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CRANBERRIES

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Many people know and love cranberries as served in cranberry sauce, cranberry juice cocktail, cranberry muffins, and the popular dried cranberries known as Craisins. But there are even more reasons to love cranberries. Current scientific research reveals that the tart red berries are among the most healthful of all berries—and they have more antioxidant activity than almost any other fruit. With the incidence of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic conditions rising throughout the world, researchers are increasingly focusing on cranberries to find new ways to use the fruit and its constituents to promote good health and prevent disease.



CRANBERRY COUNTRY

Would you be surprised to learn that the tradition of serving cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving is as old as the holiday itself? Cranberries are indigenous to North America, and have grown abundantly in the wild for centuries. Native Americans along the East Coast enjoyed the wild berries cooked with maple syrup or honey, and they most likely shared their favorite treat with colonists at early Thanksgiving feasts. Native Americans had other uses for cranberries as well, most commonly to make dyes and to clean wounds. Having learned to appreciate the many uses of cranberries from Native Americans, the colonists duly exported them back to England on an ongoing basis.

Farmers began to cultivate cranberries in North America, and cranberry production greatly increased thanks in part to a discovery by Henry Hall at his farm in Dennis, Massachusetts, in 1840. Hall observed that the berries flourished when sand was fortuitously swept into his bog by span winds; the sand stifled the growth of shallow weeds and supported healthy growth of the deep-rooted cranberry bushes. Today, the United States produces 154,000 tons of cranberries each year, the majority of which come from Wisconsin and Massachusetts.



CRANBERRIES AND URINARY TRACT HEALTH

Recent studies suggest that cranberries and cranberry juice may help maintain a healthy urinary tract by preventing the occurrence of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Scientists once believed that the chemical hippuric acid in cranberries was responsible for preventing UTIs. Early cranberry studies proposed that hippuric acid helped to acidify urine enough to prevent harmful bacteria from causing an infection. However, several other studies have failed to prove this theory or demonstrate that hippuric acid can reach bacteriostatic levels within the urinary tract.

More recent research has proposed a different reason for cranberry’s urinary health benefits. Scientists have turned their attention to the cranberry’s ability to prevent harmful bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract altogether. A 1998 study suggests that certain compounds called proanthocyanidins found in cranberries function similarly to the body’s Tamm-Horsfall glycoprotein, which keeps bacteria from adhering to bladder cells. UTIs are caused by a class of bacteria known as fimbriated gram negative rods, which includes the E. coli, Porteus, and Pseudomonas species. The fimbriae of these pathogens—the fringe-like material surrounding the bacteria—allow them to attach to the epithelial cells of the urinary tract and create an infection. However, an in vitro study published in 1988 showed that bacterial fimbriae are less likely to stick to the urinary tract when cranberry juice, or the urine of someone who drank cranberry juice, is present. The results also suggested that cranberry is more effective at preventing infections than curing them.

A large double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted in 1994 stands out as one of the more important human trials involving cranberry’s effect on urinary tract health. Researchers gave 153 elderly women 300 ml (10 ounces) of cranberry juice per day and noted the subsequent occurrence of UTIs. The results confirmed a trend towards fewer UTIs in the juice-drinking participants, and showed that only 15 percent of the group had bacteria in their urine, compared to 28 percent of the placebo group.

In addition to its UTI-preventing benefits, cranberry may also have other positive effects on the urinary tract. A few preliminary uncontrolled studies have shown that cranberry juice may help reduce the odor of urine, as well as the occasional burning sensation that accompanies urination. Further research is needed to confirm these benefits.



MORE ANTI-ADHERENCE BENEFITS

ULCERS

Scientists now know that most gastric ulcers are caused by the Heliobacter pylori bacteria,which adheres to the lining of the stomach wall. Results from a 2002 in vitro study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition indicate that cranberry juice may help prevent H. pylori from adhering to the stomach lining. In this respect, ulcer sufferers may benefit from cranberries in much the same way as those with urinary tract infections.



ORAL HEALTH

A study conducted in 2002 noted that a mouthwash containing a unique cranberry compound was able to break up the dental plaque formed by a number of oral bacteria and decrease the salivary level of the Streptococcus mutans bacteria that causes tooth decay.



GENITAL HERPES

Researchers have also studied cranberry’s anti-adherence effects on the virus that causes genital herpes. An article published in the Journal of Science, Food and Agriculture in 2004 shows that the proanthocyanidin A-1 found in cranberries may be effective in preventing the attachment and penetration of the herpes simplex virus. But like cranberry’s effects on the urinary tract, the benefits are only preventative.



ANTIOXIDANTS AND FREE RADICALS

Scientists now know that air pollution, cigarette smoke, pesticides, contaminated water, and even the food we eat all produce harmful free radicals in the body. These free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that cause damage—or oxidation—to healthy cells. This damage can impair the proper functioning of the immune system, which then can lead to infections, chronic disease, and cancer. Cranberries are a rich source of antioxidants, which can help eliminate harmful free radicals and protect cellular DNA from the oxidative damage and cell mutations that can lead to cancer.



POWERFUL PROANTHOCYANIDINS

Recent research points to cranberry’s exceptional concentration of bioflavonoids to explain its many health benefits. Scientists uses the umbrella term bioflavonoids for the many healthful phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables, herbs, grains, legumes, and nuts. Bioflavonoids frequently have antioxidant properties—some have been found to possess antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antihistamine abilities as well. Proanthocyanidins are just one of the many types of bioflavonoids that cranberries contain, but research suggests that they are one of the most beneficial.

Proanthocyanidins are potent antioxidants that occur most abundantly in blue, red, and purple fruits—cranberries having one of the highest concentrations. In addition to their antioxidant activity, certain proanthocyanidins, like proanthocyanidin A-1, offer additional benefits for a host of health conditions.

The proanthocyanidins found in cranberries help to increase peripheral circulation, and thus may help improve vision. In clinical trials of patients with retinal disease, including macular degeneration, the patients given proanthocyanidins showed significant improvement following therapy. Health professionals monitoring the effect of proanthocyanidins on vision have reported that they have also helped in the prevention and treatment of glaucoma.

Preliminary animal studies have produced compelling evidence that the antioxidants in cranberries can help keep the mind sharp and free from neurological damage by fighting free radicals in the brain. Proanthocyanidins are among the few antioxidants that cross the blood/brain barrier, thus helping to protect neural tissue, which may explain why these potent chemicals have helped patients with multiple sclerosis and other nerve diseases.



CRANBERRIES AND CANCER

In a 2002 study several cranberry compounds—particularly the proanthocyanidins—demonstrated a toxicity to various cancer cells, including cancers of the breast, prostate, lungs, and cervix. This study, in addition to several others, found that whole cranberries are more effective than cranberry juice in fighting cancer cells. Researchers have concluded that the active compounds in whole cranberries help prevent cancer and decrease the growth of tumors by halting cell cycle progression and causing cells to suffer programmed cell death.



THE HEARENING EFFECTS OF CRANBERRY

As scientists continue to study the causes of the nation’s number-one killer, new research shows that cranberry’s antioxidant power may help reduce cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease.

One in vitro study from the University of Scranton suggests that the same cranberry antioxidants that protect against cancer and other chronic diseases may help prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing. (Oxidized LDL cholesterol is considered a key contributing factor to hardening of the arteries and heart disease.) Similar animal studies have concluded that cranberries may also help decrease both LDL and total cholesterol levels.

Further investigation suggests that one particular cranberry antioxidant, pterostilbene, may hold the key to cranberry’s beneficial effects on heart health. A study completed by the USDA Agricultural Research Service compared pterostilbene’s cholesterol-lowering ability with that of a common lipid-lowering drug, ciprofibrate. The results of the study concluded that pterostilbene was more likely to stimulate cholesterol metabolism than ciprofibrate, thus keeping cholesterol levels healthy and balanced.

Cranberries may also play a part in maintaining blood vessel health, particularly in people with atherosclerosis. The proanthocyanidins in cranberries help enhance capillary strength and vascular function, which promotes overall heart health and decreases the incidence of varicose veins, leg swelling, and retinopathy. A 2005 study from the University of Wisconsin–Madison revealed that pigs with atherosclerosis that were given a daily dose of cranberry powder had improved vascular relaxation and blood vessel function similar to that of healthy pigs. Since unhealthy blood vessels can contribute to heart disease, science continues to study how cranberries can help prevent atherosclerotic patients from having heart attacks and strokes.



CRANBERRIES AND KIDNEY STONES

The incidence of kidney stones in American adults has risen sharply over the past few decades—primarily in middle-age white men, but also in women and younger people as well. While doctors can’t definitively explain what causes kidney stones, they hypothesize that genetics, other urinary or kidney infections, and even certain foods can cause stones to develop.

Kidney stones are hard, stone-like masses that form when crystallized substances in urine—usually calcium, phosphate, and other minerals—build up on the inner walls of the kidney and the ureters connecting the kidney to the bladder. Urine typically contains chemicals that prevent the crystal-like substances from forming, but these chemicals aren’t present or aren’t effective in some people. Luckily, cranberries may provide a viable substitute for these chemicals.

Cranberries contain a chemical known as quinic acid, which is unique in that it isn’t broken down as it passes through the body, but instead is excreted mostly unaffected in urine. The presence of quinic acid in urine may help prevent kidney stones from forming. Clinical studies have shown that quinic acid can make urine just acidic enough to prevent calcium and phosphate ions from combining to form kidney stones, and can also reduce the amount of ionized calcium in urine by over 50 percent—a significant amount considering that 75 to 85 percent of kidney stones are composed of calcium salts. Some studies have also suggested that the acidity of cranberries plays a minor role in helping to clear up urinary tract infections.

Cranberries may also play a part in maintaining blood vessel health, particularly in people with atherosclerosis. The proanthocyanidins in cranberries help enhance capillary strength and vascular function, which promotes overall heart health and decreases the incidence of varicose veins, leg swelling, and retinopathy. A 2005 study from the University of Wisconsin–Madison revealed that pigs with atherosclerosis that were given a daily dose of cranberry powder had improved vascular relaxation and blood vessel function similar to that of healthy pigs. Since unhealthy blood vessels can contribute to heart disease, science continues to study how cranberries can help prevent atherosclerotic patients from having heart attacks and strokes.



SAFTERY ISSUES

Cranberries contain a considerable amount of oxalates—naturally occurring substances that are found in most living things. However, when body fluids become too concentrated with oxalates they can interfere with the absorption of calcium from the body, and may aggravate existing health conditions such as kidney or gallbladder problems.



HOW TO ADD CRANBERRIES TO YOUR DIET

The best way to get the maximum health benefits of cranberry juice is to buy pure cranberry juice concentrate and mix it with a fruit juice of your choice, such as grape or apple. Cranberry juice concentrate also mixes well with club soda (use a little stevia to sweeten), Diet 7-Up, and other mixers. Cranberry juice cocktail is another good choice, but try to avoid products that contain a lot of added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.

Another option is to take one of the many cranberry dietary supplements that are now available. One recommended supplement contains 400 mg of whole cranberry juice extract in each daily capsule.



SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS

Individuals taking the drug warfarin are advised to avoid cranberries, based on recent reports from the United Kingdom stating that they may inhibit blood clotting activity. People undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy should also abstain from cranberries and other supplemental antioxidants during treatment, as the antioxidants may decrease the effectiveness of the treatments.



THE BOTTOM LINE

The discovery of cranberry’s anti-adherence abilities in urinary tract infections has spurred further study into other potential benefits for the prevention of ulcers, oral disease, and genital herpes. Cranberries continue to reign as the most antioxidant-rich common fruit, the power of which holds great promise for the fight against cancer, aging, and macular degeneration. Cranberry’s many antioxidants may also play a role in helping to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, thus helping to prevent the onset of heart disease. In addition, the phytochemicals contained in cranberries, such as quinic acid, may help prevent the pain of kidney stones and help maintain a healthy urinary system.



HEALTH-PROMOTING CONSTITUENTS IN CRANBERRIES

Carnitine deficiency is rare, but some studies have found low levels in several groups of patients. According to Michael Murray, N.D., author of The Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements, people with the following conditions may be at risk for carnitine deficiency:

• Anthocyanidins

• Benzoic acid

• Catechins

• Chlorogenic acid

• Anthocyanidins

• Anthocyanidins

• Ellagic acid

• Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)

• Fiber

• Flavonoids

• Folate

• Lignans

• Proanthocyanidins

• Quercetin

• Resveratrol

• Thiamin

• Triterpenoids

• Vitamin A

• Vitamin C



REFERENCES

Ackerson, Amber D. “Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)” Better Nutrition 67; no. 5 (May 2005) 12.

American Gastroenterological Association. “Peptic Ulcer Disease” and “Peptic Ulcer Disease and H. Pylori.” www.gastro.org. Accessed 2/22/2006.

American Physiological Society. “Cranberry juice modulates atherosclerotic vascular dysfunction,” Press release. (April 3, 2005).

Barnes, N. B., et al. “Consumers, Cranberries, and Cures: What Consumers Know About the Health Benefits of Cranberries,” Slade’s Ferry Bank Center for Business Research (Spring 2002).

Burger, Ora, et al. “A high molecular mass constituent of cranberry juice inhibits Helicobacter pylori adhesion to human gastric mucus.” FEMs Immunology and Medical Microbiology 29 (December 2000) 295.

Cranberry Institute, The. “Cranberry Nutritional Composition.” www.cranberryinstitute.org.

Ferguson, P. J., et al., “A Flavonoid Fraction from Cranberry Extract inhibits Proliferation of Human Tumor Cell Lines.” Journal of Nutrition 134 (June 2004) 1529–535.

Gettmann, Matthew T., et al. “Effect of Cranberry Juice Consumption on Urinary Stone Risk Factors.” The Journal of Urology 174, no. 2 (August 2005) 590–94.

Howell, Amy B., et al. “A-type Cranberry Proanthocyanidins and Uropathogenic Bacterial Anti-adhesion Activity.” Phytochemistry 66, no.18 (September 12, 2005) 2281–91.

Jepson, R. G., et al., “Cranberries for Preventing Urinary Tract Infections.” The Journal of Urology 173, no. 1 (January 2005) 111–12.

Kurutas, Ergul Belge, et al. “The Effects of Oxidative Stress in Urinary Tract Infection.” Mediators of Inflammation 4 (2005) 242–44.

Leahy, M., 2002. “Latest Developments in Cranberry Health Research.” Pharmaceutical Biology, 40 (Suppl): 50–54.

Lin, Y. T., et al. “Inhibition of Helicobacter pylori and Associated Urease by Oregano and Cranberry Phytochemical Synergies.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 71, no. 12 (December 2005) 8558–564.

Lynch, D. M., “Cranberry for Prevention of Urinary Tract Infections,” American Family Physician 70, no. 11 (December 1, 2004).

National Kidney and Urologic Disease Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) “Urinary Tract Infections in Adults.” http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov.

Puupponin-Pimia, Riita, et al. “Bioactive Berry Compounds—Novel Tools Against Human Pathogens.” Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 67, no. 1 (April 2005).

Reed, J. “Cranberry Flavonoids, Atherosclerosis, and Cardiovascular Health.” Critical Reviews in Food Science Nutrition 42, no. 3, supplement (2002) 301–16.

Schardt, David. “Berry Berry Good?” Nutrition Action Health Letter, 32, no. 5. (June 2005).

Schieszer, John. “Cranberry Products May Prevent UTIs: Ingestion of Cranberry Capsules Suppresses Three Common Pathogens in Urine Specimens.” Renal Urology News 4, no. 10 (November–December 2005) 11.

Seeram, N. P., et al. “Total Cranberry Extract versus Its Phytochemical Constituents: Antiproliferative and Synergistic Effects against Human Tumor Cell Lines,” Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 52 (2004) 2512–517.

Shmuely, H., et al. “Susceptibility of Helicobacter pylori Isolates to the Antiadhesion Activity of a High-molecular-weight Constituent of Cranberry.” Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Diseases 50, no. 4 (December 2004).

Sifton, D. W., editor in chief, “Putting an End to Urinary Tract Infections” in The PDR Family Guide to Women’s Health and Prescription Drugs. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Co., January 2003. Accessed February 15, 2006 at: http://wf2la2.webfeat.org/4gS9F12/url+http://galenet.galegroup.com.

University of Massachusetts Cranberry Station: “Natural History of the American Cranberry.” www.umass.edu/cranberry/cranberry/seasons.shtml. Accessed 02/07/2006.

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. “New Study Finds Cranberry Compounds Block Cancer: First Study to Confirm Cranberry Proanthocyanidins Inhibit Growth of Tumor Cells.” Press Release. PR Newswire. January 25, 2006.

Weiss, E. I., et al. “Inhibitory Effect of a High-molecular-weight Constituent of Cranberry on Adhesion of Oral Bacteria.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 42, no. 3, suppl. (2002) 285–92.

Weiss, E. L., et al. “Inhibiting Interspecies Coaggregation of Plaque Bacteria with a Cranberry Juice Constituent.” Journal of the American Dental Association 130, no. 1 (January 1999) and 130, no. 3 (March 1999).

Xiaojun Y., et al., 2002. “Antioxidant Activities and Antitumor Screening of Extracts from Cranberry Fruit.” J Agric Food Chem, 50(21): 5844–49.

Zhang, L. et al., “Efficacy of Cranberry Juice on Helicobacter pylori infection: a Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Helicobacter 10, no. 2, (April 2005) 139–45.





PROBIOTICS

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BACTERIA ARE ESSENTIAL FOR HUMAN HEALTH

When we hear the word bacteria, we may think of something harmful or unsanitary. Perhaps images of spoiled food and dirty bathrooms come to mind, but many types of bacteria are actually beneficial to good health. In fact, our bodies are teeming with trillions of bacteria from numerous species that are constantly performing essential work to promote healthy digestion, produce needed vitamins, fight infection, and enhance immune function, among other things. To put this into perspective, each person’s digestive tract contains between three and four pounds of beneficial bacteria. Two particular types of bacteria—Lactobacillus acidophilus (often called “acidophilus”) and Bifidobacterium bifidum—are among the most helpful of these beneficial bacteria, which are also called probiotics.



BATTLE FOR THE GUT

Humans are not born with a ready-made supply of beneficial bacteria, but we begin to acquire them soon after birth. Initially an infant’s mother contributes beneficial bacteria through her breast milk. Then, as the infant grows and starts to eat other types of food, additional bacteria—both good and bad—begin to colonize their body. As we mature, an ongoing battle rages between beneficial bacteria and harmful microbes for domination of the gut and other parts of the body. Because of this, we need to understand the importance of maintaining optimal levels of beneficial bacteria to keep the harmful varieties in check, thereby preventing a host of gastrointestinal maladies and keeping a variety of diseases at bay.



THE GOOD THE BAD THE UGLY

If a span population of beneficial bacteria lives in your gut, any unwelcome intruders, such as molds, yeasts, and harmful bacteria, that enter the body will be largely neutralized by the formidable defenses put forth by the joint efforts of the colonies of beneficial bacteria already in residence. Also, because the gastrointestinal tract is thoroughly colonized by these beneficial bacteria, harmful pathogens will find no suitable place to form new colonies. Conversely, if harmful bacteria dominate the gut, they will welcome more of their kind and fend off beneficial bacteria, creating an ugly pathogen- and toxin-ridden digestive tract that can create serious health problems throughout the body. This condition is called dysbiosis.



ANTIBIOTICS KILL BENEFICIAL BACTERIA TOO

One of the most menacing enemies of beneficial bacteria today is actually something that’s used to treat illness and promote health—antibiotics. While antibiotics serve a critical—and sometimes life-saving—function in treating infections caused by harmful bacteria, they also decimate the body’s colonies of beneficial bacteria, setting the stage for a proliferation of pathogens in the gut, secondary infections, and, eventually, resistance to the antibiotic itself.



ANTIBIOTICS AND VAGINAL YEAST INFECTIONS

One example of antibiotic therapy’s detrimental effect on the delicate balance of natural flora involves the proliferation of vaginal yeast infections in women who take antibiotics for various infections.

Vaginal yeast is held in check by acidophilus and other beneficial bacteria, and once an antibiotic kills those bacteria, the yeast multiply and spread quickly, causing a full-on yeast infection. Symptoms of yeast infections include itching, burning, redness, irritation, and painful sexual intercourse. Chronic yeast infections are an increasingly common health problem among women, and if left untreated, they can lead to more serious health conditions.

Acute yeast infections can be effectively treated with safe over-the-counter medications, but these remedies don’t offer real long-term solutions to avoiding chronic infections. Dairy products that contain living bacterial cultures, such as yogurt and kefir, and probiotic supplements can provide a long-term solution by helping to reestablish colonies of B. bifidum, L. acidophilus, and other beneficial bacteria to maintain a healthy microbial balance in the vagina and surrounding tissues.



CONDITIONS THAT CAN RESULT FROM AN UNHEALTHY IMBALANCE OF INTESTINAL BACTERIA:

• Acne

• Allergies

• Arthritis

• Asthma

• Attention deficit disorder

• Candida

• Chronic fatigue

• Colitis

• Constipation

• Crohn’s disease

• Depression

• Diarrhea

• Eczema and psoriasis

• Endometriosis

• Fibromyalgia

• Gastritis

• Headache

• Hormonal disturbances

• Hypoglycemia

• Irritable bowel disease

• Menstrual disorders

• Obesity

• Vaginal infections



OTHER ENEMIES TO BENEFICIAL BACTERIA

Many other factors can deplete beneficial bacteria levels, including poor diet, stress, disease, food allergies and sensitivities, high levels of toxins, too much sugar/refined carbohydrates, and alcohol/tobacco use. In attempting to restore a healthy balance of intestinal flora, it’s important to consider how these factors apply to your particular circumstances and take action to address them, such as managing stress, cutting back on refined carbohydrates, and being tested for food allergies. Making these simple changes can have a profound effect on both your gastrointestinal health and your overall well-being.



WHICH BACTERIA ARE MOST BENEFICIAL?

Even though hundreds of different species of bacteria inhabit the body, only a handful of species are beneficial. The following probiotics offer you the most health benefits.

Lactobacillus acidophilus. Out of about two hundred strains of acidophilus, the most beneficial are the NAS and DDS-1 strains. Both are effective against the pathogens Bacillus subtilis, Serratia marcescens, Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas fluorescens, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Sarcina lutea, Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus lactis. The NAS and DDS-1 strains have also been shown to inhibit fungal growth, relieve chronic constipation and diarrhea, increase the production of lactase, and improve the absorption of nutrients (especially calcium). Other forms of lactobacillus that can benefit intestinal health include Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus casei, and Lactobacillus johnsonii.

Bifidobacterium bifidum. This important probiotic inhabits the large intestine of adults and is aggressive in destroying pathogenic invaders. B. bifidum inhibits the bacteria that convert nitrates into cancer-causing nitrites and also aids in the production of B vitamins. Interestingly, B. bifidum may be most beneficial for those who aren’t helped by supplemental acidophilus. Many experts consider B. bifidum to be preferable to acidophilus for children and adults with liver disorders.

Additionally, a growing body of research on the “superstrain” B. bifidum Malyoth indicates it offers widespread health benefits, including detoxifying the liver, preventing nutrient malabsorption and B-vitamin deficiencies, regulating the production of waste, and preventing diarrhea and constipation.

Lactobacillus bulgaricus. L. bulgaricus acts in a supporting role by helping other probiotics effectively colonize the gut. One of the most notable strains of L. bulgaricus, LB-51, has received high praise for its ability to treat a range of digestive problems. LB-51 has also proven to be effective in destroying harmful bacteria and stimulating immune response. Research also indicates that LB-51 helps to maintain a clean intestinal tract, thus helping to alleviate constipation and diarrhea.

Lactobacillus GG. Many experts believe that Lactobacillus GG (LGG) is superior to L. acidophilus in its ability to fight gastrointestinal disorders. In fact, LGG’s beneficial attributes have more scientific support than acidophilus and other probiotics. One reason may be that LGG is derived from the sterile form of a bacteria that grows in the human intestine, whereas acidophilus comes from a bovine source. LGG’s human origin may better equip it to survive in the gastrointestinal tract and vagina.



SELECTING HIGH-QUALITY LIVING PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENTS

Many high-quality probiotic supplements are available today, but there’s one overarching consideration in selecting a supplement. Probiotics are living organisms, and if they are to have any therapeutic value, they must be alive when you ingest them. The following guidelines will help you select the highest-quality living probiotics.

• Acne

• Probiotics are available in several different forms, including powder, capsule, tablet, wafer, and liquid. Experts tend to prefer the powder and capsule forms, especially enteric-coated capsules, which pass through the stomach intact and release the bacteria directly in the intestinal tract. Some experts discourage the use of liquid probiotics, as they can lose their potency fairly quickly.

• Most experts recommend looking for a count of at least one billion organisms per capsule, or two billion organisms per teaspoon. Some products offer even higher counts.

• Ensure that the product has a guaranteed expiration date. If it doesn’t, don’t buy it. Also, beware of products that state something like “at the time of manufacture” or “at the time of shipment.” Who knows how long after those dates you will actually buy the product!

• Avoid products that indicate they have undergone a “centrifuge” or “ultrafiltration” process. These processes can break down the bacteria, rendering them less effective or even useless. They also artificially inflate the bacterial count (by including damaged/partial organisms in the count).

• Take probiotics on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, and then close to mealtimes throughout the day. Also, some experts recommend taking them with filtered lukewarm water (as tap water may contain chlorine, which will kill bacteria, and cold water can have a debilitating effect on bacteria as well).

• Keep your probiotics in a cool, dry place, with the lid kept on tight. The refrigerator is a great place to keep it (though be careful it doesn’t freeze).

• If you are taking an antibiotic, some experts recommend doubling or even tripling your normal probiotic dose for three weeks after finishing your antibiotic treatment. But don’t take probiotics and antibiotics at the same time; the antibiotics will simply kill the probiotics, rendering them useless.



MANGOSTEEN

The mangosteen is a small, firm fruit that is the size and shape of a medium tomato. It has a deep eggplant-purple skin. When sliced open, the mangosteen reveals a deep red rind called a pericarp, which is about 1/2 inch thick, which protects the succulent white-segmented fruit and black seeds at its heart. It is these white, pulpy segments, five to eight in number, that are eaten. The spongy, deep red, astringent pericarp is usually discarded. The delicious white segments, however, are not the part of the fruit that contains all of the potent antioxidants, but they are rich in phytin, an organic phosphorus compound.

Fruits that are rich in polyphenolic antioxidants are usually deep red, blue, or purple, like the mangosteen’s pericarp. Although the pectin-rich pericarp has been made into an edible purple jelly in some countries, it is so astringent that it must first be soaked in a 6 percent brine solution to reduce its 7 to 14 percent catechin and tannin content.

The pericarp contains a wealth of other phytochemicals that are of interest to researchers. Apart from its catechins and tannins, the pericarp contains one of the highest amounts of xanthones, phenolic plant compounds that may have antitumor, antibacterial, and fungicidal properties. It is the dried and powdered pericarp that has traditionally been used medicinally in Singapore, India, and China.



PROBIOTIC FAST FACTS

Popular strains: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus GG

Possible uses: Chronic yeast infections (vaginal and elsewhere), urinary tract infections, lactose intolerance, diarrhea, constipation, impaired immune response, irritable bowel syndrome, lupus, fibromyalgia, high cholesterol, indigestion, malabsorption of nutrients, bloating, gas, osteoporosis, of B vitamin deficiency.

Dietary sources: Fermented milk products, including yogurt and kefir, kimchi, kombucha tea, sauerkraut, soy sauce, tempeh, miso, and pickled vegetables

Possible side effects: Probiotic supplements are considered to be quite safe. However, if you suffer from a severe gastrointestinal problem, including pancreatic disease, consult with your health-care provider before taking probiotics. Also, some reports indicate that taking more than ten billion viable organisms daily may cause mild gastrointestinal distress.



THE BOTTOM LINE

Decades of research on friendly bacteria indicate that they offer wide-ranging benefits for you and your health. They defend against dangerous pathogens, including harmful bacteria, fungi, and yeast such as Candida albicans. Probiotics also help produce vital nutrients and digestive enzymes. They discourage infections of the vagina and urinary tract, prevent diarrhea and constipation, alleviate various gastrointestinal ills, lower high cholesterol, and can even relieve symptoms of lupus and fibromyalgia.



REFERENCES

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Kailasapathy, K., Chin, J. “Survival and Therapeutic Potential of Probiotic Organisms with Reference to Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium spp.” Immunology and Cell Biology. 2000;78:80­–88.

Macfarlane G.T., Cummings J.H. “Probiotics and prebiotics: Can Regulating the Activities of Intestinal Bacteria Benefit Health?” British Medical Journal. 1999; 318(7189):999­–1003.

Mattman, L.H. “Cell Wall Deficient Forms: Stealth Pathogens,” Third Edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2001.

Sartor, R.B. “Probiotic therapy of intestinal inflammation and infections.” Current Opinions in Gastroenterology. 2005; 21(1):44–50.

Schrezenmeir, J., de Vrese, M. “Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics—Approaching a Definition.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2001;73(2):361S–64.

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