Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lack of sleep & anxiety

Lets face it - lack of sleep and anxiety are a brutal combination, particularly for busy mothers. Once you start to lose those precious hours of sleep, the anticipation of 'not sleeping' takes over, and you end up feeling anxious about not sleeping. And so the cycle goes....until you figure out how to break it.

A recent headline caught my attention "Short-sleepers may develop a blood sugar abnormality that can lead to diabetes". And if you really need something to keep you up at night, how about this headline - "Poor sleep quality may put children at risk of obesity". Who is at risk ? Those who sleep less than 6 hours a night.

* The findings of these studies were presented at this years American Heart Associations 49th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

I called this blog 'Beyond Nutrients' because I believe there are many elements to a healthy lifestyle. It's more than diet and supplements, other aspects of our lives impact our health such as exercise, relaxation and SLEEP. And sleep is emerging as a very important aspect to better health.

Americans are sleeping less. In 1900, reported sleep time was on average nine hours a night. By the 1970s reported average sleep time was closer to seven hours a night. Today, the average sleep time for an American adult is approximately 6 hours. The solution: go to bed as early as possible and keep your fingers crossed you'll only wake after 7 hours of sound sleep.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Probiotic Straws

One probiotic product on the market for children, Nestle Boost Kid Essential, uses a 'probiotic straw' to deliver the 'healthy bugs'. The straw contains Lactobacillus reuteri, one of the Lactobacillus species that has been used safely for many years as a probiotic dietary supplement. One study found that in infants fed a formula supplemented with L reuteri they had fewer and shorter episodes of diarrhea. But the drink also contains other essential vitamins and minerals. For instance, each serving provides 3.4 mg of iron and 290 mg of calcium, two shortfall nutrients in our childrens diets. I'd certainly consider giving this to my child if they were sick and couldn't hold down food, or if they were a picky eater.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The good bugs: Probiotics

A key to optimal health is keeping the intestinal microflora in your digestive system in balance. Once our immune system is weakened this balance is compromised and one way to restore this balance is by taking 'probiotics'. Probiotics improve the intestinal microflora balance and this allows our natural immune system to work more effectively.

What is a Probiotic?

The Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization (FAO/WHO, 2001) defines probiotics as ‘Live microorganisms* which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’. These live microorganisms are found in foods such as yogurt, fermented and unfermented milk, miso, tempeh, some juices and soy beverages.

The term 'probiotic' however does not refer to a single type of microorganism. There are about 20 probiotic strains. The most common probiotic strains used in dairy products belong to the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria family. However, within each family there are different species. For example, in the Lactobacillus family you can have the following species L. casei, L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, L. reuteri, L.brevis......and the list includes another 6 species.
*Microorganisms are tiny living organisms—such as bacteria, viruses, and yeasts.

What are the health benefits of probiotics ?

Probiotics have a number of health benefits. For example, they have been used to

  1. Treat or prevent diarrhea (induced by some antibiotics)

  2. Improve symptoms of lactose intolerance - a condition in which the gut lacks the enzyme needed to digest significant amounts of the major sugar in milk (lactose) and this causes gastrointestinal problems

  3. Treat irritable bowel syndrome

  4. Prevent and treat infections of the urinary tract or female genital tract

  5. Prevent and manage atopic dermatitis (eczema) in children

  6. Treat allergic conditions

  7. Support cardiovascular health and wellness

A friend recently asked me whether all probiotic products on the marketplace were the same, and whether they all had the same health benefits. Think of when you hear the term 'vitamins'. There are many different types of vitamins and we would never suggest for example, that the functional properties of vitamin D are the same as vitamin E. The same argument can be made for probiotics. The health benefits obtained from one strain may not be the same as that of another strain. It's a complicated topic and to be honest, I don't know the answer to my friends question - there are so many probiotic products available and we need to consider the probiotic strain.

Some scientists believe that the term 'probiotic' is too broad, while others feel that more scientific knowledge is needed about about their safety and appropriate use. Since each probiotic is different, some would argue that it's time to stop lumping them all together!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Random Facts

  1. Check out this link about trans fat. Some labels stating 'zero' trans fat may actually contain trans fat!
  2. Panera Bread’s Sierra Turkey sandwich contains 970 calories and 54 g of fat. Oh I am so in favor of restaurants being made post the nutrition information – who would have guessed a Turkey sandwich could be this bad?
  3. A USDA study found that only 6% of teenagers eat the recommended servings of vegetables a day and only 24% eat enough fruit (i.e the five-a-day recommendation).
  4. British food scientists found that bathing raw, sliced potatoes in water for 2 hours reduced acrylamide by 48%. A 30-minute soak dropped levels by 38%.

  5. Which contains more vitamins, a vitamin-enhanced water or a standard multi-vitamin pill? The pill.....but this is probably obvious to most readers. (BTW, I am not an advocate for vitamin-enhanced water - a topic for another day)
  6. Natural remedies: Some believe that ginger-root warms painful joints by increasing blood flow and this will decrease joint pain from arthritis.
  7. Baby carrots supply about 23% less beta-carotene per ounce than regular sized carrots.