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Probiotics: Healthy bacteria for your gut
Focused on Health – May 2015
Your gut is home to 100 trillion microorganisms or microbes. These gut bacteria – some good, some bad – play a vital role in your health.
“Your intestines hold about 10 pounds of microorganisms. And each person has a unique blend that starts forming at birth,” says Stephanie Maxson, senior clinical dietitian in Integrative Medicine at MD Anderson. As you grow, where you live and what you eat affect this blend of good and bad bacteria.
Probiotics are the good bacteria. And they may help lower your risk for several cancers. “Probiotics help your immune system function at its best so it can detect and kill cells that can become cancer,” Maxson says.
Much of the probiotics research focuses on colon cancer because most microorganisms live in your intestinal tract, Maxson says. “And while more research is needed, several studies show that people with colon cancer had an unhealthy population of gut bacteria before the cancer developed.”
So how do you keep your gut bacteria healthy?
Feed it a balanced diet.
Your diet sustains your gut bacteria. “We’re their host. We provide an environment and food. And they help us digest food and convert essential vitamins and nutrients into an absorbable form,” Maxson says.
So treat your gut like a garden, not a gutter, she says. “You seed your garden with probiotic and fermented foods and feed it with prebiotic or fiber-rich foods.”
Probiotic foods contain live bacteria, which may help restore balance and offer protection from harmful bacteria. Eating them is one way to reseed your gut with good bacteria, Maxson says.
Probiotic foods include:
· Low-fat, plain organic yogurt with live or active cultures
- Kefir (thick, yogurt-like drink)
- Kombucha tea
- Fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut and kimchi
- Fermented soybeans (miso)
To get the most health perks, eat at least one small serving of probiotic foods each day. If you’re considering a supplement, speak with your doctor.
Prebiotic foods feed the bacteria in your gut so they can grow and repopulate, Maxson says. Most are fiber-rich plant foods.
Prebiotic foods include:
- Whole grains
- Fruits and vegetables, specifically bananas, asparagus and onions
- Soy beans
Try to fill at least two-thirds of your plate with plant-foods. “A well balanced diet that is high in prebiotic foods can have significant health benefits and help keep your gastrointestinal system healthy,” Shepard says.
Limit processed foods
Processed foods are low in nutrients and high in added sugar. These include fast food, and packaged and instant foods. And eating too many of these foods could wreak havoc on your gut bacteria.
“People who eat a diet high in processed foods and low in fruits and vegetables have a lower diversity of microorganisms,” Maxson says.
Most scientific studies indicate that both the diversity and the composition or balance of gut bacteria are important. Gut bacteria also appear to play a role in weight gain and obesity.
“Studies show that people who are leaner tend to have a greater variety of microorganisms,” Maxson says. And being overweight or obese raises your risk for many types of cancer . This includes colon, breast (post-menopausal) and endometrial cancers.
The research is too new to know which gut bacteria makeup is ideal to maintain a healthy weight and reduce disease risk. “But it’s clear that variety and balance are important,” Maxson says.
It’s never too late to change your diet
When you change your diet, a significant change in your microorganism population takes place within a couple weeks, Maxson says.
“We’re just learning the benefits of a healthy population of gut bacteria,” she says. In addition to optimal immune function and lower cancer risks, studies show a healthy mix can affect your mood. Studies indicate that our gut bacteria and brain communicate with each other. Changes in gut bacteria have some influence on behavior, anxiety and depression.
So, for your health’s sake, take care of your gut.
When a Routine Mammogram Isn’t
By Linda Irene on March 3, 2014
Words: 1035 Categories: Midlife Medical
Before my COBRA health insurance terminated, an inner urging propelled me to get a mammogram. It was supposed to be routine. But before I could leave the outpatient department that day, a breast care coordinator asked to speak with me. She introduced herself and explained her job was to see patients with abnormal mammograms to coordinate services between the patient, doctor and the hospital.
My head was spinning. What was she talking about? Why do I need coordinated care? I just had a mammogram? The radiologist hasn’t made his report yet. My doctor hasn’t notified me. What is she talking about? What is she saying? Why is she standing between me and the door? What is she inferring? When her lips stopped moving, I realized she had stopped talking and was awaiting a response. What was the question?
“I really don’t know what you are referring to,” I blurted.
She continued with long string of explanations, which were just clumps of words bouncing off my brain, floating midair, words I could not wrap around my mind. Every cell in my body screamed to be free of her and to run out of the room as quickly as possible, to the safety of my home.
Days later the mammogram report came, “further studies recommended.” The next step, an ultrasound. I weaved my way through the hospital lobby and climbed the steps to the radiology department where I waited my turn.
I glanced at the television on the wall, but could not concentrate. The magazines displayed on the table beside me did not hold my interest either. One by one the waiting area cleared until I was the last one left. Then the door opened and a woman dressed in scrubs with a stethoscope draped around her neck, stood in the doorway scanning a chart, which seemed to fascinate her. She looked up and with a big smile asked, “Are you ready to get this over with?”
“Ready as I will ever be.”
She led me to a tiny cubicle where I was instructed to remove my blouse and bra and slip the gown on, open in the front. I followed her to an examination room where I lay on a table while the technician squirted cold gel on my chest and began the investigative process with the ultrasound probe. The machine whirred and clicked as she continued to go over and over the same area.
My thoughts raced. What is she finding? What does it look like? Can she tell if it’s benign or malignant? Should I ask? I thought about making conversation, but the sternness of her face advised me to be quiet and still.
“Okay, that’s it,” she said when it was all over.
That’s it? Isn’t she going to tell me anything? I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer and blurted, “How does everything look?”
She remained stoic. “Your doctor will receive the report in a couple days. He will notify you of the results,” she said matter-of-factly.
The days seemed to drag by, the unknown weighing heavy on my mind and body. I took long walks in the park to pray and clear my head. I fought to remain positive. I repeated comforting Bible verses to myself daily. Finally, the ultrasound results came, “inconclusive; a surgical consultation and biopsy are highly recommended.”
It had been one year ago that I had major surgery for endometrial cancer, now this. I’d been struggling for two years trying to control my raging estrogen. Did that have anything to do with my current situation? My mother had had a mastectomy five years ago. Was I going to be next? Fear reared its ugly head. One thing I knew for sure, I did not want a mastectomy.
“Not having a breast does not define who you are,” a friend said.
But she doesn’t get it, I thought. It’s easy for her to say. She is not faced with the possibility of losing a part of her body. She hasn’t seen the challenges Mom had to overcome long after the surgery or the feelings of inferiority she suffered. Never again could she look at herself in the mirror.
What would I do? I couldn’t allow my thoughts to stray any further. Except for a handful of friends I knew would pray for me, I kept the news to myself. I could not risk hearing discouraging stories or seeing the looks of pity, fear or dismay on people’s faces. I needed to surround myself with positive-thinking people. I had recently read that our body believes every word we say and responds accordingly. I don’t know if it’s true, but if it is, there was no better time to start believing and speaking to heal myself than now. It was all I had, all I could do.
“We’ll do an ultrasound-guided needle biopsy,” the surgeon said. “It’s an easy procedure. You will walk in, have the biopsy and walk out with a Band-Aid, no stitches,” he assured me.
I was stunned when he showed me the X-ray taken after the procedure. “Do you see the nodule?”
I stepped closer for a better look. “No. I don’t see it,” I said cautiously.
By now he was grinning ear to ear. “Well, that’s because I removed it completely. All that is there now is a metal clip to identify the spot for future X-rays,” he explained.
To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. Dazed, I went into the dressing room where the attending technician applied the liquid bandage to the incision. When she left the room, I bent forward to gather my clothes and shoes. I tried to straighten up, but my breast had become “glued” to my abdomen. I began laughing hysterically, trying to free myself. A technician, who was cleaning up in the outer area, heard me and peeked in to see if everything was okay. By then we both were in stitches. She helped me get unglued and dressed.
I learned more than one lesson that day: wait for your stitches to dry and miracles do happen.
To see the other stories and to vote for your favorite, click here.
Do GMOs cause cancer?
Focused on Health – August 2013
by Brittany Cordeiro
If you munch on corn for dinner, cook with canola oil or eat cereal for breakfast, chances are you’re taking in a genetically modified organism (GMO).
“To some degree everything is genetically modified,” says Clare McKindley, clinical dietitian in MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center.
GMOs are plants or animals created by inserting genes from one species into another. Known as gene splicing, it’s a type of biotechnology often done in a laboratory. It’s also called genetic engineering.
Scientists modify organisms to enhance certain desired traits. For example, they may make plants more resistant to pesticides, weed killers or disease. They also can make plants hardier so they’ll survive during cold weather or droughts, or to improve their nutritional content.
GMO health risks unknown
What’s the concern? Many people believe that altering the DNA of a plant or animal has a significant effect on a person’s chances of developing cancer. But the current research on the health risks of GMOs is inconclusive. In other words, researchers cannot confirm whether or not GMOs increase cancer risks.
If you are concerned, here are some ways to curb your intake of GM foods.
- Know the most commonly modified crops. Soybeans, corn, cotton (for oil), canola (for oil), squash, zucchini and papaya are all popular GMOs. Find other GM crops.
- Buy organic foods. Organic foods are grown from non-GMO seeds.
- Buy meats from grass-fed animals. Cows, chickens, pigs and even farmed fish are often on a diet of genetically modified corn or alfalfa. Check that your meat is from animals that are grass-fed or pasture-fed.
- Read the labels. The top two genetically modified crops are corn and soy. They’re also the most widely used ingredients. Avoid products that contain ingredients like corn syrup and soy lecithin.
- Buy brands labeled as non-GM or GMO free. Some products are labeled as non-GM or GMO-free. Meaning, they do not use genetically modified ingredients. GMO-free food sources are listed on the Non-GMO Project website.
- Shop at local farmers markets. Most GM foods come from large industrial farms. Shop at local farmers markets or sign-up for a co-op.
Source: MD Anderson Cancer Center
At least 50% of Cancer can be Prevented through Lifestyle changes
Modern oncology treatment often focuses on destroying cancer cells and targeting abnormal gene function – an essential aspect of therapy. But what if the focus of treatment extended beyond this, and, in addition, focused on modifying behaviors known to be associated with cancer?
It is becoming more evident that truly effective cancer care should simultaneously foster lifestyle changes that will improve biological processes and alter the tumor-micro environment. The American Cancer Society, the American Institute for Cancer Research, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that at least fifty percent of cancer can be prevented through appropriate lifestyle changes such as eliminating smoking, maintaining a proper diet and healthy weight, minimizing alcohol consumption, and exercising regularly. These same lifestyle factors can also influence outcomes for a number of cancers including breast, colorectal, and endometrial cancer to name a few. click here for the rest of the story from MD Anderson Cancer Center.
According to my study and personal experience, diet and lifestyle changes beneficial to me include:
- Daily supplementation of vitamin D. Studies show that vitamin D helps prevent certain cancers, including breast, ovarian, prostate and colorectal. Read more;
- Increased fiber in my diet. Fiber moves excess estrogen out of your body. Studies have shown that women on a high-fiber diet have lower levels of circulating estrogen. Lower levels of estrogen mean less estrogen stimulation of breast tissue, for example, which reduces the risk of breast cancer.
- Decreased consumption of high glycemic foods, such as white breads and pastas and desserts and sweets which cause blood sugar to spike then drop. Studies show that not only do high glycemic foods boost risk for leading to type 2 diabetes and obesity, but can also lead to colon cancer.
- Drinking more water. Water is the basis of all life and that includes your body. Your muscles that move your body are 75% water; blood that transports nutrients is 82% water; your lungs that provide your oxygen are 90% water; your brain that is the control center of your body is 76% water; even your bones are 25% water. Our health is truly dependent on the quality and quantity of the water we drink.
- Exercising 30 minutes every day. Exercise can reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, some cancers, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, and obesity. Studies also show that exercise can promote psychological well-being and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Exercise can be as simple as taking a walk.
Here’s to your health!