Health & Fitness

Keeping digestive bacteria balanced; dangers in your manicure

Nutritional consultant Brenda Watson bases her new book on what she calls “your inner weight-loss secret”: When the bacteria in your digestive tract are out of balance, you gain weight; when they are in balance, you “lose weight, reduce cravings, ditch digestive upsets, boost immunity, reduce inflammation and feel great.”

That’s a pretty broad claim. But “The Skinny Gut Diet: Balance Your Digestive System for Permanent Weight Loss,” written with physician Leonard Smith, doesn’t recommend particularly extreme measures. Mixed in with scientific explanations featuring many multisyllabic words – bacteroidetes, firmicutes, lactobacillus, medium-chain triglycerides, etc. – are some ideas that sound like common sense.

Besides recommending that people consume probiotic foods to achieve a well-balanced array of bacteria, she suggests eating healthful fats (like most nutritionists, she likes olive oil, but she also makes a point of suggesting coconut oil) and minimizing bad fats. (You know what they are.) Limit sugar intake. To reduce cravings, eat some protein at every meal and snack a lot on healthful options. Cut out grains, even whole grains. (OK, here she does sound a little extreme: “It’s time to end this energy-sucking, health-depleting relationship – your love affair with grains – before it becomes disastrous.”)

There’s meal-planning and shopping advice, followed by a lot of recipes that make the diet sound pretty tasty: grilled wild salmon with mango relish; Ligurian chicken with kale, mint, tomato and garlic; kefir ice cream.

Nail care

In Women’s Health magazine, Shannon Farrell warns that a manicure or pedicure feels so relaxing and good for you that you might not be paying attention to potentially unhealthful effects. Her suggestions on what to watch out for might also be useful to women who do their nails at home. Here’s a selection:

▪ Cheap nail files can tear up nails. You need a paper file of at least 220 grit; otherwise, opt for glass or crystal files. (Bring your own file to the salon, she suggests, just in case.)

Back-and-forth filing can also tear nails. File each side of the nail in one direction, from corner to center.

▪  Polish remover that’s 100 percent acetone will dry out nails. Use one with a lower acetone rating – and again, you might want to bring your own.

▪  Don’t pry off gel manicures. “The proper removal includes filing the surface with a coarse file, applying cuticle oil to prevent drying the beds out, saturating a cotton ball in remover (a mixture of three-quarters acetone and one-quarter non-acetone) and placing it on top of the nail. Then, they should place a piece of aluminum foil around the nail and cotton ball. After 15 minutes, the technician should remove the foil and cotton ball, taking off the gel with a wood orange stick. The polish should be soft enough that she/he doesn’t have to scrape. It should just slide off.”

In a separate article, the magazine cites recent research to warn that too-frequent clipping – or biting – of nails can cause problems including ingrown nails and the distortion called “spoon nails.”

Washington Post