HELP YOUR CHILDREN GROW AND LEARN

A healthy, nutritious diet helps children grow and learn. It also helps prevent weight-related diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. Children need different amounts of specific nutrients at different ages. They need to eat three meals daily and have healthy snacks in between. The more active your child is, the more calories he or she needs. Here are some ways to encourage your child to follow a nutritious diet:

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SODIUM AND YOUR HEALTH

Sodium is an essential mineral for life. It is regulated in the body by the kidneys. It helps control the body’s fluid balance, affects muscle function and helps send nerve impulses. An Australian study showed the brain responds to sodium in the same way it responds to substances such as cocaine and heroin, which may explain why we tend to overindulge in high-sodium foods.

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HEALTHY EATING TIPS

A balanced healthy diet should contain a variety of nutritious foods and sufficient vitamins and minerals. Such a diet can help you maintain a healthy body weight and reduce your risk of many diet-related problems, such type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. It’s recommended men have around 2,500 calories a day and women 2,000 calories a day. Studies indicate eating a typical Western diet filled with packaged meals, takeout foods, processed meats and sugary snacks may lead to stress, high rates of depression....

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interaction, largely because the brain is somewhat protected,” he said. His study added to the growing evidence that signals from beneficial bacteria nonetheless find a way through the barrier. The 2011 research could not pinpoint exactly how the barrier is traversed. It appears micro-organisms in the gut tickle a sensory nerve ending in the fingerlike protrusions lining the intestine and carry that electrical impulse up the vagus nerve and into the deep-brain structures thought to be responsible for elemental emotions such as anxiety. Cryan and co-author Ten Dinan published a theory paper in the journal Biological Psychiatry, calling these potentially mind-altering microbes “psychobiotics.”


It has long been known that much of the body’s supply of neurochemicals, an estimated 50 percent of its dopamine, for example, and a vast majority of its serotonin, originate in the intestines, where these chemical signals regulate appetite, feelings of fullness and digestion. But only in recent years has mainstream psychiatric research given serious consideration to the role microbes might play in creating those chemicals. Although the exact mechanism that breaks the barriers are not yet known, it seems safe to assert there is a proven link to gut bacteria and mental health.

In 2007, scientists announced plans for a Human Microbiome Project to catalog the micro-organisms living in the body. The profound influence of these organisms has grown rapidly with each passing year.


Bacteria in the gut produce vitamins and break down food. Their presence or absence has been linked to obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and the toxic side effect of prescription drugs. Biologists now believe much of what makes us human depends on microbial activity. The 2 million unique bacterial genes found in each human microbiome can make the 23,000 genes in the cells seem insignificant in comparison.


“It has enormous implications for the sense of self,” said Tom Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health. “We are, at least from the standpoint of DNA, more microbial than human. That’s a phenomenal insight and one we have to take seriously when we think about human development.”


Considering the extent to which bacteria influence human physiology, scientists are interested in learning how bacteria may affect the brain. Micro-organisms in the gut secrete a profound number of chemicals, some of which are the same substances used by neurons to communicate and regulate mood, such as dopamine, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These, in turn, appear to play

GUT BACTERIA CAN AFFECT YOUR MOOD

ANGELA S. HOOVER

Angela is a staff writer for Health & Wellness magazine.

more articles by Angela s. hoover

a function in intestinal disorders, coinciding with high levels of major depression and anxiety. Norwegian researchers examined the feces from 55 people in 2014 and found certain bacteria were more likely to be associated with depressive patients. Overall, researchers have linked anxiety, depression and several pediatric disorders, such as autism and hyperactivity, to gastrointestinal abnormalities.


Research conducted by scientists at the University College Cork in Ireland and McMaster University in Ontario, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in 2011, has become one of the best-known experiments linking gut bacteria to the brain. Ten years before designing this study, neuroscientist John Cryan thought about microbiology in terms of pathology: The brain is anatomically isolated and guarded by a blood-brain barrier that allows nutrients in but keeps out pathogens and inflammation, the immune system’s typical response to germs. This led Cryan to believe there are certain fields that just don’t seem to interact well.


“Microbiology and neuroscience, as whole disciplines, don’t tend to have had much