A granny buys a box of condoms thinking they were tea bags
© Provided by Gentside Instead of buying tea, a granny mistakenly buys a box of condoms A totally crazy story that has was reported on social networks last February. This English grandmother had undoubtedly forgotten her glasses when she went shopping at the supermarket. A size error Rosemary Riley, a 76-year-old grandmother from Lancashire, UK, went to her hometown Asda supermarket to shop, as the reported the Manchester Evening News .
“Go with your gut”—turns out that phrase is more than just an idiom. Perhaps you’ve felt “butterflies in your stomach” when you were anxious. Or maybe, you had a “gut feeling” when your fight-or-flight response was activated during a stressful moment. Now, studies show that there’s a key connection between your gut and brain, and that improving your gut health and diet might be an important part of improving your mental health. © Image credit: Shutterstock
"Many illnesses initially thought to be brain-based like depression, anxiety, even things like dementia, for example, actually may not be solely and may not even be majorly brain-based,” says Dr. Valerie Taylor, the head of the department of psychiatry at the University of Calgary and a scientist the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. “It might actually be the gut that really is controlling a lot of these things through the many connections between your GI system and your brain.”
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This is what you need to know about the mind-gut connection.
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What is the mind-gut connection?
While the focus on gut health as a means to improve mental health has been trending lately, the idea itself isn’t new. In the early 20th century, George Porter Phillips noticed that patients in London’s Bethlem Royal Hospital who suffered from melancholia usually also suffered from constipation. This led Philips to experiment with feeding patients kefir, which is chock full of gut-friendly bacteria to ease digestion and, he hoped, depression. It worked, and now over a century later, the basic premise behind improving gut health and mental health is taking off and has become a huge interest of study.
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“Our gut has more recently been referred to as our ‘second brain.’ We have seen the gut and the microbes within it play a role in our immune response, body inflammation, amino acid metabolism and making brain chemicals,” says Kelly Matheson, a registered dietitian working at a mental health hospital in Ontario. “Because what we eat ends up in our gut, researchers want to look at whether the composition of our diet impacts the processes and communication with our brain.”
So far, studies have been early, but promising. According to Matheson, some of the strongest evidence we have for the link between nutrition and mental health is around improving symptoms of depression and dementia. “However, it is important to note that nutrition at this time is still considered complementary, and not a replacement to traditional treatments such as medication or therapy.”
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The #1 Drink to Avoid to Lose Weight, According to Science
If there's just one drink you should cut out of your diet to help you lose weight, science says it should be this one.According to a study published in the journal BMC Public Health, 20% of the total calories you consume in a day come entirely from beverages. For the average person consuming 2,000 calories a day, that's about 400 calories added to your diet from beverages alone. So what exactly makes up those 400 calories? The BMC study found that it was a combination of coffee and tea (with the add-ins), energy drinks, fruit juice and drinks, milk, and alcohol.
How can your diet influence your mental health?
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Let food be your medicine
In Canada, natural health products—including vitamins, minerals, and supplements—is a billion dollar industry. That's a lot of money when you consider you can get what you need from your meals: Nutritionists tend to prioritize eating healthy, which allows them to get the nutrients they need from food. That's why these wellness pros warn against overdoing it on certain ones. Here's what you need to know.
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Looking for long, healthy hair and nails? Biotin pills may not be the miracle you were hoping for. "Some supplements don't have much evidence that they work," says Ginger Hultin, a Seattle-based registered dietitian, nutritionist. "Take biotin, for example—unless there is an outright deficiency, it's not proven to help. It's generally a best practice to get the nutrients you need from food if you can." Foods naturally rich in biotin include eggs, salmon, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, almonds, spinach, broccoli, and dairy like milk, cheese, and yogurt.
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Did you decide, on your own, to start taking iron supplements? That could be dangerous. "Iron is sometimes prescribed based on certain medical conditions, but use caution—it can have unpleasant side effects, including stomach upset and constipation," says Hultin. Too much iron could even lead to a condition called hemochromatosis, which can cause an irregular heartbeat, cirrhosis of the liver, and even cancer. Hultin prefers to use an individualized approach based on lab data to help determine which supplements her patients actually need. "This is another one to take only if you need to, and in the doses recommended by your doctor," she says. Instead, she suggests ensuring that you get the mineral from food, such as fortified breakfast cereal, oysters, beans, dark chocolate, tofu, lentils, spinach, meats like beef and chicken, and these other sources of iron.
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Red yeast rice
If you're trying to lower your cholesterol, you may have turned to red yeast rice. "While there is some evidence for treating high cholesterol levels with red yeast rice, it has side effects that should be monitored carefully by a physician," says Hultin. "And because this is a supplement that acts in many ways like a medication, it would be very unsafe to take it at the same time as a cholesterol-lowering medication." According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, some red yeast rice products contain a contaminant called citrinin, which can cause kidney failure. It's also unsafe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding. Try these foods that can help lower cholesterol.
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Nickel, chromium, zinc, copper
These heavy metals, often found in multivitamins, play important roles in different bodily functions. However, you need them in only trace amounts—which you likely obtain from food. "They do not leave your body easily, so a little goes a long way," says Dr. Levitan. "Taking daily extra doses could potentially cause harm, as these metals can deposit in different parts of your body, such as your brain and bones. There has also been a question of the association of heavy metals with dementia." Unless you have a proven, profound deficiency (often because of a chronic gastrointestinal illness), you should not take these on a daily basis.
(Here are the signs you're not getting enough zinc in your diet.)
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When an immune-boosting nutrient is this easy to obtain through food, there's simply no need to supplement. "Plus, our body does not store extra vitamin C," says registered dietitian Jenn LaVardera, owner of Hamptons RD. "This means that when you go above and beyond your daily needs, your body simply eliminates the rest instead of saving it up for later." LaVardera warns that if you take megadoses over 2,000 mg, it can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and cramps. If you are getting a few servings of fruits and vegetables each day, you are likely meeting your vitamin C requirements. The daily recommended amount is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men—you can get that from a cup of strawberries or broccoli (about 80 mg each).
(Here are other good sources of vitamin C.)
You may have heard that folic acid supplementation is crucial for pregnant women or those trying to conceive. However, registered dietitian Lauren Manaker, owner of Nutrition One Counseling, recommends folate instead; there's a chance that infants exposed to folic acid in the womb may have a higher risk of food allergies, according to American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. "To be on the safe side, I obtain my folate needs through food, and if a client is in need of supplementation, I only recommend the natural folate form instead of the synthetic folic acid," she says.
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"Multivitamins are definitely the number one supplement that clients have been convinced that they need," says registered holistic nutritionist Jenni Bourque, cofounder of Naughty Nutrition. She points out that while people who have severe digestive issues like Crohn's or celiac disease, or illnesses that affect the way nutrients are absorbed, may need to supplement with a multivitamin, the rest of us can take a pass. Some vitamins and minerals compete for absorption in the body, she explains; when you have them all in one pill, you could end up missing out on key nutrients. For example, iron competes for absorption with other minerals like calcium, magnesium, and zinc. "If you have poor nutrition, the best thing you can do for your body is to start cleaning up your diet and asking your doctor to run tests to see if you have any true deficiencies or hormonal imbalances," she advises. "And if you have a true vitamin deficiency, it's best that you supplement with that specific supplement to get the full benefit."
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First, let's start with a primer about this bone-health-boosting vitamin: The two major types of D vitamins are D2 and D3. Vitamin D3 is the type your body makes when sunlight hits your skin, and it's the form that boosts your blood levels more readily. Vitamin D2 is made by plants, and your body doesn't seem to absorb it as efficiently. "Vitamin D3 supplements are typically higher quality as well, so it's the one you should take if you have a deficiency," says Mirna Sharafeddine, co-founder of Naughty Nutrition. "Make sure to monitor your levels, as vitamin D is fat-soluble and too much of it can build up in the body and become dangerous. If you are vegan, it may be harder for you to find vitamin D3." It's synthesized from the fat in lamb's wool or fish oil, although there are some varieties derived from algae. Oh, and if you need a boost of D3, you could also spend some time outside.
(Here are the signs you're not getting enough vitamin D.)
Many people take B vitamins to boost their energy, but high doses could be dangerous. Men who regularly took larger amounts of B6 and B12 had higher risks of lung cancer, according to studies published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Some people may benefit from a B complex, though: "If you are pregnant, have a compromised gut, are vegan/vegetarian, are taking certain medications, or are older, you may want to get tested to see if you need to supplement," Sharafeddine says. You can likely get an adequate amount of B vitamins through whole grains, dark leafy greens, fish, eggs, or poultry. Here are other foods high in B12.
Iodine is vital for your thyroid, and your body can't make it. That means you need it from your diet—and that's why food has been fortified with the mineral for decades (think of iodized salt, for example). "Thyroid health and your entire metabolism are dependent on iodine," says Bourque. Some people tout the supplements as thyroid helpers; Bourque warns that if you already have a thyroid issue, taking excess iodine may exacerbate the condition. Plus, excess iodine can also cause stomach issues, runny nose, and headaches. If you think that your diet is low in iodine or you're worried about a deficiency, says Bourque, talk to your doctor before trying a supplement. You can also try eating food sources of iodine, such as seaweed (nori and kelp are great examples), cod, shrimp, tuna, eggs, and prunes.
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There are lots of ways that our gastrointestinal (GI) system and brains are linked. For example, neurotransmitters (the chemicals in your brain responsible for mood, like serotonin which is thought to be deficient in people with depression and anxiety) are sometimes produced in the gut. “Many of the antidepressants currently on the market work by increasing the serotonin levels in our brains,” says Taylor. “But we also now know that a lot of the bacteria in our GI system actually produces serotonin themselves or are involved in serotonin metabolism, breaking it down for our bodies.”
Another major way that the GI system and brain are connected is the vagus nerve, the longest nerve in the body which runs directly from your gut to your brain. When the vagus nerve is stimulated (either with certain exercises, nutrients or probiotics), you feel calmer and happier.
What’s this I hear about probiotics?
Probiotics, which are often found in yogurt and other fermented foods, are made up of good bacteria that helps keep your gut healthy. “The gut impacts the brain, and the brain subsequently impacts your gut,” says Taylor. “I think if you’re feeling well and you want to prolong that wellness, things like probiotics can absolutely be linked to gut health and hopefully preventing an exacerbation of something like depression and anxiety.”
(Related: How to Build a Strong Microbiome to Improve Your Gut Health)
What sorts of foods should you eat to improve your gut health and mental health?
Of course, fermented foods that have tons of probiotic benefits are go-tos for improving gut and mental health. Matheson lists foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and fermented tea drinks like kombucha as great sources of probiotics.
Fibre is another great way to improve gut and mental health. Since fibre can’t be digested in the small intestine, it moves on to the large intestine intact, where microbes break it down into short-chain fatty acids, which are absorbed and travel to the brain. “If you produce lots of short-chain fatty acids, the hypothesis is that your brain is going to be healthier,” says Taylor. High-fibre foods include fruits and veggies, and whole grains.
Omega-3 fats are also recommended for a healthy gut and mind. Omega-3s are essential fats that can be found in a number of foods like fatty fish, eggs, flaxseeds and chia seeds. “Omega-3 fats have anti-inflammatory properties and newer animal models show the role of omega-3s in improving the intestinal walls and assisting with immunity,” says Matheson.
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So, will drinking kombucha cure my anxiety?
Both Taylor and Matheson want people to know that while improving gut health is an excellent way to help improve your mental health, it’s not going to fix everything. “There are no probiotics that are going to help make you well without other treatments like medication or counselling,” says Taylor.
“Nutrition is one piece of the wellness puzzle when it comes to our mental health,” says Matheson. “A nutrient-dense diet with foods known to assist in mental health and can have wonderful benefits in combination with other interventions.”
Now that you know about the mind-gut connection, this is what doctors think of brain-boosting supplements.
The post This is What You Need to Know about the Mind-Gut Connection appeared first on Best Health Magazine Canada.
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