The Role of Vitamin A in Gut Bacteria & Immune System Health

The Role of Vitamin A in Gut Bacteria & Immune System Health

Gut flora has been established as an important player in keeping us healthy. This microbiome comprises more than 1,000 different species of bacteria consisting of at least 3 million genes. In addition to aiding in digestion, gut bacteria also contribute to the production of key vitamins needed for optimal immune function. But how exactly does the interplay of these agents – immunity, gut flora, and vitamins – determine how well we’re able to defend against illness? Let’s take a look.

The Microbiome & Immunity

The complex relationship between intestinal bacteria and immunity has puzzled scientists for quite some time. Generally, it is believed that the intestines and the bacteria that colonize them work together to control the body’s response to disease. But the precise mechanisms have remained unclear; specifically, scientists have wondered how our immune system allows bacteria to thrive in the intestines without attacking it. Emerging evidence suggests this is precisely where vitamin A comes in.

Vitamin A for Immune Response

Recent Brown University research suggests that moderate vitamin A levels within the intestines control immune response, preventing it from overacting. These findings could hold significant value for people suffering from autoimmune conditions, including Crohn’s disease.

In their studies, researchers discovered that gut bacteria adjust a protein that activates vitamin A in the gastrointestinal tract to regulate the host’s immune responses. While further research is still needed, these findings may hold answers to what will ultimately help control or cure certain chronic illnesses in the future. Because many of these diseases are linked to increased immune response, this discovery of the gut bacteria’s ability to suppress immune response is enlightening.

As of now, the role of vitamin A in inflammation continues to be puzzling, but in the future, scientists aim to explore why suppressing proteins that activate vitamin A is important in regulating the immune response. It’s clear that changing vitamin A levels somehow relates to inflammatory bowel conditions, which suggests that both diet and existing gut bacteria are linked to the behavior of immune cells.

In the meantime, if you’re suffering from an autoimmune condition, discussing supplements with your doctor could be a good place to start. While maintaining healthy eating habits is one powerful way to maximize your nutrient intake, the modern diet often leaves nutritional gaps. Sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, and broccoli are all rich in vitamin A, but if you’re concerned about your levels, supplements could help you compensate for any nutritional shortcomings.

Should You Try the Natural Face-lift?

Should You Try the Natural Face-lift?

With more than 60 different muscles, the face works hard to produce expressions countless times throughout the day. It’s no wonder that frown lines, crow’s feet, and laugh lines begin to emerge over time: after years, the same expressions we make over and over again eventually leave their telltale signs behind.

While many individuals turn to modern cosmetic procedures to address fine lines and wrinkles, others prefer to first explore natural or minimally invasive solutions to rejuvenate the skin. One method that has emerged recently is facial yoga. It may sound like a hoax, but hear us out. This simple, all-natural technique is backed by scientific research.

What is Facial Yoga?

Facial yoga is the practice of performing facial exercises to achieve a more youthful appearance. Movements for lifting the cheeks and eyebrows, sculpting the jawline and neck, and firming up the eyelid area and temples can be implemented to minimize the appearance of wrinkles in these trouble zones. And, when practiced for 30 minutes a day, the exercises unveiled noticeable improvements in participants involved in a Northwestern Medicine study. In fact, they are considered to be a powerful non-drug alternative to Botox for addressing saggy skin.

How Does It Work?

The signs of aging are caused by several factors. As mentioned above, lines can become etched into the skin after years of frowns, smiles, and laughter. Yet, there’s another agent that exacerbates aging which can’t fight: gravity. As the face ages, the skin loses its elasticity, and fat pads between the muscle and skin wear out. As a result, the face may take on a drawn-out appearance.

To combat the issue, dermatologists are recommending performing targeted facial exercises, which strengthen the facial muscles. In building up these key areas, the face actually becomes firmer and more toned, much like that of a younger individual.

What Kind of Results Can I Expect?

The Northwestern study included women 40 to 65 years old who continued the exercises over the course of 20 weeks. In total, 32 exercises were performed for roughly a minute each. The exercises were developed by Gary Sikorski, the force behind the Happy Face Yoga program, and the study’s co-author. Pictures were taken at specific intervals during the study, and participants were asked to describe their satisfaction with the results.

According to Northwestern, participants reported being “highly satisfied” and specifically cited improvements in the upper cheek region. Estimated ages were decreased over the course of the study as well, and as an average, participants saw a nearly three-year decrease in age appearance.

While results may vary from one person to the next, it certainly couldn’t hurt to give facial yoga a try. If you’re interested in testing out some of the moves yourself, you can find links to guides for six of the exercises used in the study at the bottom of the Northwestern article here.

Should You Be Taking C60 Supplements?

Should You Be Taking C60 Supplements?

In a world where prescription drug use and invasive treatments have become the norm, many individuals are looking towards supplements as a means of improving health and minimizing their risk for serious diseases. Patients are becoming their own advocates and empowering themselves by researching available options that have helped others achieve a better quality of life. One supplement which has gained the recent attention of patients and medical experts alike is C60. While you should always consult a physician before beginning any supplement regimen, explore how C60 could benefit you with the helpful guide below.

What is C60?

C60, or Carbon60, was discovered by a team of scientists in the 1980s. It is comprised of isolated atom clusters which, over the years, have shown to hold immense benefits – including the potential to extend organisms’ life spans. The discovery of this powerful cluster won the scientists the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1999. Now, C60 is available in supplement form and is used to defeat toxic byproducts which contribute to tissue injuries in many diseases.

What Are the Benefits of C60?

The benefits of C60 are far-reaching, and due to the fact that its advantages are still being studied, it’s likely that this list is by no means exhaustive. With that said, we do know that the supplement is a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, and aids in resistance to chemical toxicity. It also has an extremely high concentration of vitamin C.

Here are just a few of the ways in which C60 supplements can benefit individuals:

1 Extends Lifespan

In one animal study, results showed that the supplement extended the lifespan of mice by up to 14% – even when it was administered at the midpoint of their average lifespan. This could be a result of the supplement’s ability to prevent nerve cells from dying off, either from dehydration or amyloid-beta, the culprit behind Alzheimer’s.

2 Protects Against UV Damage

C60 has been shown to be effective in combatting UVA-induced skin damage, making it the perfect supplement to a daily sunblock regimen.

3 Fights Free Radicals

The supplement is an antioxidant, meaning that it attacks free radicals before they have the ability to cause damage throughout the body. We’re constantly exposed to free radicals in our environments, and these harmful agents are linked to everything from premature aging to serious diseases.

4 Kills Bacteria & Viruses

Group A Streptococcus – the bacteria behind infections like strep throat and certain skin conditions – has responded well to C60 in studies. The supplement aids in the production of white blood cells to fight off infection. Likewise, it has also been shown to attack certain viruses, such as mosquito iridescent virus.

5 Impedes Fat Cell Growth

The C60 found in squalene (shark oil) can control fat cell growth, and it also prevents insulin resistance in cells, a factor in metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

6 Prevents Inflammation

One of the most powerful properties of C60 is its ability to fight inflammation. Studies specifically showcase its ability to treat inflammation in the lower back associated with disc degeneration, but it’s likely that its anti-inflammatory properties can benefit a large population of other patients as well.

7 Protects Nerves & Bones

C60 prevents nerve death resulting from overwork, which suggests that it could be a useful agent in promoting brain health. It also has the ability to prevent osteoarthritis by combatting stress-induced damage and breakdown of bones.

Are There Any Risks?

While rumors have circulated about C60 being linked to DNA damage, studies have not been able to confirm this, and instead suggest the corn oil present in some solutions is actually more dangerous than the C60 itself. Moreover, animal studies, rodents were administered doses of C60 far exceeding the amounts any physician would ever recommend for their patients, and certainly far greater than average daily doses of the supplement. Remarkably, however, there were no observable changes in body fat, protein, or many other molecules.

Based on the research indicated above, it’s clear that C60 can be used to support a broad range of wellness outcomes. For any patient seeking ways to control symptoms of chronic ailments or to simply promote longevity, the supplement could hold great promise. Keep in mind that, as with any supplement, C60 should be taken only as directed by your physician.

Do Oranges Have Stress-Beating Benefits?

Do Oranges Have Stress-Beating Benefits?

While scents like lavender commonly come to mind when we think of stress relief, it turns out citrus may evoke a sense of calm, too. Typically associated with invigorating and energizing powers, the scent of an orange has also been associated with stress relief. Find out how having this fruit on hand can help you stay calm in the face of a chaotic day below.

Inhale to Reduce Stress

By some estimations, the scent of an orange may reduce stress by more than 70%. Yet, having ripe orange slices on hand may not always be the most practical option for those of us with busy schedules. Using essential oils is therefore be a good alternative for getting an uplifting whiff of citrus during a long commute, for example. Likewise, if you anticipate a hectic work day, you can apply a few drops of essential oils approved for topical use on the wrists, temples, neck, or behind the ears. While mandarin has been linked to better digestion in addition to reduced stress, other citrus oils have unique benefits, too. Lemon, for example, has been shown to improve cognitive performance, while the scent of grapefruit oil appears to reduce cravings and boost metabolism.

Of course, you don’t have to simply smell oranges to reduce stress. In fact, eating oranges may pack an even more powerful punch.

Vitamin C for Relaxation

If you have a particularly stress-inducing event coming up, it may be worthwhile to pack an orange in your bag. People who consumed 1,000 mg of vitamin C before delivering a speech had lower levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, as well as lower blood pressure. While the sensory benefits of peeling an orange undoubtedly contribute to this more relaxed state, the vitamin C itself also aids in stress reduction by allowing the body to quickly process cortisol. Moreover, people with high vitamin C levels actually recover from stressful situations quicker.

While an orange a day may keep the stress away, vitamin C supplements may also be beneficial for certain populations. Although the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C for adults is a mere 75-90 mg, some evidence suggests that this outdated recommendation – which was established to combat scurvy – is inadequate for optimizing health. Thus, it comes as no surprise that vitamin C is the most commonly consumed supplement. If you’re considering upping your intake, just be sure to check in with a medical or dietary expert before beginning a new supplement regimen.

Does Nutrition Play a Role in Foot Health?

Does Nutrition Play a Role in Foot Health?

Medical professionals have known for a while now that diet impacts health in myriad ways, but there are still some frequently overlooked aspects of how wellness is influenced by nutrition. Although food choices are primarily associated with weight and cardiovascular health, it turns out what we put on our plates also affects specific parts of the body in unique ways. In particular, diet and foot health are perhaps more related than you might think.

How Diet Impacts Foot Health

Research shows certain foods produce an inflammatory response throughout the body. While temporary inflammation isn’t too much of a cause for concern, evidence suggests chronic inflammation is a risk factor for major degenerative diseases. In fact, it could be a major causative factor in coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

While inflammation is actually the body’s way of signaling the body to fight off infections, the same reaction can also cause long-term harm. When inflammation continues, it prompts the body to use different mediators to guard cells, which can actually destroy healthy tissue and cause disease over time.

This inflammation is responsible for many conditions linked to foot pain, including Rheumatoid Arthritis, gout, and psoriatic arthritis. It may also impact the plantar fascia, the tissue that runs beneath your foot, leading to a painful condition called plantar fasciitis. Diabetes, while often caused by a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors, can also be triggered in part by chronic inflammation. Complications from diabetes result in nerve damage to the foot for as much as 70% of its sufferers.

Additionally, a healthy diet helps to keep osteoporosis, or progressive bone loss, at bay. Although this condition is not isolated to the foot, it could increase the risk of stress fractures in the complex network of bones within the feet.

Fueling Up from Head to Toe

Many of the choices we can make to fuel foot health are precisely in line with the principles of eating healthy in general. Avoiding foods known to cause inflammation, while loading up on whole foods that are nutrient-rich, is one of the best options available for fighting a broad range of chronic diseases and promoting optimal health. With that in mind, here are some foods to steer clear of or consume only in moderation:

  • Added sugars
  • Red meat/processed meats
  • White bread & pasta
  • Fried food
  • Soda
  • Alcoholic beverages

On the other hand, here are some foods that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties due to their high content of fiber, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, or other nutrients which help to beat inflammation:

  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits & vegetables
  • Beans

When it comes to dairy, there are conflicting schools of thought. On the one hand, yogurt, cheese, and milk have a high concentration of calcium and vitamin D, two nutrients that support bone health to aid in osteoporosis prevention. Yet, dairy products like whole milk, cheese, and butter are high in saturated fat, which is linked to inflammation. Your best option is to opt for low-fat dairy products instead, which are not considered inflammatory but are still packed with nutrients.

Can Omega-3 Reduce the Risk of Heart Attacks?

Can Omega-3 Reduce the Risk of Heart Attacks?

There are many factors contributing to a person’s risk for heart attack, including high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, and family history. Luckily, there are just as many ways to lower your risk as there are risk factors. Oftentimes, the first approach that comes to mind includes improving diet and establishing a healthy exercise routine. While these are indeed important for reducing heart attack risk and improving overall health, researchers are also finding minor lifestyle adjustments could also help you prevent cardiac events.

In particular, two recent Harvard-led clinical trials suggest eating more fish or taking a fish oil supplement can reduce the risk of heart attack. The findings were so impressive that one cardiologist even stated that a reduction in heart attacks so profound hasn’t been witnessed since aspirin therapy was first explored.

In the VITAL trial, study participants aged 50 and older who took 1 gram of fish oil daily had a 28% reduction in heart attack risk, observed over a five-year follow-up period. In the REDUCE-IT trial, participants took EPA, a pure form of omega-3 fatty acid. People taking the supplement had a 20% reduction in the risk of heart-related death, 31% reduction in heart attack risk, and a 28% reduction in stroke risk.

How Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Support Heart Health?

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish like salmon and sardines but can also be taken in supplement form. These nutrients are unsaturated fats which have been shown to reduce inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is the main offender in increasing heart attack risk, as it can damage blood vessels, contributing to heart disease and stroke. There are also other ways omega-3 can support cardiac health: they may decrease triglycerides, reduce blood pressure and clotting, and reduce irregular heartbeats.

While supplements are one way to take in these powerful fatty acids, experts agree that dietary measures should also be prioritized. One to two servings of omega-3 fatty fish each week is ideal. In addition to salmon and sardines, tuna, lake trout, and mackerel are also good choices. Most other types of seafood only contain small amounts of omega-3s.

As with any supplement, it’s important to talk with your doctor before beginning a daily regimen. Specifically, individuals on blood thinners may not be good candidates for fish oil supplements, as they too can produce a blood-thinning effect. With that said, based on the compelling research, it’s certainly worthwhile for adults over the age of 50 to discuss their candidacy for supplements with their doctors.

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