Month: September 2020

What Are the Best Probiotic Strains?

“You should take probiotics.” “I heard probiotics are good for you.” “Oh, probiotics are so, so important.” Yes, yes. These are all true statements. But they are broad. Which probiotics? Which strains for what purpose? Simply saying “probiotics” tells us very little about what we’re supposed to be taking. It’s like saying “You should eat food.” Technically accurate yet operationally useless. Today I’m going to rectify that. I’m going to describe the best probiotic strains for each desired purpose, because there is no single strain to rule them all. The probiotic strain that’s best for anxiety may not be the best probiotic strain for allergies, and so on. Of course, these aren’t the final word. What follows is the best available evidence as it exists today. That may change tomorrow. And it will certainly change based on your individual makeup. With all that in mind, let’s get right down to it. Instantly download your Guide to Gut Health Best Probiotic for Anxiety The existence of the gut-brain axis — that mysterious thoroughfare running from the gut to the brain and back again — and the presence and even production of neurotransmitters along the gut suggests that “gut feelings” describe real phenomena. Mental and gut health are strongly linked, and it’s most likely a bi-directional relationship where each affect the other. You know this already, though, don’t you? We’ve all felt fear or discomfort in our guts. We’ve all had instinctual responses to certain people that seemed to manifest in our stomachs (and later be proven). These are real. They aren’t figments of our imagination. For instance, we know that some strains of gut bacteria can produce GABA, the “chill-out” neurotransmitter responsible for sleep and relaxation. We know that feeding prebiotics (bacteria food) to people can lower their cortisol and induce them to focus on positive stimuli instead of negative stimuli. We know that the greater the intake of fermented food like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, or sauerkraut, the lower the incidence of social anxiety. The best candidate for anxiety is Lactobacillus rhamnosus. Although no human anxiety studies for this strain exist (yet), there are plenty of animal studies that support it. One notable paper found that dosing mice with L. rhamnosus increased cortical expression of GABA genes and reduced cortisol and anxiety-like behaviors. Best Probiotic for IBS Irritable bowel syndrome is, well, irritating. Even more irritating is the fact that it describes a confluence of symptoms rather than a specific disease; two people, each with “IBS,” can have disorders with completely different etiologies. This complicates the probiotic you choose. In one study, IBS patients who took a combo of Saccharomyces boulardii, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus plantarum saw a 73% improvement in symptoms—but only if they also had small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). IBS patients without SIBO only had a 10% improvement. (Side note: since gastro-esophageal reflux disease, or GERD, usually presents with SIBO, there’s a good chance that this lineup of strains could also help there) Another paper, a meta-analysis from … Continue reading “What Are the Best Probiotic Strains?”

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How to Stop Drinking Coffee, and Why You Should Consider It

Thank you for reading past the title of this post. I wasn’t sure anyone would. After all, here I am offering advice on how to quit the world’s most beloved beverage. (“Hold my beer,” says Beer.)

The love of coffee transcends national and cultural borders. Around the world, most of us start our day with coffee. Folks take pride in sourcing the best beans and pairing them with the ideal grind and brewing method. We meet friends, clients, and first dates for coffee because coffee shops are comforting, safe spaces.

As good ol’ Anonymous observed, “Humanity runs on coffee.”

Yet here I am suggesting you might want to quit. Before I get into why, let me assure you that by and large, I still think coffee has more benefits than downsides. It improves workouts and memory, fights fatigue, and epidemiological evidence links coffee consumption to a host of health benefits. You can check out my Definitive Guide to Coffee to learn more.

There are downsides, though. In the pursuit of optimal health, it’s essential to examine our choices and behaviors and ask which of them might be undermining your health and longevity goals. That’s what I’m suggesting you do today.

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The Definitive Guide to Saturated Fatty Acids

What are saturated fats, exactly? Today, I’m diving into the nuances of saturated fatty acids — a guide to all the individual fatty acids that make up the saturated fats we eat, store, and burn.

I won’t cover every single saturated fatty acid in existence. Some don’t play any significant role in human health or diet, like cerotic acid, which appears mainly in beeswax. Or arachidic acid, which you can get by hydrogenating arachidonic acid or eating a ton of durian fruit. There are a few more that aren’t very relevant.

I will instead cover the most important ones.

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Fudgy Keto Zucchini Brownies Recipe

Brownies are the classic bake sale staple that can take you right back to childhood…the ooey-gooey texture, the overwhelming aroma of chocolate, the fudgy middle. Growing up, the absolute best brownies were a treat for special days at school. Dusted with powdered sugar, these dense squares would taste so good (until you were falling asleep at your desk at 3pm, in a full sugar haze). 

Update the nostalgic classic with Fudgy Keto Zucchini Brownies. This delectable treat is the perfect solution for any leftover zucchini lying around after making zoodles or zucchini bread. With just a ¾ cup of shredded zucchini, eggs, chocolate and a handful of pantry staple items, you can whip mouthwatering chocolate zucchini brownies up in just thirty minutes.

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Weekly Link Love — Edition 100

Research of the Week
More sugary drinks, less brain volume.

Less zinc in the blood, greater risk of COVID death.

Minorities are more likely to test positive for COVID, a disparity not fully explained by pre-existing conditions.

Some East Asian populations have metabolic adaptations to rice-based diets.

Living with kids lowers the risk of COVID.

Beyond meat, there’s a place where bones crumble.

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How Do You Start Asking for Help?

Feel like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders? I can totally relate. If the struggles of living in an overly busy, stressed out society weren’t enough, the fear of navigating it all mid-COVID is the proverbial icing on the cake. Whether it’s the overwhelm of managing day-to-day tasks or deciding to get a handle on your mental or physical health, it can be hard to go it alone. Which leads me to the question: why do we feel compelled to do it all ourselves? Do You Have a Do-It-All-Myself Mentality? I ask my health coaching clients this question anytime I can feel them slinking back into their old patterns of avoiding asking for help. We sort of live by this notion that we should all be able to handle anything that comes our way. And if we can’t handle it ourselves, well, that’s a sure sign (at least in our own minds) that we’re weak, incompetent, or somehow unworthy of achieving success in that area. New health diagnosis? Sure, no problem. Relationship problems? Got it all under control. Global pandemic like we haven’t seen in our lifetime? No freakin’ sweat. The trouble is, asking for help can bring up similar, uncomfortable feelings. Research done in the fields of neuroscience and psychology confirm that there really are social threats involved in doing so. In fact, researchers found that an emotionally painful threat activates the same parts of the brain as physical pain does — which of course gives us even more reason to avoid asking and continue struggling in silence. Reasons You Avoid Asking for Help You may avoid asking for help for several reasons: You’re unsure where to turn You don’t want to be seen as weak Fear of being rejected Showing vulnerability Not sure how to ask Feeling like a burden Worrying people won’t like you Relinquishing control Admitting you can’t do it all Feeling like your problems are less significant You grew up with a pattern of being let down in childhood There’s no shortage of reasons why it feels hard to ask for help, but here’s where it gets wild. Studies show that people actually like helping other people — they get a huge benefit from it. Nothing we do as humans proves to be as fulfilling as lending a hand to someone else. To test this theory, researchers had participants write either a supportive note to a friend or write about their route to school or work before undergoing a lab-based stress task. Physiological responses like heart rate, blood pressure, salivary alpha-amylase, and salivary cortisol, as well as self-reported stress were collected and measured throughout the experiment. They found that participants who had written the supportive notes had lower sympathetic-related responses than their counterparts who just wrote about their routine. Asking for help makes people like you more too. This concept is called the Benjamin Franklin effect and is based on cognitive dissonance theory, which refers to “a situation involving conflicting attitudes, … Continue reading “How Do You Start Asking for Help?”

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