How Do Probiotics Benefit Us?

Probiotics are microorganisms that are a healthy part of our immune system and have recently been linked to mood and brain health. They’re found in large colonies in the gut, but are found in other parts of our bodies too. They live in our digestive system to protect us from pathogens and help us detoxify. When the balance of helpful bacteria becomes imbalanced by harmful bacteria, our immunity and vitality can become compromised.

Many problems can arise from imbalanced gut flora including decreased nutrient absorption, yeast overgrowth, gas, bloating, diarrhea, stomach pain and other GI symptoms. Some researchers believe the increase of imbalanced gut flora is partly because of the overuse of antibiotic and antibacterial products and the ultra-pasteurization of food. They believe we have less opportunity to receive probiotics naturally from our food and some of us may need to eat more probiotic containing foods.

New studies are finding more and more connections with mood and probiotics. They’re looking at connections like reduced anxiety and fewer sad moods for those who take probiotics. Some believe that by increasing nutrient absorption people just feel better. There are many links to mood and malnutrition. Many of the chemicals needed by our brains are made in the gut, so a healthy gut may be more likely to produce the right amount of chemicals. They’re still trying to understand the connection and with all of the interest in probiotics we can look forward to more information in the near future.

Some sources of healthy probiotics are yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented foods. Probiotic supplements are becoming very popular, but they’re not for everyone. Consult your health care provider before beginning any new supplements especially if you have concerns about your digestive health. When choosing a supplement find a high quality brand that is refrigerated (best) and has a few strains of probiotics.

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What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a wax-like fatty substance that is present in every cell of our bodies. Though it helps with a few other functions within the body it has three main purposes. It provides a coating for each cell in our body, produces bile salts for digestion and helps us convert vitamin d into a usable form. It travels through our bloodstream to the necessary places, but blood is like water and cholesterol like fat, so the two don’t mix. Our body has to package cholesterol with protein into particles called lipoproteins.

There are two basic types of lipoproteins. Low density and high density (LDL & HDL) lipoproteins vary by the amount of protein in the particle. HDL is considered the “healthy” cholesterol. It has higher protein allowing it to flow in the blood more freely. Unlike LDL which is likely to deposit itself in the arteries, HDL moves through the blood collecting excess fat and cholesterol from cells and tissues. It takes it to the liver to be processed into bile or get recycled.

Increasing HDL cholesterol can decrease the risk of heart disease and is affected by lifestyle. Exercise increases HDL where smoking decreases it. Following a low fat diet decreases saturated fat and LDL cholesterol. To lower your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease try using healthy oils like olive, flax, hemp and coconut oil. Eat foods high in good fat like cold water fish, avocados and walnuts. Avoid fried foods, trans-fats and hydrogenated oils. Reduce the amount of red meat and dairy and replace them with more vegetables on your plate.

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