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Laughter and Stress

Stress is often termed “The Silent Killer.” It is inevitable in the modern world. And while stress is unavoidable, it’s still prudent to make efforts to reduce it as much as possible. High stress levels can cause more than a bad temper or outbursts.  Stress is linked to serious health risks to common health problems that compound as stress increases.

Stress has been deemed at least partly responsible for increased risk of ailments like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, memory loss, and diabetes.

The short term effects of high stress levels are headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue, decrease in sex drive, and many other less severe, yet still impactful symptoms.

Change what you can in your own environment to help reduce stress.  However, you must accept that life is complicated and some amount of stress will always be present.  This means that you will also need to have stress reduction techniques in your self care tool belt to help you manage the experience of stress.  Laughter may be an easy, and fun, tool to consider.  This may cause you to laugh due to its simplicity, though scientific studies back this up. Laughter is a primitive behavior.  Laughter is a primitive form of medicine.

In a recent study, laughter therapy was found to be an effective, noninvasive, non-pharmacological form of therapy, effectively reducing the effects of stress.

The study, published in the Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine, was based on the premise that laughter is a positive sensation, seemingly being a useful and healthy way to overcome stress.

As stress levels increase, the body responds by producing higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, growth hormone, and 3, 4-dihydrophenylacetic acid. If stress is not resolved, depression can ensue due to neurotransmitters in the brain, including norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, becoming significantly reduced.

The research revealed that laughter therapy can alter dopamine and serotonin activity in the body, effectively creating a more pleasurable, less depressed mood.

In this way, laughter therapy can affect mental health by increasing important chemicals in the brain and lowering harmful chemicals created during stressful situations. Laughter increases social connectedness. We know that social connectedness increases longevity. Laughter represents just one easy important tool to help you deal with stress.

What makes you laugh?  Think about it.  A funny book, a funny TV show or movie, hearing a joke, watching a funny event or situation occur?  Did you know that laughter yoga exists? Being tickled or tickling someone else almost always works. What any one individual considers funny is elusive. The bottom line tends to be that humor results when a person simultaneously recognizes both that a norm has been breached and that the breach is benign.  You may spend hours online researching how to improve your health.  Spend a few minutes to consider what you find to be funny and try to create more of it in your life:)

Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction affects more than 30 million men in the United States alone. For those dealing with this depressing disorder, there are many more issues at hand than simply being unable to attain a suitable erection.

Most men suffering from erectile dysfunction will struggle with significantly reduced self-esteem, frustration, and in severe cases, serious depression. Research estimates that as many as one in five failed marriages is a result of ED.

Flavonoids, the compounds that give plants pigment, have long been identified as beneficial to health, with some sources declaring them the world’s healthiest foods. They are among the largest nutrient families known to man with over 6000 identified members. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants, helping prevent disease and providing anti-inflammatory benefits.

Adding to their long list of health benefits, this study concludes that “a higher intake of flavanones, anthocyanins, and flavones was significantly associated with a reduction in risk of ED only in men less than 70 years old and not older men.”

The data suggests that higher intake of flavonoid, which would be a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help prevent, and even reverse erectile dysfunction, as data suggests that “a higher habitual intake of specific flavonoid-rich foods is associated with reduced ED incidence.”

As with a surprisingly long list of ailments, diet and nutrition play an enormous role in health, and erectile dysfunction seems to be no different. A diet rich in fruits and veggies benefits much more than the penis, it leads to complete bodily health.

When it comes to getting well, we all want the latest and greatest treatments. But with some illnesses, sometimes the best overall treatment option is something that’s been tried and true.

Many doctors treat erectile dysfunction not by adding things, but by removing things from the patient’s life. Most often, lifestyle choices cause ED, so eliminating things like excessive drinking, smoking tobacco, and promoting techniques to lower blood pressure can help treat ED without medication.

Erectile dysfunction is one such type of disorder that doctors and researchers are looking to the past for new treatment options.

The proliferation of pharmaceutical designed treatment options for ED, including medications like phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors (Viagra, Cialis, Levitra), has led many to abandon traditional treatments; yet, traditional methods have been used with great success, especially in eastern medicine.

Certain plants and plant extracts, specifically those containing polyphenols, have displayed promising effects for ED. Among the useful polyphenols, a specific class called kraussianones have been found to be most effective for erectile dysfunction.

If you’re hesitant to try prescription medication for erectile dysfunction, certain ancient remedies, found in common foods, can be used as a first treatment option.

Saffron is one such food that has been found to help with ED. One study shows that treatments of 200mg of saffron can significantly increase “tip rigidity and tip tumescence as well as base rigidity and base tumescence” in as little as 10 days.

While there isn’t a lot of information on kraussianones, foods high in polyphenols are currently being used effectively to treat ED.

Anti Aging Superfoods

 

When we think of things that we consider to be super, we often think of superheroes. While these marvels only exist in the minds of movie and comic book creators, we’ve got our own superheroes right here on Earth. Many of us consider our parents, our mentors, perhaps even our children as our superhereos as well.

The term superfood is used to describe our most amazing foods available to us, simply marvels in Nature among other normal foods. Using food as medicine, these superfoods top any list for their health promoting benefits. Superfoods are extremely nutrient rich foods that are touted for their extraordinary health benefits for a variety of different reasons.

Among the most desired effects of consuming more superfoods is for their anti-aging properties. Some even regard superfoods as the fountain of youth to help prevent illness encourage radiant looking skin, and potentially slow down the aging process.

Generally. superfoods will contain large quantities of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and mineral…all things that provide their own individual benefits to the body. Many also contain beneficial bacteria or health promoting forms of fiber. Among the most coveted superfoods are green tea, grapes, berries and cherries, nuts and seeds Brassica vegetables, tomatoes, avocados, kefir, medicinal mushrooms, edible seaweeds, and salmon, each a superfood in its own way.

grapes tomatoes green tea cherries

Foods high in antioxidants like green tea, grapes, berries and cherries, and tomatoes help reduce the amounts of free radicals in the body. These superfoods can also help improve brain function, fat loss, and lower the risk of developing certain diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and anxiety.

Tomatoes are prized for their anti-aging properties, as studies show that its main antioxidant, lycopene, can protect the skin from harmful UV rays. Grapes, berries and cherries contain polyphenols, resveratrol and proanthocyanidins, which are other powerful antioxidants great to slow down the aging process. Resveratrol and pterostilbene are antioxidants of particular interest when it comes to anti-aging. The first human-safety study of pterostilbene was published in 2013, and investigations have intensified since then. Pterostilbene is now championed as a more potent form of resveratrol. It’s said to offer all of the previously known benefits of resveratrol but with superior bioavailability.

Omega fatty acids are found in foods like avocado, fish, and nuts and seeds. These beneficial fats help lower triglyceride levels in the body, can help mitigate the benefits of rheumatoid arthritis, and can even help with depression, asthma, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease, among many other healthy benefits.

avocado fish nuts seeds

Several studies were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2007 edition, which all concluded that in the elderly, a diet high in fish and fish products is associated with better cognitive performance in a dose-dependent manner. Maximum effect was observed at an average intake of ≈75 g/d (or 2.5 oz/day). And newer studies show the same results. In a 2017 study, higher fish intake was associated with slower decline in both overall cognition and memory. Consuming ≥4 servings/week versus <1 serving/week of fish was associated with a lower rate of memory decline.

Advancements in our studies of antioxidants like flavonoids, polyphenols, anthocyanidins and all the other beneficial phytochemicals still doesn’t change the basic fact that fish is one of nature’s premier anti-aging foods. Each ounce of salmon contains roughly 500 mg of omega-3. Most of us should consume a 4 oz portion yielding about 2000 mg of omega-3, ideally at least 3 times a week.

probiotics joghurt dark chocolate pickles sauerkraut kimchi

Probiotics are found naturally in the gut and are essential for optimal health. Fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, soft cheeses, sauerkraut, pickles, and even dark chocolate contain high levels of probiotics.

Probiotics help balance the flora in the digestive tract, which helps boost the immune system, improve digestive function and nutrient absorption, can help manage certain skin conditions like eczema, and can help to balance out your moods.

Brasssica (also known as cruciferous) vegetables contain unique sulphur containing compounds named glucosinolates, such as glucoraphanin and glucobrassicin. The glucosinolates are metabolized by our bodies into indoles and isothiocyanates. These sulphur compounds are tremendously helpful to maintain liver health, promote healthy detoxification from harmful chemicals, and may even protect us against certain types of cancer. Brassica vegetables include foods like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, arugula, bok choy, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts.

seaweed salad

Medicinal mushrooms contain beneficial compounds found nowhere else in Nature. Mushrooms such as white button, Shiitake, Reishi, Lion’s main, and Maitake contain powerful antioxidants, amino acids, and unique forms of fiber which can act as anti-inflammatory agents for your brain, super boost your immune system, and targets anti-again genes.

Edible seaweeds (red, green, and brown) are rich in vitamins and trace minerals, contain antioxidants such as fucoxanthin to protect your body from free radicals, special forms of fiber to support healthy bacterial growth in your gut and promotes weight loss, and improving risks of developing both cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Seaweeds may sound intimidating to you, however, they are extremely versatile and can be used in many dishes, including sushi rolls, soups and stews, salads, and smoothies.

You don’t have to travel to krypton to find a superhero. We’ve got a ton of wonderful superfoods right here in Earth to help you stay healthy, fit, and feeling young for ages to come.

Vaping vs Smoking

Vaping vs Smoking

Someone recently asked us if vaping was safer than smoking, and this question was particularly intriguing to me. It’s a rather new human behavior and very little is known about it. I love research though, so I decided to find out as much as I could about the subject and share the information with you.

First of all, I want to assure you that we are not going to pull a new rabbit out of an old hat – both vaping and smoking are bad, and I want to be clear about that. The simple answer through research is that yes, vaping may be less harmful. It’s not that vaping is healthier, but simply less harmful than smoking cigarettes.

Vaping vs Smoking

What is Vaping?

close up of female vaping with cloud of smoke

Over 500 articles have been published on vaping in the last few years, but very few of them are direct comparisons on the health risks or benefits of vaping versus smoking cigarettes. E-cigarettes are devices that produce an aerosol by heating a liquid containing various chemicals including nicotine, flavorings, and other additives. Users inhale the aerosol and those additives into their lungs. The aerosols produced by e-cigarettes can contain harmful chemicals such as heavy metals, lead, volatile organic compounds, ultra-fine particles, potentially cancer-causing chemicals, and other agents used for cleaning the device. Over 80 compounds are inhaled every time that you use an e-cigarette. Compare that to over 7,000 chemicals that are inhaled every time you smoke a cigarette!

electronic cigarette lying next to regular cigarettes

There has been a recent epidemic of e-cigarette users going to their doctor or even the emergency room because of lung disorders. The onset of respiratory findings, which can include nonproductive cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath, can occur several days or weeks before hospitalization. Systemic findings can include fast heart rate, fever, chills, fatigue, GI distress, and diarrhea preceding the lung symptoms.

Adult smokers who are attempting to quit should use evidence-based smoking cessation treatments, including counseling, nicotine replacement, and FDA-approved medications. Those who need help quitting tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, should contact their medical provider.

Are E-Cigarettes Safer Than Tobacco Cigarettes?  

man holding electronic cigarette and tobacco cigarettes

Smoking tobacco cigarettes is the primary cause of preventable cardiovascular deaths in the United States, and stopping the use of tobacco has long been the focus of public health organizations. According to the Surgeon General Report in 2014, rates of smoking in the US have reached historic lows. Parallel to the decline in cigarette smoking is the use of electronic cigarettes, which were introduced to the US in 2007. The market has since increased, especially among young people, which is a major concern. 3.1 million high school students in 2018 used e-cigarettes or vaped, and only 600,000 of them are illegal age.

E-cigarette use may be less harmful than tobacco use, but it comes with its own risks. Usage has increased from 700,000 users in 2012 to 3.2 million users in 2018. The effects of e-cigarettes on long-term cardiovascular health are rather inconclusive but still concerning. Multiple studies have shown temporary increases in oxidative stress, inflammation, vascular dysfunction, and platelet aggregation as well. These effects are consistent with the properties of nicotine, though the other components of e-cigarette emissions may also contribute to this.

E-cigarette use is less carcinogenic than tobacco smoke, as tobacco smoke is associated with lung cancer and other cancers throughout the body. It’s the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease in the United States and worsens virtually every health condition we’re aware of. Tobacco smoke weakens the walls of the lungs, so we got plenty of air when we breathe in, but there’s little lung tissue left which means we’re not actually delivering air to the vital cells of our bodies.

vaporiser with different flavors on tabletop

Now let’s be clear: the vapor of e-cigarettes contains less harmful substances than tobacco smoke, but e-cigarettes are not a hazard-free lifestyle product. Just like tobacco, e-cigarettes cause inflammation of the lungs. E-cigarettes are also associated with a higher rate of illicit drug use because other drugs can be used in the vaporizing units.

Vaping with e-cigarettes may be less harmful to your health than tobacco cigarettes and less associated with cancers, but they have their own acute symptoms to be aware of. There’s a recent epidemic of e-cigarettes because of market increase and adulterated agents that you can put in the vaporizers, causing more individuals to need emergency room visits.

If you smoke tobacco, you should certainly move to e-cigarettes. If you use e-cigarettes, work with your healthcare provider to come up with techniques for quitting permanently.


Dr. Ryan Shelton of Zenith LabsIf you liked this video/article, do share it with your friends and loved ones. Subscribe to the Youtube channel for weekly tips on new tools and techniques to improve your health and well-being.

I believe in the original meaning of the word doctor, ‘docere’, which means teacher. I’m here to help educate you on how to take care of yourself in ways that you may not have heard of before, but that are effective. I always want to hear your ideas and feedback so be sure to leave me comments below!  

 

 

 

Pineapple And Papaya for Join Pain

Pineapples are fantastic in our favorite tropical drinks, but they are so much more diverse, undeserving of a fate filled with garnishing blended sugary drinks for tourists.

Contrary to its sweet flavor, pineapple is actually low in calories per single serving, and contains lots of fiber, vitamins, nutrients, and is part of a healthy diet in many more ways.

There’s more good news for pineapple lovers, especially those who suffer from joint pain, pineapples can help with this as well.

Pineapples naturally contain a protein-digesting enzyme called bromelain, which is prevalent in other tropical fruits as well. Bromelain has been found to fight inflammation in the body, making pineapple well suited to decrease joint pain.

Not only is pineapple great for decreasing inflammation and relieving joint pain, part and parcel of bromelain’s benefits is its ability to reduce osteoarthritis pain as well as some common anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen when taken in supplement form.

Some studies of bromelain suggest that its joint aiding promise doesn’t end with relieving small joint pains, research shows promise that bromelain can also provide relief for such life plaguing, and sometimes debilitating, diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

Another tropical fruit that can treat joint pain is papaya. Like pineapple, papaya is also high in an anti-inflammatory enzyme.

Papaya is not only high in the enzyme papain, it is actually the only source of this enzyme.

Papain has been found to be so effective that it is used in an injectable form to treat back pain, and can be used topically to relieve pain from burns, stings and wounds and help ease post-operative pain.

Vision and Environmental toxicity

5 vegetables and 5 fruits high in potassium (besides bananas) to help fight high blood pressure

High blood pressure has been linked in numerous studies to such ailments as heart disease and stroke, erectile dysfunction, vision and hearing changes, kidney disease, and even may have links to increased likelihood for dementia.

A wonderful natural way to help lower high blood pressure is to increase foods rich in potassium while decreasing intake of foods high in sodium. An essential micronutrient, potassium is responsible for regulating fluid balance in the body, controlling the activity of the heart and other muscles, and counteracts the potentially harmful effects of sodium.

The top 10 sources of sodium in our diets, which include a lot of food we find quite tasty are, in order: breads and rolls, luncheon meats, pizza, poultry, soups, cheeseburgers and other sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, canned foods, and snack foods like potato chips and pretzels. These foods account for 50% of all the sodium we eat in a day.  Changing your sodium to potassium ratio intake of foods can dramatically change your risks for developing high blood pressure.

Studies have shown that those who consumed 4,069 mg of potassium per day had a 49% lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium (about 1,000 mg per day).

When potassium is mentioned, most people think of bananas, but there are loads of potassium in many of the most common foods we eat. Here are 5 vegetables and 5 fruits (other than bananas) high in potassium that you probably were not aware of but should very much consider adding to your diet.

VEGETABLES

Leafy Greens

1. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are a fantastic source of potassium. One cup of spinach contains about 839mg, beet greens about 442mg, and amaranth leaves contain as much as 980mg, so don’t skip the salad.  Also consider dandelion greens, arugula, Swiss chard, kale, and bok choy.

2. Regular and sweet Potato with skin

A large sized potato contains approximately 845 milligrams of potassium, with about 88% in the skin. Potato skins are also a great source of iron, providing as much as 57 percent of the daily recommended values for men, and 25 percent for women. Sweet potatoes make a great casserole, go great with Mexican dishes, and are great additives to salads. Consider that sweet potatoes have about 950mg of potassium per one medium-sized specimen and you have one sweet source of potassium.

3. Bean and Legumes

The highest source of potassium is contained in lima beans, containing 896mg of potassium per cup of cooked beans, though all beans and legumes should be considered.

4. Brassica vegetables

Brussel sprouts are the potassium king in this cherished family of vegetables coming in at 495 mg of potassium per cup, though broccoli is a close second at 547 mg of potassium per cup

5. Acorn Squash

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, there’s no better time to load up on potassium than now. Acorn squash are not only delicious, they also contain approximately 900mg of potassium per cup.

FRUITS

1. Avocados

Not only are avocados rich in essential fatty acids, which also help with heart health, but an average sized avocado also has about 1068mg of potassium. Next time, pass on the salsa and enjoy the guacamole.

2. Guava

Guava is a tropical fruit that my sons and I enjoyed daily while living on the Big Island of Hawaii. We ate them whole, made smoothies with them, even made guava ice cubes and ice cream.  They contain a whopping 688mg of potassium per cup.

3. Kiwi

When you find a good kiwi and allow it to ripen to flavor, there’s nothing quite like it. This fantastic fuzzy fruit packs 592mg of potassium per cup.

4. Melons

Both cantaloupe and honeydew take time to grow to size but once ready can provide an excellent source of potassium for you.  I always think of melon salads, breakfast treats, or melon ice cubes to enjoy.

5. Apricots

These tiny fruits are excellent sources of beta carotenes.  They also, both fresh and dried, provide over 400mg of potassium per serving.

We’re all familiar with bananas, but next time you’re in the grocery store, give another rich source of potassium a try. Many foods are much more loaded with this essential mineral and can help break the monotony of a banana-centric diet. Make a difference in your blood pressure levels by choosing to use foods as medicine.

Stress and Hair Loss

 

While we are all aware that some types of stress are necessary and beneficial for us, motivating us to achieve certain successes in life. However, prolonged and excessive stress is responsible for an incredible amount of harmful effects, disrupting nearly every system in the body.

Chronic stress can shut down the immune system, making you more susceptible to sickness. It can upset the digestive system, causing indigestion and other complications, and even lead to hardening of the arteries which brings about increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Oh, and both depression and anxiety can rear their ugly heads with stress as well.

Well, new research says that it’s time to add another side effect of stress to this already long list. Research shows that stress can also cause hair loss. This is true in both males and females.

The way that stress can cause hair loss, or slow down hair growth, is via the endocrine (hormonal) system.

The endocrine system is a set of glands that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, skin and hair health, and mood.

A very important part of the endocrine system is the adrenal gland. Located at the upper area of the kidneys, the adrenal gland is the main mechanism responsible for regulating stress in the body, producing several hormones in moments of stress in order to support your body.

adrenal glands highlighted

This type of function is valuable, aiding us in our fight or flight response and boosting our senses during times of duress. However, prolonged production of adrenal hormones in response to excessive stress quickly becomes a problem, even in your 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Correcting your response to stress can impact your health in positive ways

Another hormone produced during stressful situations is cortisol. Cortisol regulates your body’s response to stress hormones, including blood sugar levels and other natural reactions.

If we consider these hormones, and the chain of events that causes their production, then we begin to understand how prolonged stress can cause hair loss, or slow hair growth down.

Prolonged stress causes the overproduction of adrenal hormones and the under production of other important hormones in the body including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. This cascade can all lead to changes in insulin, which then leads to the sustained overproduction of cortisol. Prolonged overproduction of cortisol can wreak havoc on your body in many ways.

All of this prolonged production of hormones leads to what’s known as adrenal fatigue.

A negative side effect of adrenal fatigue is an increased concentration of the hormone Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a derivative of testosterone, again, in both males and females.

While we think of testosterone as a macho hormone, causing men to have more body hair and bigger muscles, though with high concentrations it can actually have a counterintuitive effect on the body, shrinking hair follicles, slowing down hair growth, and in severe cases damaging hair follicles so badly that hair growth is impossible.

healthy food stress free Leading a balanced, healthy lifestyle is the key to reducing stress and its numerous harmful effects on your body. Getting adequate sleep, eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet, drinking plenty of water, and practicing stress relieving techniques are all great ways to reduce stress, reduce the workload on your endocrine system, and prevent stress from causing abnormal hair loss. Please consider initiating adaptogenic herbs such as Rhodiola, Schisandra, Eleutherococcus, and Ginseng to support your adrenal hormones. Herbs which curb to negative effects of DHT on hair loss include Saw Palmetto, Pygeum, Pumpkin seed oil extract, Rosemary, White mulberry, and the amino acid L-Carnitine. Take action now to decrease inflammation in your body, better control stress, and nourish those hair follicles.

 

 

Dr Ryan Shelton

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Probiotics and Brain Health

Probiotics have experienced an enormous increase in popularity over the last ten years. Found naturally in many foods, probiotics are bacteria that inhabit the gut and are responsible for good digestive health. The understanding that intestinal health influences overall health dates back thousands of years.

Modern science has now unveiled that the gastrointestinal tract is inhabited by trillions of microorganisms—collectively called the human microbiome. These organisms interact with the intestinal mucosa as well as the immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. This multisystem web of communication has been termed the “gut-brain axis.” Its mediators include neurotransmitters, hormones, peptides, cytokines, chemokines, and byproducts of bacterial metabolism.

Science has revealed intricate details about the human microbiome and the gut-brain axis, but many questions remain. For instance, how does the microbiome affect a person’s mood? If changes in gut microbes accompany changes in emotions, which comes first? Can we modify the microbiome to support mental and emotional health? Where do probiotic supplements come into play?

Researchers have examined many of these questions in recent years. Results from human clinical trials are beginning to provide practical understanding of the microbiome and the gut-brain axis. Here’s a look at key studies that offer insights into probiotic supplementation to support mood, stress, and cognition.

There are many proposed mechanisms by which probiotics might influence mood. Researchers have found that gut microbiota can modulate serotonin function, support healthy inflammatory pathways, and communicate directly with the brain via the vagus nerve. You can think of the vagus nerve as the gut-brain highway.

Researchers have evaluated whether probiotics offer mood support. In a 2016 study published in Nutrients, 40 participants were randomized to take a daily probiotic capsule or a placebo for eight weeks. The probiotic capsule consisted of three viable and freeze-dried strains: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Results showed that the subjects taking the multispecies probiotic experienced a healthy mood in contrast to placebo.

Probiotics may also support a person’s cognitive reaction to mood changes. Why is this important?  Cognitive reactivity to mood increases vulnerability to dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors.

In a 2015 study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 40 healthy participants were randomized to take a multispecies probiotic product called Ecologic Barrier, or a placebo. The probiotic delivered 5 billion CFU per day of freeze-dried Bifidobacterium bifidum W23, Bifidobacterium lactis W52, Lactobacillus acidophilus W37, Lactobacillus brevis W63, Lactobacillus casei W56, Lactobacillus salivarius W24, and Lactococcus lactis (W19 and W58). After four weeks of supplementation, those taking the probiotic experienced less cognitive reactivity to their mood.

PROBIOTICS AND STRESS

One new area of research has been whether probiotic supplementation influences the stress response.

In a study published in 2016 in Translational Psychology, researchers evaluated whether consumption of the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum 1714 affected stress response or brain-activity patterns in healthy volunteers. Participants completed neurocognitive tests and stress tests before and after taking the probiotic for four weeks. Results showed that consumption of B. longum 1714 was positively associated with support for stress response and memory. In a study published in 2017 in the Journal of Functional Foods, daily intake of Lactobacillus gasseri CP2305 supported mental, physical, and sleep quality among Japanese medical students.

PROBIOTICS AND COGNITION

As with mood and stress, much study has gone into the potential benefits for using probiotics to improve cognition, which is our ability to think, reason and use our memories.

The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) is widely used to assess memory. In a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, researchers evaluated the effects of probiotic supplementation on the MMSE. Sixty participants were randomized to drink either a placebo or milk containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Lactobacillus fermentum probiotics for 12 weeks. Results showed that the probiotic supplement had a positive effect on MMSE scores.

In 2020, a randomized clinical trial examining the impact of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG probiotic supplementation on cognitive functioning in middle-aged and older adults was published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.  The outcome showed that supplementation supported healthy cognitive function in older adults.

In 2021, a study on the effects of probiotic supplementation on cognitive health in older adults was published in the The Journals of Gerontology. The goal of this randomized, controlled trial was to evaluate whether a probiotic combination of Bifidobacterium bifidum BGN4 and Bifidobacterium longum BORI would support cognition and mental health in older men and women. The primary outcomes of interest were healthy changes in cognition and mental health. A validated cognition test revealed a significant difference between the probiotic and placebo groups at week 12, with probiotics supporting mental flexibility.

A major problem with modern processed food is that for preservation and distribution to massive numbers of people, it is mostly sterile. Today’s foods contain almost no probiotics. Today’s food is regularly washed in chlorine, treated with antibiotics, pasteurized or irradiated. Food from our yesteryears, like foods fermented for long term storage, used to contain tons of naturally occurring probiotics.

The connection between probiotic levels existing in the gut and improved mental health is quite intuitive at its most basic. Bacteria in the gut helps break down food so that our bodies can absorb it more effectively. Thus, poor nutrient absorption, like that in a gut lacking sufficient probiotic presence, can lead to malnourishment and vitamin deficiencies. Some vitamin deficiencies, like folate deficiency, can result in depression, apathy, fatigue, poor sleep, and poor concentration.

No matter how you slice it probiotics are not only good for you, but essential for optimal brain health. Help feed the good bacteria in your gut with fiber rich foods and add to their population with probiotic rich foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, and natto. Consider taking a high dose, muti-strain probiotic supplement including many of the strains/species listed above in human studies. You can certainly begin to feel the difference in as little as a month.

Acid Reflux

 

Acid reflux, also known as gastro-esophageal reflux, is where the stomach contents such as food and acidic digestive juices escape upwards into the esophagus. This can irritate the esophagus and cause heartburn and other symptoms such as regurgitation, and sour taste, and coughing.

A long-term study recently revealed the number of people who experience acid reflux at least once a week has gone up by nearly 50% in the last 10 years, with women appearing to be more susceptible to the condition than men.

Acid reflux affects much of the population, with 60 percent of Americans having experienced some type of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, within the last year, and as many as 30 percent experiencing weekly symptoms. GERD is the most severe and recurrent form of acid reflux.

Most acid reflux is easily controlled with diet and lifestyle changes. Losing weight, quitting smoking, reducing salt intake, increasing dietary fiber, slowing down at mealtimes and chewing food more thoroughly, avoiding foods which may commonly act as triggers to reflux, and exercise are among the best non-medication ways to help relieve yourself of acid reflux.

A major concern among healthcare providers is the chronic, over-use of medications by a large percentage of the population to treat the symptoms of acid reflux. Many of these medications, known as proton pump inhibitors, were originally developed as prescription medications and only intended to be taken for short periods of time typically around 6 weeks. These medications work very well to reduce the acid produced by the stomach. However, stomach acid is required to extract certain essential minerals from the foods we eat and long-term deficiencies of these minerals can lead to poor bone density, joint and muscle discomfort, and mood irregularities.

In place of the medications and the diet/lifestyle changes mentioned above, I recommend four natural strategies to my patients to help them safely combat acid reflux.

Eliminate Triggers and Add Bitter Foods

fast food
Common foods which can acts as triggers to acid reflux include coffee, alcohol, spicy peppers, citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, mint, and high fat meals.

Many of us are lacking in the consumption of bitter foods. One great benefit of certain foods considered to be bitter is their ability to help eliminate acid reflux. Bitter foods can improve the efficiency of gastric emptying and reduce the symptoms of acid reflux.

A great natural way to help your stomach better digest food is to consume bitter foods like bitter green salads, Brassica vegetables, endive, cranberries, arugula, radishes, and other foods high in bitterness.

Melatonin

waking up

Studies published as early as 2007 have revealed that melatonin, a hormone produced by a gland in the brain that regulates the wake/sleep cycle and other daily biorhythms, may have potential as a new treatment option for those suffering from acid reflux.

The great news about the effectiveness of melatonin in treating acid reflux, is that it is naturally occurring in the body, so no foreign substances are introduced to the body.

Melatonin as a treatment for acid reflux was published in March 2007 in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. Researchers tested the efficacy of melatonin for acid reflux on 60 participants, half of which received a placebo.

Those who received melatonin took 5mg every evening, and after 12 weeks, over half no longer felt symptoms of acid reflux.

Melatonin is widely available over-the-counter at any pharmacy or supermarket in the US and is non-habit forming. In addition, melatonin is much cheaper than prescription medication, and carries the added benefit of helping users fall asleep at bedtime.

Like any other treatment, melatonin won’t help everyone with their acid reflux. But at such a reasonable price, lack of harmful side-effects, and with the added benefit of better sleep – also linked to improved gastric function- melatonin is definitely worth a try.

Heel Drops

glass of water

Another interesting recommendation for relieving acid reflux is what is known as heel drops.

A heel drop is a method most often used by physical medicine practitioners to treat hiatal hernias, a condition which can cause many cases of acid reflux. The heel drop is also effective for treating milder acid reflux.

The method is simple:

  1. Drink approximately 8 ounces of slightly warm water immediately after getting out of bed in the morning.
  2. While standing, raise both arms to your side at 90 degrees, like a capital T, then fold your arms in at the elbows to touch your chest with your hands.
  3. Stand up as high as you can on your toes.
  4. Drop down on your heels.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

After your 10th drop, keep your arms raised and pant in short, rapid breaths for 15 seconds.

The heel drop works by helping to align the stomach and diaphragm, allowing your esophagus to get some relief. Be sure to repeat the heel drop for acid reflux until symptoms subside.

Introduce herbs which help to coat the linings of the esophagus and stomach.

marshmallow root plant

Many natural substances and botanical agents have been used for centuries to help protect the inner linings of the esophagus and stomach against the potentially damaging effects of stomach acid. The most widely available include sodium alginate (a seaweed extract), slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, deglycyrrhizinated licorice root extract, and Indian barberry. Ideally, a combination of these agents should be taken about 20-30 minutes prior to each meal.

Using these four strategies along with the diet/lifestyle changes mentioned above can go a long way in improving your symptoms of acids reflux without the potential negative long term consequences of taking proton pump inhibitors.

Antioxidants for Eye Health

 

For Better Vision, Keep an Eye Out for Foods High in Zeaxanthin, Lutein, Lycopene, and Astaxanthin.

Like everything else with the human body, the eyes eventually degrade with age. If you were lucky enough to experience 20/20 vision in youth, eventually, you too will most likely need some form of corrective treatment whether glasses, contacts, or laser eye surgery.

The good news is that we can use food as preventative medicine.  There are dietary actions that you can take focusing on four distinct naturally occurring carotenoids found in foods in order to prevent the inevitable loss of vision. Small shifts in your diet can relate to you seeing your family members more clearly, reading those books you love so much, and driving with better confidence.

Four great dietary sources you can seek for help with vision are zeaxanthin, lutein, lycopene, and astaxanthin…the so called ‘macular carotenoids.’ Each can be found naturally and easily obtained through dietary means. Word of advice, these carotenoids are oxidized and become useless when exposed to air for long periods of time or when cooked at high temperatures. Always use fresh options either steamed or cooked at low temperature for best results.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are pigments predominantly found in the eye.  They are also the exact same pigments which are responsible for the yellow, orange and green colors in many fruits and vegetables. These pigments in the eye act as a filter for blue light, protecting the macular region against oxidation by light.  A healthy macula of the eye, protected against the insults of reactive oxygen species, helps to maintain clear, crisp vision.

  • Foods high in Zeaxanthin and Lutein include leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard greens, romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, and turnip greens. They are also high in corn, broccoli, bell peppers, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, oranges, apricots, pistachios, pumpkin, and egg yolks.
  • The highest concentration of Zeaxanthin and Lutein are found in medicinal flowers such as marigolds and the Garden nasturtium.

While lutein and zeaxanthin are a little less recognizable, another powerful compound found to aid vision is lycopene. Lycopene is one of the most powerful antioxidants currently known occurring in food, and has many more benefits to us than just aiding vision. Lycopene also helps prevent cancer, prostate issues, and heart disease.

  • Lycopene is found readily in tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, watermelon, guava, papaya, asparagus, red cabbage, and many more fruits and vegetables.
  • A Helpful Hint: Lycopene is actually most concentrated in tomato paste, so make your favorite red sauce for eye health!

Tomatoes contain about 3mg of lycopene per 100 grams but, contrary to popular belief, they don’t pack the most punch when it comes to lycopene.

Guavas are not only delicious, they also contain an impressive amount of lycopene, with 100 grams of guava holding over 5mg of this potent antioxidant.

If you’re looking for help minimizing the effects of age-related vision loss, look no further than these three essential compounds: zeaxanthin, lycopene, and lutein.

Astaxanthin is special, very special. Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring carotenoid pigment found primarily in marine organisms such as salmon, trout, crab, shrimp, and lobster, providing a pink-red color. Among the commercially important microalgae, Haematococcus pluvialis is the richest source of natural astaxanthin which is considered as “super anti-oxidant.” Natural astaxanthin produced by H. pluvialis has significantly greater antioxidant capacity than the synthetic one. Studies have also shown that naturally fermented Astaxanthin may be even more powerful in its antioxidant potential for eye and vision health.

close up of maritime pine bark

A ”Thanks for Reading” BONUS for reading the entire article:

Maritime Pine bark extract is the only herbal agent found in research to actually reverse myopia, also known as near-sightedness.

 

 

Dr Ryan Shelton

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