These Supplements Could Make You Live Longer

Triphala

It’s rare for a week to go by without probiotics hitting the headlines. Over the past few years they have been championed for boosting the levels of good bacteria in your gut. And, a well-balanced, healthy gut as been linked to a stronger immune system, higher energy levels and better skin. More recently, a study has gone one step further and suggested that combining probiotics and an Indian herb could help you help you live longer.

Yes, you read that correctly. A study, published in Scientific Reports, found that when fruit flies were given a blend of probiotics and triphala they lived for up to 66 days rather than the usual 26 – a 60 percent life extension. Before the cynics complain that humans are very different to a mere fruit fly, professor of biomedical engineering at McGill’s Faculty of Medicine and senior author of the study, Satya Prakash told Science Daily, ‘The fruit fly is remarkably similar to mammals with about 70 percent similarity in terms of their biochemical pathways, making it a good indicator of what would happen in humans.’

Admittedly, it is likely that the results would be less spectacular in humans, but Prakash is adamant, ‘A diet specifically incorporating triphala along with these probiotics will promote a long and healthy life.’

So, what is triphala?

A blend of three fruits (amalaki, bibhitaki and haritaki), triphala has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It’s often referred to as ‘tummy tonic’ and is used for constipation. It is good at alleviating stubborn constipation and detoxifying your body. Last year, a study described triphala as key for, ‘efficient digestion, absorption, elimination, and rejuvenation’. You might not have come across them previously, but triphala supplements are available – Pukka Herbs Wholistic Triphala, £15.45, is a good place to start. 

What about probiotics?

It’s generally considered that most people would benefit from taking a good quality probiotic supplement, as a lot of us don’t eat enough fibre or fermented foods to get sufficient amounts of good bacteria. Whether you want to drink or swallow your bacteria, there is a supplement to suit your needs. Shabir regularly recommends Mega Probiotic ND, £19.50, by Food Science of Vermont, because the supplement contains eight strains of the most researched beneficial bacteria and is a very good all-rounder.

How to find the right probiotic for you

There are hundreds of different probiotic supplements available and it can be incredibly confusing. If you’re looking for something more targeted, it’s worth taking the time to read Shabir’s piece on What Can’t Probiotics Do, which outlines the best probiotic depending on your concern.

While a brand is yet to create the winning combination of probiotic and triphala in one capsule, at least we can introduce both into our routine and who knows, we might live until we’re 100.

Why Your Diet Could Be Affecting Your Sleep

grated beetroot

As we lie awake at night with a million thoughts running round in our heads, it’s easy to blame our busy minds for stopping us sleeping. On the surface that might be the case, but of course many things influence how we sleep from the natural such as daylight – to what time we switched off our screens that evening. In truth, there is still much mystery surrounding the science of good sleep and the brain, but one of the most interesting areas of research at the moment is how the gut biome (the vast community of bacteria, fungi and yeasts which populate our digestive tract) could be a big influencer on quality and quantity of shut eye.

We already know that the gut biome affects the hormones which control our appetite, and now a recent study by scientists at University of Colorado suggests that prebiotics (a particular type of fibre which encourages the growth of good bacteria in the gut) can promote Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep, which is restful and restorative as well as helping to increase Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep after being exposed to a stressor. While the researchers say more studies are needed, this seems to indicate that regular intake of prebiotics could be helpful in supporting sleep patterns after periods of stress.

Gut biome aside, most of us are aware that what we eat affects how we sleep through experience – think of that old saying about cheese and nightmares. There’s some truth in that since heavy, fatty foods are more difficult for the body to process, therefore eating them late at night is not a good idea. Makes sense when we consider that good sleep relies on the release of a complex cascade of chemicals and hormones, and that eating well and allowing the body to absorb proper nutrients provides the brain with what it needs for this to happen.

Various studies suggest eating at a time when we’d naturally be sleeping could have adverse effects on weight and metabolic health and it’s all inter-connected via our circadian rhythm.  Our circadian rhythms are what keep our body clock running on time, which in turn keeps all of our bodily functions running on schedule — such as falling asleep at night, waking up in the morning, feeling hungry when we need energy and metabolising the food we eat. What, when and how we eat can help regulate this roughly 24-hour cycle our body follows each day.

Looking at things from a wider perspective often brings us back to ancient holistic wisdom. For example, in the yogic system of Ayurveda it’s believed that digestive fire – known as Agni – is at its most powerful when the sun is highest in the sky, therefore the best time to eat your biggest meal is around midday. And yet how many of us eat our main meal in the evening? This was always my habit – after all, going out for dinner is one of the most enjoyable ways we socialise these days. But, coming in late at night from eating a large meal would inevitably keep me awake, and even if I hadn’t drunk anything, I’d feel like I had a hangover next morning.

Having swapped timings in favour of main meal at lunch or more often brunch, I’ve found eating light in the evening to be a catalyst for better digestion and sleep. That’s not to say I never go out for a big dinner in the evening – it’s just I make it the exception rather than the rule. As always, it comes down to balance, and here are some suggestions for subtly adjusting eating habits in favour of good sleep.

  • Introduce prebiotic foods into your diet. These include lentils, chickpeas and hummus, butter beans, globe artichoke, leeks – all of which are a source of the particular type of fibre which encourages the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
  • Re-think meal timings considering dim light melatonin onset (DLMO) which is when the body winds down in preparation for sleep and starts producing the sleep hormone melatonin. For most of us, our DLMO usually begins around 8pm so it would be good to time eating before then. Or, allow two hours between eating and bedtime to allow time to unwind and digest.
  • Ayurvedic thinking suggests warm, liquid foods are the most easily digested in the evening. So for example, lentil dahl, which tastes great when made with leek; root vegetable soups or stews including lentils or chick peas; sweet basmati rice pudding made with dairy or non dairy milk with cardamom, grated ginger and dates.
  • Keep in mind it’s not great to go to bed hungry, considering that our bodies use energy at night when it goes into repair mode. Rather than reaching for typical midnight snacks (crisps, chocolate etc) try hot milk. At one of the best retreats I’ve stayed in in India they brought a pre-bed small cup of locally sourced organic milk, heated with a little saffron. To my surprise, it was the most satiating, satisfying sleep-inducing thing – not to mention delicious.

How To Combat Stressed Out Skin

stress

A whopping 82 percent of Brits feel stressed out at least once during a typical week. While a new study by the University of Queensland might recommend taking a five day break from social media, a lot of us believe most of our stress is  work-related rather than Facebook-induced. According to AXA, three in five Brits take business calls outside of working hours, while more than half check their emails. This ‘always on’ culture is pushing more and more of us to the limit. Read More…

Factors Which Compromise Your Gut Health

shabir-jan-18-gut

The health of your gut depends upon the balance between the beneficial bacteria and the pathogens that reside within the gut, as well as the permeability of the lining of the intestinal tract. When these beneficial bacteria are at reduced levels or the lining of the gut is inflamed, your body is at risk from gastrointestinal concerns and disease.

Numerous factors play a role in compromising the microbiome within the gut, some of which may be unavoidable from time to time and include: Read More…

Rest And Digest

rest-and-digest-shelf-catherine-turner

So many of us experience digestive issues these days – and this can mean a whole host of uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, cramping, indigestion to full blown IBS and intolerances. Even more so at this time of year when festivities tend to centre around rich food and the drinks are flowing. Of course, we can always hold back, but a deeper understanding of the subtleties of how our digestive system works alongside some sensible advice can help see us through without being too bah humbug.

We talk about gut feelings, butterflies in our tummy in our day to day, so we instinctively know our digestive system goes beyond just a mechanical churning system – and indeed it is connected to our minds. It is our ‘second brain’, being made up of over 100 million neurons (cells), spread along its entire length which make up what’s called the enteric nervous system (ENS).  The ENS is constantly reacting to the state of play whether it’s hunger, bacterial infection or stress, sending messages to and from the brain via the vagus nerve, a kind of super fast information highway. Read More…

Restoring Optimal Gut Health

restoring-optimal-gut-health

The health of our gut is the cornerstone to our wellbeing. Most of us try to eat the right foods, supplement our diet with vitamins and nutrients to prevent deficiencies within our bodies and try to get sufficient sleep. Yet all this could be to no avail if we have poor gut health.

Our digestive system plays an important role in the function of the human body. The digestive system consists of numerous organs such as the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, large intestine, small intestine, rectum and anus. The cells lining the digestive system secrete a fluid that aids in the digestion of food whilst the muscles along the tract ensure that food is moved until it is finally excreted. Two additional glands, the liver and the pancreas, play an important role in digestion by releasing digestive fluids which enter the intestines through small tubes or ducts. Read More…