Tag Archives: Bowel

Probiotics, our friends inside

The human intestinal tract is home to trillions of “friendly” bacteria that are crucial in maintaining good health. These bacteria are instrumental in protecting against tummy problems, supporting digestion and absorption of nutrients. The balance of this gut micro flora is also intrinsically linked with immunity, ensuring a positive balance of beneficial gut bacteria will give your immune system a fighting chance of beating off the majority of opportunistic pathogens.

Antacids, antibiotics and low fibre refined diets all disrupt this delicate balance. This is possibly why an estimated 1 in 5 adults in the UK suffer from gastrointestinal complaints. Rebalancing the gut micro flora through the diet or by taking a “probiotic” supplement containing strains of friendly bacteria has been shown to help maintain the health of the intestinal tract and aid digestion, reduced bloating and the establishment of a regular bowel habits.

A change of food may upset a sensitive tummy

Our immune system is used to dealing with bacterial or viral challenges on a regular basis, but when we travel we can encounter different or possibly more pathogenic strains that then cause us to become ill. A change of food may also upset a sensitive tummy, as well as traveller’s diarrhoea people may also suffer from bloating or discomfort. You can reduce your chances of falling ill by giving your immune system and gut flora extra support by taking a probiotic supplement before jetting off to exotic destinations. Closer to home evidence continues to grow that probiotic supplements are a key element in the management of IBS, a combination of L.plantarum and L.acidophilus has been found to be especially effective.

Choosing a probiotic supplement

The effectiveness of probiotics is linked to their ability to survive the transit from stomach to small intestine; to do so they must be able to resist both acidic and alkaline conditions.

To confer health benefits probiotic supplements must contain live bacteria capable of adhering to the intestinal lining and colonise in the colon. Always choose products by trusted and established manufacturers.

Lyophilised (freeze dried) bacteria are stable at room temperature so do not need refrigeration.

Look for a delayed release product, delaying the release of the bacteria until they reach the small intestine protects them against the acidic environment of the stomach and delivering them directly where they are needed.

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Take out the Toxins!

How would you feel if the bin men didn’t come? If your drains were blocked and your gutters overflowing?

Our bodies need rubbish removed from them just as our houses do. When extra amounts of toxins have been put in, it’s even more important to get the exit routes functioning as well as possible.

Drink at least 1.5 litres of still water daily to flush toxins out through your urinary tract.
Drink at least 1.5 litres of still water daily to flush toxins out through your urinary tract.

How do toxins get in?

  • Through our mouths – food, drink, recreational drugs
  • Through our lungs – airborne pollutants such as exhaust fumes
  • Through our skin – cosmetics, hair dye, industrial chemicals

How should toxins get out?

  • Through the bowel
  • Through the urinary tract
  • Through the lungs

What happens if these exit routes are overloaded or under functioning?

The body has emergency exit routes that can be used if the proper ones aren’t working well. These are the skin and the mucous membranes.

A good indication that you are overflowing with toxins is if your skin breaks out and you are full of persistent catarrh. Catarrh is an excessive build-up of thick phlegm or mucus in an airway or cavity of the body.

  • Get out in the fresh air every day and clear your lungs.
  • Drink at least 1.5 litres of still water daily to flush toxins out through your urinary tract.
  • Make sure your bowel is working daily. If it isn’t, try a good source of dietary fibre such as Lepicol Healthy Bowels formula to clear it. If this isn’t enough, try a laxative such as Linoforce to get things going.

How about strengthening the organs of detoxification?

There are several good remedies that you can take if you feel you’ve asked a lot of your system recently. How will you know if your system is under pressure? Are you tired and lethargic, feeling chubby and bloated, and maybe even nauseous after certain foods? Your liver might appreciate a tonic. If you feel that you’re retaining fluid, with puffy eyes in the morning and lower back pain then possibly your kidneys need a boost.

  • Milk thistle may help cleanse and tone your liver.
  • Try taking a Solidago complex to help strengthen your kidneys.
  • Drink Nettle tea to help cleanse your bloodstream and remove uric acid from your joints if you’re creaking a little.
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Detoxification dieting for the year ahead

Feeling sluggish after the excesses of the festive season? Do you have permanent fatigue, sore or achy muscles for no reason, skin breakouts, bad breath and plummeting energy levels or do you just feel less vibrant than you should?

A detoxification diet is seen as the ultimate health and beauty boost, especially during January post party season.

As far as detoxification is concerned the primary organs responsible are our liver and bowels. The liver and gut work together removing unwanted toxins from our body. Detoxification is the key function of the liver but it also known as the secondary organ of digestion, as it produces bile which is used to aid fat digestion. The liver needs to be able to detoxify toxins, so that they are ready to be released into the bile and the bowel needs to be healthy and moving regularly to enable these toxins to be excreted via a stool.

There are many food and supplements that can help support both these organs to do their job effectively. Eliminating the foods and drinks that challenge them is a good start and will help you move towards a healthier lifestyle. For example, fizzy drinks, cordials, caffeine and alcohol and cleaning up your diet by removing wheat, sugar, dairy, and processed foods and not forgetting drinking lots of water. The good news is that our liver is capable of regenerating itself so with a good diet, lifestyle and the right supplements there’s no reason we cannot maintain our liver function at any age.

Choline is essential for the maintenance of a healthy liver.

Choline foods that are high in sulphur compounds such as onions, garlic, leeks and eggs are supportive for the liver. Eggs and soybeans are also rich in, a ‘lipotropic’ agent which in essence has a de-congesting effect on the liver and prevents the accumulation of fat, therefore helping to keep the liver functioning efficiently. Supplement formulas containing choline and other lipotropic agents are commonly used to help with liver detoxification. (1)

A human study in 2007 on adults given a choline deficient diet for up to 42 days proved that when deprived of dietary choline 77% of men and 80% of women developed fatty liver. (2)

Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts are rich in glucosinolates, which speed up the liver’s ability to detoxify. You may wish to juice some green vegetables, rich in chlorophyll, along with your apples and ginger or make a green breakfast smoothie and add some chlorella. Add turmeric to soups and stews and cinnamon to stewed fruit or porridge as both of these spices encourage the production and flow of bile to help excrete fats from the liver.

Also we must not forget the importance of keeping the bowels clean and regularly emptied, so as not to build up toxic waste. If you have a diet low in fibre then the muscles of the colon can become weak and lazy which over time can lead to chronic constipation. Refined sugars found in cakes and biscuits and white floury goods such as white bread can ferment quickly in the gut and lead to bloating, constipation and the formation of unhealthy bacteria which will impair your overall digestion. Try natural ‘live’ yoghurt to populate the gut with good bacteria. Red and processed meats, melted cheese and processed foods have a long transit time though the bowel and may block you up so avoid these when trying to detox. Make sure you eat a blend of soluble and insoluble fibre to keep things moving such as oats, barley, pears, apples, lentils, prunes, oat bran and pulses are good forms of soluble fibre. (3) Flaxseeds are a mix of both soluble and insoluble fibre and will therefore stimulate the bowel and bulk the stool to encourage elimination. If you break them up in a blender or grind them they are more effective. Not forgetting to drink plenty of water! This time of year is a great time to focus on revitalising our bodies for the year ahead.

  1. Choline contributes to the maintenance of normal liver function.
  2. Sex and menopausal status influence human dietary requirements for the nutrient choline.
    Fischer LM, daCosta KA, Kwock L, Stewart PW, Lu TS, Stabler SP, Allen RH, Zeisel SH.
    Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1275-85.
  3. Barley and Oat grain, Wheat bran and Rye fibre all contribute to an increase in faecal bulk. Also Wheat bran fibre contributes to an acceleration of intestinal transit.
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Top 5 Benefits of Aloe Vera

Boasting immune boosting, anti-microbial and wound-healing properties, the therapeutic uses of aloe vera are surprisingly diverse. Here are my top 5 uses for this versatile supplement.

1. Digestive Support
Aloe vera is often used by those with digestive complaints. Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis are marked by long-lasting inflammation within the digestive tract. The natural anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera have led to a number of studies investigating the possible benefit of this plant for these conditions.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of aloe vera in patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis demonstrated improved symptoms in patients taking aloe vera compared to those in the placebo group (1). Similar benefits have been reported in patients suffering with ulcerative colitis (2).

2. Immune Support

Aloe vera contains a special type of sugar molecule called acemannan which boosts the activity of macrophages. Macrophages (from the Greek, meaning ‘big eaters’) are white blood cells which function to destroy or ‘eat up’ pathogens. Alongside this action, acemannan also enhances T-cell function and interferon production. This type of immune enhancement is evident in studies which show that consumption of aloe vera gel is effective in combating candida infection (3).

3. Detoxification

The detoxifying effect of aloe vera has been scientifically verified by lab tests of urinary indican levels. Indicans are molecules found in the urine, and they can be used to measure bacterial activity in the small and large intestine. Raised levels of indicans suggest compromised digestive health, including problems such as protein malabsorption and bacterial overgrowth (4). Aloe vera has been found to reduce urinary indican levels after just one week. This suggests that aloe consumption can improve protein digestion and absorption, or improve bacterial balance in the bowel.

Aloe-Vera-Gel
Aloe Vera Gel applied to the skin can help with 1st or 2nd degree burns

4. Skin Benefits
Applied topically, aloe vera can be used to help heal damaged skin. A recent meta-analysis, which examined studies involving a total of 371 patients, concluded that aloe vera may be considered effective in treating first and second degree burns. In fact the studies showed that topical application of aloe vera reduced healing time by an average of 9 days (5). It is thought that naturally occurring substances in aloe help cells to regenerate, speeding up healing.

Aloe is especially useful in the summer months owing to its cooling and soothing properties. A common ingredient in aftersun lotions, aloe vera is believed to act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Research is conflicting, although a recent randomised, double-blind trial found aloe vera to be more effective than hydrocortisone cream in reducing sunburn symptoms 48 hours after application (6).

5. Diabetes and blood sugar regulation

There have been several studies investigating the efficacy of aloe vera in the treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. One of the first studies involved a group of 3,000 diabetic patients who supplemented their existing treatments with a natural remedy containing aloe gel and psyllium seed husks. In 94% of these patients, fasting blood glucose levels fell to normal levels within two months (7).

In diabetic models, consumption of aloe vera has been found not only to reduce fasting blood sugar levels, but also to reduce levels of liver enzymes (a sign of liver damage), and cholesterol (8). Aloe’s high fibre content, glycoproteins and antioxidant benefits are believed to help the body to regulate blood sugar more effectively.

A further controlled study of 72 diabetic patients supports these benefits, showing that 2 tbsp daily of aloe vera resulted in a significant reduction in blood sugar levels over a period of 42 days (9).

Aloe appears to have a huge number of nutritional benefits and healing properties, making it a versatile nutritional supplement.

References

  1.  Langmead L et al (2004) Anti-inflammatory effects of aloe vera gel in human colorectal mucosa in vitro. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 19:521–527
  2. Langmead L et al (2004) Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral aloe vera gel for active ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 19:739–747.
  1. Jackson JA et al (2000) Urine Indican as an Indicator of Disease. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine Vol. 15, No. 1
  2. Sun-A Im et al (2010) In vivo evident of the immunomodulatory activity of orally administered aloe vera gel. Arch Pharm Res Vol 333:3, pp. 451-456
  3. Maenthaisong R et al (2007) The efficacy of Aloe vera used for burn wound healing: A systematic review. Burns. 33:713–18
  4. Reuter J et al (2008) Investigation of the anti-inflammatory potential of Aloe vera gel (97.5%) in the ultraviolet erythema test. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 21(2):106-110]
  5. Agarwal 0P (1985) Prevention of Atheromatous Heart Disease. Angiology. 36: 485-92.
  6. Okyar A et al (2001) Effect of Aloe vera leaves on blood glucose level in type I and type II diabetic rat models. Phytother Res.15(2):157-61.
  7. Bunyapraphatsara N (1996) Antidiabetic activity of aloe vera L. juice 11. Clinical trial in diabetes mellitus patients in combination with glibenclamide. Phytomedicine. 3:245-248
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5 Tips for Healthy Travel

‘Buy an adaptor, find my swimsuit, pick up the dry cleaning, pack the phone chargers!’. When you’re rushing around last minute preparing for a holiday, your health is often the last thing on your mind. However when you put your body in an unfamiliar environment, often with little sleep along the way, it’s important to look after your health. What’s more, your holiday should be a time to explore, relax, and let go. You certainly don’t want an upset stomach or heavy case of jetlag ruining your fun time so we’ve prepared 5 simple steps to enjoy your holiday, the healthy way.

1. Beat the jet lag

The real pros will try to adjust their sleep schedules 2–3 days before leaving on holiday. If you know that you’re going to be sleeping and waking up later once you reach a different time zone, try to work your way into that time zone before you even leave home. Even if all you can manage is half an hour or an hour of difference, it should help to make life easier (and your holiday more relaxing!) when you’re trying to adjust to a new time schedule abroad.

2. Pack healthy snacks

Spend time preparing healthy snacks for you and your family before you leave for the airport. It will be much better for your body, and likely better for your bank balance, than picking up sugary or carb-loaded snacks at the airport. Cut up some apples, carrots, or try things like sugar snap peas – they’re good raw too and with an extra crunch which should go down well with the kids.

 3. Wear sun cream

Even if there is cloud cover, the sun can burn. Choose a sun cream with at least SPF 15, or at least SPF 30 if you’re off to a hot and sunny destination. Do not forget to top up on your cream throughout the day , this is where a lot of people slip up – it’s not enough to put cream on once in the morning then forget about it! Make sure you have a good sized day bag to carry all your essentials including your sun cream, snacks and water.

4. Water, water, everywhere!

Optibac can help with bowel calm when travelling abroad
OptiBac Probiotics for travelling abroad helps support a traveller’s digestive health

Do not forget to hydrate. Carry a bottle of water around with you. A lot of us forget to hydrate properly when we’re not in our usual place (e.g. at our desk at work) and hydration is all the more important when you’re enjoying a warm, sunny holiday. Water will flush the pathogens out of your body, and help to prevent any stomach upsets.

5. Look after your gut health

When visiting a new country, the body, and in particular your digestive system, have a tough time adjusting to a new environment and to new foods. Up to 50% of travellers are said to experience traveller’s diarrhoea because the ingestion of foreign microbes can upset the stomach (not much fun when you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself!).

Look after your digestive health whilst abroad by taking a probiotic especially made for travel. OptiBac Probiotics ‘For travelling abroad’ supports your body’s natural defence against bad bacteria whilst travelling. Get 60 capsules for £19.99 (usually £30.57) – perfect for those travelling as a family, or going away for a significant length of time.

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April is IBS Awareness Month

IBS Awareness Month, observed every April, is an annual campaign aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of irritable bowel syndrome.

IBS is a functional gut disorder, which means that the bowel simply does not work as it should. Around 10% of the population suffers with this disorder, and sufferers can experience a number of intermittent symptoms including diarrhoea, constipation, gas, bloating and lower abdominal pain. While the condition is not thought to damage the bowel, it has a significant impact on quality of life (1).

Before IBS is diagnosed by your doctor it is important that he or she rules out other digestive conditions such as Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis which are inflammatory bowel diseases.

For many, treatments such as anti-spasmodics offered by the GP have limited success. Sufferers can be left feeling helpless, and do not always have the information they need to manage the condition.

IBS: Four Steps to Digestive Health

1. Optimise digestion

Chewing food thoroughly and eating in a slow and relaxed manner can help improve the first stage of digestion by increasing levels of digestive enzymes and helping them to work more effectively. Plant enzyme formulas, such as papaya enzymes in Caricol, may also be helpful in optimising digestion, and have been found to improve symptoms of IBS (2).

2. Restore gut bacteria

Many studies have drawn attention to a link between IBS and overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria in the gut. Probiotic formulas can help to crowd out these problem bacteria, improving digestion, decreasing inflammatory response and restoring proper balance in the digestive tract. Strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacter look particularly promising as natural agents aimed at improving symptoms of IBS (3,4).

Prebiotic foods, such as asparagus, garlic, leeks and bananas can also be helpful as a regular addition to the diet. Prebiotics feed the friendly bacteria in your gut helping it to proliferate.

3. Repair and protect

April is IBS awareness month
April is IBS Awareness Month

While IBS is not classed as an inflammatory condition. However, recent research published in the journal Gastroenterology has actually found ‘mini-inflammations’ in the gut mucosa of IBS patients. This inflammation is thought to upset the sensitive balance of the bowel and cause hypersensitity of the enteric nervous system leading to IBS symptoms. Lead researcher Prof. Schemann explains: “The irritated mucosa releases increased amounts of neuroactive substances such as serotonin, histamine and protease. This cocktail produced by the body could be the real cause of the unpleasant IBS complaints.”

Natural measures to help repair and protect the gut lining, such as supplementing glutamine or omega-3 oils could help reduce this localised inflammation, improving IBS symptoms.

4. Identify trigger foods

While food choices are not the cause of IBS, they can certainly trigger symptoms. Trigger foods can vary from person to person, but common culprits include wheat, fatty of fried foods, milk and coffee. Keeping a diary of your diet and symptoms can help to identify trigger foods. Eliminating possible trigger foods from your diet should be done in a safe and healthy way, and guidance from a nutritional therapist can be helpful for those who need support with this.

The management of IBS requires a personalised approach, as what works for your neighbour may not be the best option for you. It is important to persevere in order to find the right approach. Hopefully international campaigns such as IBS Awareness Month should encourage sufferers to find the information and help they need to manage the condition effectively.

References

1. Amouretti M et al (2006)  Impact of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) on health-related quality of life (HRQOL). Gastroenterol Clin Biol.  Feb;30(2):241-6.

2. Muss et al (2012) Papaya preparation (Caricol®) in digestive disorders. Biogenic Amines Vol. 26, issue 1 (2012), pp. 1–17.

3. Clarke G et al (2012) Review article: probiotics for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome – focus on lactic acid bacteria. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 35:4. pp. 403–413.

4. Technische Universitaet Muenchen (2010, August 20). Proof that a gut-wrenching complaint — irritable bowel syndrome — is not in your head. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 29, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2010/08/100819141950.htm.

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