How Modern Agriculture Affects Human Gut Health

 

If you’ve done much research on gut health, you already know that antibiotics, even when prescribed and used correctly, can really do a number on your digestive health. While they’re killing off the pathogens (bad guys) they were meant to eliminate, antibiotics also rid your body of the helpful bacteria and other friendly microbes leading rto imbalances.

This microbial community that lives inside us, our Microbiome, is essential to our health as humans. Friendly microbes help our immune system and help us digest food. Interestingly we are made of more bacteria/microbes than we are human cells!

Ideally, we start life with a healthy, balanced microbiome. (Unfortunately nowadays this is often not the case due to c-sections, early antibiotic use and lack of breastfeeding, but that’s another topic:) It evolves with us over time and helps to keep our nutrition cycles and immune system working smoothly.

So if your doctor prescribed antibiotics for you, you may consider asking her if they are really necessary. Sometimes they may be. But in many cases, antibiotics don’t speed up healing. You can get well just as quickly without them.

If you do need to take antibiotics, you’re aware and can make an attempt at getting your body back into balance. Many pharmacists and doctors will now recommend adding a probiotic supplement after you finish your antibiotic prescription. And this can be helpful depending on the situation.

But there’s a bigger problem that’s not easily seen. Sadly it’s our food supply.

If you’re eating commercially raised meat, eggs, or dairy products, you are consuming low doses of antibiotics every day.

Factory farming is not a healthy environment for these animals that become our food. The horrendous overcrowding they must endure creates perfect circumstances for the spread of disease.

So to prevent illness, antibiotics are added to the animals’ food. This consistent low dose of antibiotics is creating Superbugs that are very difficult to control.

Factory farmers also discovered that low dose antibiotics help livestock to gain weight more quickly than normal. Meat is usually sold by the pound and cheap pharmaceuticals can add a lot to the profit margin.

More than 80% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in the agriculture industry. Millions of pounds of drugs are added to our food supply every year and they never appear on ingredients labels!

But it’s not just livestock production practices that mess with human gut health. The development of hybridized wheat has also contributed to the problem.

It is often said that bread is the staff of life. We have been eating it for thousands of years.

Bread is usually made from wheat which contains gluten proteins. The gluten is what allows the bubbles produced while baking the bread to become part of the loaf’s structure, rather than collapsing it into a dense brick.

And science has helped to create wheat strains with even more gluten than ancient grains had. This makes bread softer, lighter, and presumably more desirable.

It turns out that gluten is very hard for people to digest completely. Incompletely digested proteins, including gluten, are very hard on your gut lining.

In addition to loosening the tight junctions between the cells making up your intestinal wall, gluten proteins have a tendency to stir up your immune system. An inflammatory cascade is then created, which can lead to health issues anywhere in your body.

Grain fields offer yet another gut health obstacle.

Weeds are a farmer’s nightmare, adding to their fuel and equipment costs and to their workload. Herbicides were invented to take care of this weed problem.

But to be effective, the seed companies needed to get the crop plants to survive the weed killer. Enter genetically modified seeds resistant to glyphosate, commercially known as Roundup®.

Having Roundup-Ready crops in the field means that more and more glyphosate is being used on our food. Glyphosate doesn’t just kill weeds. When we eat food that has been treated with this herbicide, it acts very similarly to antibiotics in our digestive tract.

And we already know that is a problem.

Even though on the surface it may seem expensive to buy organically raised and produced groceries, the long term savings in our health and medical budget are well worth it.

by Dr Robert Inesta

How Modern Agriculture Affects Human Gut Health

Getting Back to Exercise

Getting back into an exercise routine can be daunting, especially if you’re recovering from an injury. It’s exciting to graduate from physical therapy, but it can also be overwhelming. You’re given a protocol of at-home exercises to follow, but then what? You may be hesitant to jump back into a regular workout routine. However, a gym program after physical therapy will actually help maintain the progress you made by increasing range of motion, strength and stability.

Start out slowly and expect some discomfort. Alleviate acute pain before exercising by using passive pain-relieving techniques such as massage therapy/ART, and heat and/or ice therapy to reduce your pain or make it more manageable. Always listen to your body! If pain becomes severe, take a break or stop altogether. Pushing through pain could cause another injury to occur and thus set you back even further.

Focus on low-impact, functional exercises rather than high intensity workouts. Incorporate a lot of stretching and mobility movements into your routine as well. If you are stumped as to the proper way to get started or are afraid to hurt yourself by doing too much – hire a personal trainer who specializes in corrective exercises! They will help guide you on the path to pain-free exercising and help you to reach your fitness goals.

 

by Gina Stallone

How Much Do I Need to Lift?

Working out with weights is important to gain strength, improve mental state and prevent osteoporosis. As a sports medicine physician I am often asked by my patients, “how much working out do I need to do.?” The answer is you need to work out 6 days a week but using weights is best done on alternate days. Muscles need 48 hours to recover and appropriate rest will help prevent injuries and allow recovery. You can work out different muscles on different days but must allow the specific muscles worked time to recover.
A recent study done at Lehman College in the beautiful Bronx answered a very important question: How many sets do you need to do to increase strength? The study looked at 34 young men and divided them into 3 groups. Group 1 did 5 sets, Group 2 did 3 sets, and Group 3 did only 1 set. All three groups lifted weights doing 8-12 reps, but it had to be to exhaustion where they could not do another rep without a break. The multiple sets groups had 90 second break between sets.
The exercises that all 3 groups performed were bench press, military press, lateral pull downs, seated cable row, squats, leg press, and unilateral leg extension. Because of doing more reps, Group 1 with five sets took 70 minutes to work out. Group 2 with three sets took 40 minutes and Group 3 with only one set took 13 minutes. Each group worked out three times a week for 8 weeks.
At the end of 8 weeks, all 3 groups had significant increases in strength but surprisingly all 3 groups had equal gains in strength! So, a 13-minute work out can give you the same strength gains as a 70-minute workout. You can save an hour off your work out. Nobody has enough time to work out so saving an hour is huge. The group doing 5 reps did have larger muscle mass gains (size), but not more strength.
The lessons from this study is that you need to work out until you cannot do another rep to make strength gains. Work out 3 times a week. This study was in young males and has not been done in older men or females. I believe the results will be the same.
It is important to not push your muscles above what your body can handle. Make sure you do not lift too much until you can handle the heavier weights. Be smart to prevent injuries. If you are having pain stop and don’t push through it. If you are having continued painor questions make an appointment with your local orthopedic sports doc.
By Rick Weinstein MD, MBA
Director of Orthopedic Surgery, Westchester Sport and Spine of White Plains Hospital

Change the Way You Sit

Many people all day sitting at a desk and in their cars, which has led to increased back pain & problems. This is due in large part to sitting incorrectly. Here are some tips to obtain optimal back health:

  • Avoid slouching! Sit upright, but relaxed with a slight arch to your back.
  • Use a desk chair with back support built-in or use a rolled up towel or pillow & place in your lower back. You can use the towel or pillow in your car for driving as well
  • Keep your head & shoulders upright and face forward. Limit the amount of twisting & turning that you do from your chair
  • Use a footrest if you will be sitting for long periods of time
  • Keep your desk or keyboard at the correct height and/or distance so as to avoid leaning forward
  • Take a break! Get up every hour or so to stretch and/or move around

When sitting in an office chair for a long period, the natural tendency for most people is to slouch over or slouch down in the chair. This will overstretch the spinal ligaments and strain the discs and surrounding structures in the spine. Over time, incorrect sitting posture can damage spinal structures and contribute to or worsen back pain. Some stretches that have been proven helpful to alleviate some of this pain. These include an upper body stretch, shoulder blade squeeze, or arms across chest stretch.  When possible, stay active! Go for walks around the office or on your lunch break. A 20-minute walk will help promote healthy blood flow that brings important nutrients to the spinal structures.

by Gina Stallone

How Nutrition Can Help Cancer

Cancer…a very scary word and very scary prospect for everyone. Research has shown that what we eat and the choices we make can affect the incidence of cancer and can also help to alleviate the side effects associated with cancer treatments. Choosing wisely can have an enormous impact on our health.

As far as cancer prevention, research shows that obesity increases the risk of many different types of cancer. Obesity is defined as having a BMI (body mass index) over 30. Additionally, there is a worse prognosis for obese patients after cancer diagnosis, so it important to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight status. Focus on eating in moderation and exercising regularly for optimal health.

Studies have shown that a wide range of colorful fruits and vegetables contain beneficial phytonutrients and antioxidants, which help fight cancer. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, contain a compound called sulforphane, which has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Further, it is important to avoid foods that cause inflammation in the body, such as refined sugar and carbohydrates, and pesticides. Buying organic produce is important not only because it is grown without pesticides, but because those plants are more resilient and have been shown to contain phytonutrients. This is because they become stronger as they learn to protect themselves from the elements without the use of pesticides. Lastly, alcohol should be avoided since it has been shown to be a cancer risk. Food with ginger, garlic, turmeric and green tea all have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and are beneficial for cancer prevention.

Dealing with cancer can be a debilitating ordeal. There are many short term and long term side effects from cancer treatment. For example, short term there may be nausea, vomiting, and hair loss, whereas long term symptoms include fatigue, sexual dysfunction, and memory issues. Others may develop other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, due to treatments. Insomnia is also a common side effect, which may caused by medications, stress or anxiety. Lack of sleep may affect mood and can lead to depression, which can then cause anxiety and create a cycle. Supplements that help alleviate insomnia and increase relaxation and decrease stress are melatonin, L-theanine, magnesium, magnolia, lipoic acid, and Panax ginseng.

Mind body approaches have also been shown to alleviate many of the side effects of cancer treatment and decrease stress. These include acupuncture, yoga, T’ai Chi, guided imagery, hypnosis, and mindfulness. Exercise is a great tool for stress release and weight loss, and studies have shown that physical activity is associated with a decreased incidence of certain cancers. Lastly, supplements like glutathione, creatine, CoQ10 and creatine have been shown to optimize our mitochondria, which create energy and which may have been damaged during treatment.

Diet and lifestyle factors are very important for both disease prevention and recurrence. There is a lot of truth to the saying, “you are what you eat,” and it is important to be mindful of what we put into our bodies and how we respond to our daily lives.  Choose a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and find ways to decrease stress.This will help keep you as healthy as possible.

Back to School and Back to YOU!

The kids are back in school so now it’s time to put focus on YOU! It’s easy to get sidetracked and “fall off the wagon” with family obligations and summer fun, and it can be pretty daunting getting started again. Here are some tips to help get you back on track:

  • Set small, realistic goals. Whether you want to lose weight, run a marathon, or just get a little healthier – it won’t happen in a day. Start SLOW and set small goals, such as making it a point to walk or hit the gym more. You don’t need to spend hours working out – just 30 minutes per day, a few times a week will be enough to get you started and once it becomes part of your routine, you can start really focusing on those bigger goals.
  • Create a plan and write it down. Writing down your goals and/or keeping a journal of your food intake or exercise for the day can be very helpful for accountability. It will serve as a reminder of why you got started or be that extra motivation to keep you going, especially on the tough days.
  • Find a workout buddy. Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we just need an extra push. Grab a friend and hit the trail/gym! It will make the workout go by much faster and be much more fun! It will also keep you both accountable – if you are relying on one another to exercise, you won’t want to let one another down! Even a dog can make a good walking/jogging buddy.

 

Whatever your goal is, make it a point to carve out some time just for you. It will be great for your body AND your mind.

 

By: Gina Stallone

How Stress Affects Your Immune System

Stress is a normal part of life. It’s a natural condition our bodies are designed to deal with quite effectively.  But people are often not aware of the negative consequences of modern day chronic stress on their health until it’s too late. Some people are able to cope with stress better than others. Some take practical steps to reduce their stress each day to diminish the wear and tear on their bodies and minds.

Most of us, though, are not aware of just how much stress is harming our health. It is not until we are diagnosed with a serious illness such as heart disease that we’re told we need to make drastic changes to our lifestyle and reduce stress if we wish to live longer.

So what exactly is stress? Stress is the body and mind’s response to any unusual event or situation which challenges us or that we perceieve is a threat or some kind. Stress provides the body with a burst of energy, outting us into the “fight or flight” response so we can react to the perceived threat.

People either run away from the thing that stresses them (flight), or they turn and try to deal with it (fight). Some strategies are more effective than others depending on the situation. The system is designed to be temprary, though. Once we rid ourself of the threat or danger, we should then return to a normal relaxed state of physiolgy. In the modern world, this stressed state is unfortunately not temporary for most people which leads to problems.

Our life is stressful from the moment we are born. There is the stress of birth, of feeling hunger, or needing our diaper changed. At school, there is the stress of performing well on exams, in presentations in front of the class, the school play, or on the school sports team. In our university years, there are the stresses of needing to maintain a good enough GPA to stay in school, or perhaps even get a scholarship or acceptance to grad school. Then there are social stresses, dating, relationships, friendships, peer pressure, and more.

As adults outside of school, there is the stress of whether or not we will find a job. If we don’t, there is the stress of trying to make ends meet. Even if we do get a job, we must keep it, let alone try to get a raise, promotion, and so on. Even happy occasions such as a new job, business, wedding, baby or home can trigger major stress responses in the body.

Most of us work very hard ‘burning the candle at both ends’ in order to try to keep up with all the demands on our time every day. This can lead to a lack of sleep and “downtime” for relaxation to help recharge the body and mind. The lack of rest and downtime can in turn lead to a weakened immune system. Sleep is when the body heals and repairs itself.

A lack of sleep has been shown to have the same effects on the immune system as stress. Stress in turn can interfere with one’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. This in turn can create a vicious cycle of even more stress through sleep deprivation, which can leave your immune system vulnerable and open to attack.

If you’re a workaholic, not getting enough sleep, and not taking time out for relaxation, it’s time to get your stress under control. Above all, you must avoid burning out. This is a serious situation that damages your immune system and leads to excessive inflammation which has been linked to many conditions, such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

There are many ways to reduce stress effectively –  yoga, meditation, tai chi, a relaxing bath, a good night’s sleep, doing something fun that you enjoy, spending quality time with friends and family. If you have been overworking, it’s time to make some new appointments on your calendar for you. Add exercise and a good sleep habit to your daily routine to better support your immune system.

by  Dr Robert Inesta DC L.Ac CFMP CCSP

Choosing Your Workout

Working out is not always fun. You are not always motivated to go outside or go to the gym. So what can you do to motivate yourself??

Do you brush your teeth every day? Do you enjoy it or look forward to it? Perhaps after eating garlic knots or drinking some nasty green drink, you may want to brush your teeth but few people look forward to cleaning their teeth. You brush your teeth every day (hopefully) because it is part of your routine. You don’t think about it, you just do it every morning after you shower and before you go to bed because that is what you do. This strategy needs to be the same with working out. It is as simple as making part of your daily routine.

I go to the gym every morning, except my surgery day, before work. Many days I don’t really feel like going, but I just end up going because it is what I do. I almost always feel better afterwards. I have more energy after and feel better about myself. Some workouts are better than others, but even my worst workouts make me feel better than if I did not work out at all.

In choosing your workout, do what you enjoy. If you hate running you will never want to do it. If you love the elliptical or swimming, that is what you need to do. It is important to vary your workout so you don’t get bored and so you shock your body to challenge different muscles and make more gains, but don’t do things you don’t like.

It is important to do cardio workouts as well as resistance training with weights. I find the gains I make from weight training motivate me more since you can see the results in the mirror and feel it in your strength. The cardio is extremely important to give you energy and help you live longer and healthier. Weight lifting prevents weakness in the bones especially in people predisposed to osteoporosis. Your bone strength peaks at around 30 years old and after that you lose bone. Resistance training will help prevent bone loss and prevent fractures as we get older. I have seen too many old people with spine and hip fractures because they let their bones get weak. You don’t want this to happen to you.

We all need workout at least 5 days a week. Find what you like to do and make it part of your daily routine like brushing your teeth. I promise you will feel better afterwards and the gains you make will be noticed not just by you but by others as well.

 

by

Rick Weinstein, MD, MBA

Director Orthopedic Surgery Westchester Sport & Spine at White Plains Hospital

Enhancing Peak Performance from the Inside Out

Trust, confidence, and being in the present moment express the sensation that we experience when we are 100% focused on a task without entertaining mechanical or distracting thoughts in our minds. When we are totally focused, we achieve our goals, become productive, and feel proud for having moved forward. If being totally focused is so positive, what prevents us from being in that positive mindset for longer time?

It appears that, for some people, staying focused seems to come more naturally while for others it requires a greater amount of conscientious effort. Even for those fortunate individuals, their genetic “focused” gene pool barely counts enough to completely do away from acquiring new experiences and conscientiously putting effort to promote being in the present moment.  By far, experiences and effort much more so than genes are the primary learned source of knowledge that lead to achieve a greater level of emotional regulation in stressful experiences, which in turn, promote focus and enhances results.

The neuroscience behind focusing

Two individuals having a pleasant social interaction not only leads to fun and laughter, but also, unbeknown to them, promotes self-regulation of emotions at a non-verbal language. While having a good time, their respective nervous systems are simultaneously “talking” with one another synchronizing emotions. The nervous system from person A is reading the smiley face from person B, which causes a calmer demeanor and, in turn, responds with another smile. The nervous system from person B reads A’s positive verbal and non-verbal cues, which promotes being in the present moment. The human ability to expand on the capacity to be in the present moment is experience dependent, not genetic dependent. Hence, the quality in the human interaction between athlete and coach has a powerful effect on the ability to enhance peak performance.

The learning pyramid

Picking up a game requires a skill development process. How to properly hold a racquet, hit drive shots, lobs, and serves need technical instructions. Eventually, those skills become a second thought and the athlete moves to the second phase of needing to learn the strategies of the game. Reading the breaks of a golf green increases the chances of making putts. Learning how to talk with a soccer teammate helps to create passing opportunities to score. The third phase is physical development. Athletes require physical stamina, flexibility, and strength to sustain the demands of each sport. However, when the pressure is on, it is the mind that will take over and become pivotal in helping athletes to remain focused and achieve the best possible results. At that moment, the pyramid flips upside down and, unless athletes either learned or were taught to regulate emotions, it means they are less likely to use mental skills to promote a focused state of mind which was not practiced. Based on research, the main factor leading to peak performance in Olympic athletes is the coach-athlete relationship over optimal training environment. When looking at coaches’ behavioral traits that promote peak performance, a 2005 survey found looking at the athlete as a whole person rather than primarily focusing on strategies and skills made the significant difference.

The inside out of peak performance

Achieving peak performance requires teaching athletes how to trust in themselves. When the pressure is on, athletes pay less attention on their skills and more on their emotional regulation. Coaches can promote trust by positively supporting the learning process. When a mistake is made, coaches need to provide a corrective instruction in a positive and encouraging demeanor. Even when the athlete knows the drill and still makes a mistake, motivating rather than using a punishing tone of voice promotes focus rather than fear of making the same mistake again. When making positive progress, applaud the effort more so than the innate talent. Also, coaches should not take progress for granted. They need to keep encouraging and reinforcing mental focus. Help athletes to express the skill they are using that enhances focus as it will be easier to recall their own words rather than the coach’s. Maybe it is a positive cue that crosses their mind or maintaining awareness to a relaxed breathing is what is helping them to remain focused. Whatever works better for them, the easier will it be remembered and used when it really counts.

The more they “own” their sense of being able to regulate their emotions, the more likely they will tap on such an internal source of knowledge. Once the athlete takes ownership of their own ability to promote mental focus, the higher the likelihood that they will achieve their best results. When the game in on the line and the athlete feels most pressure, it matters most the athlete’s inner knowledge and language than the coaches’. Having a sense of confidence and trust come from within. Once it is learned, it is stored in the athletes’ implicit memory for life.

 

Alex Diaz, PhD

Sports Mental Edge

What is Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)?

SIBO, or small intestine bacterial overgrowth, is a condition where there is an excessive number of bacteria in the small intestine, which affects digestion and absorption. Bacteria are a natural part of our digestive tract, but the highest concentrations of bacteria are usually in the large intestine/colon. Usually the small intestine only houses a small amount of bacteria. SIBO is the cause of 85% of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Digestion of nutrients takes place in the small intestine. When a person has SIBO, nutrients are often malabsorbed because the bacteria interferes with the process of digestion and absorption. In fact, the bacteria consume some of the nutrients, which may lead to symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including gas, bloating, and pain. The overgrowth of bacteria may also cause intestinal hyperpermeability, also known as leaky gut.

Besides gas, bloating, and pain, other symptoms of SIBO are heartburn, constipation and/or diarrhea, osteoporosis, nausea, flatulence, belching, malabsorption, and steatorrhea. There may be deficiencies in vitamin D, K, and B12 as well. Additionally, fatigue, joint/muscle pain, some dermatological conditions, and headaches may be present as well.

Many conditions may be responsible for the development of SIBO. These include dysmotility and slow transit time (gastroparesis), inadequate hydrochloric acid, aging, pancreatitis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulosis, and inadequate bile acid or pancreatic enzymes. Additionally, the use of certain drugs such as antibiotics, immunosuppressant medications, and proton pump inhibitors may cause SIBO.

The lactulose hydrogen breath test is the most common test for SIBO. A baseline breath test is taken followed by ingestion of a solution that contains dextrose or lactulose. The breath is tested every 15 minutes for two hours to determine the levels of hydrogen and methane, which determine a diagnosis of SIBO. If a diagnosis is made, patients are often put on conventional antibiotics or herbal antibiotics. Some herbal antibiotics are oil of oregano, berberine, lemon balm oil, and wormwood oil. Even with antibiotics, SIBO is extremely difficult to treat.  The use of probiotics to help symptoms of SIBO is controversial. Various herbs, including glutamine, are used to repair the GI tract after removal of the bacteria in the small intestine.

A low FODMAP diet is also recommended for at least two weeks. FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates which are not properly absorbed in the gut, and they trigger symptoms associated with IBS. They ferment and feed the bacteria, which makes it harder to eliminate the bacteria in the small intestine. FODMAP stands for: fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. To learn more about the FODMAP diet, visit https://www.monashfodmap.com/i-have-ibs/starting-the-low-fodmap-diet/.