Thursday, September 17, 2015

Probiotics: The "Good Guy" Bacteria That Live in Your Gut

Where our bodies and health are concerned there certainly are a lot of villains we have to contend with. Stress, drugs such as antibiotics and NSAIDs, radiation, toxins in our air, water, medications, cleaning products, personal hygiene products and foods, bad bacteria, yeast, viruses, sugary and fatty foods, and chlorinated water are all villains that threaten our health. Luckily we also have some of the good guys on our side in the form of good bacteria or probiotics. We normally think of bacteria as being bad guys that make us sick and those do exist, but probiotics are the live bacteria that live in our bodies that protect us from the bad forms of bacteria. The word itself, probiotic, comes from the Greek words pro and biotic and translates as to signify promotion of life.

Benefits of Probiotics
To begin with, our digestive system and the process of digestion is very reliant on probiotics. They help with keeping the intestines healthy and able to break down foods, absorb nutrients, and eliminate waste. When we are exposed to the villains that can destroy our good guy probiotics, we can replace them by eating foods with probiotics and taking probiotic supplements. This becomes necessary when our bad bacteria outnumber our good bacteria not only to help with digestion, but also to reduce symptoms from digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome that bring on cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. According to Dr. Shekhar K. Challa, a gastroenterologist and the author of Probiotics For Dummies, if your intestines are loaded with good bacteria there isn't as much room for bad bacteria to live. In addition to being vital for digestion, probiotics play a major role in immune system function. The good bacteria fight off the bad bacteria as well as yeast and viruses. One study showed participants given a probiotic drink showed an increase in the production of lymphocytes which indicates more white blood cells that are part of the immune system. There are other studies that show probiotics can help with mood disorders, skin conditions, maintaining good oral health, and possibly have an impact on weight loss. Our probiotics in the intestines also produce our B vitamins. When we are under stress we produce cortisol and we use up our B vitamins fighting it off. Replenishing our supply of probiotics can help the body keep making these needed B vitamins.

Good Bacteria
There are many different types of probiotic bacteria and they mostly fall into two groups – Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. There are many different types of fermented foods that you can get probiotics from such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, pickles, tempeh, Kimchi and Kombucha tea. There are also a wide variety of foods these days that advertise they have added probiotics. Just be sure to read labels when you buy products and look for ones with live active cultures. Also be aware that the FDA does not regulate probiotic supplements the same as medications, but rather as foods. Be sure you are getting supplements from a reputable company and they are labeled with a high amount of CFUs (colony forming units). The probiotic supplements I prefer come from a company that has been in business for decades, manufactures products in an onsite NSF Good Practices registered facility and is USDA certified organic by Pro-Cert Organic Systems which is the number one food certifier in North America. Taking acidophilus and bifidus as well as this full spectrum probiotic provides lots of friendly bacteria to boost your healthy colonies.

Now that you know how important your probiotics are for digestion, getting nutrients from food, supporting good mood, handling stress, fighting off illness, and possibly even for weight loss, make sure you have a good supply of them working for you. Increasing your fermented foods and taking high quality probiotic supplements is an easy way to get all these benefits.

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Have Vibrant No-Hassle Hair Every Day

Tired of bad hair days? To have vibrant healthy hair you have to start from the inside by eating foods for healthy hair. It doesn't matter how many hair care products you pour your money into and use if you aren't on a diet for healthy hair. So what does a diet for healthy hair look like and what foods should you include?

Iron and Zinc
According to Cleveland Clinic dermatologist, Wilma Bergfeld, MD, eating foods with iron and zinc can aid in the growth of hair follicles. Zinc also helps the hair follicle oil gland function well. Not having enough iron and zinc in your diet can increase the risk of hair loss, dandruff, and slow growing hair. To get more of these minerals in your diet include foods such as lean cuts of red meat, soybeans, lentils, shellfish like crab, lobster, clams, and oysters, fortified cereals and pastas, and dark leafy green vegetables. If you are getting your iron from plant sources, be sure to eat foods with vitamin C at the same time to help with the body being able to absorb the iron.

Protein keeps hair strong as well as aiding in growth and damage repair. A lack of protein in the diet can cause new hairs to stop growing and as you lose older hairs with no new ones to replace it, the results are hair loss. Keratin is the hardened proteins that give hair its structure. Without enough protein to form keratin, hair is slow to grow and becomes weak. Good protein sources include lean meats such as chicken and turkey, soybeans, black-eyed peas, beans, lentils, low-fat dairy products, and tofu.

Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet for healthy hair help keep it hydrated and aid in growth for maintaining shiny vibrant hair. Good sources for omega-3 include fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, flounder, halibut and mackerel. Or if you are just not wild about fish you can get your omega-3 the way the fish do – from algae. AFA blue green algae is a very rich source of essential fatty acids, including DHA and EPA needed for healthy hair. Ever wonder why salons do seaweed wraps? It's because it has so many of the nutrients needed for healthy hair. You can give yourself a seaweed wrap from the inside with this full spectrum algae product that combines 9 colorful algae including dulse, kelp, fucoidan, Ecklonia cava, bladderwrack, Dunaliella salina, spirulina, chlorella and wild AFA bluegreen algae. Kelp from the oceans is a rich source of micronutrients and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, boron that also provides vitamins C and E. Bladderwrack is a brown algae from the ocean rich in vitamins and minerals and contains fucoidan, a sulfated polysaccharide. Dulse is a dark red sea algae rich in phytonutrients and pigments, high in plant-based protein, and that contains important vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B6, B12, and A, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and manganese. Dunaliella salina is sea microalgae with a high content of carotenoids (beta-carotene, alpha carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein), antioxidants, and important vitamins. Eckonia cava Kjellman is an edible seaweed that is a rich source of bioactive deritavatives such as phlorotannins, including triphlorethol-A which is a strong antioxidant.

Among the vitamins needed for healthy hair are B vitamins such as B7 or biotin, B5 or pantothenic acid, folate, B6, and B12. These help not only with hair growth but also in keeping the scalp and hair follicles healthy. Foods to get more of these type B vitamins into your diet include eggs, peanuts, almonds, wheat bran, salmon, and avocados for biotin, Greek yogurt for pantothenic acid, dark leafy greens like spinach and kale for folate, pork, salmon, shellfish, beans, chicken, oatmeal, eggs, peanut butter, fat-free and low-fat dairy foods for folate, B6 and B12. To have strong healthy hair, make sure your diet also includes vitamins C and A. Vitamin C not only helps the body absorb iron your hair needs, but also is good for collagen production that hair and skin both need to grow. Vitamin C helps keep hair from getting brittle and splitting too. Bell peppers of the red, yellow or green varieties are good for vitamin C as is guava, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, and sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes also give you the vitamin A hair needs to stay healthy from the antioxidant beta-carotene. Vitamin A helps scalp glands produce sebum to keep hair hydrated and vibrant, aids in hair growth, and helps keep the scalp hydrated to prevent dandruff. Good food sources for vitamin A include dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe, mangoes, butternut squash, and asparagus. It is recommended that you get your vitamin A from beta-carotene foods because too much vitamin A can actually result in loss of hair.

Now you know what foods to include if you're looking for a diet for healthy hair. Remember, strong, vibrant healthy hair has to start from the inside with the nutrition you feed your body. You may find hair care products that you like and that you think also add to your hair's growth, shine or volume, but without those foods for healthy hair at the foundation, no amount of hair care product is going to do the trick by itself. Just make a few dietary changes though and you'll be on your way to having the thick, glowing, healthy hair you want.

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Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day - Ways to Renew Body and Mind

I hope you are having a great relaxing Labor Day weekend and getting to spend some time with family and friends. It occurs to me that having a long weekend is a great time to really take a look at the lifestyle I’m leading and commit to making changes. As we get older, our bodies change and if we want to continue being active then now is the time to start putting together an anti-aging plan. I encourage you to do the same this Labor Day. Here are some areas to take into consideration.

This is a big one. Take a look at what you are eating right now. Are you at a Labor Day barbeque grilling up burgers and hot dogs with all the fatty sides like chips or fries? Think about how you could still have that family barbeque with healthier foods and anti-aging foods. Fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut or trout, for example, is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that keep your brain healthy and may even reduce the risks of Alzheimer’s and that are definitely good for keeping your heart healthy, improving circulation, and good for keeping your skin looking youthful by making skin cells stronger allowing them to hold in moisture. Instead of having the typical barbeque salads full of fatty mayo, go for salads with olive oil dressings and you’ll be adding even more omega-3 to your meal. If you’re not a fan of fish, then consider switching that hamburger to a lentil burger. Just do some searching on the internet and you’ll find lots of great recipes to make your own bean burgers that are actually really good. This will give you lean protein and fiber and keep you away from the saturated fats you get with burgers that can lead to heart disease, clogged arteries, and diabetes. Get a little more fiber in by carefully considering the bun for your lentil burger and make sure you go with a whole grain variety. This will help keep your blood vessels healthy and reduce the risks of Type 2 diabetes. Then to continue with a diet that fits your anti-aging plan, fill your plate up with lots of fruits and veggies to give you the antioxidants that help fight off free radical damage. The more brightly colored they are usually the more antioxidant properties they have. A fruit and veggie tray is a great side at a barbeque or picnic. One of the best fruits to include that will support more youthful looking skin are pomegranates full of vitamin C that assistant professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, Debra Jaliman, MD, says protects against wrinkles from sun exposure, protects collagen, and helps fight off free radical damage because the seeds have ellagic acid and punicalagin. And what’s a backyard barbeque without watermelon? If you have watermelon on your menu today, good for you. You’ll be getting lots of antioxidant power, vitamin C, lycopene, potassium and extra hydration from the water content. Also good for you if a big green salad is on your menu. Leafy green vegetables give you antioxidant power and omega-3s, but also support the liver, provide calcium, good proteins and other vital minerals and vitamins. If you’re not having salad then consider using lettuce, spinach or kale on your burger. Spinach also has beta-carotene and lutein that are good for skin and eye health.

More Relaxation Time
Along with looking at diet in your anti-aging plan, stress is another big consideration. While you are enjoying your long Labor Day weekend, what are you doing? Are you taking some time to relax and escape from the hustle and bustle of your everyday stress filled life? When we are under stress the brain signals the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. If this happens on a regular basis it can sabotage our anti-aging plan diet by making us crave unhealthy foods and overeating. There goes the healthy diet right out the window. Then there’s the toll stress takes on the body by creating more free radicals to do damage to cells. When developing a plan for coping with stress one of the first things to start with is making sure you get enough good quality sleep. Studies show that getting six hours or less of sleep each night can put you at increased risk for heart attack or stroke, make you more likely to get angry, affects your mood, weakens your immune system, and affects your mental abilities. The amount of sleep each person needs is individualized, but for the most part 8 hours is the recommended amount. After making sure you get enough sleep, look for other ways to take time to relax. Maybe that just means that you take 5 minutes out of your workday to watch an affirmation or meditation video or just close your eyes and breathe deeply. It might mean that you are in a situation to take regular days off or vacations or that you have regular spa days scheduled. Research based on studies of the mind-body-spirit link find that introducing a spiritual component to life can be a powerful tool and that in this vein Kundalini yoga meditation is particularly helpful in dealing with stress. For other people, engaging in a sport or exercise program helps them burn off the stress and lets their bodies relax. And while you are thinking about exercise, consider exercising your brain too as part of an anti-aging strategy. Challenging the brain to stretch and learn new things has been proven to have a big impact on your mental state as you age.

My Labor Day Commitments
Here’s the list my family came up with to commit to for lifestyle changes:
1. Eat fatty fish for dinner at least twice a week.
2. No more Ranch salad dressing. Substitute olive oil and vinegar dressing.
3. Drink at least 1 cup of green tea each day. (Has catechins and polyphenols great for anti-aging)
4. At least twice a week substitute fruit for dessert instead of something sugary.
5. Take a daily packet of wholefood supplements that include two kinds of AFA bluegreen algae, acidophilus, bifidus and digestive enzyme.

This last item on the list is one that I think is very important. It is the safe-fail. If none of the other items happen during the week (even if we have the best of intentions to do them), then I know having the nutritional back-up of AFA bluegreen algae, probiotics and enzymes will help pick up the slack. AFA bluegreen algae provides all 20 amino acids we need providing a complete source of protein in an amino acid profile nearly identical to human breast milk, essential fatty acids including Omega-3 and Omega-6 in the right balance, phenylethylamine (PEA) the mental energy activator, powerful antioxidants such as chlorophyll, superoxide dismutase, glutathione, and phycocyanin, dozens of essential vitamins (including B12), minerals, and trace elements, an ideal balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, complex sugars, and fiber. Add in the probiotics and enzyme and I know our digestive systems get a boost to get all the nutrition we can out of the foods we eat and that we are supporting our immune health. It’s a simple way to boost that anti-aging strategy to a new level with just a packet of capsules to take each day.

Now look back over my list. Just five simple things that my family and I think we can do to make changes in our lives. Does it look like something you and your family could commit to? If so, then jump on board the anti-aging wagon with us. If not, I challenge you to come up with your own list and share it with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page. You just might come up with something to share that someone else will find doable. What a great way to pass healthy living on to others.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out the free health resources or order blue-green algae products  on our website.

Image courtesy of amenic181  /