Thursday, 27 September 2012

How gut Bacteria can make you Fat or Slim

How Gut Bacteria Can Make You Fat – Or Slim Your body is a host to a universe of microorganisms. Bacteria, fungi, and viruses live on – and in – every inch of your body. Trillions of bacteria live in your gut alone. In fact, these bacteria actually outnumber the human cells of your body by ten to one. But there’s no reason to get nervous. This is actually a good thing. Make friends with the critters within As you might expect, these tiny organisms have a big impact on your body’s functions. In fact, some biologists consider the gut microbiota (the term used to describe a population of microbes in the human body) to be another organ – just like your brain, pancreas, or liver. Because so many of these critters live in your digestive system, they are key players in your metabolism. “There are more bugs in our gut than there are cells in our bodies, so it’s not very difficult to imagine that they would have a profound impact on metabolic balance and metabolic activity,” says Christopher Newgard, a metabolism researcher at North Carolina’s Duke University. Scientists have yet to identify all the species of bacteria in our gut. Nor do they completely understand how they interact with our metabolism – and, in turn, influence metabolic conditions such as obesity and diabetes. But this is a hot area of research for microbiologists. For instance, the ambitious Human Microbiome Project exists purely to analyze the role of the microbiome in our health. As a recent New York Times article reports: The microbiome should be thought of as a “garden we tend” rather than a frightening invasion. Are microbes the cause of metabolic syndrome? Researchers at the University of Maryland set out to identify the links between these microbes and obesity. They studied the gut microbes of 310 adult members of the Amish community. (They chose the Amish because their community is genetically closed and its members share very similar lifestyles, reducing the number of factors that might influence health differences among them.) The Maryland researchers discovered that 22 bacterial species and 4 specific groups of bacteria were either positively or negatively correlated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and diabetes – a cluster of medical conditions collectively known as metabolic syndrome. The researchers concluded that having too few or too many of these particular gut microbes seems to contribute to obesity, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and certain cancers. Can gut bacteria make us fat or slim? This study adds to an ever-growing body of knowledge about gut bacteria and metabolism. Previous research has shown, for example, that certain bacteria are more populous in the obese (both mice and humans), whereas other bacteria are prevalent in lean mice and people. Moreover, the researchers found that the bacterial composition in the gut can improve or worsen insulin resistance (both in mice and humans). In addition, scientists have found that the bacterial strains in obese and insulin-resistant people can trigger chronic, low-grade inflammation. Long-term inflammation can damage healthy tissues and lead to a variety of chronic diseases – such as Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and many others. How modern life upsets gut flora: The modern Western lifestyle – and the health problems which arise from it – shed light on the changing relationship between our bodies and our microbiota. Writer Lauren Gravitz notes in the journal Nature: “Humans and the microbiome … have co-evolved for millennia. But lately we have been messing with the delicate balance between our flora and ourselves by eating more fats and sugars, by washing with antibacterial soap, and by taking antibiotics at the faintest hint of infection. This shift in behavior has coincided with an increase in the incidence of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, both of which are rising at a pace that cannot be down to genetics alone.” The health of your microbial population depends on a number of factors, including your environment. While there isn’t much you can do about the dietary, sanitary, and medical habits of the people around you, you can do plenty to promote your own good gut health. Here are just a few suggestions… Avoid sugar and other refined carbohydrates, which cause detrimental changes in gut flora and contribute to metabolic syndrome. Don’t use antibacterial soaps or other antibacterial household products. These kill the good bugs along with the bad ones inside you – as do antibiotics! Take them only when your illness truly calls for them. Increase your consumption of prebiotic and probiotic foods. Ample research shows that both of these food categories can improve gut health and reverse metabolic symptoms. What are “prebiotics”? Prebiotics are foods and ingredients which stimulate the growth and/or activity of beneficial bacteria in your digestive system. The top 10 prebiotic foods are: raw chicory root raw Jerusalem artichoke raw dandelion greens raw garlic raw leek raw or cooked onion raw asparagus raw wheat bran raw banana flax seed In addition, consume more foods that contain probiotics or “beneficial bacteria.” Some simple sources of probiotics are fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh, kimchi, and kombucha tea. For help in choosing gut-healthy yogurt, see my article “Not All Yogurts Are Created Equal.” For instructions on making your own delicious, healthful, and inexpensive yogurt, see “Better Yogurt Than You Could Ever Buy.” How do you keep your digestive system healthy? What is your experience with prebiotic and probiotic foods? Do you have some favorites? Do you take a probiotic supplement? Please share your thoughts, tips and favorites here, so we all can benefit from them. Happy eating and good health to you – and to your trillions of inhabitants! Take care of your digestive health is one of the major things you can do to contribute to a healthy disease free body. I personally eat pro biotic foods as much as possible and take a supplement with 10 billion of live cultures in my monthly program as well as a fiber drink before bed which I purchased wholesale through a shopping club. Patented nutrition guaranteed to work with a government stamp to prove it-very hard to find in natural supplements. What good is cheaper if you don't absorb it and it doesn't do the job? Check out Better Yogurt Than You Could Ever Buy! Did you know that yogurt has been prized for its healing powers for over 4,000 years? Some version of it exists in every culture on the planet. And countries that consume the most tend to have the most impressive health statistics. Remember the extraordinarily high population of 100-year-olds of the Russian Steppes who attributed their remarkable longevity to this fermented superfood? People the world over prize yogurt, although they may not fully realize why. Certainly it’s unique flavor is appealing — as well as the way it can fit in to every meal: Breakfasts, snacks, sauces and dips. But it’s more than that. Ancient cultures recognized a healthful effect from eating yogurt, and it became embedded in their cuisine. Scientists today recognize that yogurt’s health-power lies in the “live” bacteria (called probiotics – literally “for life”) that transform it into a powerhouse of health and healing. Numerous studies confirm yogurt’s astounding anti-inflammatory properties, which are therapeutic in treating a variety of medical conditions from arthritis and cancer to diabetes. Call In the Reinforcements! Eating live yogurt regularly is like sending in the cavalry to reinforce the beneficial bacteria in our GI tracts. These good bugs keep the “bad guy” bacteria (such as eColi, salmonella, listeria, campylobacte and clostridium perfringens) responsible for food poisoning and other health problems from overwhelming your body. In fact, your GI tract is home to more than 500 species of bacteria — about 100 trillion in number! These good bacteria are waging war 24/7 against the infectious microbes and viruses that want to colonize your body and make you sick and weak. In addition, beneficial bacteria aid digestion, boost your immune system and help make calcium available for bone strength, enhance weight-loss and encourage heart health. Even people who are lactose intolerant (currently about 50 million Americans who lack the enzyme needed to digest the milk sugar, lactose) benefit from eating yogurt without the typical gas and cramping that result from consuming unfermented dairy products. This is a huge plus, because lactose intolerance prevents many folks from getting the diary-based calcium that contributes to strong bones and healthy joints. But Store-Bought Yogurt Is “Spoiled” Yogurt Commercial yogurt (the kind advertised on TV) is another story. It’s about as healthful as a candy bar. Here’s why. Big yogurt manufacturers begin with milk from inhumanely raised cows. It’s also loaded with bovine growth hormone (bGH), which has been linked to several human cancers, as well as antibiotic residues. After inoculating this unfriendly milk with friendly bacteria, some brands heat (pasteurize) it to extend the yogurt’s shelf life — and actually kill the beneficial bacteria in the process! Go figure? Then they add goopy fruit, artificial sweeteners, preservatives and thickening agents, all of which add calories, carbs and known carcinogens. Finally, the yogurt is stuck in a carcinogenic plastic container, and you get to pay almost a dollar for a 6-ounce serving of unhealthy “food.” Don’t even waste your money on widely advertised brands of yogurt like Dannon, Yoplait and others. They’re all produced in the same way. But what about the organic, non-bGH antibiotic-free brands such as Nancy’s, Stoneyfield or Brown Cow? A 32-oz tub of Stoneyfield plain yogurt costs $2.99. And Brown Cow is priced at $3.69. So if you eat an 8-oz. serving daily (as you should to control your weight, strengthen your bones and build your immunity) your yearly cost will be $272 to $336! How to Get the Best Yogurt on Earth for Half-Price — or Less! Today, I’m going to show you how you to save that money by making your own yogurt. It’s easy, fast and fun. And your live yogurt will cost less than half the price of those upscale brands sold at Whole Foods and health food stores. Never again will you go without yogurt! Getting started. Although you can buy specialty yogurt-makers (some people are “gadget freaks”), I’ve found that using either a thermos bottle or a small beverage cooler is the cheapest, easiest way to achieve sure success with no fuss. To get started, you’ll need: 1 quart organic low-fat milk or organic soy milk (purchase by the gallon to save money) yogurt starter (see below) cooking thermometer 2-quart sauce pan 2 quart jars with lids bath towel Thermos bottle or a small picnic cooler. So Let’s Make Yogurt! First, be sure your pots and utensils are very clean, because kitchen microbes can interfere with the yogurt’s bacteria growth. Next, like bread yeast, you’ll need a “starter” of the right bacteria cultures to get the yogurt going. My favorite yogurt starter is Probiotic Acidophilus by American Health. It comes in a brown bottle and is kept refrigerated in the Vitamin section of your supermarket or local health food. You’ll pay $12 for 30 tablespoons. (I keep mine in the fridge and eat a tablespoon straight from the bottle when my digestive system needs an extra boost.) One tablespoon of the acidophilus starter is all you need. I also tried the Yogourmet starter, priced at $8 for a package of three starters. This product was totally acceptable. It has milk powder and three strains of bacteria. The end result was a nice thick and tangy yogurt that was a little firmer than the other types. The cheapest starter of all (under $1) is a cup of good quality organic yogurt with “live active cultures” printed on the label. Look for specific bacteria that fight inflammation, such as the Lactobacillus strains and Propionibacterium. This method tends to produce yogurt that’s a bit runny, but adding 1/3-cup powdered milk with the starter thickens the yogurt nicely. You’ll only have to purchase a starter once because your homemade yogurt will provide you with a continuous supply of starter. One cup will breed the next batch. Ready, Set, Multiply! Here’s all you have to do: 1. Heat 3/4-quart of organic, non-bGH milk in a saucepan to 170-180 degrees. 2. Turn off the heat and let the milk cool to 108-112 degrees. 3. Add the starter and stir. 4. Pour cultured milk into a thermos or a quart jar (see instructions below). 5. Let sit 4-8 hours, or until thickened. Do not bump, move or otherwise disturb! 6. Refrigerate. The Thermos Method Once the starter has been added to the milk, pour it into a wide-mouth, quart-size Thermos bottle. Cap it, wrap the thermos in a kitchen towel and set it in a warm place. When the yogurt has thickened (4-8 hours), transfer it to a glass jar or plastic container and store in the fridge. This is the easiest method by far. The Cooler Method After adding the starter to the warm milk, pour the mixture into a quart jar and set it in the cooler. Fill a second quart jar with boiling water, and nestle it right up against the yogurt. Cap the jars, cover them with towels and close the cooler. When the yogurt has thickened (4-8 hours), put it in the fridge. This method works well for bigger batches. For a double batch, mix two quarts of milk and two cups of starter and pour the mixture into two glass quart jars. Fill two more quart jars with boiling water and nestle them in the cooler, right next to the yogurt jars. Top with a towel, and close the cooler. For the Insatiably Curious I can never follow instructions unless I know why I’m supposed to do something a certain way. For those stricken with a similar affliction, here’s the explanation: Heating the milk to just below boiling kills off any “bad” bacteria that might interfere with the good bugs. Cooling the milk to 108-112 degrees brings the temperature into a range that will help the good bacteria multiply. Any warmer, and you’ll destroy the friendly bugs. Any chillier, and they’ll be shivering so much they won’t procreate. I say “do not disturb” because any rocking of the container interferes with the bacteria setting up and thickening the milk. So position the container in a place that’s easy to access. Avoid jostling it while checking for progress. Yummy Yogurt! My tests found that this simple method result in yogurt with a tangy, complex flavor. This yogurt has a slightly tart bite and is creamier than store-bought brands, but still sturdy enough when making a sauce or dip. Adding the acidophilus gives it a sharper taste, while adding powdered milk mellows the tang and thicken the yogurt. Experiment on your own to get it just as you like it. Once you have created a yogurt you prefer, you can use it to start your next batch. After a few tries, you’ll easily master the art of yogurt-making. To make a richer, thicker Greek yogurt. Pour the yogurt into a muslin cloth hanging over a bowl. A probiotic-rich liquid will drain off. Don’t waste it! Drink it — or add it to juices or smoothies. Scrape the Greek yogurt from the cloth after two hours and refrigerate. Yogurt will keep for at least a week in the fridge. Remember to reserve one cup of your last batch to start your next batch. Consume at least one cup of yogurt daily and resupply your stash every few days so you don’t run out. Here’s a photo of my favorite breakfast. I eat it every morning without fail. I start with a bowl of fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries), mix in a cup of yogurt, sprinkle generously with ground flaxseed and a dash of cinnamon. This keeps me going until mid-afternoon (I rarely eat lunch) because it’s loaded with fiber. You won’t get this much taste and nutrition from a bowl of Cheerios! An Arthritis Healing Superfood In addition to helping me control my weight, the berries contain natural pain-relieving compounds, anti-inflammatory and joint-healing properties that soothe my arthritis. (For more about my personal drug-free arthritis program, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 (bone-on-bone) osteoarthritis six years ago and told I’d need joint replacement surgery. But my program has kept me completely pain-free and off of drugs. I’m fully active and in the best shape of my life. When my orthopedic surgeon compared this year’s x-rays to those he took last year, he was surprised to find new cartilage in my joints! Yogurt Is So Versatile Another reason to keep a steady supply of yogurt on hand is its versatility. I use it in place of sour cream in tacos and burritos or instead of mayonnaise in spreads for sandwiches or wraps. Combine equal parts yogurt and pureed nonfat cottage cheese to make a base for dishes like macaroni and cheese. You can also use this to replace ricotta in lasagna or make a cream sauce with fresh herbs to go over grilled fish or chicken. Here’s a recipe for a delicious salmon burger that uses citrus yogurt dressing instead of mayonnaise: One Response to “Better Yogurt Than You Could Ever Buy!”