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Science & Spirit: Medicine-Chomping Microbes, Nature Pills, and Saunas for Heart Health

by Kathryn Drury WagnerJune 21, 2019
Columnists
bacteria in the gut

Jongho Shin/Getty Images

Microbes may be stealing our medication, nature pills have an ideal dose, and taking a sauna bath is as good as a workout. Want details? Read on.

Gut Microbes Are Eating Our Meds

Hey, man, quit eating my stuff! Research from Harvard University have confirmed that our gut bacteria can interfere with medication, degrading the effects of a drug by digesting it themselves. This microbial metabolism could be dangerous.

“Maybe the drug is not going to reach its target in the body, maybe it’s going to be toxic all of a sudden, maybe it’s going to be less helpful,” wrote Maini Rekdal, the first author on the study. That’s why more research is being done in this area. In the Harvard study, researchers were focused on levodopa (L-dopa), used to treat Parkinson’s disease. The findings may help answer why L-dopa works better for some people than others.  

Two Hours: The Golden Dose of Nature  

We know we should be taking our “nature pills,” but what is the right dose? According to scientists at the University of Exeter, we should be getting weekly recommendations from our health care providers for time spent outside, just like we do with exercise goals. They say we should aim for two hours a week in natural settings such as parks, woodlands and beaches—this amount of time is most likely to give us benefits for our physical health and mental wellbeing.

Saunas for Cardiovascular Health

If I’m ever rich and famous, I am totally getting a sauna built into my house. They are so relaxing, and good news, it turns out that sitting in a sauna for 25 minutes has the same effects on the heart as riding a stationary bike. Alas, because there is no muscle activity, saunas may not lead to weight loss. But for heart health, the long term benefits are similar to sports activities. Be sure to hydrate after using a sauna, as you do lose fluids. For more on this subject, read “Get Thee to a Sauna!”


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Spirituality & Health’s Wellbeing Editor, Kathryn Drury Wagner, is based in Savannah. She’s been a contributor to the magazine for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle. 

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