Thursday, 20 September 2018

Could Probiotic Supplements Actually Be Bad For You?

Probiotics have been the buzzword for the last decade. Everywhere I turn there are news stories or studies about their myriad health benefits. So, imagine my surprise when I came across an article about the problems of probiotic supplementation entitled “‘Good’ bacteria? New research suggests probiotics might actually be bad.” The article proceeded to explain how supplementation with probiotics might be useless or may actually damage your health. Intrigued, I continued reading.
The article mentioned two studies. In the first one, published in the journal Cell, researchers gave 25 volunteers a probiotic supplement containing 11 strains of probiotics for one month. After testing stomach and intestinal samples at the end of the study, they found that the bacteria had either gone through their bodies or were overtaken by other bacteria.
The second study, published in the same journal, assessed the post-antibiotic probiotic supplementation of 46 people. The researchers found that the probiotic supplements delayed the regrowth of the bacteria that had been destroyed by the antibiotics.
Before you assume that probiotics might actually be bad for you, as the story suggests, let’s consider a few other facts. 
Both of the study samples are extremely small and don’t warrant drawing any type of blanket conclusions about probiotics being useless or, worse, harmful to people. Even a cursory review of the latter study showed that the scientists were recognizing the value of probiotics but not used as a one-size-fits-all approach the way that most doctors recommend them. I totally agree with that. One-size-fits-all doesn’t work in virtually any aspect of life. Why would probiotics be any different? The correct way to take probiotics is to use formulations of research-supported strains for particular health purposes.
Considering that there is a whole host (pun intended) of other studies showcasing the many health benefits of taking probiotics, including as a treatment for antibiotic-associated health problems, I would expect that these studies be considered prior to making claims that probiotics may be bad. I should know, I reviewed thousands of studies for the two books I wrote on probiotics: The Cultured Cook and The Probiotic Promise. Among them include studies with larger population samples. For example, one study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that supplementation with probiotics was highly effective at alleviating the effects of antibiotics.
Another study published in the journal BMJ Clinical Research found that a blend of probiotics L. caseiL. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus cut the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea by almost two-thirds. That would likely be considered a miracle drug in the pharmaceutical industry if it was patentable.
Scientists in Finland conducted another study that was published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, in which they tested the effectiveness of probiotic supplements to 1) prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea; and 2) to assess the rate of C. difficile infections and the resulting diarrhea from antibiotic use. They found a direct link between the highest doses of probiotics and the lowest incidence and shortest durations of antibiotic-induced side-effects like diarrhea. As a bonus, they found that those supplementing with probiotic supplements had fewer fevers, abdominal pain and bloating.
Before you believe the apparently new hype that probiotics are useless or dangerous, it is important to consider a few more things:
1)     Your bowels are packed with probiotics that are needed to keep you alive so claiming probiotics are harmful is both disturbing and dangerous. You couldn’t live without them.
2)     Like all bacteria, good or bad, they fight for space and nutrients. In your bowels, that means they battle each other for attachment to your intestinal walls and for the nutrients you provide them with through the food you eat. Eat a lousy diet and you’ll feed the harmful bacteria, but if you eat a diet full of fiber and natural sugars from fruit you’ll feed the beneficial ones.
3)     Broad-spectrum probiotic supplements that are formulated without the consideration of the interactions between bacteria simply won’t yield the health-promoting results that have been achieved in thousands of studies. It’s not just a matter of take as many different types as you can and you’ll get great results. You might not get any beneficial results if you take this approach. But, that doesn’t mean that probiotic supplements are useless or dangerous. Far from it.
Research-supported formulas can save lives. There are many studies showcasing their benefits for everything from antibiotic-induced side-effects to fighting superbug infections that often kill people, giving probiotics the potential to, not just improve health, but save lives.

Is Red Wine Really Anti-Inflammatory?

Chronic inflammation can do a lot of damage to your body. It increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and accelerated aging.
That’s why it’s important to make healthy lifestyle choices that reduce the risk of inflammation. One thing you can do is increase your intake of anti-inflammatory foods. These foods contain antioxidants that protect your cells from the effects of free radicals.


Red wine is an anti-inflammatory food. It contains powerful antioxidants including catechin, resveratrol, proanthocyanidins, and epicatechin. In fact, research has proven that red wine can lower inflammation.
In the study, researchers asked 40 healthy males to take two drinks of red wine or gin a day for 28 days. The results showed that both groups had lower levels of IL-1alpha, which is a marker of inflammation. However, the red wine group had significantly lower levels of inflammatory molecules. 


Now, before you get too excited and start drinking red wine every night, here are a few things you should know about red wine’s anti-inflammatory properties.

Red wine contains sugar.

If you’re trying to cut back on sugar, drinking red wine every day may not be the way to go. In fact, drinking too much red wine can worsen your inflammation and cause weight gain.

Alcoholic drinks disrupt sleep.

There’s a misconception that alcohol aids sleep. But that’s far from the truth. It only helps you fall asleep but it disrupts deep sleep later at night.
You may want to stay away from red wine before bed if you struggle with insomnia. The benefits of quality deep sleep definitely outweigh those of red wine.

Too much red wine does more harm than good.

The US government recommends one to 1.5 glasses a day for women and one to two glasses a day for men. Anything more than the recommended amount can have negative side effects, like a higher risk of dementia.
For some, one glass may be too much. It can lead to poor choices, like binge eating or binge drinking.

Red wine contains very low amounts of resveratrol.

Most of the benefits of red wine are attributed to compound, resveratrol. Unfortunately, red wine has very low amounts of this compound.
You would have to drink several bottles of red wine a day to get the amount of resveratrol used in animal studies. You’re better off just eating grapes instead.


While red wine does have anti-inflammatory properties, it may not work for everyone. Consider the points above before you decide to use it to fight inflammation. If you choose to use it, stick to one to two glasses a day and go for one to two days a week without drinking it.
Note that drinking red wine won’t help much if you’re on a high-sugar diet. You need to cut back on sugar first to fight inflammation.

Amazing Health Benefits of Fermented Foods!

Fermentation is a health craze taking over your local farmer’s market, grocery store, and even your own kitchen. The popularity follows on the heels of recent studies revealing the incredible benefits of fermented foods from your toes to your gut microbiota to your brain. Yet, how can fermentation, basically a controlled form of rotting, be so darn good for your body? It’s all in the recipe! The fermentation process boosts the nutrition value, decreases sugar content, and imbibes the food product with healthy bacteria and probiotics.
Before embarking on your own personal fermentation agenda, it’s important to understand how to safely ferment food products at home, as well as the best-fermented products to find on your local grocery store shelf!

What is fermentation? 

Food that has been fermented has gone through a fermentation process in which microorganisms (think healthy bacteria and yeast) change “carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids” usually within an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment. In other words, during the fermentation process, sugars are broken down by agents such as yeast and healthy bacteria. There are two types of fermentation: alcoholic fermentation used to make beer, wine, and bread products, and lactic acid fermentation, which is a further step in the fermentation process where lactose is converted into lactic acid.

Health Benefits of Fermented Food 

With the mounting evidence regarding gut microbiota and various ailments, conditions, and mood disorders, the importance of boosting healthy bacteria and probiotics is becoming even more prevalent. Yet, it’s not just your gut that will benefit from healthy fermented foods. There are a host of other benefits that are simply a plus to also boosting your gut microbiota!

Reduced Inflammation 

Inflammation is the cause of many inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, as well as many health issuesincluding high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and even diabetes.
Fermentation to the rescue!
As part of a study published by the National Institutes of Health, fermented foods were discovered to have a host of incredibly healthy activity including “anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-fungal,” anti-diabetic, anti-atherosclerotic, and anti-inflammatory activity. A separate study discovered that gut microbiota, which is bolstered by the bacteria and probiotics in fermented foods, has the potential to control and mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress.

Better Digestive Health 

The health of your gut is an incredibly telling aspect of overall health. From your immune system (up to 80 percent of your immune system relies on a healthy gut environment) to Acid Reflux Disease to your brain health and mood regulation, the gut influences all.
Yet, this is especially prevalent when it comes to overall digestive health.
Your gut microbiota, the healthy bacteria that help to break down and parcel out nutrients, as well as get rid of food waste, requires a specific diet to remain healthy. While fiber is incredibly important, the other key component is probiotics, which are found in great supply in fermented food products. Probiotics are ingestible healthy bacteria that match bacteria that already live within your body. An environment resplendent in good bacteria is a healthy environment.

Mood and Behavior Boosters 

The benefits of fermented foods are simply about the smooth functions of your bodily systems. Fermented foods aid in gut health, which has been linked to a healthier brain and, in turn, more even and uplifted mood and overall behavior.
How does your gut health affect your moods?
Simply put there’s a central highway linking your brain to your gut called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, in which neurons that line your gut, also called the enteric nervous system, can signal the brain regarding your emotions. On top of that, “serotonin — a neurotransmitter involved in mood — is made in the gut,” which then reports to the brain. A study published by the National Institute of Health reported that fermentation “may often amplify the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods,” as well as create certain microbes via fermentation, which, in turn, may affect mental and brain health.

Healthy Fermented Foods for Your Fridge 

When you think about fermented food, your mind most likely turns directly to sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi. While these are excellent fermented products to have in your kitchen, they are also usually an acquired taste. Do not fear if you can’t stomach these pungent fermented foods! There are a host of alternatives including miso, various raw soy products, kombucha, and, if you want to try your hand at fermenting at home, almost any vegetable can be fermented.


This classic German dish also happens to be one of the best and easiest fermented products to find in the states! Sauerkraut is made of finely chopped cabbage, which is then fermented with lactic-acid producing bacteria. It’s got all the benefits of fermented food, yet specializes in “increasing vitamin C, folate, and manganese.” Make your own sauerkraut with this Homemade Raw Sauerkraut recipe and then get creative in the kitchen such as this Sauerkraut Salad With Apples and Walnuts recipe or this Chickpea Sauerkraut Salad Wrap recipe.


Kimchi — most commonly made with cabbage mixed with vinegar, garlic, salt, and chili peppers — is a spicy fermented food originating in Korea. As fermented food products go, this item should be a staple in your pantry! Kimchi has a low fat and carb content that is bolstered by its high vitamin, mineral, dietary fiber, and phytochemical content. It’s also incredibly easy to make at home or can be used to infuse other recipes such as this Kimchi Poutine.


These cucumber-based fermented foods are the cream of the crop when it comes to overall health benefits. Their high level of probiotics helps to support the central nervous system, reduce anxiety and depression, promote healthy skin, and can aid in weight loss. Plus, they are easy to make — take a stab with this Super-Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles — and are a great addition to many classic dishes such as this Oven-Fried Pickles recipe or this Herby Flatbread With Pink Pickles recipe.

Kombucha Tea  

Not all fermented foods are necessary solid. Kombucha is a tea that has been fermented using sugar, yeast, and healthy bacteria resulting in a drinkable liquid of vinegar, vitamin B, and probiotics. It’s most commonly made with caffeinated teas such as green or black. Kombucha is yet another fermented product that you can make at home or simply pick a bottle up at your local grocery store and have fun creating kombucha-based drinks such as this Ginger Kombucha Mimosa or this Lychee and Kombucha Spritz.


You may only know miso as that delicious soup served at Japanese restaurants, yet this popular food product is a great source of healthy bacteria and probiotics. Miso is actually a fermented paste originating from Japan made by “inoculating a mixture of soybeans with a mold called koji,” which comes from rice, barley, or soybeans. During the fermentation process, certain enzymes are released, which have shown to have anticancer, antidiabetic, and antioxidant properties. While miso paste isn’t relegated to soups, it generally is a favorite, so here are a few creative miso soup recipes: Immunity Boosting Miso SoupZucchini and Edamame Miso Soup, and Creamy Root Vegetable Miso Soup.
For more fermented food recipes and ideas, we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

6 Legit Health And Beauty Benefits Of Baking Soda

Baking soda is having a moment—a weird thing to say about something that’s been a pantry essential for literally decades. These days, the touted health benefits of baking soda go far beyond airy cakes and flaky biscuits (as if those weren’t enough), and the internet is filled with claims that the unassuming white powder can do everything from settling your stomach to whitening your teeth.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of the information out there is bogus and totally not legit. You should never use baking soda as sunscreen (duh!). But, baking soda does pack a few cool health benefits when used correctly—which often means buying FDA-approved products with baking soda as an active ingredient—so two experts weighed in to help separate fact from fiction.

1. It can help take the 'burn' out of heartburn.

“Drinking a mixture of baking soda and water has been used as [a heartburn] home remedy for decades,” says Allison Dostal Webster, Ph.D., R.D., the associate director of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council.
Basically, your stomach acid, is, well, acidic (with a pH less than seven, says Webster), while baking soda is basic (with a pH higher than seven). When your stomach acid is going haywire (say, traveling up into your esophagus and giving you heartburn), baking soda can effectively "neutralize" that acid, Webster says. That neutral substance won’t cause discomfort if it travels back up into your esophagus.
That said, Webster warns that the home remedy carries risks. “There are many case reports of people over-consuming baking soda, which upsets our body’s acid-base balance and can lead to serious cardiovascular, respiratory, and neurological effects," says Webster.
So if you get acid reflux on the reg, you shouldn't just keep chugging baking soda and water. Talk to your doctor and consider options like over-the-counter or prescription medications, Webster says.

2. It can nix 'keto breath' and reduce your risk of cavities.

“Baking soda has been studied for its benefits to oral hygiene,” says Webster. “Its antimicrobial properties can help fight bacteria that cause bad breath, and reduce risk for cavities. That’s why you can commonly find it in certain types of toothpastes.”
Another tooth-related benefit of baking soda: A 2017 meta-analysis in the Journal of the American Dental Associationstates that several studies found teeth-whitening treatments containing baking soda were more effective than those without it.
If you don't want to shell out for a teeth-whitening kit (which, I don't blame you), you can try making a paste out of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, and brushing it on your teeth. Just don't use it every day, since both of those ingredients can be harsh when overused. Use it for three days, then use it again in six months to maintain results.

4. It can clean and exfoliate skin (but there's a catch).

Basically every natural beauty blog has some kind of post about using baking soda as a natural cleanser. And there's some truth to that, says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. “[Baking soda] can absorb oil and helps exfoliate dead cells from the surface of the skin, making it a useful ingredient in DIY scrubs and masks," he says. 
However, he says that it can cause serious irritation if overused, especially if you have sensitive skin. "The only people I would recommend it for are those with extremely oily skin, and people who rarely develop skin irritation," he says.
If you don't want to use straight baking soda on your face (which is probs for the best), try a cleanser that is formulated with baking soda instead to minimize the risk of irritation (like BiorĂ©'s Baking Soda Pore Cleanser). If you have sensitive skin, Zeichner says, skip the baking soda and use traditional exfoliators with ingredients like alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids like glycolic acid or salicylic acid. 

5. It absorbs excess sweat.

“Because of its absorbent nature, baking soda may also be used as an ingredient in a homemade deodorant,” says Zeichner. If you want to get your hands dirty, you can mix some with water until it turns into a paste, and apply to your underarms. If that doesn't sound appealing, you can find baking soda as a main ingredient in lots of natural deodorants, too. 
However, Zeichner says that just like it can irritate the skin on your face, it can also irritate the skin under your arms. And, it won’t combat odors as well as store-bought deodorants. So keep that in mind.

6. It may help zap zits.

“Baking soda’s ability to absorb oil explains reports of treating acne,” says Zeichner. Dabbing a bit onto spots may help dry them up in the short-term, he adds, but won’t really lead to lasting healing.
And, while some people report that baking soda has helped fade scars, it’s not exactly a magic bullet. “The only way I could imagine baking soda being useful in brightening dark spots or improving the appearance of scars is through its exfoliating properties,” says Zeichner. So, sure, you can give it a try, but any form of exfoliation will likely have a similar effect—with less risk of skin irritation.

Holy Basil health benefits: Here’s why you should add Basil to your daily diet

Holy Basil, has been shown to offer a plethora of health benefits. The herb is commonly used for treating a wide range of health problems, including fever, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. Tulsi is known for its ability to reduce the symptoms of stress, anxiety. It is also a great remedy for acne and many skin diseases. What's even more, the herb is believed to be an excellent food for weight loss. Now, an Ayurveda expert suggests that including Tulasi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) in your diet may be a great way to boost your physical and mental health.
Often referred to as ‘The Queen of Herbs’, various studies in the past have suggested that there are immense benefits to physical and mental health after consuming Tulasi. Besides many health-protective properties, the herb contains detoxifying agents and antioxidants which help rejuvenate the skin. Tulsi aids in removing toxins responsible for causing pimples, hence, it is effective in treating acne while also reducing the occurrence of breakouts. 
“Tulasi is an excellent all-rounder when it comes to maintaining overall wellness. It prevents a multitude of ailments and is a great way to stay healthy naturally,” Shruthi Hegde, Ayurveda Expert at The Himalaya Drug Company, was quoted as saying in a statement by IANS.
The herb is regarded as an adaptogen (anti-stress agent) which is known to promote mental wellness. It also regulates cortisol (stress) levels and helps reduce anxiety and emotional stress.
“Regular consumption of Tulasi is beneficial in relaxing and calming the mind and offers many psychological benefits that include anti-depressant activity, positive effects on memory, and cognitive function,” Hegde added.
Tulasi contains compounds that can help prevent respiratory infections and provide relief from congestion in the lungs. It also alleviates the symptoms of cold and fever. Interestingly, the herb leaves are an effective remedy for oral infections.
According to Hegde, including Tulasi supplement in your daily diet is one of the most effective and easiest ways of consuming this herb. So, start making Tulasi an integral part of your daily routine to improve your overall wellbeing.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Which Sport Increases Your Longevity the Most?

For most people, turning off Netflix, getting off the couch, and slipping in to their running shoes is a major challenge. But we keep trying to do it, because we all know that regular exercise has major health benefits. The biggest one? Those who participate in physical activity usually live longer than those who are sedentary. Pretty compelling reason to lace up, no?
A recent study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found nothing to contradict that. Exercise increases longevity much more than a sedentary lifestyle. However, how much of a boost does it give you? Does running offer the same life-extending benefits as biking or tennis?
It seems to be highly dependent on the activity. They results aren’t what you would expect. 


Here are the average life span increases the study determined for a number of different sports:
  • Running: + 3.2 years
  • Cycling: + 3.7 years
  • Soccer: + 5 years
  • Badminton: + 6.2 years
  • Tennis: + 9.7 years
Conclusion: Forget getting new running shoes. Picking up a racquet can help you gain quite a few extra years.


But why are those participating in racquet sports so much better off in terms of longevity? According to the study authors, “Interestingly, the leisure-time sports that inherently involve more social interaction were associated with the best longevity—a finding that warrants further investigation.”
Could more social interaction in your workouts hold the secret to increasing longevity? It’s very likely. Study after study has shown the benefits of strong relationships and social connectedness.  Not only do those with solid social networks generally feel happier and less stressed, but they are also healthier.
Social support has been linked to lower blood pressure, and a diverse collection of contacts is associated with better immune system functioning,” According to Scientific American. ”The list continues to grow, now encompassing other bodily processes such as wound healing and inflammation.”    
In fact, it seems that having a solid social network, both on and off the court, can increase your life span by as much as 50 percent! But bad news, social media “friends” don’t count. We need non-digital connections to reap benefits.
This is especially well demonstrated in Blue Zones: areas of the world where people live the longest and have strong social relationships. But you don’t need to live in a particular area of the world to experience the lifespan-boosting benefits of a strong social network. Just make more time for the good friends in your life!
So, if you love running or cycling, it might be wise to find a social group (or even just a friend) to run and ride with on a weekly basis. Or, just find a great tennis partner. Longevity and physical fitness aren’t about just raising your heart rate—they’re about social connectedness.

Are You Sensitive to Salicylic Acid?

Are you eating veggies, legumes, and other healthy whole foods, yet still suffering from baffling health issues? The salicylic acid in the plants may be to blame. 
A phenolic chemical that protects plants from bacteria, disease, and insects, salicylic acid is a common but often-overlooked sensitivity trigger. Salicylates, which include tannins, are found in certain beans, and nuts, berries, grapes, avocados, broccoli, spices, and many other foods. They are also a key ingredient in aspirin. Symptoms can range widely; they include asthma-like breathing issues, digestive woes, and migraines.
“Salicylate sensitivity and tannin intolerance are not allergies, because they rarely involve the immune system,” explains integrative physician Leo Galland, MD, author of The Allergy Solution. “They probably result from the ability of salicylates and tannins to inhibit enzymes.”
The most common culprit for salicylate sensitivity is red-wine tannin, followed by the tannin in black tea and coffee, raisins, and nuts, he says. Artificial salicylates are used as a preservative in some fruit juices, chocolate, processed meats, beer, and wine.
Just over one percent of people suffer salicylate sensitivity, Galland says, and there are no simple, reliable tests for identifying it. He recommends an elimination diet to track down offending foods — but he also warns that this is an inexact test because foods contain multiple ingredients, any of which could be the culprit.
He also offers these tips for pinpointing and managing a salicylate sensitivity:
  • Keep a food journal noting which foods containing salicylates and tannins affect you, and steer clear.
  • Find low-salicylate alternatives. White wine is much lower in tannins than red wine; white beans have less salicylic acid than red or black beans; and cashews have lower levels than almonds. For a handy reference of food salicylate levels, see Salicylate Intolerance: The Complete Guide, by Christine Sexton, MPH, RD.
  • Enhance your digestive and detox capabilities. Salicylates and tannins inhibit our digestive enzymes and block absorption and detoxification, Galland explains. If your sensitivity is not extreme, he suggests eating foods containing salicylates and tannins separately from other foods to aid your digestion.
He also notes that you can build your overall “ability to detoxify by eating a nutritionally dense diet, maintaining a nontoxic home environment, and eating foods that enhance detoxifying ability, like broccoli sprouts.”