Are you a pro at managing depression?
The list of athletes who have contended with depression may surprise you: the NFL’s Terry Bradshaw, hockey player Dan Carcillo, NBA star Larry Sanders and the list goes on and on. Clearly, being a sports pro doesn’t protect you from the mental health challenges of depression.
But, it turns out that probiotics might do just that! A new study published in BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health looked at research on the two-way relationship between your brain and digestive tract — the gut-brain axis — and found that getting a regular dose of probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium bifidum is linked to significant reduction in symptoms of depression.
The researchers also found that depressive symptoms were reduced when probiotics were combined with a robust supply of prebiotics. Those are foods such as leeks, asparagus, onions, garlic, chicory, soybeans and Jerusalem artichokes, and whole grains that feed good-for-you microbes in your gut (probiotics).
Major and persistent depression affect around 20 million American adults, and unfortunately medications fail to sustain improvement for between 40 percent and 60 percent of folks who take them. Adding in talk therapy can increase relief. And now, probiotics and prebiotics offer you one more way to manage symptoms. So if you’re blue, talk to your doctor, call a helpline (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 800-662-4357 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273- 8255), and do some shopping for gut-loving groceries and probiotics that make it through your stomach acid, like Culturelle and Digestive Advantage do.
Are you at risk for post-menopausal metabolic syndrome?
A poll of 1,012 Americans found that 47 percent of women say they’ve gained weight “due to COVID restrictions.” Most said they put on one to nine pounds, but 21 percent says it’s more like 10 to 20. For middle-age and older women that compounds health problems that may appear post-menopause.
A new study based on data from more than 10,000 women ages 45 to 85, published in Menopause, says that the incidence of metabolic syndrome increases with age (post-menopause) and affects around 38 percent of women ages 60 to 79. That means they have three or more of a cluster of five conditions: central obesity (that’s belly fat), high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and triglycerides, and lowered heathy HDL cholesterol level. The syndrome raises the risk of heart attack and stroke, diabetes, dementia and some cancers (colon, breast, etc.).
The good news is that lifestyle changes can prevent or reverse middle-age weight gain, defeat metabolic syndrome, erase your increased risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes and help protect you from many cancers. Plus, they can undo weight-gain and moodiness that result from the pandemic’s restrictions!
So, indoors or outside, aim to get 300 minutes of physical activity a week. Start with a nightly after-dinner walk; then make it a walk after every meal. Dodge highly processed foods, red meat and added sugars. That way you can make sure that you spend the next decades of your life feeling great and have a much younger RealAge.
An inside look at why meat is bad for you
In 2018 Americans ate a record-breaking amount of red meat and poultry (much of it fried) — 222.2 pounds apiece. No wonder a new study published in the journal Hypertension has us once again singing the praises of omega-3-loaded fish, like salmon and sea trout, and advising you to eat lean, skinless poultry (not fried), and plant proteins found in foods like peas, quinoa, chia nuts and seeds.
The study looked at the presence of trimethylamine-n-oxide, or TMAO, a byproduct from digesting certain meat-based proteins, in the bodies of 100 adults and 22 young adults. Researchers analyzed how it affects the risk of chronic disease. They found that meat-eaters’ TMAO level rose significantly with age, as did signs of health-threatening tissue and blood vessel damage. This was independent of the damage excess saturated fat in meats can do to your health.
A previous study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found a more than 60 percent increased risk of major cardiovascular events in people with elevated TMAO.
The bottom line: To reduce TMAO levels, eliminate red and processed meats from your diet. Limit lean, skinless poultry to a 3- to 6-ounce serving. Eat fish such as salmon and sea trout that are loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fats twice weekly, and learn how to cook well-seasoned plant proteins like peas and quinoa, so you love them — as they love your body back. In two weeks, you can lower your risk of heart and kidney disease, dementia and cancer.
‘Morning’ sickness is a misnomer
In the film “Knocked Up,” Katherine Heigl plays Alison, an entertainment reporter who finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand. She tries to hide her pregnancy, but it becomes difficult when during an interview she’s overwhelmed by nausea and has to run off the set in search of a receptacle. Alison doesn’t just have morning sickness. She has all-day sickness.
Researchers say Alison isn’t the only one who finds that the hormone-driven condition lasts all day. A study published in the British Journal of General Practice looked at the prevalence of misnamed “morning” sickness in the first seven weeks of pregnancy and found 94.2 percent of study participants experienced vomiting or nausea during the study, with 58 percent experiencing both. Vomiting was most common between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., but nausea occurred throughout the entire day, and peaked in the evening. These symptoms were most common during weeks five through seven.
If you’re KO’d with pregnancy-related tummy troubles, try these remedies:
■ Opt for easy-on-the-stomach foods, like the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast).
■ Stay hydrated with six to eight glasses of water daily. Carbonated water may soothe.
■ Be aware of foods and scents that trigger nausea, and avoid them.
■ If home remedies don’t work, ask your doc about trying acupuncture or acupressure (reported to work for more than 60 percent of women) or a medication called Diclegis that’s a help for 40 percent to 70 percent of women.
If your sickness is severe and persistent, see your doc immediately to avoid complications.
Getting a leg up on your heart health
When a career-defining horse race comes down to victory by a head — like it did in the 1978 contest between Alydar and Affirmed in the Belmont Stakes (Affirmed won) — you know those thoroughbreds’ legs were stretched to their limit.
That’s what it takes to be in top form — for people, too! A new study published in the Journal of Physiology found that folks who went through 12 weeks of passive leg stretching exercises saw a 25 percent decrease in central arterial stiffness and 25 percent to 30 percent increase in dilation of blood vessels and blood flow. They also had a 4 percent drop in systolic blood pressure (top number) and an 8 percent drop in diastolic BP (the bottom number). All these changes are powerful ways to improve your heart health, avoid stroke and manage or improve blood flow problems associated with diabetes complications.
The study included five passive stretches (you do not move while stretching and may be helped by a machine or a person to achieve the position): knee bends, hip flexing, straight leg extensions while lying on the back and combinations of those motions. Each stretch lasted 45 seconds with 15 seconds of rest between and was repeated five times.
You can start a daily 25- to 30minute stretching routine by checking out these resources: Type in “The National Academy of Sports Medicine leg stretches” on YouTube; go to https://health.clevelandclinic.org/ and search for leg stretches; and check out “20 Minute Gentle Yoga Stretch for Tight Legs” on YouTube.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.