Lately you may have seen ads for a certain brand of probiotics displaying the slogan “the gut, the new brain”. Nothing could be more true. In fact without a healthy gastrointestinal tract you cannot expect optimal health anywhere in your body. So this month I cover the use of pro and prebiotics to maintain overall health. But also because it’s getting warmer and the sun is becoming a force to be reckoned with I want to discuss the use of sunscreens. And then there are a couple of other news items I wanted to tell you about. Hope you find something of interest here.
It’s all in the gut
The buzzword lately in health circles is “probiotics” and I think we’re all well aware now that probiotics (meaning “for life”) are the beneficial bacteria in the gut which promote normal gastrointestinal functions and provide protection from infection, exert important beneficial effects on metabolism, immune function and even brain function. Normally you have an abundance of friendly bacteria, however antibiotic therapy, stress and poor dietary choices may all cause intestinal dysbiosis, which is a bacterial imbalance that results in overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast associated with a myriad of autoimmune, atopic and metabolic diseases. Of course a common cause of dysbiosis is antibiotic therapy. The antibiotics that you take for killing an infection will also kill the ‘friendly’ bacteria in your digestive tract.
Some of the first signs of systemic dysbiosis are foul smelling winds and stools, and bad breath but more serious gastrointestinal and systemic disorders such as IBS, bloating, candidiasis/yeast infection, constipation, diarrhea, skin disorders, and even rheumatoid arthritis and depression may result .
Restoring a healthy, balanced intestinal microbiotica using probiotic supplements can safely and effectively prevent and treat these disorders. Although many different species of beneficial bacteria colonise the gut, you will be more familiar with the names Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Always make sure your probiotic supplement contains a good measure of these species as it is generally accepted that the bifidobacteria and lactobacilli constitute important components of the beneficial gut microflora and the primary focus of research has been on these two genera. Enzadophilus, my favourite probiotic supplement contains 4 billion colony forming units consisting of these two species and many others.
So you’ve heard of probiotics, but what about prebiotics? Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that make their way through our digestive system and help probiotics grow and flourish.Prebiotics that feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut mostly come from carbohydrate fibres called oligosaccharides. Because we don't digest them, the oligosaccharides remain in the digestive tract and stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria. Sources of oligosaccharides include fruits, legumes and whole grains such as unrefined whole wheat, oats, barley. Fructo-oligosaccharides are extracted from these foods and added to supplements. You may have seen the abbreviation FOS on some supplements and processed health foods. The Jerusalem artichoke has very high concentrations of fructo-oligosaccharides. FOS can also be produced by degradation of inulin.
There is much evidence for the use of pro and prebiotics to improve colon health as well as the immune system and reduce the incidence of allergies especially in children. Fortunately human milk contains prebiotic oligosaccharides meaning that breast-fed infants have an intestinal ecosystem with a strong prevalence of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. Bottle fed babies should be given a formula that contains a mixture of prebiotic oligosaccharides as evidence suggests that these may protect against the development of eczema or dermatitis in babies at risk as well as reduce intestinal and possibly respiratory infections in healthy infants during the first year.
So how does one take a probiotic supplement?
Always start on a low dose of probiotic and gradually increase to minimize the incidence of gas and bloating that can occur when large doses are consumed for the first time.
Be sure to take your probiotic with food which is when gastric pH is higher.
Probiotics can be taken anytime of the day however if you are on an antibiotic course then take your probiotics a few hours away from the antibiotic.
Although we do extract FOS from foods containing them little is known as to what extent they benefit us, so perhaps it is a good idea to take a prebiotic supplement along with probiotics to maximize their effect. This is where Green Vibrance is such a fantastic all-round supplement to take. Not only is it an amazing wholefood multivitamin and mineral but it also contains an array of pro and prebiotics.
Probiotics are very safe and no safety issues in infants and children have ever arisen. They are also safe to use in immunosuppressed patients and patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation in whom they can prevent and treat diarrhea. However care should be taken to select documented, tested probiotics from reputable manufacturers.
Although people have knowingly consumed probiotics for health benefits for more than a century, I believe that as we learn more about how gastrointestinal dysbiosis is related to disorders throughout the body, the spectrum of diseases amenable to probiotic intervention will continue to expand. When it comes to probiotics, only the tip of the iceberg has been scratched thus far.
NOTE: If you have a bowel problem: ignore it and it WON’T go away.
Do sunscreens really prevent skin cancers?
Spring is hardly here and already the temperatures are soaring, which brings me to the topic of sunscreens. Being a sun-worshipper myself, with a strong belief in the therapeutic properties of sunlight I will never be convinced that it is not good to get a healthy dose of the sun every day. It is essential for health, for life and for happy moods! I find myself wondering if the fervour with which companies promote sunscreen isn’t perhaps linked to the profit that sunscreen sales bring.
Yes too much sunlight can cause sunburn, and sunburn is a risk factor for skin cancer. But then one would assume that since sunscreens help prevent sunburn, they should reduce the risk of skin cancer too, right? However this is not what all the evidence shows. For example,a randomised study in which individuals used daily sunscreen or no daily sunscreen for 4½ years was cited in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics. The result was that the development of new cancers was essentially the same in both groups. In other words, the application of sunscreen did not appear to protect against the development of new skin cancers. Granted, the study looked only at squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas but neither has any melanoma study ever shown convincingly that sunscreen use reduces the risk of melanoma or that death from skin cancer is avoidable with the use of sunscreens as manufacturers like to claim..
A few theories as to why this is so have been put forward, which include:
The sorts of people who use sunscreen (e.g. fair-skinned) are generally at enhanced risk of skin cancer to begin with.
Use of sunscreen makes people think they are not getting burned so they stay in the sun longer
Sunscreen blocks out the UVB needed for Vitamin D production, but allows in the UVA, considered the melanoma culprit.
Sunscreen may block the manufacture of vitamin D which is linked to cancer-protective effects.
With the advent of nanotechnology, formerly harmless ingredients like titanium dioxide have become carcinogenic because nanomaterial can easily penetrate below the skin’s surface.
More evidence pointing to the fact that it is not the sun we need to shy away from is found in these three astounding facts:
melanomas most commonly occur in countries that are less sun-exposed
melanomas are more common in indoor workers than outdoor workers and
most melanomas do not occur in typically sun-exposed parts of the body.
Yes, there is certainly an increase in melanoma reports worldwide, but one wonders is this not due to the increased awareness of melanoma by the medical profession and the public leading to increased diagnosis of lesions which were not destined to pose a threat to health in the long term. (Same old story we have with PSA testing and mammography).
The growing school of thought that children should be protected from sunlight is most concerning. The worrying fact is that sunscreens block vitamin D production and low vitamin D levels can cause bone disease and is linked with enhanced risk of cardiovascular disease and, yes you have guessed it…. several forms of cancer. Just to give you an example of how powerful sunscreens are: a sunscreen with an SPF of 8 can reduce your ability to make vitamin D in your skin by more than 95%.
Read this article written by oncologist Professor Angus Dalgleish and published in the UK’s Daily Mail, where he draws our attention to the links between vitamin D and cancer, including the link between low vitamin D levels and melanoma. He warns that the anti-sun propaganda may well have led to a chronic deficiency of vitamin D. The implication is clear: our advice about sun exposure may be contributing to increasing cancer incidence, including melanoma.
So you see why I “pale” at the potential consequences of the current “keep your children out of the sun or slathered from top to toe in sunscreen” policy on the long term health of our children.
My advice? Enjoy the sun while at the same time showing it the respect it deserves. Find your place in the sun for 20 minutes every day, with your arms and legs exposed and without sunscreen. The new school of thought is that midday when your shadow is at its shortest is the safest time to be in the sun. If you need to be in the sun for long periods cover up with a Tshirt and hat. Eat plenty of carrots and other foods loaded with beta-carotene which has a protective effect against sunburn, or drink their juices. Apply these same rules to your children and only use safe sunscreens free of carcinogens after they have been in the sun for 15 minutes.
I often get asked "Do we need to take Vitamin D supplements?" In sunny South Africa supplementing should not be necessary however if you're one of those people whose circumstances prevent you from being outdoors often enough and with more than 50% of your body exposed, then yes, you do need to supplement vitamn D - and I think that includes most of us.
Why fish oil rather than flax oil to get your omega-3 fix?
Mmmm if only I had a penny for all the times I have been asked this question…...
EPA and DHA are the two omega-3 fatty acids that do the heavy lifting when it comes to the therapeutic benefits of omega-3. They are found in fish oil and do not have to be converted by the body. Flaxseed oil, on the other hand, contains no EPA or DHA but rather contains Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) - a building block enabling healthy people to manufacture EPA. Theoretically, the body converts the long-chain omega-3 ALA to EPA; then EPA to DHA. However, some factors can interfere with the ALA to EPA to DHA conversion.
The rate of metabolic conversion can be slow and unsteady, particularly among those with impaired health, since the conversion occurs only if all the body functions are fully developed and working properly. This transformation not only takes time but is also difficult to measure. Most studies in humans have shown that whereas a certain, though limited, conversion of high doses of ALA to EPA occurs, conversion to DHA is severely restricted. It has been suggested that only about 15 percent of ALA converts to EPA and 5 percent to DHA. ( H. Gerster. Conversion of ALA and DHA. Internat. J Vit)
In their book called Protein Power: Michael and Mary Eades sum this up beautifully: " .. taking flax seed oil is kind of like buying crude oil and running it through your home distillery to make gasoline for your car. If that's the only way you can get gasoline, then that's what you have to do. If you can buy the gasoline already distilled, however, it is much more efficient to do that and avoid the hassle of the home distillation process."
The most important interference in the conversion of ALA to DHA is an excess of Omega-6 fatty acids in the bloodstream competing for the same enzymes as Omega-3s for a similar type of metabolism. This explains why a high intake of Omega-6 fats in the diet, mainly coming from vegetable oils, prevents the metabolism of ALA to DHA. A deficiency in certain vitamin and mineral co-factors (vitamin B3, B6, B12, C, Zinc and Magnesium), aging or disease may also be inhibiting factors.
Another drawback of flax oil is that it must be refrigerated and will only last two to three months once opened. It is very sensitive to oxidation and becomes rancid very easily. Therefore it is preferable to use freshly ground flax seeds instead of the oil. However to ensure sufficient intake of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, please look to fish oil not flax oil.
Fish oil and Alzheimers
We already know fish oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which have been associated with improved cognitive function. That’s one of the reasons we take it, not so? However its always nice to get affirmation in the form of a very convincing study such as the one reported on at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease held this year in Paris. In this study data was collected over a three year period from 117 men and women who used fish oil supplements and 702 nonusers.
The team found greater brain volume (in other words less brain shrinkage) and better cognitive function in fish oil supplement users compared to those who didn't use them.
Nothing unexpected of course. Over the past 10 years, scientific studies have revealed the remarkable effects that fish consumption has on neurological and brain function. DHA is essential to brain health because it constitutes between 30 and 50 percent of the total fatty acid content of the human brain.
Deficiencies in DHA have been linked to cognitive decline, and human cell studies have shown that DHA reduces beta-amyloid secretion. Beta-amyloid is a protein fragment which builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, in a 10-year study that tracked the DHA levels of 1188 elderly subjects, Alzheimer's disease was 67 percent more likely to develop in those whose DHA levels were in the lower half of the distribution.
The guidelines tell us that to prevent or slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s 1000mg of combined EPA nd DHA per day is required. Two See Yourself Well Omega-3 capsules covers this adequately however for good measure my husband and I add two DHAEssentials capsules daily. This seems to have been sufficient to keep our marbles together and although we may be a little absent-minded at times, like the other day when I poured washing powder into the cat's bowl instead of pellets, our memories are not bad for "wrinklies".
High Cholesterol Levels may be a reason for celebration!
You don’t need to take my word for it anymore. Recent studies have confirmed this. Read more here (especially if you’re a woman with high cholesterol readings!).
Gardasil rears its ugly head
I received the sad news this week of a gynaecologist who is advising moms to let their 9 year old girls have the HPV vaccine Gardasil, meant to prevent cervical cancer. I had hoped that this would never happen in our country. In September 2009 newsletter I referred you to this article: “Gardasil Researcher Cautions Parents.” Please do have a look at this again.
Right I think I have given you enough reading matter here to keep you out of mischief for a while so I’ll leave you to it. Just one small request even if the info on Gardasil does not apply to your family please do forward it to friends who need to know.
Wow this newsletter is out so late this month that it’s already time to wish you Happy Halloween! Have a good one but please just no dressing up as Charlie Sheen! I don't want to read about you in the papers!
See you back here next month.
PS I have attached my latest product list. Note the Natural Vibrance products I have added to my stash. I remain absolutely over the moon about Natural Vibrance supplements.
Nutritional Therapist (BSc (Hons) HDE, Dip Clin Nutr) The Orchards Nutrition Centre - Somerset East Tel: 042 243 0339 Cell: 084 531 0786 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org