A recent study by Dr. Frank Shallenberger concluded that all diseases begin in the gut; at least in rat studies. It showed that viruses and bacteria disrupt the good flora in the intestines and cause the body to release inflammatory substances which can cause anything from heart disease to diabetes to fibromyalgia. Whether all-inclusive for causing diseases, disturbances in the gut can be disabling, at best. I know; I flirted with ulcerative colitis about a dozen years ago. Therefore, it is vital that you keep the friendly bacteria in your gut as vibrant and happy as possible. Healthy gut bacteria provide many powerful functions, and keeping the balance nature intended is paramount in achieving/keeping optimal health. These busy bugs have many functions, including producing vitamins, detoxifying potential carcinogens, and activating health-promoting compounds, which in turn shield us against disease. However, the gut can also host bad bacteria. “The gut is like a war zone, with the good guys always fighting the bad guys,” says Venket Rao, Professor Emeritus, faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto. “We’ve got to do what we can to build up an army of good bacteria and squash the bad,” he explains. “Imbalances of the intestinal bacteria could lead to serious infection, chronic inflammation, improper immune responses, and diseases such as cancers, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and diabetes. So how does one go about boosting friendly bacteria? 1) Eat more whole, fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Fiber ‘feeds’ the healthy, hungry microbes. 2) Include fermented foods, such as live culture yogurt, pickles, and sauerkraut in your diet. Eating fermented foods which contain live cultures add healthy microbes to your intestines. Make sure the label says “contains live cultures.” 3) Consider taking a probiotic supplement, beverage or food.

Following up on my weight loss blog from the other day, I wanted to share with you one of my dietary strategies; I snack on nuts every day. I keep a little plastic container with me that has enough room for two handfuls of nuts. Nuts are a healthy way to keep that ‘full’ feeling in between meals. I have a mixture of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, and pecans. Occasionally I’ll toss in pistachios. I read a recent article in the May issue of Scottsdale Health, touting the benefits of five nuts. They are: 1) Walnuts- packed with omega-3’s and ALA (a certain type of omega-3), walnuts lower cholesterol, decreases the rate of bone breakdown, and improves cognitive brain function. Walnuts also contain 16 disease-fighting polyphenols. 2) Almonds-high in magnesium, as well as bone-building calcium, also provide cholesterol-lowering properties. Almonds also contain good amounts of vitamin E and selenium (great for the immune system). Recent studies also show  almonds can help lower your risk for colon cancer. 3) Pistachios-high in dietary fiber, pistachios also contain phosphorous, copper, thiamine, and B6. They help protect against certain cancers, lower cholesterol, and reduces your risk of heart disease. 4) Macadamia nuts-are one of the few foods containing palmitoleic acid, which research shows may play a role in metabolism and helping reduce stored fat. Macadamia  nuts can help lower cholesterol, and contain flavonoids and vitamin E, both of which can help prevent heart disease and cancers. There are also omega-3’s, and the vitamins niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin A. 5) Pecans-lower cholesterol and improve heart health. They’re packed full of 19 key vitamins and minerals, including vitamins E and A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Chock full of fiber, pecans will help you feel full. Eating nuts is a healthy way to lose fat.

Many diets concentrate on the number 3500, as in 3500 calories. While it’s true that 3500 calories = one pound, trying to cut 500 calories/day from your diet to lose one pound/week, doesn’t work, and here’s why. As you restrict calories, your body, sensing you are starving it, will slow down your resting metabolic rate, also called your basal rate. Your basal metabolic rate burns 70-75% of your daily calories, so you don’t want to dampen that furnace. Instead of focussing on just restricting calories, think about increasing activity, including my favorite; high-intensity short burst work. Don’t think of weight loss as a momentary diet, because you’ll put the weight back on again. The process needs to be about changing behavior.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.