Category Archives: probiotics

When Probiotics Are Not A Good Choice

Health supplements are expected to reach a global market share of $278 billion by 2024. That’s a sizable market and it continues to grow. Probiotics are one of the fastest growing items in the category in the U.S. With so much focus on the microbiome and the as more information points to their effectiveness in minimizing digestive issues and promoting gut health, the demand for probiotics is all set to explode.

A recent report reveals that Canada could save up to $100 million CAN per year through probiotic use designed to minimize instances of upper respiratory infections. The supplement market in China, with probiotics at the top of the list, is also set for rapid expansion.

However, while probiotics are a great choice to combat many digestive issues, they are not always the best choice. That’s why it is important to know when to take probiotics and when to seek alternative treatments.

What Are Probiotics?

While bad bacteria can make you sick, good bacteria can help break down food and support your immune system. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that work in harmony with your biological systems. Many probiotics specifically help support good digestive health, combating issues like diarrhea, nausea, malabsorption, and dozens of other symptoms of a leaky gut. 

You can get probiotics through consuming probiotic-rich foods such as lacto-fermented vegetables and yogurt or through beverages like kombucha and kefir. Or you can get them through supplementation. However just because they can have some health benefits doesn’t always mean that they always have health benefits. There can be times when it’s best to not take probiotic-rich foods or supplementation and you should actually avoid them.

3 Reasons to Avoid Probiotics

Below is a quick list of those occasions when it might be better to seek alternative treatments for digestive issues. In each of these cases, use of or consumption of probiotics is contraindicated until the condition has been resolved.


Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) refers to a condition where you already have too much bacteria in your small intestine. Adding more is not a healthy solution to anything, even when it is otherwise helpful bacteria. For those with SIBO getting a diagnosis can sometimes be difficult. But once you have a diagnosis there’s a specific dietary protocol and supplemental support required to support your system.

The symptoms of SIBO are quite diverse and can include

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal bloating and pain
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • and more

2. Candida Overgrowth

Candida is a type of yeast that can overrun your intestinal tract and cause a variety of symptoms. When your candida levels are under control, this yeast helps with digestion and nutrient absorption. When levels get too high, symptoms can range from simple things like a white coating on the tongue to more serious symptoms like:

  • Exhaustion
  • Brain fog
  • Joint pain
  • Chronic sinus and allergy problems
  • Gas and bloating
  • Weakened immune system
  • Frequent UTIs

This is just a small sample of the potential problems associated with an out-of-control candida overgrowth. While some low-level imbalances can be treated with over-the-counter medications (such as fluconazole for yeast infections), chronic overgrowth needs to be addressed through dietary changes, nutritional support, and possibly antifungal medications. The use of a self-scoring quiz can be helpful for diagnosis. Many people who switch to a candida protocol after scoring high on the test have good results ranging from clearer skin and better digestive function to clearing of infections and weight loss.

3. Probiotics Don’t Fix Everything

The effectiveness of probiotics depends entirely on the cause of your problem. If your gut flora is out of balance or you have too little bacteria to help with digestion, probiotics can be a great way to rebalance everything. If you have been on antibiotics, pairing those with probiotics might help prevent conditions like H. Pylori. Since H. Pylori can cause systemic and prolonged digestive upset, a bit of prevention is well worth the investment in probiotics. If you don’t suffer from any of these conditions or your digestive upset has nothing to do with your gut biome, probiotics won’t help.

While probiotics can be a great way to improve your digestive health, it is important to know when to take them. Unless directed by a doctor, you likely won’t want to take probiotics on a daily basis.

Added Probiotics

Unfortunately with all the news about the benefits of probiotics many food producers are starting to add them to a wide variety of items at the grocery store. Cereals, chocolate, cold brew coffee, salad dressings, and more are all being promoted as a healthy choice due. However, overconsumption of probiotics can lead to an imbalance of the gut and is not a healthy choice. 

If you suspect you have gut health issues it’s best to work with a health professional and be evaluated to see if you need to add or avoid probiotics in your diet.

Nordic Diet

There’s a new diet trend that appears set to take the world by storm, the Nordic Diet. It appears to be a Scandinavian take on the concepts of the Mediterranean Diet. According to a study published in The Journal of Internal Medicine it lowered cholesterol and inflammation among study participants who followed the plan for 18 weeks.  Without a doubt there will shortly be a book, a cookbook, several websites with recipes, and a new crowd of enthusiasts.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it may not be the right thing for everyone.

The diet does allow for whole grains, primarily rye, barley, and oats, as well as low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, game meats (like moose), fruits, berries, vegetables, and canola oil. While new diet plans always garner a lot of excitement it’s important to remember that there is no one size fits all diet. We are bio-individual creatures and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. If someone is gluten intolerant they need to avoid the rye and barley (and source gluten free oats) allowed in this nutritional plan. Just because it’s part of the diet doesn’t mean it’s the right choice if your body can’t handle it.

I do have a couple of thoughts about this diet and about food trends in general:

  • The Nordic Diet calls for canola oil. In the United States this is not a good choice as the vast majority of it is contaminated by GMO. Some estimates of contamination and cross-contamination are so high that there are those who believe there is no unmodified canola to be found in the U.S.
  • The diet calls for low-fat dairy. This is not a healthy option. Starting with the fact that dairy is one of our few food sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (meaning it needs to be consumed with fat in order for the body to properly utilize it). Vitamin D is also important to help the body properly make use of calcium. When it comes to the old notion that high fat diets cause obesity, recent studies have shown that the opposite is true. In measured studies, those who consumed whole-milk dairy products had reduced risk for obesity.
  • The diet does not, as far as I’ve been able to find, specifically talk about sourcing of food.  While game meat is unlikely to be adulterated with added hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides, poultry and fish need to be sustainably sourced.   It’s interesting to note that game meat in general may be gaining some prominence as people seek to avoid meat from animals raised in confined operations.
  • Vegetables and fruits still need to be sourced without pesticide residue and GMO contamination.
  • I imagine that there will be more of a call for root vegetables.  This is a good thing as root vegetables are high vitamins, beta-carotene, and fiber.  [side thought: I’m always surprised when I buy parsnips at the grocery store and the checkout clerk wants to know  what the “white carrots” are.]

With food trends in general I expect we’ll face a year ahead with more, New, BETTER (read tongue in cheek) superfoods that convey all sorts of health benefits.  I’m not a huge fan of seeking those out and quite frankly we have superfoods that are local and easily accessible, there’s no need to keep chasing the latest super ones.

I imagine there will still be some sort of push to get bugs onto the menu and into the grocery stores.  They’re cheap and easy to raise, a quick, convenient source of protein.  I’m not a fan but that’s a personal preference.  I also don’t eat things like squid or eels that doesn’t mean I think they’re dangerous or bad for you.  With anything that we eat we have to look at how it’s raised.  Remember, you are what you eat includes whatever the animal you’re eating ate.

I still believe there’s not enough focus on fermented foods.  These are in a category referred to as functional foods, they have a specific health benefit.  In the case of fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, and lacto-fermented vegetables they add beneficial probiotics to our intestinal tract, helping us to break down our food, boost our immune system and stay healthy.  While I see more and more evidence of some fermented foods I believe we would all benefit from eating more of them.  Ideally we’d learn how to make them at home.

I’d like to believe we’ll continue to see a growing influence of tip-to-tail consumption that will encourage us to eat more fully from the whole animal.  Learning to eat organ meats again, consuming more bone broths, getting away from the white-meat-only-chicken-breast diet that so many of us have become accustomed to.

Whatever nutrition plan lies ahead let’s remember that we need to eat according to the needs of our bio-individual bodies.  Our dietary needs change over time.  We don’t eat the same in our 40’s as we did when we were a toddler or an adolescent.  But however we choose to eat, whatever we’re eating, let’s focus on clean, healthy, sustainably sourced foods rather than jumping from one popular diet plan to another.

photo: PL Przemek

kombucha scoby - make at home

Making Kombucha

I’m a fan of consuming fermented foods. They’re good for your gut and a very healthy way to add probiotics to your system.  While I certainly don’t make all of the fermented foods that I could, I do make some; I buy others.  The challenge is finding the time to make everything while still finding time for family, work, and real life. One of my favorite foods to make however is kombucha.

This is in part because the price for kombucha has risen to an incredible $4.19 at my local grocery store.  That seems rather steep for A 16 ounce bottle of fermented tea.  Especially when you consider that all you need to make your own is a glass one-gallon jar, some kombucha (or raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar) to get you started, 8 tea bags, 1 cup of sugar, and water.  All of that will make a gallon of the stuff.  That’s eight pints or more than $32.00 at grocery store prices.  The at home price (not including the cost of the jar) is less than $1.00. It’s definitely worth it to make your own.

Making scobys

The picture at the top is my lovely jar, full of scobys.  That’s an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.  The “pancake” that takes all of the sugar and consumes it while fermenting the tea and adding beneficial colonies to it.  Amazingly enough each time you brew a batch it makes a new “baby.”  Eventually you have so many that you wind up giving them away.  It’s a great way to make friends and share the healthy benefits of this wonderful drink.

The collage directly above is photos of the process of making kombucha.

Secondary fermentation

After my initial batch of kombucha is done brewing I do a secondary brew by adding fruit, sealing the jar, and letting it sit at room temperature for 24 hours. This extracts the sugars (and flavor) from the fruit and makes a fizzy drink at the same time. The longest I’ve ever let it sit is 36 hours because it generates so much fizz I’m afraid to let it go longer, I don’t want to shatter the jar. One of these days I’ll get around to buying a fermentation lock and then I won’t have to worry about exploding jars.

After it’s done I decant the flavored kombucha into recycled kombucha bottles. This time I used strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.  The blackberries, unlike most fruits, were still firm, pretty tangy, and delicious, rather than bland, sour, and soggy. If you mash them first you get a better flavor in the kombucha but I wanted to try eating them afterwards to see what it was like. Most fruits are not okay and definitely not nearly as delicious as I thought they would be. That’s probably due to the fact that the fermentation process sucks out the sugars from the fruit in order to create that secondary fermentation.

A testimonial

The best thing about kombucha is how healthy it is for you. I recently had a friend visiting who has been having a lot of gut issues. We talked about fermented foods. I happened to need to brew a new batch of kombucha so I showed her the process. She got to eat some fermented foods while she was at my house. I sent her home with a baby scoby and she’s been adding fermented foods to her diet. She says that her stomach has not bothered her once since she started adding fermented foods. Yay for live food!!

If you’d like to know more about kombucha, including specific brewing instructions and recipes using kombucha be sure to get your copy of my ebook.


Choosing A Healthy Yogurt

yogurt pic

Although yogurt is generally thought of as a healthy food, store-bought options are often packed with chemicals, potentially genetically modified ingredients, artificial flavorings, artificial colors, and added sugars or artificial sweeteners. Choosing healthy yogurt isn’t always easy. Low fat options are often packed with negative ingredients while fruit yogurts not only contain the natural sugars of the fruits, but may have added sweeteners as well and artificial colors.  Reading the label is critical to ensure a healthy choice.


On My Mind Monday 7.30.12

news | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  It’s what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition and holistic health.  Read what’s on my mind.

Non-fermented probiotic milk and juice – As I’ve talked about before on this blog, fermented foods and probiotics are especially beneficial to our health.  This new functional food is not yet on the market so I can’t get a look at a label to give you information about it.  However it does appear that alginate, a seaweed, is being used for the thickener.  For some this will be a problem. In the meantime, if you are interested in adding healthy probiotics to your diet, it is easy to add fermented dairy such as yogurt and kefir as well as fermented beverages such as kombucha, kvass, and water kefir.

NY trans-fat ban has cut consumption – Mayor Bloomberg received a lot of flack for this initiative back in 2008.  Not necessarily, as I understand it, that much from consumers (who were still somewhat confused by the whole trans-fat issue) but from food producers.  They all claimed that it wouldn’t work, that the consumers would be unhappy because of the changes, and that it would be difficult to do.  Four years later it appears to be working.  Trans-fat consumption is down.  Although saturated fat consumption bumped up modestly, it was not nearly to the degree of reduction in trans-fats.  Although there are no specific numbers that I could find, given the link between trans-fats and cardiovascular disease, this reduction most likely also reduced cardiovascular disease levels.

Put the apples where the chips are – I have to admit that I give Mayor Bloomberg a lot of credit.  It’s difficult to get people to change the way they think about food.  His latest campaign is to try changing the eye-level and check-out locations of foods, replacing the unhealthy options like chips and candy with whole foods like apples and bananas.  It’s a voluntary pilot program being run in the Bronx, which apparently has an obesity rate of 70%.  While some people are against this proposal it does not seem to be drawing nearly the same ire as his soda ban.  I’m not sure that this will change the way people shop, but perhaps it will encourage them to reconsider the choices they are making.  I’m very sure that the grocery stores and the junk food manufacturers are not going to be happy with this as grocery placement is a science and this will potentially be a huge hit to their profitability.

And one more for Mayor Bloomberg who wants to put baby formula under lock and key at the hospital.  This is part of the Latch On Initiative which aims to convince more mothers to breast feed their babies.  I have written about breast feeding here and here; long time readers will know I am a big proponent of it.  Not only is breast feeding best for the health of your baby (they have reduced incidence of allergies and infections and increased support for gastrointestinal health) it’s also good for mom helping to reduce her lifetime risk of developing ovarian and breast cancers.  While some women are unable to breast feed I am happy to see that they are at least encouraging it and hopefully more will choose to do so.

GMO apples – I’ve written about this a few times, mostly on my Facebook page.  The purpose of this apple is to keep it from oxidizing (turning brown) when it’s cut open.  The company claims this will also prevent minor bruising from showing up.  As readers to this page will no doubt already have figured out, I am opposed to this.  First of all I do not believe we need to be producing any GM food.  Secondly I believe this is a really silly thing to GM as a squeeze of lemon juice accomplishes the same purpose without the need to interfere with the food.  The document showing where to write or call to share your opinion on this product is located here.

High Intensity Training for both weight loss and cardio – Many people don’t like going to the gym or the amount of time they think they have to spend there in order to lose weight and/or get in shape.  High Intensity Training can significantly reduce your cardio time.  And for those who don’t want to even go to the gym you can do it at home if you have an elipse machine, a treadmill, or even an X-iser. Here’s a video of how to use an X-iser at home.

Not reading anything this week as I continue to work on the campaign to publish my book.  Yes (happy dance), a book. It’s called The Pantry Principle:  learning the read the label and understand what’s in your food.   This book not only talks about different categories of additives, but also covers the concepts of making different choices at the grocery store that will allow you feed yourself and your family better.  There are even a number of tasty and delicious recipes included in the book.  Currently I’m pre-selling The Pantry Principle in order to raise the funds I need to hire a Copy Editor and a Layout Design Artist.  I want to get this book off the presses and into your hands.  If you are interested in knowing what you are eating, in making healthier choices for yourself and your family, please contribute to my campaign and help me publish the book.


Can Probiotics Make You Sexier?

mice | photo: AleXXw

Probiotics have been gaining a lot of attention these days.  Mainstream science has begun to realize how important they are for  overall health and that good digestive function in required to maintain a healthy body state.

Probiotic therapy is beneficial in restoring intestinal flora when there has been an illness such as diarrhea or one that requires the use of antibiotics (which indiscriminately kill both good and bad bacteria).  Unfortunately our modern diet is not supportive of a strong, healthy gut which further depletes the amount and strength of available probiotic colonies.  Many people find it beneficial to add probiotics to their diet.  This can increase the availability of certain vitamins and minerals in the diet.  Probiotics can also support good bowel health, help with allergy symptoms, and provide other beneficial supports for our bodies.

Now there may be another reason to consider probiotics.  According to recent mouse studies there was an increase in “sexiness” among those mice who consumed higher levels of probiotics.  The original intent of the research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was to study the effect of probiotics on the issue of obesity.  Surprisingly, an unexpected set of results emerged.  It turned out that the mice who ate probiotic yogurt had thicker fur (an indication of good health), the males had larger testes (as much as 15% heavier than the mice fed a “junk food” diet), females were impregnated faster, there were more pups, and females were better at weaning large litters.

All joking about “mouse swagger” aside the study has some interesting implications for humans as well.  We share approximately 99% of our DNA with mice, with 80% being identical (the rest have one-for-one matches).  This is why so many medical studies require the use of at least one rodent study.  According to Dr. Jorge Chavarro, a nutritional epidemiologist who has looked at the correlation between yogurt consumption and the quality of semen in men, there does appear to be a positive association.  Studies are on-going on the issue of probiotics and fertility.

While eating more live culture yogurt may not make you “sexier” in the conventional sense, it may well be a beneficial support for those seeking to get pregnant.  If nothing else it will certainly support better digestive function, and for that, it certainly makes sense to include more probiotics into your diet.

Send me an email to receive my free probiotic handout

On My Mind Monday 7.02.12

news | photo:  mconnors

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, health and holistic living.  Read what’s on my mind.

Tending the Body’s Microbial Garden – It seems that mainstream science is beginning to realize that wholesale, repeated slaughter of our intestinal flora may not be such a good thing. Holistic practitioners have been saying for decades that supporting the gut is key to supporting health. Starting with a baby’s first inoculation via the birth process to our exposures we build a hopefully healthy intestinal eco-system.  When we take antibiotics and wipe out both good and bad bacteria there are negative health effects that accumulate from this overarching destruction.   I’m glad to see that mainstream science is beginning to recognize the benefits of a healthy digestive system.  If you want to learn more consider reading Liz Lipski’s amazing book, Digestive Wellness.

Meat Without Drugs – For those Omnivore and Flexitarian eaters out there this is a huge deal.  The FDA has known for decades that the producers in the meat industry over-use antibiotics in order to keep their animals healthy in spite of overcrowding and filthy conditions.  The problem is that those antibiotics are still present in the meat when you eat it, leading to a regular low level exposure.  Over 70% of all antibiotic use in this country is in animal feed.  That’s an astounding number.  It appears that this situation may also be one of the leading causes behind antibiotic resistant bacteria.  We are essentially inoculating our bodies over and over again.  You can avoid eating meat with antibiotics in it by purchasing organic, purchasing meat labeled “raised without antibiotics”, or purchasing directly from a farmer that you trust.  And support this campaign, sign the pledge.

More than honeybees – It turns out the dangers from our damage to the environment are affecting more than just honeybees.  One big takeaway from this article is how the loss of meadows and wildflower habitats is affecting the bee population.  They need to have a wide mixture of plants available for foraging.  All the spaces that we consider weedy and remove or cover over or control by mono-cropping are exactly the spaces needed by the bees.  And we need them to pollinate our food.  It is, after all, an eco-system and one which we need to respect.

Olive Oil and Slippery Politics – sadly it’s not just in this country that politics and corporate aims challenge the issues of sustainability and environmental responsibility.  Unfortunately this compounds the situation already clouded by adulteration of olive oil.  To my mind the solution is simple and straightforward.  Stop adulterating the product, support small farmers, accept that this is a regional product that does best when produced sustainably.  However the EU’s solution is to create an overwhelmingly tragic repeat of what has happened to the dairy industry in this country by paying farmers to stock a reserve which will at some point no longer be acceptable for consumption.  It’s difficult as consumers to know what makes a good choice for olive oil, to know who is not adulterating and who is not being squeezed out (sorry) by corporate interests.  I know of a few producers that I believe sell a clean, quality product if you are interested in purchasing your olive oil for quality and purity.  Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard in Elmendorf, TX, Texas Hill Country Olive Company in Dripping Springs, TX, and the Chaffin Family Orchards in Oroville, CA.  High quality olive oil costs more, but you can tell by the flavor that you are getting an amazing product.

Farm to Dumpster – So much of our food is wasted.  In a world where there is growing disparity between the food haves and the food have-nots this is a deep shame.  In a world where food costs are rising this is sad.  In a world where the environment is stressed and global warming is a reality, this is just wrong.  We need to do better.  We need to be more mindful about our food and how we use it.  Learn more and make changes….start with Jonathan Bloom’s excellent book, American Wasteland.

What I’m Reading:

Cooking for Isaiah by Silvana Mardone – This book was on a friend’s cookbook shelf and she pulled it down to share a recipe that she particularly liked with me.  Flipping through the pages it looked amazing and, more than that, delicious.  I am one of those people who truly does READ a cookbook.  Reading through the pages of this one is a journey through foods that signify comfort and love.  But they come without gluten and dairy, a huge issue for many people.  I was so inspired by this book that before I was done reading it I ran to the grocery store to buy the gluten free flours to make Sivlana’s mix.  The one issue with her mix is the use of Xanthan Gum which is a binding agent.  Some people can be very sensitive to it and suffer from flatulence or bloating when eating it.  I haven’t experimented enough with the mix and the recipes to know if it’s okay to leave it out but I must say the recipes I’ve tried so far have all been amazing.

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On My Mind Monday 2.27.12

newspaper | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  My snapshot of what I find interesting.  Information and news about health, nutrition and/or holistic living.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

Three weight loss drugs make second bid for FDA approval – I’m not a huge fan of weight loss drugs (no surprise there). Unfortunately many of them are stimulants and easily abused. The other problem is that even though they often come with some sort of documentation about meal plans they do not, in my opinion, adequately address educating people about understanding nutrition and specifically understanding their eating habits and how they contribute to their overweight. We are surrounded with generalized statements but often nothing to support lifelong habit and thought changes. This is why people yo-yo, they haven’t learned how to meet their own needs when it comes to their diet. I do hope these products will continue to be refused approval.

A connection between superbugs and antibiotic use in livestock – it frustrates and infuriates me that over 70% of our antibiotics are used in livestock feed and yet the industry refuses to see a connection between that usage and the rampant increase of superbugs. Well, now we have PigMRSA to prove the point. How to avoid antibiotics in your food? Unfortunately there is no labeling requirement that shows how much antibiotic the animal on your plate has eaten. The only way to avoid it is to choose meat marked “natural” and labeled with the statement that it does not contain hormones, antibiotics or preservatives. This label however is not regulated. A better option, if the budget will allow, is to choose organic meat, dairy, and eggs. This is a regulated label and the animal is not allowed by law to have antibiotics, GMO feed, hormones, or preservatives.

In a Squeaky-Clean World, a Worm Might Help Fight Disease – in a nutshell this article talks about the possibility of pig whipworms being helpful in stimulating the immune system.  Here we have yet another scientist looking at the Hygiene Hypothesis which I wrote about here and here.  This is a different take on adding organisms to the body to support health.  Another one that has gained some attention recently is fecal bacteriotherapy which appears to be helpful in remitting C. Difficile infections and a variety of Irritable Bowel Diseases.  While I’m not certain that in our modern culture many people would be open to the idea of either of these therapies, they certainly seem to point to a need to stop being so hyper-clean.  The antibacterial everything in our environment may actually make us more sick in the long run.  Consider a return to good old-fashioned soap and water.

Antibiotics don’t work for most sinus infections – Unfortunately we have become accustomed to taking antibiotics for everything.  As a result many of us are walking around with weakened, overwhelmed, inflamed guts that do not have adequate probiotic colonies to support good health.  If you have to take an antibiotic, seriously consider if it is necessary before just popping those pills.  And don’t forget to take a good probiotic with your antibiotics to replenish the good bacteria which are being wiped out right along with the bad.  I often suggest that people take probiotic supplements for 60 days after their last dose of antibiotic.

Someone asked for a suggestion for probiotics:  One probiotic that I like a lot is Innate Response’s Flora 20-14 Ultra Strength.  With 20 billion CFUs in 14 different clinically proven strains, this is a supportive supplement to recolonize your gut.  It can be purchased at a discount through my Virtual Dispensary please contact me for your access code.

This commercial was seen during the Superbowl.  I think it’s sweet but also carries a powerful message.  I just found out that all proceeds of the song, The Scientist, available on iTunes, go to the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, an organization dedicated toward helping to create more sustainable food and support farmers.  That’s a mission that I can believe in.

Why we must occuppy our food supply – Willie Nelson and Anna Lappe tell it like it is

I like Mark Bittman and watch his youtube channel a lot. I also happen to love both clementines (which are still easily available here in TX) and clafoutis. So this looks like a great combination for a simple dessert that makes use of seasonal ingredients.

What I’m reading:

The Magnesium Miracle – This book highlights how important this essential nutrient is to our health.  Magnesium is important for heart health, weight management, diabetes, mental health and more.  As a matter of fact the book lists over twenty-five conditions that are related to magnesium deficiency.  It also talks about magnesium in synergy with other minerals and ways to get more magnesium into our system.  I’ve known for a long time that many people are walking around deficient in magnesium.  I’m enjoying this book and learning already.


Colic And Probiotics

crying newborn | photo: Melimama

Recently I wrote a post about gut health and allergies.  In that post I mentioned a study that was done in Sweden which seems to highlight the benefits of having a diverse bacterial eco-system in the gut to help protect against future allergies and conditions, including eczema.

Strong and diverse health does more than protect against allergies.  It is also important for babies when it comes to colic.  Colic is believed to affect as many as 1/3 of all babies.  There does not appear to be a difference between those babies that are breast fed and those which are bottle fed.  There are many different theories as to the cause of colic and it’s important to note that no one knows for certain.  Given that we are bio-individual creatures it’s likely that there are multiple reasons.  Dietarily there appears to be some success for a large number of babies when lactose (milk sugar) is removed from their diet.  These babies have what is referred to as lactose overload, or functional lactase insufficiency.  In plain English, they are not producing enough lactase (the enzyme which breaks down the lactose) and this causes gastric distress.  This is not lactose intolerance, but rather the undeveloped digestive system not having enough lactase; this situation does correct itself over time.

Over the past few years the health of the intestinal eco-system has come under scrutiny as a possible reason for colic.  Back in 2009 researchers at the Texas Health Science Center (THSC) in Houston found a connection between gut health and colic.  The study seemed to indicate a correlation between bacterial balance and colic.  Although the initial study was a small one, all the colicky infants tested positive for Klebsiella, a bacteria which is often found in the mouth and intestines of adults.  The study concluded, “Infants with colic, a condition previously believed to be nonorganic in nature, have evidence of intestinal neutrophilic infiltration and a less diverse fecal microflora.” (the less diverse microflora theory was shown to be true in the Sweden study mentioned above.)

Now another, study published in the journal BMC Microbiology in June 2011, appears to show positive results for inoculating with beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacillus. In this study two strains of lactobacillus had positive, antimicrobial effects. Studies are continuing to see which strains are best; I assume the studies will also look at how to best deliver probiotics to the infant without overwhelming their system.

I know many mothers add higher levels of probiotic foods to their diet in order to help their own immune systems be as strong as possible.  I also know some mothers who have used liquid probiotics and put it on their nipples just before breast feeding in order to help the infant get some beneficial effect.  If you feel it would be beneficial to add probiotics to the diet of your infant child it’s important to let your health care professional know. If you are working with a lactation specialist let them know as well.

One thing that neither of these studies addresses is the gut health of the mother.  As I’ve mentioned before, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride points out that most gut disturbances tend to be generational disorders.  It is highly beneficial for the mother to have a strong bacterial eco-system, this is what gets passed along to the infant and what helps to inoculate them during a natural birthing process.  For all of us, having a strong, diverse, healthy gut is important to health.  Now it looks like it’s even more important to support the health of future generations.

Klebsiella study:
Lactobacillus study:

Gut Health Linked To Allergies

probiotic – lactobacillus bulgaricus | photo: Gengiskanhg

A recent study done in Sweden entitled, “Low diversity of the gut microbiota in infants with atopic eczema” appears to show that higher diversity in infant gut microflora  lowers the chance of allergies, including eczema.

This is of interest for a number of reasons.  One, it appears to back up the Hygiene Hypothesis.  This is the idea that if our environment is too clean it doesn’t provide the diversity we need and also encourages the body to attack “harmless antigens.”  Two, it provides further information about the role of certain beneficial bacteria.  Examples included proteobacteria protecting against allergies while bacteroides appear to be useful against inflammation.  Three, it shows, yet again, the connection between the gut and health.  Four, it highlights, to me, the dangers of the over-use of antibiotics.  I have written briefly about antibiotics in our food supply here and here.

The more antibiotics that appear in our food system, the higher the toll they take on our bodies.  Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome and creator of the GAPS Diet, tells us that when she looks at dysfunction in the gut she traces it back over at least three generations.  The less healthy flora the parents have to pass on, the fewer strains will be available to inoculate the baby.  Dr. Campbell-McBride has found the effect to be cumulative over the generations.

What does all of this mean?  In addition to cleaning up our irresponsible use of antibiotics in the food supply, it also means that we need to do what we can to ensure a strong, healthy eco-system in our gut.  We need to create a rich supply of diverse prebiotic and probiotic colonies.  How to accomplish this?  Adding fermented foods to the diet such as kefir is a good start.  Other fermented foods could include yogurt and kombucha.  Also eating a diet high in fiber, especially soluble fibers which are fermented by the bacteria in the gut will help.  Should you require taking antibiotics it is vitally important that you take them as prescribed and finish the dose to avoid creating resistant bacteria.  You will also need to re-inoculate your system by taking probiotics (antibiotics wipe out both good and bad bacteria).

While this study from Sweden highlighted the benefits of a richly diverse gut colony in infants for protecting them against allergies, I feel that supporting the gut at any time is beneficial.  I believe probiotic support can go a long way toward helping to regain or maintain healthy gut function.