What are probiotics?

By Brooke Strickland

When you hear the word “bacteria” you’re likely to think of the negative kinds of bacteria – the nasty stuff that lurks on door handles or in kitchen and bathrooms.  But not all bacteria are bad.  Probiotics – the “good” bacteria that lives in your gastrointestinal tract is key to keeping your body strong and healthy.  At some point, you’ve probably been told that eating yogurt on a regular basis will boost the good bacteria in your gut and will reinforce your immune system.  But does a carton of yogurt really amount to much in the scheme of things?  What other products with “active cultures” can help?  What are some of the benefits of increasing your probiotic intake? 

Products with active cultures, such as yogurt, have been shown to help individuals suffering with constipation, diarrhea, lactose intolerance, colon cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease.  Researchers at Tufts University also found other benefits to the body including overall enhancement of the immune system, positive changes in the microflora of the gut, and a decrease in the time food takes to go through the bowel. [1]

So if you’re looking for an easy way to keep healthy and maintain a strong, active lifestyle, eating foods that are rich in probiotics is easy.  Introduce some of these foods into your regular diet.

·         Yogurt (especially those made from goat milk)

·         Cottage cheese

·         Aged cheddar, gouda, or Swiss cheese

·         Sourdough bread

·         Soy products

·         Fermented cabbage (such as sauerkraut and kim chi)

·         Miso soup

·         Dark chocolate

·         Pickles

·         Kombucha tea

In addition, there are many products out there now that have been enriched with probiotics, as well as probiotic supplements.  These are also great alternatives to increase your intake. [2]

As with any new supplements or severe dietary changes, be sure to check with a doctor or medical professional to make sure it’s okay for you to start a new regimen.  

[1] Furtado, Margaret.  “Are You Getting Enough Probiotics?”  http://health.yahoo.net/experts/weightloss/are-you-getting-enough-probiotics  Accessed 12/14/2011.

[2] Group, Edward.  “Top 10 Probiotic Foods to Add to your Diet.”  http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/probiotic-foods/  Accessed 12/14/2011.

Why Your Unpaid Overtime is Making You Sick

The number of unemployed Americans is continuing to rise. The financial crisis has not only put many people out of work, but many employers have now stopped recruiting new staff members. The lack of jobs around, and the number of unemployed are making it near impossible to get a new job. Many employees around the country are well aware of this fact, and are becoming increasingly worried that they too may lose their jobs. Workers are now so scared of the risk of unemployment that many have started working through their lunch breaks, getting to work earlier and working long overtime hours each week -- all for free.

This increased stress and worry over losing their jobs, teamed with even longer working hours is certainly taking its toll on employees. Working too many hours each week will make you far more susceptible to common colds and infections, and you're likely to feel run down most of the time. Not only will your general health be affected, but your stress levels are likely to soar through the roof.

There are more reported work-related stress conditions than ever before, and people are making themselves very ill in the process, just to keep their jobs. For many, losing their job could mean losing their home too, and this is said to be the main factor behind this worrying trend.

The pressures and stresses people are under are not only having a negative effect on mental health, but stress in now making many physically ill, and permanently damaging health. If you're continually worried about your job and finances, and you're pushing yourself too hard, you too could damage your health. [1]

If you are worried about the security of your job, you don't have to make yourself ill in order to keep it.  Being the first in and the last to leave may impress your boss, but your body will not appreciate it. We all need down time, as well as time to relax and recuperate away from our jobs. If you have a family and you're never at home, your home life will be bound to suffer too.

Try not to work late every night. Make sure you get in on time every morning and get started on your work straight away. Your boss will be just as impressed, if not more, if you're able to get all of your work done in your working hours. Working unpaid overtime every week could give your employers the impression that you aren't able to cope with your workload, and it may even back fire on you.

Make sure you take a lunch break. This is an important break in the day. Not only is it essential for you to eat, but you also need to take a break away from your job. Working 8 or 9 hours straight is just not good for you, especially if you're working on a computer. You need to also take short regular breaks throughout the day too. This will not only give your eyes a well earned rest, but it will prevent you from getting RSI.

If you're working late, then you're probably eating late too. You should try to eat your evening meal before 7pm, as this will help your body to start digesting your food before you go to sleep. If you eat too late, you may find that you have trouble sleeping, and you could even begin to gain weight. [2 & 3]

References -

1 - Stress levels soar as credit crunch forces workers to put in unpaid overtime – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1083225/Stress-levels-soar-credit-crunch-forces-workers-unpaid-overtime.html. Accessed Sept 07, 2009.

2 - Crunch forces Britons to work unpaid overtime – http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLNE50701N20090108. Accessed Sept 07, 2009.

3 - Stress at work is a risk factor for depression – http://www.nhs.uk/news/2007/August/Pages/Stressatworkisariskfactorfordepression.aspx. Accessed Sept 07, 2009.

Autism: Recent Research Into the Cause

Doctors and researchers are yet to find the cause of autism, but some of latest autism studies may have found important links between certain genes and the condition. Although these studies have not yet been able to determine the exact cause of the condition, these latest research results may have gotten us one step closer to those elusive answers. 

About autism and how it affects us...

Autism is basically a brain disorder that has a number of signs and symptoms including:

- Inappropriate behavior including obsessive tendencies

- Behavioral problems

- Poor imagination when playing

- Problems with communication and understanding others


The condition mainly affects a persons ability to communicate with others, and can make social interaction extremely difficult. The condition effects each person differently, and some sufferers may be mildly affected by the condition, whilst others encounter a wide range of problems and disabilities.

Research into the causes of autism

The cause of autism is so far unknown. Doctors have suspected that faulty genes and abnormal connections to the brain play a big part in the cause of autism, and they've been working hard to prove these links. To investigate the genetic link theory further, researchers have been studying a number of chromosomes to help find those important answers. There have been a number of research projects that have taken place over the last few years, and the recent studies have unearthed a variety of findings.

In one of the most recent studies researchers found a new human gene that may increase the chances of autism. The project studied over a 1,000 families in a number of countries, took almost 5 years to complete, and primarily focused on chromosome 11. It was here that they found what they are calling the neurexin 1 gene. Further research is needed, but doctors are confident that this may be the key to the cause of this so far puzzling condition.

In a second study, researchers were focusing their attentions on another chromosome, chromosome 13, as they believe that the answers to the condition may lie here. It is thought that this genetic link may account for around 15% of all autistic cases, but again, further investigation is needed.

The exact cause has yet to be found, but the findings from these independent research projects could be the key to unearthing the so far unanswered questions about autism. These breakthroughs will also play a huge role in the treatment of autism, and will help to find new and more effective treatment options for sufferers. The diagnosis of the condition may also become far easier with this new information, and allow doctors to effectively and accurately test for the condition. [1 & 2]

Autism in the family

Yet anther study has recently discovered that families with an autistic child have a 5% chance of having another child with autism. This study was once again focusing on chromosome 13 when the link was found. Doctors have speculated for sometime that autism is in fact hereditary, and this study goes a long why to proving this theory. [3]

References -

1 - Researchers find first common autism gene – http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/researchers-find-first-common-autism-gene-1675964.html. Accessed Sept 13, 2009.

2 - First common autism gene found – http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE53R7UC20090429. Accessed Sept 13, 2009.

3 - Autism gene link – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/544055.stm. Accessed Sept 13, 2009.

Managing your money well can make you healthier.

The more we learn about money and how to manage our finances, the less likely we are to suffer from stress. There's a long list of things in life that can cause stress and stress related illnesses, but in the current financial crisis, money is definitely topping that list. The further people fall into debt, the more their physical and mental health can be affected. These constant money related worries are causing more and more people to become highly stressed and ill. As blood pressures rises and depression deepens, more and more people are suffering from ill health, as a direct result of stress.

If we learn and teach our children how to manage finances well, our money worries will be a thing of the past. Not only will this reduce the risk of stress, but it will make us better prepared if another financial crisis hits in the future. Read on to find out some great tips on debt management, and how you could stay stress-free.

How to get out of debt and become stress-free.

The credit crunch is hitting people hard. Those in debt and those with existing financial problems are amongst the worst affected. Those with loans, credit cards, and high mortgage repayments are struggling the most, and are dangerously close bankruptcy. In order to dig yourself out of debt, you need to face all of your money problems head on, and deal with each individual debt at a time. Here are some tips to help you get out of debt.

1) Cut up your credit cards. Juggling your debt with credit cards, and using them if you're low on cash will only make matters worse. Whatever you spend, you'll end up paying more, because of the added APR.

2) Create a daily, weekly, and monthly budget. Decide on a realistic budget and stick to it. This will help curb your spending and you can use the extra cash you didn't spend to help pay off your debts.

3) Change providers. Shop around for cheaper utility companies and insurances. You may be able to switch over and save some money on your bills each month.

4) Get help. If you can no longer manage you debts, seek professional help. An insolvency practitioner may be able to help you work our your finances, consolidate your loans and debts, and help to you get back on track. [1]

How to avoid debt and stay healthy.

Here are three simple tips that could help keep you stay debt free:

1) Don't spend more than you have

2) Don't take on too much debt

3) Keep track of your spending

Money worries + debt = stress. If you can keep to these three simple rules, then you're less likely to get your self into debt, and you'll stay stress free for longer. [2]

Teaching your children about debt and stress

It's becoming painfully obvious that young people now know very little about managing their money. Ensuring that your children have a good money education, will not only help them stay out of debt, but it could help them stay healthy too. Try to lead by example, and make sure your children understand the value of money, the importance of saving, and how to manage their finances wisely. [3]

References -

1 - How to cope during the recession – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7684846.stm. Accessed Sept 26, 2009.

2 - Managing your money effectively – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2962126.stm. Accessed Sept 26, 2009.

3 - Money Stress, Teaching Cents to Kids, Apprenticing – http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=6736011. Accessed Sept 26, 2009.

Health & Money Guide: How to stay stress free

As we fall further into the recession, more and more people's lives are being affected. Not only are many people losing their jobs and homes, but people's health is changing - and not for the better. If you're having trouble coping with your problems, or finding it hard to get your stress level under control, read on. In this article you'll find some great ways you could reduce your stress, beat your depression, and make sure your good health doesn't suffer.

Am I stressed?

Sometimes, we don't even realize that we're stressed out, until it's too late. If you let your stress levels continually increase without taking any action, you could end up becoming very unwell. Below are some of the most common signs that you can expect to experience if you're suffering from stress. If you can relate to any of these, you'll need to take steps to de-stress yourself, before you do yourself any real harm.

Do you:

- Find it hard to concentrate on the task at hand and listen to what people are saying?

- Suffer from bad indigestion?

- Have trouble sleeping at night?

- Find that you're far more irritable and bad tempered lately?

- Drink or smoke? If so, have your increased your intake of both as of late? [1]

What is causing my stress?

You need to look at what is causing your stress before you can do anything about it. Is it your current financial situation? Is it the burden of bills and debts that is causing you to worry? Or, is your increased stress level directly related to your current work environment? As soon as you pinpoint your stress source, you can take positive steps, and start changing your situation.

How to de-stress and relax:

- Work – If you decide that your stress is work related, why not take a little break. Make sure you use this time away from your job to relax, and to also think of ways that you could improve your situation, and make your life more stress free.

- Get some help – Talking to someone about your problems and stresses could really help you lighten your load. There are many health care professionals that specialize in stress related problems. They'll be able to help you reduce your stress level, and teach you techniques that will allow you to cope more easily in your everyday life.

- Relaxation – Zoning out in front of the TV at night may seem relaxing, but it's not really helping you out. Instead, try learning some breathing and relaxation techniques that will help you unwind, and fully de-stress yourself after a hard days work.

- Get some exercise – This will help to clear your head and allow you to concentrate on something new. Your endorphins will rise during your workout, which will also help by making you feel less depressed.

- Take care of yourself – You have to make sure that you eat a well balanced diet. Increased stress may cause you to lose your appetite, but it's essential that you eat good food regularly. [2]

References -

1 - Stress – http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/conditions/mental_health/emotion_stress.shtml. Accessed Sept 04, 2009.

2 - Preventing stress – http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Stress/Pages/Prevention.aspx. Accessed Sept 04, 2009.