Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Psychobiotics: How gut bacteria mess with your mind (Article, New Scientist)

Gut Bacteria's Effect on the Mind

In the latest New Scientist, professor of anatomy and neuroscience, John Cryan, and Timothy Dinan, professor of psychiatry (University College Cork, Ireland) discuss “Psychobiotics: How gut bacteria mess with your mind.”

Probiotics today are becoming more and more understood and appreciated for their ability not just to normalize a body’s balance after antibiotic use, but as a treatment in their own right. As discussed in my earlier piece, “Just Who Do You Think You Are,” medical professionals have been turning to probiotics to assist in treating everything from stress to anxiety, depression, eczema, allergy, and more.

It would be easy to lump “probiotics” into one category; but it’s true there are many different strains, and some have been studied for their specific benefits while others have not. New Scientist highlights the following promising strains for their health benefits:

  • Bacteroides fragilis, autism
  • Bifidobacterium infantis, depression
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus, anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

As well as the following combination of strains:

  • Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum, anxiety and depression

To know if your probiotic has been studied in humans, call the company directly; it’s amazing what you can find out! Remember, more doesn’t always mean better — so don’t assume because a product has 80 billion cells of probiotics that it has what you need. Strains point more to the condition being treated, while the number of cells speak more to degree of imbalance. A product that offers 6 billion cells may be all that’s needed for one, while someone else may need significantly more than that!

Another thing to be aware of is something called “prebiotic.” The prebiotic is a fiber that you can think of is like food for the probiotic. Well, guess what? Good bacteria and bad bacteria both like to eat! So if you have a gut imbalance, you might find taking a high initial dose of probiotic results in a lot of gas and discomfort; this is the byproduct of bad bacteria’s healthy eating habits. Once the good bacteria is replenished (keeping the bad bacteria in check), this will no longer be an issue. For this reason, I recommend folks start low and build up. This is easy to do if you buy capsules or a powder — you can start with one cap per dose (or tip out half a capsule, etc) and gradually work up to your target dose.

Think you might benefit from probiotics, but not sure where to go from here? Contact me for an appointment today.

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Acetaminophen Risk
Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Cold/Flu Season Warning: Limit Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Use

During cold and flu season limit acetaminophen (tylenol) use

The Problem with Tylenol

A lot of folks have been coming down with the flu lately, so it’s a good time to remember all good things in moderation. Acetaminophen is in “more than 600 medications, both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC)“– medications treating everything from pain to allergy, cough, cold, flu, and sleeplessness. At lower doses, Tylenol can be helpful for treating symptoms in both children and adults. However, in higher amounts, acetaminophen is known to cause severe liver damage (see signs and implications below).

Safe Dosing

The FDA recommends an adult dosing at no more than 325 mg per dosage; with a daily cap of 4000 mg. In this case, dosage does not refer to the label of a product, but the total amount consumed. This becomes particularly important for folks who take prescription pain medication containing acetaminophen, such as Percocet or Vicodin, who have come down with a cold or flu and are accustomed to reaching for a product like Dayquil. Equally common would be someone who takes the OTC pain reliever Excedrin who might be considering taking Robitussin Cold and Flu or Benadryl Allergy and Cold.

To learn more about dosing for young ones, consider reading: “Know Concentration Before Giving Acetaminophen to Infants,” and “Acetaminophen – It’s Important to Give the Correct Dose to our Children.”

Cold and Flu: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Use

Products Containing Acetaminophen

Even if you’re not sure what you’re taking contains acetaminophen, it’s very much worth double-checking the label– whether or not your medication is prescription. For a short list of some of the most common acetaminophen-containing OTC and prescriptions, visit KnowYourDose.org.

Signs and Implications of Liver Damage

Liver damage from excess Tylenol intake is nothing to scoff at. The damage can be permanent, and it can also result in liver failure or death over the course of several days. What’s more, “[y]ou may not notice the signs and symptoms of liver damage right away because they take time to appear. Or, you may mistake early symptoms of liver damage (for example, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting) for something else, like the flu.” Want to test your liver knowledge? Take a quiz.

Natural Medicine Alternatives

Not sure if you remember, but when SARS broke out just over a decade ago, conventional medicine turned to the aid of Chinese herbal medicine. They found that using Chinese herbs as an adjunctive therapy resulted in “better control of fever, quicker clearance of chest infection, lesser consumption of steroids and other symptoms relief.” While herbal treatment may not always mask all symptoms during the healing process, side effects tend to be few and far between. Between Chinese herbs, Western herbs and homeopathy, there are a wide array of natural options for treating cold and flu available to consumers. (Additionally, if you haven’t read already acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are also excellent at regulating pain.)

Preventative Measures

Maintaining a healthy gut is key to maintaining health. Eating fermented foods regularly and/or taking a higher dose probiotic a few months before cold season starts can often reduce the duration and severity of colds. Dr. Mercola, alternative medicine proponent and osteopathic physician, also reports that supplementing Vitamin D can “cut your flu risk nearly in half.” The cheapest thing (and yet often so challenging for folks!) you can do is get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, and keep your stress levels down. Eat well and exercise.

It goes without saying, acupuncture and Reiki are excellent ways to help keep the body and mind supported both before, during, and after illness. Concerned about your regimen and ready to be proactive? Make an appointment today!

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probiotics
Chinese Herbs & Supplements

The Case for Probiotics: Just Who Do You Think You Are?

20101212 205549 LactobacillusAcidophilus probiotics

How “human” is human?

In all our experience, there is what we see and what we don’t see; what we know, and what we don’t know. And how often do we let what we know be directly informed by what we see? Even in language what is actually said is worth less in communication than looks and tone. Most everyone has probably had opportunity to feel sarcasm and judgment in simple language. (I absolutely love a bit by Eddie Izzard talking about just this – the 70% is how you look, 20% how you sound and 10% what you say.)

So, with the body – there is what we see, which we call a human; but if you looked at what comprised that “human,” you would see we harbor 100 trillion microbes and that, in fact, 9 out of 10 “human” cells don’t even contain the human genome. In the gut alone there are 5600 known unique strains of bacteria just hanging out and loving life. Well, until you flush them down the drain, of course….

The benefit of probiotics

Probiotics are a great way to support the beneficial bacteria in your gut. You can find them in fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi. Alternatively, one can purchase them as a supplement in powdered or pill form. These supplements can range in quantity, some providing 1 billion to over 100 billion cells per serving. A number of companies now source dairy-free options as well.

Probiotics for the gut after antibiotics

Antibiotics can do a serious number on our good bacteria – washing it out with the bad. We often see symptoms of diarrhea and electrolyte imbalance here. I get a lot of questions about how to replenish what gets lost and whether yogurt is a good idea. I am immediately reminded of when I had strep as a kid. It was so painful, and I felt like I could hardly eat anything. At the time, I don’t think anyone in my family had even heard of probiotics, but we definitely knew about yogurt. And I’ll say – sure, it felt great to have something easy to swallow and cool to the throat – but boy, not 2 minutes later did the awful feeling come over me that I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to breathe… oh, mucus! Truth is, yogurt is pretty low in probiotics, and while it may not actual increase mucus in the body, it may increase the viscosity of mucus. And anyone who’s felt the heavy hand of mucus on their breathing can tell you – increasing its thickness is not ideal! Probiotics? Great idea!

Probiotics for mood

In 2011 they did a study on Lactobacillus rhamnosus in mice and found that the strain was able to actually reduce stress-induced corticosterone and subsequently modulate behaviours associated with anxiety and depression. In fact, 95% of the body’s serotonin is in the gut. Want to feel groovy? Think bowels!

For more on mental health and probiotics, consider reading my post, “Psychobiotics: How Gut Bacteria Mess with Your Mind.”

Probiotics for immune support

In 2009 they showed kids who supplemented with probiotics for 6 months had fewer sick days and missed less days due to illness than their peers. And kids have the upper hand in disease prevention – if you want to prevent eczema or allergy, you know it… consider probiotics!

A closing thought

If we are in part what we “aren’t,” consider where our lives might overlap with the lives of others. What do we share in common? How can we treat the lives of others–humans, animals, or other–with the same “humanity” each deserves? May we endeavor to be kind, and always consider that in any situation, there may be more there than meets the eye!

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Chinese Herbs & Supplements, Treatment Modalities, Uncategorized

Just Who Do You Think You Are?

20101212 205549 LactobacillusAcidophilus

In all our experience, there is what we see and what we don’t see; what we know, and what we don’t know. And how often do we let what we know be directly informed by what we see? Even in language what is actually said is worth less in communication than looks and tone. Most everyone has probably had opportunity to feel sarcasm and judgment in simple language. (I absolutely love a bit by Eddie Izzard talking about just this – the 70% is how you look, 20% how you sound and 10% what you say.)

So, with the body – there is what we see, which we call a human; but if you looked at what comprised that “human,” you would see we harbor 100 trillion microbes and that, in fact, 9 out of 10 “human” cells don’t even contain the human genome. In the gut alone there are 5600 known unique strains of bacteria just hanging out and loving life. Well, until you flush them down the drain, of course…

Antibiotics can do a serious number on our good bacteria – washing it out with the bad. We often see symptoms of diarrhea and electrolyte imbalance here. I get a lot of questions about how to replenish what gets lost and whether yogurt is a good idea. I am immediately reminded of when I had strep as a kid. It was so painful, and I felt like I could hardly eat anything. At the time, I don’t think anyone in my family had even heard of probiotics, but we definitely knew about yogurt. And I’ll say – sure, it felt great to have something easy to swallow and cool to the throat – but boy, not 2 minutes later came the awful feeling that I wasn’t sure I was able to breathe… oh, mucus! Truth is, yogurt is pretty low in probiotics, and while it may not actual increase mucus in the body, it may increase the viscosity of mucus. And anyone who’s felt the heavy hand of mucus on their breathing can tell you – increasing its thickness is not ideal!

Probiotics, on the other hand, offer the best of both worlds – ranging in number from 1 billion to over 100 billion cells per serving; and quite a few companies are now sourcing dairy-free options. While someone on antibiotics might take somewhere around 24 billion or more cells per day, folks with skin disorders, stress imbalance and low immune health may also benefit from taking these little critters.

In 2011 they did a study on Lactobacillus rhamnosus in mice and found that the strain was able to actually reduce stress-induced corticosterone and subsequently modulate behaviours associated with anxiety and depression. In fact, 95% of the body’s serotonin is in the gut. Want to feel groovy? Think bowels! Want your kids to stay in school? Think bowels!

In 2009 they showed kids who supplemented with probiotics for 6 months had fewer sick days and missed less days due to illness than their peers. And kids have the upper hand in disease prevention – if you want to prevent eczema or allergy, you know it… consider probiotics!

So if we are in part what we “aren’t,” consider where our lives might overlap with the lives of others. What do we share in common? How can we treat the lives of others–humans, animals, or other–with the same “humanity” each deserves? Be kind, and always consider that in any situation, there may be more there than meets the eye!

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