Seasonal Transitions

As spring peeks over the horizon, birds practice their song and plants shake off the frost. Join them in celebrating the season with these tips for a healthy spring.

  • While pollen drifting into your home can churn up allergy symptoms, interior allergens may be more to blame. Start by replacing all your pillows — some experts contend that after 5 years up to 10% of the weight can be attributed to body ash, bacteria, mold, fungi, and dust mites. Invest in allergen covers for your new head cushions and wash cases at least once a week in hot water.
  • As the days gradually lengthen, more sunshine pours through your windows. Use the extra daylight as an excuse to wake up a little earlier. Studies suggest that early birds tend to be healthier than night owls. Try a morning walk to get your heart pumping and expose you to vital vitamin D.
  • Slip on those gardening gloves and get dirty. Not only does tending to your landscape engage your body — burning up to 350 calories an hour — research shows it can help reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. Plus, pruning your yard exposes you to earthy elements… a healthy array of microbes that challenge your immune system to get stronger.

CHRONIC HEALTH CONDITIONS Leaky Gut

Leaky gut is the root cause of many chronic health conditions—including food allergies and autoimmune disease—as it allows unwanted organisms and larger antigenic moieties into the bloodstream. This causes the immune system to “react” to these foreign invaders, as it assumes these particles are dangerous and creates antibodies against them. This can also lead to a situation where different foods set off an immune reaction every time they are eaten. These antibodies may also attack cells in the body that are structurally similar to the unwanted antigens.

Autoimmune diseases include psoriasis, eczema, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, Crohn’s and inflammatory bowel disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, diabetes type 1, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, autoimmune hepatitis, ankylosing spondylitis, pernicious anemia, Sjögren’s syndrome, and multiple sclerosis. To prevent and manage these conditions, it is important to fix the gut.

1) Remove the potential causes of the leaky gut or damage to the intestinal lining. Such things include a long list: alcohol, caffeine, parasites, bacteria, chemical food additives, inadequate chewing, excessive fluid with meals, enzyme deficiencies, refined carbohydrates, processed food, prescription hormones such as birth control pills, medications, fungus or mold, mercury amalgams and other dental toxics, gluten (a protein found in wheat and other grains), and stress.

2) Replace all the enzymes necessary for the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, including protease, cellulose, and lipase, strengthening the system and improving overall digestive function.

3) Reinoculate with probiotics or friendly bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium to help restore the proper bacterial balance in the gut. Bifidobacteria should predominate in the small intestine while Lactobaccilli should be the predominant species in the colon.

4) Repair the intestinal lining to prevent further damage. Fortunately, if the offending substances are removed and other nutrients are added, new intestinal cells can emerge, tightening the junctions and repairing the leaky gut condition.

What are antioxidants and what do they do?

That’s a very good question. They are both natural substances and synthetic substances that help treat free radicals in the body. Free radicals are a natural byproduct of some cellular metabolism. They’re useful for the immune system for killing foreign cells and bacteria; but if the situation gets out of control, they can be harmful to the body. A free radical is a substance that has lost an electron and is therefore an unstable ion. What it wants to do is become stable again. So it attacks a cell that’s close to it and takes an electron from that cell. Then a game of hot potato starts. A cascade of events occur leading to death within a cell. This causes premature aging and can lead to cancer. Antioxidants are substances that protect plants, for instance, in the environment. For example, they protect plants against smog, environmental pollution and ultraviolet radiation. These same properties that protect plants can be used to protect humans. With consumption of nutrients found within plants — such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene — these natural substances called antioxidants donate electrons and therefore neutralize the harmful effects of free radical damage.

If it works, why aren’t more people taking green tea? Are there any negative effects associated with it?
Green tea has caffeine in it, and caffeine doesn’t agree with certain people. For instance, it can lead to insomnia. It can lead to fibrocystic breast disease in women. It can lead to frequent urination. It can lead to elevated cholesterol and a host of other health problems. It can become addictive. Nevertheless, you will be pleased to know that green tea has one fifth the amount of caffeine that a typical cup of coffee has and one third the amount of caffeine that black tea has. Furthermore, there are extracts available which are virtually caffeine-free. As for why more people don’t take green tea, I don’t think they know about it. The Chinese have known about it for over 4,000 years, but it’s just now becoming available in extract form. People who may not want to drink the six to nine cups of tea that are needed to get maximum benefit can now take it in an extract form — in a capsule form.

Selecting High-Quality Living Probiotic Supplements

Many high-quality probiotic supplements are available today, but there’s one overarching consideration when selecting a supplement: probiotics are living organisms, and if they are to have any therapeutic value, they must be alive when you ingest them.

Probiotics are available in several different forms, including powder, capsule, tablet, wafer and liquid. Experts tend to prefer powders and capsules, especially enteric-coated capsules, which pas through the stomach intact and release the bacteria directly into the intestinal tract. Some experts discourage the use of liquid probiotics, as they can lose their potency fairly quickly.

Most experts recommend looking for supplements with at least one billion organisms per capsule or two billion organisms per teaspoon. Some products offer even more.

Whichever product you choose, ensure that it has a guaranteed expiration date. If it doesn’t, don’t’ buy it. Also, beware of products that qualify potencies with statements like “at the time of manufacture” or “at the time of shipment”. Who knows how long after those dates you will actually buy the product!

Avoid products that indicate they have undergone a centrifuge or ultrafiltration process. These processes can break down the bacteria, rendering them less effective or even useless. They also artificially inflate the bacterial count by including damaged and partial organisms in the count.

Store probiotics in a cool, dry place, and keep the lid on tight. The refrigerator is a great place to keep probiotic supplements, but be careful they don’t freeze.

Take probiotics on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, and then close to mealtimes throughout the day. Some experts recommend taking probiotics with filtered, lukewarm water because tap water may contain chlorine, which will kill bacteria, and cold water can have a debilitating effect on bacteria.

Don’t take probiotics and antibiotics at the same time; the antibiotics will simply kill the probiotics, rendering them useless. Some experts recommend doubling or even tripling your normal probiotic dose for three weeks after finishing antibiotic treatment.

The Bottom Line

Decades of research indicate that friendly bacteria offer wide-ranging benefits for you and your health. They defend against dangerous pathogens, including harmful bacteria, fungi and yeast such as Candida albicans. Probiotics help produce vital nutrients and digestive enzymes. They discourage infections of the vagina and urinary tract, prevent diarrhea and constipation, alleviate various gastrointestinal ills, lower high cholesterol and can even relieve symptoms of lupus and fibromyalgia.

Probiotics

The word bacteria may invoke images of something harmful or unsanitary – spoiled food, perhaps, or a dirty bathroom. However, many bacteria are beneficial to our health. Our bodies are teeming with trillions of bacteria from numerous species that promote healthy digestion, produce vitamins, fight infection and enhance immune function, among other things. To put this into perspective, each person’s digestive tract contains between three and four pounds of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics. Two particular types of bacteria – Lactobacillus acidophilus (often called acidophilus) and Bifidobacterium bifidum – are among the most helpful of these probiotics.

Battle for the Gut

We are not born with a ready-made supply of beneficial bacteria, but we begin to acquire them soon after birth. Initially, infants receive beneficial bacteria from their mother’s breast milk. As infants grow and start to eat other types of food, additional bacterial – both good and bad – begin to colonize their bodies. As we mature, an ongoing battle rages as beneficial bacteria and harmful microbes fight for domination of the gut and other parts of the body. By maintaining optimal levels of beneficial bacteria, we can keep the harmful varieties in check, thereby preventing a host of gastrointestinal maladies and keeping a variety of diseases at bay.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A strong population of beneficial bacteria in the gut largely neutralizes any unwelcome intruders that enter the body, such as molds, yeasts and harmful bacteria. When the gastrointestinal tract is thoroughly colonized by beneficial bacteria, harmful pathogens will find no suitable place to form new colonies. Conversely, if harmful bacteria dominate the gut, they will welcome more of their kind and fend off beneficial bacteria, creating an ugly pathogen- and toxin-ridden digestive tract that can create serious health problems throughout the body. This condition is called dysbiosis.

Antibiotics Kill Beneficial Bacteria, Too

Ironically, one of the greatest threats to beneficial bacteria is something that is used to treat illness and promote health – antibiotics. While antibiotics serve a critical, and sometimes life-saving, function in treating infections caused by harmful bacteria, they also decimate the body’s colonies of beneficial bacteria. This decrease in beneficial bacteria sets the stage for pathogen proliferation in the gut, secondary infection and, eventually, resistance to antibiotics themselves.

Antibiotics and Vaginal Yeast Infections

One example of the detrimental effects of antibiotics on the delicate balance of natural flora involves the proliferation of vaginal yeast infections in women who take antibiotics.

Vaginal yeast is held in check by acidophilus and other beneficial bacteria. Once an antibiotic kills those bacteria, the yeast multiply and spread quickly, causing a yeast infection. Symptoms of yeast infections include itching, burning, redness, irritation and painful sexual intercourse. Chronic yeast infections are an increasingly common health problem among women; if left untreated, they can lead to more serious health conditions.

Acute yeast infections can be safely and effectively treated with over-the-counter medications, but these remedies don’t offer long-term solutions to avoiding chronic infections. Probiotic supplements and dairy products that contain living bacterial cultures (such as yogurt and kefir) do. By helping to reestablish colonies of B. bifidum, L. acidophilus and other beneficial bacteria, these foods and supplements help maintain a healthy microbial balance in the vagina and surrounding tissues.

Conditions that can result from an unhealthy imbalance of intestinal bacteria

Acne
Allergies
Arthritis
Asthma
Attention deficit disorder
Candia
Chronic fatigue
Colitis
Constipation
Crohn’s disease
Depression
Diarrhea
Eczema and psoriasis
Endometriosis
Fibromyalgia
Gastritis
Headaches
Hormonal disturbances
Hypoglycemia
Irritable bowel disease
Menstrual disorders
Obesity
Virginal infections