Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Proven Benefits for Prebiotics and Probiatics


By Andrew Larson, MD, FACS, FASMBS

Here at Clean Cuisine and More and with my own patient population I am seeing increasing interest in prebiotics and probiotics both as standalone supplements and to be consumed in functional foods such as kefir, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, bananas, artichokes, garlic, and whole wheat flour.
I recently came across an academic review article delineating several benefits for prebiotics and probiotics in children’s health in a highly respected medical journal1 and this article really peaked my interest. Since then I have done additional research on prebiotics and probiotics and I am now convinced they are an exciting area of preventive medicine for adults and kids alike.Prebiotics and probiotics are truly health-promoting substances that do live up to the hype.

What are Probiotics? What do Probiotics Do?

Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria that keep you healthy. Probiotics are living good bacteria that stay alive in your intestine after being consumed. These microscopic organisms work hard to alter the overall intestinal environment to a favorable one by crowding out bad bacteria such as viruses that might otherwise dominate and harm health. Even though they are bacteria, probiotics actually help protect your body from infection. Probiotics can stimulate and work with your immune system to improve your health and prevent, or even treat, certain diseases.

Probiotics help with digestion and nutrient absorption. Probiotics enable essential health promoting nutrients to be absorbed that otherwise would not have been able to cross the intestinal wall into the circulatory system.  In fact, the depletion of “friendly” probiotics can lead to nutrient depletion and consequently inferior health; if your body can’t utilize the nutrient-dense foods you eat it’s just as bad as not consuming them in the first place. The regular consumption of probiotics will help your body to properly digest, process and utilize the food you eat. Probiotic consumption also increases the bioavailability of minerals, especially calcium.

Probiotics help detoxify and cleanse your body.  Probiotics have been shown to support liver function and detoxification. These “friendly” bacteria filter toxins in the gut before they get into the bloodstream. The presence of probiotics speeds up the transfer time of toxic waste in your colon, thus preventing toxins from staying in your body and being reabsorbed in your bloodstream.

The Science Behind Probiotics & How a Probiotic Rx Might Help You

The strongest evidence for probiotic benefits exists for the prevention and treatment of diarrheal illnesses. For example, one comprehensive review study2 reveals that the probiotic S. boulardii can reduce antibiotic associated diarrhea by more than fifty percent.  To prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea probiotics should be taken as soon as one starts taking the antibiotic for best results; nevertheless, even after diarrhea has already set in probiotics have been shown to cure it more quickly.

Probiotics are also effective at treating infectious diarrhea caused by viruses or bacteria that is unrelated to antibiotics use. Probiotics are effective at preventing and treating traveler’s diarrhea and problems caused by the bacteria h. pylori, a major cause of gastritis and stomach ulcers.  Probiotics are also effective at maintaining remission of disease in persons with ulcerative colitis.  Other gastrointestinal conditions thought to be helped include c. difficile colitis, a deadly disease caused by antibiotic use, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Probiotics seem to have benefit as regards to dental conditions, including gingivitis and the development of dental disease.

The consumption of probiotics is even linked to an improvement in halitosis (bad breath.)

Probiotics have proven benefits for infants and young children. There is good research to show probiotics cut dramatically, by about 50%, the risk of an infant or young child developing eczema, allergic rhinitis (nasal allergies), or asthma.  Probiotics have also been proven to treat, and often cure, allergic dermatitis (skin disease) in children.

Probiotics can help prevent infections. In adults tantalizing research indicates probiotics can prevent infections of the ears, nose, and throat, and the urinary and respiratory systems.
There may be benefits in preventing cancers of the colon (3) and bladder and even helping with the management of diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Potentially Promising Weight Loss Benefits of Probiotics

As a bariatric (weight loss) surgeon I am always intrigued with new research that might help my patients lose weight. Some preliminary studies at Washington University (4, 5) in St. Louis have revealed certain “unfriendly” gut bacteria are exceptionally adapt at extracting calories from food, thereby doubling fat accumulation.  Lead investigator Dr. Jeffrey Gordon theorized that “…differences in our gut microbial ecology may determine how many calories we are able to extract and absorb from our diet and deposit in our fat cells.”
In other words, depending upon intestinal bacteria levels, you might not necessarily extract the same number of calories after eating your bowl of pasta as your friend does after eating hers, which may help explain why some people seem to be able to eat more than others without gaining weight. As of now I cannot say there is definite proof that just by adding probiotics you lose weight, but it is theoretically possible that adding more “friendly” bacteria just may help you shed pounds. And there is no downside to doing so.

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates such as “fructo-oligosaccharides,” “inulin,” “galacto-oligosaccharides,” and even dietary fiber that many probiotic bacteria consume for food.  If you eat more prebiotics you will likely have more good “friendly” bacteria in your intestine.

What are the Proven Benefits of Prebiotics?

Non-digestible carbohydrate prebiotics have been studied extensively and have been shown to reduce asthma and eczema in children and, just like probiotics, they are helpful in reducing problems with diarrhea in persons of all ages.  According to the Mayo Clinic prebiotics found in a wide variety of fruits, grains, and vegetables can also help normalize bowel function and support a healthy immune system in general.  Prebiotics have been shown to hold significant promise for reducing the risk of developing colorectal cancer(6), a disease in my surgical practice that I operate for on a weekly basis.

The Bottom Line on Prebiotics and Probiotics

Unfortunately, numerous factors can disrupt the balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria, and therefore interfere with your body’s natural ability to heal and detoxify itself. Helping to restore intestinal integrity, probiotics work round the clock to balance the “good” and “bad” bacteria within the GI tract, which can easily be upset by chlorinated water, poor elimination of waste, stress, oral contraceptives, a diet rich in refined foods and poor digestion. Antibiotics can also wreak havoc on the gut flora. Try to take antibiotics as infrequently as possible and if you do need to take them be sure to simultaneously supplement with a high quality probiotic.
In addition to eating foods containing prebiotics and probiotics, supplementing with probiotics on a regular basis is a good way to maintain the normal ecology of your gut and reduce toxins produced by imbalances in gut bacteria. Look for a probiotic supplement that contains a broad spectrum of live cultures (such as lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus rhamnosus, bifidobacteria, etc.). Be sure to follow the directions on the label.
Plenty of good quality supplements are on the market. I particularly like New Chapter brand “Probiotic All-Flora”, Garden of Life brand “Raw Probiotics Men” and “Raw Probiotics Women.” I also highly recommend Shaklee brand OptiFlora Prebiotic & Probiotic System.”

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lemon Herb {grilled} Chicken

Nothing is more rewarding to my taste buds than fresh ingredients in recipes. If you don't already have a herb garden, I highly suggest it. Using fresh herbs will give such depth of flavor to your meal.

Lemon Herb {grilled} Chicken


  • 1/2 tsp sea or kosher salt
  • 2 Tbps Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tbps Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme (chopped)
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary (chopped)
  • 2 Tbps molasses
  • 2-3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 3 Tbps extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c lemon juice (fresh)
  • 1/3 c water
  • 2 tsp {all natural} liquid smoke
  • 3 skinless boneless chicken breast
1) Mix all ingredients together in bowl.
2) Place chicken breasts and mixture into a large ziploc bag(or bowl) and marinated for 1-3 hours in refrigerator.
3) Grill chicken until cooked thru.

NOTE: You could omit the liquid smoke, but since I don't have a charcoal grill I love the flavor it adds to the chicken. Make sure and buy the {all natural} liquid smoke, Colgin is what I use. Also, whenever possible us fresh herbs. You can always bake this chicken recipe if you don't own a grill. 


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mango Salsa

I love salsa! I don't think there is a salsa I've met that I don't like. This Mango Salsa has tons of flavor and is great with chips, veggies, or even by itself.  Take it to your next summer pitch in and it's sure to be a hit!

Mango Salsa

  • 1 small red onion  (diced)
  • 2 small mangos (diced)
  • 1 can of {organic} black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 red pepper (diced)
  • 1 cup frozen sweet corn (thawed)
  • 1 Tbps (approx) fresh cilantro (chopped)
  • 1 1/2 Tpbs fresh lime juice
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
1) Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Chill in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes before serving.

NOTE: I love this as a substitute for salad dressings on my salads. It makes the best summer salad. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Banana Berry Smoothie

Making healthy smoothies is a daily occurrence around our house.  This smoothie recipe can't get any easier to make and is packed full of vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin B6 (just to name a few). 

What better way to cool down on a hot summer day than with an {all natural} smoothie?

  Banana Berry Smoothie

 One thing that is crucial to making the best creamy smoothie are frozen bananas. I'm almost convinced we eat more bananas weekly than the typical monkey! Ok, that might be an exaggeration but we do eat A LOT of them.

  • approx. 1 cup of organic strawberries, stems removed (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 1/2 cup of {all natural} apple juice
  • 2 frozen bananas
1) add all ingredients to blender.
2) blend until all ingredients are combined.
3) serve immediately.

NOTE:  Bananas can take a whole day to freeze well.  Peel them and cut them into 1/2" slices and lay them flat in ziploc bag to avoid sticking together.  When at the grocery store always buy an extra bunch to freeze for the week. You can never have too many bananas! 

Buy organic strawberries. Strawberries were just ranked #3 in the Dirty Dozen of Fruits and Veggies with the most pesticides. As many as 13 pesticides found on a single strawberry! You can read more about it(and other produce) at: Environmental Working Group

SAVINGS TIP: Often times grocery stores will bundle loose bananas together for quick sale and you can often save around .16-.20 per lb. 


Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Are you wanting to change your overall health? Needing to drop a few pounds?  Are you feeling overwhelmed? If so, then you are just like I was 9 months ago when I set out on this journey of {clean} eating.

There are a few things I would like to share with you that I find very important to the overall success of cleaning up your life.  First, start out with a few small things that you currently do that are considered "dirty" and change those first.  Don't think TOO far into the future just yet.


 I am proud to say that I set my mind to it and now dumped these chemicals and replaced them with organic Stevia and Silk Vanilla Soy Milk.  This might come as a shocker to some of you that don't think it's possible to drop these two habits(let alone reboot your whole life), BUT I am actually happier now that I have made these positive steps in the right direction.  It's these little milestones that will keep you striving for more "cleanliness" in your life.

Secondly, drink water. I have a whole blog entry dedicated to it. It's simple and will have lasting positive changes to your body. Period.

And finally, READ LABELS...and get used to it! I read EVERY single label before it makes it into my shopping cart. It might seem like a lot of work at first but it will soon become second nature. If you truly do want to transform your life and/or your family's life then it's a critical key into {clean eating}.  If you stay away from all the processed foods and eat more fresh produce you will soon find out there are a lot less labels to read anyway.

I'm here to help so let me know if you have any questions. I am still learning and growing in this journey. There isn't much that I can say to you to convince you to give this lifestyle a try besides saying WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE? I see only positive results in my health, weight, and family's health(and that's naming a few things). 

{Eating clean} is more about the weight and fatigue you will LOSE and the hope and years on your life you will GAIN. And it truly is that simple.

UPDATE(july 2012): I now use Coconut Milk, Almond Milk, Hemp Milk only...AND Coconut Milk creamer in my coffee.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


One major principle in {clean eating} is to DRINK 2-3 LITERS OF WATER EACH DAY.  It should be the drink you reach for before all else. Water is second only to oxygen in the level of importance it has to the body. If you aren't getting 2-3 liters of water a day I suggest you drop the soda, sugary drinks, or whatever else is holding you back from reaching that goal.  

Before beginning my {eat clean} journey I would live on Diet Coke and coffee (and maybe squeeze in a small amount of water).  Even if a drink has zero calories it can still cause you challenges when reaching optimal health and weight loss. Many of the zero calorie drinks are loaded with artificial flavorings, sweeteners, and chemicals. These do nothing but jeopardize your chances for a better you!

If you are trying to lose weight, this principle is KEY to weight loss. Many people don't want to give water the credit it deserves. I have seen major changes in the way I feel since drinking the 3 liters a day.  If you have ever reached the "i'm thirsty", then you have waited too long and let your body get dehydrated. You should hydrate often and make it a habit! It has become a part of my daily routine now.  Staying hydrated will help you feel fuller longer too! Giving up Diet Coke was the best thing I could have done for myself.

There are many great refillable water bottles out there today that make it super easy to keep track of how much water you have consumed. I suggest getting one if you don't have one already.

Have you drank your 2-3 liters of water today??? 

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's grillin time baby!

Happy 4th of July to you!

Grilling outdoors is one of my favorite things to do! It just makes the food taste so "alive" with flavor. Since I live in Indiana it can be more challenging at times to grill outdoors, but I am not afraid to grill out in the snow for good flavor!

Veggie Kabobs

Veggie kabobs are a simple and nutritious thing to make as a side dish. Mix it up with all sorts of colorful peppers, sweet onions, mushrooms, and/or tomatoes. Or anything other veggie you like to throw on the grill!  


Take approx. 2 Tbps of Olive Oil and 3-4 cloves of fresh minced garlic and microwave for about 30 seconds(until you smell the garlic).  Add your favorite all natural seasoning, stir, and then brush on kabobs.

NOTE: I use the the 21 Salute Seasoning from Trader Joe's. It's a great all purpose seasoning. Just make sure to read your labels! I had to trash some "dirty" seasonings recently.  I couldn't believe what was in them once I googled the long names! Maybe I'll save that for another post.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sloppy Janes

Let me introduce you to Sloppy Joe's thin, hot sister: Sloppy Jane! Full of flavor and low on calories these sloppy little sandwiches are packed full of nutrition.

Sloppy Janes

Recipe Adapted from Eat-Clean Diet Stripped book

  • 2 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 Tbsp unsulfured molasses 
  • 1 6oz can of {all natural} tomato paste
  • 1 Tbps cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbps Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbps Olive Oil
  • 1 sweet onion (chopped)
  • 1 green bell pepper(seeded and chopped) 
  • 2 carrots (peeled and grated)
  • 1/2 Tbps sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 package of {extra lean} ground organic turkey breast (organic chicken or grass-fed beef would work)
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 8oz can {no salt added} tomato sauce
  • 1/4 tsp celery seed
  • 1/8 tsp chipotle chili pepper powder
  • 1 c {low sodium} chicken broth
  • whole grain buns
  • green leaf lettuce
1)  In a small bowl, mix together mustard, molasses, tomato paste, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, and chili powder, and set aside.
2) Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, green peppers, carrots, salt and pepper, and saute until soft and starting to brown, approx 10 min.  Add garlic, celery seed, and ground chipolte pepper. Cook another 3 minutes, stir occasionally.
3)Transfer vegetable mixture out of skillet and puree in food processor. Set aside.
4)Meanwhile in same pan used for vegetables, cook ground turkey until no longer pink and then add chicken stock, tomato sauce, spice mixture (from step one), and pureed vegetable mixture until combined. (tip: I often use the chicken stock while cooking the extra lean ground turkey since it has no fat content and dries out easily)
5)Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. 
6)Serve on a whole grain bun with green leaf lettuce.

NOTE:  You could skip the pureeing of the vegetables and just leave them chopped. However, I find if there are no large chunks of vegetables in the food my kids are more apt to eat it. Plus, I like to be sneaky!
Also, if you are wanting this less spicy you can omit the chipolte powder all together or add more of it to make it super spicy.