Archive for July, 2018

Good bugs in the belly may prevent “bats in the belfry”

Most people don’t realize how very strong the connection is between the digestive tract and the brain. In my book, The Probiotic Cure, I review many scientific references regarding the importance of healthy probiotic bacteria in the intestines to good mental health and function. Recently, scientists have begun to suspect that a virus may be one of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. What fights viruses? Your immune system! Where is 70% of that? In the intestinal tract!

In last week’s blog I discussed a number of health factors that have become more challenging since our parents and grandparents were young. One problem is that our microbiome has become less diverse. The “microbiome” is the entire collection of trillions of organisms in our gut. The speaker in one of the Ted Talks below offered a great example of how many bacteria each of us are host to. He said it is equivalent to all the blades of grass in a million football fields.

Diversity of strains is important because each one provides different benefits for us. For example, a recent study showed the importance of one strain for bone density in older women. (A Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotic study showed the same supportive effect many years ago.)  There are many reasons for the loss of diversity, some of which seem beyond our control but there some we can affect.

One key factor is the overuse of antibiotics in hospitals and especially “doc in the box” neighborhood medical clinics. One round of antibiotics can disrupt the gut balance for a year!!! So, it is smart to push back a bit when an antibiotic is prescribed. You want to make sure that the problem isn’t caused by a virus because those are not helped by an antibiotic. Sometimes doctors will go along with “watching and waiting”. (The immune section of the Library on has many natural ways to chase off infections.) We also get second hand antibiotics because the overuse in agriculture leaves residues of secondhand antibiotics in meat and dairy products that are not organic. The indiscriminate use of antibiotics has created strains of bacteria that are no longer killed by the drugs. Bacterial resistance is projected to kill more people than cancer by 2050. Insert frowny face.

We can support our good bugs by feeding them good foods. They especially like vegetables but, we have a way to go because fewer than 1 person in 10 eats the minimum 5 vegetables a day. Manufacturers are now adding probiotics to the most ridiculous foods. I say that junk food with added probiotics is still junk food. Yogurt is a source of a strain or two of bacteria. But, they don’t colonize and most have too much sugar, or perhaps worse, artificial sweeteners which kill bacteria.

There seem to be a bazillion probiotic supplements. From what I’ve seen, the vast majority are variations on a theme…they are composed of bacterial strains quick-cultured individually and then spun down to separate them from their dairy or soy food supply. That also breaks up families. They are then freeze-dried into a white powder and encapsulated. Once you swallow them, IF they survive to the gut, they need to first find food. What if they do not like what you had for lunch? Then they must compete for territory with the other strains in the capsule that they never saw before. Only then can they get to work for you creating “postbiotics” which is the magic. I promise you that probiotic gummies are the same type except with some additives that we don’t need.

My choice is the one of a kind Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics. It is created from 12 well-researched strains fermenting dozens of vegetables and superfoods for YEARS. The paste in the capsules contains the food supply, the live bacteria, and the wonderful health giving postbiotics they have been busy creating for years. Postbiotics can be hundreds of substances including enzymes, neurotransmitters, vitamins, immune signaling compounds, organic acids and so on. Check out this video of Dr. Ohhira’s fermentation facility – where science meets nature.

Resources to learn more.

Ted Talk – How microbes shape our world

Ted Talk – An amazing look inside our gut

How did Uncle Ralph break health rules and yet live to age 89?

We’ve all heard various versions of this old refrain. It is usually thrown out to defend against good advice. Don’t smoke – “hey what about Uncle Ralph? He smoked 2 packs a day.” Eat more vegetables – “he was a meat and potatoes guy.” Organic products are better for you. “He never heard of organic, didn’t take vitamins…and so on.”

There are a great many reasons why it isn’t smart to base our health choices on Uncle Ralph or grandma or George Burns (pictured above with his ever present cigar):

  • Most obviously, if Ralph had been on a better path, perhaps his genetics might have kept him healthy and active to age 109.
  • Folks born that long ago got a much different start in life. For example, they probably had a much greater diversity of gut bacteria. Most likely they were not delivered by cesarean section; not given antibiotics as an infant; not bottle fed; not kept in an over-sanitized home; or prevented from playing outside in the dirt. All of those conditions deplete our crucial beneficial bacteria.
  • The foods they ate in the early decades of their lives were real, not fakes constructed out of a chemistry set. Every government assay of produce shows foods have progressively become less nutritious. Back then, farms still rotated crops and used natural fertilizers that enriched the soil and plants. Foods also were less likely to be imported or picked green and shipped across the country which depletes nutrient value.
  • Foods were also cleaner because old fashioned farming made for stronger plants that didn’t require so many chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, desiccants, etc.
  • That meat Uncle Ralph ate was also quite different. Because it was more likely from cows that grazed, it would have had higher content of omega 3 fats and no antibiotics. That meat did not concentrate the chemicals on the grain that cattle are fed today.
  • There were not thousands of tempting processed foods laced with addictive ingredients. Every box, bag and can in the grocery store was not packed with sugar or mercury-containing high fructose corn syrup.
  • Diet dictocrats (and the government) weren’t giving them RIDICULOUS advice like this one: “margarine is good for heart disease and eggs are bad for it”. Or this one: “eat 11 servings a day of starchy foods and avoid fat.” (Hello, diabetes.)
  • There weren’t 10’s of thousands of chemicals assaulting them from the air, the food and the water. The drinking water didn’t contain fluoride. These toxicants disrupt cell function and use up nutrients.
  • Without such serious pressure from pharmaceutical firms and insurance companies, doctors were then more like naturopaths who try to restore balance and get to the root cause of problems rather than medicate symptoms into submission. Meds deplete our nutrients and harm our bacteria—two of the reasons they have side effects. Today the proliferations of specialist provides highly specific care but we miss the holistic view of the old timey doc with his black bag.
  • Our forebearers were more active because they didn’t have so many labor-saving devices. Color TV’s didn’t come on the scene until the 1960’s and they certainly didn’t have 500+ channels to keep them glued to the sofa.
  • They got more sunshine and sleep. Nuclear families were more likely together for emotional support…I could go on but, it should be clear by now we live in a different world.

Today, when we aim for organic foods, take supplements, etc. we are just trying to offset a bit of the damage all the changes above have created.


“Change isn’t always good. Sometimes changing things is a terrible mistake.”
— Bob Barker, longtime host of The Price is Right

 “And a step backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, in his book Player Piano

Make a Senior’s Home Safer

5 Ways To Make a Senior’s Home Safer

Cass Steele, Freelance Writer

With nearly 90% of all seniors over 65 years expressing their interest to age in place for as long as they can, making the home safe for them to live in is now more important than ever. America’s population is aging, and it is estimated that there will be 76 million seniors 65 years and above by 2035. The healthcare burden of seniors can be reduced by allowing them to age in place safely. By implementing safety measures at home for seniors and eliminating immediate threats, they can stay there for as long as they are otherwise able. Not only are we doing a service to the elderly allowing them to fade with dignity but, we also reduce the pressures on the healthcare system and improve the quality of care. To do this, there are serious home modifications that we must make.

  1. Secure Stairways or Move Seniors to the Ground Floor

Falls and slips are the number one causes of injuries and death among the elderly according to the CDC. Aging weakens their balance, gait, eyesight and motor coordination. Stairways are hazards for seniors because they can trip and fall. Ensure that the handrails are secured and that the step heights are adjusted to make climbing easier. Hallways and the stairs should also be properly lighted. Dedicating a room for them on the ground floor is another solution to avoid staircases altogether. If your loved one wants to keep their bedroom upstairs, it is also an option to fit an electricity-powered chair to move them safely.

  1. Modify the Bathroom

The bathroom is another threat to seniors living independently. Install grab bars, curb-less showers and elevated toilet seats for comfort. Taps should be replaced with motion sensors or levers. Place non-skid mats everywhere to avoid slipping. Put a chair in the shower or install a walk-in bathtub to avoid climbing over the ledge of a traditional tub. A bath lift can also be added if your seniors have difficulty getting in and out of the tub. For an extra layer of security, make sure that their life-saving alert buttons are hung around their necks or strapped on their wrists for any emergencies.

  1. Keep the Kitchen Safe

Seniors are at risk 2.5 times more for dying in a kitchen fire according to a FEMA report. The CDC states that more than 76 million cases of food poisoning occur each year. To make the kitchen a safe place for seniors, install induction stoves, smoke detectors and bright lighting. Invest in auto shut-off appliances. Put food and non-food items within reach and replace glass items with unbreakable materials. Check fridge temperatures, throw away spoiled food and make sure to remove clutter from the kitchen.

  1. Bedrooms Should Be Senior-Proofed

Removing carpets in the bedroom is a better option but if you cannot do this, put in anti-slip rugs. In addition to adequate lighting, you can also install lights that switch on or off by motion or command. Consider a senior bed that is elevated and adjustable to make it easy to get in and out. To avoid falls, install guard rails and plenty of grab bars in strategic places.

  1. Improve Access Indoors and Outdoors

Widening doors ensures that seniors in wheelchairs, walkers and canes can gain access indoors and outdoors without a problem. ADA accessibility standards dictate that doorways must be at least 32” wide and halls 36” for wheelchair users.  Removable ramps must also be in place for easy access.

It is possible for seniors to live independently in their own homes with little risks. By carefully planning home modifications and alterations, you can keep loved ones safe and happy through rest of their life journey.

This photo was Martie’s addition to remind us that keeping seniors strong also helps keep them safe. Exercise, good nutrition, and smart supplements go a long way toward that goal.

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