All posts filed under: Wellness

Microbes: We are them. They are us.

We have known for centuries that we share our bodies with microbes. But we always assumed they lived in places, like skin, mouth, and gastrointestinal tract, which are “outside” our bodies, and that they just use us for housing. Living on us but not interacting with us. However, new findings from the Human Microbiome Project and other lines of study have strongly suggested that our relationships with our microbes are much closer than we thought. Much closer. Who, or what, are we? DNA studies of human tissue have revealed that, at least in number of cells, there are nearly as many of  “them” as “us”. But they are too small for us to see them. But, for instance, about 90% of the cells in the gut are microbes! Not only that, but microbes seem to inhabit every tissue of our bodies, albeit in small numbers (at least compared to skin and guts). And yes. This includes the brain. What are they doing there?   Most of our microbes are in our guts.   There are …

Our Guts, Our Selves

When people talk about “gut feelings”- something they can’t really rationalize, but feel as though the emotion is “coming from the heart” or “I feel it in my guts”, are those feelings actually coming from the heart or gut? Well no. But this doesn’t mean that the heart and gut do not influence our moods, decisions, and behavior. They do, especially the gut. How could the gut possibly influence our minds, and why? First let’s address the question of why. Although we often tend to treat our bodies as just something to walk our minds around, our bodies are important parts of who we are (for an account of what it is like to lose a sense of your body, see “The Disembodied Lady”, by Oliver Sacks, in The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat). But the gut is special! That is, if you are any kind of a complex animal, you have to have one. Even tardigrades, the super tough little animals that can survive extreme conditions, like being frozen to -300 …

Why I Love Greek Yogurt

Just a few years ago, probiotics were considered to be an “alternative” thing that only hippies were into. Most “probiotics” were pills with only one or two bacterial species, and there was little concern about quality control. Most medical practitioners considered probiotics to be a rip-off, or a fad. And there was no evidence that probiotic bacteria can even live or form colonies in our guts, so it was assumed that they could not affect our health.   My how things have changed.   Technological advances, thanks to the Human Genome Project, have given us a much better idea of the microbes in our guts. Instead of relying on culture techniques (trying to take bacteria from our guts and grow them on an agar plate or in a tube- which they don’t like, because they only like to grow in our guts), we can now identify them using DNA/RNA sequencing of their genes. And wow! We discovered that thousands of different kinds of bacteria live in our guts, and some of them are the same …

Mindful Eating, Or- How I lost 35 pounds by enjoying my food more

Like many people, I found myself overweight in middle age. Quite overweight, in fact. With a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30, I was more than overweight. My fasting blood glucose levels were still in the normal range, barely. My mother continued to remind that I have Type 2 diabetes in my family. What to do? As a scientist who has studied obesity and body weight regulation, I knew that dieting was not an option. The starvation response/ diet induced obesity, and all that. So… I decided to take my own advice. Background: There are two kinds of things that influence how much we eat: “Head Factors” and “Gut Factors”. Head Factors are “psychological” things such as how appetizing the food looks and smells. Social cues or influences, emotional situations, habits and conditioning (e.g. always eating a snack at 4 PM) are also powerful influences on what and when we eat. Gut Factors are signals from the gut (and/or liver) that convey the gut’s opinion about how much we should eat, and may also influence …

Quinoa-An Alternative Grain

Originally posted on Evidence Based Wellness:
Quinoa (“keen-wah”) is a grain originally from South America. It is getting popular now because it has high protein, is a good source of calcium, phosphorus and iron, but has little or no gluten. It is not related to the grassy grains such as wheat and rye. Rather, it is related to spinach and tumbleweeds (tumbleweeds!).   Uncooked quinoa It is easy to cook and versatile. It can be used in dishes such as couscous and salads in place of bulgur wheat, or added to soups. Cook it like rice: about one cup quinoa to two cups water. Bring to boil, then simmer until water is absorbed (about 12 minutes). Makes about 2 cups of cooked quinoa. The salad below was brought by a friend to a brunch, and has the added benefits of avocado, citrus, and blueberries. It is delicious and nutritious! Quinoa and Blueberry Salad    2 cups quinoa, cooked    1 cup blueberries    2 large avocados, diced    1 cup pecans    Lime Basil Dressing:…

Tiramisu with Fruit

In the U.S. we always think of Tiramisu as a tasty and maybe decadent dessert. But in Italy it is often eaten as an afternoon “pick-me-up”. Well why not? It has espresso, chocolate, and marscapone (Italian-style cream cheese). So, stimulants and protein! We like to add fruit for a refreshing tang, appealing color, and of course: micronutrients and anti-oxidants. Of course! That’s why we eat Tiramisu- for the antioxidants. I have adapted this recipe from a blog called “Cooking for Engineers”. The blog describes the experience of comparing many different recipes and concluded this one was the simplest one that tasted like real Tiramisu. Traditionally it is made in a casserole dish but we like to put it in trifle bowl because it is nicer to see the layers. Tiramisu with Fruit 8 oz. heavy whipping cream 8 oz. marscapone, at room temperature (it is easier to fold into the whipped cream than when it’s cold) 1-2 Tablespoons marsala (Italian sherry) 1-2 Tablespoons vanilla 1/3 – ½ cup dark chocolate, grated About 8 oz. (or …

Quinoa-An Alternative Grain

Quinoa (“keen-wah”) is a grain originally from South America. It is getting popular now because it has high protein, is a good source of calcium, phosphorus and iron, but has little or no gluten. It is not related to the grassy grains such as wheat and rye. Rather, it is related to spinach and tumbleweeds (tumbleweeds!).   Uncooked quinoa It is easy to cook and versatile. It can be used in dishes such as couscous and salads in place of bulgur wheat, or added to soups. Cook it like rice: about one cup quinoa to two cups water. Bring to boil, then simmer until water is absorbed (about 12 minutes). Makes about 2 cups of cooked quinoa. The salad below was brought by a friend to a brunch, and has the added benefits of avocado, citrus, and blueberries. It is delicious and nutritious! Quinoa and Blueberry Salad    2 cups quinoa, cooked    1 cup blueberries    2 large avocados, diced    1 cup pecans    Lime Basil Dressing:    1 tbsp olive oil, extra …

Curried Roasted Carrots with Yogurt

This dish is easy, tasty, and works well as a side dish or appetizer to bring to parties. I have adapted it from a recipe in Sunset magazine, which has lots of easy and quick recipes for colorful food! Wash and peel 2-3 carrots (depending on size) and slice them diagonally. Peel about half a head of garlic cloves, and cut the bigger ones in half. Toss the carrots and garlic in a bowl with olive oil and spices, about 1 tsp curry powder 1/2 tsp turmeric a pinch of ground cumin a pinch of ground cardamom Let them sit about 10 minutes, stir, and place in a roasting pan. Grind some sea salt over them, and roast at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Let cool. Spoon a small carton of greek yogurt into a serving dish, and put the carrots and garlics in the middle. Drizzle the olive oil left over from roasting around on the yogurt. Eat with pita chips!

Is “Leaky Gut” Really A Thing?

There is no shortage of information on the internet about “Leaky Gut” and “Leaky Gut Syndrome”. For instance:   “4 steps to heal Leaky Gut” “9 signs you have a leaky gut” “Leaky Gut foods to avoid” “Could Leaky Gut be what is troubling you?” “Leaky Gut: Can this be destroying your health? “How to live with and identify Leaky Gut Syndrome” Is this really a thing? It seems there are as many skeptics about “Leaky Gut” as there are people promoting it. When I ask audiences at my seminars “Who has heard of leaky gut syndrome?”, everyone, EVERYONE, raises their hand. When I ask “Who thinks the medical establishment takes it seriously?”, no one raises their hand, ever. Which is unfortunate, because Leaky Gut is a thing, and can cause serious problems for some people. It may also contribute to other conditions not normally thought of as being related to gut problems. In the basic science world, “leaky gut” is called “increased intestinal permeability”, and it is a big thing. Increased intestinal permeability is …

What To Do With Kale

Kale is so nutritious, and grows so well in home gardens. But it is kind of tough, and it can be hard to think of things to do with it. This true for other great greens, like collard and mustard as well, and dandelion greens (yes! they are edible and full of nutrients). One trick if you want to put them in salads is to massage them a bit with your hands to soften them up. I really like them warm, in soups or wilted in sauces. My favorite thing to do is add them to Thai curry coconut sauce, with chicken, shrimp or tofu, and red peppers. For this I cut up raw chicken, raw shelled shrimp or tofu, and marinade it for a little while in curry paste (or garlic chili paste) mixed with a little olive oil. Then I sautee until they are cooked through, and add a can of coconut milk (either regular or “lite” work). Then I add a couple of tablespoons of Thai curry paste (e.g. Thai Kitchen brand) …

Introduction: Why another blog about health and neuroscience?

There is so much information about the latest findings related to health and wellness in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet, it feels like a deluge. Some of this information is accurate and useful, some of the advice is wrong (“5 foods you should NEVER eat!”) or dangerous, and a lot of it is there just get money out of you. How to make sense of all of it? It isn’t hard for me. I have a PhD in Physiological Psychology, and have been working in the field of Psychoneuroimmunology for more than twenty years. I’ve spent 35 years in scientific research, involving hands on bench work, writing papers and grant applications, and reviewing (tons of) papers submitted for publications and grants for funding. This has required developing expertise and background in topics ranging from molecular biology to human clinical studies. After all these years I feel like I am bilingual- I speak, read, and write in English and Sciencese. The great thing is that now I have a wide-ranging knowledge base, and an ability …