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You Docs: Probiotics can help fight your inner fires

  • Published Friday, Sep. 6, 2013, at 10:38 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Sep. 10, 2013, at 5:42 a.m.

About 1.5 million times a year, firefighters battle flames that threaten to devastate lives and property. Talk about anti-inflammatory agents. Inside your gut, probiotics pitch in to do the same thing when it comes to putting out system-wide inflammation that can lead to pain, fatigue, skin redness and irritation, and even depression. We’ve told you before about how probiotics can soothe the distress associated with irritable bowel syndrome and how they help with symptoms of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Plus, they help relieve occasional gut upsets and can keep you regular. We like spore probiotics containing bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 and lactobacillus GG, a strain activated by stomach acid.

Well, now we know another strain, B. infantis 35624, can reduce elevated markers of inflammation – C-reactive protein (CRP), tumor necrosis factor alpha, and interleukin 6 – in folks with tough-to-treat chronic fatigue and plaque psoriasis. So, if you’re working with your doctor to find ways to ease your symptoms, try these probiotics daily, and opt for our other favorite fire-fighting techniques:

• Eat an anti-inflammatory diet: no red meat or trans and saturated fats; eliminate added sugars and sugar syrups; and eat lots of veggies (green leafy vegetables help protect your eyes, too). Opt for whole grains, unprocessed foods and the healthy fats in olive oil and nuts. Also, get omega-3s from salmon and ocean trout (two to three times a week) or take 900 mg of algal oil DHA omega-3 daily.

• Cool it with smart stress-reduction techniques, including meditation, regular physical exercise and, of course, inflaming your passions.

Lighten that load

In 1902 the U.S. Cavalry recommended that a horse never carry more than 20 percent of its weight into battle, and current studies confirm that the percentage puts the least strain on the animal’s heart, respiration, muscles and bones. Use that rule of thumb for what you and your children carry, too.

Unfortunately, kids regularly tote backpacks that weigh 22 percent of their body weight or more. A lot of you throw portable computers over your shoulders, haul a week’s worth of veggies home from the farmer’s market or strap on a baby carrier to tote around a 30- to 40-pound child. Plus, many of you double or triple up. A purse weighing three to seven pounds shares a shoulder with a shopping bag overflowing with groceries and a gym bag with workout clothes. Then there’s schlepping 40-pound carry-on bags through airports. You’re risking chronic lower back pain, shoulder (rotator cuff) injury, neck strain, headaches and poor posture. Kids can injure their spine in ways that may cause life-long problems.

Here’s how to make whatever you’re toting safer:

1. Weigh backpacks and purses; lighten the load if they’re too heavy. Always use both backpack shoulder straps. One-shoulder carrying amplifies the risk of lower-back and shoulder pain and restricts blood flow to the arm.

2. Get rolling. Computer cases, kids’ backpacks, carry-on luggage, shopping carts and gym bags come with a great invention called wheels. Use ‘em.

Dodging stroke risk

The Brooklyn Dodgers got their name in 1911 because in those days, Brooklynites had to dodge life-threatening street cars to get across town in one piece. Today, if you want to dodge the risk of stroke, cardiovascular problems and a host of other life-threatening ailments, we suggest you dodge the fast-food chains that threaten to lay you low more effectively than the cross-town trolleys once did. We say, “Cross over to the low-red-meat, plant-based, healthy-fat Mediterranean diet.”

We’ve been big fans of this way of eating for years (it protects your vital organs, your skin and your love life). And the latest news about its powers just makes us even more enthusiastic. Seems the Mediterranean diet actually can turn off a risky gene variant that runs in families and increases the risk of disabling strokes or heart attacks. So if heart disease runs in your family, or if insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high lousy LDL cholesterol and/or excess body fat in the midsection shows up in you, your folks and kids – well, this diet is gonna turn your life around.

Let meat become a side dish. Use extra-virgin olive oil on veggies and salads; don’t use it in high-heat cooking, opt for peanut or canola oil. Enjoy a glass of wine (one for women, two for men) a day if your doc says OK.

Getting sour on sweets

Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake.” Some version of that callous pronouncement was uttered about 100 years earlier, around 1660, by the wife of the French King Louis XIV. Back then, the average peasant ate way less than two pounds of added sugar a year; that’s what the average American downed in the 1800s. And today? On average, Americans eat 152 pounds of added sugar annually – almost 3 pounds a week. But cake isn’t where you’re getting added sugar; it’s mostly soft drinks and juice beverages. They account for 43 percent of added sugar intake.

We’ve waged war against added sugar and syrups for years, but it pays to repeat the warnings about their health hazards, especially when a startling study comes out.

Human studies show that added sugars are directly related to obesity, reduced brain power, elevated triglycerides, heart disease, sexual dysfunction, premature aging (wrinkles, too) and some cancers.

So, if you find yourself hankerin’ for a sweet treat, snack on six walnut halves and a piece of fresh fruit (do that 30 minutes before a meal for appetite control). And for dessert, try frozen grapes or mashed, frozen bananas, flavored with your favorite seasoning (cinnamon, basil, cayenne, anything goes.). Then life will be truly sweet.

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