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8 Simple Strategies to Improve Your Gut Health Today

When You Can’t Trust Your Gut Feeling: 8 Simple Strategies to Improve Your Gut Health Today

8 Simple Strategies to Improve Your Gut Health Today

Digestive diseases and disorders are more prevalent these days. In fact, recent studies show more people have celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease now than 50 years ago. What’s more, scientists have confirmed it’s not just due to improved methods of diagnosis. So why are these digestive problems on the rise?
No clear cause has emerged, but one leading theory is the hygiene hypothesis. In the quest to eliminate bacteria from our lives (think about all of the hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial soap on the market), our immune systems may be underdeveloped. So now, when the immune system encounters a safe food—take gluten, for example—it can mistakenly attack it as a foreign invader.
The widespread fear of bad germs means our digestive tracts also house fewer healthy bacteria. One main function of these good bugs is to provide a protective barrier, preventing true invaders from leaking through the digestive tract into the body.
The Microbiome in a Healthy Gut
Together, the beneficial bacteria and fungi that live in our gut are called the microbiome. In 2008, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched theHuman Microbiome Project (HMP), which mapped out the microbiomes of healthy volunteers. Through this research, we are learning how certain gut bacteria influence mood and behavior, may improve blood pressure, and can potentially reduce childhood allergies. Some gut microbes can actuallyregulate weight gain, so current studies are investigating how the microbiome influences obesity.
The gut is similar to a rainforest in its diversity as well as its fragility. Despite not knowing exactly what a healthy microbiome looks like, we do know that a microbiome with more diversity is better able to cope with stressors, such as illness and disease. A major shift in an individual’s microbiome can throw off the whole ecosystem. An imbalance in the microbiome, called dysbiosis, can result in chronic inflammation in the body. Obesitycardiovascular disease,diabetes, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease have all been linked to chronic inflammation.
The Gut-Brain Connection
The intestinal tract is also home to the enteric nervous system (ENS), the operating center for the digestive system. The same neurotransmitters in the brain are also found in the intestinal tract. The ENS can work independently, or in conjunction with the brain. You may have already experienced how the brain can cause digestive upset. For example, you receive devastating news and you immediately feel nauseous or have diarrhea. Now we know the gut can in turn upset the brain. This connection is known as the gut-brain axis. So if you or someone you know is experiencing digestive issues, what can you do?
When You Can’t Trust Your Gut Feeling: 8 Simple Strategies to Improve Your Gut Health Today
8 Simple Strategies to Improve Gut Health
  1. Consume food and drinks that contain beneficial bacteria. Yogurt, miso soup, fermented vegetables, including kimchi and sauerkraut, or fermented soft cheeses, such as Gouda, contain live bacteria. So do beverages such as kefir, kombucha, or acidophilus milk.
  2. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Both fruits and veggies contain soluble and insoluble fiber, which have been shown to contribute to intestinal health.
  3. Try a probiotic supplement for 4 to 6 months. Probiotic supplements are not all alike. Look for brands with more than three strains. Make sure to store them as directed and consume them before the expiration date for maximum effectiveness.
  4. If probiotics do not improve symptoms, map out your microbiome. For less than $100, you can have your own gut bacteria analyzed through the Human Food Project or uBiome.
  5. Manage stress. Send positive signals from the gut to the brain through cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, hypnosis, prayer, and/or journaling.
  6. One study showed gut bacteria diversity improves with exercise. Physical activity also helps manage weight and stress, and improves sleep, all of which may help the brain.
  7. Talk to your doctor. You may need additional testing to rule out inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
  8. Schedule an appointment with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) to individualize an eating plan just for you. You may be sensitive to fermentable starches and sugars and benefit from a low FODMAP diet. Or maybe a gluten-free or low-lactose diet would be beneficial. Find a dietitian in your area through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics national database.
Conclusion
It may sound far-fetched, but in the near future, we may consider fecal transplants to treat many common digestive disorders. Scientists are currently studying how transplanting the gut bacteria from a healthy microbiome into a person with dysbiosis can heal many digestive conditions. We still have much to learn about the how the microbiome influences both health and disease, but the moral of the story is this: Be appreciative of those friendly bugs that call your gut home.

Your Healthy Heart Protocol

Simple Tips for Your Ticker

Diet, exercise, lifestyle, and genetics all have an impact on cardiovascular health. To optimize overall wellness and protect yourself against stroke, heart attack, and high blood pressure, consider integrating a few of these heart-healthy tips into your daily regimen.

Cut the Salt

Excess salt in the diet can lead to high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, an elevation in blood pressure can cause damage to the arterial walls, increase the accumulation of plaque, and block blood flow. Salt intake isn’t limited to a sprinkle here and there at the table. Processed foods, restaurant meals, and fast food feature high amounts of sodium. In order to decrease salt intake, read food labels and reduce consumption of packaged and pre-made food. The USDA’s recommendation for total daily salt consumption is 2.4 grams, which is about one teaspoon of table salt. Try cooking your own meals and swap salt for other seasonings such as garlic powder, oregano, or paprika. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and purchase items with no salt added.

Be Active

The National Institute of Aging recommends 30 minutes of moderate-to-intense physical activity on most or all days of the week. This regimen is ideal for protective cardiovascular benefits. Intimidated by CrossFit or a spin class? Consider a brisk walk, gardening, or even bowling to keep you moving. Don’t have a 30-minute block of time to spare? Break up the physical activity into 10-minute intervals. Make sure to consult your physician before initiating a new workout program.

Lose Weight

Packing on too much weight can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions. Extra fat around the midsection poses thehighest risk since it is in close proximity to internal organs. Start integrating a healthy lifestyle rich in whole foods and physical activity to reduce weight and/or maintain a healthy weight.

Quit Smoking

Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death. Smoking causes plaque to build in the arterial walls, which could lead to stroke or coronary heart disease. It is never too late to stop and reap the benefits of a smoke-free life. Try cutting back one cigarette a week until you are smoke-free. Introduce new activities and experiences that were previously a challenge as a smoker, such as sitting through a play or a movie, picnicking in the park, or spending quality time with children and pets.

Manage Your Stress

According to the Cleveland Clinic, stress can have long-term physical manifestations. Stress-related anger can lead to heart arrhythmias, increased blood pressure, and damaged arteries. Reduce stress by taking control of your mind and body. Prioritize sleep and exercise. Organize your schedule, take time to relax, limit negative relationships and situations, and integrate deep breathing and relaxation exercises into your daily life.

Eat Heart-Healthy Foods

Adopting a whole food, plant-based diet has been linked to lowered blood pressure and cholesterol as well as weight loss and weight management. A plant-based lifestyle is primarily rooted in foods from the earth. Dark leafy greens, herbs, root vegetables, fruits, legumes, avocados, nuts, seeds, and a variety of whole grains all encompass a plant-based diet.
Maintaining a diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides fiber, which aids in digestion and lowers cholesterol while supplying essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Aim for a colorful variety of organic and local produce when possible. If that is not an option, opt for frozen produce that is salt-, sugar-, and preservative-free.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to the diet and are key components for boosting cardiovascular health. They increase HDL (the good) cholesterol in the body and reduce triglycerides. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish, ground flax seed, and dark leafy greens. When selecting fatty fish, choose sustainable and wild options over farmed and endangered.
Other heart-healthy fats include monounsaturated fats, which are found in olive oil, olives, avocados, and nuts. These fats assist in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.
A comprehensive heart-healthy diet is limited in processed, fast, and frozen foods. Consume alcohol in moderation, and limit sugary foods and beverages. By making small, manageable changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can easily improve your cardiovascular health and overall wellness.
Your Healthy Heart Protocol: Simple Tips for Your Ticker

Glycemic Index


The Glycemic Index: What It Is and How It Works

What It Is and How It Works

For those with diabetes, the term glycemic index is nothing new. But the exact definition of the index and understanding how it works can get a little trickier.
Blood sugar control is the cornerstone of diabetes management. High or extreme fluctuations in a person’s blood sugar are responsible for most diabetes symptoms, as well as long-term impacts of the disease including kidney and cardiovascular disease, and neuropathy. In addition, high and spiking blood sugar levels can cause insulin to skyrocket. Maintaining steady and as close to normal blood sugar and insulin levels as possible can help prevent many of the issues faced by those with diabetes. An effective way to control blood sugar levels—both for people with diabetes and those without—is diet. What we eat has the greatest impact on blood sugar levels, so understanding how different foods affect sugar levels is invaluable.

The Tool

The glycemic index (GI) is a tool used to measure or keep track of sugar intake and the way it affects blood sugar levels. Specifically, the GI indicates how much an individual’s blood sugar increases after eating a food that contains 50 grams of carbohydrates. High-GI foods raise blood sugar the most, while low-GI foods raise it the least. The GI ranks foods on a scale from one to 100; the higher the GI, the faster and farther blood sugar levels increase after eating the food. It’s not always necessary to eat 50 grams of carbohydrates. That amount is used simply to provide a standard measurement so all foods can be compared to each other.
Foods with a GI of 55 or lower are referred to as low-GI foods. They include many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, regular oatmeal, beans, nuts, and dairy items. Foods with a GI between 56 and 75 are referred to as having a moderate GI and include pasta, corn, and white flour products. High-GI foods have a GI greater than 76 and include foods with highly processed grains such as cookies, instant oatmeal, and cornflakes, as well as candy.
Though not always the case, the more processed a whole grain food is, the higher the GI. According to Brigham & Women’s Hospital, processing breaks food down into a more refined, and therefore less whole, the grain is. We digest refined grains much quicker than whole ones, so blood sugar is impacted sooner compared to the slow and steady digestion of less processed grains. In a recent study, people following a diet made up of about 60 percent carbohydrates (which is common in the American diet) who chose low GI foods versus high GI foods lowered their insulin sensitivity.
Choosing foods with a low GI can also aid weight control, and controlling and losing weight is another way to manage blood sugar levels and diabetes.Multiple studies have shown a diet focused on low-GI food will lead to greater satiety and fewer calories consumed over the course of the day.

The Chart

The Glycemic Index chart is pretty basic, but not always easy to read. It lists an assortment of foods alphabetically by food type. It also includes some fairly uncommon foods. To make it easier we’ve included everyday foods listed in order of increasing GI levels. If you would like to see the complete table with thousands of foods, check this list as well as this one.
Glycemic Index Chart
In addition to how processed a food is, there are other factors that influence GI ranking. Foods containing fat, protein, or acid will have a lower GI than similar foods without them. For example, premium ice cream has a higher fat content than regular ice cream and therefore has a lower GI. Also, though not featured in the chart, plain M&Ms would have a higher GI than the peanut version. This is because the peanuts contribute a little of both fat and protein, which help lower the GI. A higher soluble fiber content usually reduces the GI. Soluble fiber is found in fruits, beans, and oats.

Finding a Balance

While the GI chart may seem pretty straightforward with clear-cut ranges for high, low, and everything in between, it’s important to keep a few things in mind when using the GI to create a balanced eating plan. Food preparation and portion size play an important role. A small portion of a food with a high GI may have less impact on blood sugar than a larger portion of a lower GI food. Also, adding a protein- or fat-containing food, both of which are digested slowly, will help lower the GI of a food. So, adding a slice of cheese or some natural peanut butter to a slice of bread will lower the GI of the bread. Also, the length of time a food is cooked may alter the GI because it may cause the glucose, or sugar, in the food to be more easily available to the body (similar to the effect processing has). Pasta cooked for a long time—say 20 minutes—will have a higher GI than pasta cooked al dente, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Making it Work

Using the GI to create a personalized eating plan isn’t rocket science, but it may take some time to learn how to make it work best for you.
Eating with the Glycemic Index in Mind: Making it Work

Conclusion

As with any healthy eating plan, creating a GI-based diet may take some getting used to. Even with the index, consider this: A basic healthy diet is created from a variety of whole foods chosen from all the food groups and spread out over the course of the day.

Break 5 habits for weight loss


  • Drinking liquids other than water.
Yes its an absolutely bad idea to drink you calories. Even those juices we see in our grocery ailes if its not fresh squeezed juice it most likely contains a lot of sugar. Of course if you need to drink your coffee and tea please do so but no sugar or milk.
  • Eating snacks that are not fruit or vegetables
One way to really jump on this wagon, is to get rid of whatever conventional snacks you have in your pantry. Also when you go grocery shopping, do not buy snacks just stick to fruits. It may be hard at first but after a couple of weeks it gets better.
Also keep ready to eat veggies nearby at work so that when you feel the hunger pang thats the first available snack.
  • Eating Sugar. 
Absolutely no sugar except those naturally found in fruits
  • Drinking water after your meal. 
You should instead drink a glass of water before you begin eating. This willl help you control your portions therefore you eat less.
  • full fat dairy and large meat portions
For diary products, stick to low fat or skim milk. As for meat, poultry, fish, stick to about 3 ounces of meat on a daily consumption.


It's challenging to try breaking all these habits at once may be challenging. It's best to instead try breaking a couple of habits per week or one habit per week.

Bonus points: if you manage to break all the habits above we have some bonus points for you.
  • Cut down on eating out (by about 80% or if possible dont eat out at all)
  • No watching TV while eating. This is becnause when you eat whike watching Tv it becomes a mindless activity and you tend to overeat.
  • Start drinking your coffee and tea straight up, with no sugar or milk/creamer.

Five Steps to Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

Five Steps to Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

The idea that food provides us with energy is pretty simple, but the process of turning breakfast, lunch, and dinner into fuel is a little more complex. Here’s a very basic timeline:
  • You eat and your body digests the food.
  • The carbohydrates are turned into sugar.
  • The sugar gets absorbed into your bloodstream (this is your blood sugar).
  • Insulin is released and helps move the sugar from your blood into body tissue to be used as energy.
However, for people with diabetes or those at risk of diabetes (a condition often called insulin resistance) that last step doesn’t go as planned. The result is elevated blood sugar levels. Blood sugar fluctuations are not only responsible for the immediate symptoms of diabetes such as fatigue, light headedness, irritability, and increased thirst (just to name a few), but also for long-term health issues including increased risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney problems, and neuropathy. When you have diabetes one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself is to try to keep your blood sugar levels as steady and close to normal as possible.
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels may require some simple lifestyle changes, but it’s not impossible. In fact, there are a few easy steps to take every day to get—and stay—on the right track.

1. Eat Three Square Meals (and Then Some)

In other words, make time for healthy snacks and try not to skip meals. A long period of time during waking hours without eating means the body has no source of fuel (aka glucose) and therefore the levels of sugar (aka glucose) in the blood go down. Among other things, low sugar levels can increase appetite. The longer the period of hunger, the more tempting it is to eat larger portions of food. This results in an influx of fuel hitting your digestive system all at once. Consequently, blood sugar levels spike. If this pattern occurs daily, blood sugar levels look something like this:
How Meal Timing Can Affect Blood Sugar Levels
Alternatively, eating every three to four waking hours prevents the cycle of dips, overeating, and spikes that occur in blood sugar levels after skipped meals. Within a couple hours of waking, have breakfast, then a small snack two to three hours later, followed by lunch two to three hours after that, another small snack after another two to three hours, then dinner two to three hours after that. Keep in mind, snacks are just that—snacks, not mini meals. Aim for around 150 to 200 calories. Try a piece of fruit and fat free Greek yogurt, whole grain crackers and peanut butter, or even a quarter cup of nuts.

2. Go Green

Leafy greens are low in calories and carbohydrates and therefore have very little impact on blood sugar levels. Leafy greens are an especially great choice for those who find they have a hard time filling up. A big bowl of raw or cooked kale, spinach, or other dark leafy green can serve as the base of a salad or a delicious side dish that provides fiber, vitamin A, and other nutrients but won’t raise blood sugar.

3. Incorporate More Food Groups

Foods containing fiber, protein, and healthy fat digest slowly and therefore slow down the speed at which glucose enters the blood. This in turn results in a slower, steadier, less severe rise in blood sugar. When choosing meals and snacks, be sure to include some items that contain these nutrients. Some examples include nuts, beans, avocado, Greek yogurt, and whole grains.
How Different Food Groups Affect Levels

4. Move More

Activity helps move sugar in the blood into the muscles, which lowers blood sugar levels. Incorporating some form of daily physical activity into your routine is one way to help maintain blood sugar levels. Hitting the gym everyday isn’t necessary so long as you make it a point to move a little. In fact, a brisk walkonce, or ideally a few times a day, can do the trick. If you can’t find time to work out for 30 or 40 minutes at one time, divide it up. Complete 10 minutes of at-home bodyweight exercise, such as jumping jacks, jogging in place, or push-ups, when you wake up. Squeeze in a 10-minute walk during a lunch break and end with a 10-minute walk around the block as soon as you get home.

5. Have an Emergency Snack on Hand

Even the best planned days and diets can get off track by a long line at the bank, a traffic jam, or extended meeting. In case you get stuck somewhere unexpectedly, always have an emergency, non-perishable snack nearby in your purse, glove compartment, or desk. Whole grain crackers or nuts make good choices.
These simple steps are nothing drastic, but can make a big difference blood sugar difference over the short and long term.

Anemia

Note: Anemia is not a diagnosis in itself, but a symptom of a Diagnosis. Hence the underlying condition causing the Anemia must be sought out in order to determine treatment.

More to come!