Monday, December 29, 2014

How to improve your digestive health

A healthy digestive system is fundamental to a healthy body. Optimal digestion is the foundation of optimal energy. Digestion allows the body to get the nutrients and energy it needs from the food.  The digestive system is basically a tube of 25 and 30 feet long running through the body from mouth to anus. The digestive tract and the accessory organs of digestion make up the digestive system. The organs of the digestive system include the oral cavity (mouth), oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, rectum and anus. The accessory organs of digestion include the salivary glands, teeth, liver, gall bladder and pancreas. Over a lifetime no less than 100 tons of food passes along the digestive tract and 300,000 litres of digestive juices are produced by the body to break it down. Digestive juices flow from the walls of the stomach and small intestines, pancreas and gall bladder. Enzymes, bile and bacteria break down the food.
Facts on digestion
Digestion is a function of an organ system which involves a series of processes.  There are 5 processes that are involved with digestion: eating, breaking down food into simpler chemical compounds, absorption, assimilation and elimination of waste. Digestive organs can become disturbed for a multiplicity of reasons: poor diet, irregular eating habits, physical and mental strain, viral or bacterial or fungal or parasitic infections, allergies, toxicity and drugs. Digestive discomfort can express in many forms: stomach pain, bloating, indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea and foul smelling gas.
More than 80 million Americans live with and suffer from chronic digestive problems. It is estimated that 4 million Americans have constipation and 60 million Americans have acid reflux. Approximately 12 million people in the United States suffer from food allergy. One-third to one –half of all populations have digestive illness. It is estimated that 25 to 50% of all digestion- related ailments can be prevented and / or modified by proper eating, exercise, natural medicines and lifestyle modifications.


The digestive system comprises a group of organs that break down food and absorb the nutrients used by the body for fuel. The digestive system begins with the mouth and extends through the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine, ending with the rectum and anus. The most important roles of digestive system include ingestion, propulsion, mechanical digestion, chemical digestion, absorption and defecation. Gastroenterology is a branch of medicine concerned with the function and disorders of the digestive system.
Digestion refers to the breakdown of food into smaller molecules that can be absorbed and assimilated by the body. The process of digestion occurs as the food you eat travels through the digestive tract. The food is kept moving by muscular action called peristalis. The main work of our digestive system is processing the food we eat to obtain energy and nutrients.
Good digestive health is the ability to break down, absorb and use nutrients and to eliminate waste products from foods and beverages in a way that optimizes one’s health and vitality.

Importance of the digestive system

The digestive system represents not only the physical ‘engine’ of the body, but also the center of emotions and the seat of subconscious.  Two-thirds of our immune system is located in and around our digestive system. According to Dr. Michael Gershon in his book The second Brain (1998), all of the neurotransmitters that are found in the brain are also found in the digestive system –hence the term ‘second brain.’ The digestive system actually has its own nervous system called the enteric nervous system (ENS) and over 95% of serotonin is made in the gut (Gershon 1998). The enteric nervous system functions without the direction from the brain. The activity of the digestive system is regulated by the rich network of nerves found in the enteric nervous system (ENS).

Factors in good digestion

The factors that promote good digestion include timing, manner or eating, quantity of food, condition of the food, quality of the food and appropriateness of the food to your body.
·         Timing – when you eat;
·         Manner – how you eat;
·         Quantity – how much you eat;
·         Condition of the food –raw, cooked, warm or cold;
·         Quality of the food – fresh, clean and pure;
·         Appropriateness of the food – whether the food is compatible with your digestive capacity and relevant to your nutritional requirements.

Four R's gut healing program

Digestive problems are part and parcel of our life. There is a 4-R’s program with the following steps: Remove, Replace, Re-introduce and repair. In the first step, remove the things that are causing the problem such as bacteria, parasite, Candida or yeast overgrowth and potential food allergens and toxins. Then replace the diet with healthy food, dietary fiber and pure water for regular elimination. In the third step, re-introduce the gut with dietary probiotics or supplementary enzymes. Lastly repair the gut lining, so food and germs do not get through to the blood stream and cause a bad reaction called ‘leaky gut syndrome.’  It is reported that leaky gut syndrome is thought to cause all kinds of problems from food allergies to irritable bowel syndrome and colitis.

Herbal and nutritional healing of digestive disorders

Traditional Chinese medications use concoctions of kiwifruit as  a tonic to find relief from indigestion. Kiwifruits have substantial amounts of prebiotics, phenolics, dietary fibers and vegetarian digestive enzymes. Chamomile is an all –around stomach soother. Bitter herbs like dandelion can help improve digestion. Bitter herbs are great helpers for optimal digestion. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice root may reduce heartburn, acid reflux and gastritis. Licorice protects the mucous membranes that line the digestive tract against the damaging effects of stomach acid. This effect can be very helpful for those with heartburn. Slippery elm is another herb that acts as a barrier against stomach acid which again is important for those with heartburn. Aloe vera reduces mucosal inflammation, prevents acid reflex and improves gut healing. The herb milk thistle may be a useful supplement in the case of constipation caused by a lethargic liver. Digestive enzymes found in tropical fruits such as bromelain from pineapple (which reduces tissue irritation) and papain from papayas (which soothes the stomach) can provide help in digesting proteins as well. Tomatoes keep the digestive system healthy by preventing both constipation and diarrhea. A healthy complement of intestinal flora (the digestive bacteria acidophilus, bifidus and lactobacillus) is essential to good digestive health. Dietary fibers help promote regular defecation and prevent constipation. Fiber –rich foods include berries, greens, beans, apples, pears, oats and flaxseeds. The daily recommended intake of dietary fibers is 20 to 35 grams per day.  Lubricant foods and herbs help the stool move through the digestive tract called demulcents. The demulcents include okra, flaxseed, oats, kelp, cactus, natto, toasted seasame oil,olive oil, acacia and chia seeds.

Digestive level of foods

Some foods are harder to digest than others. Proteins are the hardest to digest. Protein digestion requires an acid medium (hydrochloric acid) and the enzyme pepsin for its digestion. Starch digestion requires an alkaline medium and the enzyme ptyalin for its digestion. Starchy foods are easier to digest. The non-starchy vegetables are very easy to digest. The easiest food of all to digest is fruits.

Food combining for better digestion

Do not combine protein foods with acidic foods or fats or starch foods or sugars. Do not combine two concentrated protein foods at the same meal. Do not combine starches with sugars or starch foods with acidic foods. Eat one concentrated starch food at a meal. Do not eat acid fruits with proteins. Do not combine sweet fruits with proteins, starches or acid fruits. Acid fruits may be used with sub-acid fruits and sub-acid fruits may be used with sweet fruits. Combine fruits only with lettuce and celery. Salads combine very well with proteins or starches. Do not consume melons with any other foods.

Foods for healthy digestion

A healthy diet consists of a good balance of macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates), prebiotics and probiotics, essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins.  A healthy diet is one that helps to maintain or improve health by providing appropriate amounts of nutrients. Super foods for healthy digestion include yogurt, high fiber whole grain bread, rice, whole grain cereals, tofu, miso, tempeh, dandelion green, sunflower seeds, sea vegetables, flaxseed oil, papayas, garlic and sage leaves. Our food choices play a significant role in the quality of our digestion.

Tips to improve your digestive health

1. Eat a balanced and varied diet with fresh fruits and fresh vegetables. Eat four to six light meals per day. Eat more foods containing complex carbohydrates and fiber. Avoid over eating, only eat as much as you need.
2. Take small bites; Eat slowly and mindfully. Don’t eat before bed and walk after each meal.
3. Eat right type of fats and eat foods containing complete proteins, but in moderation.
4. Get enough fluids.
5. Give up caffeine; eliminate alcohol and nicotine.
6. Exercise is crucial to good bowel health.
7. Reduce depression and anxiety.
8. Listen to your body; be cautious about constipation, gas or upset stomach – it’s a sign you need to make changes in your dietary habits.
                           The digestive impulse is the life of your stomach

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Health benefits of edible seaweeds

Oceans cover approximately 71 percent of the earth’s surface (362 million square km) and contain 95 percent of the habitat space on the planet. The ocean is the richest reservoir of both living and non-living resources. The marine environment comprises approximately half of the total global biodiversity. Seaweeds are one of the constituents of natural resources globally used for human welfare. Seaweed is the common term used to refer large marine algae growing in the shallow waters along the ocean shores. There are about 8000 species of seaweeds along the world’s coastal lines. In general seaweeds inhabit about 2% of the sea floor. Ecologically seaweed account for food and shelter for marine life.
Seaweeds are used as human food, livestock feed and fertilizer for land crops in many countries. More than 160 species of sea vegetables commonly known as seaweeds are consumed throughout the world.  Seaweeds can be consumed directly as raw, dried or cooked. Seaweeds are eaten for their food value, flavours, colours and textures and are typically combined with other types of food. Edible seaweeds include Porphyra (Nori), Rodymenia (Dulse), Laminaria(Kombu), undaria (Wakame) and Ulva (sea lettuce). Edible seaweeds have been shown to be high in essential pigments, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, proteins and phytochemicals as well as healthy dietary fibers and fats.

Worldwide consumption of seaweeds

Seaweed is consumed in many traditional European societies, in Iceland and western Norway, the Atlantic coast of France, northern and western Ireland, Wales and some coastal parts of South West England as well as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Traditionally, sea vegetables have been more commonly eaten in Asian cultures. In many countries in Asia notably in China, Japan, Korea and Indonesia, seaweed products are important dietary resources, which constitute a substantial part of the total food intake (staple food). In  Philippines, Burma and Vietnam several species of seaweeds are eaten as a salad or in one form or another. The most commonly consumed seaweeds which grow in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are alaria, arame, hijiiki, nori, dulse and several kinds of kelp. Porphyra sp. which is commercially known as nori or laver is most widely consumed among edible red seaweed worldwide (Watanable  et al 1999). Nori is commonly eaten by the Japanese. The brown seaweed Sargassum (Gulfweed, sea holly) is used in soups and soy sauce. 

Definition of seaweeds

Edible seaweeds are algae that can be eaten and used in the preparation of food. It Typically contains high amounts of fiber  and they contain a complete protein. They may belong to one of several groups of multicellular algae: the red algae, green algae and brown algae (ref:

Kinds of seaweeds

Seaweeds are plants, though less complex ones than land plants. Without roots or intricate tissues, seaweed must absorb nutrients from the sea water. To survive, they form root-like parts to attach themselves to rocks or other stable items. Seaweeds are mainly classified into 3 major classes based on their pigmentation namely brown, red and green algae which are referred to as phaeophyceae, Rhodophyceae and Chlorophyceae respectively (Khan et al. 2010). Three basic classes of pigments found in marine algae are chlorophylls, carotenoids and phycoerythrin.  Green seaweeds such as sea lettuce mainly contain chlorophyll. Red seaweeds which include dulse, laver,nori, agar and Irish moss have red pigment, phycoerythrin. Brown seaweeds such as kelp, kombu, alaria, arame, wakame , seapalm and hiijiki depend on brown pigments from other carotenoid

Proximate composition of seaweeds

Seaweeds are high in ash (37-46%) and dietary fibers (25-40%) and low in lipid content (0.29-1.11%) on dry weight basis. The protein content of many seaweeds ranges between 4 and 25% of the dry weight. Generally the protein content of brown algae is low (3-15% of dry weight) compared with that of green (10-26% of dry weight) and red algae (35-47% of dry weight) (Fitzgerald et al. 2011). The lipids present in seaweeds are rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in particular EPA and to a lesser extent DHA, which are important to human health. Seaweeds contain 33-62% total fibers on a dry weight basis. The sulphated polysaccharides present in red and brown algae act as dietary fibers. The major seaweed colloids include agar, algin, carrageenan, and related colloids. These phycocolloids are materials such as gelatine, pectin and starch that have the property of forming gels. Algin is produced from brown seaweeds, while agar and carrageenan are from red algae. The phycocolloids are used as thickeners, humectants, coagulants, bulking agents, flocculation agents and in the preparation of antibiotic carriers. Agar finds much use in bakery products, confectionary making and in puddings, creams and jellied products. Seaweed powders generally contain 10 to 30% minerals, 20 to 45% proteins and up to 40% soluble fibers.

Popular edible seaweeds

The red seaweed, Nori is rich in iodine and iron and quite high in protein. It is also a good source of vitamins C and A, potassium, magnesium and riboflavin (B2) and it is low in fat. Another red seaweed, Dulse is highly nutritious containing protein (10 to 20%), magnesium, iron and B-carotene. Carrageenan and agar are extracted routinely from red algae. Irish moss is rich in retinol and minerals. It is widely used in all sorts of food products because it has emulsifying and jelling properties. The green seaweed, Wakame contains fucoxanthin, calcium, iron, natural sodium and vitamin C.  The brown seaweeds include such familiar forms as rock seaweeds, kelps and sargassum. The brown seaweeds are major sources of iodine. In addition to iodine, the brown seaweed kelp (Kombu) also provides iron, magnesium and  folate (vitamin B9). Kelp is used to be the main source for preventing goitre and treating thyroid conditions.  Sea lettuce and sugar kelp are the two seaweeds popularly eaten by humans. Seaweeds represent one of the most nutritious plant foods. In Asian culture, seaweeds have always been of particular interest as food sources. Seaweeds are ones that can be used in a whole range of ways: as salads, in soups, for sushi, in deserts, in bread, as snacks and in candy or as herbs and flavour enhancers. Seaweeds are most commonly used in soups, as salad garnishes and as a seasoning (in flake forms). Seaweeds are available in health food stores in dried, powder, flake and granular forms.

Health benefits of seaweeds

Edible seaweeds are ideal sources of chemical compounds for improving health and well-being of humans.  Several bioactive substances with antimicrobial and cytotoxic activities have reported from seaweeds. Tumour reductions, inhibition of cancer cell proliferation, free radical scavenging and significant antioxidant activity have been exhibited by red and brown seaweeds. The sulphated polysaccharides found in some of the brown seaweeds are being explored as antiviral agents and as aids in preventing blood clots. Sodium alginate found in brown seaweeds has the ability to protect the surface membranes of stomach and intestine. It acts as a haemostatic agent and has tried in the treatment of esophagitis and urolithiasis.  Fucoidan, a polysaccharide found in brown algae has shown promising antiviral, immunomodulating and antibacterial activities. Fucoidan also inhibits the angiogenesis and proliferation of human cancer cells. Phlorotannins (polyphenols) from brown algae have been shown to possess multiple physiological activities such as antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiallergic properties. Taurine is an amino acid present in high concentration in red algae. Taurine acts as an antioxidant and reduces serum lipids thereby prevents atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Calcium phosphate in seaweeds helps to reduce osteoporosis by nourishing the bones.  The high content of potassium in seaweed is good for the heart and kidneys. Seaweed nourishes the membranes, making it good for nervous disorders, skin conditions, colds and constipation. The chromium content in seaweeds helps to control blood sugar levels. In general seaweed intake may strengthen the immune system, reduce cholesterol and improve metabolism and digestion. Consumption of seaweed is helpful in combating fatigue caused by slow thyroid activity. Seaweed intake support thyroid function. Dietary intake of brown algae is effective for curing goitre because of their iodine content.
                    Seaweeds are excellent sources of  minerals.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Health benefits of dietary glyconutrients

Glyconutrients are plant carbohydrates. These glyconutrients combine with other molecules, proteins and lipids to form glycoforms or glycoconjugates which coat cell surfaces. There are over 200 carbohydrates or sugars found in natural resources, but only 8 are essential to bodily functions (essential saccharides/sugars). Glyconutrients come from plant roots, mushrooms and other foods and can be taken as dietary supplements.  They enhance cell-to-cell communication, modulate immune function and increase the body’s own production of stem cells. Glyconutrients have been described as “the rising star in the world of alternative medicine.”  Glyconutrients help your body heal, repair, regenerate, regulate and protect itself. Most healthy people can generate every other essential saccharide from glucose.
Glyconutrient compounds were abundant in most primitive diets but they are virtually absent from modern western diets rich in refined foods. Only two of the essential sugars, glucose and galactose are common in our diets. The 8 saccharides (sugars) serve as the building blocks for the manufacture of large molecules made of sugars in combination with proteins or lipids. Glycoproteins are molecules made of sugars and proteins; glycolipids are made of sugars and fats. It is common to refer to the sugars of glycoproteins and glycolipids as glycans. Both glycoproteins and glycolipids are found at the extracellular surface of the plasma membrane. In Greek, glycol means ‘sweet’; glyconutrient literally means ‘sweet nutrient.’ Strangely glyconutrients are not sweet, sometimes they are bitter and some are virtually tasteless.


Glycobiology is defined as the study of the structure, biosynthesis and biology of saccharides (sugar chains or glycans) that are widely distributed in nature. Sugars are known chemically as saccharides. Glycans   constitute a major portion of a glycoconjugate. The surfaces of most types of cells are effectively covered with a dense coating of sugars giving rise to the so-called glycocalyx (tiny antennae). These tiny antennae allow the cells to interact and to be able to absorb and process nutrients, hormones and other chemicals.

Essential sugars

There are eight essential saccharides our body needs. They are: glucose, galactose, mannose, fucose, xylose, N-acetyl glucosamine, N-acetyl galactosamine and N-acetyl neuroaminic acid (a sialic acid).
Glucose – is the primary source of energy for all plants and animals and is quickly absorbed into the blood stream. It has been shown to enhance memory, stimulate calcium absorption and enhance cell-to-cell communication.
Galactose – is found in dairy products and human breast milk. Galactose enhances wound healing, cell-to-cell communication and calcium absorption. People who are lactose intolerant may be lacking this essential sugar.
Mannose –is most important of all essential sugars. It forms an integral part of the immune system. Its deficiency can lead to inflammation and disease. The mannose sugar can reduce inflammation even in rheumatoid arthritis. 
Fucose –studies have shown that it may help long term memory, prevent respiratory infections and inhibit tumour growth. The glycoconjugates of fucose are essential to controlling inflammation and enhancing immunity.
Xylose – is important for cell-to-cell communication and also acts as an antibacterial and anti-fungal agent.
N-acetyl glucosamine – is an immune modulator and has anti-viral properties.
N-acetyl galactosamine – it helps in cell-to-cell communication.
N-acetyl neuraminic acid (sialic acid) – is important for brain function particularly for development and learning.N-acetyl neuraminic acid is helpful for clearing brain fog. It is found in breast milk, organic hen’s eggs and whey proteins.

Food sources

Glucose – nearly all ripe fruits and vegetables, honey, grapes, bananas, mangos, cherries, strawberries, cocoa, aloe vera, licorice, garlic, Echinacea, hawthorn and kelp (seaweed).
Galactose – dairy products, fenugreek, kelp(seaweed), apple, apricots, bananas, cherries, berries, peach, pear, kiwi, mangoes, avocado,  broccoli, Brussels’ sprouts, cabbage, cucumber, carrot, cauliflower, celery, potato, eggplant, peas, pumpkin, and spinach.
Mannose – Aloe vera, kelp(seaweed), shiitake mushroom, fenugreek, cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes, turnips, and gooseberries.
Fucose – kelp, sea weed,and brewer’s yeast.
Xylose- kelp, guava, pears, black berries, logan berries, rasp berries, aloe vera, Echinacea, boswelia, broccoli, spinach, eggplant, peas, green beans, cabbage and corn.
N-acetyl glucosamine – shiitake mushroom, shark cartilage, beef cartilage and red algae.
N-acetyl galactosamine – beef cartilage, shark cartilage and red algae.

Herbal sources

Aloe vera – There are more than 240 species of aloe which grows in Africa, the Near East, Asia, Europe, the southern Mediterranean and the Americas. The gel of the Aloe vera leaves contains about 200 health promoting compounds including 20 minerals, 18 amino acids and 12 vitamins. The nutrient gel provides your body with 3 glyconutrients such as glucose, mannose and xylose.The Aloe vera gel reduces inflammation, itching, and pain when topically applied on the skin. The Aloe vera juice which is loaded with phytochemicals, minerals, vitamins and amino acids works as an anti-inflammatory agent in the digestive tract and is often used to ease heart burn and constipation.
Mushrooms – edible mushrooms are the richest source of glyconutrients. The health benefits of mushrooms have been known for more than 5000 years. Several varieties of mushrooms offer immunomodulatory, lipid –lowering, anti-tumour and other beneficial or therapeutic health effects without any significant toxicity. Shiitake mushroom is among the foods and herbal medicines in Chinese diet for its ‘anti-aging properties.’ In oriental folk medicine, shiitake mushroom is a food that activates the blood. It is used in the treatments of colds, measles in children, smallpox, bronchial inflammation, stomach-ache, headache, faintness and dropsy (fluid accumulation in tissues).
Shells of crustaceans – one of the essential sugars N-acetyl glucosamine is found in the shell of crustaceans including shrimps, crabs and krill.

Functional role of glycoproteins

Glycoproteins increase natural killer-cell function. These activated killer cells protect the healthy individuals from the effects of toxins and free radicals, which could cause infections and cancer formation. Moreover glycoproteins increase T –cell function and decrease abnormally elevated apoptosis without disturbing the normal balance in the body.

Health benefits

The essential sugars have potent antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic and antitumor effects. They increase the body’s immunity to viruses including those that cause the common colds, influenza, herpes and hepatitis. Glyconutrients seem to play an important role in immune and hormonal function. Glyconutrients are essential in cellular communication and are important for pregnant and lactating women. Several studies have linked a deficiency of glyconutrients to diseases such as diabetes, ADHD, lupus, infertility and cancer. Glyconutrients have a role in lowering triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins or LDL (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) and raising high-density lipoproteins or HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol). Glyconutrients have been quite effective in treating disorders associated with an over-active immune system such as allergies and asthma. Glyconutrients may help relieve symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.  Glyconutrients have produced positive effects in children suffering from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD ( Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Glyconutrients may even inhibit cancerous tumour growth and tumour cell metastasis.
      Intake of glyconutrients  offer healthy functioning of your immune system

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Health benefits of acid-alkaline food balance

pH balance is one of the most important factors in maintaining health and life. A normal body pH balance is the first line of defense against aging and disease. All body tissues and organs normally maintain pH within narrow range by carefully balancing acidic and alkaline elements. All disease is caused by autotoxication (self-poisoning) due to acid accumulation in the body. Changes in pH alter virtually all body functions. Prolonged acid-alkali imbalance could lead to degenerative diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and rapid aging among others. Alkaline substances such as potassium, calcium and magnesium are needed to neutralize the harmful acids and encourage acid excretion. Nutritionally speaking, the alkaline foods provide greater amounts of alkaline substances such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. It is generally accepted that diet is an important source of the alkali and acids one’s body needs. Balance body pH will give you more natural vitality, better metabolism and less internal and external signs of aging.

The acid-alkaline theory of disease

In his book A new Health Era, Dr. William Howard Hay (1933) stated that all disease is caused by acid accumulation in the body. This acid-alkaline theory of disease is an over-simplification. In his book My Journey to the Fountain of Youth, Azahara Carter stated that there are two principles underlying the concept of acid-alkaline balance: first those factors such as diet, age, lifestyle habits and emotional state contribute to an overly acidic system and second that an overly acidic system is a breeding ground for disease. It is probable that the acid –alkaline imbalance can be a large factor in the onset of serious health issues such as osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers, arthritis, kidney problems, chronic fatigue and many other health challenges.

Acid-forming and alkaline- forming foods

Depending on the chemical composition of the metabolized foods (known as ‘ash’), the foods are categorized in to acid-forming and alkaline forming foods.
Acid-forming foods – these foods are not acidic themselves, but form acids in the body during the metabolic process and digestion e.g. animal fats, fork, poultry, beef, bacon and dairy products.
Acidic foods – these foods are acidic, but can have either an acid-forming or an alkaline forming effect in the body e.g. berries, citrus fruits, pulses and sour milk.
Alkaline foods and alkali-forming foods – The strength of the alkali in alkaline foods does not reflect their alkali forming qualities in the body. Alkali-forming foods are not alkaline themselves, but they possess good alkali- forming and de-acidifying qualities e.g. most fresh vegetables, leafy greens, potato, bananas, spinach, celery and melon.

Health effects of acid/ alkaline imbalance

The acid / alkaline balance in the body is central to good health. The normal waste products of cellular metabolism are acid. The body needs alkaline to balance the acid out and the only source of alkaline is from the food we consume or the correct supplements we take. A healthy diet should consist of approximately 75% alkaline ash-forming foods and 25% acid ash-forming foods. Usually the proportion of acid forming food we consume is much higher than that of alkaline food.
Acidic waste can seriously damage body cells and vital organs. An acidic environment results in lack of energy, chronic fatigue and susceptibility to disease. A build up of acidity decreases the body’s ability to absorb minerals and other nutrients; decrease energy production in cells; decrease the body’s ability to repair damaged cells and decrease its ability to detoxify heavy metals. Most cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment.  Inflammatory disease, arthritis, respiratory conditions and cardiovascular diseases are more prevalent in acidic environment. A build up of acidity prevents body organs from functioning properly, thickens the blood and starts to dissolve the linings of the arteries.
On the other hand an alkaline environment helps to heal the body, slower aging process, and relives suffering from colds, headaches and the flu.

Symptoms of body pH imbalance

The symptoms of excess body acidity include fluctuating energy levels, mental fatigue and dullness, depression, headaches, lower back pain, decreased vitality, irritability and sinus-related problems. The symptoms of excessive alkalinity include tension, nervousness, muscle tension or spasms, slow recovery from injuries and travelling muscle pain.

Nutritional balance

Right combination of green raw foods, whole foods, vegetables, juices, herbs and water will reduce the build up of acid, toxins and free radicals from oxidation and promote a healing body environment.
60/40: To maintain health, the diet should consist of 60% alkaline –forming foods and 40% acid-forming foods.
80/20: To restore health, the diet should consist of 80% alkaline-forming foods and 20% acid-forming foods.
Dr. Robert Young heralds that a diet that is made up of 80% alkaline producing foods and 20% acid producing foods will allow people to achieve their healthier bodies and healthier lives.
Generally alkaline –forming foods include most fruits, green vegetables, peas, beans, lentils, spices, herbs and seasonings, seeds and nuts. Generally acid – forming foods include meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, grains and legumes. Processed, micro-waved, refined and fried foods, soft drinks, alcohol and coffee produce acids.

Concluding remarks

Human body is slightly alkaline and therefore it is better for your health to eat a diet composed of alkaline foods. Disease begins when our bodies turn acidic. In his book How to get well (1984), Paavo Airola, a naturopath said that, “acidosis or over-acidity in the body tissues, is one of the basic causes of disease, especially the arthritic and rheumatic diseases.” Another author Michael Colgan in his book The New Nutrition (1996) mentioned that, “acidosis destroys bones because the body has to steal alkalizing minerals from them to keep the blood pH from dropping into the acid range.” Dr. Otto Heinrich Warburg won the 1931 Nobel Prize in Physiology for proving that cancer can’t survive in an alkaline, oxygen- rich environment, but thrives in an acidic, low-oxygen environment. Our health is directly related to the condition of our internal body fluids. The condition of our internal bodily fluids is directly influenced by the foods we eat and by our daily activities. Eat a diet that helps your body maintain the correct acid-alkaline balance.
              Eat more alkaline foods and less acidic foods
                     Balance your pH for better health.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Edward de Bono's Lateral Thinking

The term ‘lateral thinking’ was coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono, a Maltese psychologist, physician, and writer. Two of his most well known concepts are lateral thinking (de Bono 1977) and the six thinking hats (de Bono 1999).  ‘Lateral’ comes from the Latin word laterus meaning ‘a side.’ The process of lateral thinking – generation of novel solutions to problems- literally means sideways thinking.  According to de Bono (1990), information patterns are stable cognitive entities such as concepts, ideas, thoughts and images, which exist in our minds and which provide a perspective that directs information processing/thinking/problem solving in a particular way. The concept of lateral thinking is insight restructuring and this is brought about through the rearrangement of information. Rearrangement is the basis of lateral thinking and rearrangement means escape from the rigid patterns established by experience. Lateral thinking is the type of thinking that aims to broaden the knowledge base through the generation of new possibilities.  Lateral thinking systematically forces thinking towards insight, creativity and innovation. Lateral thinking is both an attitude and a method of using information.

Hypothesis of lateral thinking
Lateral thinking is based on the hypothesis that the human brain is a self-organizing information processor in which the output depends upon both internal and external environment and on previous experience. Thinking laterally deliberately disrupts the established cognitive patterns and the information is processed differently. The outcome is the generation of   a novel perspective which is often referred to as an ‘aha’ moment.


The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines lateral thinking as ‘seeking to solve problems by unorthodox or apparently illogical methods’. Lateral thinking, according to de Bono, “tries to restructure information patterns by putting things together in a different way.” Lateral thinking is ‘out-of –the-box ‘non-linear thinking to be differentiated from logical, extrapolative thinking. Lateral thinking is moving sideways and looking at problems from multiple angles and perspectives.

Principle of lateral thinking

To get a different perspective on a problem, try breaking the elements up and recombining them in a different way (perhaps randomly).

Vertical and lateral thinking Bono divides thinking into two methods: vertical thinking and lateral thinking. Vertical thinking involves the implementation and utilization of already existent ideas (“digging the same hole deeper”) whereas lateral thinking involves developing new ideas (“digging a hole somewhere else”). According to de Bono, two processes necessary to stimulate lateral thinking are ‘escape’ and ‘provocation.’ Escape consists of rejecting assumptions and pre-formed concepts by shifting perspectives and provocation consists primarily suspending judgement (Murray 1992). The formal ways to set up provocations include escape, reversal, exaggeration, distortion and wishful thinking.
De Bono contrasted vertical to lateral thinking in the following ways: vertical thinking focuses on continuity; lateral thinking focuses on discontinuity. Vertical thinking chooses, lateral thinking changes; Vertical thinking is concerned with stability, lateral thinking is concerned with instability; Vertical thinking searches for what is right, lateral thinking searches for what is different; Vertical thinking is analytical, lateral thinking is provocative; vertical thinking is concerned with where an idea came from, lateral thinking is concerned with where the idea is going; vertical thinking moves in the most likely directions, lateral thinking moves in the least likely directions; vertical thinking develops an idea, lateral thinking discovers the idea.

Lateral thinking methods

Alternatives – using concepts as a breeding ground for new ideas.
Focus – targeting thinking.
Challenge – breaking free from the limits of current assumptions.
Random entry – inserting unconnected input to open up new lines of thinking.
Provocation and movement – generating illogical statements and using them as stepping stones to usable new ideas.
Harvesting – capturing creative output.
Treatment of ideas – developing ideas and shaping them to fit an organization or situation.

Lateral thinking techniques

The reversing technique involves examining a problem by turning it completely around inside out, or upside down.
The analogy technique involves developing a statement about similarities among objects, persons and situations.
The cross-fertilization technique involves asking experts from other fields to view the problem and suggest methods for solving it from their own areas of expertise.
The mixing metaphors involves using a metaphor to bring a new look to a situation or problem.
The random juxtaposition involves introducing a completely new notion to allow more ideas to be generated.

Critical factors related to lateral thinking

1.  Focus on dominant ideas that come to mind that polarize perception of a problem.
2. Look at the multiple perspectives of the problem.
3. Relax the logical thinking process.
4. Allow ‘outside of the box’ ideas to come to mind and be considered even though they do not fit into the logical, scientific thinking pattern.

Steps in lateral thinking process

1.  Escape from clichés and fixed patterns
2. Challenges assumptions
3. Generate alternatives
4. Jump to new ideas and then see what happens.
5. Find new entry points from which to move forward.

Technique of six thinking hats (STH)

This method uses six different ‘natures’ of thought, each represented by a different coloured ‘hat’(real or imaginary). The hats are designed to foster ‘parallel thinking’ during group problem –solving efforts. The same hat or way of thinking is adopted by all group members, thus creating a shared focus. De Bono (1999) considered the hats as ‘direction labels for thinking.’
1. White hat thinking – information –based thinking – calls for facts and figures.
2. Red hat thinking – emotional thinking – clarifies emotional reactions to issues.
3. Black hat thinking – critical thinking – assesses the risk.
4. Yellow hat thinking – positive or optimistic thinking – looks at the benefits.
5. Green hat thinking – imaginative thinking – focuses on creative thinking.
6. Blue hat thinking – thinking about thinking – manages thinking process.

Benefits of lateral thinking

1.  Lateral thinking is essentially a problem-solving technique or useful habit of mind. Lateral thinking is searching for side entrances rather than using a front –door approach to resolving a problem. Lateral thinking causes a shift in thinking or perception; it completely breaks from previous thoughts or paradigms.
2. Lateral thinking leads to innovation, which in turn, leads to realistic solutions. Think laterally helps to increase the range of options or more alternate ideas available and can often help to overcome tricky problems. Lateral thinking even turns problems into opportunities.
3. Lateral thinking enhances the effectiveness of vertical thinking by challenging the arrogance and the cliché-pattern of thinking associated with logic.
4. Lateral thinking develops an awareness of current ideas and practices; also aids in the development of new ideas.

Final thoughts

Lateral thinking is not generally a natural phenomenon. It is a skill that can be developed through regular practice and with a willingness to try something different. Vertical thinking is concerned with digging the same hole deeper. Lateral thinking is concerned with digging the hole somewhere else (Edward de Bono 1977). Lateral thinking generates ideas and vertical thinking develops them (De Bono 1968). We are educated to be analytical logical thinkers. Most of our thinking is analytical, convergent, critical and left-brain thinking. There are many other ways of thinking or methods for exploring multiple possibilities and approaches instead of pursuing a single approach.
                             Think laterally and turn problems into opportunities

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Health benefits of dietary prebiotics

Prebiotics have been an integral part of normal human diet for many centuaries. Prebiotics are essential specific colonic nutrients that have the potential to considerably influence whole body’s physiology and consequently health and wellbeing. Prebiotics affect specifically and selectively the indigenous beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics are able to alter the colonic microbiota toward a healthier composition by increasing for example, numbers of saccharolytic species while reducing putrefactive microorganisms. Some prebiotics are added to foods to improve food quality characteristics such as mouth feel and other textural aspects. Prebiotics have been used as low calorie fat replacers. Human milk can be considered as the original prebiotic for gut microflora management in breast –fed infants.


Prebiotic is a non-digestible food ingredient which beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth of and/ or activating the metabolism of one (or more) health promoting bacteria in the intestinal tract (Gibson and Roberfroid 1995).
A dietary probiotic is a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, in the composition and/or activity of the gastrointestinal microbiota, thus confers upon host wellbeing and health (Gibson et al 2004).

Prebiotic concept

A prebiotic is a non-digestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, and thus improves host health. In order for s food ingredient to be classified as a prebiotic it must
1)  Be neither hydrolysed nor absorbed in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract;
2) Be a selective substrate for one or a limited number of beneficial bacteria commensal to the colon, which are stimulated to grow and/or are metabolically activated;
3) Consequently, be able to alter the colonic flora in favour of a healthier composition and
4) Induce luminal or systemic effects that are beneficial to the host health.
Synbiotics –probiotics may be used in conjunction with specific substrates (prebiotics) for growth (e.g. a fructooligosaccharide in conjunction with a Bifidobacterial strain or lactitol in conjunction with a lactobacillus organism). This combination could improve the survival of the probiotic organism in the host because its specific substrate is readily available for its fermentation.

Recognized prebiotics

The common prebiotics in use include fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), galcto-oligosacchardes (GOS),soy-oligosaccharides (SOS), inulins, lactulose and pyredextrins,. The majority of studies carried out to date have focused on inulin, FOS and GOS (Macfarlane et al 2008).

Emergent prebiotics

Emergent prebiotics include genti-oligosaccharides,gluco-oligosaccharides, isomalto-oligosaccharides(IMO),lactosucrose, levans, pectic-oligosaccharides,resistant starch, sugar alcohols and xylo-oligisaccharides (XOS).

Prebiotic mechanism of action

1. Produce short chain fatty acids during fermentation of probiotic carbohydrates.
2. Increase fecal weight and mildly reduce luminal colon pH.
3. Stimulate the growth of carbohydrate fermenting bacteria.
4. Lower the concentration putrefactive, toxic, mutagenic or genotoxic substances.
5. Decrease the concentration of nitrogenous end-products and reductive enzymes.
6. The Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli exhibit low b-glucuronidase and nitroreductase activity.
7. Enhance immunity and modulate mucin production.

Prebiotic food sources

Fructooligosaccharide (FOS) is a naturally occurring prebiotic compound found in many edible sources such as artichokes, bananas, honey, onion, garlic, barley and others. Another prebiotic compound inulin is naturally found in chicory roots, wheat, onion, garlic, bananas, fruits and vegetables.Examples of food sources rich in prebiotics are whole grain, honey, banana, garlic,onion,tomato, leek, artichoke and chicory.

Prebiotic characteristics

1.       Non-digestible or partially digestible
2.       Non-absorbable in the small intestine
3.       Well fermented by beneficial bacteria in the gut and
4.       Selective stimulation of growth and activity of intestinal bacteria.

Metabolic fate of prebiotics

Inulin and oligofructose are not hydrolysed in the mouth, stomach and small intestine. In the large intestine, they undergo complete anaerobic fermentation by bacteria. They do not contribute any calories. They are completely fermented in the colon, so inulin is not excreted in the stool.

Prebiotics and dietary fibres

Prebiotics and dietary fibres are not digested by human digestive enzymes, but prebiotics are fermented selectively in the colon and exert their health effects via colonic microbiota. Dietary fibre on the other hand may not be fermented at all and exert health effects in other ways for example improved bowel function.

Colonic microbial system

The colonic microbial system consists of wide range of bacterial species, a variety of different metabolic niches, bacterial habitats and interrelationships. In general intestinal bacteria may be divided into species that exert either harmful or beneficial effects on the host. Pathogenic or harmful effects include diarrhea, infections, liver damage, carcinogenesis and intestinal putrefaction; health promoting effects may be caused by the inhibition of growth of harmful bacteria, stimulation of immune functions, lowering of gas distension problems, improved digestion and absorption of essential nutrients and synthesis of vitamins.

Health promoting functions of Bifidobacteria

Bifidobacterium is a major group of saccharolytic bacteria in the colon and constitutes up to 25% of the total population in the gut of adult and 95% in the new borns (Kawerze et al 1981). Bifidobacteria produce strong acids as metabolic end products (acetate, lactate), lower the pH and may exert an antibacterial effect. Bifidobacteria produce vitamins largely of the B – group. Bifidobacteria produce certain immunomodulators, which promote immunological attack on malignant cells. Bifidobacteria have been used to restore the normal intestinal flora during antibiotic therapy (Korshunov et al 1985). 

Health benefits of  dietary prebiotics

1)      Increase the absorption of dietary minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron.
2)      Reduce the risk of colon cancer.
3)      Reduce cholesterol and blood lipids.
4)      Prevent gastrointestinal tract infections.
5)      Increase growth of Bifidobacteria, which has following beneficial effects:
i)        produces nutrients such as B-group vitamins and folic acid.
ii)       Produces digestive enzymes.
iii)     Reduces food intolerance by utilizing residual nutrients from the upper gut.
iv)     Improves nutrient management.
v)      Reduces liver toxins i.e. blood amines and ammonia, by using them as fuels.
vi)     Competitive elimination of pathogenic microorganisms.


Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients. They are selectively fermented by intestinal bacteria ( e.g. lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria). Potential health benefits of prebiotics include increased bioavailability of dietary minerals and reduced risks of various diseases such as cancer, intestinal infections, cardiovascular disorders, obesity and diabetes. Prebiotics are naturally available in several foods such as whole grains, onion, garlic, bananas, fruits and vegetables.
                            Prebiotics are effective for gut health

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Health benefits of dietary probiotics

 Probiotics are live microorganisms that could confer health benefits on the host, when consumed in significant amounts. The term prebiotic literally means ‘for life’ Probiotics have been proven to promote gastrointestinal health and immune function. The normal human  gut flora contains 300-1000 different kinds of bacterial species with about 1014 individual bacteria. The predominant inhabitants of human gut include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.


The  World Health Organization (WHO) defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which  when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.”(FAO/WHO, 2001). The term probiotics was coined by the researchers Lilly and Stilwell in their studies in 1965. In 1989, Fuller popularized the term ‘probiotics.’ Dr. Elie Metchnikoff came upon the discovery of the ‘prolongation of life’ through probiotics. He was the first scientist who proposed the therapeutic use of lactic acid bacteria.

Normal intestinal micro flora

Normal intestinal micro flora is largest reservoir of microorganisms mutual to humans. This complex micro ecosystem remains relatively stable in normal health at a given age ( in other words it varies significantly as a function of age). This normal flora colonizes shortly after birth. This micro flora includes high numbers and variety of intestinal bacteria, estimated at 1,013 in the colon and around 400-500 bacterial/fungal species. The intestinal flora comprises 10 times more bacteria than the body cells. The highest number and complexity of bacteria is found in the terminal ileum and colon. The intestinal flora play a significant role in the development of the immune system and in the resistance of infection by pathogens. 

Probiotic hypothesis

The concept behind probiotics is to enhance good bacteria and discourage bad bacteria in the human gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics help to keep bad bacteria away and out of one’s body. Probiotics help to ‘balance the intestinal bacteria i.e. ensure that there are more ‘good’ bacteria than ‘bad’. The ‘good’ bacteria simply ‘crowd out’ disease causing microorganisms, thereby preventing attachment of pathogenic bacteria by a process known as “competitive exclusion” (Kailasapathy and Chin 2000). Human gastrointestinal tract is supposed to contain 85% “good” bacteria and 15% “bad” bacteria.

Characteristics of probiotics

1. Probiotics neither are enzymes, vitamins or minerals nor foreign substances or chemical compounds. Natural probiotics are microorganisms that reside in the ileum (small intestine) and in the colon (large intestine) which have a symbiotic relationship with humans.
2. The most popular probiotic genuses are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. Lactobacilli love to live in the small intestine and Bifidobacteria love to live in the colon.
3. Probiotics can resist the effects of digestive enzymes, stomach acid and bile. Probiotics support the intestinal microflora against antagonizing microorganisms. Probiotics promote optimal digestion and absorption of nutrients and promote a healthy digestive tract.
4. Probiotics can assist the gastrointestinal tract to absorb minerals, vitamins and other necessary nutrients and the functions of the immune system. They also exert positive actions at the metabolic level.
5. Probiotics work simultaneously, synergistically and symbiotically with other agents.
6. Probiotics can be used in paediatric medicine for babies and young children. Probiotics are acknowledged by the World Health Organization for the benefits of improving gastrointestinal health.
7. Probiotics never lose their beneficial properties during storage.
8. Probiotics are grown, fermented and cultivated from various media such as dairy, vegetables, beans, beets and others.
9.Manufactured probiotics are controlled bacteria (i.e., friendly, healthy, beneficial bacteria) that are manufactured in controlled laboratory environments.

Probiotic organisms

Members referred to as probiotics are bacteria and fungi, most commonly including species of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and species of the yeast genus Saccharomyces.  Other bacterial genera which feature prebiotic  strains include Streptococcus, Enterococcus and Bacillus.The members of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have long history of use and generally recognized as safe (Generally Regarded As Safe,GRAS status).
Lactobacilli which has the ability to produce lactic acid , is classified as Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB). Probiotic species in the Lactobacilli family found in the human body include L.reuteri, L. casei, and L.rhamnosus. Lactobacilli acidopilus is commonly found in yogurt products. Bifidobacteria are norman inhabitants of the human colon. Bifidobacteria can produce lactic and acetic acids and also grouped as Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB). Probiotic species in the Bifidobacteria include B.lactis, B. bifidum and B.longum. Streptococci are also found in dairy products.
  Streptococci thermophilus is commonly used to make yogurt. Enterococcus is a lactic acid – producing bacteria. Two species are commonly found in the intestines of humans: E. faecalis (90-95%) and E.faecium (5-10%). Lactococcus is classified as LAB as the can produce lactic acid.Lactococcus lactis is found in dairy products and is commonly responsible for the souring of milk. The name of the probiotic yeast Saccharomyces is from the Latin meaning ‘sugar fungi.’ Saccharomyces cerevisiae is used in making wine, bread and beer. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is more commonly known as Baker’s yeast.
 Probiotic bacteria used in foods for human consumption are generally of human origin and are non-pathogenic. In addition they retain significant viability during processing and transit through the gut.

Probiotic foods

Yogurt  is a probiotic containing food. Yogurt  has been used in the past to treat diarrhea, prevent urinary tract infections or treat recurrent yeast infections. Probiotic containing foods include aged cheese. Kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh,  and some soy beverages. Probiotic commercial products include tomato juice, peanut milk, soymilk, buffalo whey/soy milk  and rice. Probiotics are normally added to foods as a part of the fermentation process. The probiotics involved in food fermentation are mainly Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Probiotic bacteria may also be available in capsules or as powder.

Mechanism of action of probiotics

Probiotics deliver active constituents to targets in the host gastrointestinal tract. These active constituents include mainly enzymes, and immunomodulatory and antimicrobial components. Probiotic bacteria promotes human health in any of the following mechanism(s): adherence to intestinal mucosa and mucus, production of antimicrobial substances, antagonism against pathogens, competition for adhesion sites (competitive exclsion), interaction with Gut-Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT), immune regulation, in-activation of harmful components  within the intestinal contents (binding of toxins), regulation of metabolic activity of intestinal microflora and overall normalization of the intestinal microflora ( Salminen et al 1996, Brassart and Sciffrin 1997).

Health benefits of probiotics

Medical literature supports the use of probiotics for treating a variety of different diseases – ranging from food allergies to ezema; from Crohn’s disease to antibiotic-associated diarrhea. The well documented health benefits of probiotics include the improvement of gastrointestinal health. Probiotics have been documented about the balancing effects on the immune system or enhancing body’s overall resistance to infection.  Probiotics are useful in the prevention or treatment of several gastrointestinal disorders such as infectious diarrhea, antibiotic diarrhea and traveller’s diarrhea. Probiotic therapy can be helpful for people with Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (ref; Nutrition in Clinical Practice).

Probiotics may be beneficial for brain function. Probiotic bacteria may have the potential to change brain neurochemistry and treat anxiety and depression – related disorders (ref: PNAS). Consumption of a formulation of Lactobacillus reuteri NC IMB 30242, is able to reduce blood levels of LDL cholesterol (ref: The American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, 2012). Consumption of Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, may have benefits for patients with psoriasis and chronic fatigue syndrome. Probiotics can be used to re-establish healthy vaginal flora and prevent bacterial vaginosis (BV). Probiotics can be used – along with other natural therapies – to treat urinary tract infection(UTI) and yeast infection.
 Finish researchers reported that large amounts of live Lactobacilli consumed daily may have positive effects on rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Benefits have also been shown in skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis. Probiotics may be considered a valid alternative to conventional therapy for alcoholic cirrhosis.  Consumption of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis reduced the risk of colon cancer.
                                   Probiotics offer immunity and digestive health

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Practical applications of Pareto Principle

A strange economic principle first outlined by an Italian Professor Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) discovered an imbalance in the distribution of wealth and income in nineteenth century England. Vilfredo Pareto is widely known for his law of income distribution. In the 1860s, he found that the majority of the wealth and income went to a minority of people. In percentage terms 80 percent of the income and wealth went to 20 percent of the population.
The Pareto rule is the observation that if you divide the world into causes and results, relatively few causes (roughly 20 percent) nearly always lead to most of the results (roughly 80 percent). It is the observation that a small number of events give rise to the majority effects. Most consequences come from few causes. The great majority of outputs come from a small minority of inputs. In an industrial world, Pareto’s rule was found to apply in an increasing number of situations. Pareto’s rule is a fact of life in the world of selling and sales force management: 80 percent of sales are made by 20 percent of the sales force. Project managers know that 20 percent of the work (the first 10 percent and last 10 percent) consume 80 percent of one’s time and resources. The value of the Pareto principle for a manager is that it reminds one to focus on the 20 percent that matters.

Pareto’s principle, 80/20 rule should serve as a daily reminder to focus 80 percent of one’s time and energy on the 20 percent of one’s work that is really important. Moreover many researchers have confirmed that the rule applies to many other phenomena, including the distribution of measured defects. For instance, it has been found that 80 percent of the observed defects on a product or in a process can be attributed to 20 percent of the possible causes. The 80/20 principle asserts that 20 percent of products, customers or employees are really responsible for about 80 percent of profits. Living the 80/20 way enables anyone to get extraordinary results without extraordinary efforts. In a way this leads to the idea of achievement islands which means that the small time periods when you are in your most productive or creative.
     A small amounts of our energy – leads to – most great things in our lives.
    A small portion of our time- leads to- most of our happiness and fulfillment


Pareto’s rule states that a small number of causes are responsible for a large percentage of the effect, in a ratio of about 20:80. This means that for many phenomena, 20 percent invested inputs are responsible for 80 percent of the results obtained. In another words 80 percent consequences originate from 20 percent of the causes. The 80/20 rule means that a few (20 percent) are vital and many (80 percent) are trivial. Dr. Joseph M. Juran called Pareto principle as the ‘vital few and trivial many.’ Joseph Juran popularized the Pareto principle in the 1950s by showing that it can be applied to a variety of situations, especially quality problems. The rule is also called ‘the law of the vital few’ or the principle of factor sparsity.
For example IBM found that, on average, 80 percent of the run time of a software application is due to only 20 percent of the lines of code. This realization helped them streamline the most important lines of code and speed up their applications by working on the lines of code that were 16 times (20 %) as important. According to factor 16, the individuals in the 20- percent group are 16 times as important as those in the 80- percent group.

Pareto analysis

Pareto charts are one tool we can use to help us be more effective in tracking down the sources of problems and focusing our efforts where they will have the biggest effect. This is known as pinpointing or localizing, a problem. Pareto charts break a big problem into its parts and identify which parts are most important. A Pareto chart is a special kind of bar chart where each bar represents a different category or part of a problem. The tallest bars on the chart represent that parts that contribute the most to the problem. By focusing our efforts on the tall bars, we can usually get the most from limited resources and maximize our gains. That is because usually it takes just as much effort to cut the tallest bar in half as it does to cut the smallest bar in half.

Pareto thinking

The 80/20 rule asserts that approximately 80 percent of the effects generated by any large system are caused by 20 percent of the variables in that system. The 80 percent of a product’s usage involves 20 percent of its features. In a city’s traffic control system, 80 percent of a city’s traffic is on 20 percent of its roads. The 80 percent of your website traffic comes 20 percent of your pages. The 80 percent of a company’s revenue comes from 20 percent of its products. In a company or industry, 80 percent of innovation comes from 20 percent of the people. The 80 percent of your success comes from 20 percent of your efforts.   The 80 percent of your problems are a result of the same 20 percent of your issues.  In machinery, 80 percent of errors are caused by 20 percent of the components. In an organization, 80 percent of its progress comes 20 percent of the effort. Out of 100 % of the people, 20 percent are making 80 percent of the difference. The other 80 percent make 20 percent of the difference. Top 20s have a better way of thinking, learning and communicating. The 80 percent of our happiness or success is tied to the 20 percent of the inside world. The 80 percent of the profits in an endeavour will be derived from 20 percent of the segments (or client groups). In general 20 percent of your clients yield 80 percent of your profits. Below   20 percent of your total number of friends contribute the great majority of happiness and meaning to life. In summary, a small number of events give rise to the majority of effects. Most consequences come from few causes.

Practical applications

Personal productivity – The 80 percent of one’s time is spent on the trivial many activities. But in order to improve your productivity, you concentrate on the vital 20 percent. The key is to identify those vial few activities, actions, products or programs.
Costs – to reduce costs, identify which 20 percent are using 80 percent of the resources.
Customer profitability – In most successful companies, some customers can be more profitable than others. Many companies struggle to measure the profitability of customers, distributors or agents. If they use 80-20 strategy, such companies can definitely profit from their customer portfolio.
                               ‘Critical few and trivial many’
                                     Achieve more with less

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Health benefits of dietary phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens are non-steroidal plant – derived phytochemicals with estrogenic activity. The common biological roles of phytoestrogens are to protect plants from stress or to act as part of a plant’s defense mechanisms. The name ‘phyto’ means plant and ‘estrogen’ comes from estrus (period of fertility for female mammals).  All phytoestrogens are diphenolic compounds with chemical structures similar to natural estrogens and antiestrogens. Phytoestrogens are made up of more than 20 compounds and can occur in more than 300 plants such as fruits, herbs and grains. Three major subclasses of phytoestrogens have been identified and chemically defined as Isoflavones, lignans and coumestans. The best studied dietary phytoestrogens are the soy Isoflavones and the flaxseed lignans. Phytoestrogens cannot be stored in the body and can be easily broken down and eliminated. Dietary phytoestrogens have weaker estrogenic effects than human estrogens. Human clinical trials suggest that phytoestrogens may potentially confer health benefits related to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, osteoporosis and menopausal symptoms.

The soy hypothesis

Historically, Asian countries have had low incidence rates of breast cancer compared to Western countries. Soy, a dietary staple in many Asian countries may protect women against breast cancer. Anticancer effects of soy Isoflavones may be attributable to their structural and functional similarities to estrogens.  Epidemiologic studies in Asian and Asian-American populations support the hypothesis that early exposure to dietary soy may decrease breast cancer risk, while exposure in adulthood may not be positive. A regular intake of soy foods appear to be protective. This is evidenced by Japan, for example only 25% of menopausal women suffer hormone withdrawal symptoms as compared with 85% of women in the U.S (Notelovitz 1989). In menopausal women, dietary phytoestrogens can help compensate for the hormone deficits and thereby moderate the hormonal withdrawal symptoms.

Phytoestrogens – a definition

Phytoestrogens are defined as “any plant substance or metabolite the induces biological responses in vertebrates and can mimic or modulate the actions of endogenous estrogens usually binding to estrogen receptors” (MAFF UK, 2003).

Estrogenic potential of phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens have biochemical structures similar to those of mammalian sex hormone estrogen. The estrogenic activity of phytoestrogens has been related to their ability to bind to the mammalian estrogen receptor (ER). The phytoestrogens such as genistein and coumestrol were shown to have higher binding affinities to estrogen receptor(ER). Dietary phytoestrogens have weaker binding affinities when compared with the female endogenous estrogen β-estradiol. Isoflavones are best researched and most common form of phytoestrogens.

Dietary sources

The main dietary source of Isoflavones (e.g. genistein and daidzein)  for humans is soybean, while flavonoids (e.g. apigenin, naringenin and luteolin) are found in several different vegetables, fruits, berries, herbs and green tea. The soy foods contain approximately 0.2 – 1.6 mg of Isoflavones/ g dry weight.  For Coumestans( e.g. coumestrol), the main sources are sprouts of alfalfa and various beans. Lignans (e.g.entrolactone and enterodiol ) are not present in our diets as such, but precursors are converted to lignans by the gut microflora. Lignan precursors are present in fibre- rich foods such as flaxseed, unrefined grain products particularly rye and some berries. Flax seeds are one of the best sources for lignans. Dietary intake of phytoestrogens is greater in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians. Asians, Japanese, Koreans and Chinese consume more phytoestrogens than the people of Western countries including Americans.  It is estimated that dietary phytoestrogen intake is up to 30 times higher in Eastern Asia than in Europe and North America.

Dietary reference intakes

The total phytoestrogen consumption in Eastern population or in adults taking phytoestrogen supplements may be approximately 60 to 75 mg/day. Therefore an average 60-75 kg adult would consume approximately 1 mg phytoestrogens per kg body weight (bw). Many Asian populations that exhibit low incidence of prostate and breast cancers consume 20 and 80 mg/day of the isoflavone genistein mainly from soy foods. The mean daily isoflavone intake in Asian populations has been estimated to approximately 30 mg/day. It has been recommended that dietary phytoestrogens sources containing 30 to 120 mg of Isoflavones can be given daily for relief of post menopausal symptoms. The dietary intake of phytoestrogens can affect the menstrual cycle and the concentration of reproductive hormones in the blood of premenopausal women. In 1999, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the health claim that a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25g of soyprotein per day reduce the risk of heart disease. A meta-analysis study concluded that an intake of an average of 47g soyprotein / day lowered total cholesterol and LDL- cholesterol. This was supported by studies in the monkey indicating that isoflavone increased HDL-cholesterol, enhanced vasodilation and decreased atherosclerosis.

Therapeutic properties

Several health effects have been hypothesized for phytoestrogens: they can be estrogenic or antiestrogenic, antioxidative, antiproliferative, antiviral, antibacterial, insecticidal or fungistatic, cardioprotective, antiatherogenic, hypocholesterolemic, bone maintaining, cancer protective and anticarcinogenic (Branca F and Lorenzetti S, 2005). Phytoestrogen such as genistein affect the blood vessel wall to inhibit atherosclerosis by binding to hormone receptors. Phytoestrogens exert a cardiovascular protective effect by regulating blood lipid levels. Isoflavones and other phytoestrogens have been considered to exert anticarcinogenic actions mainly through antiestrogenic, antiaromatase or antiprolifertive mechanisms. Isoflavones can have a beneficial effect on balancing male hormones and the risk of prostate cancer. Dietary soy supplementation has been shown to increase bone mineral density. Sufficient dietary intake of soyprotein relieves hot flashes in post- menopausal women. The lignan phytoestrogens provide the building blocks of cell walls in plants and in humans. Lignans have the ability to inhibit fungus growth and kill various bacteria and viruses.

         Soy estrogens (isoflavonoids) play beneficial role in menopausal health

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Health benefits of dietary phytosterols

Phytosterols are steroid alcohols (triterpenes). Phytosterols (plant sterols and stanols, saturated form of the sterol) are chemically like cholesterol molecules. Phytosterols are related to cyclopentaphenanthrene with four condensed rings of 28 or 29 carbons. Phytosterols present a diverse group of more than 200 different compounds found in various plant and marine materials. They are essential structural components of the plant cells and membranes. Phytosterols regulate membrane fluidity of plant cells. Sitosterol, campesterol and stigmosterol are the most abundant phytosterols in plants. Stanols such as sitostanol, and campestanol are saturated plant sterols. Phytosterols can be converted into phytostanols by chemical hydrogenation. Phytosterols are not synthesized by the body and an estimated 200-300 mg phytosterol is obtained daily from the diet. In humans, intestinal absorption of Phytosterols is low (0-10%) compared to the >40% for cholesterol. The phytosterols and stanols are naturally occur in a variety of foods such as nuts, vegetable oils, seeds and cereals. The prime function of phytosterols is to inhibit the intestinal absorption of cholesterol. Human body uses the Phytosterols to produce the hormones it needs. Phytosterols are not synthesized in human body, are poorly absorbed and are excreted faster from the liver than cholesterol.


Phytosterols encompass plant sterols and stanols, are steroid compounds similar to cholesterol which occur in plants and vary only in carbon side chains and/or presence or absence of a double bond. Stanols are saturated sterols, having no double bonds in the sterol ring structure (
Phytosterols are plant –derived compounds that are structurally similar to cholesterol. The compounds may lower blood cholesterol levels, particularly LDL cholesterol and may have uses as immunostimulants and in treating benign prostate enlargement.

Phytosterols and cholesterol

1. Phytosterols are not synthesized in the human body.
2. Phytosterols have their intestinal absorption much lower than that of cholesterol and
3. Large doses of Phytosterols in diet diminish the absorption of cholesterol.

Mechanism of action of phytosterols

Cholesterol absorption is a very important physiological mechanism that regulates cholesterol metabolism. Phytosterols have been shown to inhibit the uptake of both dietary and endogenously produced (biliary) cholesterol from intestinal cells. Such inhibition results in a decrease in serum total and LDL-cholesterol levels. Levels of HDL – cholesterol and triglycerides do not appear to be affected by dietary phytosterol consumption (AbuMweis et al 2008).

Food sources

Plant sterols are found in all foods of plant origin. Foods rich in phytosterols include unrefined vegetable oils, whole grains, nuts and legumes. The main sources of Phytosterols are vegetable oils, vegetable fat spreads and margarines, cereals and cereal products (bread) and vegetables. These sources contribute to 50-80% of the total phytosterol intake (Klingberg et al 2008,Valsta et al 2004). The fruits contain about 12% of phytosterol. The content of phytosterols in most vegetable oils ranges from 1.0 to 5.0 mg/g of oil. Wheat germ oil contains 17-26 mg/g of phytosterols. Lower amounts of phytosterols are found in palm oil (0.7 – 0.8 mg/g ), coconut oil (0.7 -0.8mg/g ), and olive oil (1.4 – 1.9 mg/g ). The phytosterol content in Finland rye, wheat, barley and oat are 1.0, 0.7,0.8 and 0.4 mg/g respectively.

Health promoting properties

The most important function of phytosterols is their plasma cholesterol –lowering effect through inhibition of intestinal cholesterol absorption and enhanced elimination of cholesterol in stools. Maximum cholesterol – lowering benefit is achieved at doses of 2-3 g/day (Hallikainen et al 2000, Jones et al 2000, Maki et al 2001). Several recent studies indicate that the consumption of 2g/day of sterols or stanols could result in a reduction in the risk of heart diseases by about 25% (Law 2000, Jones and Raeini – Sarjaz 2001, Hicks and Moreau 2001). The potential health effects of phytosterols include the prevention of inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis, control of blood sugar in diabetes, the reduction of the risk of various types of cancers and the prevention of inflammation caused by atheroscelerosis. Phytosterols protect against colon cancer by slowing down the reproduction of cells in the large intestine.  The phytosterols have been shown to effectively reduce prostatic hyperplasia (Berges et al 1995, Berges, Kassen and Senge 2000) and colon cancer (Bouie and Lamprecht 1999). The phytosterols have limited antioxidant activity.

Recommended dietary intakes

Dietary phytosterol intakes have been estimated to range approximately 150 mg/day to 450 mg/day in various populations. Early human diets were rich in phytosterols providing as much as 1 g/day. On average, most Americans get between 2 and 4 mg/day of the phytosterols. Natural health practitioners believe that we actually need to consume between 30 and 50 mg/day of phytosterols. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended an amount of 800 mg of phytosterol per day on a consistent basis for increased health benefits.  Typical consumption of plant sterols in the diet is approximately 200-400 mg/day (Aparna Kuna et al 2011).

Functional use of  dietary phytosterols 

Phytosterols and phytostanols in free or esterified form are added to foods for their properties to reduce absorption of cholesterol in the gut and thereby lower blood cholesterol levels. Phytosterols are currently added as an esterified form to wide range of food products such as margarines, yoghurts, salad dressings, milk and snack bars. Phytosterol and phytostanol esters are used as a fat replacer in margarines and spreads. These esters can provide a crispy texture (prevents sogginess) to cereal products by coating the product surface. Both phytosterol and phytostanol esters give an enhanced creamy texture to low fat dairy products (yoghurt / drinking yoghurt). They may also improve the taste of food products by masking bitterness and hence reduce the amount of sugar or sweetener required to obtain a pleasant taste and mouth feel (e.g. soy drinks).The phytostanol and phytosterol esters are microbiologically inert during the fermentation process used to produce yoghurt. The phytostanol and phytosterol esters added to various food products show excellent stability at different pH levels during long term storage (upto one year). The phytostanol and phytosterol esters are also stable in milk and fermented milk products with viable bacteria like yoghurts and yoghurt drinks.
                Dietary intake of phytosterols lowers the absorption of cholesterol