1. How helpful bacteria can fight disease

    Probiotics: Diversity is everything

    A healthy body starts with a healthy gut -- and a healthy gut starts with a good blend of the helpful bacteria needed for proper digestion and overall health.

    That's why I recommend probiotics to my patients, friends and family members, and that's why I take one myself -- but don't take any old supplement with "PROBIOTIC" written on the label.

    You need lots of bugs -- and lots of different types of bugs -- and new research shows just what happens when you fall short in helpful bacteria.

    I have to warn you… it sure ain't pretty.

    For starters, fewer species of help bacteria in your stomach can increase your risk of weight gain and obesity, boost your levels of body fat and even lead to overall metabolic dysfunction, according to the study of nearly 300 Danish people.

    Next up, your risk of diabetes jumps, too -- because less bacterial diversity will increase your odds of insulin resistance.

    It can even raise your cholesterol to unhealthy levels.

    And to cap it all off, poor bacterial diversity in your belly can also lead to inflammation -- and inflammation is linked to everything from heart disease to dementia.

    Unfortunately, this isn't rare. It's all too common, with the study finding that at least a quarter of the population lacks the proper levels and wide diversity needed for good bacterial balance.

    And from what I've seen in my own clinic, the number here in the United States is much higher than that.

    But you don't have to be among them.

    Look for a quality probiotic with multiple strains of friendly, helpful bacteria, especially multiple strains of both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. In the new study, people with more diversity in these two strains had more diversity overall, and all the benefits that come with it.

    In addition, don't settle for a supplement with millions or even hundreds of millions of CFUs, or colony-forming units.

    Look for billions.

    Readers of my Health Revelations newsletter got the full story on probiotics -- including how to choose the best blend of helpful bacteria -- in the May 2012 issue. If you're a subscriber, you can use the password in your current issue to read it online.

    Not a subscriber? It's not too late! Sign up today and you'll get your own password for complete access to all my back issues.

  2. Gut bacteria may play a big role in diabetes

    It doesn't seem fair, but some people make all the wrong choices and never face diabetes -- while others who are careful about everything they eat and drink end up in a fight for their lives with the disease.

    That's because diabetes isn't always caused by what you put into your stomach. In some cases, it could be caused by what's already there -- like the 3.3 pounds of bacteria sitting in your intestine right now.

    The balance of bacteria in the stomach can have far-reaching effects throughout the body -- from the obvious stuff, like digestion, to less obvious conditions such as your mental health and diabetes.

    It's that last one we're interested in today, because a new study out of China finds that diabetics are far more likely to have an excess of bad bacteria in the stomach than people who don't have the disease.

    It doesn't prove the bugs cause diabetes -- but it does show a link. To see if it's more than just a link, the researchers plan to give gut bugs from diabetic humans to healthy mice next, and you can bet I'll keep you posted on that one.

    In the meantime, it's important to remember how even small changes to your gut can affect your overall health. Poor diet, an untreated infection, or even a single course of antibiotics can tip your own balance of bacteria in the exact wrong direction.

    The problem is, most people have no way of knowing when their own balance is leaning the wrong way -- and that's why it's critical to be proactive about gut health.

    And that means you need to take a probiotic supplement every day.

    Avoid anything in the supermarket, where "probiotic" has become a marketing buzzword, and get yours from a health food store or vitamin shop -- and make sure you stick to a strain that's been tested and proven in human beings.

    I wrote extensively about probiotics earlier this year in my printed newsletter, Health Revelations. It's too late for me to mail that issue to you -- but if you sign up for a subscription now, you can read that and all my other back issues in my online archives.

  3. Antibiotics no longer recommended for sinus infections

    Finally, a little common sense when it comes to antibiotics: A leading medical group is urging docs to stop using these drugs for sinus infections.
  4. The deadly 'new' superbug -- and how to avoid it

    Going to the hospital is supposed to be the beginning of your recovery -- but for millions of us, it's the beginning of a nightmare.

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