Monthly Archives: August 2014

Probiotics Could Help Lower Blood Pressure

There are plenty of fads that have come about around weight loss, better health, and on down the line. You may have heard of probiotics. They certainly have spread through multiple yogurt commercials, and of course, there are those health nerds who talk about their presence in things like kimchi as well. Personally, I’m a fan of kimchi. So I have nothing against that. This said, there has also been talk about certain good bacteria being specifically in breast milk, and subsequently kids who aren’t breastfed being at a higher risk of certain digestive issues.

Probiotics have definitely been known to balance out some small digestive issues, but the market has pushed much more. There have been some who say that by balancing out your digestive tract, it can help you to lose weight. Others suggest that it can actually reduce high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. As you may have noticed with a lot of natural health supplements though, there is a tendency to reach for the stars, and sometimes to overreach.

This aside, researcher Jing Sun PhD said, The small collection of studies we looked at suggest regular consumption of probiotics can be part of a healthy lifestyle to help reduce high blood pressure, as well as maintain healthy blood pressure levels. This includes probiotics in yogurt, fermented and sour milk and cheese, and probiotic supplements.

So there may be some truth to some of the greater health claims after all. Probiotics do help to balance out the natural flora of your digestive tract, but they can easily be destroyed. Without these good bacteria, they have proven that you can experience symptoms like diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome just to start. So you need to keep them in stock, which includes when you take antibiotics for example, which have a tendency to eliminate all bacteria, good or bad.

The most recent study was published in the journal Hypertension. Researchers specifically reviewed 90 studies involving 543 adults with normal or elevated blood pressure. In the study, eating probiotics lowered the systolic blood pressure numbers by an average of 3.56mm HG. It also remarkably lowered diastolic blood pressure by an average of 2.38mm Hg. So as you may have noticed, that seems pretty substantial to me.

To give you an idea of what kind of effect this is, it would mean that someone with a blood pressure reading of 140 over 90 could move down to 136 over 88. This would be the difference between hypertension and pre-hypertension according to the American Heart Association. It’s definitely not doing all of the work for you, but it is making a difference that can really get you moving in the right direction. If it can do it without the side effects of many prescriptions, that’s not so bad.

Other studies have suggested that modest improvements in blood pressure could lead to a reduced risk of obvious things like heart disease and stroke, and it could also promote other meaningful benefits like better kidney function and a reduced risk of dementia. That’s not so bad, and it means that probiotics (and anything else that can help you to effectively reduce blood pressure) are something to keep in mind.

According to the studies, this has to be a regular and long-term thing. Consuming probiotics for fewer than 8 weeks did not affect blood pressure significantly. When people had high blood pressure, they were also most likely to see a difference. Those with lower blood pressure anyway did not see the same effects.

So while I don’t think that probiotics are a miracle food or anything to replace your doctor recommended medications with, I also don’t think it would hurt to include more probiotics in your diet.


How Many Carbs Should I Eat?

How far is too far? When it comes to low carb diets, it’s not uncommon for people to go overboard and to extremes. They consider side effects like muscle aches, fatigue, and brain fog to be totally normal, and it’s just a sign that you’re doing the right thing. Of course, you can cure these symptoms by eating more carbs, but some choose to plod on.

Interestingly, there are some who suggest that this may have nothing to do with carbs when you notice these symptoms. It may be related more to your calorie intake in general. Yes, your brain does run on glucose, but at the same point, your body produces a lot of those basic nutrients to run. At least that’s what low carbers say. Truthfully, your brain can run on ketones if it doesn’t have sugar.

Ever since the low carb revolution came out, the question How many carbs should I eat? continues to be a huge one. Realistically speaking, I would instead try focusing on your diet as a whole. How many calories are you eating? Carbs and anything else you eat play a role in your total caloric intake, but let’s think about this.

Sometimes carbs have more calories. Then again, sometimes meats (mostly protein) have more calories and fat. However, some suggest that meat and other major protein sources fill you up faster, meaning you end up eating fewer calories by default of eating less in general. If you are losing weight, but you’re miserable for more than a few days, then chances are your diet may be too extreme.

Go by the way you feel. Of course, don’t change your diet daily. You can afford to be a bit more patient than that, but you will want to consider what kind of diet works best for you. Maybe you need more carbs, maybe more protein, but most likely if you see noticeable side effects for too long, you just need more calories.

Anti-Vaccination Becomes Anti-Vitamin And Anti-Baby

When my sister’s husband said that he wouldn’t vaccinate my niece if they didn’t make it so hard to get them into school, I about slapped him silly. That is the ultimate sign to me of lazy and uneducated parenting, which unfortunately can endanger the lives, not only of those children who are not vaccinated, but others who may not be old enough for example who are exposed to them, but it’s going even further. Anti-vaxxers aren’t going to stop or bother to think now. They have recently started to reject a simple vitamin K injection that has been a standard part of newborn care for years, since the 1960’s in fact.

What happens is parents who find themselves in the emergency room with a baby with vitamin K deficiency bleeding. Chris Mooney reports, This rare disorder occurs because human infants do not have enough vitamin K, a blood coagulant, in their systems. Infants who develop VKDB can bleed in various parts of their bodies, including bleeding in the brain. This can lead to death in some cases.

The problem has been going on for a while, but really came to light just recently this spring. Tom Wilemon, writing for the Tennessean, noticed 7 babies being admitted to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in just 8 months with vitamin K deficiency bleeding. Doctors believe they were directly caused by parents refusing the injection, because apparently they’ve heard that the shot causes leukemia. Just like vaccines, which most kids get, vitamin K injections have never been proven to have this effect. In fact, followup studies disproved that theory, according to Vanderbilt doctors.

For one of the families, twins were both diagnosed with the same issue after they found out about the lack of a vitamin K shot. For the twin who had already developed bleeding though, the damage was done. Tests showed multiple brain bleeds, and he will now be undergoing physical therapy for neuromuscular development issues. They have not determined whether or not he will be mentally handicapped.

Ironically, doctors have found that women who breastfeed exclusively are under an even greater need to provide their babies with the vitamin K shot. Considering how we hold breastfeeding up like the holy grail of child care, especially in the communities where vaccinations are low, it’s a bit scary.

VKDB can show up in 2 basic forms: an early form (in the first week of life) and a late form, which is considerably more dangerous. It tends to strike between 2 and 12 weeks, and it strikes in infants who have not received vitamin K and are exclusively breastfed. The irony is that vitamin K levels are significantly lower in breast milk than in formula.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that infants who don’t get vitamin K injections are 81 times more likely to experience the late form of VKDB. This equals out to about 4.4 and 7.2 infants out of every 100,000. What we can say is that vitamin K injections do not cause cancer, but a vitamin K injection is virtually 100% protective against this brain bleed.

What You Should Know About Vitamin K And Blood Thinners

My mechanic told me once that he had some health problems and couldn’t eat a lot of green leafy and other vegetables, because they would interfere with his medications. Specifically, if they had too much vitamin K, it could even cause death among other complications. His problem is not as uncommon as I originally thought. For those taking the medications he does or those like Coumadin, a blood-thinning medication that is typically used to prevent future strokes, the dose has to be just right. It can be highly effective, but there is definitely such a thing as too much blood thinning.

People who take blood thinners like Coumadin need regular blood tests to test their coagulation and adjust as needed. When you consider vitamin K in your diet, that will affect how much you actually need to take to avoid those big swings in either direction. It is also important to control your vitamin K intake for the same types of reasons.

Leafy greens like kale, collard, and spinach are major sources of vitamin K, and people taking blood thinners are typically told to avoid these foods altogether by their doctors. There are some of course who don’t suggest eliminating them entirely, just controlling them and keeping tight track. After all, by skipping out on these important vegetables, you could also miss out on other important nutrients.

If you are taking a blood thinner, keep your vitamin K intake between 100 to 800mcg per day. Your doctor may recommend less depending on your situation. Once you have hit that limit, avoid vegetables that don’t have vitamin K and eat other vegetables for the rest of the day. You will also want to check your daily supplements to make sure they don’t have vitamin K either. Most importantly though, check in with your doctors regularly to make sure you’re on the right track.

Can You Be Too Healthy

There has been some talk about it. In a way, you could assume that it’s coming from obese America. People want to play down the effects of obesity. So they focus instead on people who are eating right, exercising, and they say that these people are too healthy. Of course, there’s a line, and you can get too much of anything, that’s including healthy food and exercise.

When you see people start cleansing and juicing, you may end up not eating, and therefore not necessarily getting the nutrients you need. Ironic isn’t it? People get into different crazes with almond milk, juicing, the raw foods diet, and various other health crazes. People can’t just do one thing, they have to do it all at times.

The truth is that most Americans could afford to be healthier, but it seems that people can’t just be basically healthy anymore. They have to go overboard. Too much healthy can be hard. When taken to the extreme, behavior that is too healthful can lead to osteoporosis, joint problems, sprains, nutritional deficiency, and even reproductive issues, says Joseph Pinzone MD. They call it orthorexia. Keep in mind, orthorexia is not a recognized disorder, but it has certainly caught on.

The National Eating Disorders Association calls it a fixation on righteous eating, which is not necessarily the same as being thin. A person obsesses about being healthy, and this can lead to various physiological issues. Eating too healthy can actually trigger cravings for more salt and more fat cravings. Fruits and vegetables are healthy and great, but they aren’t necessarily a guarantee to healthy weight loss on their own.

A recent study from the University of Alabama Birmingham found that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables may not be as simple as it seems in terms of the health and weight loss aspects. Kathryn Kaiser, an instructor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham said, Across the board, all studies we reviewed showed a near-zero effect on weight loss. So I don’t think eating more fruits and vegetables alone is necessarily an effective approach for weight loss because just adding them on top of whatever foods a person may be eating is not likely to cause weight change. In other words, it’s all about balance.

The same goes for excessive energy. I know, there are those who workout 8 hours a day as professional athletes. However, too much and overly vigorous exercise can strain your heart while cutting your life short. Not quite what you might originally imagine. Studies at the University of South Carolina found that regular jogging can increase your life expectancy, but runners who run more than 20 miles a week (2.85 miles per day) have a higher rate of death than moderate runners.

Jay Cardiello, celebrity fitness trainer and nutrition expert, says, I see people who come to the gym multiple times per day or at odd hours of the night. But the body needs rest in order to function at its best. Take weight training – many people don’t realize that lifting destroys your muscles; during rest, the body is building strength. That’s why taking breaks from exercise is crucial.

So what do you do? Stick to moderation. Don’t go too hard, and don’t wear yourself out. Just be reasonably healthy. Pinzone says, We live in a social media-heavy world where we feel like we’re never doing enough. But taking the time to be mindful and balanced, asking yourself, ‘Is it more important to run that extra mile or see an old friend?’ – is the key to truly be happy and healthy.

Foods That Are Good For Your Skin

There are plenty of people who have used the raw food diet (and other extreme diets) to lose weight, but one of the big staples of extreme diets is often the idea that they have other benefits too. So you’re not suffering just to lose weight. You’re looking at your whole body. With the raw food diet, being that you end up eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, it’s not that big a stretch to believe that you could also improve your skin, but it’s not all of the foods. There are some that are much more effective:

  • Kale: Kale has plenty of healthy carotenoids, and these provide a rich source of healthy antioxidants. You can juice with dark leafy greens, which can help you to fight inflammation and detoxify the liver at the same time, which helps you to detoxify and improve the health of your skin. It also aids your digestion, which can also improve your skin.
  • Walnuts: Walnuts provide a great source of vitamins B & E, both of which can help you to fight potentially harmful free radicals. This alone can help you to brighten your skin while preventing unnecessary wrinkles. Walnuts also come with moisturizing and healthy omega-3 fatty acids that can strengthen your skin membrane, keeping it moisturized and soft.
  • Citrus Fruits: You can get plenty of healthy vitamin C as well as other nutrients in citrus fruits. This can help you to fight harmful free radicals, and in some cases, it can also help you with better collagen production.
  • Salmon/Tuna: If you get healthy fish, they provide a low fat source of protein, and they have plenty of healthy omega fatty acids. This can be an incredible healthy moisturizer.
  • Carrots: Carrots are a rich source of vitamin A and biotin, and yes, it can turn your skin orange with too much, but chances are you won’t get that much. This can help your skin to rebuild itself and maintain healthy turnover to prevent problems that could lead to premature aging.
  • Spinach: Spinach has a high dose of age fighting antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, and K. Spinach can also help you to keep your skin hydrated.
  • Almond Milk (And Other Nut Milks): Nut milks, like almond milk, can substitute for real milk, and some suggest this eliminates potentially harmful hormones from your diet. It also has plenty of minerals that can help you to produce more collagen, natural moisturizers, protein, and manganese, a mineral that helps to protect your skin from UV damage.

Your Doctor Shouldn’t Be Dr Wikipedia

We live in an age where the hypochondriac has more tools to work with than ever before. There’s Specialist Google, Surgeon Bing, and even Dr Wikipedia. When it comes to our doctors, we have learned that they don’t know everything, and we depend on commercials, the internet, and other sources for information over them. We self-diagnose, and more often than not, we end up wrong. I guess not actually having a medical degree does make a difference.

Interestingly, it’s not just us turning to the Internet, which is somewhat scary for me. What did doctors do during all of those years of school and residency, and moreover, why am I paying them when recent studies have suggested that they are looking on Wikipedia for diagnoses, just like many of us. Call me crazy, but I like to hope that a doctor has more of a reference to what those symptoms sound like rather than guessing in the dark. I’m completely okay with a medical database for doctors just to double check themselves, but Wikipedia isn’t exactly the best source for expertise. Hence why so many of us get bad self-diagnoses from it.

Instead, we are getting doctors who use Wikipedia as the #1 source of medical information. 70% of MDs report using it as an information source in providing medical care. 90% of the medical information provided on the site is inaccurate. Not so reassuring, and this comes from the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Hilary Gerber MD of Yahoo Health says, We compared the 10 conditions responsible for the most medical costs. For example, hypertension, back pain, and depression, then cross-referenced them with updated, peer reviewed studies. Most of the information on Wikipedia was inaccurate. There is information that is correct, but there just wasn’t enough that was right.

The idea is that doctors will still practice good medical judgment, but is that really enough? If they are referencing Wikipedia instead of actual medical text, I have questions about their judgment, especially considering the reports of inaccuracy. There’s no way to tell if your doctor is using Wikipedia beforehand, and even during, not necessarily unless you see them doing it. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to just shoot in the dark:

  • Research At Your Doctor’s Background: Visit websites and check out your doctor. Most of the time, you can easily find free information from your state’s medical board and other reliable sources online. You will only find settled, not any pending lawsuits if there are any. However, if you do not find it online, you can still get it from the medical board directly.
  • Get A Second Opinion: If you have your doubts, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I would even say that’s healthy at times. Your doctor, even if they’re a good doctor, could be wrong from time to time. They could miss something important than another doctor would pick right up on. In fact, if they’re a newer doctor (for your second opinion), they may be fresh out of school and ready to double check their facts.
  • Check Credentials: You just assume that if your doctor is working in a clinic, they must be properly licensed, and that really should be a safe assumption. Just because they’re an MD though doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re meeting your specifications for the problems that you are suffering. It never hurts to check.