Thursday, May 19, 2016

Exploring Probiotics and the Human Microbiome

The last frontier for exploration may not be in space but in the universe of 100 trillion good and bad bacteria which live inside the human digestive system, called the “microbiome”.  If you have ever eaten yogurt, you have added probiotics or “good” bacteria to your very own personal microbiome in your body. Research is rapidly increasing to find out how probiotics and the microbiome affect health.  

What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are foods or supplements which contain live bacteria and other microorganisms promoting a healthy digestion and a healthy immune system.  The word “pro-biotic” means “promoting life”.

How do Probiotics Help?
Humans naturally have hundreds of different types of bacteria in our bodies. In order to stay healthy, the balance between good and bad bacteria must be maintained. A healthy balance of bacteria helps the digestive system filter out toxins and waste products and regulates the speed food moves through.  Probiotics have been found to be helpful in treating constipation or diarrhea and alleviating some symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Ulcerative Colitis.
Other research is looking into how probiotics boost the immune system, even to the possibility of fighting cancer.  According to a March 2016 article in, research is increasingly looking at bacteria-based treatments which may stimulate the body’s ability to fight tumors. 

What Foods Contain Probiotics?
Fermented foods contain live bacteria.  Yogurt is the most commonly known type of probiotic.  Yogurt is made of milk fermented or cultured by certain kinds of healthy bacteria.  This action reduces the lactose in the milk and so provides a proven health benefit to those who are lactose intolerant.
Other fermented foods which contain live bacteria include a drinkable yogurt called Kefir, which you can find in local grocery stores, and raw sauerkraut which you can find at specialty shops or make at home.
Over the counter probiotic supplements are also available and one product is sold only by prescription. Because different bacteria work in different ways, be sure to ask your pharmacist or physician about which product to buy.

What Else Keeps the Microbiome Healthy?
Eating high-fiber foods- like beans, whole fruit, vegetables and whole grains- feeds the good bacteria and helps them thrive.  Getting adequate sleep also increases good bacteria.
The overuse of antibiotics, eating junk food and the regular use of artificial sweeteners may shift the balance in favor of the bad bacteria, so make your choices carefully and may the force of a healthy microbiome be with you!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

What is It?

Let’s play a game called What is It?  Here are your clues:
  • 24 million Americans have "It" but 6 million do not know they have "It" yet.
  • The numbers of people who have "It" continue to increase every year.
  • "It" is the leading cause of kidney failure and blindness among adults in the US.
  • 60-70% of people with "It" have nerve damage.
  • "It" is very expensive, costing on average $8,000 per year per person.
  • Most people could prevent having "It" if they practiced simple habit changes every day.

What is It?
So did you guess?  It is Type 2 Diabetes.  Did you know it is preventable for the most part?
In order to know how to prevent it, you have to know a little about what diabetes is.
Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the pancreas is not able to make enough insulin to control the blood sugar levels in the body.  This lack of insulin happens for 2 reasons:
  1. The body cells develop Insulin Resistance, due to genetics, aging, obesity and/or a sedentary lifestyle.  Insulin Resistance causes the pancreas to work harder and harder to produce more and more insulin to overcome the resistance of the body cells.
  2. Eventually, the pancreas wears itself out.  When 50-80% of its beta cells stop functioning, the blood sugar levels rise and diabetes develops.
Higher than normal blood sugar levels cause damage over time to all parts of the body, but is especially damaging to blood vessels and nerves.

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

Simple changes in your habits of eating and activity can prevent diabetes from occurring or even reverse diabetes once it starts.  The key is to give your pancreas a rest, so it does not have to work as hard.  This can be accomplished in 3 simple ways.
  1. Eat less, especially of starches and sugars.  Blood sugar comes from the foods we eat which contain starches and sugars.  Eating small portions helps rest the pancreas.
  2. Be more active.  Walk 30 minutes most days.  Work out with weights.  Exercise helps the insulin that is available work much more effectively and so helps rest the pancreas.
  3. Lose excess weight.  Losing even just 7% of your present weight if you are overweight, will help rest your pancreas, as every fat cell needs the pancreas to provide insulin for its needs.  Losing excess weight helps rest the pancreas.

By changing the way you eat, increasing your activity and losing excess weight, you will help prevent Type 2 diabetes from occurring.  If you have diabetes, you may be able to reverse it with weight loss, the most current studies show.

Topeka Pharmacy offers Diabetes Classes and Weight Loss classes as resources to help keep our community healthier.  Call us today!