Most consumers are familiar with the dangers of disease-causing bacteria; but over the last several decades, medical professionals and lay consumers alike have discovered a host of proven and potential benefits to be had from the consumption of so-called “good” or “friendly” bacteria as well. These helpful microrganisms are referred to as probiotics: and while they are already common as digestive and regulatory aids for improved immunity, current research also suggests that some natural probiotic supplements may help minimize the severity of certain gastrointestinal conditions, autoimmune diseases, infections and inflammation as well.
Not long ago, the phrase “gluten free” was one relegated to health food stores and medical clinics, the sole concern of an unlucky few diagnosed with a gluten-intolerant condition known as celiac disease and forced to scavenge the grocery isles for the few mass-marketed products made without the seemingly ubiquitous wheat protein. But today, as noted in a recent piece for the New York Times magazine, gluten-free has gone the way of big business – infiltrating major companies like General Mills and, according to some figures, constituting a nearly $6.3 billion industry.
The occasion of Steve Jobs’ passing earlier this month after a prolonged bout with pancreatic cancer landed nearly every facet of the revolutionary CEO’s life and work in the media spotlight. However, as noted in a recent piece from TIME magazine, the theme of alternative healing and its purported impact on Jobs’ illness seemed to provoke particular interest in the weeks following his death. Some journalists claim that Jobs’ decision to pursue alternative therapy over traditional medical advice may have shortened his life; others insist that natural healing methods served simply to improve his quality of life as he struggled with terminal illness. But beneath the debate lies a compelling societal trend that goes far beyond Jobs’ individual case – a trend towards hands-on, individualized and integrative care in the face of an increasingly expensive, high-tech and alienating mainstream medical system.
As the number of aging baby boomers with degenerative ailments begins to rise, public and clinical interest in integrative therapy and the effectiveness of dietary supplements is bound to follow suit. And while adult use of joint health supplements has been fairly flat for the past fifteen years, recent study results presented at the World Congress on Osteoarthritis show that herbal remedies may in fact trump traditional pain medications when it comes to patient relief — a finding that stands to have a major impact on the next generation of osteoarthritis patients nationwide.
Tennis superstar Venus Williams has, for many years, maintained an air of invincibility on the court – one which few are likely to associate with the trademark fatigue brought on by an autoimmune disorder. However, Williams recently announced that she in fact suffers from a number of symptoms connected with the surprisingly prevalent yet little recognized Sjogren’s syndrome – and in doing so, shed sudden and much-needed media attention on the telltale signs, possible treatment options and risk factors linked to this and other common autoimmune diseases.
Novak Djokovic’s rise from all-too-human tennis newcomer to dominant world champion took the sports world by storm this summer; and while skill and training were no doubt responsible for many of the major changes evidenced in his game throughout the season, it’s Djokovic’s new diet that has prompted journalists, trainers and athletes alike to re-examine the relationship between human beings and a wheat protein called gluten.