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Updated: 47 min 18 sec ago

How to Build a Better Mood

2 hours 22 min ago
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The brain is comprised of billions upon billions of nerve cells (neurotransmitters) that relay information from one nerve cell to the next, allowing for efficient communication to occur. When everything is working properly, we feel our best. However, neurotransmitters often get compromised from the stressors of everyday life, which then affects our overall mood.

One example is how serotonin, that feel good chemical, gets depleted from insufficient sleep. As a result, our mood, appetite and even sleep patterns become less than optimal. The reason? The building blocks of those neurotransmitters become depleted, which then affects the production of the neurotransmitters. In the case of serotonin, this often means insufficient B Vitamins, tryptophan or 5-HTP, all nutrients that aid in the production of serotonin. Of course, reduced serotonin leads to reduced melatonin, explaining the connection between depression and sleep disorders.

Probiotics and the Brain

November 6, 2018 - 10:29am
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The mind-body connection garners a lot of attention these days, with explosive and ever-emerging research demonstrating the importance of seeing the body as a whole, rather than fractured systems. When talking about the brain, it’s hard to ignore the gut. The gut-brain axis is a good example of this; with the ability of the gut microbiota to bidirectionally communicate with the brain through the vagus nerve. Also, 95% of serotonin is found in the gut’s enterochromaffin cells

Our bodies are comprised of trillions upon trillions of bacteria, or microorganisms, the majority of which reside in our gut. These bacteria are responsible for various supporting functions in the body; ranging from digestion and immune system functioning to metabolic support, but exactly how do they impact the brain?

Current research points to the gut microbiota as a significant determinant in brain health. In a study evaluating the effect of the gut microbiota on the brain development in humanized germ-free mice, they found the gut bacteria influence neuronal development, neurotransmission pathways, oligodendrocyte development and neuroinflammation markers. In this study, the pregnant germ-free mice were colonized with either microbiota from a preterm infant with good growth (M-H) or a preterm infant with poor postnatal growth (M-L).

What Can Brown Fat Do for You?

October 30, 2018 - 12:30pm
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We often hear about fat in our foods -- good fats, bad fats, fake fats. And the debate has been raging for decades over which fats are good for what and whether fat intake actually makes us fat. Everyone seems to know where the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Gary Taubes stand on the issue, and the subject of dietary fats in the media is enough to make one’s head spin. Although the debate continues over whether fats are simply a highly concentrated source of calories or an energy source preferable to even glucose, we seem to understand the basic biochemical mechanisms of fat metabolism and fat storage in humans. But relatively little is known about the types of fat tissues found in our bodies and their various functions.

BAT vs WAT

Not long ago, it was discovered there are different types of fat cells within body tissue: brown and white adipose. Brown is referred to as such because of the actual hue these cells have due to their higher concentration of mitochondria and thus iron content. Most fat tissues found in human adults is white adipose (WAT), serving as sites for energy (fat) storage and endocrine activity that modulates whole-body metabolism including insulin response. Brown adipose tissue (BAT) conversely, is known for its energy-producing capability, termed thermogenesis. This is vital to mammals in order to maintain a normal body temperature higher than most ambient temperatures. This is mediated by the expression of a tissue-specific uncoupling protein (UCP1) that instigates the uncoupling of ATP production and substrate oxidation.

Effects of Sleep Loss on Weight Gain

October 26, 2018 - 3:15pm
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For a number of reasons, sleep loss has been associated with weight gain whether it’s because of an increase in appetite due to hormonal imbalances or craving sugar-laden products to stay awake. Few studies, however, have focused on underlying tissue-specific molecular responses to acute sleep loss. In a recent study, adipose and skeletal tissues were obtained after one night of sleep loss and one full night of sleep. What they discovered was that there were critical differences in how these tissues responded to sleep loss.

In summary, sleep loss was associated with a downregulation of the glycolytic pathway in skeletal muscle, but an upregulation of that pathway in the adipose tissue. Sleep loss also affected genome-wide DNA methylation in adipose tissue, which increased adiposity.

Tiny Seed, Big Health Benefits

October 23, 2018 - 2:18pm
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Flaxseed, known as a vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids, may also have the added benefit of promoting hormonal health. Although phytoestrogens are similar to estrogen, their role is not completely understood as having a positive or negative influence on women’s hormonal health, particularly those with a history of hormone-linked cancers. However, for women with no health history of cancer, and normal hormonal changes due to aging, flaxseed may offer the benefit of balancing hormones. It does so by providing the essential building blocks for hormone production, thus helping alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.

Infertility on the Rise?

October 16, 2018 - 9:23am
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In the United States, approximately 10% of couples are infertile, and the number could be as high as 8-12% worldwide. With rising infertility rates, and the culpability pointing to factors such as environmental toxin exposure, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and water contamination, the data looks grim for the next generation. But that’s not the whole story.

When it comes to reproductive health issues, many factors within our control are at play. Some involve lifestyle choices such as nutrition, sleep, stress, relationships, exercise and chemical use. We hold tremendous power over our own health and fertility status by choosing healthy lifestyle habits.

5 Lesser-Known Benefits of Vitamin D

October 9, 2018 - 1:07pm
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Vitamin D, commonly dubbed the “sunshine vitamin,” is an essential micronutrient produced by the body when exposed to sunlight. Generally speaking, most people require 10-30 minutes of decent exposure to sunlight, 3-4 times a week in order to naturally synthesize enough vitamin D.

However, factors such as genetics and where we live also play a role in whether or not we’re synthesizing enough vitamin D. And it is important to be aware of these influences on our personal lives, in order to maintain an optimum level of vitamin D.

But why does this one vitamin get so much attention? It’s simply because vitamin D plays a tremendous role in the body – more than most even give it credit for. While the role of vitamin D in the regulation of calcium and phosphorus (and by implication, the development of healthy bones and teeth) is well-documented and accepted, this is not its only benefit. Here are five more reasons why maintaining optimal levels of this sunshine vitamin is important for our health.

For Better Sleep, Turn Off the Blue Light

October 3, 2018 - 3:21pm
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Causes for sleep disorders are many, and may include issues such as chronic pain, stress, shift work, jet lag or nocturia. Not planning for sleep, drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, or eating too close to bedtime can also contribute to not getting enough sleep; so may something as seemingly harmless as returning a text late at night.

One poll noted that parents believed the number one reason for teen sleep disturbance was their late-night use of cell phones and social media.

Not surprisingly, Americans are expected to spend approximately $84.9 billion on sleep aids by the year 2021, a significant increase from $66.3 billion in 2016.

Probiotics with a Purpose

September 24, 2018 - 11:58am
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Probiotics are classically defined as a “preparation of, or a product containing viable, defined microorganisms in sufficient numbers, which alter the microbiota in a compartment of the host, and exert beneficial health effects in the host”. Their use can be traced back 10,000 years ago even before the awareness of probiotic microorganisms through the widespread availability of fermented foods such as beer, bread, wine, kefir and cheese. 

More recently, probiotics are used to influence the microbial balance specifically in the gastrointestinal tract, which is host to billions of diverse and metabolically active organisms. These microorganisms have been found to influence metabolic function, inform the immune system, protect against pathogens, affect brain function and even steer genetic expression through epigenetic mechanisms. Probiotics have played a key role in the competitive inhibition mechanism where the “good bacteria” outweigh the “bad bacteria,” and theoretically shift the microbial balance towards benefiting the host’s overall health.

6 Foods that Foster the Microbiome

September 18, 2018 - 1:06pm
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“We are what we eat” should actually say, “We are what our microbes eat.” In fact, what we eat immediately and profoundly influences our gut microbiome, which then determines our health.

With trillions of microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa, taking residence in our guts, it’s no surprise they play significant and precise roles in our overall health. Research reveals a number of disease states linked to the landscape of the microbiome. IBD patients, for example, tend to have less bacterial diversity than normal. They also have a lower quantity of butyrate-producing bacteria. A recent study showed that the bacteria in our guts can also produce amyloid and lipopolysaccharides, both instrumental in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Interest in pioneering into the microbiome’s influence on our health piqued when the two most predominant bacterial groups – gram positive Firmucutes and gram negative Bacteroidetes – were found to play a role in obesity. In short, when the ratio between the two bacteria shifted towards a higher abundance of Firmicutes, a subject was found to be more prone to obesity. Research took that knowledge a step further, transplanting the “obese” bacteria into a host, only to discover the host also became obese, which propelled our journey into gut microbiome engineering.

DHA Pathway to the Brain

September 11, 2018 - 2:16pm
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The health benefits of two omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), seem indisputable and range from improved cardiovascular risk factors and body composition to promotion of healthy inflammatory pathways. Lately, however, DHA has received a brighter spotlight of attention in the news due to its ability to influence the structure, function, and signaling of the brain. This impact results in a positive effect on memory and the nervous system, appealing to an aging population concerned about cognitive decline.

Numerous studies have been conducted with confirmation that those who consume more fish and fish products had better cognitive performance and slower decline in mental function. And research has also indicated that APOE4 is the strongest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) due to its role in DHA metabolism and cognitive outcomes. DHA promotes healthy brain function that is lacking in AD. However, there appears to be more to this story than just the popular APOE4 gene, a poor diet or failure to properly supplement with fish oils.

L-Glutamine - Old Dog, New Tricks

September 4, 2018 - 4:00pm
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L-glutamine – not the new shiny supplement to wow the nutrition world, but a tried-and-true amino acid that continues to impress us with its relevance and potency as a healing ingredient.

For years, we’ve known about the importance of L-glutamine in athletic recovery, maintaining lean muscle mass, restoring gut health, and supporting the nervous system, and healthy inflammation and immune responses.  Also, by regulating nitric oxide synthesis, it helps maintain blood vessel tone and support healthy inflammation in the blood vessel walls, key to supporting cardiovascular health.

Add to L-glutamine’s impressive resume – lowering the risk of mortality.

Fishing for Omega-3 Solutions in Pregnancy

August 29, 2018 - 12:36pm
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Hosting a baby as an expectant mother is a challenge these days, with what can endearingly be called the “Food Fear Factor”. Talk of GMOs and toxins have the average person running scared from the grocery store, never mind the mom who has total and complete responsibility for the welfare of another growing human. As the flux of the food landscape changes, so do our guidelines for what pregnant women should and should not eat. Unfortunately, the “should not” eat list seems to be growing, and if a pregnant mom isn’t eating something, neither is her baby.

Pregnant women are oftentimes given conflicting information such as, “This food is very good for you and your baby’s health, but be careful eating it.” One food at the center of such controversy is fish, replete with nutrients and benefits for the baby, but caught and sold with warning labels.

Astrocytes, Star of the Glial Show

August 21, 2018 - 1:50pm
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The brain is truly an amazing organ that takes all the credit for man’s ingenuity. From the mastery of daunting foreign languages, to the ability to solve complex problems in multi-variable physics, the brain’s ability to excite and amaze is limitless.

Behind all of these amazing processes, though, are various groups of cells, closely connected together and always communicating. These cells constantly send updates to one another about the state of body parts, the environment and even the brain itself.

In an attempt to understand how the brain works, neuroscience research historically has focused on the neurons, with the assumption that these were the most important cells in the brain. However, more recent studies have revealed that other brain cell types, such as the glial cells, (astrocytes and oligodendrocytes) are just as important. 

CoQ10 and Oral Health

August 14, 2018 - 6:55am
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Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a natural antioxidant synthesized in the body and known to enhance energy, has recently received the spotlight for oral health. With its ability to generate cell energy, CoQ10 may be able to provide faster healing and better tissue repair within the gums. 

Create Calm with Adaptogens

August 7, 2018 - 9:19am
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At some point in our lives, we all experience some degree of anxiety or stress. It seems almost inevitable. Because stress can be at the root of many health issues, its management or alleviation is critical. Intuitively, people know that being in a calm state is the best foundation for a healthy life and, throughout history, people have turned to adaptogenic herbs to help ease tension and offer neuroprotective effects. Two such adaptogenic herbs include Ashwagandha and Rhodioloa.

Ashwagandha is derived from a small shrub found in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. This exotic herb contains biologically-active compounds including alkaloids, steroidal lactones, saponins, sitoindosides and acylsterylglucosides, which may provide anxiolytic effects. Some studies show Ashwagandha does this by suppressing cortisol levels to calm the nervous system. For example, according to the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry, a prospective, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was used to evaluate the effects of Ashwagandha on reducing stress and anxiety---and improving the general well-being of adults under stress. The study evaluated 64 subjects all with a history of chronic stress, and measured serum cortisol levels combined with a standard stress-assessment questionnaire. The group was divided into a placebo control and a “treatment” group that received 300 mg of high-concentration Ashwagandha root twice a day for 60 days. The group given the high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root displayed a significant reduction in scores that pertained to all stress-assessment scales on Day 60 relative to the placebo group. In addition, the serum cortisol levels were significantly reduced in the Ashwagandha group compared to the placebo group. They concluded that high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract provided significant anxiolytic effects.

King of Antioxidants: Glutathione

July 31, 2018 - 10:34am
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Antioxidants are defined as substances that inhibit oxidation, which left unchecked produces free radicals triggering a number of chain reactions that lead to cellular damage. Luckily, our bodies produce these built-in defense mechanisms, but if mounting reactive oxygen species (ROS) cannot be neutralized (picture a small fire that grows out of control when gassed with oxygen), damage ensues.

To further expound on the fire metaphor, the result of not being able to neutralize the effects of ROS, is damage and, also, inflammation (literally the body is in “flames”). The good news is that there are antioxidants to the rescue, and one such antioxidant is glutathione. Although discovered in 1889, glutathione’s antioxidant activity is a hot topic in today’s research.