The Mediterranean Diet Might Also Be Good for Your Gut

TUESDAY, Sept. 29, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Numerous studies have extolled the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Now, research suggests the regimen may also boost levels of beneficial fatty acids.

These so-called “short chain fatty acids” are produced by bacteria in the intestine during fermentation of insoluble fiber from fruits, vegetables and legumes. The fatty acids are believed to provide a number of health benefits, including a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and inflammatory diseases, an Italian team reports in the Sept. 29 issue of the journal Gut.

“We provide here tangible evidence of the impact of a healthy diet and a Mediterranean dietary pattern,” wrote the team led by Danilo Ercolini, a professor of microbiology at the University of Naples in Italy.

The study of 153 Italian adults found higher levels of short chain fatty acids in vegans, vegetarians and those who closely followed a Mediterranean diet. The diet includes large amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and cereals; moderately high amounts of fish; low levels of saturated fat, red meat and diary products; and some alcohol.

Levels of short chain fatty acids can naturally vary with age and gender, but these findings suggest that eating a high-fiber diet does appear to boost their levels, Ercolini’s team said.

“Multiple studies have shown the benefits of the Mediterranean diet,” noted one U.S. expert, cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum.

The new research “shows that the benefits may occur through the GI (gastrointestinal) tract and the metabolites that are released during the digestive process,” she said.

The study also showed that vegans or vegetarians had relatively low levels of a compound called trimethylamine oxide (TMAO), which has been linked to heart disease. Among non-vegetarians, people who adhered to the Mediterranean diet also had relatively low TMAO levels, the researchers said.

Another nutrition expert agreed that high-fiber vegetarian or Mediterranean diets offer real health benefits.

“The take-away message from this study is to head to your local farmers market, let the produce fill your plate and only use animal-based proteins as condiments,” said Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about the Mediterranean diet.

The Truth About Wheat and Your Waistline


Could eating wheat be giving me a belly?

Well, in theory, yes. Many women tend to accumulate fat in their abdominal area, so anything you eat in excess—including wheat—could make you grow a bigger belly. But foods that are high in fat and calories are much more likely suspects.

You may be confusing belly fat with bloat, and bloating after eating wheat is a symptom of gluten sensitivity. When you’re bloated, you feel uncomfortably full on account of the excess gas trapped in your abdomen, and your stomach may be taut like a drum. Belly fat, on the other hand, feels soft and squishy—and it doesn’t change. Bloating fluctuates throughout the course of the day; it’s typically worse after eating, and better at night and first thing in the morning.

If you think you might have an intolerance, get tested for a wheat allergy and celiac disease. (Do so before you swear off bread because it’s hard to get an accurate diagnosis after you’ve cut out gluten.) If you test negative, your doctor may still suggest you go gluten-free on a trial basis to see if your symptoms improve.

Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.


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Here's How to Prevent Runner's Diarrhea

I always have to stop at a bathroom on long runs! How can I avoid it?

You’re not alone. Runner’s diarrhea is a real thing. Though doctors aren’t exactly sure why it happens, food does seem to move more quickly through your colon when you run, which can bring on, well, runs of the digestive kind.

Limiting your fiber intake the day before you have an extra-long sweat session can help (that means going easy on normally good-for-you foods like whole grains and beans). So can avoiding caffeine the day you hit the trail or treadmill and refraining from eating two hours prior. Also, be judicious with energy gels, bars and chews; some people find that these products give them digestive problems. Weirdly enough, dehydration can also lead to diarrhea sometimes, so it’s crucial that you load up on water before and after your run.

Try these dietary tweaks before you resort to taking an over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicine—they’re fine in a pinch, but I don’t recommend using them regularly, since they can cause constipation.

Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.


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Gut Trouble? Peppermint Oil, Soluble Fiber Can Help Relieve IBS Symptoms


By Patrick SauerTHURSDAY, Nov. 13, 2008 ( — Peppermint oil, soluble fiber, and antispasmodic drugs can indeed help people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to an analysis of 25 years of research on the condition, which is characterized by bouts of diarrhea and constipation.

About 10% to 15% of people in North America have IBS, and it’s twice as common in women. However, only about one-third of people with the intestinal disorder seek treatment.

The exact cause of IBS remains unknown, and that lack of knowledge has led to the use of a variety of treatments, including fiber supplements, probiotics, antidepressants, behavioral-based therapies, psychotherapy, food modification, acupuncture, and laxatives. However, many treatments are controversial because study results have been mixed.

Newer and more expensive medications have been introduced to the public, but some were ineffective or withdrawn from the market due to side effects. The recent study sheds light on the cheap and readily available treatments that can help patients, says study coauthor Eamonn M. Quigley, MD, a professor of medicine and physiology at University College Cork in Ireland.

“Medical science has tended to ignore IBS; it wasn’t appreciated how much of an impact it can have on a patient’s quality of life,” he says.

In the new analysis, researchers systematically reviewed 38 studies from the last 25 years; more than 2,500 volunteers were involved. That research compared therapies—all relatively cheap, safe, and readily available—to a placebo or to no treatment at all.

The team looked at three treatments—soluble fiber, peppermint oil, and antispasmodics, which are drugs that relax the smooth muscle in the gut and relieve cramping—and found that they were all more effective than a placebo, according to the report in the British medical journal BMJ.

Next: Some types of fiber work, but not others

But not all fiber is the same. The soluble fiber ispaghula husk, which is also known as psyllium and found in some bulk laxatives, significantly reduced symptoms of IBS, particularly constipation; insoluble fiber, such as bran, did not relieve symptoms.

Several antispasmodic drugs helped prevent IBS symptoms, particularly diarrhea. The most effective one was hyoscine, which is sold without a prescription in the United States.

Although peppermint oil was found to be the most effective of the three therapies, more data is needed, cautions Dr. Quigley. The peppermint-oil therapy was analyzed in only four trials involving 392 patients.

Because past research has been mixed, doctors’ treatment guidelines mention the remedies, but don’t necessarily give them a ringing endorsement, says author Alex Ford, MD, a registrar of gastroenterology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

“I suspect that filters down to the practitioners who don’t believe they work, so they try something that’s newer or a bit sexier,” Dr. Ford says. “The problem with IBS is that it’s a chronic medical condition and no drug has been shown to alter its natural history.”

The study results are not surprising, says Joanne A.P. Wilson, MD, a professor of medicine in the gastroenterology department at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

Dr. Wilson adds that such treatments are best for patients with mild or moderate IBS. However, in her practice, she’s found that prescription medications need to be used for severe cases that don’t respond to these treatments.

Prescription drugs that have been used to treat IBS include Amitiza, a drug for chronic constipation; Zelnorm, which was pulled from the market in 2007; and Lotronex, which was removed from the market due to potentially life-threatening side effects (although exceptions are now made for women with severe, diarrhea-prominent IBS who don’t respond to other treatments).

Related Links:Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Topic OverviewIs That Belly Ache in Your Head?Anticholinergics (Antispasmodics) for Irritable Bowel SyndromeShould I Have Tests for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Antibiotics May Kill Off Healthy Bacteria in the Gut

By Anne HardingMONDAY, Nov. 17, 2008 ( — Most of the bacteria that live in a healthy person’s intestines will bounce right back after they’re killed during an antibiotic attack, according to a new study.

But several types are wiped out by a course of Cipro, or they survive only in much smaller numbers, reports Stanford University’s Les Dethlefsen, PhD, and his colleagues in this month’s issue of the journal PLoS Biology.

Overall, about 30% of the bacterial types found in the intestine showed dramatic population changes after a course of ciprofloxacin. The majority of bacteria rebounded four weeks later.

“We have no idea what the consequences of that are,” Dethlefsen says. None of the three healthy volunteers participating in the study got sick, but the alteration of their bacterial ecosystem could have longer-term, subtler effects, he adds.

The bugs in human guts are a hot topic these days. Probiotics can be used to colonize the intestines with “good guy” microbes. While the jury’s out on whether these supplements have any effect on the gut’s bacterial environment, it is clear that not having a thriving microbial community in one’s intestines can be dangerous, with consequences ranging from a day or two of diarrhea to life-threatening infection with a nasty bug called Clostridium difficile, which can gain a foothold in patients treated with antibiotics.

“We have a very complex, diverse microbial community that lives in our guts and does all kinds of amazing things for us,” Dethlefsen says. Not only do bacteria help to digest food and extract nutrients from food, but they also protect from infection, help regulate the immune system, and may even have a say in the timing of birth.

Next: Volunteers had up to 5,700 types of bacteria in their gut

In the current study, Dethlefsen and his team used a technique called pyrosequencing to take a microbial head count from the stool samples of study participants before they took a short course of ciprofloxacin; then researchers took four more samples over the following eight months. The technique involves reading a specific section of genetic material from every one of hundreds of thousands of microbes, making it possible to identify many of the thousands of different organisms present in the gut and determine their relative abundance.

The researchers spotted up to 5,700 bacteria types in each person before the antibiotic was administered. After the volunteers took Cipro, the gut-bug populations looked a lot different. Overall, 30% of the bacterial types showed dramatic changes in their population. One volunteer in the study had an 82% reduction in the diversity of his gut microflora; one had lost 63%; the third had lost 36%.

However, within four weeks, study participants’ gut bacteria diversity was back to normal.

“That the community can be severely perturbed and then bounce back is very encouraging,” notes Dethlefsen, adding that the findings show there’s probably no reason for healthy people to “freak out” about the effects of antibiotics on their digestive systems. The fact that the volunteers had no digestive problems despite the profound alteration in their gut bacteria suggests that other bacteria took over the jobs of the missing bugs until their population rebounded, he explains.

Still, the health effects of obliterating certain bacteria with a short course of Cipro—which is generally considered to have a relatively benign effect on digestive system bacteria—are unknown, Dethlefsen says. None of the bacteria that were wiped out, or whose populations were sharply reduced, have any known effects on human health, he adds.

“To me, this looks like a very early step in a whole line of research that can really help us understand what are some of the driving forces in developing antibiotic-related diarrhea, in general, and C. difficile, specifically,” says Marya Zilberberg, MD, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, in Amherst, whose research has helped show that C. difficile infections are becoming more common—and more deadly—in the United States.

Next: Why you should use antibiotics only if you truly need them

Using the technique, it might be possible to identify certain bacterial strains that protect against C. difficile infection, and others that might make a person more vulnerable, according to Dr. Zilberberg. “This is just a very small cog in a large wheel,” she says. “It’s an important cog, but it’s not close to the consumer yet.”

In the meantime, Dr. Zilberberg thinks that the findings confirm that it’s crucial to be an “educated consumer” when it comes to antibiotics. “Don’t say yes to a prescription of antibiotics unless you’re convinced that you really need those antibiotics, because they’re not without risk,” she says.

Dale Gerding, MD, a professor at Loyola University Chicago, agrees: “The message is one that we’ve been saying for a long time—before you take an antibiotic, make sure you need it.”

Previous research had suggested that there were maybe 500 bacterial species in the intestines, but more sophisticated techniques are now showing that there are more. Dr. Gerding also says that it had long been suspected that antibiotics destroy some beneficial bacteria, which is why some people became vulnerable to C. difficile.

“Antibiotics should not be used casually simply because there doesn’t seem to be a downside,” he warns.

Related Links:How to Use Antibiotics WiselyThe Symptoms of Clostridium difficile ColitisWhat are Probiotics?Yes, Fecal Transplants: This *!^# Saves Lives!

Study: No Esophageal Cancer Risk From Bone Drugs


By Denise Mann

TUESDAY, August 10 ( — Popular bone drugs taken by millions of older people to prevent osteoporosis do not appear to raise the risk of cancer in the esophagus, as some doctors and patients have feared.

A study of more than 80,000 people, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found no measurable difference in the rates of esophageal cancer in people who did and did not take oral bisphosphonates, a class of drugs that fight age-related bone loss.

Oral bisphosphonates—which include drugs such as Fosamax and Boniva—can upset the stomach and cause acid reflux, although it helps to take the medication as directed. Chronic acid reflux can damage the esophagus and in rare cases cause precancerous changes.

But the study suggests that esophageal cancer is not a concern for people taking oral bisphosphonates, says Nancy Lane, MD, the director of the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of California, Davis.

Related links:

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“Older individuals taking bisphosphonates for the treatment of osteoporosis do not need to worry about esophageal cancer, and physicians should not withhold…bisphosphonates because of esophageal cancer risk,” says Dr. Lane, who was not involved in the research.

A potential link between oral bisphosphonates and esophageal cancer was first raised last year, when a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official disclosed that the agency had received nearly two dozen reports of esophageal cancer—including eight deaths—in people taking oral bisphosphonates, most notably Fosamax. (No cases were reported in people taking intravenous forms of the drugs.)

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute and Queen’s University Belfast, in the U.K., conducted the new study in response to these reports. They compared the rates of esophageal and stomach cancer in 83,652 people, half of whom had received at least one prescription for oral bisphosphonates in the previous decade. Just over 80% of the participants were women, and the average age was 70.

Very few participants developed esophageal or stomach cancer during the study. Eighty-nine and 92 cases of esophageal cancer were reported in the bisphosphonate and control groups, respectively, as were 49 and 57 cases of stomach cancer—a negligible difference.

Next page: Reassuring, but not the final word

The new study, which followed patients for an average of 4.5 years, didn’t last long enough to conclusively rule out a small increased risk of cancer from oral bisphosphonates, according to the researchers. But experts say the findings should still reassure doctors and patients who were unnerved by the news of the FDA reports.

“Many patients called into their doctors with a sense of deep anxiety, and it is possible that many people stopped a needed drug based on media hype about an unproven and even highly questionable finding,” says Ethel Siris, MD, the director of the Osteoporosis Center at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City. “These data are very reassuring.”

The study was far from perfect. The researchers had no way of verifying how many patients actually filled—and took—their bisphosphonate prescriptions, and they had incomplete information on the participants’ other potential risk factors for cancer, such as smoking and body weight.

“Our study is the largest to date, but on the basis of our results we cannot rule out small increases in esophageal cancer risk in individuals taking bisphosphonates,” says the study’s lead author, Chris Cardwell, PhD, an epidemiologist at Queen’s University Belfast.

Linda Russell, MD, a rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery, in New York City, calls the findings “encouraging.”

Dr. Russell says she feels comfortable prescribing oral bisphosphonates to patients with acid reflux, although she generally switches to an intravenous version if their reflux worsens. “The important thing is if a patient needs treatment for osteoporosis, they should get it, because the risk of mortality from a hip fracture is high,” she says.

Some 10 million people in the U.S.—most of them women—have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, and an estimated 4.7 million take oral bisphosphonates, according to a 2009 study in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacists.

Diane Wysowski, PhD, the FDA official who first linked oral bisphosphonates to esophageal cancer in a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, says that the new study alone does not put the issue to rest.

The FDA has received additional reports of esophageal cancer in people taking oral bisphosphonates since 2009, says Wysowski, an epidemiologist at the branch of the agency responsible for tracking the safety of drugs after they have been approved. Additional studies with longer follow-up periods are needed to confirm or refute the link, she adds.

In the meantime, Wysowski says, patients taking the drugs should continue to be vigilant. “Be on the lookout for any esophageal symptoms if you take oral bisphosphonates, especially swallowing difficulty and throat, chest, or digestive discomfort, and report them to your physician for prompt evaluation and drug discontinuation,” she says.

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council, a publicly funded research organization in the U.K.

Antibiotic May Ease Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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By Amanda Gardner

WEDNESDAY, January 5 ( — An antibiotic widely used to treat diarrhea in travelers may also provide some relief to people with the common and difficult-to-treat condition known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to a pair of new studies in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved the antibiotic, rifaximin, for use in IBS, which affects as many as 1 in 5 U.S. adults. The agency is currently reviewing the drug for that purpose and is expected to make a decision in March.

In the studies, 1,200 IBS patients took rifaximin or a placebo pill three times a day for two weeks. Roughly 40% of the patients who took the antibiotic reported substantial relief from symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and loose stools for at least two weeks during the subsequent month, compared to a little under one-third of the patients taking placebo. All of the patients in the studies had a form of IBS that does not involve constipation.

Related links:

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?12 Surprising Causes of Constipation

Quick Cures for Tummy Troubles

“It made all the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome better, which we don’t see too often in studies,” says the lead researcher, Mark Pimentel, MD, a gastroenterologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in Los Angeles.

The studies were funded by the maker of rifaximin, Salix Pharmaceuticals, which was also involved in collecting and analyzing the data. (This arrangement isn’t unusual in these types of studies, which are known as phase 3 trials and are generally the last research step in the FDA approval process.) In addition, Dr. Pimentel and several of his co-authors report financial relationships with Salix, including receiving consulting fees from the company.

Rifaximin, sold under the brand name Xifaxan for travelers’ diarrhea, appears to be safe and doesn’t seem to foster resistance among gut bacteria, meaning it can be used over and over, Dr. Pimentel says. That could be important, because the number of study participants who reported lasting relief from their two-week rifaximin regimen gradually declined in the 10 weeks following treatment.

Next page: “No good options” for treating IBS

Despite the relatively small percentage of patients who responded to the drug, doctors who have been frustrated by the lack of effective IBS treatments say they would welcome another option.

Charlene Prather, MD, a professor of internal medicine at Saint Louis University, in Missouri, says that while she’d hoped to see a “more robust effect” from rifaximin in the studies, she nevertheless would like the FDA to approve the drug for IBS. “It still provides me with something I can offer my patients,” says Dr. Prather, who was not involved in the new research.

Currently, “there are no good options” for treating IBS, says Timothy Pfanner, MD, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of internal medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center, in Temple. Rifaximin may benefit a subgroup of patients with IBS, Dr. Pfanner says, although he stresses that most people in the study did not experience relief from their symptoms.

“As a doctor, I’d need to treat 10 patients for one to improve,” he adds.

Rifaximin would be the first antibiotic approved by the FDA for the treatment of IBS. Aside from providing evidence of the drug’s effectiveness, the study findings—especially with regard to bloating—support the theory that bacteria may be partially responsible for IBS.

Bloating is sometimes thought to be related to bacterial imbalances in the gut, and antibiotics are a class of drugs that work only against bacteria. “That suggests that we hit upon a cause of IBS,” Dr. Pimentel says.

This theory is still controversial. Dr. Prather says that while there is some evidence to suggest that bacteria plays a role in IBS, it’s unclear whether changes in gut bacteria are a cause or an effect of the syndrome.

Stress, Dust of 9/11 Linked to Acid Reflux

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By Amanda Gardner

WEDNESDAY, September 7, 2011 ( — People exposed to the terror and dust of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center have higher rates of asthma and post-traumatic stress than those who were further away from Ground Zero. But they also have high rates of a less obvious health problem: heartburn.

A new study of more than 37,000 adults who worked at Ground Zero or lived near the site found that one-fifth experienced heartburn, indigestion, or acid reflux for the first time ever in the three years following the 9/11 attacks. Five to six years after the disaster, 13% were still experiencing these common symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

The rates were even higher among rescue and recovery workers: One-third reported the onset of GERD-like symptoms by 2004, and one-quarter still had symptoms up to three years later.

The findings come as no surprise, since acid reflux—the seepage of stomach acids and other contents into the esophagus—frequently occurs side by side with asthma or stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Related links:

Feeling Stressed? Why You May Feel It in Your Gut

Surprising Heartburn Triggers

Years Later, 9/11 Rescue Workers Still Show Decreased Lung Function

“Even relatively minor stress can produce slow stomach emptying,” says Charlene Prather, MD, a professor of gastroenterology at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, in Missouri. “And if the stomach isn’t emptying properly, then there are more materials that can reflux into the esophagus.”

A 2005 study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that people with chronic heartburn and acid reflux who were asked to deliver a five-minute speech in front of an audience experienced an acute worsening of their symptoms, unlike a group with identical preexisting symptoms and acid levels that did not have to speak.

If the fleeting butterflies that come with public speaking can trigger acid reflux, it stands to reason that the persistent stress of PTSD can affect the gut as well.

And sure enough, in the new study, rescue workers and people who lived or worked in the vicinity of the World Trade Center were at higher risk of acid reflux if they also had PTSD, a type of anxiety disorder. By 2006 or 2007, just under one-quarter of the study participants who had PTSD were experiencing acid reflux symptoms, compared to 8% of those who had neither PTSD nor asthma.

Next page: Serotonin may play a role

The brain chemical serotonin, which is believed to play a role in depression and anxiety disorders, is also “richly involved in the gut,” Dr. Prather says. Serotonin contributes to our physical perceptions of our stomach and digestive system, and it also helps control how things move through our digestive tract.

“The gastrointestinal tract has a nervous system that’s similar in complexity to what is present in the brain,” Dr. Prather says. “There are as many nerves in the gut as there are in the spinal cord.”

Stress-related behaviors may be involved as well, however. People who are stressed out are more apt to smoke, overeat, and drink alcohol, all of which can make acid reflux more likely by relaxing or putting pressure on the esophageal sphincter, which connects the stomach to the esophagus, Dr. Prather explains.

Stress isn’t the only culprit involved in post-9/11 acid reflux. The study authors suspect that the toxic Ground Zero dust may be responsible as well.

The smoldering wreckage of the Twin Towers contained large amounts of alkaline cement dust, which long before 9/11 had been linked to asthma and indigestion in cement factory workers and others exposed to the dust in workplace settings.

As with PTSD, the likelihood of experiencing acid reflux symptoms was highest among the study participants with the most exposure to the dust. Thirty-one percent of the people who experienced “intense” dust exposure while working at the wreckage site reported symptoms by 2004, compared to 19% of the workers who had no exposure to the dust—a pattern that persisted three years later.

The study “does raise questions about whether or not the very toxic alkaline exposure associated with the dust pile may in some way have altered the physiological function or sensation of the esophagus or lower esophageal sphincter,” says William Chey, MD, a professor of gastroenterology at the University of Michigan Medical School, in Ann Arbor, and a co-editor of the American Journal of Gastroenterology, which published the new study.

All of the men and women included in the study are part of the World Trade Center Health Registry, a database of people exposed to the 2001 attacks and the immediate aftermath. The registry is led by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and is funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

The Yoga vs. Pilates Debate, 9 Healthy Hot Drinks, and How to Fend Off Holiday Bedbugs

Yoga or pilates? That is the question. They’re equally beneficial in their own ways, so we’re not sure which we prefer. Check out the debate and tell us what you think. [Greatist]

You may be packed but if you’ve forgotten about hotel bedbugs, you’re not ready to go. Find out how to avoid the little critters while traveling this season and come home bedbug free. [HuffPost]

Just because Thanksgiving is around the corner doesn’t mean we have to give up on health and weight-loss plans. Avoid these high-calorie holiday foods—OK, consume in moderation—to get through Turkey Day guilt free. [FitSugar]

The Dutch have one of the lowest teen birth rates in the world and are three times less likely to get AIDS than Americans. Should we be getting sex-ed tips from them? [TIME Healthland]

Now that it’s getting chilly, hot holiday drinks are more tempting than ever. No need to miss out on your favorite lattes—just use these tips to reduce calories or choose from one of the nine healthiest coffee drinks. [dailySpark]

Don’t understand the probiotic hype? Here are a few reasons why probiotics are awesome, including an explanation of how this dairy-free product works as the perfect low-cal, vitamin-packed snack. [Vitamin G]

If this is your first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll want to watch these simple instructional videos on how to prepare the perfect turkey. [Real Simple]

The turkey looks great but now you’re out of cooking ideas. Whip up some of these delicious veggie side dishes to keep your guests satisfied. [Cooking Light]

Foodie Friday: GoodBelly Probiotic Juice

By Caroline MurraySkip the morning OJ and try this nutritious, good-for-your-belly juice instead. Packed with exotic fruity flavors, this 50-calorie shot is a good substitute for a daily multivitamin.

The product: GoodBelly Plus probiotic juice drink ($3.99 per pack; Available at Whole Foods Market, Safeway, and specialty stores nationwide)

The taste factor: The juice comes in four flavors: Blueberry acai (our favorite), mango, strawberry, and pomegranate blackberry. Although it contains 17 vitamins and minerals, we couldn’t taste a thing but juicy goodness.

The health factor: Probiotics, or “good bugs,” promote healthy digestion and can help with icky tummy troubles like gas, bloating, and constipation. GoodBelly—which contains a patented probiotic strain—is organic, dairy-free, soy-free, and 100% vegan.

Editor’s pick: Take this shot with your breakfast in the morning or use as a midday pick-me-up. GoodBelly promises that after 12 days you’ll notice an improvement in your digestive health or the product is free.

Why we love it: One little 2.7 oz shot will satisfy your juice craving and make you feel like you’re doing something good for your body—an excellent addition to our healthy living goals for 2012!