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Are Probiotics Necessary? (PART 1)

28 May

We all know that bacteria can cause disease, so it makes sense to be at least a little leery about taking a supplement that is loaded with bacteria. There is however, a growing volume of scientific support that probiotics (PBs) can both treat as well as prevent quite a few illnesses.

Probiotics literally means “for life” (pro biota), which suggests these must be “good” bacteria and indeed, our digestive system’s health depends on maintaining a balance between the good and bad flora. Since the 1990s, clinical studies have shown that PBs can effectively treat a number of condition such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, H. pylori (causes ulcers), bladder cancer recurrence, C-Diff (Clostridium difficile)—a dangerous gut infection associated with antibiotics, pouchitis (post-surgical complication after colon removal), eczema in children, and more.

Probiotics are not all the same, as different strains of bacteria have different functions and therefore, help us in different ways. For example, some organisms protect our teeth from getting cavities but can’t survive in the highly acidic environment of the stomach.

Solid evidence exists for probiotic therapy in the treatment of diarrhea. Lacotbacillu GG can shorten the course of infectious diarrhea in infants and children (but not adults). The website describes two large review studies that suggest PBs can reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea by 60% when compared with a placebo.

Vaginal health is also improved by PB use, as it can reduce and/or eliminate recurring yeast infections. Lactobacilli can help treat bacterial vaginosis, which can potentially complicate pregnancies and lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This bacteria can also be used to treat UTIs, especially in women.

Come back next month for more much-needed information regarding probiotics…

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Can Diet Affect Acne?

30 Apr

Acne most commonly affects us during our adolescent years, but it can strike at any time during our adult lives. Unfortunately, usual treatment seems restricted to taking oral antibiotics along with some form of topical agent such as benzoyl peroxide, topical retinoids, or topical antibiotics. This begs the question: Is there a safer and equally effective method to treat acne? Let’s take a look…

Though it’s not particularly well understood, researchers know that hormones (androgens), bacteria (P. acnes), and an overproduction of sebum (oil) all play important roles in acne causation. Recently, oxidative stress and inflammation have gained more attention, as some researchers report that inflammation may even start the acne process.

Opinions regarding the function that diet plays in acne care range between having no role at all to diet being a vitally important player. However, recent studies show that diet may be very important with regards to both cause and treatment. One such study placed subjects on a diet high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids from fish and seafood, and total protein, and low in sugar and saturated fats. After twelve weeks, the researchers observed a clinically significant improvement in acne with an average of 22 fewer acne lesions in those consuming the special diet vs. participants who maintained their normal diet.

Similarly, in a one-year study, 87% of over 2,200 acne sufferers reported improvements in their acne after switching to the South Beach diet, which is similar to the findings from the study mentioned above. Of the total, over 80% reported that their acne improved within three months of starting the diet and 91% reported either discontinuing or reducing their acne medication use.

What about milk? Harvard University-based researchers published three important studies involving over 60,000 individuals that concluded avoiding dairy products, with the exception of fermented yogurt, can help manage acne.

RECOMMENDATION SUMMARY (Please consult with your doctor before starting any diet): 1) No dairy; 2) Omega-3 (1-4g/d); 3) Anti-oxidants such as vitamins A and E (20mg/d), selenium (400mcg/d), and curcumin; 4) Zinc (oral 15mg/d and topical); and 5) Chromium (200-400mcg). Many doctors of chiropractic can assist with nutritional counseling to help guide those with acne in deciding which dietary approach may work best for them.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Which is Better: HIGH or LOW Cholesterol?

29 Mar

While many of us have been told we need to take steps to lower our cholesterol levels, it turns out that having high cholesterol may actually be a good thing.

As far back as 1994, Dr. Harlan Krumholz of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Yale University reported that older people with low cholesterol died TWICE AS OFTEN from a heart attack as those with high cholesterol. While this finding sparked debate due to being inconsistent with the belief that high cholesterol levels lead to atherosclerosis, there are now several studies that challenge the lipid hypothesis of heart disease. In fact, a Medline database search revealed 11 studies that concluded high cholesterol did not predict all-cause mortality in older adults (about 90% of all cardiovascular disease occurs in people over the age of 60).

Even better, in 6 of the 11 studies, researchers observed an inverse relationship between all-cause mortality and high total cholesterol or LDL (bad) cholesterol OR BOTH. Other studies have noted that having low triglycerides and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels are also tied to an increased mortality rate.

So how does high cholesterol improve longevity? It appears that high cholesterol helps improve the immune system, protecting us from infections. In 19 large-scale studies including 63,000 deaths, a research group from the University of Minnesota, Division of Epidemiology reported that low cholesterol predicted an increased risk of dying from gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases.

Were the patients’ low cholesterol levels caused by an infection or did having low cholesterol predispose the patients to infection? To find out, researchers followed more than 100,000 healthy subjects for 15 years. At the conclusion of the study, those who had lower cholesterol had more hospital admissions due to an infectious disease vs. those with high cholesterol.

In two very large-scale studies of men infected with the HIV virus, the mortality rate in those with low cholesterol (<140) was four times higher than it was in those with high cholesterol (>240). A range of 200-240 and even higher in older women appears to be a good target for improving longevity.

Other studies have found that chronic low-grade inflammation may be the real culprit when it comes to atherosclerosis. In other words, worrying about cholesterol levels may not be more important than engaging in a lifestyle aimed at reducing inflammation: get regular exercise, don’t smoke, get plenty of sleep, and eat an anti-inflammation diet, among other things.


This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

If You Try a “Gluten-Free” Diet…

26 Feb

Gluten is found in wheat, oats, barley, and rye, and for those with Celiac Disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), gluten can be very dangerous, even lethal. But many people opt to avoid foods containing gluten as part of an anti-inflammatory diet and there seems to be little-to-no argument that anti-inflammatory diets are indeed a very healthy choice.

One study reported that a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce cardiovascular risk factors and can help resolve both metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Additionally, there are several published studies describing how an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce pain associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. One such study reported a striking reduction in pain, joint inflammation, and morning stiffness duration reduction utilizing this type of diet—and these improvements persisted when researchers followed-up with participants a year later!

Because low-grade inflammation has now been identified as the driver of most chronic degenerative diseases, it is important to understand that low-grade chronic inflammation manifests itself both locally and systemically through a variety of inflammatory mediators. Many of these can be measured in a blood test and are commonly found in patients with chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and osteoarthritis.

Individuals who do their best to cut gluten from their diet often seek out gluten-free versions of their favorite foods. Is there anything these people should know?

Well, an article in the November 2017 issue of Consumer Reports notes that gluten-free foods made with rice flour may contain high levels of arsenic and other heavy metals. The article also points out that those who restrict foods containing gluten tend to eat fewer whole grains, which may result in increased heart disease risk due to lower fiber intake.

What the authors of the article don’t point out is that consuming more fruits and vegetables can make up for this deficit, as these foods can also be high in fiber. The good news is that gluten-free whole grains such as amaranth, freekeh, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, teff, and sorghum are great, healthy substitutes.

Do Coffee Drinkers Live Longer?

29 Jan

There has been great debate over the years about the pros and cons of drinking coffee.  The confusion is justified, as one study will report on the negative affects while the next will highlight its beneficial attributes. So here we go again, but this time, the focus is on whether or not the compounds found in coffee can help you live longer.

In a 2017 study published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the Imperial College London, researchers surveyed 520,000 people from ten European countries and concluded that drinking coffee does appear to promote a longer lifespan. According to the study, other significant health benefits associated with coffee consumption include lower mortality rates from liver and digestive disease in both men and women; decreased mortality from cancer, circulatory disease, and cerebrovascular disease (stroke) in women; and a reduced suicide rate for men. Coffee consumption also lowers inflammatory markers and other negative biomarkers in the blood, giving us some insight on how the compounds in coffee may promote longevity.

The other study, this one funded by the National Cancer Institute, included a diverse set of subjects, as the survey included more than 185,000 adults from various ethnic backgrounds. The authors of this study also concluded a link between coffee consumption and living longer.

Regarding the dosage of coffee required to achieve the most benefits, the European study found the more coffee consumed, the better. They observed that participants who consumed three cups a day had better protection against all-cause death than those consuming less, especially when compared with the non-coffee drinkers. Also, because the researchers surveyed people from many different parts of Europe, it didn’t appear to matter what brand of coffee the particpants consumed, how it was prepared, or the serving style.

The United States-based study echoed many of the same findings as it reported that individuals consuming two to four cups a day had an 18% lower risk of early death in comparison with the non-coffee drinkers, regardless of the ethnicity, coffee type, or preparation style.

Not to burst your bubble about the health benefits of coffee, but moderation is still recommended regarding your daily indulgence. Nutritionists also warn that adding heavy cream and sugar may nullify many of the health benefits of black coffee plus add unnecessary calories to your diet.

Look for future research to focus on determining which compounds found in coffee provide the most benefit and if they can be consumed as a supplement for people who are not coffee drinkers.

Charlie Horses and Management Strategies

28 Dec

At some point in time, most of us have had a “Charlie horse” or muscle cramp. In fact, 50% of adults over the age of 50 suffer from night cramps. Doctors of chiropractic are often asked by their patients, “Where do these come from? Why am I having these? What can I do to get rid of them?”


The most common type of muscle cramp is caused by exercise, hence the label “exercise-associated muscle cramps” (EAMC). Though EAMCs are common in both recreational and professional athletes, the actual cause remains unclear. Therefore, treatment is often based on anecdotal studies rather than sound scientific evidence.

With that said, a thorough analysis of previous studies published between 1955 and 2008 concluded that the two most widely discussed theories for the cause of EAMC are 1) dehydration and the resulting electrolyte imbalance/depletion and 2) neuromuscular causes. The authors of the analysis concluded that the actual cause is “…likely due to several factors coalescing to cause EAMC.” In other words, it’s sort of like “a perfect storm”, as several causes interact to result in the cramp, which is why treatment and prevention strategies for EAMC can vary considerably.

The recommended care for acute EAMC is to apply a steady, moderate static stretch to the muscle followed by gathering a proper history to determine if any predisposing conditions exist that can trigger EAMC. Prevention should focus on fluid and electrolyte balance (replacement) and/or neuromuscular training.

Specific physical problems that can increase the rate and/or intensity of muscle cramps include conditions affecting the endocrine system (hormonal imbalance), the metabolic system (loss of fluids and electrolytes), and/or the neurological system (such as nerve injury or damage). Common areas for muscle cramping include the calf, front of the thigh (quadriceps), and back of the thigh (hamstrings).

A thorough history and physical examination may include a nutritional assessment, which can lead to treatment strategies tailored for each unique, individual patient. Additionally, it’s a good idea to review what medications a patient is taking as they may play a role in the development of cramps. For example, diuretics commonly prescribed for high blood pressure and other heart-related conditions may lead to potassium depletion.

Some helpful natural remedies for those with persistent muscle cramping may include a mineral/electrolyte replacement such as calcium, potassium, and/or magnesium. Anti-inflammatory nutritional care such as ginger and turmeric and/or muscle relaxing approaches such as valerian root can also be helpful. Other anti-cramping natural substances include Cassia oil and capsaicin. Riboflavin has been used preventatively with success as well.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.