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Prebiotics May Help Treat Osteoarthritis

If your joints begin to stiffen and feel painful — especially when you wake up in the morning or as swelling becomes more common — your body could be telling you that osteoarthritis may be just around the corner.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common chronic conditions that harms the joints, often affecting the lower backs, necks, small joints of fingers and the knees of nearly 10 percent of all Americans.

A deterioration of cartilage is the common culprit in osteoarthritis, leading to breakdowns that spur inflammation, pain and joint damage. Because this discomfort makes it harder to move around, you may be dealing with other health problems related to a sedentary lifestyle that lead to obesity and cardiovascular problems like heart disease or diabetes.

Osteoarthritis also increases your chances of experiencing more falls (30 percent) and debilitating fractures (20 percent) than someone in good health.

You may be very surprised to learn the health of your gut could be a driving force behind osteoarthritis and that prebiotics — non-digestible carbohydrates/plant fiber that feeds the good bacteria living in your gut — may play an important role in treating this condition, according to a study appearing in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Prebiotics to the rescue!

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered how prebiotics could help in treating osteoarthritis while studying mice fed high-fat foods, not unlike the cheeseburgers and shakes humans eat in a Western diet.

After 12 weeks on a high-fat diet, mice experienced all of the telltale signs of eating a poor diet (obesity, diabetes) and their gut health showed it.

Not only were their microbiomes dominated by bacteria that triggered inflammation, they were nearly depleted of beneficial bacteria, including Bifidobacteria.

(These symptoms are also linked very strongly with leaky gut, a serious health condition that occurs when unintended substances seep through the intestinal barrier to the bloodstream.)

These internal changes were evident with signs of inflammation prevalent all over the tiny bodies of obese mice, along with a faster progression of osteoarthritis (nearly a total loss of knee cartilage within 12 weeks after a meniscal tear) compared to leaner mice.

However, the damage done by obesity was prevented almost completely when obese mice were fed a prebiotic (oligofructose). Although their body weight remained the same, the effects of osteoarthritis lessened greatly.

In fact, obese mice that were fed prebiotics had healthy knee cartilage indistinguishable to those of leaner mice and signs of diabetes diminished too.

“This reinforces the idea that osteoarthritis is another second complication of obesity, just like diabetes, heart disease and stroke, which all have inflammation as part of their root cause,” says Dr. Robert Mooney, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, according to the URMC Newsroom.

These positive results of the mice study have set the stage for a follow-up study with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs using probiotics and prebiotics to help vets suffering from obesity-related osteoarthritis.

Just a reminder that EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Jr. (Chewable and Powder) contain multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, and the prebiotic FOS (fructooligosaccharides). Both are proven weapons for fighting obesity that could also protect your body from the damage done by osteoarthritis.

For Gut-friendly Holidays, Eat Cranberries

Apart from being a staple in foods for the holiday season (desserts, stuffing, sauces and drinks) and a first-line treatment for urinary tract infections, cranberries receive little notice in the wide world of whole foods, an undeserved sign of disrespect.

Many health experts consider cranberries a superfood due to their low-calorie/high-fiber content and being fill to the brim with important antioxidants and nutrients (resveratrol, vitamins C, E and A and copper).

A study featured recently in Applied and Environmental Microbiology found another important use for cranberries as a natural prebiotic, non-digestible fiber or carbs that feed the bacteria living in your gut.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amhurst made this discovery when feeding cranberry-derived carbohydrates called xyloglucans to gut bacteria in the lab.

The real benefit from eating cranberries, says lead researcher Dr. David Sela, is the ability to eat for two, as it supports our own nutrition as well as the beneficial bacteria that lives in our gut.

“When we eat cranberries, the xyloglucans make their way into our intestines where beneficial bacteria can break them down into useful molecules and compounds,” says Dr. Sela, according to a press release.

Under the microscope, Dr. Sela and his research team observed these prebiotic compounds from cranberries feeding bifidobacteria under the microscope, an important process in protecting the healthy balance of bacteria in your gut.

Cranberries aren’t the only natural sources for prebiotics. They’re also a healthy component in many whole foods, from bananas, jicama and apples to artichokes, onions, leeks and almonds.

Just like almonds that contain a lot of fat, you have to be careful about eating a lot of cranberries too. Many commercial brands of juices and dried fruits add a lot of unnecessary sugar — 25-30 grams for juices and 8 grams for dried fruits — per 8-ounce serving, so eating them in moderation is a healthy choice.

If you want to add some prebiotic protection for your gut and cranberries aren’t your favorite food, look for a probiotic that contains fructooligosaccarides (FOS).

FOS is a natural substance derived from plant sugars and a proven prebiotic used in products like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Advanced Junior (for kids).

Taking Prebiotics May Improve Your Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your good health. Apart from your body’s very obvious need for physical rest — anywhere from 7-10 hours depending on how old you are — to help you function throughout the day, the list of benefits is long.

For example, sleep gives your body a break that allows the brain, blood vessels and heart to do some much-needed maintenance.

But, if your sleep hygiene is poor or you don’t get enough of it, your chances of stroke, kidney disease, diabetes and heart disease increase, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

A healthy amount of sleep also helps you maintain the proper balance of hormones that govern your hunger: Ghrelin increases your appetite while leptin makes you feel full. Messing up your sleep wreaks havoc with those hormones, causing you to feel hungrier while increasing your obesity risks.

When not managed properly, jet lag from airplane traveling and shift work can harm, not only your sleep and waistline, but your gut health too, which explains why some experts have recommended probiotics as a protective measure.

Not only do probiotics play an important role in promoting better sleep, so do prebiotics — non-digestible carbohydrates/plant fiber that feed the good bacteria already living in your gut — according to a recent study appearing in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

The prebiotic sleep aid

To study the benefits of prebiotics, researchers at the University of Colorado fed two sets of three-week-old rats food that contained it or a control diet that didn’t, then monitored their body temperature, gut bacteria and sleep-wake cycles for four weeks.

Test animals that were fed a prebiotic-rich diet spent more time in a deeper, more restful state of non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep. Plus, when these prebiotic mice were exposed to unexpected stressors, they were better equpped to achieve rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, a critical tool for promoting relief from trauma.

Not surprisingly, those same mice maintained better gut bacteria diversity — higher levels of Lactobacillus rhamnosus — and normal body temperature fluctuations too.

Given these test results, University of Colorado scientists believe “a diet rich in prebiotics started in early life could help improve sleep, support the gut microbiota and promote optimal brain/psychological health,” according to a press release.

How do you get prebiotics?

Prebiotics are a natural component of whole foods ranging from onions, leeks, artichokes, raw garlic, almonds and jicama to fruity fare like bananas and apples.

To ensure you get the right amount of prebiotics your body needs, the easiest way is to take a probiotic, ideally with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria. EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior contain fructo-oliggosaccharides (FOS), a natural prebiotic derived from plant sugars.

So, when you’re looking for ways to improve the quality of your sleep naturally, consider taking a probiotic that features a prebiotic as a key ingredient.

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