From the category archives:

digestive health

Which is the best probiotic for IBS?

by Ed

Stomach Acting Up

Photo credit: thefuturistics

When you suffer from the bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation of irritable bowel syndrome, you know pepto-bismol is not good enough. Many health practitioners recommend taking probiotics as part of the therapy for bringing IBS under control. The trouble is, there are a lot of different probiotics out there now, and they do not all have the same effects.

Lately, a lot of attention has been paid to Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, or Bifantis. The main effect of bifantis on the digestive tract seems to be reducing inflammation. Like all probiotics, they also help to restore the balance of flora in the intestines and improve digestive function.

A new study published in the July issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that Bifantis may help relieve many of the symptoms associated with IBS. It was a four week study involving 362 women with IBS. The group taking Bifantis had 20% greater relief of symptoms than the placebo group. There were no side effects reported from taking Bifantis.

A recent survey of all properly designed research studies using probiotics to treat IBS found that only bifantis showed significant improvement of symptoms. I believe there is a lot more research that needs to be done. One problem with the research so far, is that they only study one probiotic at a time. As I said they have different functions, and I believe they act synergistically. So taking a combination should be better than taking any one alone.

If you have IBS, Bifantis is certainly worth checking out. Adding it to your daily regime will probably prove beneficial.

Healing food allergies and leaky gut syndrome

by Ed

If you have food allergies, particularly if you developed them later in life and are allergic to more than one food, chances are you also have leaky gut syndrome. If you can heal your leaky gut then you will be able to overcome your allergies as well.

What is leaky gut syndrome? When the intestinal lining becomes damaged, it can let partially digested proteins into the blood stream. The body does not recognize these foreign proteins and assumes they are invaders. It therefore sends out an immune response, attacking the protein molecules. After that happens a few times, the body quickly recognizes that particular food as dangerous and starts attacking very quickly. That is the way leaky gut can lead to food allergies. Leaky gut syndrome can also be at the root of other health problems, such as arthritis, excema, irritable bowel syndrome, and many believe fibromyalgia.

How do you get leaky gut syndrome? Being our first line of defense against many things trying to enter our bodies, the intestinal lining is well designed. However, it is rather fragile, as it is supposed to let digested nutrients through. It usually takes a number of different factors over a period of time to compromise the intestinal lining to the extent that we develop a leaky gut. Bacteria, fungi, yeast, such as candida, and other parasites can all damage the lining. Many drugs can as well, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other pain medications. Antibiotics, indirectly can cause it, by killing the beneficial bacteria in the gut, which allows harmful bacteria, and fungi to flourish. Anything that causes inflammation of the intestines can also damage the lining.

How do you heal leaky gut syndrome? This can be a difficult an lengthy process. I highly recommend seeing a health practitioner that specializes in it. In some countries there are several lab tests that can be done. These help not only in making an accurate diagnosis, but also in forming an efficient treatment plan. If you do not have access to a qualified health practitioner and believe you have leaky gut syndrome, there are a few things you can do for yourself. First, find out more about it to have a better idea if you really have it. Leaky Gut Syndrome by Elizabeth Lipski, is a great little booklet that goes into a lot more detail than I have here, about the symptoms, the causes, and the treatment. I Was Poisoned By My Body by Gloria Gilbere is another good book with more information on things you can do to help yourself.

The most important thing to do is give your intestinal lining the chance to heal itself. You need to stop eating foods that you are sensitive to. The best thing to do is an elimination diet, to figure out which foods cause reactions, then go on a rotation diet to avoid developing new sensitivities. Avoid taking any medications that are harmful to the digestive system, including anti-inflammatories, steroids, and antibiotics. You also need to restore the balance of good bacteria in your gut by taking large doses of probiotics and other supplements that enhance the beneficial bacteria. When looking for a probiotic, get one that has several different bacteria, as the work synergistically. Primal Defense is one that I have found to work well. It also has soil microorganisms that have proven beneficial to the immune system. Start taking your probiotic at one capsule twice a day. Slowly work up to about ten a day. You may need to stay at that dose for several months. Another useful supplement for the good bacteria is fructo-oligosacharide. You can be sure that you have some bad bugs in your gut, if you do have leaky gut syndrome. The best thing to do is find out what they are and take the right medicine to get rid of them. Chinese herbs are very useful against most of the harmful bugs in the gut. If you are going it on your own, though, I would only suggest eating raw garlic or taking garlic capsules.

I have skimmed over many things on purpose because if you do have leaky gut syndrome, you really need to get professional help. As I mentioned earlier, there are many conditions besides food allergies that could be related to leaky gut syndrome. If you have a chronic complaint that is resistant to treatment, check out one or both of the books I mentioned or see a health practitioner who specializes in treating leaky gut syndrome.

The Master Cleanse

by Ed

The Master Cleanse is a lemon juice fast created, as far as I know, by Stanley Burroughs. You can read about it in his little book, The Master Cleanser.

One thing I’d like to say is that the master cleanse is not for everybody. If you are underweight, I would not do it, unless you are under the supervision of a qualified health professional who has experience with the master cleanse. Other people who generally do not do well on it are people with what Chinese Medicine calls a cold stomach. If you have a hard time digesting cold foods, raw fruits or vegetables, or cucumbers, you have a cold stomach.

If you don’t have any of the above conditions, and you feel in need of a stronger cleanse than the one in my earlier post, then definitely check out the Master Cleanse.

Food for Sleep

by Ed

As Scott mentioned in his comment to my first post in the Sunday sleep series, eating too close to bedtime encourages insomnia. I’d like to go into a little more detail about food and sleep, today.

Going to bed on a full stomach will certainly disrupt your sleep, as well as your digestion. Eating sweets just before bed may help you get to sleep after the sugar rush slows down, but then the drop in blood sugar will disrupt your sleep later in the night.

So how can food help you sleep better? First I need to talk a little about brain chemistry. Melatonin, as I mentioned in my Sleeping in the dark post, is one of the most important brain chemicals for sleep. It is made from serotonin, an important antidepressant chemical, that helps us feel calm. Serotonin is made from tryptophan, an important amino acid we get from protein.Most protein foods have plenty of tryptophan, including beans, nuts and seeds. Other sources are oats and spinach.

One reason eating sweets helps you sleep is that the increase in insulin causes the body to extract the tryptophan, making it available for serotonin production. However, as I said, eating sweets will have negative effects in the long run.

Here are the steps to using food to help you sleep:

  • Eat plenty of protein and other tryptophan rich foods every day.

  • Avoid simple and processed carbohydrates, such as sweets, pasta and white bread.

  • Have dinner four to five hours before bed.

  • Have a carbohydrate snack about two hours before bed. This snack needs to be small and high in fiber and/or a small amount of fat, so it is released slowly in the blood stream. A small potato with the skin on, a half serving of oatmeal, or a slice of whole grain bread with butter are good options.

Eating this way will encourage serotonin production in the evening, leading to a peaceful sleep.

Flax seeds: The Good and The Bad

by Ed

Ground flax seeds are a great nutritional supplement to most people’s diet. Flax oil is not.

The Good:

  • Flax is high in ALA, an essential fatty acid that has some health benefits.

  • Flax is high in protein

  • Flax is high in lignans, a phytonutrient that protects against breast cancer and other estrogen related cancers.

  • Eating ground flax seeds slows the growth of prostate cancer.

  • Flax is a good source of many vitamins.

  • Flax improves cardiovascular and colon health.

The Bad:

  • Most of the benefits of ALA are only realized after being converted to EPA and DHA, which the human body does very poorly. Fish oils are a much better source of these fatty acids.

  • The oils in flax seeds go rancid very quickly. Flax oil is almost useless for this reason. If you use ground flax seeds, it is best to use them immediately after grinding. Otherwise store them in an airtight, opaque container, in the refrigerator.

  • Flax seed oil actually increases the risk of prostate cancer. This may be due to an excess of ALA in the body. Ground flax seeds do not seem to have this problem.

If you are going to eat flax seeds, the ideal amount is about two tablespoons a day, of ground flax seeds. Although flax oil is very unstable, it seems that the seeds are much less so. Apparently it is ok to eat flax seeds after cooking them. People who find raw flax seeds to be too laxative, have no problem with eating them cooked. So put them in muffins or sprinkle them raw on your cereal or salad.