Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. Dinner is great - but it’s what my family does with the leftovers that makes my Thanksgiving special to me. My grandma has been using leftover thanksgiving turkey to make turkey tamales for as long as I can remember. As my siblings, cousins and I got older, my grandma started to let us join in the fun of preparing them!
Cooking tamales can be a difficult and time consuming process, but practice makes perfect. Follow this simple online recipe for directions on how to prepare traditional Mexican tamales. If you’d like to add a Thanksgiving twist like my family does, fill your tamales with turkey meat as opposed to beef or chicken :)
(pictured above: My grandma and cousin preparing tamales)
I am sure you have heard that you should be consuming probiotics daily, either through
supplements or through whole foods such as greek yogurt and kombucha. Probiotics have
developed a gleaming halo due to many health professionals recommending them for a variety of reasons and health benefits. We all know they are good for you, but what’s the deal? What are they? How do they work? Who should be taking them? Are all probiotics made the same? Let’s dive in.
To understand how probiotics do their job and their importance, we have to first
recognize the significance of gut health. It has been found that the microbiome (bacteria makeup) in our gut (large intestines) is a large determinate of our overall health as human beings. “It covers multiple positive aspects of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, such as the effective digestion and absorption of food, the absence of GI illness, normal and stable intestinal microbiota, effective immune status and a state of well-being.” (Bischoff, 2011) Not only does our gut microbiome play a role in immunity but there have also been studies revealing that there may be a link between gut health and brain function (crazy right? There is a lot more to be said about that, but we will stay on topic) Although we have uncovered substantial information, scientists have not developed a way in which to clearly define or measure gut health, however, we have found ways to improve it. Maintaining a healthy gut is a key objective in preventative medicine today. So how do we do that exactly?
Beyond a well balanced diet, fiber (prebiotic), and physical activity, probiotics are a
major way in which one can maintain a healthy gut microbiome. The word “probiotic” is derived from the greek language meaning “life.” Today, probiotics can be defined as, “‘A live microbial feed supplement which beneficially affects the host animal by improving its intestinal microbial balance” (Fuller, 1992). Probiotics are strains of “good” bacteria that will, in a sense, crowd out the “bad” bacteria. There are have been many postulated ideas of how exactly probiotics do their desired job. Some of which are: promoting a gut barrier, enhancement of the immunological barrier and reducing inflammation. “Data shows that probiotics can be used as innovative tools to alleviate intestinal inflammation, normalize gut mucosal dysfunction, and down-regulate hypersensitivity reactions.” (Salminem, 2001) Basically, it keeps your GI tract in check. So, does that mean everyone should be taking them?
YES, take them! Probiotics are a great way for every individual to maintain a healthy gut.
Some individuals may benefit from probiotics more due to an illness such as those with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), chronic diarrhea, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). There has not been any negative side effects reported due to probiotic supplement intake. Whether you intake probiotics from supplements or foods, they are a good addition to your everyday. So are all probiotic supplements created equal?
Nope! If you search for a probiotic supplement, you may find that they can be quite
pricey and diverse. Some labels will read something like this: “3 billion cells,” “10 billion active cultures,” and “Bifidobacterium lactis.”...um what? Let me explain. The amount of living bacteria in the product are measured in CFU/ml or colony forming units. All you really need to know is, the higher the CFU’s, the higher the amount of living bacteria. This can be the major determinant when comparing prices. Take the amount of CFUs into account, this may sway your decision towards the pricier option after all. Some supplement brands may indicate the live bacteria with total weight or by the number of CFUs at time of production as opposed to the actual number in the supplement when you consume it, two very different numbers. I would just stick to the easy clear, CFU/ml in the probiotic supplement in your hand. No need to overcomplicate things. Remember you can get probiotics from some yummy greek yogurt as well.
The next crucial aspect of purchasing probiotics is the species in the product. Never buy a probiotic that does not tell you the bacteria composition, where’s the assurance in that? The most common bacteria you will find on a probiotic label are: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus thermophilus. Unless you have a condition that requires a certain strain of bacteria, I wouldn’t worry too much about these names. Also, be aware of fillers in the supplement (AKA things like glucose, wheat, or soy.) This goes for any supplement. If you have an allergy, stay clear.
There are many more things to be discussed circulating this topic such as prebiotics (food
for probiotics), shelf life, storage, and expiration. But we will end it there. I highly recommend taking probiotics daily! I hope this blog can help you take a step in the right direction.
Roy Fuller. (1992). History and Development of Probiotics. Retrieved from
Seppo Salminem. (2001). Probiotics: effects on immunity. Retrieved from
Stephan C Bischoff. (2011, March 14). 'Gut health': A new objective in medicine? Retrieved
What is diabetes? Diabetes is a deadly disease that is known to cause numerous health
complications and even death. Type 1 diabetes mellitus is characterized by the body’s
destruction of pancreatic beta-cells. Beta-cells are responsible for the production of insulin, a hormone that regulates serum glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes mellitus has a similar overall outcome but is caused by either a lack of insulin or faulty insulin receptors. Diabetes has been known to cause nerve damage resulting in amputations, blindness, or even death. When glucose is properly controlled by the intake of low glycemic foods and by the adaptation of a healthy lifestyle, these daunting complications can be avoided. Although this disease can be well controlled, no one true cure has been discovered, but current research may be heading in the right direction.
The article analyzed in this blog post looks closely at cell regeneration therapy as well as
other methods such as islet transplantation and gene therapy as a potential cure for diabetes. I want to focus on what I find to be the most intriguing cell generation. The three ways in which to potentially introduce/develop “new” fully functioning beta-cells is as follows: 1. “In vitro regeneration therapy using transplanted culture cells” 2. “In ex vivo regeneration therapy” 3. “In in vivo regeneration therapy.” Let’s dumb this idea down a bit. Basically, we can use cultured cells outside of the body to be implanted into one’s pancreas or cells from within the body to differentiate into beta-cells. There is a lot to consider with this type of therapy-immunosuppressive action to ensure your body doesn’t destroy it’s new cells (also can have some pretty scary side effects - yikes) or other therapies that can be coupled with the original regeneration such as “islet transplantation, cell-based therapy, or gene therapy.”
So this is a pretty big concept, but the overall big picture seems quite simple right? Cells
don’t work, so make cells that do? Can it be that easy? Here is what we know..
In in vitro regeneration therapy, differentiated cultured cells foreign to the individual are
in introduced into their body. This form of therapy requires immunosuppressive drugs for the entirety of one's lifespan. This alone opens the door to numerous health complications. Due to these adverse effects, this form of therapy has been limited to severe type 1 diabetics only. In other words, yes, diabetes can be an extremely difficult disease to live with, but so can nephrotoxicity and hypertension caused by immunosuppressive medications, would you trade one problem for another?
Ex vivo regeneration therapy involves the manipulation of an individual’s own cells
outside of the body, followed by reintroducing the cells in the body once treatment is complete. No immunosuppressive drugs are needed in this case since the cells are still recognized as “self.” Typically, this type of treatment extracts mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow to treat bone conditions, however, this mechanism is not likely to work with beta-cells and diabetic patients. Trials performed on mouses resulted in “brain, retina, lung, myocardium, skeletal muscle, liver, intestine, kidney, spleen, bone marrow, blood, and skin, but not pancreas.” Basically, the stem cells differentiated and formed every tissue besides the one we need in this circumstance, perfect. On to the next one.
In vivo regeneration therapy is the process of regeneration of one’s own impaired cells
within the body. This is done in numerous diseases today. For example, those with renal
anemia have been treated with granulocytopenia, erythropoietin and granulocyte-colony
stimulating factor. (G-CSF) Similarly, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) vectors have been injected into muscular tissue of those with occlusive peripheral artery disease
to promote neovascularization from remaining arteries.” If we can promote growth of cells and tissues needed to “fix” our disease so to speak, why not apply this mechanism to pancreatic beta-cells? Based on prior trials and studies, “in vivo generation therapy is, in general, more cost-effective, has fewer side effects, and is in addition more ethically and clinically acceptable than in vitro and ex vivo regeneration therapies.” Two main methods identified for this form of therapy are: “induction of beta-cell differentiation and stimulation of beta-cell growth.”
If scientist continue to research these methods and safe, reliable, effective protocols are mastered, we could have a cure for diabetes. BOOM.
Sure, there are tons of other cell therapies we could explore, but I will leave you with
that. If you are interested, I have attached an article to this post that I referenced. I have not found trials performing these exact therapies in diabetic patients, however, I have come across some non-scholarly articles about current cell regeneration trials in the UK. Only two patients have been tested thus far, but who knows what the future holds. It will be interesting to see how diabetes is treated five to ten years from now. We just might have a cure.
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