September 23rd, 2011
By: Tara Green
Sauerkraut combines the health benefits offered by all cruciferous vegetables (a category which includes cauliflowers and brussel sprouts as well as cabbage) with the probiotic advantages derived from the fermentation process.
Cabbage offers a host of health benefits. It is high in vitamins A and C. Studies have shown the cruciferous vegetables can help lower cholesterol levels. Cabbage also provides a rich source of phytonutrient antioxidants. In addition, it has anti-inflammatory properties, and some studies indicate it may help combat some cancers. However, this already helpful vegetable becomes a superfood when it is pickled.
The fermentation process used to make sauerkraut was probably first developed centuries ago simply as a means of preserving vegetables for easy consumption throughout the winter. The health benefits derived from pickling vegetables were already well-known to early civilizations. Historical evidence suggests laborers on the Great Wall of China consumed a version of the pickled cabbage dish 2,000 years ago.
Traditional Chinese has long prescribed sauerkraut juice as a home remedy for many common ailments . The armies of Genghis Khan most likely first brought the dish to Europe. The Roman army traveled with barrels of sauerkraut, using it to prevent intestinal infections among the troops during long excursions.
In periods and cultures when natural healing methods fell into disuse, people consumed fewer fermented foods and were subject to more illness. Scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) killed many British sailors during the 1700s, especially on longer voyages. In the late 1770s, Captain James Cook circumnavigated the world without losing a single sailor to scurvy, thanks to the foods his ship carried, including sixty barrels of sauerkraut.
Mainstream health experts began to pay renewed attention to sauerkraut after a study published in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2002. Finnish researchers reported that in laboratory studies,a substance produced by fermented cabbage, isothiocyanates, helped prevent the growth of cancer.
Even before the laboratory study, however, alternative health experts extolled the healing benefits of sauerkraut because of the lactic acid bacteria produced as a side-effect of the pickling process.
Healthy human colons contain many beneficial bacteria which feed on the waste left over from our digestion, creating lactic acid. Without these beneficial bacteria the human digestive system becomes home to harmful parasites and yeasts, resulting in the condition of candida.
Sauerkraut provides a high density source of a wide range of beneficial live bacteria which assist in the digestive process. Consuming a serving of sauerkraut can give your body as much of a health boost as many of the expensive probiotic drinks and supplements sold in stores. However, most commercially sold sauerkraut have lost most of their beneficial bacterial organisms. To gain the most benefits from sauerkraut, you may want to purchase it freshly made, or learn how to make your own.
If you want to explore recipes for making sauerkraut and other fermented dishes, an excellent place to start is with Sandor Ellis Katz’s Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live Culture Foods.
In his book, Katz points out that “Fermentation not only preserves nutrients, it breaks them down into more digestible forms.” Katz, who also wrote The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America’s Underground Food Movements, recommends not only eating sauerkraut but drinking the juice which he calls “a rare delicacy and unparalleled digestive tonic.”
September 12th, 2011
By: Dr. David Jockers
Melatonin is known as the regulator of the sleep wake cycle in the body. It is produced in the pineal gland of the brain and monitors sleep cycles while playing an important role in healing and anti-oxidant protection. New indicators are showing that it may play an even more important regulatory role in the digestive system.
The human digestive system is considered by many experts to be the ’2nd Brain,’ due to its ability to produce neurotransmitters. Additionally, the digestive system works off of similar rhythmic patterns as brain waves and has an advanced communication network that rivals that of the brain. The hormone melatonin appears to play a very important role in regulating much of these patterns in both the brain and gut.
The amount of melatonin in the digestive system is 400 fold greater than the pineal gland. Melatonin is produced in specialized cells called enteroendocrine cells of the gastrointestinal tract. This super hormone is present in all segments of the gastrointestinal tract as well as the pancreas & liver.
The mucosal membranes of the gut are packed with microbes. Most of these have a symbiotic relationship with the host individual. This inner world of thriving bacteria exudes endotoxins throughout the day. When the level of endotoxins reaches a critical mass concentration, it triggers an immune response led by cytokine interleukin-2. Sleep is thought to be that immune response.
This sleep cycle begins with the production of melatonin from the pineal gland. In the middle of the night, the hormone prolactin is secreted in large amounts. These two hormones promote an immune reaction that thins out the microflora in an attempt to restore a healthy balance. This process also targets viruses, pathogenic bacteria, man-made chemicals and foreign proteins in the body.
This entire cycle lasts 8 hours in order for the necessary amount of melatonin and prolactin production to occur. With inadequate sleep, these hormones are unable to effectively enhance immunity enough to clean up the microflora and other toxic debris in the gastrointestinal system. Each night of poor sleep cripples the immune system and leads to disabled T cell and natural killer cell formation.
Within the gut, melatonin is an important regulator of motility and inflammation. It modulates inflammation with its ability to control free-radicals and proinflammatory molecules through its powerful anti-oxidant function. Additionally, it influences intestinal bacteria and T-helper cell formation. Healthy gut bacteria and T-helper cells help to balance the immune system and to regulate inflammatory levels.
Melatonin is known to help improve microcirculation throughout the gut which helps foster epithelial regeneration. Additionally, it preserves glutathione levels and prevents lysosomal enzyme disruption. This is especially important because increased inflammatory levels in the bowel lead to leaky gut syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis, auto-immunity, etc.
When we sleep, the brain produces 90 minute cycles of slow wave sleep. This is then followed by periods of rapid eye movement (REM) during which dreams occur. During the night, the gut also produces 90 minute slow wave muscle contractions which are followed by short burst of rapid movement. When the gut is full at night, it can disrupt this process. Additionally, poor sleep cycles can dramatically affect digestive function and the healing process within the gut.
Melatonin was shown to significantly reduce the degree of proinflammatory cytokine release, cell apoptosis, and overall colonic injury. This is due to the improved blood flow, immunomodulation and anti-oxidant effects. It is clear that sleep and digestive function have a very intimate relationship and confer this relationship into the overall function of the immune system.
December 21st, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
Weight loss surgery is becoming increasingly popular among teenagers, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, raising concerns about potentially unknown side effects in this younger population.
Researchers found that in California alone, 590 people between the ages of 13 and 20 underwent weight loss surgery between 2005 and 2007. The rate of complications, including bleeding, infection, and kidney or lung problems, was the same among teenagers as among adults.
“Obesity surgery is the gold standard for permanent weight loss, [but] with more and more teens and children being obese and overweight, we are starting to see the treatment for that kind of go over to that age group,” CBS correspondent Jennifer Ashton said.
The majority of surgical weight-loss procedures, including the popular lap-band, have not had their safety and effectiveness tested in children and are not approved for use in that population.
Advocates of weight-loss surgery in children say that intervening early to fight obesity can have important lifelong health benefits.
“We will hopefully be able to prevent the diabetes, the high blood pressure, the high cholesterol that we’re starting to see in teenagers who are already obese,” Ashton said. “Why wait until they are 20 or 30 to start treating that when some people say you should start treating it when they have the disorder?”
The problem is that no research has been done on the long-term consequences of surgically altering a teenager’s digestive system.
“How do these people how do 10, 20, 30 years after the procedure?” Ashton said. “That’s going to be very important.”
Writing in his book Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution, Steven R. Gundry echoes that concern.
“I’m worried about all those gastric bypass patients who lose 150 pounds in six months,” he writes. “I’d like them to let me know how they’re doing twenty to thirty years from now.”
December 7th, 2010
By: Danna Norek
Acne is a problem that doesn’t just affect teenagers, but also affects millions of adults as well. Drugs used to be the preferred method to clear up acne, but there are many natural methods that work very well. Natural methods are preferred, since the most common drugs prescribed to fight acne are antibiotics.
Long term antibiotic exposure can have serious consequences for your entire digestive system. It has also been linked to breast cancer in some studies. For this reason, it is strongly preferable that natural methods are used to attain clear, blemish free skin.
The first and most important aspect of naturally healing and clearing acne is your diet. This is no shock, since the phrase “you are what you eat” applies to just about every facet of your life. The food you put in your mouth has a direct impact on the appearance of your skin.
Diets that are high in saturated fats, salt, and sugar are especially harmful to your hormonal balance. Since almost all cases of acne are strongly linked to hormonal imbalances, it is vital that you eat a balanced diet.
Some of the best foods to eat for acne free skin are deeply colored fruits such as berries, citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges, fish, almonds, walnuts, and leafy green vegetables.
Avoid deep fried foods, all fast food, candy, cake and other sugary baked goods, and processed foods, and your skin will respond by clearing up over time.
Supplements, which help to maintain clear skin, can also be taken in addition to a hormone-balancing diet. Some of the supplements which are useful for maintaining clear, acne free skin are fish oil, vitamin B5, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
These vitamins and nutrients all have either anti-inflammatory or antioxidant properties. Both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods and vitamins are beneficial to acne prone skin. Antioxidants help to eliminate free radicals. Free radicals can damage the skin cells and hinder healthy new tissue growth, resulting in longer recovery after breakouts.
Anti-inflammatory foods and supplements help the inflammation caused by excess sebum production. By addressing both hormonal imbalance and inflammation through diet, you deal a powerful blow to this embarrassing skin condition.
Unfortunately for those that look forward to a caffeine pickup in the morning or throughout the day, coffee and other heavily caffeinated beverages can make acne worse. It is best to avoid any stimulants which stimulate the central nervous system. These types of stimulants often throw the hormones off balance and lead to more severe acne.
There are some excellent topical products that are all natural and can be used to help treat acne externally. One of the best and most effective is tea tree oil. Tea tree oil has a distinct scent to it, and that is because it is a very potent antibacterial agent.
It is very helpful in the treatment of acne because acne lesions are partly caused by bacteria, which causes infection underneath the skin. When you take away the bacterial component, you have a much better chance at not breaking out and getting large, infected and painful acne lesions.
There are also some excellent natural acne soaps and cleansers that use pine tar and sulfur, both of which are excellent deep cleansing and astringent agents. Naturally derived topical acne care products are preferable to chemical products since they do not irritate and dry the skin.
May 5, 2010
People who take aspirin regularly for a year or more may be at an increased risk of developing Crohn’s disease, according to a new study by the University of East Anglia.
Led by Dr Andrew Hart of UEA’s School of Medicine, the research will be presented for the first time at the Digestive Disease Week conference in New Orleans today.
Crohn’s disease is a serious condition affecting 60,000 people in the UK and 500,000 people in the US. It is characterized by inflammation and swelling of any part of the digestive system. This can lead to debilitating symptoms and requires patients to take life-long medication. Some patients need surgery and some sufferers have an increased risk of bowel cancer.
Though there are likely to be many causes of the disease, previous work on tissue samples has shown that aspirin can have a harmful effect on the bowel. To investigate this potential link further, the UEA team followed 200,000 volunteers aged 30-74 in the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Italy. The volunteers had been recruited for the EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) between 1993 and 1997.
The volunteers were all initially well, but by 2004 a small number had developed Crohn’s disease. When looking for differences in aspirin use between those who did and did not develop the disease, the researchers discovered that those taking aspirin regularly for a year or more were around five times more likely to develop Crohn’s disease.
The study also showed that aspirin use had no effect on the risk of developing ulcerative colitis – a condition similar to Crohn’s disease.
“This is early work but our findings do suggest that the regular use of aspirin could be one of many factors which influences the development of this distressing disease in some patients,” said Dr Hart.
“Aspirin does have many beneficial effects, however, including helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes. I would urge aspirin users to continue taking this medication since the risk of aspirin users possibly developing Crohn’s disease remains very low – only one in every 2000 users, and the link is not yet finally proved.”
Further work must now be done in other populations to establish whether there is a definite link and to check that aspirin use is not just a marker of another risk factor which is the real cause of Crohn’s disease. The UEA team will also continue its wider research into other potential factors in the development of Crohn’s disease, including diet.
March 8, 2010
Some of the hundreds of bacteria found in the digestive systems of humans may be linked to specific diseases like cancer, diabetes and obesity, an international team of scientists said in a paper on Thursday.
Researchers, led by Chinese scientist Wang Jun, said in the latest issue of Nature they found more than 1,000 different species of bacteria in the human gut.
They said they had sequenced, or analyzed, the genes of each bacteria, creating the first genetic catalog of the organisms found in the human digestive system. Their research was based on analysis of stool samples from 124 people from Denmark and Spain.
Wang and his fellow researchers found several genes that may be linked to obesity and Crohn’s disease, but he said more validation work was needed.
“Apart from helping you digest, these bacteria may also play a very important role in … diseases like Crohn’s disease, cancer, obesity,” Wang, executive director of the Beijing Genomics Institute, said in an interview with Reuters.
“If you just tackle these bacteria, it is easier than treating the human body itself. If you find that a certain bug is responsible for a certain disease and you kill it, then you kill the disease,” Wang said.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory illness of the intestines which some believe may be caused by a variety of bacteria. Other possible causes include genetics and environmental factors.
Wang said creating the genetic catalog of all the bacteria in the human gut was only a beginning.
“There are a lot of unknown bacteria and pathogens that can cause different kinds of diseases,” he said.
“So this is the first step and we have to study further to find concrete associations between these bacteria and human diseases, and then you can start learning how to get diagnosis, prognosis and then treatment,” Wang said.
Wang and colleagues in China are working on a similar 120-sample study in Chinese hospitals.
“There are four groups: obese diabetics, obese non-diabetics, lean diabetics and lean non-diabetics. And we found some interesting bugs related to each type of diabetes,” Wang said.
December 7, 2009
By E. Huff
A new commentary published in the November, 2009 issue of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Survery warns doctors to be cautious when prescribing proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), drugs commonly recommended for reflux diseases such as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) and laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). Research is revealing that acid is not the only contributor to reflux diseases and that PPIs are not always an effective treatment.
PPIs come with a slew of negative side effects that include inhibited calcium absorption that can lead to hip fractures, alteration of the gastric pH levels that can negatively affect vitamin B12 and iron assimilation, and increased propensity to develop certain types of diarrhea and pneumonia. For these reasons, researchers are urging doctors to carefully monitor patients prescribed these drugs.
In the past 20 years, there has been a four-fold increase in the number of people in Western countries seeking medical help for their reflux symptoms. As a result, there has been a corresponding increase in the volume of PPIs being administered despite the fact that they may often be causing more harm than good.
The study authors are encouraging doctors to weigh the pros and cons and carefully consider whether PPIs are necessary before prescribing them so freely. They implore doctors to consider venturing towards a more holistic approach in which dietary modifications and lifestyle changes are prescribed rather than drugs.
Mainstream medicine claims ignorance about the causes of acid reflux but it is increasingly clear that the over-processed, nutrient-deficient Western diet is to blame for the rapid increase in acid reflux problems among the population. For this reason, it is wise advice to consider a dietary reformation in response to acid reflux symptoms.
Regular intake of probiotic-forming foods like kefir, fermented fruits and vegetables, raw milk, yogurt, kombucha, and probiotic supplements will help tremendously in balancing the digestive system and eliminating the problems of over-acidity. Reducing carbohydrate intake while increasing intake of other foods like fruits and vegetables, nuts, and grass-fed meats may help to eliminate the symptoms of acid reflux as well.
Many people have had great success treating acid reflux symptoms with apple cider vinegar. Highly inexpensive and incredibly alkaline-forming, apple cider vinegar is an excellent addition to one’s daily health regimen. Keeping digestive enzyme supplements on hand for use as needed is another great option; they work great in a pinch and will not damage the body like PPIs do.
Click here for the full report