Monday, November 24, 2008

They're Alive!!!

What better time to finish the discussion about probiotics and digestion than a couple days before the biggest eating day of the year?! In the last post, I told you about the good and bad bacteria in the normal flora of your gut and the causes and symptoms of an imbalance in these bacteria. Well, you probably would like to know the best way to help fix this imbalance. The good news is that there are probiotics to help you replenish the normal flora!

What to look for in a probiotic

1. Type: There are hundreds of different strains of bacteria in your gut, so supplementing with the right "good" bacteria is very important. The Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families of bacteria have been shown to be very beneficial especially Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Be sure that the probiotic contains these types of bacteria.

2. Amount: The normal flora in our gut contains trillions of bacteria, so you need to use a probiotic that has an adequate amount of bacteria (at least 3-4 billion). Using something with only millions of bacteria is ineffective.

3. Form: Yes, there are probiotics in yogurt. Unfortunately, the probiotics in yogurt don't usually meet the first 2 requirements in this list. Look for a probiotic in a capsule, tablet, or powder form. Because it is live bacteria, you will often find a good probiotic in the refrigerator of the health food store. If not, be sure to store it in the refrigerator after opening to help maintain the potency. Both heat and freezing temperatures will kill the bacteria. Bacteria that is no longer living will not hurt you, but will also do nothing good for you!

If you find a probiotic that meets all 3 guidelines listed above, it is probably very good. Supplement a probiotic into your diet everyday, especially if you experience any of the symptoms I listed in the last post. If you do this consistently with a good probiotic, you will probably start to notice a change in your symptoms in 2-4 weeks. If you have tried using a probiotic in the past and you don't feel that it helped, be sure to try again with a high quality probiotic.

I wish you all a safe, happy, and healthy Thanksgiving! Don't forget your probiotics!!

Live Well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jump Start Your Battery!

We all know about the bad bacteria that cause different infections in our body that are often treated by prescription antibiotics. However, did you know that each of us has trillions of bacteria in our body and the majority of the bacteria are harmless or good. This is known as your normal flora. Most of this flora finds a home in the optimal environment of your intestinal system or "gut." Having a healthy gut flora is very important to maintaining good overall health.

I often tell my patients that your gut is like your car battery. If your car battery starts to lose some power, the rest of the car starts to malfunction. So, if you have an imbalance in your normal gut flora (too much bad bacteria or too little good bacteria) then your immune system and the rest of your systems start to get run down. You might start to notice bloating, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel, upset stomach, fatigue, headaches, and others. Unfortunately, more and more people are having imbalances in the gut flora. I believe this is due to 2 main reasons. Bad diets and the over-prescribing of antibiotics.

1. Bad bacteria love sugar and white flour! So the more sugar and white flour we have in our diets, the more bad bacteria we will have in our gut and the weaker our immune system will be.

2. Antibiotics are no doubt beneficial for BACTERIAL infections. However, too many antibiotics are being prescribed for viral and fungal infections that are not caused by bacteria. So, not only does this not help fight the infection, it creates an imbalance in your body's normal, healthy gut flora. Antibiotics not only attack the bad bacteria, but they also attack the good, healthy bacteria, so again decreases our healthy immune system.

So, if you think you have a sinus, ear, or other infection, be sure to find out first from your doctor if it is caused by bacteria before automatically going on an antibiotic. If it is bacterial, then be sure to stay away from sugar and white flour especially until the infection is gone. If you have chronic bacterial infections, you should consider completely taking sugar and white flour out of your diet.

Finally, along with a good diet, a great way to help impove the healthy gut flora is with probiotics, especially if you have been on a lot of antibiotics. Probiotics are made up of the good bacteria that are in your normal flora. I will talk next time about how you can get these probiotics into your diet!

Many of you have asked that I send an e-mail out when I update the blog. So, if you send your e-mail to me at, I will include you in the update e-mail. Don't worry, I'll only sell your e-mail to a couple mass marketers! Just kidding, your e-mail will only be used for the update purposes!!

One final note to my patients... We have started our 5th annual toy drive for the Walter Payton Foundation for abused and neglected kids. Last year with your help we were able to collect over 100 toys! We will be collecting toys until Friday, December 5th. Please see our website at for more information about this year's toy drive. Thanks!!

Live Well.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

That's a little fishy...

Now that I got all that science stuff out of the way on the last post, let's get to the actual fish oil. So, as I said in the last post, fish oil is a great way to get Omega-3 fats in your diet. Because of the anti-inflammatory benefits of the Omega-3 in fish oils, studies have shown to help with many health related issues such as: heart disease, high blood pressure, some cancers, Crohn's disease, high cholesterol, depression, and others.

How much should you take daily?

There are two main types of Omega-3 fats in fish oil, EPA and DHA. Most fish oils contain both EPA and DHA and the label should show how much of each and the total of all Omega-3s. I see a lot of recommendations of 400-800 mg daily. However, I believe that would be the minimum dose, but ultimately you should try to get between 1000 and 2000 mg of total Omega-3s each day with slightly more EPA than DHA. On days that you eat fish, you don't have to supplement with fish oil. If you are nursing or pregnant, you should take a fish oil that contains more DHA than EPA. DHA is good for the healthy development of infant brain, eyes, and nervous system. If you suffer from any of the health problems above, you should increase the total Omega-3s to 2000-4000 mg daily. Try to split the dose so that you are taking 2 to 3 smaller doses throughout the day.

How to find a good fish oil

There are a few main things to take into consideration when looking for a good fish oil. It usually comes in a soft gel or liquid form.

1. As stated above, look at the total amounts of EPA, DHA, and total Omega-3s. Total Omega-3s should be between 1000-2000 mg.

2. The label should state something about being molecularly distilled and third party tested. This process helps to purify the fish oil to remove contaminants and mercury.

3. The ingredients should state what type of fish were used for the Omega-3s. Look for sardines, anchovies, salmon, and/or cod. These are deep water fish which contain good Omega-3 fats. * Note: Cod liver oil can contain high levels of Vitamin A and D.

4. Smell Test: After purchasing the fish oil, open and smell the oil. If it smells fishy, it probably is rancid or not good quality and may not be as effective.

5. Taste Test: I'm sure you have heard of the "fish burp" with fish oils. Well, this is exactly what it sounds like. If you get a fish burp taste after taking the fish oil, it is probably rancid or not good quality and may not be as effective.

The brand I use at my office is Nordic Naturals, but there are many good brands that meet all the guidelines above. Most health food stores carry quality fish oils.

* Note: Because omega-3s inhibit blood clotting, avoid taking fish oil supplements two weeks before and one week after surgery. Consult a doctor before taking the supplements if you have a chronic blood disorder or are taking blood thinner or other medications.

I really think fish oil is one of the best things you can supplement to your diet for overall health!

If you have any other questions or concerns about fish oil, post a comment and I'll get back to you!

In my next post, I will talk about probiotics!
Thank you veterans!!

Live Well.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Go Fish!

Happy Election Day! Be sure to Vote!!!

With so many vitamins and supplements available, I get a lot of questions about what they are good for and which ones are most important. First, having a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats (chicken and fish) while avoiding white sugar and white flour is the absolute best thing you can do for yourself (see previous posts). However, because not everyone has the perfect diet, there are some things that you can benefit from by supplementing to your diet.

One of the best things I tell people they can supplement to their diet is Essential Fatty Acids better known as Omega Fats especially Omega-3. The reason they are called Essential Fatty Acids is because our body can not make these on its own. Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fats are the Essential Fatty Acids. Omega-9 Fats (found in olive oil) are also important, but not considered an essential fatty acid since our body can produce them on its own.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are probably the most important of the three because of the ability to decrease inflammation. Inflammation can lead to degeneration and disease. Omega 6 tends to increase inflammation. Unfortunately, most of us get too much Omega-6 in our diet through cooking oils like soybean, sunflower, canola, and corn oils (found in most packaged foods). Yet, we don't get enough of the anti-inflammatory Omega-3 found in fatty fish (wild salmon, mackerel, anchovies), walnuts, flax seed, and dark green leafy vegetables.

The point of all this is that you need more Omega-3 Fatty Acids in your diet. Unless you are eating fatty fish 3-4 times per week, a fish oil supplement is a great way to add this anti-inflammatory protection to your body.

Next time, I will talk more about the benefits of fish oil and how you can find good quality fish oil. Not all fish oil is the same!!


Live Well.