Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Your "Second Brain," 3

Gluten-free products, so-called, are proliferating. But what really is gluten? Many people seem to be on the gluten-free bandwagon but don’t always seem to even know what gluten is. You may have watched the YouTube segment by Jimmy Kimmel about gluten (see link below). As you may know, gluten is a protein composite, gliadin and glutenin, that is limited to specific members of the grass family, including wheat, barley, and rye. It gives dough its elasticity, helps it to rise, and provides a chewy texture for many products. Some people have a wheat allergy; the immune system treats a component of wheat as a foreign body. Typically this immune response is time-limited with no lasting harm to body tissues. Different from wheat allergies, some individuals with celiac disease experience adverse health issues ranging from bloating, gas, and diarrhea and vomiting, to migraine headaches and joint pain. And different from either wheat allergy or celiac, some experience non-celiac gluten sensitivity (likely a gluten intolerance) that may be caused by a reaction to other components of wheat. Enter FODMAPs.  More tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Your "Second Brain," 2

Neurons have been identified in the Enteric Nervous System, also known as your GI system—at least a million. That’s one reason some scientists refer to the ENS as the ‘second brain.’ This stance is also changing perspectives on functional gastrointestinal disorders or FGID. For example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is now being referred to as an enteric neuropathy: enteric referring to the bowel and neuropathy indicating that the nerves are functioning sub-optimally. Patricia Raymond, MD, assistant professor of clinical internal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, points out that fiber can function like an on-off switch for IBS. Soluble fiber can slow down movement in the digestive tract, helping with diarrhea. Soluble fiber-rich foods include fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, apples, avocado, dried figs and prunes, oranges, and mango; and veggies such as asparagus, edamame, broccoli, green beans and peas, carrots, plus legumes, oats, barley, and psyllium. Insoluble fiber can speed up movement, alleviating constipation. Insoluble fiber can be found in zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens, grapes, root vegetables, whole grains, brown rice, legumes, oats, and nuts. And what does that matter? Neurons in the gut communicate regularly with neurons in the brain. A healthier gut often means a more well-functioning brain. More tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Your "Second Brain"

Some researchers are now talking about your “second brain.” What are they referring to? Your Enteric Nervous System or ENS—otherwise known as your gastrointestinal system. What forms the basis for this designation? Neurons. Thinking cells. Your ENS contains a million-plus neurons. They look just like brain neurons, eat the same type of food (neurotrophins), and have at least 30 neurotransmitters in common. Most of the serotonin in your brain and body—perhaps as much as 90%—is found in your gut along with half of all the dopamine. Knowing this it should be no surprise that an upset stomach can trigger a headache and upset emotions can result in a GI upset (e.g., constipation, diarrhea). An excess release of serotonin can cause nausea and vomiting, and so on. There is a close connection between brain and body, specifically between your first and second brains. More tomorrow.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Brain-Heart Health and Cholesterol, 5

It’s been known for some time that ingesting saturated fats, especially from non-plant sources, can adversely impact one’s health. Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands studied the impact of trans fatty acids (TFAs) on blood vessel health. They wanted to investigate whether different diets affect the blood vessels' ability to dilate or expand; namely a comparison of a diet high in TFAs (9.2 percent of fats ingested were TFAs) versus one in which saturated fats replaced the TFAs. (Takeaway? TFAs are even more lethal than animal-derived saturated fats.) According to Nicole M. de Roos, M.Sc., a Ph.D. fellow and lead author of the study, although trans fats typically make up a relatively small portion of total fat ingested, it can have a huge impact on disease risk. They found that the ability of the blood vessels to dilate was 29 percent lower in people who ate the high-TFA diet compared those on the saturated fat diet. Blood levels of HDL cholesterol were 21 percent lower in the TFA group compared to the saturated fat group. Bottom line? Avoid TFAs. Lower your intake of animal-derived saturated fats. Use healthier fats in moderation (e.g., cold-pressed olive oil, coconut oil, avocados).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Brain-Heart Health and Cholesterol, 4

Reportedly, trans fatty acids (TFAs) make up 4 percent to 7 percent of the dietary fat intake in the United States and the Netherlands. What is the effect on the potential health of individuals who ingest trans fats? It isn’t pretty! TFAs are created when hydrogen atoms are forced into liquid oils, such as soybean or corn oils. This process is required to make oils solid at room temperature so they can be used in processed foods and so the shelf-life of processed foods can be increased. When you read the terms "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oils you know some of the ingredients have been subjected to this process. TFAs are commonly found in margarine, packaged baked goods, cookies, crackers, and restaurant fried foods. Trans fatty acids have been found to raise the lousy LDL cholesterol and lower the healthy HDL cholesterol, which can contribute to any number of disorders in the brain and body, especially cardiovascular disease that impacts both the heart and the brain. Is there a relationship between TFAs and decreased dilation of blood vessels? More tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Brain-Body Health and Cholesterol, 3

Cholesterol is vital to your health. Researchers are discovering just how vital it is. As one explained it, think of the liver as packaging cholesterol into so-called lipoproteins, combinations of fats and proteins that function as mass-transit systems. They transport cholesterol, fat-soluble vitamins, and other needed substances through the bloodstream to the cells that need them. What is so vital about cholesterol? Here are a few key functions cholesterol provides:
  • Helps keep cell walls (membranes) working appropriately
  • Assists cells in adjusting to temperature changes
  • Is used by nerve cells for insulation (myelin)
  • Helps create substances such as vitamin D in the presence of sunlight
  • Produces bile, a fluid that helps process and digest fats
  • Creates hormones such as testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen

What role do trans fatty acids play in raising LDL cholesterol? More tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Brain-Heart Health and Cholesterol, 2

Most of the cholesterol needed by your brain and body is manufactured in your liver, along with smaller amounts in the small intestine and even in some cells throughout the body. Cholesterol is also found in some foods. There are a number of Internet sources that provide lists of foods that are high, low, or cholesterol-free. According to the American Heart Association, LDL is found in foods containing saturated fats, such as those in animal-based products; and in foods containing trans fats, found in commercially prepared products that contain partially hydrogenated oils and shortening. Oatmeal and foods such as apples, prunes, and kidney beans contains soluble fiber, which can help to reduce LDL. Soluble fiber in many other fruits and vegetables can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your blood stream, as well. What is cholesterol needed for in your brain and body anyway? More tomorrow.