Tag Archives: Standard American Diet (SAD)

Probiotics for Your Gut and Your Mood





Need more evidence that what goes on in your gut greatly affects what happens in the rest of your body? Here’s information recently reported in the scientific journal Gastroenterology demonstrating that our gut bacteria play an important role in our emotional responses.
Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, Associate Professor at the Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress, David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, and a group of other researchers there investigated whether consumption of a fermented milk product containing probiotics (FMPP) would affect activity in brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation.
The researchers divided the 36 healthy female participants into three groups. One group received a placebo twice daily for four  weeks. A second group received an unfermented milk product twice daily for four weeks. The third group received a fermented milk product containing various kinds of probiotics twice daily for four weeks.
The FMPP given to the third group contained Bifidobacterium animalis subsp Lactis, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Lactococcus lactis subsp Lactis.
At the beginning of the study and again at its end, all participants underwent a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) study of their brains to measure both resting brain activity as well as how the brain responded to an emotional event, such as seeing pictures of angry or scared people.
Results showed that a four-week intake of a fermented milk product containing probiotics positively affected mid-brain activity in regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation. (Tillisch, 2013)
In other words, the brains of the women who consumed the fermented, probiotic-rich milk product became smarter and happier in just four weeks!




This important study is the first to show that changes in human gut bacteria can have a profound effect on how the brain interprets the environment.
As reported in Medscape Medical News, Dr. Cameron Meier, Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Psychiatry at UCLA’s School of Medicine commented on the study, stating:

The knowledge that signals are sent from the gut microbiome to the brain and that they can be modulated by dietary changes will hopefully lead to more research aimed at finding new strategies to prevent or treat digestive, mental and neurological disorders.




Previous research has shown that the gut microorganisms of laboratory rats can be manipulated, causing the animals to become either timid or aggressive. This information has profound implications about our modern diet as well as our generally aggressive over usage of antibiotics which kill good bacteria along with the pathogenic ones living in our guts.
The Standard American Diet (SAD),  consisting mostly of foods poor in probiotics, and decades of physician-prescribed over use of antibiotics along with the heavy load of antibiotics fed to animals we eat and the products made from them,  contribute to the increased rates of depression, anxiety and attention deficit problems that are rampant in modern Western societies. (HealthFreedoms.org, 2014)






It’s time to concentrate on repairing our damaged guts with probiotics to restore our health.




Kefir and Live Culture Yogurt - Fermented Milk Products
Kefir and Live Culture Yogurt – Fermented Milk Products




Sour, fermented milk products such as yogurt, kefir, and labne (kefir cheese) have been consumed for centuries to improve vitality and health. Hippocrates, the Greek physician born in 460 BC and the father of modern medicine, used liquid whey to strengthen immune resistance.
Kefir, a fermented milk product derived from globules of bacteria and yeast known as “grains,” has a long history in Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. The word kefir is derived from the Turkish word meaning good feeling – a good description for what fermented milk does for the entire body.
Elie Metchnikoff
Elie Metchnikoff
More than a century ago, Nobel Prize winner Elie Metchnikoff, a Ukranian biologist, zoologist and protozoologist best known for his pioneering research into the immune system, suggested that yogurt contributed to the 87 year average lifespan of Bulgarians. He hypothesized that the consumption of live lactic acid bacteria in yogurt suppressed the multiplication of putrefactive bacteria in the large intestine.

The dependence of the intestinal microbes on the food makes it possible to adopt measures to modify the flora in our bodies and to replace the harmful microbes by useful microbes.

(Metchnikoff, 1907)

His hypothesis has been borne out by modern research.




Probiotics in Kefir
Probiotics in Lifeway’s Kefir


I strongly concur with adding kefir and yogurt to your diet for their useful microbes – gut friendly probiotics.
You’ll find kefir in the dairy section of many food stores. The plain version is healthier than the flavored kinds, which contain added sugars. And organic is preferable to non-organic (made from GMO milk).
If you’re buying yogurt, make sure it contains “live cultures” or you won’t get much probiotic benefit from it. The yellowish liquid on the top of the yogurt is the liquid whey. Again, plain is healthier than the flavored versions containing added sugars and organic is preferable to non-organic (GMO).
You can also easily make your own kefir and yogurt, preferably from organic milk.



Making Kefir at Home
Making Kefir at Home



Yogurt strains like Viili and Matsoni are cultured at room temperature, eliminating the need for a yogurt maker. Cultures for Health offers an abundance of yogurt starters.
Homemade kefir contains a wide variety of strains, including the four strains of probiotic used in the UCLA study: Bifidobacterium animalis, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Lactococcus lactis. Once you have the starter grains, also available at Cultures for Health, you can culture your milk for years to come. (HandPickedNation.com, 2013)


































Cultures for Health. A online source for many food culture starters.  See:  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/

Handpickednation.com. (2013). Fermented Milk: For the Gut and the Brain. See:  http://www.handpickednation.com/fermented-milk-for-the-gut-and-the-brain/

HealthFreedoms.org. (2014). New Study Shows How Gut Bacteria Affect How You See the World.  See:  http://www.healthfreedoms.org/new-study-shows-how-gut-bacteria-affect-how-you-see-the-world/

Metchnikoff, E. 1907. Essais optimistes. Paris. The prolongation of life. Optimistic studies. Translated and edited by P. C. Mitchell. London: Heinemann, 1907.

Tillisch, K. et al. (2013). Consumption of Fermented Milk Product With Probiotc Modulates Brain Activity. Gastroenterology, 144:7, 1394-1401.  See:  http://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(13)00292-8/abstract




© Copyright 2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

The Lowdown on Poop

Whether you care to think about it or not, all creatures – including us – eat and poop. The quality of that poop tells a lot about the state of our gut and overall health so it’s actually worth taking a look and not just flushing as quickly as possible.


Doctors at the Bristol Royal Infirmary Hospital in England found patients reluctant to talk about their poop so they cleverly came up with  the Bristol Stool Form Scale. Patients could now provide valuable information about their health by simply pointing to their stool type on the chart without feeling excessively embarrassed.



The chart illustrates the seven stool types:
Type 1
These stools resemble hard nuts or lumps, have spent the longest in the colon and are often very difficult to pass. People with Type 1 stools are very constipated.
Type 2
These stools are sausage-shaped but still have visible lumps. They are somewhat difficult to pass. People with Type 2 stools are slightly constipated.
Type 3
These stools are also sausage-shaped and better formed than type 2 but with visible segments. They are normal stools.
Type 4
These well-formed stools are shaped like a smooth sausage or snake and are easy to pass.  These stools are ideal, indicating a healthy colon.
Type 5
Although these stools are easy to pass, they are comprised of many soft blobs with clear edges, the result of having inadequate fiber in the diet.
Type 6
These stools are soft, fluffy and mushy with ragged edges, indicating the presence of inflammation in the gut.
Type 7
These stools are almost entirely liquid with no solid pieces, indicating more serious inflammation than Type 6. (See Gut Symbiosis and Dysbiosis and Inflammation for information on how inflammation is harmful to the body.)



A healthy gut allows stools to  glide out smoothly without  discomfort or straining. Needing to read a chapter or two of War and Peace while sitting on the toilet indicates your digestion isn’t working properly. In fact, a bowel movement should happen soon after you sit down so you wouldn’t need to do any reading there at all.
This brings to mind a story I heard from someone years ago: As a child, she thought Readers Digest was actually called Readers, Digest because the only place she ever saw it was in her grandparents’ bathroom.
We’re designed to poop after every meal – so 1-3 times a day. If you’re pooping once a week, you’ve got a lot of fecal matter backed up in your colon,  probably causing discomfort and even pain. Good elimination is a sign of good colon health.


Storing excrement indicates something is wrong. Symptoms of constipation include headaches, skin problems, bad breath, low energy and generally feeling unwell. Toxins the body was trying to eliminate get re-absorbed when feces sit backed up in your colon. A diet rich in whole foods and adequate filtered water helps keep the gut healthy and prevents constipation. The Standard American Diet (aptly referred at as SAD) does not promote good gut health.
Healthy Poop
A well formed stool is the result of proper consumption and digestion. Eating a diet low in fiber and high in processed foods will produce malformed poop. Healthy stools contain no undigested food parts – the presence of undigested parts usually means you chewed your food too quickly or have insufficient acid for the breakdown of food parts. Many Americans are hooked on antacids which actually cause a depletion of stomach acids. Try drinking warm lemon water in the morning instead.
Floaters  indicate a healthy amount of fiber and essential fatty acids in your diet. Most of us don’t consume enough healthy fats, causing stools to sink immediately or be malformed. And remember, not all fats are bad. Healthy fats are essential for us. (More on good versus bad fats in a moment.)
So take a look at your poop lying there in the toilet. If it’s not perfect, work on improving your diet. (The Alternative Daily, 2013)




Healthy versus Unhealthy Fats


Contrary to what we’re being brainwashed to believe, our bodies actually require fats in order to sustain health.  It’s the quality and quantity of the fats that are important.
We require essential fatty acids (the EFAs), which our bodies are unable to produce so must get their from our food or high quality supplements. EFAs help with cellular development and the formation of healthy cell membranes. They also block tumor formation; aid in the development and function of the brain and nervous system; help regulate proper thyroid and adrenal activity; play a role in thinning the blood to prevent clots that lead to heart attack and stroke; have anti-inflammatory qualities; regulate blood pressure, immune responses and liver function; break down cholesterol; and prevent skin problems, dandruff, split nails and brittle hair. (Ward, 2008) (FitDay, 2013)
Saturated fats and trans fats – the bad fats – raise blood cholesterol concentrations, contributing to clogged arteries that block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart and brain.
Don’t make the mistake of equating dietary fat with body fat. It’s eating excess calories that causes the flab. (Ward, 2008)
See Fat Facts: Good Fats vs. Bad Fats – The right fats are actually good for you for a full description of which fats are good for you and which are not.







To close, I recommend a lovely little book called Everyone Poops.


This wonderful, humorous book was written for young children but we all can learn something from reading it. It’s part biology textbook, part sociological treatise and a celebration of a very natural process. There’s the elephant with its enormous poop and bugs with poop the size of tiny specks.



The Alternative Daily. (2013). The Bristol Poop Chart: Which of the 7 Types of Bowel Movements Are You? See http://www.thealternativedaily.com/the-bristol-poop-chart-which-of-the-7-types-of-bowel-movements-are-you/

FitDay. (2013). How Essential Fatty Acids Benefit The Body. See http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/vitamins-minerals/how-essential-fatty-acids-benefit-the-body.html#b

Ward, E.M. (2008). Fat Facts: Good Fats vs. Bad Fats – The right fats are actually good for you. WebMD. See http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/good-fats-bad-fats


© Copyright 2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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