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Probiotics in yogurt, kefir, supplements stops diarrhea in kids

I worked with a manager just a couple years back who was missing work every other week because her baby/toddler was experiencing significant digestive episodes, including diarrhea that was life altering for child and mother.

Thinking I was being helpful, I mentioned probiotics to the manager. I talked about available liquid supplements and mentioned certain yogurt (Stonyfield Farm) and kefir brands (Lifeway, Helios, Nancy’s) that made products that were kid-friendly, organic and offered multiple live cultures of the friendly bacteria that we all need.

The manager pretty much waved me off, asking about some project or another. The manager missed more work. Most importantly, the kid still suffered.

Fast forward: A 2008 study from German researchers suggest “it is best to start probiotic therapy as early as possible” in infants and toddlers suffering from diarrhea, which can even be life-threatening for babies. The German scientists specifically evaluated a “good” strain called E. coli Nissle 1917 or EcN that has been licensed in Europe for treating bowel diseases since that Nissle guy discovered it in 1917. This strain is not to be confused with the destructive E. coli bacteria covered in the media.

The 151 infants and toddlers followed in the study recovered faster with the EcN as part of medication offered compared to the medication only. On average, the children  not receiving probiotics had bouts of diarrhea lasting three to four days longer. The study was published this month in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

There is considerable previous research on probiotics and diarrhea, including a 2007 Swedish study showing the condition can be treated in children not only more effectively but less expensively when probiotics are the primary treatment instead of antibiotic medications.  The children were still provided some antibiotics, but only about 10 percent of the usual dose.

More studies are needed, but there is no reason to think the digestive healing power of probiotics or active cultures doesn’t apply to adults too.

Bob Condor blogs for Alternative Health Journal every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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Comments (1)

AnnaM
AnnaM
June 29, 2009 08:34 am
I feel bad thinking about the simple and often effective solution your manager passed by some years ago. I just read that Americans are "warming" to probiotics, according to Datamonitor, and that Europeans are still way ahead in their acceptance of these happy little bugs that can do so much for our digestive woes. Here's to more Americans increasingly warming to alternative health therapies!
- Anna M
http://blog.nutri-health.com/



Italian Study: Music Can Reduce Blood Pressure, Prevent Strokes

Sometimes common sense and science can synchronize like the music and lyrics in a favorite song. In fact, new research from Italy—where else?—shows that music itself might actually be able to help control blood flow and breathing rates to improve heart health by reducing blood pressure problems and preventing or recovering from strokes.

The Italian researchers discovered the power of music begins at a physiological level even before we emotionally appreciate a song.

"Music induces a continuous, dynamic and to some extent predictable change in the cardiovascular system," wrote Dr. Luciano Bernardi, lead researcher of the study and professor of internal medicine at Pavia University in Pavia, Italy. "It is not only the emotion that creates the cardiovascular changes, but this study suggests that also the opposite might be possible, that cardiovascular changes may be the substrate for emotions, likely in a bi-directional way."

Score one for iPods.

Other research indicates music can help reduce stress, improve athletic performance and enhance motor skills of people suffering from nerve impairment. The Italian study opens up a new frontier for the therapeutic potency of music by connecting that our bodies physiologically follow along with music’s crescendos (the gradual rise of volume) by narrowing blood vessels and increasing blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. As music decrescendos or goes into silent pauses, blood vessels under the skin dilate and blood pressure and heart rate are significantly reduced.

On top of that, music segments that last about 10 seconds long will act to sort of stabilize the body’s cardiovascular rhythm.

The Italian researchers evaluated two dozen young adults, half of whom were trained singers and other half not musically educated. The volunteers listened to the five random tracks of classical music through headphones, along with two minutes of silence. The study was published in the professional journal Circulation this month.

"The profile of music (crescendo or decrescendo) is continuously tracked by the cardiovascular and respiratory systems," Bernardi wrote. "This is particularly evident when music is rich in emphasis, like in operatic music. These findings increase our understanding of how music could be used in rehabilitative medicine."

Bernardi added, "What we are learning from the present and previous study is that alternating between fast and slow music may be potentially more effective” for positively affecting health.

Bob Condor blogs for Alternative Health Journal every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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Quercetin in Apples, Berries, Red Onions Increases Exercise Stamina

Apples, long considered just the thing the doctor ordered, appear to be ready for an upgrade. A recent study by Dr. J. Mark Davis at the University of South Carolina reveals that quercetin, an active ingredient in apples, can increase stamina during exercise—even in people not categorized as regular exercisers. 

The quercetin afforded significantly greater increases in peak oxygen consumption for the dozen volunteers in the study taking it in a purified supplement form, compared to a control group taking a placebo.

Researchers are clear that fruits and vegetables contain plant substances that can protect against major illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. It’s one reason for the U.S. federal recommendation that people get nine servings daily and not the former standard of five.

The results were reported in the August issue of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

"These data suggest that as little as seven days of quercetin supplementation can increase endurance without exercise training in untrained subjects," the researchers said.

The research is preliminary and needs confirmation, said Davis. A major question is if quercetin in supplement form can be as potent and effective as it appears to be in plant food itself.

In addition to apples, Quercetin is also found in red onions, berries and grapes. It is classified as a flavonoid and gives some fruits and veggies its red pigment.

Quercetin belongs to a group of plant pigments called flavonoids that give many fruits, flowers, and vegetables their color. Other studies have pegged it as helping to reduce LDL or bad cholesterol that unchecked can lead to heart disease.

Bob Condor blogs for Alternative Health Journal every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 

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Natural Sports Medicine: Cherry Juice Reduces Inflammation and Pain

More runners and exercisers these days are fighting off aches and pains non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that you might more readily recognize as ibuprofen. But that shortcut can have its adverse side effects, including stomach upset and even ulcers.

Cherry juice can save that fallout. A recent study from Oregon Health & Science University reports that runners drank tart cherry juice during long-distance run training experience significantly less pain after exercise than runners not adding cherry juice after a run. Those non-cherry juice drinkers consumed another fruit juice beverage. The study, presented at the annual American College of Sports Medicine Conference in Seattle, evaluated 60 adults 18 to 50 years old.

The volunteer subjects drank 10.5 ounces of tart cherry juice morning and evening for seven days prior to the long-distance running relay that formed part of the experiment. The cherry juice drinkers reported pain totals, on a scale of one to 10, that averaged a couple of points less than the other runners taking a different fruit beverage.

More research is needed, but the early indications are that tart cherry juice has a natural anti-inflammatory effect due to plant substances called anthocyanins and that actually give cherries their deep red pigment.

Other research suggests that cherries and anthocyanins could help protect against heart disease and arthritis. A second study at the same American College of Sports Medicine conference in Seattle pointed to evidence that tart cherry juice might help maintain muscle strength for individuals suffering from fibromyalgia, a chronic pain and fatigue disorder.

Bob Condor blogs for Alternative Health Journal every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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Sleep Problems, Insomnia More About Television Than Tiredness

Some sleep statistics that here’s hoping you don’t turn over in your mind at 3 a.m.: 

A recent article in the Journal of Labor Economics lays out how American sleep schedule are, frankly, more televisionistic than circadian. It all started with people staying up late to watch Johnny Carson monologues (even one of the study researchers from the University of Chicago admits to this habit himself in earlier life) and now carries on with the likes of Letterman and Leno, er, Conan.

In fact, with the rise of cable and satellite TV, plus the late, late talk shows following the late talk shows, a good chunk of Americans are zooming way past midnight to catch a favorite program.

Here’s what the University of Chicago researchers surmised about sleep habits related to TV and early morning work schedules:

-- People in the "professional service" sector (finance, information, business services) are more likely to be on time zone or circadian schedule, getting to sleep earlier to be ready for early work hours, while individuals in other services sector (education, health, leisure and hospitality) are typically more responsive to television cues.

-- The probability that you are watching TV between 11 to 11:15 p.m. decreases with age, but the probability that you arrive at work between 8 to 8:15 a.m. increases until retirement age.

-- Whether you are married with/without kids doesn’t affect TV viewing statistics at 11 p.m., but married couples are less likely to be sleeping at 7 a.m. and more likely to be at work at 8 a.m.

-- Individuals in early television zones (Central and Mountain) are 6.4 percentage points less likely to be watching television between 11 and 11:15 p.m. than those in later zones. But if the sunset is pushed back by an hour due to daylight savings time, the probability of watching TV at 11 p.m. only increases by one percent.

Here are a few gentle suggestions about TV and your health. Mix and match these ideas as you like:

1.    Turn off the TV during the week altogether.

2.    If the Letterman or Leno monologue is a must, figure out the technology to tape it, then watch it the next night. You will find it really doesn’t lose much news value. Well, OK, I am speculating on the last part, but I challenge you to prove otherwise.

3.    Pick one night a week to watch Letterman/Leno live—or a late ballgame or whatever—then plan to sleep in accordingly. Keep the TV splurges to a minimum.

4.    Try to awaken the same time every morning, even on weekends. Sleep researchers agree that is a top strategy for solving your sleep troubles. You simply will want to go to bed earlier most nights, Leno and all.

5.    Whatever you do as a TV watcher, skip it as a morning companion. 

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Omega-3 Fats in Fish, Nuts, Olive Oil Can Reduce Depression

If you find yourself fishing for happiness, maybe it’s time to look to the obvious.  A new study performed at the University of California-San Francisco shows the omega-3 healthy fats abundant in cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies, sardines and mackerel can help prevent depression in heart patients.

The UCSF study of nearly 1,000 patients with coronary heart disease showed that nearly a quarter of individuals with the lowest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in theie bodies are suffering from depression. That’s compared to a depression rate of 13 percent among volunteer subjects with the highest levels of omega-3 fats. The findings, published onlne in the Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, confirm earlier studies showing a positive effect of high omega-3 levels and reduced depression in non-hospitalized patients with heart disease.

Other omega-3 super foods include olives, olive oil and most tree nuts. Some eggs are now fortified with omega-3 fats through putting omega-3’s in the feed. One bonus with omega-3 fats, which are the foundation of the Mediterranean diet increasingly recommended by cardiologists and other doctors, is they can help you lose weight while feeling less hungry.

The UCSF study even showed that each unit increase or decrease of omega-3 has a corresponding effect on depressive symptoms. When omega-3 consumption goes up, depression lowers. When a person consumes fewer omega-3 fats, depressive symptoms are heightened. The researchers did caution that a validation study of a more diverse, larger population is necessary. But that shouldn’t stop you from adding salmon, sardines, anchovies or mackerel to your diet, along with olive oil and other omega-3 rich food. 

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German Study: Cocoa Can Significantly Lower Blood Pressure

Sweet news for any of us with hot cocoa or dark chocolate habit. German researchers have found that cocoa-rich foods can help reduce blood pressure. Not as good news for tea drinkers: The same study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, offers that tea does not have a similar effect on blood pressure.

The researchers were quick to point out that their findings don’t mean it is open season on chocolate, but that substituting dark chocolate (look for at least 70 percent cocoa content) for “other high-calorie or high-fat desserts or dairy products” is a healthy idea.

That’s where hot cocoa enters. You can find unsweetened cocoa powders that when stirred in warm milk (use can use a frothing whip for the best blending) creates an ideal bedtime snack—both to drop blood pressure and enhance sleep. Think of it as the right sort of multi-tasking.

Note to wine drinkers: It’s actually best to have your I-deserve-it glass earlier in the evening (otherwise it can disrupt your sleep, especially the second half of each night), then switch over to cocoa for a nightcap. Some couples who try this find that their conversations become more tender and meaningful in the process. A good cup of cocoa can do that to a person.

The cocoa-blood pressure is a new development. Fruits and vegetables are more widely associated with having natural plant ingredients that lower BP and enhance other facets of cardiovascular health.

The German study, conducted at the University Hospital of Cologne, reported a reduction in both systolic (the top number, indicating heart contraction) and diastolic (bottom number, when the heart relaxes) pressures. Compared to non-cocoa drinkers the systolic was, on average, 5 mm Hg less for cocoa drinkers. The diastolic number was 3 mm Hg lower, on average. If that doesn’t sound like much, consider that blood pressure prescription medications accomplish basically the same effect.

“These reductions would be expected to reduce the risk of stroke by about 20 percent, coronary disease by 10 percent and all-cause mortality by 8 percent.”

Not bad for a mug of nighttime beverage that can change more than just your physical life. 

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Summer Brings...a Need to Know Most Effective Sunscreen Products

Last summer, the Environmental Working Group published an updated report on the effectiveness—make that both effectiveness and ineffectiveness of sunscreen products. It’s worth a refresher look as the summer season is about to officially begin, full dose of rays and all. The news is not positive if Coppertone, Banana Boat and Neutragena is on the product label.

EWG first made its mark rating fruits and vegetables for pesticide residue, publishing a highly viewed list of Top 10 best and worst (let’s just say Chilean grapes did not fare well). The Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group has moved on to a deep and informative cosmetics database over the last few years, including a monster sunscreen report first published in 2007.

While that report and consumer reaction prompted the Food and Drug Administration to pledge tougher standards for sunscreen makers, not much has changed. Cynics might say it took the FDA 30 years to even look hard at sunscreen products, so who are we to expect action from one red-hot summer to the next?

EWG discovered found that “15 percent of sunscreen products with an SPF rating of 15 or higher offer inadequate protection from UV rays, or have ingredients that either are known health hazards or have not been tested for safety.” You can check out EWG’s report, including it’s list of more than 100 recommended sunscreen products at http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/special/sunscreens2008/

The top-selling sunscreen company, Coppertone, was a major disappointment. None of Coppertone’s 41 sunscreen products met EWG’s criteria for safety and effectiveness. Plus, only 1 of 103 products from Neutrogena and Banana Boat, the second- and third-largest manufacturers, are recommended by EWG. 

Among the brands highly rated by EWG were Keys Soap Solar, Trukid, Spectrum, California Baby (three products in the top 10), Badger, Marie Veronique, Lavera and Vanicream.

Of course, along with applying sunscreen before heading out into the sun, make sure to reapply on long days outside. If you want to get some vitamin D from the sun—a reasonable idea given emerging research—10 to 20 minutes on the face and forearms is enough for people with lighter skin and maybe up to 30 minutes for darker skin. Use sunscreen otherwise and don’t take your vitamin D seeking to a point of sunburn. In any case, remember the mid-day sun has the potential to do the most damage on summer days.

If you feel particularly sun-sensitive, stick with sunscreens given the EWG thumbs up and keep that hat on. 

Bob Condor blogs for Alternative Health Journal every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 

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Running, Weights Better for Men's Bones Than Cycling, Swimming

As early summer temperatures afford the full-range of outdoor exercise options—at least until global-warming heat waves throw us off—the long-time debate continues: Run or bike, which is better for your health.

And, phooey, say dedicated weight lifters who will tell you that their body shapes and muscle firmness didn’t change until they started hitting the machines or barbells. Summer weather might be pleasant, but most of these exercisers stay inside for the workouts.

Friends, family members, co-workers, you name it, will debate running vs. cycling vs. weight training, not hesitating to stick up for their favored activities. Even so, a recent study from the University of Missouri, provides evidence that running trumps the other two if bone density is the indicator.

Here’s why: The Missouri study of men 19 to 45 showed that both runners and weight lifters test for greater bone density than cyclists. But the researchers speculated weight lifters generally have increased muscle mass, which boosts bone density.

Turns out runners have greater bone density no matter what their muscle mass measurements. 
"The results of the study confirm that both resistance training and high-impact endurance activities increase bone mineral density," says Pamela S. Hinton, researcher and assistant professor at the University of Missouri in Columbia. "High-impact sports, like running, appear to have the greater benefit."

The study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, explains that bone reacts to impact and exercise by becoming stronger rather than, say, wearing down. While runners rated higher overall for bone density, weight exercisers recorded better density numbers for the all-important spinal column. Hinton said cyclists or swimmers (who also engage in low-impact exercise) could improve bone density by training with weights one to three times per week. This regimen of cycling/swimming with some weight training can also work for runners who tend to run through pain to the point of injury.

One more thing: Bone density might seem like something only older individuals worry about, or maybe women only, but wrong and wrong. We form our core bone density as teens but can add bone growth and density many decades into life, plus stave off bone density loss with regular moderate-to-high impact or weight-bearing exercise."

Bob Condor blogs for Alternative Health Journal every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
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Curry two to three times per week fights dementia

Here is what you might call the “active ingredient” of a good curry dish. New research continues to endorse the dementia-protection power of the curry spice turmeric, but it works most effectively if you are already eating healthy and staying active. The curry won’t cancel out junk food or no workouts on your calendar.

But if you eat five to nine daily servings of vegetables and fruit, try to avoid most saturated fat and regularly get your muscles moving, curry will potentially do more than spice up your chicken and rice. That’s because turmeric is found to help sweep amyloid plaques from brain cells that could otherwise gunk up the nerve “wiring” in the brain.

Murali Doraiswamy, a researcher at Duke University, reports “solid evidence” that individuals who consume a curry meal two to three times per week have a significantly lower risk of dementia than non-curry eaters. He says curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, binds to plaques.

The research has been performed mostly on mice, so new human studies are in process to determine if curry has similar plaque-removing qualities. New brain-scan imaging technology allows this sort of scientific investigation. UCLA is using the brain-scan methodology to evaluate curry’s potential to deter Alzheimer’s disease.

Doraiswamy mentioned that some researchers are exploring whether a curcumin or curry pill could be developed for similar therapeutic effects.

All of which gets back to the opening point. If you think a plate of curry or taking it in pill form will short-cut your way to preventing dementia, you will want to rethink that approach. We need to lay down a sensible foundation to our eating habits, be proactive about making time to be physically active and, no small thing, get enough rest at night. After that, pass the curry and enjoy a peace of mind—figuratively and literally—about your old age.

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Comments (1)

AStein
AStein
June 09, 2009 07:22 am
It is worth noting that at least in the lab, curcumin is shown to have at least ten different neuroprotective effects: http://turmerictruth.blogspot.com/2009/05/ten-different-neuroprotective-effects.html
But apparently bioavailability is an issue, which curry might resolve by dissolving curcumin in fat.



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