3 posts tagged “digestive health”

Why is dietary advice so all over the place? Nutrition experts explain

Posted 1 month ago by

If you’re confused about what kind of milk to drink, what type of cooking oil is “healthiest” or whether the Mediterranean diet is the ticket to heart health, you’re not alone. Nutrition experts dig into the complexity of dietary research.

Digesting dietary advice

The constant churn of nutrition news, books and blog posts — combined with the growing number of food options at the grocery store — can feel contradictory and make your head spin when it comes to making healthy diet decisions.

“As a dietitian, even I get tripped up when new studies that come out that question my beliefs,” Washington Post writer Cara Rosenbloom admits in a recent article on “how to handle ever-changing nutrition science.” She interviewed Dariush Mozzafarian, the cardiologist and researcher behind this 2018 BMJ analysis of nutrition science.

They make the case that we have an issue with how we “digest” food advice:

  • We take it very personally. “If you learn in physics that there was new research about a black hole, you may say, ‘Oh, that’s interesting,’ but you don’t change your habits because the science has changed,” Mozaffarian says. But people these days tend to swiftly avoid or adopt foods (such as wheat/gluten or coconut oil) based on new information or faddish magazine reports that may not warrant dietary changes.
  • We cling to every new study. New nutrition research comes out weekly but people (and policymakers) would be wise not to focus on single studies, Mozaffarian argues. Understanding the relationship between foods, wellness and disease takes a long time.
  • We don’t have centralized government guidelines. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are just a few sources of government recommendations on nutrition. Mozaffarian says a cabinet-level position that centralizes or coordinates nutrition guidelines would help eliminate confusion.

Other issues + pointers

Other nutritionists point out that dietary science is still in its infancy (see this infographic), and most nutrition studies are observational (rather than randomized control trials, which offer more evidence about “X may cause Y or Z”).

Researchers behind a major study on the Mediterranean diet and heart health recently had to retract and re-analyze their work because it was flawed (although version 2.0 reached the same conclusion — the Mediterranean diet can be beneficial for those with cardiac risks).

Even if you’ve figured out your own eating plan or nutrition philosophy (like Michael Pollan’s famous one: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”), articles about diet still make great clickbait. Look for pieces that ask questions and cite research and credentialed nutrition experts, rather than making blind declarations or heavily promoting certain products. And always check with your own doctor or care team before making dietary changes or even taking new vitamins or supplements.

Do you follow a certain eating plan or style? What do you struggle with most when it comes to eating (or understanding nutrition advice)? Join PatientsLikeMe or log in to connect with the community in this forum discussion. As a member, you can also add any supplements or diet types (such as Mediterranean or low-carb/high-protein) to your profile (under the “My Health” tab) to assess them and track a more complete picture of your health.

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Probiotics for MS? The latest research

Posted 5 months ago by

Wondering if a probiotic could help treat your MS? With 10 forum threads on the topic, you’re not the only one. From conflicting information online to recommendations from friends and new research making headlines, separating fact from fiction can be tricky. Here’s a recap of the latest research on probiotics and MS from our in-house team of health professionals.

Let’s start with the basics: What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms (usually bacteria or yeast) that may be able to help prevent and treat some illnesses and encourage a healthy digestive tract and immune system. They’re often referred to as “gut-friendly” bacteria.

  • Where can you get them? Probiotics are often in supplements or foods (like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, etc.) that are prepared by bacterial fermentation.
  • A couple probiotic bacteria that have been shown to have health benefits include: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Within those groups are many different species and strains. Many probiotic supplements (broad-spectrum or multi-probiotics) combine different species together in the same supplement.
  • Gut flora (microbiota) consists of hundreds of different types of microorganisms. Probiotics may help improve the way your gut flora performs. Probiotics can benefit both men and women equally, so it is definitely worthwhile trying them.
Why is gut health important for MS?
  • Your gut does more than digest food — it plays an essential role in the immune system. This is why it’s essential that you visit a place such as The Hills Gastroenterology in Sydney, when you have an issue with your gut, such as, digestion.
  • There are both anti-inflammatory microbes and microbes that cause inflammation by adding stress to the immune system. When your gut bacteria is out of balance, it can have a negative impact on your health.
  • Some research shows, an MS gut may have more pro-inflammatory bacteria like Methanobrevibacter and Akkermansiaas and less anti-inflammatory bacteria like Butyricimonas.
  • Newer research shows there may be a link between gut flora and the progression of MS.
The latest research on probiotics for MS
  • While there have been studies in mice models and bacteria, there are only two clinical trials that have studied the effects of probiotics in patients with MS.
  • pilot study tested 22 patient fecal samples before and after administering VSL3 (a probiotic mixture with 8 strains of lactic acid–producing bacteria including: L. plantarum, L. delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus and L. acidophilus) for markers of inflammation which has been associated with the progression of MS.
    • Results: There was an increased anti-inflammatory effect in the cells after administration of probiotic.
  • randomized controlled trial treated 60 patients with a probiotic containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Lactobacillus fermentum.
    • Results: The study demonstrated that the use of probiotic capsule for 12 weeks among patients with MS had favorable effects on EDSS (Expanded Disability Status Scale), mental health, and inflammatory factors.
    • Based on the results, the difference in EDSS levels between treatment and placebo was statistically significant, however, was not clinically significant (meaning, we need more evidence).
The bottom line:

Should you start taking a probiotic? The jury’s still out. Based on the two trials and the other non-patient studies, there seems to be a link between gut flora and the progression of MS. However, at this time there isn’t enough data or clinical benefit to support the use of probiotics for MS.

Considering taking a probiotic to treat your MS? Be sure to talk to your doctor.

Have you tried taking a probiotic to treat your MS? Join PatientsLikeMe and share your experience with the community.

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