10 Tips for Better Digestive Health

Have you ever suffered from bloating, cramping, gas, constipation, heartburn, nausea or diarrhea after a meal? Have your symptoms gotten so bad that you’ve cancelled plans with friends, called in sick to work, or had problems falling asleep at night? Poor digestive health can upset your stomach and your routine. The American Gastroenterological Association’s (AGA) Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition recently reported that 7 out of 10 Americans experienced digestive health issues in 2017. Nearly half of Americans polled say these painful symptoms affect their daily lives. To help you improve your digestive health and reduce uncomfortable symptoms, the World Gastroenterology Organization (WGO) compiled this list of guidelines:

  • Eat small, frequent meals. For your best digestive health, the AGA and top nutrition associations around the world recommend eating four or five small meals a day. Your overall calories should stay about the same.
  • Include foods rich in fiber. Fiber is important to your digestive system, and you can find it in fruits, raw vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grain breads and cereals.
  • Eat fish three to five times per week. Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve digestive problems by stabilizing cell walls, reducing inflammation and restoring balance.
  • Reduce your intake of fried, fattening foods. Cutting back on greasy, fried foods that are high in fat and hard to digest reduces your stomach’s workload.
  • Incorporate fermented dairy products into your diet. Certain probiotics (the “good bacteria” that’s found in dairy products like yogurt and cottage cheese) may improve intestinal function and overall digestive health. Probiotics can help prevent or ease conditions like gastroenteritis, irregularity, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Select lean meats. Leaner cuts of meat—pork, chicken and turkey—contain less fat, which may improve digestive comfort.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Liquids help alleviate and prevent constipation, and they ease the digestive process. A good way to make sure you’re getting enough fluids is to drink a glass of water with every meal.
  • Don’t rush eating. Overeating can upset your stomach and digestive tract. Eating slowly and chewing food properly encourages a “full” feeling, before trouble starts.
  • Exercise regularly. Don’t smoke. While most people know that exercise offers overall health benefits, most people don’t know that it’s good for your digestive tract, too. Daily physical activity improves the natural rhythm of the digestive system and assists in moving food through the digestive tract.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight. According to the AGA, a body mass index that indicates obesity or unintentional weight loss may  be detrimental to your digestive health.

Supplement Savvy: Which Vitamins You Really Need

Supplements aren’t necessary for the person who eats a healthy diet. But since many of us don’t always do that, here are simple guidelines for what you need and how best to get it.

  • Multivitamin: Look for one that contains about 100 percent of the RDA (recommended dietary allowances) for most vitamins and minerals. It’s the one best supplement you can add to your daily diet, healthy or not.
  • Vitamin C: Experts differ on the amount needed for antioxidant benefits, but a safe amount seems to be 250-500 mg a day. It’s easy to get that from foods such as oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes and peppers.
  • Calcium: 1000-1500 mg a day is essential for bone health. One cup of milk contains about 300 mg calcium; if you need more, take it in supplement form.
  • Vitamin E is an essential antioxidant that most likely helps prevent heart disease. Foods containing vitamin E tend to be high in fat: vegetable oils, fish and wheat germ. If you choose a supplement, look for 400 IU vitamin E as d-alpha tocopherol for improved absorption.
  • Selenium works hand in hand with vitamin E, so if you take one you should also use the other. It is found in Brazil nuts. Try for 50-100 mcg a day.
  • Folate has recently been added to grain foods in the United States to prevent heart disease as well as lessen the risk of spina bifida in newborns. Check your multivitamin for folate content; the RDA has been increased to 400 mcg per day. If you take an individual folate supplement, make sure you also get enough B-6 and B-12, as they are all interrelated.

Listen to your Body Clock

Checking the time on your watch is essential when youve got a busy schedule. But checking the natural rhythms of your biological body clock could be equally important if you want to stay healthy.

Interestingly, lack of natural light (eg, in a windowless office) can significantly disturb the bodys natural daily (circadian) rhythms which are governed by a part of the brain that picks up messages from the light entering your eyes. Other factors that disrupt the body clock are working night shifts, being jet-lagged and getting disturbed or inadequate sleep. Symptoms include depression, lethargy and poor concentration.

If youre having to deal with a timetable that doesnt fit the norm, youll adapt more quickly by timing activities to match with your new day. A high protein / low-carbohydrate meal after rising may help alertness, with a similar type of meal for lunch and a high-carbohydrate / low-protein one as your last before retiring.

Exercise will also help in regulating body rhythms and a brisk walk after getting up can make a big difference to how you feel. If you get the chance to have a 20-minute nap when youre felling least alert especially in the middle of a night shift youre likely to perform better overall.

Following this type of schedule will also help to keep you on an even keel with darker nights on the way. Try to get as much natural light as possible and if you can get eight hours sleep a night with a fixed bedtime and waking schedule, then so much the better.


A one-a-day multivitamin may be best in the evening because growth hormone is secreted at night and this is when the body does most of its repair processes. But there are no hard or fast rules the main point is to take supplements regularly and usually with food to improve absorption and minimise any gastric irritation. If you need two or three of one product, you can choose to take them as split doses throughout the day or in one go if its easier for you to remember.


5am: Reflex responses are worst and stress hormones very low time to take great care on the roads.

7 – 9am: Opening your bowels regularly at about this time shows that your circadian rhythms are in sync eat plenty of fibre to lend a helping hand.

10 – 11am: The part of the brain that governs logical and mathematical thoughts is most active mid morning. A time to do your accounts?

12noon: Mood is high as alertness rises, but you could also feel tense. Best time to book yourself a relaxing massage.

1 – 3pm: Alertness decreases to minimise the dip, allow yourself a cup of coffee with lunch and dont eat too heavily.

4 – 6pm: Late afternoon adrenaline secretion keeps airways dilated so breathing is easiest. Muscle strength and flexibility peak, so its the best time to exercise.

7 – 8pm: Many body functions slow down which means drugs taken in the evening move into the bloodstream more slowly and can have fewer side effects.

9 – 10pm: The body starts to secrete the sleep hormone, melatonin, which helps the system wind down before bedtime.

Spring out of winter

Feeling jaded? It’s not unusual for dreary winter days to take their toll on your physical and mental well-being. But help is at hand – these diet and supplement ideas will help you cast off the winter doldrums and limber up for spring.

Winter worry: Anxiety and stress
Spring solution: B Complex
Feeling stressed is a common post winter feeling, and it’s a physiological state that increases the requirement for B vitamins. The situation is made worse by indulging in sugary foods and excess alcohol (both more common in winter, when comfort food features large), which also depletes the B complex of vitamins. To increase your intake of these stress-bolstering nutrients, the goodies to include in your diet are wholegrain bread, lean meat and liver, milk and fortified breakfast cereals. And a B-complex supplement may also be called for – particularly if you have additionally been suffering with poor skin and mouth ulcers. B vitamins are water-soluble and don’t stay in the body very long so they need taking daily.

Winter worry: Poor circulation 
Spring solution: Ginkgo Biloba 
Poor circulation can affect anyone, but you’re more likely to be badly affected the older you are and the harsher the weather. If you suffer from painfully cold fingers or toes right into early spring, the herbal supplement gingko biloba can be a huge help. Its active ingredients improve blood flow to the extremities and also to the brain – which may make your memory sharper too.

Winter worry: Aches and pains
Spring solution: Fish Oils 
After months of cold and damp your joints are probably feeling aches and pains more keenly. For a sprightlier step into spring, try upping your intake of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats found in oily fish. A portion or two per week of salmon, sardines or mackerel is enough to give benefit, but if you don’t like fish, opt for omega 3 capsules or a cod liver oil that is flavoured to mask the fishy taste.



Winter worry: Low energy and mood 
Spring solution: Magnesium and Selenium 
When winter leaves you feeling wrung out and low on energy, topping up your magnesium levels could help. In dietary surveys, magnesium intake is frequently lower than optimum – a problem because this mineral is an essential co-factor in the energy-releasing process in cells. You can get magnesium from eating more wholemeal bread, nuts, seeds and pulses – or taking a dietary supplement of around 300mg a day. Increasing your intake of selenium with a daily handful of Brazil nuts will also help – studies have linked low levels of this mineral with depression.

Winter worry: Coughs and colds 
Spring solution: Antioxidants and plant based phytochemicals 
Fight back against lingering respiratory infections by upping your intake of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and other essential immune-enhancing antioxidants in fruit and vegetables. Amongst the best sources are red and green peppers, citrus fruit, blueberries, green leafy vegetables and nuts. Some evidence suggests that two 500mg tablets of vitamin C per day – an amount you will get only from a supplement – will help to clear up the vestiges of a cold more quickly.

Life Begins at 50

We live in an ageing population with more and more people surviving into their 70s and beyond. By 2050, it is estimated that 25% of Americans will be over the age of 60. Due to medical advances, most older people are just as fit and active as when they were younger, making 50 undoubtedly the new 40!

Compared with our grandparents’ generation, modern 50-year-olds no longer expect to work their entire life and retire at the age of 65 to potter in the garden or take up a sedate hobby. The ‘job for life’ culture is disappearing and many people are choosing to retire early, or to take on a second career. Youthful vigour will not last forever, and it can come as a shock to realise just how insidiously the ageing process creeps up on you. Fifty is not too young to start preparing for future health, so you can make the most of your free time in later life.

Benefits of physical exercise
Exercise has a number of beneficial effects on long-term physical and emotional health. It: Lowers cholesterol levels, triglycerides and blood pressure. Can reduce the risk of developing a type 2 diabetes, stroke, a heart attack and even certain cancers. Reduces anxiety and tension. Improves energy levels, concentration and sleep quality. Stimulates release of brain chemicals (endorphins) that reduce pain perception, promote relaxation and lift your overall mood and sex drive. Strengthens bones.

Taking regular exercise can also prolong your life. A study of more than 10,000 men found that exercise reduced the number of age-related deaths from all causes by almost a quarter – even if exercise was not started until middle age. In particular, deaths from coronary heart disease (CHD) were reduced by over 40%, independent of other risk factors such as overweight, high blood pressure or smoking cigarettes. Always start an exercise programme slowly, building up the length and intensity as you get fitter. Aim for at least 30 minutes of brisk exercise five times per week – and preferably every day.

Tips: To increase your physical activity levels, painlessly
Walk or run up stairs rather than taking the lift or escalator. Choose one evening a week when you don’t watch TV – go to the gym, kick a ball around or go cycling/ swimming with family or friends. Take up an active hobby such as ballroom dancing, bowls, swimming, golf, rambling, cycling or horse-riding and make new friends. Dig out an old skipping rope, pogo stick, trampoline or other exercise equipment you once bought to gather dust; use it while watching the evening news. Walk or cycle reasonable distances rather than taking the car. Cycle or walk to a local park or a country pub at the weekend. When staying at home, put more effort into DIY, cleaning and gardening. Reinstate the old tradition of a family walk after Sunday lunch – kick leaves, skim stones, throw a frisbee and have fun!

Benefits of mental exercise
As you get older, it is natural for your memory to become less like a filing cabinet and more like a sieve – facts get harder to store and retrieve. To boost memory power, exercise your brain – do crosswords or other word/number puzzles regularly, write down your memoirs or read books that stretch you. Games such as Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit are excellent for testing memory skills.

Tips: To boost your memory
To remember an important fact, keep repeating it silently to yourself. Write memory-jogging notes of things to do and place them within easy sight. Try to learn at least one new fact, or memorise a snippet of poetry, every day. Associate a fact to be remembered with a visual image, eg when introduced to someone who is an artist, picture him or her holding an enormous painting brush. If the name is Baker, picture them eating a large loaf of bread. The more outrageous or unusual your images, the easier you will remember them. If you can’t recall someone’s name, try to remember where you met them, what they were wearing, any unusual physical characteristic or mannerism and what you talked about – this will often jog your memory. Think up a mnemonic involving the first letter of each word when remembering a list. A good example is that used to remember the colours of a rainbow: Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet). It is easier to remember the sentence and work out the colours, than to remember the colours alone. If you keep losing something (eg keys) form a mental photograph of where they are every time you put them down. Get plenty of rest and sleep.

An anti-ageing diet
Eating your food raw seems to be the best way to absorb dietary nutrients for an optimum, anti-ageing effect. As well as avoiding the heat-destruction of vitamins, enzymes and other beneficial substances, the body is better able to digest and absorb nutrients in their raw state.

Tips: To gain the optimum anti-ageing protection from your food
Choose organic fruit and vegetables as much as possible. Eat fresh produce, consumed within a day of purchase. Eat at least three servings of fresh fruit per day. Eat at least three servings of raw or lightly steamed vegetables per day. Eat a large raw-food salad per day, including as wide a variety of plants as possible, eg avocado, fennel, chicory, mixed baby leaves, watercress, spinach, grated carrot, peas, tomato, cucumber, sweetcorn, grated beetroot, grated broccoli, nuts, seeds etc. Avoid foods that are smoked, pickled or salted. Cut out all polyunsaturated fats, margarine, vegetables shortening and hydrogenated fats – only use extra-virgin olive oil or rapeseed oil.
For those who love their food, it is disappointing to learn that calorie restriction prolongs life by 10% to 300% in animals. Unfortunately, staying lean and eating a high-antioxidant, low-energy diet is still one of the best ways known to slow the ageing process.

Your Good Digestion Guide

The digestive tract is miles long, with plenty of chances for things to go awry along the way. Find out how to take better care of your digestive system and cope with many common gastrointestinal conditions.

The gastro-intestinal tract is a food-processing system that accepts complex food molecules at one end and breaks them down into simpler components for absorption.

Waste products are disposed of – usually in neat packages – at the other end. Altogether, the gut is around four metres in length which gives plenty of room for things to go wrong. We take a look at some common digestive problems and the self-help approaches worth trying.

Indigestion and heartburn
Indigestion, or dyspepsia, describes any discomfort that results after a meal, including feelings of distension from swallowing air, flatulence from excessive wind, nausea, heartburn, acidity, abdominal pain and sensations of burning. Heartburn is a more specific term, referring to a hot, burning sensation felt behind the chest bone or centrally in the upper abdomen, which may spread up towards the throat.

Discomfort is mainly due to stomach acids and enzymes regurgitating up, to come in to contact with the sensitive lining of the oesophagus (the tube connecting the mouth and stomach) but painful spasm of muscles in the lower oesophagus may also be involved. The symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, or GORD, can mimic angina or a heart attack and it is estimated that 20% of people admitted to coronary care have GORD rather than heart disease.

Several measures to control symptoms include:
•Avoid hot, acid, spicy and pastry foods
•Avoid tea, coffee and acidic fruit juices
•Eating little and often – avoid heavy meals, especially in the evening
•Not stooping, bending or lying down immediately after eating
•Cutting back on alcohol intake
•Losing any excess weight
•Giving up, if you are a smoker
•Wearing loose clothing, especially around the waist
•Elevating the head of the bed 15-20 cm (eg by putting books under the top two legs) to help reduce heartburn at night

TIP: If you are prone to indigestion when taking vitamin C, switch to non-acidic ester-C. Supplements that may help: Ginger to relieve indigestion. Flaxseed and omega 3 fish oils provide essential fatty acids which help to reduce inflammation caused by excess acid. Vitamin B supplements may be recommended if indigestion is thought to be a symptom of B vitamin deficiency. Aloe vera has a soothing antacid and analgesic action.

Excess wind
This can cause bloating, distension pain and embarrassing intestinal noises known as borborygmi. Bowel gases come from several different sources, including fizzy drinks (avoid) and swallowing air, but most are produced in the large bowel from bacterial fermentation of dietary fibre.
Interesting facts:
•You produce between one and 2.5 litres of intestinal gas per day
•Most people pass gas 12-20 times per day
•The amount of residual gas remaining in the bowels at any one time is around 200ml

Some people lack the right enzymes to digest certain foods, especially dairy products which require the enzyme lactase to break down milk sugar (lactose).

If you don’t produce enough lactase, then lactose sugar is not absorbed and instead passes down to the large bowel where it is fermented by colonic bacteria to produce wind and loose motions. If symptoms improve dramatically on cutting out milk products, seek medical advice.

Some foods contain compounds that increase gas production in everyone, so try avoiding ‘windy’ foods such as beans, lentils, onions, celery, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, raisins, bananas, apricots and wheat-germ. Supplements that may help: Ginger and peppermint oil help relieve flatulence.

Helicobacter pylori 
Helicobacter pylori is a motile form of bacterium found in the stomachs of at least 20% of younger adults and 50% of those aged over 50. It burrows into the mucous lining of the stomach, leaving a small breach in the wall through which acids can reach the wall. Helicobacter then coats itself with a small bubble of ammonia gas which protects the bacterium from the acid attack and at the same time irritates and inflames the stomach lining. Although it doesn’t cause symptoms in everyone, virtually all patients with duodenal ulcers are infected, plus three quarters of those with gastric ulcers. H. pylori infection is also associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer. If you have recurrent indigestion or heartburn, you will usually be checked for the presence of this intestinal infection; if present, it can be eradicated with a course of powerful antacids and antibiotics.

Supplements that may help: Cranberries have anti-adhesion properties that reduce the bacterium sticking to cell walls. Although it is best known for reducing urinary tract infections, preliminary research suggests cranberries may help to stop Helicobacter pylori sticking to cells in the stomach lining, this may help to flush it from the stomach so it is expelled more easily to help reduce the risk of gastritis and peptic ulcers.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is believed to affect at least a third of the population at some time during their lives, even if only mildly. According to the criteria used to diagnose it, there must be at least twelve weeks (which need not be consecutive) in the preceding twelve months of abdominal discomfort or pain that has two of three features:
1.Relieved with defecation
2.Onset associated with a change in frequency of stool
3.Onset associated with a change in form (appearance) of stool
The following symptoms also cumulatively support the diagnosis of IBS:
•Fewer than three bowel movements a week
•More than three bowel movements a day
•Hard or lumpy stools
•Loose (mushy) or watery stools
•Straining during a bowel movement
•Urgency (having to rush to have a bowel movement)
•Feeling of incomplete bowel movement
•Passing mucus (white material) during a bowel movement
•Abdominal fullness, bloating or swelling

Some people have predominantly loose bowels, some have predominantly constipation, while some have intermittent episodes of both.
IBS is not a condition you should diagnose yourself, as similar symptoms can occur in other more serious bowel problems needing medical or surgical treatment. If you think you may have IBS or notice changes in your bowel habit, always seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Supplements that may help: If you are told you have IBS, it is worth trying probiotic ones containing friendly digestive bacteria which replenish the bowel with healthy bacteria and discourage the presence of other less beneficial microbes. Probiotic bacteria produce lactic acid which improves intestinal health, promotes good digestion, boosts immunity and increases resistance to infection. Cynara artichoke improves digestion of dietary fats by stimulating bile flow. It has been shown to reduce IBS-like symptoms by over 70% within an average of ten days. Aloe vera has a soothing effect on bowel function. It normalises bowel contraction, improves protein digestion and absorption, aids stool bulk and promotes a healthy balance of bowel bacteria. Psyllium husks provide additional fibre that can help overcome both diarrhoea and constipation. Peppermint oil improves digestion by stimulating secretion of digestive juices and bile and also relaxes excessive spasm of the smooth muscle lining the digestive tract. Peppermint helps to relieve intestinal cramps and flatulence and is widely prescribed for IBS.

The Facts on Folic Acid

Folic acid seems to be a buzzword in vitamins these days. What is it that has people so interested and motivated to get the word out? Two really good answers are neural-tube birth defects and heart disease.

What is folic acid?

Folic acid is an essential B vitamin — because it cannot be produced by the body and must be consumed daily through diet. Women should get 400 micrograms (.4 milligrams) of folic acid every day from their diet. If this is not feasible, it is suggested that a multivitamin be taken as well.

What can folic acid do?

Folic acid can help protect an unborn baby from developing spina bifida (abnormal development of the spinal cord) and anencephaly (absence of most of the brain). Infants born with anencephaly die shortly after birth. Babies with spina bifida, depending on the severity, are born with partial or total paralysis. Folic acid protects the neural tube to let it close properly, leading to normal brain and spinal cord development.

The neural tube closes between the 25th and 30th day after conception, which means that the window of opportunity is pretty small. Most women don’t know they are pregnant until after the neural tube has attempted to close. So if you start getting enough folic acid only after you find out you’re pregnant, it is too late. This explains the recommendation that all women of child-bearing age get 400 micrograms of folic acid each day.

What about heart disease? Studies have found a link between high levels of homocysteine in the blood and heart disease. Homocysteine is a byproduct of an amino acid found in foods that contain protein. It is believed that high levels of homocysteine cause the artery walls to become sticky, allowing cholesterol to build up. The verdict is still out on a definite connection, but it is clear that in most healthy individuals the B vitamins — including folic acid, B6 and B12 — protect the body from accumulating excess homocysteine.

Adults with and without heart disease should strive to get 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.

Which foods are high in folic acid?

Many cereals, such as Product 19, are fortified with folic acid and provide 400 micrograms in one serving. Check the label and see how your cereal measures up.

Other good sources include:

Fruit and Juice Serving Size Micrograms
Orange juice one cup 109
Tomato juice one cup 48
Orange one medium 40
Fresh strawberries one cup 26
Banana one medium 22
Grapefruit one-half medium 15
Vegetables Serving Size Micrograms
Spinach, raw one cup 108
Asparagus, cooked five spears 101
Brussels sprouts, cooked from fresh one cup 94
Green peas, cooked one-half cup 47
Romaine lettuce one cup 41
Broccoli, raw one-half cup 31

Tip: To prevent the loss of folic acid in cooking water, try steaming, microwaving or stir-frying fresh vegetables.

Mining for Oil: Taking Fish-Oil Supplements

Who Should Take Fish-Oil Pills?
Nearly every month there’s another study showing the health benefits of fish, and some of these studies have used fish-oil supplements. These supplements contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but not the other good things in fish, and they are not without risk. But medical opinion about these supplements has changed somewhat because of ongoing research and advice from the American Heart Association (AHA).

Here’s who should consider taking fish-oil supplements:

People who already have coronary artery disease, notably those who have had a heart attack. There is solid evidence that omega-3s can help protect them. Thus, a few years ago the AHA started recommending 1 gram a day of omega-3s, preferably from fish, for these people, with their doctors’ approval. That’s the amount in a serving of fatty fish, such as 3 ounces of salmon. But most people don’t eat fish every day, and many choose less-fatty fish (it takes 12 ounces of canned tuna or 7 ounces of flounder to supply 1 gram of omega-3s). Moreover, since fish may contain mercury, many experts advise limiting fish intake to 12 ounces a week, on average. So to get enough omega-3s without going overboard on fish, people with heart disease should consider taking fish-oil supplements on days when they don’t eat fish.

Those with high triglycerides. These fats in the blood increase the risk of heart disease. It’s well known that omega-3s help lower triglycerides. The AHA recommends 2 to 4 grams a day from supplements for people with high triglycerides, but only under the care of a physician.

Those with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or other auto-immune disorders. Omega-3s may help relieve the inflammatory symptoms of such auto-immune diseases by suppressing the immune response. Thus, they can help reduce the joint pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation says the supplements are worth trying. Clinical studies suggest about 3 grams of omega-3s a day.

What about people with coronary risk factors, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, but no apparent heart disease? We suggest that they get their omega-3s from two or three weekly servings of fatty fish. There have been no clinical studies to see if fish-oil supplements will help them.

Not for everyone
If fish oil is so great, why shouldn’t everyone take supplements?

  • The decreased ability of the blood to clot, which helps prevent heart attacks, has a negative side, notably an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke. People with bleeding disorders, those taking anticoagulants, and those with uncontrolled hypertension should not take fish oil supplements.
  • Large doses of fish oil may suppress the immune system. Thus, supplements may be risky for those with weakened immune systems. What’s a “large dose”? One definition is 3 grams or more a day, but no one really knows what the cutoff point is.
  • Large doses can increase glucose levels in people with diabetes.
  • Large doses can cause nausea, diarrhea, belching, and a bad taste in the mouth.
  • The supplements may contain contaminants and may not contain the labeled dose. Testing by Consumer Reports of top-selling supplements was reassuring on both counts, even for the least expensive brands, but that doesn’t mean that the next batches will be okay–or that other brands on the market are. Similarly, tests by ConsumerLab.com have found no detectable levels of mercury in fish-oil supplements, but did find that some brands didn’t contain the labeled amounts of omega-3s.

Fathom this: It is rare for a major health group like the AHA to recommend any dietary supplement. But remember, its advice concerns the treatment of specific diseases. For everyone else, two or three small servings of fish a week is still the way to go. Fish may be more beneficial than the supplements because it contains other important nutrients, some potentially cardio-protective. And fish can take the place of meat, which is usually high in saturated fat and thus bad for the heart.

Exercise An Absolute Must For Menopause

If you’re 40 and older and your bones, particularly your hips, wrists and back feel a bit weak and frail; it’s not your imagination. Prior to this stage in your life, your bones had already reached their maximum potential of robust health, thickness and sturdiness. Almost immediately following your 40th birthday, give or take a few years, your ovaries automatically began to slow down on their estrogen production, which indirectly effects the amount of calcium that your bones were accustomed to receiving from the calcium rich foods that you eat. This in turn began another decline as far as the speed at which the calcium is transferred into your bones. Whether you realize it or not, this is a big deal. From this time forward exercise is critical if for no other reason than you need to hold on to the bone health and strength you already have and not the other way around.

Exercise, especially the weight bearing type such as walking, running and cycling is important during this period. This type of exercise is very helpful during this transition period because it slows down bone loss, which at this time and stage is critical because dramatic bone loss will soon be an issue for several years until it levels off. This most certainly can make you very susceptible to fractures in your weakest areas, the wrist, hips and back. Although one might think a simple cure would be a supplementation of calcium during these critical years, however medical experts are quick to make sure people know that supplementation is not enough. Studies show that calcium supplements alone will not slow down the massive bone and mineral loss experienced to the degree needed during this period. Neither are there answers in the drugs used to treat osteoporosis. Many of these drugs contain fluoride, which increase bone mass a bit but fail to protect against fractures.

Good old exercise, as disappointing as it may be to some to hear, is still a tried and true bone builder. In fact, almost any type of physical activity encourages bone density, which is what we want and need. As mentioned before, the exercise is more helpful if it’s the kind that’s weight bearing like walking, running or cycling. You can also add strength training to that list.

Disturbed by the frequency of falls and fractures that middle aged to elderly women incur at the onset of menopause, Tufts University’s Dr. Miriam Russell has had an ongoing study for several years now that began with these groups of women. It’s called Strong Women Stay Young. They are seeing continuous and amazing results. One related study that sticks out in support of weight bearing exercise is one in which a large group of elderly women undertook the Strong Women challenge for an entire year. They used free weights and ankle wrap-around weights, which they adjusted and increased periodically, as they got stronger. After the one-year period, the study called in the older women’s daughters. The not so surprising result revealed that the mothers who had just completed the Strong Women Stay Young training had increased their bone mass and were much stronger than their younger inactive daughters. Here you have it. Your bone health tomorrow and in the future will literally depend on what you do about it today.

Learn how probiotics aid in the digestive process

What are probiotics and exactly how do they work in the digestive system? They are good bacteria, which naturally occur there, aiding in the break down of food so nutrients may be absorbed into our system. They also maintain good health and help fight disease. This is the opposite of what we usually think bacteria would do, but the fact is that this class of bacteria is actually healthful and helpful.

The digestive tract naturally maintains a delicate balance of both bad and good bacteria. There are literally trillions of total bacteria living there. Many situations can upset this balance, stress, poor diet, alcohol, antibiotics and infections to name a few. When this happens, many symptoms can occur like gas, constipation or diarrhea. An imbalance left untreated over time can compromise the immune system. Some may choose to take supplemental probiotics to ward off any imbalance. This should be discussed with a doctor before doing so. There are, however, some foods where it occurs naturally, such as yogurt, although frozen yogurt doesn’t usually contain any.

The name probiotics is really an umbrella for about a hundred species of microorganisms or intestinal flora. They are sometimes called acidophilus. Two well-known species are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Lactobacillus was first identified by Louis Pasteur a pioneer in modern microbiology. These organisms increase acidity in the digestive tract and produce substances that act like natural antibiotics to ward off other unwanted microorganisms or pathogens not allowing them to multiply and take over causing discomforting symptom and perhaps leading to illness. They also aid in the breakdown of protein, carbohydrates and fats in the foods we eat allowing for the absorption of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. This how we get the nourishment out of the foods we eat. Acidophilus is also a good source of lactase, the enzyme missing for those who are lactose intolerant which usually happens as we age, and is thought to produce some B vitamins. Probiotics play multiple important roles.

Recent advances in microbiology and intestinal bacteriology have produced results, which may substantiate the important role lactobacillus plays in human health. It is usually recommended that a regime for good health contain taking vitamin supplements along with getting some exercise and eating healthful, nutritious foods. It is the inclination of this writer that the inclusion of probiotic supplements would be important to good health, but again, this should be discussed with a doctor. If probiotics can enhance immune function, it could be said that a great deal of this function exists in a healthy digestive environment. Russian Nobel Prize winning physiologist, Metchnikoff thought so too. His research suggested that aging was caused by putrefaction and fermentation in the intestines and that taking yogurt into the system would help prevent it. Remember the old saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?” Well today, so can a cup of yogurt as the importance of beneficial bacteria becomes accepted not only in alternative healing therapies but in traditional ones as well.