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      The stats tell it all: The number one cause of death in the United States is heart disease. That’s right, more than any other disease – even cancer (a close second) – heart disease is the most likely to kill you. The United States is currently facing a “diabesity” epidemic, or a substantial increase in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome leading to diabetes and obesity, all serious risk factors for heart disease.

      According to the American Heart Association, every 34 seconds someone in the US dies of a heart attack. By the time you finish reading this paragraph, another person will have lost their life. Sadly, many people do not even know they have heart disease until they experience a heart attack. These facts alone make Heart Health a critical topic to understand.

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      The gut-skin connection is very significant. Inflammatory processes present in the gut may manifest on the skin. Toxins are expelled with sweat, and can cause the skin to react. Like the inside of the digestive tract, the skin is covered in microbes which can be neutral, protective or pathogenic. Skin reaction may reflect what is going on inside the body. Therefore treating skin conditions only from the outside will often be ineffective and lead to other chronic issues.

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      The gut-brain connection occurs in two directions—from the brain to the gut, and from the gut to the brain. When a person has a “gut feeling,” or an emotional upset causes a stomachache or loss of appetite, they experience examples of the first, most familiar direction. When the gut is out of balance, inflammation results leading to a condition commonly known as leaky gut. A leaky gut will allow undigested food particles and toxins to enter into the bloodstream. Some may cross into the brain, setting the stage for diseases like Alzheimers and dementia. Recognizing the underlying contributing factors that created the gut imbalance in the first place is the first step to achieving optimal brain function .

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Diet Drinks No Better (Maybe Worse?) than Sugary Drinks

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/27/2013


The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has long been associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, weight gain, obesity, metabolic syndrome, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and heart disease. There are three main ways in which sugary drinks are thought to be responsible for these associations:

  • The inability of sugary drink consumption to reduce subsequent food intake. That is, if you drink a sugary drink before you eat, you won’t eat less.
  • The rapid increase in blood sugar and insulin levels after consuming sugar-sweetened beverages. High blood sugar and insulin contribute to each of the conditions mentioned above.
  • Sugary drinks contain fructose, which triggers hunger and has adverse effects on blood lipid production in the liver.

On the other hand, many people believe that diet drinks, or artificially-sweetened beverages, are a healthier option than sugar-sweetened drinks. While the harmful effects of sugary beverage consumption are well known, the effects of consumption of artificially-sweetened drinks on cardio-metabolic health are less certain. Unfortunately, studies to date have been few and inconsistent. Some studies have found an association between artificially-sweetened beverages and type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and cardio-metabolic dysfunction and some have not.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that both sugar-sweetened beverages and artificially-sweetened beverages were directly and indirectly associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.1 More intriguing was the finding that people who consumed artificially-sweetened beverages had an even higher risk of type 2 diabetes than people who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages. There are a couple possible reasons for the increased risk from artificial sweeteners: 

  • Researchers suggest that artificially-sweetened beverages could lead to an increased appetite and preference for sweets.
  • One widely used artificial sweetener, aspartame, has been found to increase insulin levels in the same way as sugar. 

With the current diabesity epidemic (diabetes + obesity = chronic disease), the timing of this study couldn’t be more important. The results of this research strongly support the need for more investigation into the potential negative effects of drinking artificially sweetened drinks, thought by many to be a “healthier” choice. Even the American Heart Association agrees, according to a recent joint scientific statement issued calling for more study into the link between artificial sweeteners and type 2 diabetes.2 

The truth is, both sugary drinks and artificially-sweetened drinks are troublesome, each in their own way. Fortunately, there is something we can do about it. As consumers, we have the choice about what we buy and put into our bodies. The first step is education. Do your own research. I certainly do, and I try to share as much of it with you as I can. 

The second step is to read labels. The ingredient label will tell you if your beverage contains added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Don’t be fooled by the many names under which sugar is disguised (here is a list). As for artificial sweeteners, steer clear of saccharin (the pink stuff), aspartame (NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda), neotame, and acesulfame. 

What’s a thirsty person to do? Hydration is important. In fact, I recommend that you drink half your body weight in ounces daily. (If you weigh 140 pounds, drink 70 ounces of fluids). If you’re bored with water, don’t fret. Get creative with herbal teas. There are so many options to choose from and when chilled they provide tasty, refreshing, healthy hydration. Miss the fizz? Carbonated water with a splash of juice (or a combination of juices!) is the best way to satisfy your soda craving and your taste buds without the risk.  Try a splash of lime and pomegranate juice, or a splash of mango and papaya juice to turn your boring drink into a treat. Get creative. At first, your tongue may miss the sweetness, but over time you’ll find your taste buds don’t need a sugar overload to enjoy even mild sweet flavors. Enjoy!

 

  1. Fagherazzi G, et al., “Consumption of artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages and incident type 2 diabetes in the Etude Epidemiologique aupres des femmes de la Mutuelle Generale de l’Education Nationale-European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Mar;97(3):517-23.
  2. Gardner C, et al., “Nonnutritive sweeteners: current use and health perspectives: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.” Circulation. 2012 Jul 24;126(4):509-19.

Hello Morning People! The Suzanne Show Airs Top Clips on February 27 at 8 a.m.

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/25/2013


I had the best time this past fall talking with Suzanne Somers about fiber, poop, digestive health, and what it really means to heal your gut every day with the foods you eat and the supplements you take. Suzanne is as enthusiastic about natural health, healthy weight management, heart health, longevity, immunity, and detoxification as I am. We really got into the guts of digestive health and had a blast doing it.

If you missed any of the shows last year you can catch Suzanne’s best-of show on Wednesday, February 27th at 8:00 a.m. on Lifetime television. These best-of clips include my surprising fiber segment that reveals how to:

  • Reduce the amount of calories you absorb each day by simply adding more fiber to your diet with the fiber flush effect
  • Get enough fiber in your diet (at least 35g daily) without eating 12 apples, or a loaf of bread, or enough salad greens to feed a whole herd of rabbits
  • Beat America’s laxative addiction with the new generation of fiber supplements that aren’t harsh like psyllium, which can cause cramping

Suzanne and I also spent time talking about heart health and inflammation, two big topics in natural health circles today. Heart disease is still the #1 cause of death in the US, yet so many of us don’t realize which foods are triggering the silent inflammation issues that are causing high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol. Silent inflammation is not discussed enough in standard medical circles although it’s a significant contributor to heart disease and you can’t even feel it.

We had some girl talk about keeping that healthy youthful glow as we age and labels. Labels? I mean supplement labels and the fact that most people don’t know how to read them to ensure they’re getting a high potency of omega-3 in their fish oil supplement (and not just “filler” oils), enough probiotics in their probiotic supplement and foods, and the types of fibers in their supplements that promote heart health and detoxification.

You can watch my clips from the show here and don’t forget to tune into The Suzanne Show next Wednesday Feb 27th at 8:00 a.m. for the best-of show that includes my fiber segment.

Toxins in Women of Childbearing Age

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/22/2013


A recent study published in the journal Environmental Perspectives found that over half the women of childbearing age have higher levels of two out of three major pollutants: lead, mercury, and PCBs. Almost 23 percent of the women met or exceeded median levels of these three common toxins, known to potentially harm fetal and infant brain development. These toxins are particularly worrisome because they can be transferred to the baby from the mother.

The study used data from over 3,000 women from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), an enormous compilation of data from people nationwide. The NHANES data are thought to be representative of the general U.S. population.

In the toxin study, researchers were able to identify risk factors for increased levels of lead, mercury, and PCBs. The biggest risk factor was age. Women aged 30–39 had 12 times greater risk, and women 40–49 had 30 times greater risk than those women aged 16–19. There are two explanations for the greatly increased levels in older women. One, these toxins accumulate over the years, and are stored in the body. Two, these women were born before most environmental laws were put into place.

Fish and alcohol consumption were also found to increase the risk of high blood levels of the three toxins. Women who had eaten fish more than once per week during the last 30 days had 4.5 times greater risk of exceeding median toxin levels of two or more pollutants. I have blogged about the need to be careful about which fish you eat, and how often.

Although the researchers state that there is no known reason for the link between alcohol intake and increased toxin blood levels, I believe that the higher risk with alcohol intake could be due to the increased burden on the liver from alcohol intake. An overburdened liver will not be able to properly remove toxins, so they can build up in the body. A risk factor for reduced toxin levels was breastfeeding. This is not a good thing, however, because it means the toxins are transferred to the baby.

What does this all mean? Well, we’re swimming in a toxic soup. Supporting the seven channels of elimination—colon, liver, kidneys, blood, lungs, skin, and lymphatic system—through proper diet, nutrition, supplementation, exercise, and stress reduction are key.

Dysbiosis in IBD—Nitrates the Culprit?

Filed in General | Posted by lsmith on 02/20/2013


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) involves dysbiosis, or an imbalance of beneficial to harmful bacteria in the intestines.1 Specifically, obligate anaerobic bacteria are depleted and the facultative anaerobic bacteria Enterobacteriacea increase. A recent study has found one way in which this dysbiosis develops.2 Researchers from UC Davis discovered that the potentially harmful Enterobacteriacea—specifically, E. coli—use nitrate to grow. Nitrate is formed during intestinal inflammation by our immune system to fight pathogenic bacteria in IBD.  This is a paradox since some species of the potentially harmful bacteria receive plenty of the nitrate fuel to thrive while the beneficial bacteria, which use a much slower fermentation process to grow, lose the upper hand.

State the researchers, “The picture emerging from this study is that nitrate generated as a by-product of the host inflammatory response can be used by E. coli, and likely by other commensal Enterobacteriaceae, to edge out competing microbes that rely on fermentation to generate energy for growth.” They are hoping to find a way to reduce the production of nitrate in the intestines as a way to inhibit the harmful bacteria. “The idea would be to inhibit all pathways that produce molecules that can be used by bacteria such as E. coli for respiration and growth. Essentially you could then smother the bacteria.”

This is interesting and also a paradox because eating large amounts of green leafy vegetables will help to make nitric oxide (NO, which can quickly degrade to nitrate in the gut). We see from this study, as with most everything, it’s a question of balance. In fact, many people throughout the world have too low levels of circulating NO and even take drugs to increase it (including Viagra, as well as nitrate drugs for the heart).

This may help explain why some people with IBS/IBD don’t do well with salads and do better with only cooked, pureed types of food which produce less NO, as well as less fermentation. Perhaps raw vegetables actually provide too much NO fuel to the pathogenic bacteria in these people, ultimately fueling their dybiosis. Does this mean that eating raw vegetables increase dysbiosis in everyone? Absolutely not! In fact, a diet high in raw vegetables actually promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in most cases. However, when starting a higher-fiber diet which includes prebiotics, or a raw vegetable diet, do it gradually to allow time for the changes in the microbiome, and to avoid IBS-type symptoms such as excess gas, bloating, and abdominal discomfort.

Maybe this is why short courses of antibiotics, (with probiotics and maybe prebiotics) are needed early on, before the situation becomes a chronic imbalance as is seen in so many people with IBS and IBD. This also may be why stool transplants or super probiotics (containing huge and diverse amounts of bacteria) may be needed to overwhelm what is going on in the colon, and to re-establish the balance quickly.

References

  1. F. Fava and S. Denese, “Intestinal microbiota in inflammatory bowel disease: friend of foe?” World J Gastroenterol. 2011 Feb 7;17(5):557-66.
  2. S.E. Winter, et al., “Host-derived nitrate boosts growth of E. coli in the inflamed gut.” Science. 2013 February;339:708–11.

An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/18/2013


The old proverb, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” rings true when you consider the healthy attributes of the apple. Apples are rich in antioxidants—nutrients that protect against the harmful effects of oxidative stress—especially when you include the peel. Also, the high fiber content of apples gives this fruit its digestive and heart health benefits.

A recent study published in the Journal of Functional Foods found that consumption of an apple a day for four weeks was associated with a decrease of oxidized LDL cholesterol in healthy, middle-aged adults. You probably already know about LDL cholesterol, the “bad” type of cholesterol associated with the development of atherosclerosis, or buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Interestingly, the state in which LDL is found is what determines its ability to trigger plaque buildup. When LDL becomes oxidized due to the interaction of free radicals with LDL cholesterol it is more likely to promote inflammation and damage the artery lining, leading to heart disease. Bottom line, you don’t want your LDL oxidized.

The study also examined the effect of an apple polyphenol extract on oxidized LDL levels. “We found the polyphenol extract did register a measurable effect, but not as strong as the straight apple,” stated Robert DiSilvestro, professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University and lead researchers.

I would like to caution against consumption of apples in people concerned about blood sugar or insulin resistance. In general, the sugar content of apples tends to be high, which can have its own undesirable effects. But in the context of a low-sugar, low-processed and refined carbohydrate diet, an apple a day is OK for many people. If you already have risk factors for heart disease, stick to berries and perhaps an apple polyphenol extract for the best overall heart health advantage.

My new PBS show and book, both by the name of Heart of Perfect Health, delve deeply into the topic of heart health and its underlying causes. And of course, I talk about how your digestive system ties into the picture. Watch for my PBS show in November and December for some eye-opening information about the true causes of heart disease and what you can do to stop it.

 

Another Organic Foods Study—With Children in Mind

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/15/2013


I recently blogged about a review of studies on organic foods put out by Stanford University that spurred misleading headlines which surely sent a few shoppers back to the conventional produce aisle. Well, another report has been published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in the journal Pediatrics, and their findings were similar, but aimed at children. 

But the bothersome part of all this is that when you read the studies, as I did, you notice how the majority of media articles about these studies are really skewed. What these incomplete articles highlight is the inability of many studies to find a difference in nutrition quality between organic and conventional food. But what the articles fail to mention is the poor quality of these studies. From the AAP review, “Nutritional differences between organic and conventional produce appear minimal, but studies examining this have been limited by inadequate controls for the many subtle potential confounders.” 

All the while, the many benefits found in the AAP report were greatly downplayed. I’d like to highlight a few:

“Organic produce contains fewer pesticide residues than does conventional produce, and consuming a diet of organic produce reduces human exposure to pesticides.” Isn’t this one of the main reasons we eat organic?

“Organic animal husbandry that prohibits the nontherapeutic use of antibiotic agents has the potential to reduce human disease caused by drug-resistant organisms.”

“Organic farming reduces fossil fuel consumption and reduces environmental contamination with pesticides and herbicides.”

Eating organic foods is particularly important in children. Even the lead author of the AAP report stated, “We do know that children—especially young children whose brains are developing—are uniquely vulnerable to chemical exposures.”

While I’m disappointed in the downplay of the benefits of eating organic foods, I was pleased to read that AAP recommends consulting Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen Plus list when trying to decide which fruits and vegetables to buy organic. Despite the many articles put out by mainstream media, the report made some good points that will hopefully not be missed by American Pediatricians.

 

Diet High in Carbs Increased Risk of Cognitive Impairment

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/13/2013


For years I have been recommending to people with intestinal imbalance—especially Candida overgrowth—a diet that avoids sugar and starchy carbohydrates. As it turns out, this diet is beneficial for much more than intestinal imbalance. A diet low in starchy carbohydrates and sugars has been found to be protective against certain conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and, according to a new study from the Mayo Clinic, cognitive impairment (a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease).

The researchers of this study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that among 937 healthy subjects with normal brain function at the beginning of the study, 200 developed dementia or mild cognitive impairment by the end of the four-year study. Those subjects who ate a diet with a high percentage of carbohydrates were at greater risk of developing mild cognitive impairment or dementia, while those subjects who ate a diet with a higher percentage of fat and protein (and thus, lower percentage of carbohydrates) were at decreased risk. “This was a bit of a surprise,” stated lead author Rosebud Roberts, “I thought the big problem would be eating too little protein.”

Those people who got most of their calories from pasta, rice, bread, and other starchy carbohydrates were at higher risk, while those people who ate plenty of protein such as chicken or fish lowered their risk by 21 percent, and those who had a high fat intake from oils and nuts lowered their risk by 42 percent. Roberts said the culprit appears to be the sugar that is created when carbohydrates are digested. “Sugar fuels your brain, so you need some carbohydrates, but too much may stop the brain from using sugars effectively.”

This study is in line with my own recommendations in my latest PBS special and book; both called Heart of Perfect Health. A healthy diet that helps reduce silent inflammation—the underlying cause of most, if not all, chronic disease, including Alzheimer’s and heart disease—is one that is full of non-starchy vegetables and fruit, healthy fats, lean proteins, nuts, and seeds. Take notice of the foods you eat this week and if you find your carbohydrate intake is high, take steps to reduce it.

Obesity and Heart Disease—Good News and Bad News

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/11/2013


Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news? I’ll start with the bad news and finish with the good so that you end up with some hope in your heart.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently published their “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistical Update 2013” in the journal Circulation. In 2010 the AHA set a goal to improve cardiovascular health and reduce heart disease and stroke deaths by 20 percent by the year 2020. But the AHA reports that heart health may only improve by 6 percent if the current trend continues. Here are some highlights (more like lowlights) from the AHA paper:

  • More adults over age 20 are obese than normal or underweight.
  • Over 68 percent of adults over 20 are overweight or obese.
  • Almost 32 percent of children aged 2–19 are overweight or obese.
  • About one-third of adults report no physical activity.
  • Fully 13.8 percent of adults have high cholesterol.
  • Thirty-three percent of adults have high blood pressure.
  • About 8 percent of adults have diagnosed diabetes, 8 percent more have undiagnosed diabetes, and 38.2 percent have prediabetes.

I talk about these last three bullets in my new book and PBS show, Heart of Perfect Health. These risk factors are a sign that you have silent inflammation, the underlying cause of heart disease and its related risk factors. Quell silent inflammation and you can prevent, and even reverse, heart disease.

The AHA has plans for improvement, stating, “As the leader in the fight against heart disease and stroke, we are taking a more aggressive and innovative approach, including taking some pages from the playbooks of the public health sector.” They plan to work more with healthcare systems, insurers, and the education community, as well as by building worksite wellness programs and improved access to healthier foods and green space for physical activity. Let’s hope they can make up for lost time—America’s health depends on it.

Now for the good news.

Childhood obesity seems to be decreasing in a few cities for the first time after 30 years of continual increase, according to a recent New York Times report. That’s right—New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Anchorage, and Kearney, Nebraska have all reported a drop in childhood obesity. The state of Mississippi also reported a drop, but only among white students.

Experts are hesitant to draw any major conclusions this early. “I’d like to see another year of measurement before I go out and party over this,” stated Mary Currier, Mississippi’s state health officer. But some are hopeful that this is a sign of what’s to come. “I think we are beginning to turn the tide with the many things that have gone on now for a decade,” stated Donald F. Schwartz, MD, Philadelphia’s city health commissioner. Philadelphia’s school district has made a number of important nutritional changes that experts think are beginning to show results. They shut down deep fryers in school cafeterias, removed sugary drinks from vending machines, set new snack guidelines, and increased nutritional education.

I truly hope that this trend continues. The health of our children depends on it. After all, obese children are more likely to be obese adults. If we can teach them about the importance of healthy food and exercise at a young age, they will be set up for a lifetime of better health. What better gift to give them than that?

GM Crops Found to Use More—Not Less—Herbicides

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/08/2013


We’ve all been duped. Back in 1996 when genetically modified (or genetically engineered) seeds hit the market, we were sold on the idea that these technologically-advanced crops would reduce the need for chemical herbicides, thereby lessening the cost and environmental damage caused by these chemicals.

And we bought this story. So much so that about 90 percent of soybean and cotton acres and more than 85 percent of corn crops today are genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (brand name Roundup, which happens to also be manufactured by the company that created the seeds).

Over the years varying scientific groups have warned about the possible development of herbicide-resistant weeds, or “superweeds” as they are called. With so many acres planted with herbicide-resistant crops, and with one main type of herbicide used, it was thought that the weeds would eventually also develop resistance to the herbicides, creating a problem with the opposite result as expected—more herbicide use, not less.

A recent report published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe is the first peer-reviewed, published estimate of the impacts of herbicide resistant crops. “Contrary to often-repeated claims that today’s genetically engineered crops have reduced, and are reducing, pesticide [herbicide] use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied,” stated the report.

“Largely because of the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds, herbicide resistant crop technology has led to a 527 million pound increase in herbicide use across three major crops, compared to what herbicide use would likely have been in the absence of herbicide resistant crops,” continued the report. And yet, “The seed-pesticide industry is enjoying record sales and profits, and the spread of resistant weeds and insects opens up new profit opportunities in the context of the seed industry’s current business model.” So much for promises.

This report was preceded by a similar report three years ago that urged, “We hope that this report will help trigger new government and academic assessments of the performance, costs, and risks associated with today’s GE [genetically engineered] crops. Without such assessments, American agriculture is likely to continue down the road preferred by the biotechnology industry, a path that promises to maximize their profits by capturing a larger share of farm income, and limit the ability of plant breeders and other agricultural scientists to address other pressing goals of wider importance to society as a whole.”

It’s enough to make you never want to buy a genetically modified food again. The profit-driven mentality that runs genetically engineered crop development comes at a huge and as-yet-unknown cost. Support non-GMO crops by purchasing organic and non-GMO certified foods. With purchasing power we can make a difference.

Gut Bacteria and Childhood Eczema

Filed in General | Posted by lsmith on 02/06/2013


Gut bacterial balance affects many different areas of health, but one of the most important to consider is the establishment of healthy gut bacterial balance during infancy. Healthy gut balance during early life is associated with protection against a range of health conditions, most notably the atopic diseases of childhood—asthma, eczema, and allergies.1 Gut balance during infancy is dependent on factors such as mode of delivery, diet, and administration of probiotics or antibiotics. This early gut microbial development primes immune function that can have life-long effects on health.

Specifics about just what constitutes gut balance are still being worked out by scientists, but in general, a high amount of beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species, and a minimal amount of potential pathogens is what constitutes gut balance. A recent study published in the journal BioMed Central Microbiology evaluated the gut bacterial composition of children with eczema compared to healthy children at age 6 months and 18 months.2

The mothers were administered the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG at a dosage of 10 billion colony-forming units daily beginning 2 to 4 weeks before delivery, and through breastfeeding (which, in most cases, lasted through 6 months). Fecal samples were taken at age 6 months and again when the children were 18-months old. There were no differences in gut bacteria composition at 6 months, but at 18 months, the gut bacteria of the children with eczema more closely resembled that found in adults. The children with eczema had a greater diversity of gut bacteria and a higher amount of Clostridium species while the healthy children had three times greater amounts of Bacteroidetes.

The researchers stated, “Prematurely occurring changes towards an adult-type microbiota were observed to take place in children with eczema,” and “It may be speculated that an infant-type microbiota supports adequate gut barrier function and tolerance against food allergens in an immature gut. Infant-type microbiota may fortify the normal mucosal barrier function e.g. by affecting the maturation of the gut epithelium [lining] and immune functions in an optimal way and decrease the low-grade intestinal inflammation observable in subjects with eczema.”

One reason the authors suggest as explaining the lack of difference in gut bacteria between each group at 6 months is the potential protection the children received from breastfeeding, which continued in most children through 6 months. They noted, “Thus, it seems that breast-feeding could have evened up the microbiota differences between the healthy and eczematous children and masked the eczema-associated changes, which came apparent at 18 months of age after withdrawal of breast-milk.” Had the children been breastfed longer than 6 months, perhaps they would have received further benefits.

It may be that as children’s diets change and begin to include more processed and animal-based foods and less (or no) breast milk and simple pureed vegetables, that could cause a shift in microbiota to more of an adult pattern with more clostridial species. I think the Western way of life, which does not encourage breast-feeding beyond a year, and introduces most all food types by one year of age, is creating an unnatural shift in microbiota.

It has been known for more than 30 years that children who continue at least partial breast feedings until age 3 have lower incidences of most all infectious diseases as well as asthma, allergies, and eczema. Since that is not likely to happen with the Western lifestyle, starting an infant on probiotics, fish oil, and vitamin D may help prevent this microbial shift, but I still think food and stress are primary shifters of the microbiome.

This is yet one more study that highlights the importance—and complexity—of gut bacterial composition and development in early life. Refer to my previous blogs and Brenda’s for more information on this topic, and how you can promote optimal gut balance at this critical developmental stage.

References

  1. J. Penders, et al., “Gut microbiota composition and development of atopic manifestations in infancy: the KOALA Birth Cohort Study.” Gut. 2007 May;56(5):661-7.
  2. L. Nylund, et al., “Microarray analysis reveals marked intestinal microbiota aberrancy in infants having eczema compared to healthy children in at-risk for atopic disease.” BMC Microbiol. 2013;13:12.