March, 2015

Probiotics 101: Literally Everything You Need to Know

Did you know that the bacteria in your body outnumber your body’s cells 10 to 1? It’s true, and most of them reside in your gut. But there really is no need to panic, most bacteria are quite harmless. Having the right bacteria in there has even been linked to numerous health benefits. This includes weight loss, improved digestion, enhanced immune function, better skin and a reduced risk of many diseases. This leads us to the topic at hand, probiotics.

Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain these friendly bacteria, and are supposed to help colonize our guts with health-boosting microorganisms. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Taking care of your gut, and the friendly bacteria that reside there, may be one of the single most important things you can do for your health.

What Are Probiotics? According to the official definition, probiotics are “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”. Probiotics are usually bacteria, but there is also a type of yeast that can function as a probiotic.

You can get probiotics from supplements, as well as foods that are prepared by bacterial fermentation. Probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, soy sauce, tempeh, kimchi and others.

Probiotics should not be confused with prebiotics (note the “e”), which are dietary fibers that help feed the friendly bacteria that are already in the gut. There are actually dozens of different probiotic bacteria that have been shown to have health benefits. The most common groups include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Then there are many different species within each group, and each species has many strains.

Interestingly, different probiotics seem to work for different health conditions. Therefore, choosing the right type (or types) of probiotic is essential. Many probiotic supplements combine different species together in the same supplement. These are known as broad-spectrum probiotics, or multi-probiotics.Keep in mind that this is a new but rapidly expanding area of research. Although the evidence is promising, it is not conclusively proven that probiotics help with all the health conditions mentioned in this article.

Bottom Line: Probiotics are live microorganisms that cause health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. There are many different types, and you can get them from foods or supplements.

The Importance of Microorganisms in The Gut

The complex community of microorganisms in your gut is called the gut flora. Your gut actually contains hundreds of different types of microorganisms, with some numbers going as high as 1000. This includes bacteria, yeasts and viruses. The great majority is bacteria. Most of the gut flora is found in the colon, or large intestine, the last part of the digestive tract. The metabolic activities of the gut flora actually resemble those of an organ. For this reason, some scientists refer to the gut flora as the “forgotten organ”. The gut flora actually performs many functions that are important for health. It manufactures vitamins, including vitamin K and some of the B vitamins. It also turns fibers into short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, propionate and acetate, which feed the gut wall and perform many metabolic functions. They also stimulate the immune system, and regulate the integrity of the gut. This can help prevent unwanted substances from “leaking” into the body and provoking an immune response.

However, not all organisms in the gut are friendly. Some are good, others are bad. The gut flora is actually highly sensitive to modern insults, and studies show that an “unbalanced” gut flora is linked to numerous diseases. This includes obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, colorectal cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression and many, many more. Probiotics (and prebiotic fibers) can help correct this balance, making sure that our “forgotten organ” is functioning optimally.

Bottom Line: Your gut flora consists of hundreds of different types of microorganisms. Probiotics help your gut flora perform optimally.

Probiotics and Digestive Health

Probiotics have been studied most in regard to digestive health.

The strongest evidence has to do with antibiotic-associated diarrhea. When people take antibiotics, especially for long periods of time, they often suffer from diarrhea for a long time after the infection has been eradicated. This is because the antibiotics kill many of the natural bacteria in the gut, which shifts the balance and allows the “bad” bacteria to thrive. Dozens of studies have provided strong evidence that probiotic supplements can help cure antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Probiotics have also been shown to be beneficial against irritable bowel syndrome, a very common digestive disorder. They can help reduce gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and other symptoms. Some studies also show that probiotics may be beneficial against inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Probiotics may also be useful against Helicobacter pylori infections, the main driver of ulcers and stomach cancer.

If you currently have digestive problems that you can’t seem to get rid of, then perhaps a probiotic supplement is something you should consider.

Bottom Line: Probiotics have been shown to be effective against various digestive problems. This includes antibiotic-associated diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.

Probiotics and Weight Loss

Obese individuals have different gut bacteria than lean people. Animal studies have also shown that fecal transplants from lean animals can make obese animals lose weight. For this reason, many scientists now believe that our gut bacteria are important in determining body fatness. Although this needs to be studied a lot more, some probiotic strains have been shown to help with fat loss. The most impressive study on this was published in 2013. It was a study of 210 individuals with central obesity (lots of belly fat). In this study, taking the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri caused people to lose 8.5% of their belly fat mass over a period of 12 weeks. When they stopped taking the probiotic, they gained the belly fat back within 4 weeks.

There is also some evidence that Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis can help with weight loss and obesity prevention. However, this needs to be studied more before any recommendations can be made. There are also some animal studies showing that other probiotic strains could even lead to weight gain, not loss.

Bottom Line: There is some evidence that the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri can help people lose belly fat. This needs to be studied a lot more.

Other Health Benefits of Probiotics

Getting into all the incredible benefits of probiotics is beyond the scope of this article. However, there are a few that are definitely worth highlighting here:

  • Inflammation: Probiotics have been shown to reduce systemic inflammation, a leading driver of many diseases.

  • Depression and anxiety: The probiotic strains Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum have been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in people with clinical depression.

  • Blood cholesterol: Several probiotics have been shown to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels.

  • Blood pressure: Probiotics have also been shown to cause modest reductions in blood pressure.

  • Immune function: Several different probiotic strains can enhance immune function and lead to reduced risk of infections, including the common cold.

  • Skin health: There is some evidence that probiotics can be useful for acne, rosacea and eczema, as well as other skin disorders.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Probiotics have been studied, and shown to be beneficial, for a wide range of other health problems.

Bottom Line: Probiotics have been shown to have numerous health benefits. They may reduce depression and anxiety, improve heart health and enhance immune function, to name a few.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Probiotics are generally well tolerated and considered safe for most people.

However, in the first few days, you may experience side effects related to digestion. This includes gas and mild abdominal discomfort. After this initial adaptation period is over, your digestion should be better than it was before.

Probiotics can be dangerous, and even lead to infections, in people with compromised immune systems. This includes people with HIV, AIDS and several other health conditions. If you have a medical condition, definitely consult with your doctor before taking a probiotic supplement.

Bottom Line: Probiotic supplements may cause digestive symptoms, but this should subside within a few days. They may be dangerous for people with certain medical conditions.

What Are The Best Probiotic Supplements?

There are hundreds of different probiotic supplements available. If you have a health problem and you want to try a probiotic for that purpose, then it is very important that you choose the right strain.

It’s recommended to looking around on Amazon at the different options available. There you can see which strains the supplements contain. Make sure to buy probiotics from a reputable manufacturer. Dietary supplements are not regulated, so many of these products may not contain what the labels say they do. According to one study, it is best to take probiotics either right before, or with, a meal that contains some fat. Beyond that, make sure to follow the instructions on the packaging. Keep in mind that some products need to be refrigerated.

Take Home Message

Maintaining a healthy gut goes way beyond just taking a probiotic supplement. What you do from day to day is just as important. All sorts of lifestyle factors, especially the foods you eat, have been shown to affect the gut bacteria. Living a healthy lifestyle, getting good sleep, and eating real food with lots of fiber is the key.

In many cases, probiotic foods and supplement can be helpful as well.

Read More

Results from our recently held squash tournament

Big thank you to all who took part in out recent squash tournament. A hard fought contest with all participants deserving praise and recognition.
The final Ladder is as follow:

Congrats to the winners and better luck next time to the runners up :)

Read More

Drinking Water on Empty Stomach Immediately After Waking Up!

People in Japan have the habit to drink water as soon as they wake up. Many studies have proven the advantage of this technique. Treatment with water gives results against many serious diseases.

It is known that drinking water on an empty stomach works in the treatment of the following diseases: headache, body aches, heart system, accelerated heart beat, epilepsy, blood fat, bronchitis, asthma, TB, meningitis, kidney disease and urinary tract, vomiting, gastritis, diarrhea, piles, diabetes, constipation, all eye diseases, diseases of the uterus, menstrual disorders, diseases of the ear, nose and throat.

Methods of treatment:

  • As soon as you wake up in the morning before you brush your teeth, drink 4 times per 160ml (640 ml) of water.

  • Wash your teeth, but do neither eat nor drink in the next 45 minutes.

  • After 45 minutes you can normally eat and drink.

  • After the breakfast, lunch and dinner do not eat or drink anything for two hours.

  • Those that are old and sick and unable to drink 4 glasses of water on an empty stomach, can begin with drinking water as much as they can, and then each and every day increase the amount until they reach the required 640ml .

  • This method will cure different diseases, and those who are healthy will enjoy the energy that is given to them from the water.

How many days are required for this treatment?

  • High blood pressure – 30 days

  • For gastritis – 10 days

  • Diabetes – 30 days

  • For constipation – 10 days

  • TB – 90 days

Ideally, this method of drinking water on an empty stomach should be applied throughout life. So we can be healthy and full of energy.

  •  Note: those who have arthritis, this method of treatment can only last three days in the first week, then have a week of pause and re-start applying it daily. This treatment has no side effects except that you will often go to the bathroom. So drink water and stay active.

Read More

Adult Pool Taking Shape!

As you may be aware we have embarked on a significant project at Ivory to improve out pool facilities for adults and children. We are pleased to say that the redevelopment is well underway!

Here are a few pictures of the work being carried out. Keep an eye out for updates in the near future.

Apologies for the disruption caused in the meantime, but we hope you agree with us that the improvements will be more than worth it :)

Read More

A sleep expert shares 7 tips for having more energy than you’ve ever had before

Make sure you get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. The latest in sleep science is clear: No matter how self-motivated you may be, you need a good night’s rest to perform to your highest potential.

Nitun Verma is a Stanford-trained sleep medicine researcher and cofounder of the health care company PeerWell who took to Reddit to answer users’ questions about getting a perfect night’s sleep. We’ve taken the best tips from his writing, as well as additional information from Harvard and the National Sleep Foundation.

Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.

Your body runs on an internal clock, which you can think of as the balance between an alerting signal and sleep drive, as shown in an interactive chart from the sleep division at the Harvard Medical School. In a healthy schedule, one’s sleep drive decreases in the day as one’s alerting signal increases. One can stay awake with an alert mind for “as much as 16 or 17 hours straight” according to Harvard. During sleep, the sleep drive increases while the alerting signal decreases. It’s why powering through your internal clock or catching up on sleep on the weekend puts your body through the same experience as jet lag, Verma writes on Reddit. There will be times, of course, where you have some late nights on the weekend, but the least you can do is stick to a tight schedule during the week and understand how a night on the town affects your biological rhythm.

Get seven to nine hours of sleep daily.

There are five stages of sleep necessary for “muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite,” according to the National Sleep Foundation. Seven to nine hours are required for the average adult to fully go through each stage. Verma explains on Reddit that people who barely get sleep and seem alert are deceiving themselves. He writes: When people get a low amount of sleep (like 4-5 hours) for a long time, they think they’ve gotten used to it, and don’t need the usual amount. It is true, that they don’t feel as sleepy as they used to… For example, if someone who normally gets 8 hours of sleep drops to 4 hours, they will feel pretty tired/miserable for a week or two. But after more time, they won’t notice sleepiness. So they start to think they’ve trained themselves. But.. being sleepy is different. Being sleepy means your brain isn’t working as fast as it used to.

Be careful with what you eat and drink shortly before bed.

Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine for obvious reasons, the National Sleep Foundation says. Also avoid large meals before going to sleep, since your metabolism’s processing of the food will throw off your internal clock. And while alcohol is a depressant that can make you fall asleep, the metabolizing of the alcohol can lead to disruptions of the important second half of your sleep cycle. And if you rely on even moderate drinking or smoking of marijuana to fall asleep each night, as some of Verma’s Reddit readers said they did, you should probably consult a physician to see if you actually have a sleep disorder.

Don’t do intense exercise too soon before bed.

Similarly, you don’t want to raise your metabolism with a weight-lifting session or pickup game of basketball too late in the day. “On days of extreme activity at night, the metabolism is increased for several hours,” Verma writes. “That causes increased heat, and confuses the brain to stay awake. It increases the struggle to catch sleep. That heat is different from a blanket, or taking a warm shower.” If you’ve got an unavoidably abnormal work schedule, make use of accessories like blackout curtains to help your circadian rhythm adjust.If you work the night shift, you may have to force your body to adjust its internal clock. Verma recommends using blackout curtains to keep daylight from pouring into your room, as well as earplugs and a white noise machine to diminish background noise.

Have a regular pre-bedtime ritual.

“Imagine your body is like a car,” Verma writes on PeerWell. “Even if you slam on your brakes your car will take some time to stop. In the same way you cannot stop your body immediately. You need to slow down before you can come to rest.” Verma recommends spending at least an hour away from your smartphone, laptop, or television before bed, and using deep breathing for 10 minutes to help quiet your mind and transition into sleep.

Regulate your light intake.

Your body produces the hormone melatonin to regulate your circadian rhythm, and its regulation is dependent on light intake. Your body is wired to sleep in the dark and wake with daylight, Verma says, so help it along by keeping lights dim before bed and opening the shades when you get up.

Read More