (proton/potassium pump inhibitors) which inhibits the function of the parietal cells in the stomach and thereby suppress the production of stomach acid.

If only the solution was as simple as taking a pill.

However, serious complications to the regular use of proton pump inhibitors (PPI) include:

(1) proton pumps are not  limited to the stomach but found in all energy producing cells in the body.  The function of the proton pumps is essential in the ATP cycle to produce energy. Regular use of PPIs can lead to fatigue of cell function.

(2)  the highly acidic pH created by gastric acid is required for the absorption of minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium as well as vitamins B12 and C.  Gastric acid sets the stage for the an effective process of digestion through the remaining digestive tract.

(3) Gastric acid is the first line of defense against ingestion of opportunistic pathogens and harmful bacterias. SIBO (small intestine bacteria overgrowth) and an infection of colostridium difficle  (CDI) is common among PPI users. CDI disrupts the normal function of digestion with symptoms of diarrhea, nausea and fever causing colitis perforation of the colon and sepsis.

(4) Fifty percent of the people using proton pump inhibitors actually produce too little gastric acid which shows up with the same acid reflux symptoms as too much gastric acid. Too little gastric acid prevents normal digestion and nutrient absorption leading to a wide range of poor health conditions.

Interference with natural production of gastric acid has been linked to increased risk for heart attacks, dementia, osteoporosis, kidney disease,  decreased diversity of the microbiome community, malabosroption and deficiency of essential nutrients.  Too little gastric acid can cause an acid rebound effect causing even more acid to be produced as your body tries to make up for the missing gastric.

Recent research at the Veterans Administration identified a link between the use of Prilosec and kidney disease.  Kidney disease is particularly worrisome as it develops without warning signs until it is too late to reverse.

TUMS, although not a PPI creates other health risks.  TUMS contributes to the acid rebound effect as it binds the acid your body needs to secrete for digestion and your body responds by increasing production.  In addition TUMS contains aluminum, a metal ,that has been associated with risk for dementia.

Home remedies like baking soda in water can provide temporary relief but does not resolve the cause of the condition that interferes with proper digestion and nourishment of the body.

No-risk freedom from heartburn

Fixing the cause of heartburn is the solution for both the dangers of heartburn, acid-reflux or GERD and the dangers of using heartburn medications.  Triggers for heartburn include reactions to specific foods and alcohol, insufficient digestive enzymes and/or gastric acid, use of other medications such as antibiotics, SIBO, infectious pathogens and emotional stress.

Healthcare professionals who practice integrative or functional medicine are experts at identifying and reversing the underlying cause digestive problems.  Working with a healthcare professional can  help you determine if your symptoms are the result of too much or too little gastric acid.  Then they can expedite your discovery of the triggers for heartburn that are specific to you. Institute for Functional Medicine, www.IFM.org and the  National Association of Nutrition Professionals, www.NANP.org, are good resources to locate a healthcare professional in your locale.

Seven Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Seven Benefits of Dark Chocolate 

Rarely can anything taste so good and be so good for you.  Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively effect your health in seven key ways.

The Good Stuff dark chocolate is primarily made from  at least 60% organic cocoa powder, coco butter and sugar (milk chocolate packs more sugar and fat while white has nearly no health benefits).

Dark chocolate contains soluble fiber and is loaded with minerals and antioxidants.  The primary minerals in dark chocolate include iron, magnesium, copper and manganese accompanied by smaller amounts of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. The fat content is mostly saturated and monounsaturated with small amounts of polyunsaturates.  It also contains caffeine and theobromine but in small amounts that should not keep you awake at night.

Enjoy one to two ounces of dark chocolate guilt free to reap the following benefits:

Brain:

1. Powerful antioxidants (polyphenols) increase blood flow to the brain boosting smarts and memory.

Skin:

2. The flavinoids contained in cocoa can protect against sun-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration.

Heart:

3. Epicatechin one of the compounds that lends cocoa its bitter taste lowers blood pressure.

4. Raises HDL and protects LDL against oxidation.

Energy:

5. The same epicatechin can boost your cells’ mitochondrial function.  Mitochondria are the organelles, little energy factories, found in the nucleus of every cell in the body.

Weight Loss

6. Research has found the regular chocolate eaters were slimmer than those who abstained altogether.  Chocolate satisfies cravings as it  lights up your grain’s frontal lobe, its reward center.

Mood:

7. Cocoa butter fats trigger natural endorphins (natural opiates) and serotonin (a mood modulator).  These brain chemicals induce calm, decrease pain sensation, improve sleep and elevate mood.

Red Wine Minus the Headache

Wine paired with food is a culinary pleasure.  Wines, and in particular red wine, interfere with this pleasure by causing some to experience a headache with just one glass. Headaches from red wine is so common that it has it’s own signature: RWH syndrome.

The culprit in the wine that triggers the headache can be difficult to determine.  Sensitivity to sulfites that occur naturally in wine usually cause allergy-like and asthma reactions.

Histamines seem more likely to be the culprit for a headache reaction.  Histamines are, also, naturally occurring from foods, such as aged and fermented foods, alcohol, chocolate, smoked meats,  some beans, walnuts and cashews.

Headache reactions can vary depending on the difference in grapes while wines from California, Washington or Oregon seem to be less likely than imported wines to be offending.

If you don’t want to avoid wine, a natural supplement taken before enjoying red wine  or other histamine producing foods can avoid the headache reaction.  Xymogen has a supplement called HistDAO that has produced great results by taking two small capsules 15 minutes before drinking red wine.  HistDAO can be purchased from Xymogen through the link on the e-store page.

Avoid an unpleasant headache this Valentines day and enjoy your dark chocolate and red wine celebration.

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