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Leslie Ann Berg, MSPH

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Based on the article published in last edition’s Weight Loss column, we know there’s a strong link between weight management and our gut bacteria. We also know that probiotics have been associated with positively altering the gut microbiome. So, is it safe to say that supplementing with a probiotic can help us lose weight? Let’s take a look at the research. In 2015, a systemic review and meta-analysis published in Nutrition Research identified 4 of 368 studies that were randomized controlled trials with adequate data assessing the efficacy of probiotic supplementation as a weight loss treatment. Results found no significant effects of probiotics on body weight or body mass index (BMI) when compared to placebo. Yet, researchers called for more “rigorously designed” randomized controlled trials with larger sample sizes to draw more accurate conclusions. Fast forward three years to a review and meta-analysis study published in Obesity Reviews. The study…

Bloating is generally caused by gas (and sometimes fluid), and it usually ebbs and flows—you may have a flat abdomen in the morning but by evening, you look and feel 6 months pregnant. Bloating has become a rapidly increasing epidemic. For many, the symptoms are daily and relentless, but even when symptoms aren’t severe, they can still be extremely bothersome. There are lots of different causes of bloating, and one of the commonest is excessive sodium intake, which causes you to retain water not just in your abdomen but throughout your body. A study published last month in the American Journal of Gastroenterology looked at data from the DASH-Sodium trial. 412 participants consumed three levels of sodium intake – 50, 100, and 150 mmol/day. Each intake was consumed over a 30-day period with 5 days of rest between each period. Presence of bloating was recorded at baseline and after each…

The gut microbiome & its relation to weight loss There’s lots of hype surrounding the gut microbiome and weight loss. Studies show that when transferring microbial samples from obese individuals to germ-free mice, the mice gain weight, illustrating that the gut microbiome can play a role in determining weight. In fact, the more we study the microbiome, the more we realize that our gut bacteria hold the key to many functions and metabolic pathways associated with weight management. Gut bacteria: Influence how much dietary fat is absorbed by the intestines, affecting fat storage.Play a key role in inflammation, producing lipopolysaccharides (LPS). Mouse studies show that when mice are given LPS, they gain weight equivalent to the weight gain from a high fat diet.Protect against inflammation by helping to maintain a strong gut barrier. The specific species involved in gut barrier function include Bifidobacteria and Akkermansia. Increasing the integrity of the…

Ginger has a long history of medicinal use to treat a multitude of ailments due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antitumor properties, which have been documented in the scientific literature. Its benefits for gut health are widely publicized, and it is currently used as an integrative approach for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) relief, excessive gas, constipation, bloating, heartburn, motion sickness, gastric ulcers associated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin), and to improve nutrient absorption, among other conditions. But just how effective is ginger as a treatment and preventative agent for gastrointestinal diseases and conditions? While previous studies have highlighted the gastroprotective effects of ginger, a 2018 study conducted a systemic review of all clinical trials using ginger to treat GI disorders. Results showed that ginger is a safe and effective treatment at a 1500mg daily dosage for nausea relief, specifically nausea and vomiting related to pregnancy. All…

Does exercise help you lose weight? Of course it does… right? Well, maybe not. As the research piles up on exercise and its true contributions to weight loss, it turns out that while exercise has astounding benefits for health, it may not actually move us closer toward our weight loss goals – and too much exercise could in fact sabotage our goals altogether. Let’s delve into the research and find out more. Burning more calories than we consume (or the “move more, eat less” philosophy) is the gold standard for weight loss. Yet, studies show that this formula doesn’t always work. Exercise contributes only a small amount to our overall daily calorie expenditure, making it challenging to create a meaningful calorie deficit for weight loss. There are three components that contribute to energy expenditure: 1) Food digestion, 2) Basal metabolic rate (BMR), or the set amount of baseline calories your…

While often publicized as a healthful choice, a gluten-free diet (GFD) can have its drawbacks. Based on a talk given by gastroenterologist and celiac disease expert, Dr. Peter Green, studies show that a GFD can result in the following: not enough fiber, low levels of B vitamins, and low iron high salt, fat, and sugar intake gluten contamination (a potential issue for those with celiac disease) increased heavy metals (lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and tin) increased consumption of corn mycotoxin elevated food costs While these are legitimate concerns, Dr. Chutkan works with a number of celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) patients and has found that the majority of these drawbacks are due to a diet rich in packaged gluten-free foods. With some mindful dietary modifications and additions, these concerns can be addressed and overcome. Low fiber, B vitamins, and iron levels; high salt, fat, and sugar intake Most gluten…

Introduction Inulin is a soluble fiber that is not absorbed in the small intestine – it’s constructed of fructose molecules linked in a way that prevents breakdown. Instead, it acts as a prebiotic, meaning it feeds beneficial bacteria (including Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli) in the large intestine that play an important role in improving bowel and overall health. Gut bacteria convert inulin into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which act as the main energy source for the cells that line your colon. SCFAs also contribute broadly to disease prevention, immune function, and good health. The benefits of dietary inulin are well documented. Inulin has been associated with promoting microbial balance, improving weight loss (10 to 30 grams/day for 6 to 8 weeks), controlling diabetes, and relieving constipation (15 grams/day for up to 4 weeks). Studies also show that inulin may help increase calcium absorption (8 grams daily), prevent colon cancer, and treat…

Adults spend approximately 93% of their time indoors and babies up to 98% of their infancy indoors. Yet, the built environment (which includes our manmade surroundings – the homes and cities we live in, the parks we play in and paths we walk on, the cars we drive, the offices we work in, and even the water systems we drink from) can be one of the most toxic and microbe-unfriendly places on earth. John Bower, founder of Healthy House Institute, states, “Walking into a modern building can sometimes be compared to placing your head inside a plastic bag that is filled with toxic fumes.” Studies have shown that built environments are lacking in beneficial bacteria and diversity and are instead rich in disease-causing microbial communities. Because we spend so much of our modern lives in manmade surroundings, it’s safe to say that the built environment has the potential to make…

Overview Acne is the most common skin condition in the US, affecting approximately 50 million Americans each year. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), 85% of those between the ages of 12 and 24 experience minor to severe acne. The condition can extend into one’s thirties and forties, and studies show that acne in adults is on the rise, affecting 15% of adult women. We go through life thinking that acne is a normal human occurrence – a rite of passage as one transitions from childhood into adulthood. Yet, in less developed parts of the world, acne is virtually non-existent. Why is this? Why is acne such a common condition among Americans and essentially unseen in more indigenous cultures? There is one main difference between them and us. Societies living in rural environments are intimately connected with the earth and eat a traditional, microbiome-friendly diet, rich in plant fiber…

Overview Intermittent fasting (IF) – typically defined as anywhere from 12 to 18 hours without food in each 24 hour period OR full days of fasting interspersed throughout the week – is a dietary pattern that focuses on when to eat, not what to eat. Research has linked IF to a myriad of health benefits, including weight loss, improved brain function and inflammatory markers, reduced insulin resistance and heart disease risk, cancer prevention, and anti-aging. While this list is impressive, studies on IF are in their early stages and are limited due to the lack of human, randomized controlled studies, small sample sizes, short study periods, and minimal follow-up with subjects. Despite these limitations, IF exemplifies many positives and could be a viable and healthy weight loss option for some individuals. There are three main methods of practicing IF (on non-fasting days/times, there are no restrictions, caloric or otherwise): 1). Time restricted feeding–…