Category Archives: HEALTH

Unexpected Evidence of a Brain Microbiome

Researchers have discovered that bacteria reside in our brain, raising profound questions about our connection to the microscopic natural world. (Lia Koltyrina/Shutterstock)


The outdated notion that bacteria are harmful invaders in the body was challenged further when researchers found bacteria in the brain


July 4, 2019 Updated: July 4, 2019

By now, almost everyone has heard of the human microbiome—the collection of viruses, bacteria, and fungi that play a pivotal role in our health and cognitive functioning. Also called the microbiota, we’ve long assumed that the microbiome consists of microbes that reside along our gastrointestinal tract—and more recently, on our skin.That’s logical enough; microbes live on our interfaces with the outside world. Conversely, there are certain areas in the human body that are assumed to be sterile, aka free of microbes, like the eye and the womb. However, advances in analytical techniques enabled researchers to recently identify the placental microbiome and eye microbiome that are present in healthy people. That’s pretty cool, but there definitely couldn’t be microbes in our brains, the most protected area of our bodies, right?

A head-turning poster at the November 2018 Society for Neuroscience scientific conference called into question the assumption of the brain as a sterile, bacteria-free zone. A team of researchers from The University of Alabama–Birmingham (UAB), led by Professor Rosalinda Roberts, showed high-resolution microscope images of mouse and human brains that depicted bacteria happily residing in astrocytes, star-shaped brain cells that interact with and support neurons.

Scanning Electron Microscope image of a human brain slice showing bacteria (circled in red) next to a blood vessel. Adapted from a writeup in Science Magazine.

Scanning Electron Microscope image of a human brain slice showing bacteria (circled in red) next to a blood vessel. Adapted from a writeup in Science Magazine. 

Like most people in the field, the UAB researchers were not looking for bacteria in the brain; this finding happened serendipitously. An undergraduate researcher named Courtney Walker was comparing microscope images of the brains of healthy people and those with schizophrenia to see if there were structural differences underlying the pathology, and she kept seeing the rod-like structures in the brain samples. Puzzled, Profesor Roberts consulted some colleagues and learned that these structures were bacteria. She realized that bacteria had been present in every brain that the lab had examined—34 brains in total.

To determine if the bacteria were a result of contamination between the time of death and brain sample preparation, Prof. Roberts and the team studied mouse brains immediately after death. To their surprise, they found bacteria in the mouse brains as well. Perhaps there was some contamination in the preparation of brain tissue slices for microscopy? To address that question, they raised mice in germ-free environments—with no bacterial exposure (at least theoretically)—and prepared the brain samples in the same way. They found no bacteria; none in the mouse guts or brains. This finding implies that the bacteria present in the brain comes from the environment or from within the body.

Given this result, the Roberts team dove deeper and used RNA sequencing to identify which types of bacteria were in human and mouse brains. Intriguingly, most of the bacteria were identified as Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, and Bacteroidetes—3 phyla commonly found in the gut. Perhaps these bacteria traveled from the gut to the brain, climbing up nerves or traversing blood vessels?

This preliminary finding has sparked many open questions. Are these commensal or pathological species? Does the quantity and composition of the brain microbiome change over time? Where do the bacteria come from? These exciting findings are reminiscent of the surprisingly recent discovery of the brain’s immune system that underpins the emerging field of psychoneuroimmunology.

The interdependence of all life is indeed being revealed in the hallowed halls of research science. It is becoming more and more inaccurate to vilify microorganisms as the evil “other” that invade and infect us. Through discoveries like this, we are being initiated to a new worldview that asks us to live in harmony with the natural world, to perceive our interdependence, and to end the wars we are fighting in hopes of finally one day beating those invisible assailants into submission … as they are, in fact, inextricably a part of us.

Copyright Kelly Brogan MD. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of Kelly Brogan MD. For more articles, sign up for the newsletter at

10 Amazing Benefits of Hugging—According to Science

Hugs have a biochemical impact that lasts longer than the embrace. (Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash)

Hugs trigger the release of oxytocin with a cascade of emotional and physical benefits


April 13, 2019 Updated: April 14, 2019

Hugs are a powerful expression of trust and affection. They are also surprisingly impactful thanks to their effect on our emotions through the release of oxytocin. Here are 10 reasons why you need to hug every day.

1. Hugs Can Help to Treat Insomnia and Anxiety

Lack of sleep can create a long list of secondary health issues that can disrupt the body’s normal function, and increase the risk of serious medical problems like heart attacks. Studies have found that sleeping with weighted blankets helps insomnia and anxiety.

Weighted blankets are filled with plastic poly pellets and weigh between 15 and 30 pounds. They work by relaxing the nervous system via extra pressure—a form of deep touch therapy. Deep touch pressure is the type of surface pressure that is felt when we touch, hold, or stroke others, or when we pet animals.

Basically, the blanket molds to the body like a warm hug. The body responds as if it is receiving physical contact, and the brain releases serotonin, causing the nervous system to relax. With the nervous system relaxed the body is able to fall into a deeper, more restful sleep.

A 2008 study published in Occupational Therapy in Mental Health showed that weighted blankets offered safe and effective therapy for decreasing anxiety in patients. These results were confirmed in a 2012 study published in Australasian Psychiatry, which indicated that weighted blankets successfully decreased distress and visible signs of anxiety.

2. Hugging Reduces Fear of Mortality

As human beings, we all know that we are going to die someday. This can be very frightening for people with low self-esteem who feel like they are not living meaningful lives.

In a series of studies on fears and self-esteem published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers demonstrated that hugs and touch significantly reduce the fear of death and mortality.

In one particular study, participants were approached as they walked through a university campus and handed a questionnaire to fill out. Some of the participants received a light, open-palmed touch from the researcher as they were handed the forms, while others were not given any physical interaction.

Few things affirm our affection as powerfully as a hug. (Shutterstock)
Few things affirm our affection as powerfully as a hug. (Shutterstock)

The results showed that participants with low self-esteem, who received the physical touch, reported less death anxiety on the questionnaire than those who had not been touched.

Touch also appeared to act as a buffer against social alienation. Participants with low self-esteem demonstrated no noticeable decrease in social connectedness after being reminded of death, but only if they had received a light touch.

This research suggests that touch plays a beneficial role in providing comfort and reassurance to people who are depressed and dealing with the thought of their mortality.

3. Hugs Can Decrease Food Cravings

We often eat for our emotions, rather than our hunger. In fact, the brain circuit that controls eating overlaps with the brain circuit that controls interpersonal relationships.

Eating sends oxytocin in the dopamine-rich areas of the brain, making us feel pleasure and relaxation. This helps explain why eating can be soothing and pleasurable. This also explains why we’re drawn to emotional eating; it mimics the same feelings of comfort we get from close friends and family.

But oxytocin is also released by physical contact and supportive interactions with other people. The release of oxytocin brings on feelings of trust and generosity. It also reduces stress and anxiety.

Improving our relationships, therefore, can have an impact on weight loss. By increasing the quality and closeness of our relationships, we increase the amount of oxytocin in our system and that reduces food cravings.

4. Hugs Increase Bonding and Strengthen Relationships

Relationship expert Dr. Pam Spurr notes that the simple act of hugging can go a long way in keeping relationships healthy and happy.

Moments shared in a warm embrace nurture relationships that last a lifetime. (Anastasia Vityukova/Unsplash)
Moments shared in a warm embrace nurture relationships that last a lifetime. (Anastasia Vityukova/Unsplash)

For couples, hugging helps to bridge the gap between what happens in the bedroom and what happens in day-to-day life. It maintains the intimacy that occurs when making love and ensures that partners feel emotionally connected to each other.

A study reported in the Daily Mail suggested that hugs are more important for a couple’s happiness than sex. The article notes that hugging provides many benefits including stimulating our touch centers and our olfactory centers (the part of our brain responsible for smell). This is why the smell and touch of our partner make us feel loved and cared for.

Hugs also provide a form of communication separate from sex, which allows couples to feel close without draining their energy. When couples touch, they let down their guard and feel love and acceptance towards their partner. Touching and hugging is the best way to maintain a strong emotional bond and connection.

5. Hugs Improve Self-Esteem

Hugging boosts self-esteem, especially in children. Touch and smell are the two most important senses in infants, and a baby recognizes its parent by touch. From the time we are born, our family’s touch shows us that we are special and loved.

A young child’s brain needs a lot of stimulation to grow and develop. Physical touch is one of the most important stimulations that can facilitate child development.

Hugs deliver a neurological boost that can help us grow into more confident, healthier people. (Xavier Mouton Photographie/Unsplash)
Hugs deliver a neurological boost that can help us grow into more confident, healthier people. (Xavier Mouton Photographie/Unsplash)

This is demonstrated in observations of infants in eastern European orphanages that had limited physical contact. They usually suffered from impaired growth and cognitive development.

Researchers have found that when institutionalized infants received an average of 20 minutes of touch a day for 10 weeks, they subsequently scored higher on developmental assessments.

This association between self-worth and touch remains embedded within our nervous system as adults. Hugs remind us of the affection we received as babies and therefore connect us to our ability to self-love.

6. Hugging Causes Muscles to Relax

If you’ve ever had a massage, you know how relaxed it can make you feel. This is not just a mental sensation: massage causes muscles to unclench, the heart rate to slow, and cortisol levels to drop. Once that happens your body is able to relax and recharge, resulting in a happier emotional state and a heightened immune system.

Oxytocin, which is released into the bloodstream while hugging, helps the body to repair muscles more quickly. It does this by enabling fat in the body to be converted into energy and used for muscle repair. Healthy levels of oxytocin lead to better energy conversion, and therefore better muscle repair and muscle growth.

7. Hugs Increase Empathy and Understanding

Oxytocin has other benefits too. When oxytocin is released into the body, it produces a feeling of empathy.

A study conducted by Jorge A. Barraza and Paul J. Zak tested the effects of oxytocin on 145 college students from the University of California–Los Angeles. The students were randomly divided into three groups; one group watched an emotional video and played an ultimatum game which consisted of offering to share a fixed sum of money; the second group watched a control video and played an ultimatum game, and the third group only watched an emotional video.

The results showed that watching the emotional video increased oxytocin levels by 47 percent. Consequently, the participants experienced a change in empathy levels, as demonstrated in greater generosity during the ultimatum game.

Hugs let us know we are trusted and cared for. (Hian Oliveira/Unsplash)
Hugs let us know we are trusted and cared for. (Hian Oliveira/Unsplash)

The study illustrated how oxytocin increases empathy, even between total strangers. Just by hugging someone, oxytocin is released into the brain, triggering a feeling of empathy in our brains.

8. Hugs Increase Happiness

A UCLA study of 236 people in 2011 showed that raised levels of oxytocin promote optimism and self-esteem.

As we hug and release oxytocin, our ‘happiness scale’ is raised. In fact, studies estimate that 50 percent of our happiness is genetic, 10 percent is affected by our environment, and forty percent is determined by how we are nurtured.

In a study conducted at Pennsylvania State University, students were divided into two groups. The first group was instructed to give or receive a minimum of five hugs a day over the course of four weeks. They had to hug as many different people as possible, and record the details. The second group, the control group, was instructed to record the number of hours they read each day, for four weeks.

At the end of four weeks, the hugging group had hugged an average of 49 times each and reported being much happier. Unsurprisingly, the reading group reported no changes.

9. Hugs Are Great for Your Sex Life

Researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga tested the correlation between post-sex affectionate behavior (kissing, cuddling and talking) and sexual and relationship satisfaction. The two-part study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, used an online survey of 335 individuals, and a 21 day survey of 101 couples.

In the online survey, participants reported that on average they engaged in affectionate behavior after sex for a period of approximately 15 minutes. Couples in the second study were then asked to cuddle for longer than this period of time.

The study concluded that couples who spent extra time together felt more satisfied with their sex lives and with their relationship. This level of satisfaction remained consistently higher, even three months after the original survey, indicating that taking time to share intimacy after sex reaffirms the emotional and sexual bond between a couple and makes it stronger.

10. Hugs Teach Us to Give and Receive

Hugging is a reciprocal act; we give and we receive. In hugging, we recognize that there is equal value in giving and being receptive to comfort and warmth.

Hugs show us that love flows both ways. When we hug someone we are opening ourselves up to their energy field, and building a relationship of trust.

Virginia Satir, a famous psychologist, once said that we need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs for maintenance, and 12 hugs for growth. Now that you have the scientific proof of all the amazing benefits that hugging can provide, don’t delay—start hugging today!

This article was first published on

This Doctor Says 2 Little-Known Brain Chemicals Cause Anxiety, and Big Pharma Doesn’t Like It

Ronald Hoffman, MD, has been practicing for over 30 years in New York City and is an internationally recognized expert in integrative medicine.

January 20, 2019


“When I was prescribing anti-anxiety medication, a few of my patients seemed to benefit, but most didn’t. I never questioned the effectiveness of the drugs, but when I took a peek behind the curtain, I realized I was wrong,” says Ronald Hoffman, MD, who has been practicing for over 30 years in New York City and is an internationally recognized expert in integrative medicine. He is one member of a new group of doctors questioning how effective anxiety medications actually are.

More anxiety medications are being prescribed than ever before, and yet, the anxiety epidemic has only gotten worse. Something didn’t feel right to Dr. Hoffman. That’s why he decided to investigate the clinical research published by major pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Hoffman’s fears were confirmed when a recent body of research published in the PLoS Medicine journal called into question the efficacy of these drugs and their associated side effects. The results were startling. Only 44% of patients reported any improvement. Even more disturbing, in a 2008 study published by the American Medical Association, researchers concluded that anxiety left untreated can impair key areas of the brain and cause the very symptoms patients are trying to avoid

The difference in brain activity is shown for a subject that is calm (left) and a subject that is stressed (right).

This data led him to break with traditional thinking in Western medicine and a decision to explore the possibility of an alternative natural solution. His efforts produced something more effective than he would have ever imagined.

Dr. Hoffman felt particularly empathetic toward his patients struggling with anxiety who expressed intense feelings of hopelessness and negative self talk, trapping them in a vicious cycle. He explains, “A single anxious thought can lead to intense physical symptoms. This then leads to avoidance behavior, which makes the patient feel even worse and results in even more negative thought patterns.”

According to Dr. Hoffman, “The ineffectiveness of these drugs is contributing to the growing mental health problem we are currently facing. These people badly need treatment, but they are not getting it because these drugs don’t work. Anxiety left untreated can have far-reaching consequences to your mental health beyond just your mood. It can also adversely impact your memory, attention, and focus.”

Dr. Hoffman agrees with the prevailing medical opinion that GABA and serotonin are the primary neurotransmitters responsible for regulating levels of anxiety. However, when he investigated the mechanism of action for the three primary anti-anxiety medication classes (SSRIs, SNRIs, and benzodiazepines), he realized that each class of medication was only addressing one half of the equation.

He asserts that prescription medications create an imbalance between GABA and serotonin, producing an overabundance of one neurotransmitter while neglecting the other. By overmedicating one half of the problem, patients typically experience brief initial symptom relief. However, symptoms typically worsen over time, and harmful side effects can develop, including dependency.

He believes there is a stark difference between chemical alteration and a body’s natural production of GABA and serotonin. When your body generates GABA and serotonin, it is a comprehensive, balanced approach to both neurotransmitters. To achieve this natural balance and break the cycle of negative behavior, Dr. Hoffman enlisted the help of a group of New England researchers to determine the 5 most potent herbs to promote balanced levels of GABA and serotonin.

Over the last 18 months, these researchers have been perfecting his formula in a GMP certified facility in NY. They named the formulation RediCalm and chose 5 natural ingredients that work together to aid your body’s natural production of GABA and serotonin.* 5-HTP, L-Theanine, Ashwagandha, Passion Flower, and Lemon Balm have been clinically proven to boost GABA and serotonin levels in the human body.

The results of RediCalm’s placebo-controlled clinical study.

Early feedback was overwhelmingly positive from focus groups and a small scale proof-of-concept study. However, Dr. Hoffman insisted on a full-scale placebo-controlled trial to prove RediCalm’s effectiveness based on two essential variables: immediate relief and long-term effectiveness. The results significantly exceeded his expectations.

More than 2 out of 3 study participants felt immediate relief from anxiety within 30 minutes. In addition, over 95% felt relief within 30 days. And none of the participants reported any negative side effects. The results were statistically significant when compared with placebo.

At this point, Dr. Hoffman decided to partner with an American manufacturer and release the product to the public. RediCalm is vegan, non-GMO, and gluten-free, and is made in a GMP-certified facility in New York to ensure the highest standards of safety.

30 day trials are temporarily available online until January 24th. Click the link below to visit the company website and decide if RediCalm is right for you.

If You See a Black Mark Like This on Your Fingernails, Call Your Doctor Immediately

A photo showing linear melanonychia. (Facebook | Lisa Harrison Williams)


January 15, 2019 Updated: January 16, 2019

When a woman walked into a nail salon and asked the nail technician to cover up a strange black mark on her nail, the technician immediately knew something was wrong. Days later, she found out that the woman had a serious health issue.

One day, Lisa Harrison Williams, a nail technician, had a walk-in client who made a special request: to use a dark color to cover up a “straight dark vertical stripe down her nail.”

In a post on her Facebook page, Williams shared that the client had gone to many other nail salons where the staff “diagnosed” her “a few different ways.” “Some said it was a lack of calcium. Some said it was hereditary. At least one had told her it was a blood blister,” the post read.

However, Williams knew something was wrong. “I did not want to frighten her but I told her she needed to see her doctor immediately!” Williams recalled.

Illustration – Shutterstock | foto ARts

The client took Williams’s advice, and on Aug. 14, 2017, the woman called Williams to tell her that she had been diagnosed with cancer, and “it was a very aggressive melanoma that has already spread to her lymph nodes.” Williams then added that the woman’s prognosis was not good.

The NHS website describes similar abnormalities of the fingernail:

Dark stripes running down the nails (linear melanonychia) are fairly common in black people over 20 years of age, and in most cases it’s perfectly normal.

However, dark stripes shouldn’t be ignored because it can sometimes be a form of skin cancer that affects the nail bed, called subungual melanoma. It’s important that your doctor checks it to rule out melanoma.

Subungual melanoma usually only affects one nail. It will also cause the stripe to change in appearance—for example, it may become wider or darker over time and the pigmentation may also affect the surrounding skin (the nail fold).

Illustration – Shutterstock | Chinnapong

By sharing this woman’s experience, Williams urges everyone to pay attention to abnormalities on their nail beds.

In her Facebook post, she shared:

Odd changes in your nails can very likely be nothing to worry about! But sometimes it is an indication of a very serious disease. And please keep an eye on the nail beds—toes and fingers—of your elderly loved ones and your loved ones that aren’t physically able to notice changes in the nail beds! Early diagnosis can make all the difference in the world!!!

Probiotics 101: A Simple Beginner’s Guide

Yogurt is one delicious way to get probiotics that can help your gut flora flourish. (Brenda Godinez/Unsplash)


January 9, 2019 Updated: January 9, 2019

The bacteria in your body outnumber your body’s cells 10 to one. Most of these bacteria reside in your gut, and the majority are quite harmless.

Having the right gut bacteria is linked to numerous health benefits, including weight loss, improved digestion, enhanced immune function, healthier skin, better mood, and a reduced risk of many diseases (1, 2).

Probiotics, which are a certain type of friendly bacteria, provide health benefits when eaten.

They are often taken as supplements that are supposed to colonize your gut with health-boosting microorganisms.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are living microorganisms that, when ingested, provide numerous health benefits (3).

They’re usually bacteria, but certain types of yeasts can also function as probiotics.

You can get probiotics from supplements, as well as from foods prepared by bacterial fermentation.

Probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kimchi. Probiotics should not be confused with prebiotics, which are dietary fibers that help feed the friendly bacteria already in your gut (4).

preserved vegetarian food concept. Cabbage kimchi, sauerkraut sour glass jars over the rustic kitchen table. (Shutterstock)

Dozens of different probiotic bacteria offer health benefits.

The most common groups include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Each group comprises different species, and each species has many strains.

fruit and greek yogurt breakfast bowl. Persimmon, apple, walnuts, pomegranates and natural yogurt. Healthy food concept on light background, top view. (Shutterstock)

Interestingly, different probiotics address different health conditions. Therefore, choosing the right type—or types—of probiotic is essential.

Some supplements—known as broad-spectrum probiotics or multi-probiotics—combine different species in the same product.

Although the evidence is promising, more research is needed on the health benefits of probiotics (5).

Importance of Microorganisms for Your Gut

The complex community of microorganisms in your gut is called the gut flora or microbiota (6).

In fact, your gut contains hundreds of different types of microorganisms—as many as 1,000, according to some estimations.

This includes bacteria, yeasts and viruses—with bacteria making up the vast majority.

Most of the gut flora is found in your colon, or large intestine, which is the last part of your digestive tract.

Surprisingly, the metabolic activities of your gut flora resemble those of an organ. For this reason, some scientists refer to the gut flora as the “forgotten organ” (7).

Your gut flora performs many functions that are important for health. It manufactures vitamins, including vitamin K and some of the B vitamins (8).

It also turns fibers into short-chain fats like butyrate, propionate, and acetate, which feed your gut wall and perform many metabolic functions (9, 10).

These fats also stimulate your immune system and strengthen your gut wall. This can help prevent unwanted substances from entering your body and provoking an immune response (11, 12, 13, 14).

However, not all organisms in your gut are friendly.

Your gut flora is highly sensitive to your diet, and studies show that an unbalanced gut flora is linked to numerous diseases (15, 16).

These diseases include obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, colorectal cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression (17, 18, 19, 20).

Probiotics—and prebiotic fibers—can help correct this balance, ensuring that your “forgotten organ” is functioning optimally (21).

Impact on Digestive Health

Probiotics are widely researched for their effects on digestive health (22).

Strong evidence suggests that probiotic supplements can help cure antibiotic-associated diarrhea (23, 24, 25).

When people take antibiotics, especially for long periods of time, they often experience diarrhea—even long after the infection has been eradicated.

This is because the antibiotics kill many of the natural bacteria in your gut, which shifts gut balance and allows harmful bacteria to thrive.

Probiotics also combat irritable bowel syndrome, a common digestive disorder, reducing gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and other symptoms (26, 27, 28).

Some studies also note benefits against inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (29).

What’s more, probiotics may fight Helicobacter pylori infections, which are one of the main drivers of ulcers and stomach cancer (30, 31, 32, 33).

If you currently have digestive problems that you can’t seem to vanquish, a probiotic supplement may be something to consider—though you should consider consulting with your doctor first.

Impact on Weight Loss

People who are obese have different gut bacteria than those who are lean (34).

Interestingly, animal studies indicate that fecal transplants from lean animals can make obese animals lose weight (35, 36).

Therefore, many scientists believe that your gut bacteria are important in determining body weight (37, 38).

Although more research is needed, some probiotic strains appear to aid weight loss (39).

In one study in 210 people with central obesity, which is characterized by excess belly fat, taking the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri daily resulted in an 8.5% loss of belly fat over 12 weeks (40).

When participants stopped taking the probiotic, they gained the belly fat back within four weeks.

Evidence also suggests that Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis can assist with weight loss and obesity prevention—though this needs more research (41).

Conversely, some animal studies demonstrate that other probiotic strains could lead to weight gain, not loss (42).

Other Health Benefits

There are many other benefits of probiotics. They affect:

• Inflammation: Probiotics reduce systemic inflammation, a leading driver of many diseases (43).

• Depression and anxiety: The probiotic strains Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum have been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in people with clinical depression (44, 45).

• Blood cholesterol: Several probiotics have been shown to lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels (46, 47).

• Blood pressure: Probiotics may also cause modest reductions in blood pressure (48, 49).

• Immune function: Several probiotic strains may enhance immune function, possibly leading to a reduced risk of infections, including for the common cold (50, 51).

• Skin health: There is some evidence that probiotics can be useful for acne, rosacea and eczema, as well as other skin disorders (52).

This is only a small slice of probiotics’ total benefits, as ongoing studies indicate a wide breadth of health effects.

Safety and Side Effects

Probiotics are generally well tolerated and considered safe for most people.

However, in the first few days, you may experience side effects related to digestion, such as gas and mild abdominal discomfort (53).

After you adjust, your digestion should begin improving.

In people with compromised immune systems, including those with HIV, AIDS and several other conditions, probiotics can lead to dangerous infections (54).

If you have a medical condition, consult with your doctor before taking a probiotic supplement.

The Bottom Line

Maintaining a healthy gut is about more than taking a probiotic supplement.

Day-to-day diet and exercise are just as important since many lifestyle factors impact your gut bacteria.

However, probiotic supplements offer a wide range of benefits with few side effects — so if you’re interested in improving your gut health, they could be worth a shot.

Kris Gunnars is a nutrition researcher with a bachelor’s degree in medicine. This article was first published on

How Helping People Affects Your Brain

Helping others impacts brain activity in ways that promote better physical health. (Getty Images)

Research shows why it’s physically better for us to give than receive


January 1, 2019 Updated: January 1, 2019

The holidays are a time of giving. And for many of us, that giving is the best thing we can hope to receive.

Many people volunteer over the holidays or go out of their way to give. Thanksgiving is an important time of year for Amy de la Fuente.

Her grandmother passed away on the holiday so it’s a tradition for her entire family to come together in Santa Ana, California and honor her memory.

Yet, de la Fuente, 26, made a conscious decision to skip Thanksgiving this year. Instead, she spent the holiday helping survivors of California’s devastating Camp Fire.

As a volunteer for the American Red Cross, de la Fuente registered shelter residents at the Butte County Fairgrounds and loaded supplies for two exhausting weeks.

And when an elderly woman whose oxygen tank was malfunctioning grabbed de la Fuente and begged her, “Please, don’t leave me,” she knew just what to say.

“I put my hand on top of hers and told her, ‘I’m not going anywhere,’” de la Fuente remembered.

“What I do might not change the world,” de la Fuente said, “but at least one person’s world will be changed.”

However, it’s volunteers like de la Fuente who are changed the most in these moments.

While being the recipient of a gift—be it a holiday bonus, new computer, or glitter macaroni necklace your kindergartner made just for you—feels awesome, research shows it truly is better to give than receive.

How Your Brain Lights Up When You Help

During a recent study, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh gave 45 volunteers an option: They could complete a task that benefited themselves, a charity, or a particular friend in need.

Afterward, a brain scan showed a noticeable—and fascinating—difference based on their choice.

Not only did the participants who chose to help a particular person display increased activity in two reward centers of their brain, but they had decreased activity in three other regions that help inform the body’s physical response to stress through blood pressure and inflammation.

A second study from the University of Pittsburgh, this time utilizing nearly 400 volunteers who were asked to self-report their giving habits, showed similar results.

“Humans are born especially vulnerable and dependent on others,” explained Tristen Inagaki an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh who led both studies. “As a result, we require a prolonged period of intense caregiving following birth in order to survive.”

That instinctive desire to help others may depend on those specific areas of the brain. They guarantee more supportive behavior.

“The same mechanisms that ensure giving to others may also contribute to the long-term health effects we see from giving,” said Inagaki.

And there are plenty.

People who volunteer get sick less often and live longer.

Helping has also been shown to improve a person’s self-esteem, foster a rosier view of the world, decrease risky or problematic behaviors, and stave off depression.

Plus, the more you help others, the more you want to keep helping.

“Helping others takes the mind and emotions off the self, allowing the mind to move past anxieties and rumination,” said Stephen G. Post director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University. “Even when helping others as only external action, our emotions over time tend to shift to joy and kindness, especially with good role models.”

This isn’t news for David Braverman.

The 73-year-old retired market research executive used to consider volunteering but didn’t feel he had the time.

However, an acquaintance persisted and eventually, Braverman found himself visiting patients at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center for up to four hours every Monday.

“At first, I’m sure it was more about my ego: ‘Look at what I am doing for others,’” Braverman admitted. “However, it very quickly became about the people I was visiting, making smile, doing small deeds for, and just being company to others who don’t have visitors.”

It’s been over four years now and “I’ve met some of the most wonderful people of all faiths, cultures, and races,” said Braverman. “I’ve shared stories and talks about food, sports, literature, travel, and even religion. I’ve learned about my Judaism from Catholic nuns and priests. I’ve learned and talked about Islam with some. I’ve heard firsthand about living in the inner city of Baltimore.”

The bottom line, said Braverman, is “while I do think I bring something to those I visit, it turns out that in fact, it’s about me leaving the hospital on Mondays feeling better than when I get there in the morning.”

“So,” he adds, “I guess it is about me after all.”

Helping has also been shown to improve a person’s self-esteem, foster a rosier view of the world, decrease risky or problematic behaviors, and stave off depression. (Getty Images)

What Makes a ‘Giver’

About one-third of people take to [giving] behavior “like a duck to water,” said Post, who is also the author of “Why Good Things Happen to Good People.” “Genetic set points, psycho-social-environmental factors, and one’s own attitudes all come into play.”

For instance, while children have strong empathic tendencies, “adverse childhood experiences can repress this tendency, but good parenting styles and role models enhance it,” he noted.

Being kind can be learned, too.

“It’s all about transmission, about passing the torch from one person to the next with lots of attention given to observed details like tone of voice, facial expression, minor actions, [being] present, and listening,” Post noted.

For the past 3 years, Kerrie Klein, 48, has volunteered for the National Runaway Safeline, offering help to youth in crisis who call, email, or connect via online chat.

“When someone’s feeling overwhelmed, they might not be able to see clearly what to do next—I know I’ve felt like that in my life at times,” said the Chicago resident. “Sometimes all it takes is having someone listen and help talk you through the options available, to be able to see which way to go forward.”

How she feels after her weekly two-hour shift: “Fulfilled.”

“When you feel like you’ve helped someone, it’s the best feeling in the world,” said Klein. “I can be having the worst day and not want to come into the call center, but sometimes helping someone else gives me clarity about my own challenges.”

Volunteering “gives me a different perspective on what really matters,” Klein explained. “It also makes me more motivated in other areas of life—to stop and take time with people in my life, and take care of my own health. And it’s definitely helped me to listen more to others, which is important.”

“I don’t want to look back and feel like I didn’t take any action to make the world a better place,” added Klein. “One person can make a difference, and I want to be one of those people.”

How You Can Help Too

In our crazy-busy lives, time is a precious commodity. Which begs the question: Is simply pressing a “Donate Now” button online as beneficial as “boots on the ground” volunteering?

“Studies do show an effect on the mesolimbic [“reward”] pathway and degrees of increased happiness through making a donation, or even thinking about it, actually,” Post said, “but the giver needs to be thinking kindly and not just filling in a number.”

In other words, envision how your $20 will help put Hatchimals under the Christmas tree for kids who desperately want them. Don’t zone out like you do when you pay your monthly bills.

Still, despite your shortage of time, consider lending a hand this holiday season.

If you’re not sure where to begin, Points of Light and VolunteerMatch can connect you with local causes. Kids That Do Good, an online database founded by kids, lists local, regional, and national volunteer opportunities that are appropriate for children. And the Red Cross relies on volunteers to carry out 90 percent of their humanitarian work.

“Sometimes we can be overly concerned with ways that other people help us or about what we’re getting out of any given situation,” Inagaki said.

But by helping others, she points out, we truly help ourselves.

Stephanie Booth is a freelance journalist. This article was first published on Healthline.

When the Going Gets Tough …

The very fabric of America is under attack—our freedoms, our democracy, and our constitutional rights have become contested terrain. The Epoch Times, a media committed to truthful, responsible journalism, is a rare bastion of hope and stability in these testing times.

While other media may twist the facts to serve political agendas, we deliver stories while upholding our responsibility to society.

We’ve reported truthfully on the current U.S. administration from the start. We reported on the real possibility of a Trump victory in 2016. We’ve led reporting on the Chinese communist threat since 2000; we have been exposing communist thought in our government, schools, universities, popular culture, and media; and we, like no other media, are rigorously investigating and exposing the unscrupulous agents working to subvert our society.

Stand with us in advancing a truly independent and truthful media—the way a free press was intended to be, as a cornerstone of the Republic. Your contribution allows us to continue piercing through the surface narratives of mainstream media, and provide you with a full picture.

Epoch Times editor-in-chief Jasper Fakkert urges you to support our independent media. We are asking you to help us raise $1 million going into the new year to support our unique and truthful content.

Every contribution counts, big or small. We sincerely thank you for your continued support and encouragement in these critical times.

Chinese Health Company Quanjian Faces Second Suit in Cancer Death of Young Girl

Zhou Yang, a victim of Quanjian, was decorated as a beneficiary by Quanjian. (Screenshot of Quanjian’s blog)


January 1, 2019 Updated: January 1, 2019

Quanjian Group, one of China’s biggest health companies, is under fire again relating to allegedly unscrupulous practices in the death of a 7-year-old cancer patient.

Zhou Yang died of cancer in late 2015. Zhou Erli, the girl’s father and a farmer from Inner Mongolia, told Beijing News on Dec. 27 that he will file a new lawsuit against the company after the New Year. He says that anti-cancer products supplied by Quanjin caused Yang’s death, and he also accuses the company of false advertising. Quanjian has rejected Zhou’s claims.

Zhou filed a lawsuit in 2013 while Yang was alive, but lost at trial in 2015. He was unable to continue the lawsuit as Yang’s health deteriorated. After three years, Zhou has shared his family’s bitter story with several media outlets, and is preparing for the new lawsuit.

In 2012, Yang was diagnosed with a sacrococcygeal malignant germ cell tumor, and was brought to Beijing Children Hospital for treatment. Over the course of six months, she had four operations and 23 rounds of chemotherapy.

In December 2012, when Yang’s situation had become stable, Quanjian contacted her family and said that they could heal the then-4-year-old girl completely. So Zhou brought Yang to Quanjian’s headquarters in Tianjin city, and met with Shu Yuhui, the founder and chairman of Quanjian, which has almost 20 billion yuan in annual revenue.

Zhou said that because he was convinced that Quanjian could heal Yang, he spent 5,000 yuan ($730) to buy three different herbal medicines. Shu said that Yang didn’t need any other medicines or treatments, according to Beijing News. The representatives of Quanjian also claimed they had paid for some of Yang’s medicines.

Zhou’s family took a photo with Shu the day that they visited Quanjian’s headquarters. The photo was then used in an ad that claimed the company had healed a 4-year-old patient with sacrococcygeal malignant germ cell tumor.

Zhou said his daughter’s health got worse after the treatment by Quanjian. After four months, Yang became very ill, and after some time in the hospital’s intensive care unit, she died Dec. 12, 2015.

While Yang was still in the hospital, Zhou’s family saw her picture in the Quanjian ad. It was a very popular ad online, and the family received many phone calls from friends and strangers who asked for the truth. They were told that Yang’s story was also in a Quanjian brochure.

Zhou called Quanjian and asked them to pull the ad, but they refused, leading Zhou to file a lawsuit in 2013. In April 2015, the Songshan district court of Chifeng city, Inner Mongolia, decided there was insufficient evidence, and the ads were published by Quanjian’s dealers—and not by the company.

Shoddy Treatment

Many lawsuits have been filed against Quanjian for its signature “fire treatment.” The treatment involves using a special alcohol to burn a patient’s skin, then the doctor wipes away the flame after several seconds.

Quanjian doesn’t do the fire treatment itself, but licenses physiotherapy parlors to carry out the procedure. In December, Quanjian has more than 7,000 licensed physiotherapy parlors in China.

The Paper reported Dec. 27 that a patient named Bai from Shangluo city in Shaanxi Province died after receiving a fire treatment on April 17, 2015, due to alcohol allergy. The operator took responsibility, but not Quanjian.

On March 7, 2016, a fire treatment patient named Xiao was burned by alcohol in Shenzhen city, Guangdong Province. In May 2018, the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Huang Yali, the owner of the physiotherapy parlor; Zhang Baoli, the operator; and ordered Quanjian to pay 272,000 yuan ($39,600) to Xiao as compensation.

Quanjian continues to have many followers because the company uses multi-level marketing (MLM) as its business model, a quick and easy way to make money, Sohu reported on Dec. 26.

“There are very few people who join Quanjian for promoting health. In general, people join to make money,” Huxiu on Dec. 27 cited a Quanjian dealer as saying.

Complaints against Quanjian in recent years are said to be ignored because the Chinese regime benefits from the taxes paid by the company each year.

China Fund News reported Dec. 26 that Quanjian’s 2017 revenue was 17.6 billion yuan.

When the Going Gets Tough …

The very fabric of America is under attack—our freedoms, our democracy, and our constitutional rights have become contested terrain. The Epoch Times, a media committed to truthful, responsible journalism, is a rare bastion of hope and stability in these testing times.

While other media may twist the facts to serve political agendas, we deliver stories while upholding our responsibility to society.

We’ve reported truthfully on the current U.S. administration from the start. We reported on the real possibility of a Trump victory in 2016. We’ve led reporting on the Chinese communist threat since 2000; we have been exposing communist thought in our government, schools, universities, popular culture, and media; and we, like no other media, are rigorously investigating and exposing the unscrupulous agents working to subvert our society.

Stand with us in advancing a truly independent and truthful media—the way a free press was intended to be, as a cornerstone of the Republic. Your contribution allows us to continue piercing through the surface narratives of mainstream media, and provide you with a full picture.

Epoch Times editor-in-chief Jasper Fakkert urges you to support our independent media. We are asking you to help us raise $1 million going into the new year to support our unique and truthful content.

Every contribution counts, big or small. We sincerely thank you for your continued support and encouragement in these critical times.

9 things that cause acne on different parts of the body—and how to improve your health!



December 18, 2018 Updated: December 18, 2018

Acne. It’s the bane of existence for millions all over the world, and the number of adults suffering from acne is growing. While miracle treatments abound, the best approach is a long-term, educated understanding of the various root causes of the disease, wherever it may occur on the body.

While we mostly associate acne as occurring on the face and back, it can actually occur anywhere on the body, even on the elbows! Acne is not only uncomfortable but is a psychological burden too, as many who suffer from the disease become self-conscious and feel frustrated, unable to treat the condition successfully.

There are a lot of products aimed at acne treatment—think of all those cliche “before-and-after” photos and celebrity promotions. So-called “miracle cures” abound. Yet, the best approach may not be an instant cure, but a long-term, educated approach.

Let’s take a look at the various causes of acne, its different forms, where the condition manifests and why, and most importantly what you can do to help treat acne:

Stages of acne:

©Shutterstock | Teguh Mujiono

There are various reasons why acne occurs on different areas of our bodies, with various methods of prevention and treatment corresponding to each area.

Some cases of acne may indicate deeper, gastrointestinal issues, which makes such acne a symptom of underlying health issues. For other acne cases, the solution may be as simple as changing your clothes more often.

Here are some of the places on the body where acne can occur:

1. Acne on the legs and butt

Most people nowadays own at least one pair of tight-fitting pants. Whether they are skinny jeans or gym pants, these materials cling to our bodies like a second skin.

And therein lies the problem, as this may prevent the skin from breathing, shedding and cooling, thus causing clogged pores—and that is how you get acne.

So, if you are getting acne on the legs or butt, then consider examining your wardrobe and making sure you let your skin breath more often, so as not to clog the pores of your skin.

2. Acne over the stomach

This is probably not the six pack you were hoping for at the gym… If acne occurs on the stomach, it could actually be an indication of improper sugar levels.

An imbalance in sugar levels can indicate serious medical issues, possibly leading to more long-term problems.

It would be wise to contact your physician for an appointment to make sure your sugar levels, hormones, and other levels are in check.

3. Acne on the arms and elbows

Acne, often appearing as little red bumps on the elbow and the upper arms, is often Keratosis Polaris, a harmless condition that causes the skin to feel rough like sandpaper.

This condition is the result of an accumulation of dead cells, as well as poor circulation in the afflicted area.

To treat this, consider finding some ways to stretch the arms thoroughly, or engage in physical activity, which stimulates blood flow to the arms. Also, don’t forget to thoroughly exfoliate the area every day.

4. Acne on the chest

Acne occurring on the chest area certainly puts a dampener on wearing a dress, tank top, or swim suit, but the good news is this is actually an easier fix that you may have imagined.

When acne occurs here, it often indicates digestive issues. By addressing this, the acne should naturally decrease and even disappear.

Make sure you eat a lot of fibrous fruits and veggies to improve your digestion. After eating plenty of fiber and drinking a lot of water, this should resolve the issue.

5. Cystic acne or ‘bacne’

Often uncomfortable for anyone wearing a purse, backpack, messenger bag—you name it, bacne can be quite literally a pain in the back!

Cystic acne on the shoulder and back area is actually indicative of a digestive or nervous system problem.

In fact, this is not an issue to take lightly and you should contact your physician or dermatologist as soon as possible about the condition. With proper treatment from the source, the symptoms will naturally improve.

6. Acne on the shoulder and neck

With acne on the rise among adults, it’s no surprise that this common occurrence is stress-related.

Find ways to destress, and put aside time for yourself to relax. If you treat both your mind and body well, acne in this area should decrease.

7. Acne on the jawline

Acne on the jawline is associated with hormonal imbalances and disorders, so contact your physician to get a hormone screening to see if something may be off.

Additionally, for women who wear a lot of makeup, take a look at your beauty products and make sure good ingredients are used. Also, thoroughly wash your face, making sure to lightly exfoliate every day.

1 – 9 Acne on the body chart

Below is a complete chart outlining the cause of acne corresponding to the afflicted areas on the body.

1. Hormone levels and imbalances
2. Stress
3. Digestive system problems
4. Vitamin deficiency
5. Blood sugar levels
6. Hygiene issues or STD’s
7. Sensitive skin and allergies
8. Nervous system, or digestive system problems
9. Digestive system problems or disorders

So, while we may not have that instant miracle cure just yet, there is, in fact, a ton of knowledge out there for treating acne.

It is an increasing challenge to maintain a good diet and healthy lifestyle these days, especially with all the stresses and processed foods of modern living. So, make sure to reexamine your life habits and make adjustments accordingly. Then, not only will your skin condition improve, but so too will your health, spirits, and overall well-being.

Beginner’s Guide to Shopping for Dietary Supplements

(Wikimedia commons)

Learn what supplements can do, and which ones are right for you


December 10, 2018 Updated: December 10, 2018

It’s no secret that dietary supplements are popular. In fact, according to a report conducted by Grand View Research, the global supplements market was valued at $133.1 billion in 2016 and is projected to rise annually by 9.6 percent between now and 2024. But not all dietary supplements are created equal. While some supplements possess positive health benefits and provide desired results, others can prove to be the opposite of what your body—or wallet—needs. And while choosing the wrong supplement can result in wasting money on a product that simply doesn’t work, a more serious complication can be an adverse reaction to one or more of the listed ingredients. In short, it’s vital to understand what it is that you’re purchasing and why. If you’re interested in learning more about how to incorporate dietary supplements into your diet, here is a beginner’s guide on what to keep in mind when shopping—from figuring out what works best for you, to safety and efficacy.

Differences Between Dietary Supplements and Prescription Drugs

Dietary supplements, according to the FDA, are “products taken by mouth that contain a ‘dietary ingredient,’” and can include “vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs or botanicals.”

They’re designed to increase dietary intake rather than treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure diseases. Even though they’re not meant to be used this way, people still use them this way in hopes of improving their health and to self-treat many conditions, ranging from arthritis and headaches to heart disease.

It’s important to remember, however, that dietary supplements are regulated much differently than drugs.

“Supplements usually do not require ‘pre-market’ approval before they are sold in stores,” explains pharmacist Philip Gregory.

“As a result, individual ingredients or specific combinations of ingredients do not need to be proven safe and effective before they are sold.”

It’s important to keep in mind that supplements don’t have an approval process like prescription drugs do. For this reason, it can be hard to know how beneficial a supplement might be, how safe it is, or what side effects it might cause.

Dietary supplements

Claims made by supplement brands may not always be supported by reliable evidence. Some supplements can interact with prescriptions or over-the-counter medications, while others might not be safe if you have certain conditions.

For these reasons, its vital that you do your research before adding a new supplement to your routine.

What to Consider Before Choosing to Take a Supplement

Before you decide to stock up on a specific supplement, Gregory suggests that the first question you should ask yourself is: Why am I taking this?

“Is it for general health or a specific health or medical issue? If the reason for taking it is clear, it’s easier to determine if the supplement is a good choice.”

Once you’ve clearly identified your reason for choosing a specific supplement, your next step is to check the ingredients.

Here are a few things to consider:

• What are each of the ingredients?
• Are the ingredients generally safe?
• Will the ingredients interact with any prescriptions or over-the-counter medications and supplements you’re already taking?
• Are the ingredients likely to cause unwanted side effects?
• Will any of the ingredients trigger allergic reactions, including those used for the pill’s coating or coloring?
• Are the ingredients listed actually beneficial for a specific purpose?
• Is the product itself known to be high quality?

How Can You Tell If a Supplement Is Safe?

Just because a dietary supplement is sold in a pharmacy or health food store, or claims to be “all-natural,” doesn’t mean it’s safe or free of side effects.

Moreover, while supplements are sold without a prescription, they can still have both negative and positive drug-like effects, as well as side effects from interacting with medications and other herbs. Consequently, they should be taken with similar precautions.

“The big question is whether the supplement does more good than bad—is it more helpful than harmful when taken in a therapeutic dose?” said Dr. Gregory.

There are a few things to remember when determining whether a supplement is safe. These include:

• Check whether it’s been scientifically tested on people, rather than on animals or not at all. Also note whether the tests provided favorable results.
• Remember that testimonials on a manufacturer’s website may be inaccurate or not supported by scientific research. For this reason, it’s best to consult an unaffiliated source.
• Consult the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements for reliable information and research that includes fact sheets for individual supplements, advice for consumers, recommendations, and studies. Other websites, including MedlinePlus and Memorial Sloan Kettering’s About Herbs section are also quality resources.
• Be wary of supplement brands that make promises about the results that seem unrealistic or too good to be true.

Stay in the Know

Supplements designed for bodybuilding, weight loss, or sexual enhancement are most likely contaminated with other substances like drugs, especially when bought online. Only buy supplements from reputable sources.

While a supplement needs to be safe for the general public, it also needs to be safe for you.

Supplements can cause negative side effects when combined with other supplements or medications, and when taken after specific medical procedures, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding.

For those on medication, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking a new supplement to ensure that they’re not known to cause unwanted side effects when taken alongside your current drug regimen.

Some of the more common supplements and their interactions include:

St. John’s wort. This has the potential to decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills, cancer chemotherapy, and other medications.
Valerian. Taking this herb with medications that cause drowsiness can increase your risk of excessive tiredness or fatigue.
Goldenseal. Taking this supplement can increase your risk of side effects from drugs that are substrates of cytochrome P450.
Calcium. This supplement may reduce absorption of certain antibiotics, zinc, iron, or magnesium as well as drugs for an underactive thyroid.
Ginkgo. This herbal supplement increases the risk of spontaneous bleeding for those on warfarin or other blood thinners.
Ginger. This increases your risk of bleeding when taken with warfarin or other blood thinners, as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Garcinia. Taking this supplement with antidepressants and some other medications can raise serotonin in your body to dangerous levels, potentially leading to serotonin syndrome.

How Can You Tell If a Supplement Is Effective?

Much like determining a supplement’s safety, its efficacy can also be verified through doing your research using reputable sources.

Again, check whether clinical studies of the supplement as a whole—and the ingredients on their own—were performed on humans rather than only on animals or in test tubes.

Specifically, look to see if the supplement has been scientifically tested to correspond with your intended use. For example, if you’re taking a probiotic to reduce the risk of a cold, double check that there’s substantial evidence to support this purpose.

Dietary supplements

Also, watch out for claims based on traditional uses that may not be backed up with scientific evidence.

“Traditional uses often have some basis in fact, but not always,” adds Gregory.

How to Determine the Quality of a Product

To determine the quality of a product, you can look to third-party testing programs such as the United States Pharmacopeia and National Science Foundation (NSF). These programs determine whether the supplement contains the ingredients that the label states and nothing more, nothing less.

For a supplement to receive the United States Pharmacopeia Verified Mark, it must:

• contain the ingredients listed on the label in their stated potency
• not contain harmful levels of contaminants, such as lead and mercury
• break down and release into the body for absorption
• be made in accordance to the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP)

Meanwhile, the NSF has multiple testing services to determine quality and CGMP compliance. NSF Certification refers to the adherence of quality control standards, and compliance to regulatory and purchase specifications.

To be certified, a product must go through yearly testing and the manufacturing facility must undergo annual inspection.

Dosing for Supplements

Supplements are labeled with dosage recommendations, however it’s best to do your own research to determine the right amount for you.

When taking vitamins and minerals, it’s important to know whether your diet already includes the same ingredients as the supplements themselves. By not keeping track of this, you may be giving your body more than it needs or can even digest.

Taking too much of a certain supplement can cause negative side effects. Dosing suggestions can vary based on weight, gender, diet, and age, among other factors. Moreover, dosing recommendations on labels may not correspond with what scientific studies have proven to be an appropriate amount for what you’re using the supplement for.

It’s also worth noting that recommended dosages are not usually tested on children, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Even dosages for the same type of herbal product can differ from manufacturer to manufacturer based on how the plants are grown, prepared, and extracted. As there are no “generic” equivalents of plant-based supplements, quality, safety, and efficacy can vary even if the bottle label advertises the same herb.

There are several ways you can find sources for dosing information. These include:

• traditional medicinal practices
• your doctor
• scientific studies
• manufacturer websites
• product labels

Tips for Finding Reliable Supplement Information

When seeking out sources, look for ones without commercial ties to the supplement market. These commercial ties can include manufacturer websites, vitamin store sales reps, in-home sales reps, or anyone else that may have a bias.

Instead, use sources like MedlinePlus, Office of Dietary Supplements,, and the Memorial Sloan Ketter Cancer Center’s About Herbs.

Dietary supplements can be a beneficial addition to your diet if you need to fill in some nutritional nooks and crannies. Herbal products may claim to be remedies for your aches and pains. Neither are risk-free.

Before purchasing a new supplement, herbal product, or vitamin, do your research or consult your doctor, pharmacist, or dietitian to determine whether it’s the best choice for you.

This article was originally published on

8 Surprising Hacks and Benefits of Nature’s Gentle Purifier

Chlorella: A Powerhouse of Nutrition


December 4, 2018 Updated: December 6, 2018

Chlorella is one of the world’s tiniest plants. But good things come in small packages.

Chlorella is a green, single-celled algae with a simple structure, yet it’s brimming with nutrients. It has protein, contains over 20 different vitamins and minerals, and all the essential amino acids. It also has antioxidants, beta-carotene, beta glucan, and more.

Since chlorella contains so many of the nutrients we need for optimal health, everyone’s diet can benefit from this algae. In fact, chlorella has numerous benefits.

Fights Bad Breath

Chlorella is high in chlorophyll, the component that gives plants their green color. The deep green of chlorella is why this algae is the most concentrated source of chlorophyll known.

Chlorophyll allows plants to soak up energy from sunlight.

It also helps remove bad smells. That’s why people with bad breath might benefit from taking chlorella.

Chlorella works throughout the digestive tract, neutralizing odor-causing bacteria that causes bad breath. Combined with proper oral hygiene, regular chlorella consumption can keep you smelling sweet.


Skin Health

Chlorella can help your body heal wounds from inside out.

Another nutritious feature of chlorella is nucleic acids. Nucleic acids are essential building blocks for our bodies’ DNA, RNA, and good cell function. And chlorella is higher in nucleic acids than any other food source.

This, along with chlorella’s 50- to 60-percent protein content, can help support overall skin health as we age.


Weight Management

There are signs that regular chlorella consumption may help support your weight loss goals. The nutrients in chlorella support your metabolism and support the body’s detoxification process so you don’t feel so sluggish.


Fights Hair Loss

Researchers believe that chlorella may help stimulate the body’s production of keratin: the major structural component of healthy hair and nails. It can also strengthen hair follicles and improve scalp circulation.


Heart Healthy Food

High blood pressure (or hypertension) affects an estimated 50 million Americans. It increases the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease, and can also damage kidney function.

Lifestyle is a big factor in supporting normal blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight, a good diet, exercise, and reducing alcohol consumption can all contribute to lower numbers.

The nutrients in chlorella may help keep your heart healthy.

Omega-3 essential fatty acids are nutrients within chlorella that help support your heart’s health by regulating blood pressure.

Healthy Cholesterol Level

A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study from 2014 found that daily consumption of chlorella supplements helped reduce triglycerides and total cholesterol levels.


Keep Joints Healthy

We know that chlorella may help support tissue and a normal inflammatory response.

Chlorella may even benefit serious chronic pain problems like fibromyalgia—a disorder that makes you hurt all over and feel constantly exhausted.

In a study published in the 2001 edition of the Journal of Musculoskeletal Pain, researchers found that after three months on chlorella supplements, fibromyalgia sufferers saw as much as a 50-percent reduction in the severity of their pain and fatigue, and an increase in their overall wellbeing.


Healthy Digestion

Fiber is an important nutrient when it comes to digestive health, and is another important feature of chlorella. Fiber helps cleanse the digestive tract by physically removing backed up waste material and toxins.

Daily chlorella intake can help support proper digestion and elimination by feeding the beneficial bacteria in the colon and keeping everything moving along.

A Word About Quality

One major obstacle with chlorella is that its wealth of nutrients are locked away. This small algae has a very tough cell wall that your digestive system can’t penetrate on its own.

Some manufacturers have used heat or chemicals to bust through this barrier. But heat can hurt the algae’s nutritional content, and chemicals add undesirable, and potentially unhealthy, ingredients.

An important innovation in chlorella supplements came in 1981 when Sun Chlorella of Japan developed a patented process to pulverize the thick outer wall of the chlorella cell without heat or chemicals, allowing the body to utilize all the chlorella’s nutritional benefits, making Sun Chlorella the most digestible chlorella brand on the market to this day.