My clients who suffer from seasonal allergies were hit hard this year – and earlier than usual. The warm February temperatures caused Washington’s flowering trees and shrubs to come out of their winter slumber gloriously. Our famed cherry trees and camellias are almost in full bloom. Even my hydrangeas’ buds are peaking out.
This beautiful display does not feel so beautiful for people with spring allergies. They often have symptoms, caused by the flowers’ pollen, which impact their quality of life: lack of sleep, reduced productivity at work or school, emotional stress and embarrassment…. and the medications designed to improve those symptoms, depending on the person, may be no better, and cause dry mouth, sleeplessness, and drowsiness. A new study set out to test if certain strains of beneficial probiotic bacteria would reduce symptoms and improve quality of life during allergy season for its sufferers.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the first randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial – the gold standard of human research – testing this hypothesis, divided 178 allergy sufferers into two groups and tested them during spring allergy season for eight weeks. One group received the probiotic supplement*, the other received the placebo.
The study found the probiotic group experienced improved quality of life symptoms compared to the placebo group. That said, scientists are still working out which of the beneficial probiotic bacteria work best with individual allergens, when to start taking them, and which probiotic bacteria will react most positively with a person’s specific microbiota (the 100 million bacterial organisms in your digestive tract), as each person’s microbiota is different. They mentioned that starting probiotics at a younger age may be more effective, too.
In the meantime, I believe eating foods which naturally contain beneficial probiotic bacteria, such as yogurt, is the best solution for trying to reduce your allergy symptoms. In fact, I recommend eating yogurt every day! Though, I don’t recommend counting on supplements because, as of now, no probiotic supplements have passed the tests allowing them to make a health claim.
Here’s one of my favorite yogurt recipes developed by Georgetown resident, cookbook author, and my friend Najmieh Batmanglij, and found in my book, Diet Simple…
*(Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2 provided by Wakunaga of America Co Ltd)
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I’ve written a lot about how factors beyond calories – such as meal size, balance, and timing – affect your ability to lose weight and improve your health. A new study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirms what I’ve observed during the 20-plus years of my personalized nutrition counseling practice. And that is, having your larger meal at dinner or at lunch can make the difference between losing and not losing weight, even if the same food – and the same calories – are eaten.
This clinical trial – the gold standard type of study, because it controls all conditions so it can determine a cause and effect – took 80 randomly assigned healthy overweight or obese women and fed one group a larger meal at lunch and a smaller meal at dinner for twelve weeks. The second group was given the opposite condition: a smaller meal at dinner and a larger meal at lunch.
The groups experienced significantly different results. While both groups lost weight, the small dinner group lost more weight. They also achieved a lower fasting insulin and improved insulin resistance, a precurser to diabetes. Your insulin level is important for your health. Higher insulin levels correlate with a higher rate of heart attack and colon cancer – and possibly other cancers – as it is considered a “growth factor,” which increases cellular proliferation in the body.
“Light at night” has been my mantra since I first started working with clients, though it was poo poo’d by so many of my colleagues and doctors through the years. Well, science is finally starting to catch up with my recomendations!
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Would you say you’re an organized or disorganized eater? You know, are you a regular 3-square-meals-a-day person? Or, do you eat at different times, depending on your schedule or how you feel? New research has found that your answer to these questions can change the rate at which your body burns calories (metabolism), your appetite, and even your blood sugar levels, all of which affect the amount of calories you eat and your ability to maintain or lose body fat.
The study, published in this month’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, gave two groups of women either a regular meal pattern or an irregular meal pattern, then reversed the conditions for each group. What they found confirmed what I have observed over my 25-plus years of clinical practice: A regular meal pattern, ie, three meals and 3 snacks per day, increased metabolism, lowered appetite, and even reduced blood sugar levels after meals.
As I’ve said for many years, planning and eating regular meals is one of the most important factors contributing to weight loss success. Conversely, undereating and poor planning are major causes of overeating. Eating on a whim – or catch-as-catch-can – sets you up for failure in so many ways. And now, according to this study, it’s official and not just my own observation!
Read more about how to fix your disorganized eating in my book, Diet Simple…
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Katherine explaining “Farmers Markets: Good For You, Good For The Environment” Watch on CNN
For those of you who want to make a contribution toward saving the planet, you may want to consider changing what you eat. One simple way to do that? Buy locally and seasonally at your Farmers Market.
What you eat profoundly affects not only your health, but the environment, too. This is important news because when it comes to environmental issues and halting global warming, many of us feel overwhelmed and helpless. So it’s amazing that something as simple as making better food choices can reduce global warming by lowering greenhouse gases, saving land, and conserving diminishing water and energy supplies.
Your protein choice will make the most significant difference on the environment (and your health). Producing meat requires six to seventeen times more land than growing vegetable protein, 26 times more water. And producing vegetables is up to 50 times more energy efficient than meat production, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Eating vegetable protein will also save your health. Decades of research has found that plants contain compounds (phytochemicals) with potent powers of healing. People who eat a plant-based diet are leaner, have less cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
But when eating more fruits and vegetables, it’s important to consider how and where they’re grown. Environmental resource conservation is reduced if food is transported long distances and grown in large industrial farms which specialize in only one or a few foods. Locally, organically produced food saves water, energy and encourages a region’s unique varieties of fruits and vegetables. Heirloom varieties, for example, have been passed down through generations, have natural resistance to pests, disease and are better able to tolerate local conditions without too much exra energy, pesticides or water.
How you can protect the environment through your food choices:
* Buy seasonally and locally at farm stands and farmers’ markets,
* Eat a plant-based diet,
* Reduce meat consumption,
* Use heirloom varieties, whenever possible,
* Buy organic whenever possible.
This article was excerpted from: The Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2007; 107: 1033 – 1043 “Position of the American Dietetic Association: Food and Nutrition Professionals Can Implement Practices to Conserve Natural Resources and Support Ecological Sustainability”