By Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen

In the year 475 AD, in an actual Game of Thrones, Basiliscus seized power of the Eastern Roman Byzantine Empire after a revolt forced the emperor Zeno out of Constantinople. Now, if you want to seize power over your cardiovascular empire and take control of your blood pressure, research suggests you throw your support behind Lactobacillus!

Lactobacillus is one of the bacteria charged with keeping a proper balance between competing microbes in your gastrointestinal system, so that you can maintain good digestion, steady blood glucose levels, a healthy immune system and avoid over-the-top, bodywide inflammation.

Doctors have known for a while that if you’re short on lactobacillus, you may trigger or worsen ulcerative colitis and other gastro-inflammatory problems. But recently, research has revealed that lactobacillus also may play a role in maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Writing in the journal Nature, researchers explain that lactobacillus can restore the proper balance of salt in your system.

When the researchers fed lab rodents a high-salt diet, it triggered high blood pressure. But when the researchers gave the animals lactobacillus, lo and behold, their blood pressure dropped. So if you’re combating HBP, give a regimen of lactobacillus supplements a try. We like Culturelle, which has Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus GG, and Digestive Advantage. Both are designed to survive the trip through corrosive stomach acids. You also can get smaller lactobacillus doses from yogurt and keifer, but you’d have to eat more than several quarts a day to get the same number of Lactobacillus colonies.

Using evidence-based science to protect offspring

When you think about how to make sure the most vulnerable fetuses, from a diverse group of people, including those who are transgender, can best have a safe journey through this world, you must rely on evidence-based/science-based data. And we’re glad there’s no ban that would block that or any other medically sound work.

However, new research on the risks of living near oil and gas fracking sites makes it clear that male or female, if you’re pregnant or considering kids, you should impose a ban on living near those areas in order to reduce toxic exposure to yourself and to your future children.

Researchers analyzed 1.1 million Pennsylvania birth records from 2004 to 2013 to identify differences between infants born before and after fracking started, and to moms living near fracking sites and those living farther away.

If a mom-to-be lived within 1.86 miles of a fracking site, newborns had a greater risk of low birth weight. The researchers state that, “low birth weight is a risk factor for … infant mortality, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, asthma, lower test scores, lower schooling attainment, lower earnings and higher rates of social welfare program participation.” A distance of just over half a mile had the greatest negative impact. About 29,000 U.S. babies are born within about a half mile of a fracking site annually.

So, if you’re near a fracking zone and considering pregnancy, avoid drinking water from the area, use indoor air filters and try to keep more than two miles away from the fracking field.

Misdiagnosis of schizophrenia
and bipolar disorder

When singer/songwriter/actor Demi Lovato was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 22, it came as a relief, and allowed her to deal with her condition. “When I focus on my treatment plan with my team and my support system, I’m able to not only maintain a healthy mind, but … to maintain my sobriety.”

Imagine, however, if you were diagnosed with that mental illness — for which there is no cure — when in fact you had a treatable immune disorder!

Back in 2007, researchers discovered that there was a form of immune encephalitis that affects specific brain receptor functions and triggers symptoms, such as paranoia and hearing voices, that are associated with bipolar disorder and with schizophrenia as well.

Researchers at Houston Methodist Hospital became curious about the potential for misdiagnosis: “We suspect … a significant number of people believed to have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder actually have an immune system disorder that affects the brain’s receptors,” said Dr. Joseph Masdeu, the study’s principal investigator. “If true, those people have diseases that are completely reversible.”

So, the researchers are launching a study in which they’ll collect cerebral spinal fluid from those diagnosed with the mental illnesses. If samples contain antibodies known to attack certain brain receptors, researchers will notify the participants so that they can ask their doctor about using existing drugs to suppress production of the attacking antibodies!

Stay tuned for results, and if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with either condition, ask your doc about ruling out anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis as a cause of symptoms.

Enjoy a prickly pear

In the most memorable song from Disney’s 1967 movie “The Jungle Book,” Baloo the bear teaches young Mowgli the ins and outs of enjoying an exotic (but potentially menacing) prickly pear. Baloo sings: “Now, when you pick a paw paw or a prickly pear, and you prick a raw paw, next time beware. Don’t pick the prickly pear by the paw. When you pick a pear, try to use the claw.”

Luckily, you don’t have to forage for your own prickly pear, but we do recommend that you try to get your paws on some. A few studies show this spiny fruit of the nopales cactus to be protective against DNA mutations that can spark health problems. They’re packed with vitamins, including A and C, which boost immunity and support skin, teeth and eye health. They’re also fiber-rich, which is good for the health of your gut biome. In two small studies of people with Type 2 diabetes, those who ate steamed prickly pear with a high-carbohydrate meal had lower blood sugar levels post-meal.

So enjoy these oddly named fruits — called “tuna” in Spanish, “prickly pear” in English — by cutting them in half and eating the flesh and seeds, or by adding to sauces and smoothies. And don’t overlook the cactus’s flat green pads (called “nopalitos”). Just make sure every single tiny spine is removed and avoid thick, mature pads, which are rough and flavorless. Then chop them up and add to tacos, toss into a salad or scramble them up with some eggs.