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Got Gas? Eat These!

An upset, gassy stomach is not fun – but some foods can help quell the digestive chaos. Find out which foods to choose when you feel gassy.

If you are feeling bloated or gassy, some foods can help calm your stomach. Try these three:

1. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). The seeds, leaves, and roots of the fennel plant are readily available in many forms including plain seeds, sugar-coated seeds, extract, oil, and capsules. All offer a natural way to help relieve gas. When shopping, note that fresh fennel seeds should have a strong aroma, and other forms should have a freshness date. Simply chew and swallow one-half to one teaspoon of fennel seeds after eating, whenever distended from gas, or as recommended by product label. Children can take half the adult dose.

2. Baked potatoes. They are easy to digest, making them a good choice for an upset stomach when you are still hungry. Plus these universally loved vegetables are loaded with vitamins C and B-6, potassium and fiber.

3. Eggs. The protein in eggs can help to soothe a gassy stomach. Choose organic, free-range eggs, and poach or hard-boil them for the most benefit.


Meal Planning: Healthy Breakfasts

Planning meals can be a challenge, but a little guidance can make it less daunting. Use these suggestions for some healthy meals this week, and add the foods you’ll find here to your grocery list!

When planning your grocery list for this week’s meals, don’t forget the first meal of the day! It's easy to eat right in the morning: the ideal breakfast should provide one quarter to one third of your day's protein, a fair amount of fiber (as found in low-glycemic carbohydrates) and some healthy fat. Here are some quick, healthful ideas on food to buy:

  1. Canned, wild Alaskan salmon. The traditional Japanese breakfast features broiled fish, steamed rice, pickled vegetables and green tea. Using canned, wild Alaskan salmon along with leftover rice and vegetables makes this a quick meal.
  2. Granola and yogurt. Choose granola or make one that's low in sugar or other sweeteners, and opt for full-fat plain Greek yogurt, fruit and walnuts.
  3. Eggs. Keep some hardboiled eggs (choose free-range, omega-3 fortified eggs) on hand to eat with sprouted grain toast. Include a piece of fruit like an orange or grapefruit and a container of plain, unsweetened yogurt.
  4. Dark, leafy greens. Spinach, kale and other dark, leafy greens are a nutritious addition to any breakfast – use with your eggs to create a vegetable scramble.
  5. Berries. Choose organic blueberries or raspberries for their fiber and antioxidants – add to your yogurt or top steel-cut oatmeal with a handful.
  6. Coffee or green tea. Coffee is a good source of antioxidants, and research has linked coffee to a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes as well as improved mental health as you age. I suggest finding an organic or fair trade version. If coffee causes side effects such as anxiety, tremors or irritation of the digestive system, drink green tea - it is a very healthy alternative.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s Daily Tip, for information on what not to eat for breakfast!



Potato Extract for Weight Loss

Consuming polyphenols, a class of antioxidants found in potato extract, may hold promise as a strategy to avoid obesity. This news comes from researchers at Canada's McGill University, who studied the effects these compounds obtained from a variety of potato that is particularly rich in polyphenols. The investigators tested the extract in mice that had been fed a diet high in fat and refined carbohydrates. To begin, they put the mice on a 10-week long diet designed to fatten them up. The animals that started out weighing an average of 25 grams gained about 16 grams on the diet, but a second group of mice on the same diet with potato extract added gained only seven grams. The research team was so surprised at the results that they repeated the study to confirm the outcome. Don't think you can get similar results by upping your intake of potatoes, however. You would need to eat 30 potatoes a day (every day) to get the amount of polyphenols given the mice in the McGill study. The extract needs to be tested in humans to see if it is safe and has similar effects, and researchers will have to determine the optimal dose for men and women. If those studies pan out, the team anticipates making the extract available in supplement form or as an ingredient for cooking.


Hair Growth Hope

Here's some good news for men (and for women) worried about hair loss. Researchers in Japan have zeroed in on a substance that may turn out to be an effective treatment to address thinning hair, although so far, it has worked only in mice and has not yet been tested on humans. The substance is propolis, which honeybees use to seal small gaps in their hives. Humans have used propolis and honey from ancient times as treatments for tumors, inflammation and wounds, and these natural substances contain compounds that fight fungal and bacterial infections. More recent research has found that propolis stimulates the activity of cells involved in hair growth. A team from Japan's Hokkaido University tested the substance on mice that had been shaved or waxed and found that the animals treated with propolis had faster fur regrowth than animals that were shaved/waxed and not treated. The scientists also reported that after propolis was applied to shaved mice, the skin cells involved in hair growth increased in number. They also noted that in some cases hair loss is due to abnormal inflammation and that propolis contains anti-inflammatory compounds and might be useful for treating some inflammatory conditions associated with balding. More study is needed to determine whether propolis can help humans regrow hair.

My take: For centuries people have used propolis on wounds and as a remedy for ailments ranging from acne to cancer, osteoporosis, itching, and tuberculosis. Today, it is used in the manufacture of chewing gum, cosmetics, creams, lozenges and ointments. I consider it safe and useful as a home remedy and recommend it as a topical treatment for uncomplicated wounds and, when used as a gargle or in spray form, as a remedy for sores and irritations in the mouth. Tincture of propolis can also be used to treat canker sores and sore throats. You can find it in various forms in health food stores or source it raw from beekeepers. We'll have to wait for clinical trials to see if propolis can actually promote hair growth in humans.


Yogurt Consumption Might Help Diabetes

Eating yogurt regularly may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health followed nearly 200,000 adults ages 25 to 75 for up to 30 years, checking in on them regularly through food questionnaires. After adjusting for age, smoking, body mass index and other risk factors, the team concluded that consuming 12 ounces of yogurt daily - three times the usual four-ounce serving - was linked to an 18 percent reduction in the risk for Type 2 diabetes. The study also found that consumption of other dairy products didn't seem to make a difference to the risk of diabetes. Lead author Mu Chen told the New York Times that yogurt's positive effect might be due to the probiotic bacteria it contains, although that remains to be studied. Frank Hu, the study's senior author, was quoted in news reports as saying that the benefits may stem from yogurt's high protein content, which can increase satiety and reduce feelings of hunger, or it could be that regular yogurt consumption is simply a marker for a healthy lifestyle.


Pregnancy: Eating for Two Not a Good Idea

Gaining some weight during pregnancy is healthy, but a new study shows that one-third of new mothers whose weight was normal before pregnancy were overweight or obese a year after childbirth. The investigators from the University of Chicago drew on data from 774 low-income women. The participants were interviewed three times in the year following childbirth, and the women's height and weight were measured at six and 12 months after delivery. The researchers reported that their study participants gained an average of 32 pounds during pregnancy and that about 75 percent of the women remained heavier a year after their babies were born than they were before pregnancy. When interviewed a year after their babies were born, 47 percent of the women still weighed at least 10 pounds more than they did pre-pregnancy. Experts note that breastfeeding and moderate exercise can help with weight loss after pregnancy. Study leader Loraine K. Endres, M.D., made the point that "eating for two" should not be interpreted to mean doubling caloric intake. She said that pregnant women should consume only 300 to 400 extra calories per day as long as they're expecting only one baby.


Less Weight for More Life

If you've been thinking about your New Year's resolutions and have put weight loss at the top of your list, take it seriously. A Canadian research team examined the relationship between body weight and life expectancy and calculated that being overweight or obese can steal up to eight years of your life. Worse, they concluded that because those excess pounds often lead to diabetes or cardiovascular disease earlier in life, they could deprive you of nearly two decades of good health. The team used data from 4,000 people included in the 2003 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Their lifestyles were used to develop a model estimating the annual risk diabetes and cardiovascular disease pose to individuals, and it revealed how different body weights affect life expectancy and years of healthy life lost. They found that the very obese could lose up to eight years of life, the obese up to six years, and the overweight up to three years. In addition, healthy life-years lost were two to four times higher for overweight and obese individuals compared to those whose weight was healthy. They reported that the worst cases were those individuals who gained weight at early ages. Now the team is looking into how weight loss can affect life expectancy.

My take? Obesity remains a widespread medical problem in the U.S. - one third of adults and 17 percent of children are considered obese, and, as a result, at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and kidney and gallbladder disease. Obesity may also increase the risk for developing some types of cancer. And it is strongly associated with osteoarthritis and sleep apnea. So it should be no surprise to learn that being overweight or obese can take years off your life, and make the years you do have less enjoyable. The obvious solution is to lose weight - no easy task although we all know what's involved - avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar; eat foods that are low on the glycemic index and, especially, in glycemic load; cut back on alcohol; avoid stress, frustration and boredom; if you're depressed, seek treatment and get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, five times a week. Your health and life are worth the effort.


Why Soy for Hot Flashes Works for Some, Not All

Adding whole soy foods to your diet may quell hot flashes, but it's only likely to help if you're one of those women whose bodies produce equol, a soy metabolite. A study published online on November 6, 2014 by the journal Menopause concludes that 20 to 50 percent of North American and European women produce equol. Seattle area researchers surveyed women in a local health care system to identify those who didn't use hormone replacement therapy and who also consumed soy foods at least three times a week. The women who agreed to participate in the study were asked to report on the number and severity of their hot flashes and night sweats. Urine tests showed that only 34 percent of the 357 women volunteers produced equol. Among those women, 76 percent who regularly consumed soy reported a less than average number of hot flashes and night sweats. The researchers noted that measuring equol is done only in research centers, but women can get a reliable indication of whether or not soy foods will help quench their hot flashes by adding them to their diets for four to six weeks. If there's no change, you can assume that soy won't be effective for you. The researchers noted that the positive effect of soy for women who do produce equol still has to be studied and confirmed in larger controlled, randomized studies.