Dayna McIsaac, Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Dayna McIsaac, Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Why Fiber Is Good for Your Gut Health

Dayna McIsaac, Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Dayna McIsaac, Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Once in a while, fad diets hit on something real. Take fiber, for example. The bran-muffin craze of the 1980s may have passed, but experts still agree that eating high-fiber foods is important for the digestive system. A new study published in the journal Science explains why that might be the case—and like so many things in the gut, it all boils down to bacteria.

Our bodies are literally crawling with bacteria, inside and out, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Our skin, guts, and mouths are unique ecosystems called microbiota. And like any ecosystem, they need balance in order to thrive.

Many studies have suggested that the recent rise in inflammation-related illnesses could be related to microbial imbalances in our guts, and that those imbalances could be tied to changes in our environment and diet. One 2016 experiment found that eating the modern American diet, low in fiber and high in processed foods, could damage not only your microbiome but those of your descendants, too.

To better understand the link between these elements, scientists analyzed the way gut microbes consume, digest, and break down fiber.

Fascinatingly, they found that it's not the fiber itself that helps—it's what happens while your microbes are digesting it. As they grind up and break down chunks of fiber, they produce compounds called short-chain fatty acids. The release of these acids tells cells in the large bowel to start gobbling up as much oxygen as they can. This, in turn, decreases the amount of oxygen being released into the gut lumen, which is the open space in the intestine that comes into direct contact with digested food.

And lower oxygen levels in the lumen are a good thing. Harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli need oxygen to survive. Speaking in a statement, senior author and microbiologist Andreas Bäumler called the gut "the site of constant turf wars between microbes."

The less oxygen the pathogens get, Bäumler said, the more likely it is that helpful microbes will flourish instead.

It's an interdependent system, first author Mariana X. Byndloss explained. "The beneficial gut bacteria that are able to break down fiber don't survive in an environment rich in oxygen, which means that our microbiota and intestinal cells work together to promote a virtuous cycle that maintains gut health." 

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iStock
'Lime Disease' Could Give You a Nasty Rash This Summer
iStock
iStock

A cold Corona or virgin margarita is best enjoyed by the pool, but watch where you’re squeezing those limes. As Slate illustrates in a new video, there’s a lesser-known “lime disease,” and it can give you a nasty skin rash if you’re not careful.

When lime juice comes into contact with your skin and is then exposed to UV rays, it can cause a chemical reaction that results in phytophotodermatitis. It looks a little like a poison ivy reaction or sun poisoning, and some of the symptoms include redness, blistering, and inflammation. It’s the same reaction caused by a corrosive sap on the giant hogweed, an invasive weed that’s spreading throughout the U.S.

"Lime disease" may sound random, but it’s a lot more common than you might think. Dermatologist Barry D. Goldman tells Slate he sees cases of the skin condition almost daily in the summer. Some people have even reported receiving second-degree burns as a result of the citric acid from lime juice. According to the Mayo Clinic, the chemical that causes phytophotodermatitis can also be found in wild parsnip, wild dill, wild parsley, buttercups, and other citrus fruits.

To play it safe, keep your limes confined to the great indoors or wash your hands with soap after handling the fruit. You can learn more about phytophotodermatitis by checking out Slate’s video below.

[h/t Slate]

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Lia
Lia Is a Disposable Pregnancy Test You Can Flush Down the Toilet
Lia
Lia

It’s a common Hollywood plot point: A character spots a discarded pregnancy test in a bathroom trash can. Surprise! Someone’s pregnancy is revealed, though they weren’t yet ready to tell anyone (and perhaps never planned on telling them at all). Lia is a new type of disposable pregnancy test designed to be flushed down the toilet to make sure no one ever experiences that kind of privacy violation, according to Glamour.

Lia hasn’t hit the market yet, but when it does, it will be the first major redesign of the home pregnancy test in decades. The first at-home pregnancy test in the U.S. debuted in 1977, and while it took two hours to show a result, it gave women the option to learn their pregnancy status with relative accuracy (it was 97 percent accurate for positive results, but only 80 percent accurate for negative results) for the first time without going to the doctor. In 1988, Unilever came out with the first wand-style pregnancy test—the plastic kind you pee on to reveal the blue stripe indicators. Since then, not much has changed about the basic design of the at-home pregnancy test except the graphics that companies use to convey the test’s results. (The science undergirding the tests has advanced over the years, though.)

Unlike the plastic sticks, Lia is disposable and can be flushed down the toilet or composted. With the shape reminiscent of a sanitary pad, it works similar to the traditional pee-stick test: You urinate on it, then wait for the stripes to appear. While it’s water-resistant enough to withstand the two minutes of pee-soaking required to get a result, the test strip is made of the type of plant fibers that go into toilet paper and will eventually disintegrate in water. It can also be composted: In one experiment, it took 10 weeks to completely degrade in soil.

A diagram of Lia's features
Lia

Like other pregnancy tests available at the drug store, Lia’s results are based on the concentration of human chorionic gonadotropin (a pregnancy hormone) in your pee. It’s FDA approved, and the company reports that it’s more than 99 percent accurate, comparable to other tests on the market.

No matter what the circumstances surrounding a pregnancy are, most people don’t want to share the fact that they could be pregnant with everyone they might share a bathroom with—most people wait several months into their pregnancy to announce the news—and even if they want to tell the world immediately, they probably don’t want to do so via trash can. Lia’s paper design makes it easy to dispose of the test without worrying about who might stumble upon your wastebasket. It’s also more sustainable and won’t clog up landfills like plastic tests. While people don’t use as many pregnancy tests as, say, plastic straws, the over-the-counter plastic pregnancy test market is still a huge one, and a contributor to environmental pollution. As a bonus, the lack of plastic makes Lia cheaper to produce, too.

Lia will eventually be available in stores and online. It’s scheduled to be released sometime in 2018.

[h/t Glamour]

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