Wakunaga of America

Easy Ways to Love Your Gut

We are here to serve as a friendly reminder to keep an eye on your gut health as the weather turns cooler. Read on for some simple ways you can “love your gut” and keep it healthy all season long.

Why Gut Health Matters

A healthy gut is more important than you might think. In fact, the state of your gastrointestinal tract can impact much more than your digestive system. It can affect your immune health, heart health, and even your brain health (and you can read more about that here). Considering everything your GI tract does for you, it makes sense to show it some love. First, let’s quickly discuss how your gut health can affect these three areas.

Immune Health: Seventy percent of your immune system lives in the gut, so it’s no surprise that the gut plays an important role in protecting against harmful bacteria and viruses.1 Just as your skin protects you against foreign invaders on the outside, your gut lining protects you from these pathogens on the inside.

Heart Health: It’s true that the way to your heart is through your stomach. A number of studies have shown that certain probiotic strains may help lower blood cholesterol, especially in people with high cholesterol levels. One of these studies found that Lactobacillus probiotics can help reduce both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.2 Another study of 127 people with high cholesterol reported that taking a supplement with the beneficial bacteria L. reuteri for nine weeks significantly lowered total cholesterol by 9 percent and LDL cholesterol by 12 percent.3

Brain Health: Your brain and your gut are in constant communication with each other through millions of nerves—a system known as the gut-brain axis. Several studies show that the gut microbiome may affect brain health by helping to control the messages that are sent to the brain through these nerves.4

Top Three Gut Love Tips

Now that you know how important gut health is and how it can impact different areas in the body, let’s take a look at some simple ways you can show your gut some TLC.

Eat a diverse range of foods. Eating a wide variety of plant foods and soluble fiber is linked with a greater diversity of gut bacteria.5 Here’s why: different bacteria prefer different foods, so the more diverse the diet, the more diverse the bacteria in the gut. And when it comes to bacteria, the more diverse the merrier. So try and switch up your diet day to day, and incorporate new fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, and grains into your meals.

Make exercise a priority. Studies show that exercise has a number of benefits for your gut microbiota. It increases the number of beneficial microbial species and fosters greater microbial diversity.6 Strive to get in at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily to give your microbiome the extra support it may need.

Make probiotics part of your daily routine. Probiotics are another great way to inject a bit more bacteria in your diet. Research shows that taking a probiotic supplement can help support gut health and may prevent other digestive problems. 7 Just be sure that the supplement packaging indicates that the bacteria will be live at the expiration date, rather than simply live at the time the supplement is manufactured. Keep these supplements in a cool, dark, and dry location to promote the stability of the beneficial bacteria inside.

Gut health matters a lot! And there are easy ways you can help keep your microbiome healthy and balanced. Try adding one (or all three) of these microbiome-friendly tips to your routine and give your gut some extra care and attention this fall.

References

  1. Rooks M, Garrett W. Gut Microbiota, Metabolites and Host Immunity. National Library of Medicine. 2016; 16(6): 341-52. 10.1038/nri.2016.42
  2. Wu Y, Zhang Q, Ren Y, et al. Effect of Probiotic Lactobacillus on Lipid Profile: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized, Controlled Trials. National Library of Medicine. 2017; 12(6):e0178868.
  3. Wang L, Guo MJ, Gao Q, et al. The Effects of Probiotics on Total Cholesterol: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. National Library of Medicine. 2018; 97(5):e9679.
  4. Forsythe P, Bienenstock J, Kunze W. Vagal Pathways for Microbiome-Brain-Gut Axis Communication. National Library of Medicine. 2014; 817:115-33.
  5. Holscher, H D. Dietary Fiber and Prebiotics and the Gastrointestinal Microbiota. Gut Microbes. 2017; 8(2): 172–184.
  6. Monda V, Villano I, Messina A, et al. Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2017;
  7. Brown AC, Valiere A. Probiotics and Medical Nutrition Therapy. Nutrition and Clinical Care. 2004; 7(2):56-68.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

 

 

Poor Circulation? We’ve Got You Covered

In this blog, we will discuss why circulation is important and we’ll also go over some easy ways to boost your blood flow.

Why Circulation is Important

The circulatory system is a vast network of organs and blood vessels that act both as a delivery and a waste removal system for the body. Nutrients, oxygen, and hormones are delivered to your cells and waste, such as carbon dioxide, are removed. Not only does the circulatory system keep our cells healthy, it also keeps you alive. The heart constantly receives signals from the rest of the body that tell it how hard it needs to pump to properly supply the body with oxygen-rich blood. For example, when you’re asleep, the body sends electrical signals to the heart that tell it to slow down. Conversely, when participating in heavy exercise, the heart receives the message to pump harder to deliver extra oxygen-rich blood to the muscles.

When you have poor circulation, your blood isn’t efficiently flowing through your body. This can lead to a variety of issues, including numbness (e.g., your hands/feet falling asleep). While occasional numbness isn’t life threatening, if your circulation is chronically poor, you are likely facing more serious problems like swelling or fatigue. If this sounds familiar, there are a few things you can do to improve your circulation.

How to Improve Circulation

Exercise. If you are dealing with poor circulation or would just like to give your circulation a bit of a boost in general, one of the easiest ways to get your blood pumping is through exercise. The good news is that you don’t have to run a marathon. Any exercise that gets your heart rate up can improve circulation.1 This includes walking! Just 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walking in your neighborhood most days of the week will benefit your circulation. Once you feel more comfortable moving on to more challenging exercises, you’ll see your circulation improve even more. But don’t overdo it! Take your time progressing to different forms of exercise like running, biking, swimming to avoid injury.

Eat fish. Not just any fish, oily fish. The omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines promote cardiovascular health and improve circulation.2 And for those who are vegetarian or vegan, kale and walnuts actually contain a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids are another option for people who do not eat fish.

Get rid of stress. Stress is one of the most damaging things you can do to your body. When you are stressed, the body goes into what is called “fight or flight” mode. Heightened stress can cause a sudden rise in blood pressure, which places a greater strain on the walls of your blood vessels.3 To reduce stress, try yoga or meditation, limiting your caffeine intake, and listening to relaxing music.

Cut back on alcohol. Moderate alcohol consumption can be okay for your body, but be sure you know how to define what “moderate” means. For men, that means no more than two drinks per day. For women, that means just one. Drinking any more than that can lead to your arteries hardening, which hinders your body’s ability to let blood flow properly.4

Whether you have poor circulation, or would just like to give your circulatory system a boost, incorporating these tips can help encourage a more robust blood flow, and support your circulatory system. For some tips on how to increase circulation during quarantine, click here.

 

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

New to Supplements? We’re Here to Help

Not only can they help fill nutritional gaps, they can also give additional support to certain systems like the heart or the brain.  But finding the right supplement for your needs can be tricky. Additionally, the supplement aisle at the drug store can be very intimidating to newcomers. There are so many different kinds of supplements, so many products with the same ingredients, each boasting to be better than the next. So where do you start? Consider this your beginner’s guide.

Quick Supplement Stats

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of Americans take some sort of supplement.1 More women than men do, and women age 60 and over take the most supplements of all. Not surprisingly, the most commonly consumed supplement is a multivitamin.

What’s great about supplements is that they are easily accessible. They are available without a prescription and usually come in pill, powder, or liquid form. Aside from multivitamins, the most popular nutrient supplements are calcium and vitamins B, C, and D. Calcium supports bone health while vitamin D helps the body absorb that calcium, Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that help prevent cell damage.

No matter what your goals are, the right supplement can help to improve your health and performance. That being said, you should always know what exactly you’re putting in your body. In other words, don’t take anything you don’t understand.

Top Supplement Tips for Beginners

Let’s take a look at some of our top supplement tips.

  1. Talk to your doctor. The first step before starting a new supplement is to talk to your health care provider. It’s important to consult your doctor before you start taking a new supplement to avoid the risk of medication interactions or overconsuming certain nutrients. Be sure to come in with your current list of medications, medical conditions, and any issues you’d like to address.
  2. Read the label. After consulting with your doctor and getting the go-ahead, read the label of the supplement you are considering. Product labels can tell you what the active ingredients are, which additional nutrients are included, the suggested serving size, and the amount of nutrients in each serving.
  3. Check for supporting science. If a supplement sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Credible, reputable companies have peer-reviewed, double-blind clinical studies to support the use and effectiveness of their products. Also make sure that the recommended dosage is supported by science. If it is, it will be likely discussed in the supporting studies as well.
  4. Buy your supplements from a reputable source. Some supplement companies do not go through the hassle of quality control processes to ensure the label matches the product and that the ingredients in the bottle are pure. Established brands that are committed to high quality products follow Good Manufacturing Practices established by the FDA and provide honest, truthful advertising following FTC rules. Your local health food store is good place to start if you are interested in trying a new supplement. The store staff is well educated on the products and brands that they carry.

At Wakunaga of America, for example, all of our products are produced according to the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) established by the World Health Organization and Food and Drug Administration. In addition, Wakunaga has earned the ISO 9001:2015 certification by Intertek. These certifications recognize our compliance to U.S and international quality standards and demonstrate our commitment to the Quality Management System. Wakunaga also takes part in many peer-reviewed double-blind randomized clinical studies, to support the efficacy of the nutrients in our supplements.  Learn more about our science here.

  1. Store supplements in the appropriate environment. Some supplements need to be refrigerated and others kept away from the light. Be sure to follow proper storage instructions.
  2. Start slowly. Begin with only one new supplement at a time. Wait a period of time (typically a month) before you throw any additional supplements into the mix beyond those you are currently taking. This will help you determine if this particular supplement is making you feel better or if you’d like to try something else. If you do experience an adverse effect, stop taking the supplement immediately.

There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a new supplement. It is a good idea to spend some time doing the research so you can make sure it’s the best, safest, highest-quality supplement for you. In the end, your improved health will be all the proof you need that supplements really can make a difference.

 

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Which Bacterial Strains to Look for in a Probiotic

In this blog post, we will get into some of the most beneficial strains for a healthy gastrointestinal tract and more. In addition, we’ll go over a few bacterial strains that can help to alleviate some of our most common health concerns. Let’s jump right in!

Quick Probiotics Refresher

First of all, let’s review something that’s important yet often misunderstood. Probiotic bacteria are classified as Genus – Species – Strain. So if you’re looking at a probiotic label that lists Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, lactobacillus is the genus, gasseri is the species, and the number after it is the strain code. Knowing the species helps to more closely identify the species characteristics of the bacteria genus. And the strain code provides even more detail on exactly which specific bacteria is in the supplement.

When looking for a probiotic, it helps to find one that contains human bacterial strains. Human strain probiotics don’t actually contain human byproducts or ingredients. They are simply strains of beneficial bacteria that have been found to live in the human digestive tract. This means that they are already adapted to thrive in the gut.

In this same vein, something else you should keep in mind when looking for a probiotic is whether or not its species and strains have been clinically researched—and more importantly, if they have been clinically researched together. Many probiotics claim to be clinically studied, but oftentimes they are referring to clinical studies that have been carried out for each species separately. The best case scenario would be if the probiotic’s combined species have been researched together as they appear in the supplement. This adds to the studies’ validity and ultimately, the supplement’s efficacy.

Why Strains Are Important

There are many kinds of probiotic bacteria, and each has unique functions within the body. It’s important to know what these different strains do, so that when you buy a probiotic you’re buying one that has the specific strains that will be most helpful to your health needs.

Bifidobacterium bifidum: This specific strain can help reduce allergy symptoms like itchy skin, sinus congestion, headaches, and even diarrhea. It does this by discouraging the production of histamine, a chemical that is released in the body to trigger allergic reactions during times of stress or allergy.1

Bifidobacterium longum: This strain may help improve the immune response and help to prevent gut disorders. Research suggests it may also suppress allergies and improve skin health.2

Bifidobacterium infantis: This strain may improve IBS symptoms and help to eliminate E. coli in the gut.3

Lactobacillus gasseri: This strain produces vitamin K, lactase, and anti-microbial substances. It may also help people with lactose intolerance to digest dairy foods. L. gasseri also helps prevent indigestion, diarrhea, and yeast infections.4

Lactobacillus rhamnosus: This strain boosts cellular immunity. It also helps reduce IBS symptoms and may help to prevent recurrent bacterial vaginosis.5

Beyond Gut Benefits

A lot of people think that probiotics are only good for the digestive system. The truth is, probiotics can have beneficial head-to-toe effects.

Allergies: Emerging evidence suggests that probiotics may help prevent and even treat seasonal allergies like hay fever, as well as environmental allergies to things like dust mites.6 Researchers believe that probiotics can help allergy sufferers by modulating the immune system and limiting the release of inflammatory chemicals involved in the allergic response. Most of the research on probiotics for allergies has been done on Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria, showing that these probiotics can help with the prevention and reduction of allergy symptoms.

Heart Health: According to the American Heart Association, probiotics may help maintain healthy blood pressure, especially in those already diagnosed with hypertension. Probiotics may also help keep cholesterol in check. Some studies show that one probiotic specifically, L. reuteri, can support a healthy balance between good and bad cholesterol by breaking up bile salts.7

Immunity: Behind digestion, immunity is the second most cited reason people take probiotics. Because the intestines house about 70 percent of the body’s innate immune function, boosting friendly bacteria in the gut can increase the body’s ability to fight off not-so-friendly bacteria. Research shows that probiotics can also cut the duration and severity of cold symptoms.8

Considering everything your gastrointestinal tract does for you, it makes sense to give it some TLC every day with a high quality probiotic, one that contains specific strains customized for your health concerns. Your GI tract will take better care of you, if you take better care of it!

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

How You Can Support Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

When you haven’t eaten for a while, the level of sugar (glucose) in your blood decreases. When your blood sugar gets too low, it triggers a cascade of hormones, like cortisol (a stress hormone) and adrenaline (the “fight or flight” hormone) that raise and rebalance your blood sugar—and spark those hangry feelings.

Not only will keeping your blood sugar levels in a healthy range lessen those hunger-induced episodes, it’s also very important for reducing the risk of diabetes. Let’s run through some simple ways that can help keep your blood sugar levels balanced.

Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

Blood glucose levels change throughout the day. They are at their lowest point before your first meal of the day. After eating, your blood sugar levels rise, then they “settle” after about an hour. Health authorities consider a normal fasting blood sugar level to be below 99 mg/dL. In people with diabetes, the levels will differ a little more. And instead of targeting a specific blood sugar level, their aim is to manage their blood sugar and keep it within a certain range. The American Diabetes Association recommends targeting levels of 70-130 md/dL before eating for a person with diabetes. Within two hours of eating a meal, blood glucose levels should be less than 180 mg/dL.1

Consistently high blood sugar levels are associated with a condition called hyperglycemia. This condition normally develops when there is not enough insulin in the body, or when the cells become less sensitive to insulin. Without sufficient insulin, glucose cannot enter cells, causing it to build up in the blood stream. This is dangerous, because left unmanaged, high blood glucose levels could eventually lead to conditions like nerve damage, foot ulcers, vision problems, tooth infections, and more.2

Hypoglycemia, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite. This happens when the blood sugar levels fall below the normal range. Low blood sugar is most prevalent in people who take insulin, but it can also occur when you are taking certain diabetes medications. Some common causes of hypoglycemia include taking too much prescription insulin, not eating enough food or skipping a meal, increasing the amount of exercise you engage in, or drinking alcohol. If your hypoglycemia goes unchecked, it could eventually lead to seizures and loss of consciousness.3

Top Blood Sugar Balancing Tips

So what can you do to take charge of your blood sugar and keep it balanced? Let’s take a look.

Live that low-carb life: Carbohydrates cause blood sugar to rise. When you eat carbs, they are broken down into simple sugars. Those sugars then enter the bloodstream. As your blood sugar levels quickly rise, your pancreas releases insulin. This prompts your cells to absorb the sugar from the blood, which causes your blood sugar levels to drop. Many studies have shown that eating a low-carb diet can help to prevent these blood sugar spikes.4  Try and eat fewer carbs, especially refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, soda, candy, and dessert.

Limit your sugar intake: The Healthy Eating Pyramid suggests that sugary drinks and sweets should be eaten sparingly, if at all. The average American, though, consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day, which adds up to an extra 350 calories daily!  There’s definitely some room to cut back on the sweet stuff. Studies show that consuming dietary sugars is associated with developing insulin resistance, resulting in the body not being able to control blood sugar effectively.5 In general, it’s best to avoid or minimize your intake of sweetened beverages and foods that are lacking in healthy nutrients. Sure, they are tasty, but they aren’t doing you any favors.

Exercise more: Exercise helps control blood sugar spikes by increasing the sensitivity of your cells to the effects of insulin.6 Increased insulin sensitivity means your cells are better able to use the available sugar in the bloodstream. Exercise also helps your muscles use blood sugar for energy and muscle contraction. So consider taking a brisk walk in the neighborhood to gently bump up your activity level. You could also try biking, dancing, hiking, swimming, or whichever mode of exercise you feel comfortable with.

Nutrients that Can Help

If you would like to add a supplement to your regimen to help balance your blood sugar levels, look for a supplement containing nutrients like niacin7, chromium8, and bitter melon.9 These nutrients have been shown to help stabilize blood sugar levels.

Simply put, a few lifestyle changes like sticking to a low-carb, reduced-sugar diet, as well as exercising, can help stabilize your blood sugar levels. And always talk with your doctor before adding new supplements to your regimen or if you have and questions regarding these dietary changes.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Greens You Won’t Find in the Produce Aisle

How do these greens promote better health? Let’s take a look.

Why Do You Need Greens?

Greens are the health superstars of the food world. They are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients. But their benefits don’t stop there. Greens also help support good health by balancing the body’s pH. If you think back to your high school chemistry class, maybe you remember a lesson on pH. Maybe you even placed a strip of special “tape” on your tongue to measure your body’s pH.

The pH scale ranges from 0, which is the most acidic, to 14, which is the most alkaline—with 7 considered neutral. Your blood needs to be kept in a slightly alkaline range, between 7.35-7.45. Normally blood pH is tightly regulated and shifts only when a person is really sick. However, intercellular acidity, which is measured by urinary or saliva pH testing, can change significantly due to lifestyle, including things like diet, exercise, and sleep. Fortunately, the body has a unique “buffering” system that protects your blood’s pH to keep it in a safe range – but it does so at a cost.

If your blood and other bodily fluids become too acidic, the pancreas and kidneys secrete neutralizing bicarbonate. Key alkalizing minerals can also be pulled from your bones to aid in this buffering process. But this extra buffering can deplete the body of alkaline minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

So what can you do to rebalance your pH? Get more greens! The goal is to make sure that 75 to 80 percent of the foods you eat are alkalizing and only 20 to 25 percent are acidifying. Including a high-quality powdered greens drink as part of your routine can help you reach this goal. Besides the usual leafy greens you’re likely familiar with, there are a few more “powerhouse” greens you should consider adding to your regimen.

Greens Breakdown

Wheatgrass: This juice bar staple is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as iron, magnesium, calcium, and amino acids. Among its 17 amino acids, 8 are considered essential, meaning your body can’t produce them—they must come from your diet. Wheatgrass is a powerful source of glutathione, known as the “master” antioxidant. It’s little wonder that preliminary research has found that it reduces oxidative damage to cells. Other studies suggest that wheatgrass may support healthy cholesterol levels, aid in balancing blood sugar, counter an inappropriate inflammatory response, and induce the destruction of damaged or abnormal cells.1

Chlorella: This freshwater algae has survived on the earth for over two billion years. The secret to chlorella’s longevity is its fibrous outer wall. Although this defensive wall protects this single-cell algae, it also prevents the body’s ability to take advantage of chlorella’s detoxification benefits. Fortunately, scientists have found that breaking this wall releases chlorella’s natural ability to bind toxins and heavy metals through a process known as chelation. Chlorella also boasts a wealth of vitamins including vitamins B1, B2, B12, folic acid, C, and K. Plus, chlorella is a potent source of minerals, essential fatty acids, protein, and fiber.2

Spirulina: High in antioxidants, spirulina has been shown to inhibit the production of inflammatory-signaling molecules. Spirulina is also rich in high-quality protein, B vitamins, iron, copper, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. Not only does this make spirulina an alkaline food, its rich nutrient profile gives this algae numerous health benefits as well. Research shows that spirulina supports healthy lipid levels, helps maintain blood sugar balance, benefits those with seasonal allergies, and improves muscle strength.3

Kelp: This common seaweed is rich in B vitamins, which play a critical role in cellular metabolism. Because it absorbs nutrients from its surrounding environment, kelp contains more than 15 amino acids and is also a great source of calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, boron, and manganese. As a result, this mineral-rich seaweed helps maintain bone density and muscle health.4

If you don’t think you’re getting enough green vegetables in your daily routine, try adding a nutrient-dense powdered greens drink mix to water, juice, or your favorite smoothie. It will not only help you to meet your daily veggie intake, it will support virtually every system in your body.

How to get Your Cholesterol In Check Before the Holidays

Danish researchers studied over 25,000 people with an average age of 59 in Copenhagen. None were taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. All of the participants had their blood drawn at the beginning of the study and then again in January and June over the next three years. The average total cholesterol at the start of the study was 205 mg/dL, just north of the recommended  200 mg/dL. LDL (bad) cholesterol was 116 mg/dL, just above 100 mm/dL, which is considered healthy.  During the next three years, the average cholesterol of the participants In January was 240 mm/dL and the average LDL was 143 mm/dL, both in the unhealthy range. Yet in June, the average cholesterol was 197 mm/dL and LDL was 108 mm/dL. Almost twice as many people had unhealthy lipid levels in January as in June!1 Why does this matter? High blood cholesterol levels can contribute to clogged arteries, resulting in a greater risk of cardiac events like heart attack and stroke, so it’s definitely something worth monitoring. We are going to show you how you can take charge of your cholesterol, targeting a few different areas.

Why Is Cholesterol Important

One word—plaque buildup. Plaque is a combination of substances including fat and cholesterol. When plaque builds up, arteries narrow and stiffen, constricting blood flow to the heart. Plaque can even build up to the point where blood flow is completely blocked. This condition, known as atherosclerosis, can significantly increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.2 What’s unfortunate, high cholesterol has no symptoms. The only way to determine if your cholesterol levels are too high is through a simple blood test ordered by your doctor. The test measures cholesterol and triglyceride levels circulating in your blood. Triglycerides are another type of fat in the blood. Similar to cholesterol, unhealthy triglyceride levels can increase your risk of heart disease.

Not to worry (too much) though since adopting certain diet and lifestyle changes can help keep your cholesterol in check.

Lifestyle

  • Exercise can improve cholesterol.3 With your doctor’s okay, work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Try jogging biking, step aerobics, or a Zumba class for variety and fun.
  • Put a cap on stress with deep breathing. Taking a few minutes to focus only on your breathing can help bring calm to a hectic day.
  • If you smoke, look for ways to quit. Quitting smoking improves your HDL cholesterol level, and the benefits can occur relatively quickly.4

Diet

  • Reduce saturated fats. Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol. Decreasing your consumption of saturated fats can help reduce your LDL cholesterol.5
  • Check labels for the sugar content in your favorite breakfast cereals. Opt for those with 3g or less.
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect LDL cholesterol, but they have other heart-healthy benefits including reducing blood pressure.6 Foods with omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts, and flaxseeds.7

Supplements

Research shows that supplements containing lecithin, phytosterols, and omega-3 fatty acids can all help to lower cholesterol.

  • Lecithin is a fat that is essential for every one of your body’s cells. Researchers have discovered that soybean lecithin can contribute to raising HDL (good) cholesterol and lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol in blood profiles.8
  • Phytosterols are a group of naturally occurring compounds found in plant cell membranes. Because phytosterols are structurally similar to cholesterol, they compete with your body’s cholesterol for absorption in the digestive system. As a result, cholesterol absorption is blocked, and levels drop. While you can find phytosterols in foods like vegetable oil, nuts, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, you can also take them in supplement form.9
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are types of polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish, nuts and seeds, plant oils, and various supplements. Some evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can help to reduce blood triglyceride levels. There also appears to be a slight improvement in high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) from consuming omega-3s.10

Before the holidays hit, try taking some steps to reduce your LDL cholesterol. Go for an after-dinner walk, incorporate  foods like nuts, legumes, whole grains, and fatty fish such as salmon into your diet, and try finding a supplement that contains one of the nutrients mentioned above. This year, avoid that post-holiday uptick in your blood fat levels by giving yourself the gift of healthy cholesterol!

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

How to Have a Healthy Staycation

You can get the health benefits of taking some time off and make the best of these limited travel days with a summer/fall “staycation”. We get it, you may be feeling a little burned out from work, may be a little sick of staying in your house for 4+ months on end, not seeing friends and family as much, and sometimes, you just need a break. But instead of traveling right now, which may be unsafe, we are going to help you plan the perfect staycation. You can relax, unwind, and emerge more rested and less stressed. You might even pick up a new hobby!

Staycation Benefits

The popularity of staycations has increased in recent years. The idea of staycations, like we all probably know, is that instead of travelling to another state or country for your vacation, you stay either at your home or a nearby hotel and enjoy your town (or home!) as if you were a tourist. A staycation probably does not sound as exciting and “exotic” as your typical vacation, but there really are some benefits. One of the biggest benefits is that staycations are less expensive. The number of people taking staycations has increased ever since the economic crisis in 2007-08, as people looked for more creative ways to save money without compromising their lifestyle.1 Staycations are cheaper because so many expenses are cut, there’s no need to book a flight, or spend lot’s of money on expensive meals at a hotel.

Another great benefit to staycations is that they require little to no prep or travel time. Prepping for a vacation can cause enough stress to make you need a vacation from your vacation! You would need to account for travel insurance, travel to the airport, renting a car, travel money, language barriers, etc…this can all cause some added stress that no one needs right now.

Top Staycation Tips

Speaking of stress, here are some top tips to plan and enjoy a stress-free staycation, so you can really focus on getting in some good R&R.

Disconnect from work: A lot of us are working from home right now, and it’s tempting to walk by your laptop and see a new email from work and want to respond instantly…but resist the urge! When you take your staycation, make sure you are off “work mode.” Give yourself a break from emails and phone calls even if your home is now your office. Set your out of office reply, turn off the computer and closed the door. Office closed!

Change the scenery a bit: If you can, buy a few new inexpensive plants or décor for your backyard or home, so that it will feel a little more like a getaway. Planting some colorful new plants in your garden could even dust off your green thumb, and help reawaken a hobby you used to enjoy! And don’t limit your time to the house – set up a campsite or go “glamping” in the backyard for a change of venue.

Try something new: Speaking of hobbies…use your staycation to pick up a new hobby! For example, learn to cook a new dish, or finish a fun project around your house. Include the whole family and find new things to do together that you can all enjoy. Use this staycation time to try something you might not otherwise do during your normal week.

Play a game: Chess, bingo, cards, and crosswords all help keep our minds agile, research suggests, especially for the elderly. Those who regularly play board games like chess and bingo for example, are more likely to maintain their thinking skills.2 So break out those bingo cards! Plan a game night for the family with prizes or ‘bragging rights’ for the winners.

Staying at home for your vacation doesn’t have to be boring. With a little creative planning, your staycation can be filled with adventure, fun, and memories with loved ones.

What are Probiotics, Exactly?

For a long time, the word “bacteria” was associated with germs and disease. But the reality is that the body is teeming with healthy bacteria that keep digestion, immunity and a score of other bodily functions in balance. Once people began to understand this, they looked for products and foods to help them maintain this balance. Enter probiotics. Probiotics refer to the specific live strains of “good” bacteria that help the body maintain wellness. They’re found naturally in foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and pickled vegetables, in supplement form and increasingly as additives in a number of functional food and beverage products.

How do probiotics work?

Once they arrive in an adequate host environment, these microbes can replicate. Generally, a moist environment is necessary for probiotics to stay alive. But in the case of supplements, if the bacteria are stabilized and dried properly, they remain alive and can start to grow and replicate again once they return to a moist environment (in this case, in your body).

When you supplement the body with probiotics, you’re essentially repopulating the gut with the healthy bacteria it needs to maintain a balanced microbiome (the collection of microbes that lives in and on the human body). The microbiome can be thrown off balance by a lack of sleep, antibiotics, stress, travel or a poor diet, so probiotics can play a positive role for many people.

Because the intestines are home to trillions of bacterial cells – not all of them friendly –introducing healthy bacteria into the diet through probiotic-rich foods or supplements can result in better digestive health. Probiotics also benefit immune health because the intestines house about 70 percent of the body’s innate immune function. Increasingly, scientists are also beginning to link microbial balance with body-wide benefits ranging from heart health to mental health.

What’s the difference between probiotics species?

In general, any probiotic supplement will help maintain or restore gut bacteria. But each probiotic genus – and the different species within that genus – performs a different role. Important to remember is that more may not be better when it comes to CFU count. Below are some general guidelines of CFUs to look for based on species, but be wary of claims that exorbitantly high numbers of CFUs are superior.

Species for overall health include the following. Together, they are great for maintenance. Look for a supplement with at least 1.5 billion cells guaranteed through expiration.

  • Lactobacillus gasseri: One of the main species of lactobacilli in the human gut, this species is great for both gastrointestinal function and immune health.
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum: This species is known to modulate the immune system and stabilize the body’s metabolic, antibacterial and antiviral responses. Plus, it can reduce inflammation.
  • Bifidobacterium longum: Suffering from IBS? Look no further. This species can reduce stress-induced gastro-symptoms, normalize bowel movements, improve IBS and shorten the duration and decrease the severity of acute diarrhea.

Species for gastrointestinal upset include the following. They’re often found together with other species for overall health. Look for about 1.5 billion cells through 3 billion guaranteed through expiration.

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus: Reach for this species if you’re taking antibiotics. It’s known to help with side effects like diarrhea, as well as symptoms of IBS.
  • Bifidobacterium lactis: Constipation is no match for this species, which can also improve digestive comfort.
  • Bifidobacterium infantis: IBS symptoms be gone! This species can reduce symptoms on its own.

Species for immune support include the following. This is often paired with other probiotics. Again, 1.5 million CFUs is ideal for a combination supplement.

  • Bifidobacterium breve: This species modulates inflammation as well as allergies, and has been shown to increase resistance to respiratory infections in infants.

 

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.