Archive for March 2011
Most of us are in close quarters with plastic throughout the day, from the cars we drive to the foods we eat. While plastics are ubiquitous in modern life, many experts fear that the chemicals found in plastics may be negatively impacting our health. One such chemical is Bisphenol A, or BPA. BPA is released into the environment in excess of one million pounds per year and can be found in everything from baby bottles to dental fillings and sealants. But potential negative effects of BPA on the brain, reproductive systems of infants and young children have caused organizations like the EPA and FDA to take notice.
Hundreds of animal studies link exposure to BPA with a multitude of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. While it’s not clear how and to what extent these chemicals affect humans, scientists know that BPA leaches estrogen-like chemicals into food and water and has the potential to disrupt hormonal balance. BPA has been identified as a toxin and it has since been banned for use in baby bottles in the European Union and Canada, but the US has yet to follow suit. Many manufacturers are now marketing to health conscious American consumers by offering up plastics that are labeled as “BPA free”, but watchdog organizations like the Environmental Working Group believe more governmental regulation limiting the toxin is required.
Unfortunately, the result of a new study suggests that simply avoiding BPA may not be enough. The journal Environmental Health Perspectives, published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, conducted a test on plastic items most commonly found in the home, including those advertised as “BPA free”. Scientists tested hundreds of these everyday plastic items, exposing them to either alcohol or saltwater to determine whether they emitted toxins with estrogenic activity. The assessment concluded that over 70% of the plastic products, both regular and “BPA free”, released chemicals that acted like estrogen. After simulating real-world conditions like sunlight and the extreme heat of a dishwasher, over 95% of the products released the toxins.
The alarming results of the study will likely bolster sales of stainless steel containers and other products made from plastic alternatives, but consumers who continue to use plastics are urged to avoid microwaving or subjecting plastic items to extreme heat or cold. Those concerned about the health effects of chemicals due to past exposure should consider a round of detoxification programs. Cleansing kits such as Renew Life’s CleanseSMART, Liver Detox, and Total Kidney Detox can help support the natural elimination of chemicals such as BPA and other chemicals from your body. It’s also very important to increase fiber during these programs because fiber is known to bind to toxins and help with their elimination.
If you watched ReNew Life Founder Brenda Watson’s latest PBS television special, The Road to Perfect Health, you’ll know all about the incredible effects of probiotics on the body. But with so many products to choose from, many wonder what factors to consider when choosing an effective probiotic supplement. Let’s cover the basics to help you make the most of these health-promoting bacteria.
First, to determine the strength or potency of a probiotic, look at the culture count. The culture count refers to the total amount of live, friendly bacterial cultures in a single serving. You need at least 15 billion cultures to begin to make an impact on your health—often more, depending upon your age or health-related concern. Research is showing that more is better, so keep an eye on the number of cultures or CFUs (colony forming units) for best results. Total CFUs or culture count will often be determined at time of manufacture, but very few remain at full strength through their expiration date. Look for a high quality probiotic that displays potency on the label at time of expiration, not manufacture.
When choosing a probiotic it’s also important to pay attention to the number of strains. The strains, or specific types of bacteria, plus the culture count of each should be listed on the label. Over 1,000 strains of beneficial bacteria can be found in the human gut, so it makes sense to choose a probiotic supplement that reflects this natural diversity.
When you scan the label of a good probiotic you’ll see strains that begin with Ls and Bs, like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. A good trick to differentiate these is that the L strains are more native to the little (small) intestine and the B strains are generally found in the big (large) intestine or colon. Look for lots of Ls and Bs because each person’s body utilizes certain bacterial strains better than others.
While probiotics are also utilized in the upper digestive tract, the majority of bacterial populations exist in the lower small and large intestines. So how do the good bacteria get all the way down there? Probiotics must travel through the harsh stomach environment and be delivered to the intestines to colonize. Delayed-release capsules are engineered to remain intact through the stomach and begin dissolving in the intestine, where they are needed most.
A probiotic supplement, when delivered to the right place, with the right amount of cultures and strains, can help promote digestive health, bowel regularity and strengthen the body’s natural immune defenses. Be sure to read the label, so you’ll know you’re giving your body the probiotic it needs.
Still confused on which specific supplement to take for your individual needs? Take our interactive quiz for our recommendation.