I trust you're safe, fit and well.
All strength to Ukraine 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦
AI has better bedside manner than your doctor?
Yes it is true, at least when AI's advice is rated for empathy, according to a recent study. And, AI's factual answers to medical questions were rated more than 3-times better than a human doctor's answer, as rated by a panel of medical experts who did not know the source of the answers!
I've no doubt that AI will have a huge impact on medical care and all other forms of personal care.
A most surprising study, just published, found that priming our brain with the right hormones - which are stimulated from our gut - creates positive feelings as a result of exercising - see item #2.
It took me a while to get my head around probiotics versus prebiotics. They are very different and although the end result in our gut is similar, it is not the same - see item #1.
⭑ Probiotics ain't prebiotics - this analogy will help you understand the difference ✔
⭑ New research - these specific prebiotics prime our brain to enjoy exercise ✔
⭑ Does running cause knee pain, or prevent it. You might be surprised ✔
⭑ How I prepare my prebiotic-heavy breakfast - for my brain and gut health ✔
01 The Difference Between Probiotics and Prebiotics and Why It Matters
Prebiotics are the "poor cousin" of probiotics - in the sense that we all know about probiotics, but prebiotics are a relative newcomer to discussions about health and are not well understood.
The understanding of prebiotics is a promising new approach to improving gut health, with wider range of potential health benefits than probiotics.
While probiotics have been shown to be effective in treating some conditions, such as diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome, prebiotics have been shown to be beneficial for a wider range of conditions, including constipation, obesity, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Here is an analogy to help you understand the key difference between probiotics and prebiotics:
- Probiotics are like soldiers. They are the living microorganisms that help to fight off the "bad" bacteria in your gut.
- Prebiotics are like food for the soldiers. They provide the nutrients that the soldiers need to survive and thrive.
⇒ But, most importantly, prebiotics nurture different types of soldiers to probiotics. This is why a balance of probiotics and prebiotics is essential.
The gut–brain axis (GBA) is the two-way biochemical signaling that takes place between the gastrointestinal tract and the emotional and cognitive centres of our brain. Both probiotics and prebiotics stimulate the GBA, with very significant health consequences e.g. improved mood, sleep, and cognitive function; reduced anxiety and depression; heightened anti-inflammatory effects.
However, there are some specific stimulations of the GBA which only result from prebiotics:
- Increased production of SCFAs. SCFAs are short-chain fatty acids that are produced by beneficial bacteria in the gut with many beneficial effects, e.g. anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and metabolic. Prebiotics help to increase the production of SCFAs, which can then have a positive impact on the brain.
- Improved gut barrier function. The gut barrier helps to protect the brain from harmful substances. When the gut barrier is impaired, harmful substances can leak into the bloodstream and cause brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
- Reduced risk of chronic diseases. Prebiotics have been shown to reduce the risk of a number of chronic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Our understanding of the GBA is still in its infancy, but it is clear that prebiotics are a crucial part of the our gut ecosystem affecting health and longevity.
What this means for you: Continue to eat probiotics, such as yogurt, kefir, tempeh, miso and kombucha.
Add into your diet sources of prebiotics. These are foods which survive the transit through our stomach and are digested in our small and large intestines:
- Whole grains - boiled and cooled.
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Chicory root
You may remember from last week's newsletter that the beneficial bacteria which thrive off the prebiotic fibre in bananas has been found to reduce sensitivity to hay fever. This is one of the many mysterious connections between our gut and our immune system, and prebiotics are a key stimulate of this connection.
02 Surprising Link Between Gut Biome and Your Motivation to Exercise
This is exciting news, which is why I introduced prebiotics in article #1 above. Our "gut biome", or "microbiome", refers to the billions of microorganisms that live in our stomach and intestines, but mainly refers to the latter.
The gut biome plays a key role in producing neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, which are all involved in regulating mood and motivation. Beneficial probiotic bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus increase levels of these neurotransmitters, while harmful bacteria such as Clostridium have been linked to depression and anxiety.
Stress also affects the function of the gut-brain axis. When we are stressed, our body produces cortisol, a hormone that can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters in our brain. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low motivation.
Managing stress is essential for maintaining a healthy gut-brain axis and improving exercise motivation.
The big news is that in a paper published last month (April 2023) scientists discovered that the key to unlocking peak performance and motivation may lie in your gut! Two superstar bacteria, Eubacterium rectale and Coprococcus eutactus, were identified as producing fatty acid amides (FAAs). These powerful little compounds stimulate the CB1 endocannabinoid receptors in your gut, leading to increased dopamine release in the motivation-controlling regions of our brain.
⇒ And the best part? You can boost the levels of these bacteria in your gut simply by eating a diet rich in specific prebiotic foods, and ultimately boost your feeling of satisfaction from exercising.
How it works - eating these foods does not instantly boost your desire to exercise. Firstly, they produce the two "superstar" bacteria. These send signals to your brain through the GBA which prime the brain chemically to feel good after exercise. Then, during and after exercise your brain releases dopamine which ultimately creates a craving (motivation) to exercise again in order to get the dopamine "hit".
(I just finished a whole blog post about this > here.)
What this means for you: Remember the sequence here: (1) you eat foods with prebiotic fibres; (2) those fibres survive digestion in the stomach and transit into our intestines; (3) in the intestines these fibres are broken down e.g. into FAAs, and become food which (4) fuels the growth of essential bacteria.
To target Coprococcus eutactus and Eubacterium rectale, you should focus on consuming prebiotic fibres such as inulin and oligofructose. The following foods are known to be particularly effective in providing these prebiotic fibres:
- Chicory root - one of the most effective sources of both inulin and oligofructose. It can be consumed in a variety of ways, including raw or roasted, boiled or mashed, added to smoothies or juices, or used as an ingredient in baked goods - or as a powder.
- Jerusalem artichoke - Another excellent source of prebiotic fibers, Jerusalem artichokes have a crunchy texture and sweet flavor that make them enjoyable to eat on their own or added to salads, soups, stir fries, or other dishes.
- Dandelion greens - These bitter greens are packed with the right prebiotics, but for me are an acquired taste. You can eat them fresh or cooked, e.g. salad dressings, omelets, frittatas, however I prefer the powder form.
- Garlic - Garlic contains allicin which has strong antibacterial properties that can help to reduce bad bacteria while promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria like Coprococcus eutactus and Eubacterium rectale.
- Onions & Leeks & Asparagus - These are all a great source of the right prebiotics; and,
- Bananas – especially towards the greener side of being ripe.
I eat a bowl of prebiotic food every morning, and I add powders such as chicory root and dandelion greens. ⇒ See item #4 below where I explain how to prepare my daily breakfast of prebiotics.
Related: How Bananas Benefit Your Bones - And Brain
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This is an age-old question - and often used as an argument against starting running when you are older.
Living in Melbourne during Covid - the most locked down city in the world - kept us away from the gym for almost 2 years, starting when I was 72. Officially we were only allowed out of our homes for one hour a day to exercise, alone.
I took up running a daily 4 to 14km, averaging 5km a day. I ran every day for 401 days without injury until we were finally released from multiple home detentions and could get back to exercising at the gym.
Mind you, it wasn't easy. I had to concentrate on making the goal of my running to remain injury free, and not to better my times on my running app. My joints didn’t suffer, not from running anyway. They did suffer a little from the lack of strength training and the general deterioration of my muscular strength.
(And I did consult with a podiatrist and had custom inserts made, which reduced niggling pains which developed such as on the inside of my knee and outside of my hip.)
- A study published in 2017 found that recreational runners had lower rates of hip and knee osteoarthritis (3.5%) compared with competitive runners (13.3%) and non-runners (10.2%).
- A 2022 analysis of 24 studies found no evidence of significant harm to the cartilage lining the knee joints on MRIs taken just after running.
⇒ The most surprising finding is that running does not cause osteoarthritis, and may even be protective against it. This is surprising because it is a common belief that running is bad for your joints.
What this means for you: There are a few reasons why running may not cause osteoarthritis:
- First, running can help to strengthen the bones and muscles around the joints, which can help to protect them from damage.
- Second, running can help to improve joint flexibility, which can also help to reduce the risk of injury.
- Third, running can help to reduce inflammation, which is a major factor in the development of osteoarthritis.
Here are some tips from Harvard Health for running safely and reducing your risk of osteoarthritis:
- Wear proper shoes that fit well and provide good support.
- Run on soft surfaces, such as grass or trails, instead of hard surfaces, such as concrete.
- Warm up before you run and cool down afterwards.
- Cross-train with other activities, such as swimming or biking, to give your joints a break.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for osteoarthritis.
- Eat a healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is important for joint health.
By following these tips, you can reduce your risk of osteoarthritis and enjoy the many benefits of running, including the simple pleasure of being outdoors.
04 Walter's Prebiotic Breakfast Mix - Prime your Gut and Brain
Our exercise of the week is... not an exercise! This week I am swapping the usual exercise for a recipe - for my everyday prebiotic breakfast.
Prebiotics can come from unprocessed foods e.g. bananas, or you can make them yourself very simply from grains:
1️⃣ Cook your grain e.g. brown rice, or quinoa, etc or your entire mixture of grains.
2️⃣ Let it cool. Congratulations, the starch in your grains has now become "resistant", or prebiotic. It will now resist the attack of the gastric juices in your stomach and pass through to your intestines where it will be digested.
⇒ You can reheat your grains e.g. rice, and combine it in to other meals and it will remain resistant (prebiotic).
What this means for you: You can prepare prebiotic breakfast grains, add some extras including probiotics, and have a gut-brain stimulating breakfast.
Here is what I do:
- Boil and cool brown rice, quinoa, and steel-cut oats.
I follow this sequence - one portion of each, five portions of water - rice in first, boil for 5 minutes, then quinoa and boil for 5, then oats and boil for 5, and then turn off and let sit on the hot electric plate for 5 minutes, then into the cold air or refrigerator. I do a week's worth - the portions are small but they expand.
- Daily - serve a couple of tablespoons to a bowl.
- Add freshly ground pepper, a small shake of turmeric powder and medicinal cinnamon (Sri Lankan) - the pepper vastly improves digestion of the turmeric.
- Add 1 to 3 teaspoons of MCT oil (3 is the maximum you need daily), and 1 teaspoon of cold-pressed olive oil.
- Half a teaspoon each of inulin powder (or just eat a banana later), dandelion greens powder, and chicory root powder.
- A flat teaspoon of good quality green tea powder.
- A heaped teaspoon of almond meal (stone ground).
- Add kefir yoghurt according to your preference of liquid. I add enough to make the meal mushy but not runny when I mix it all together.
Eat! It looks a little bizarre when you read all those ingredients, but I look forward to it every morning :)
Aside, re the almond meal
Almond meal is a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects the brain from damage. A study found that people with the highest intake of vitamin E had a 70% lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Vitamin E also helps to improve cognitive function in people with Alzheimer's disease.
⇒ Almond meal also helps to reduce inflammation in the gut, which can improve the health of the gut barrier. A healthy gut barrier protects the brain from harmful substances that can cause brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, as mentioned in item #1.
Thanks for reading!
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>> My Latest Blog Post: Energise Your Golden Years: Boosting Your Desire to Exercise with Gut-Healthy Foods
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