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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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      Healthy pH levels, whether in the colon or systemic, are found when you eat a high-fiber diet, high in vegetables and fruits, healthy proteins, and healthy fats. Complement this with foods and supplements high in beneficial bacteria, omega-3 fatty acids, and digestive enzymes, and you will be supporting optimal health (which begins in the digestive system).

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Bacteria or Virus? Express Yourself!

Filed in Adults, Antibiotic resistance, Antibiotics, Children, Cold and Flu, Common Cold, Digestive Health, Human Microbiome, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Respiratory issues | Posted by Brenda Watson on 03/11/2016


As this year’s flu and cold season wanes down a bit, I found it heartening to read that science is focusing on a way to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections to help limit over-prescribing of antibiotics. Over the last decades doctors have been far too willing to offer a sad and miserable patient antibiotics, resulting in killing off many of the body’s good bacteria and creating serious bacterial imbalance in their gut!

Antibiotic overuse has also created a global issue termed “antibiotic resistance” where the bad bugs appear to get stronger the more often they are exposed to antibiotics. Research shows these “superbugs” become invulnerable to our current antibiotics creating the potential for more virulent diseases – and that’s another story.

This article from the Wall Street Journal states that nearly 75% of acute respiratory illnesses are viral in nature – and there’s currently no prescribed treatment for a viral infection. Dr Ganiats, a family physician and professor at the University of Miami states “Its often hard to get a person who doesn’t need an antibiotic to accept that.” He believes testing that differentiates bacteria from virus would be very helpful.

The Duke University research is doing just that. It’s designing a blood test to determine whether a respiratory infection is viral or bacterial in nature. At this point, it’s only a research tool, and has an 8-10 hour turn-around time. The hope is to develop a 1-hour blood test that could be used in the doctor’s office. However that test is still 2-3 years away from arriving on the market.

The research focuses on how our body’s genes respond differently to bacteria or viruses. This response called gene expression will turn genes on or off depending on the type of infection present. The study follows how the genes express in the absence of infection as well. Testing genes is believed to offer more dependable results than other types of tests currently available.

In a study using a cohort of 273 that was published last month in the journal Science Translational Medicine, this test was found to be 87% accurate. It was able to differentiate whether the patient had a viral or bacterial infection, or actually was ill due to something other than an infection.

Interesting point to note, sinus issues very commonly indicate an underlying yeast/Candida infection.

Honestly, at the first onset of respiratory symptoms, I would be inclined to max out on probiotics, Vitamin C, along with immune stimulating herbs and ride it out as long as possible and appropriate.

And I realize not everyone has the health convictions I do. No matter what direction your personal choice for healing may lead you, it’s always helpful to understand the underlying issues so we can address them effectively. I’m looking forward to more of this type of testing to be available for all of us.

Please do me a favor – think twice, maybe three times before you decide on an antibiotic. Your gut and also the rest of the world will appreciate your consideration.

Bacteria and the Elderly – Better Days Ahead

Filed in Adults, Antibiotic resistance, Antibiotics, C. difficile, Conditions, Dementia, Diet, Digestive Health, Environmental Toxins, General, Human Microbiome, Immune System, Mental Health, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Road to Perfect Health, Urinary Tract Infections | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/23/2015


Recently I was pleased to come across an article in the Wall Street Journal that discussed the very positive shift away from overuse of antibiotics in nursing homes.

Being the defender of the microbiome that I am, when I read that up to 70% of nursing home residents receive one or more courses of antibiotics every year and up to 75% of those prescriptions are given incorrectly – well that information had the hair all over my body on end! It was reported that the prescriptions were written for the wrong drug, dose, or duration – and this information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oh my!

Apparently, one of the biggest antibiotic misdiagnoses is for treatment of suspected urinary tract infections. Believe it or not, antibiotics to treat supposed UTIs are being given to the elderly for vague symptoms like confusion, the discovery of bacteria in just one urine sample, or even in the case of a random misstep resulting in a fall.

Sadly, since women are much more likely to develop UTIs then men, many of us ladies have experienced the misery of a UTI. Although it’s possible to have a UTI and not experience obvious symptoms, that is much more the exception than the rule. In the companion book to the public television special The Road to Perfect Health, I list symptoms for UTIs. A few are a persistent urge to urinate, painful or burning urination, frequent urination, and the list continues with other very clear indicators. Finding bacteria in the urine is just one piece of a diagnosis. “Confusion” wasn’t even on my list. So does this mean that confusion is only a symptom of UTIs in elderly people? How can this be?

Dr. Christopher Crnich, an infectious disease specialist and researcher at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health states that generally 50% of women and 25% of men in nursing homes have bacteria in their urine. He then emphasized that didn’t automatically indicate a UTI. Bacteria can develop for many other reasons – immune system and hormonal issues for example. I’ll include an imbalanced gut here, resulting from a diet containing too many sugars. By the way, this is true for people of all ages.

This article really got me thinking as I approached the end. According to Dr. Diane Kane, chief medical officer for St. Ann’s Community, a not-for-profit health-care system in Rochester, NY, who is a passionate critic of UTI over-diagnosis, “When you have dementia, you’re going to have good days and you’re going to have bad days. When you have dementia and you have a bad day, please don’t send a urine, because it’s going to be positive.”

As I interpret Dr. Kane’s statement, “bad days” of dementia (more confusion) will physically manifest as an increase of pathogenic bacteria in a person’s urinary system. Following that line of thought, a decrease in the overgrowth of bad bacteria in the body could potentially alleviate some symptoms of dementia or confusion. That could certainly explain why a patient’s confused mental state may seem to improve while on a round of antibiotics.

Unfortunately, if no effort is made to repopulate the gut with good bacteria after antibiotics, research has shown that bad bacteria and yeast readily re-establish. Upon the return of a confused mental state, further urine testing would reveal more bacteria, perpetuating another misdiagnosis of UTI and laying the groundwork for additional antibiotic treatment. Round and round we go.

In my mind, a much better and more logical step toward improved daily function and cognition for the elderly in nursing homes might be to dramatically increase the amount of good bacteria provided to the gut on a daily basis. The good bacteria will displace the bad, supporting and maintaining the integrity of all the organs of elimination, bladder included. And perhaps positively impact confusion and dementia. I’d love to see more research studies created that look at these parameters. Are you with me?

I’ve blogged often on how declining gut health, toxicity and dementia seem to go hand in hand. I’ve also shared research highlighting how probiotics can be effective treatment for that dreaded C. difficile infection that occurs most often in hospitals and long term care facilities, haunting the weak and elderly.

Let’s all envision a day when antibiotics are the last resort should a person be confused, perhaps has fallen, or mild amounts of bacteria are found in their urine. Instead let’s picture a standard of care designed to increase the good bacteria in the body through daily probiotics, kefir, fermented veggies and/or kombucha. Now that’s HEALTH care!

Antibacterial Soap Ingredients Increase Breast Cancer Cell Growth

Filed in Allergies, Antibiotic resistance, Conditions | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/09/2014


Antibacterial soaps are found in millions of homes across the country. In an effort to “scrub away the germs,” people are taking what they think is an extra measure of safety by purchasing these soaps. Unfortunately not only are antibacterial soaps no more effective than washing with good old soap and water, but they also come with major health ramifications—a topic I have blogged on in the past.

Antibacterial soaps:

Researchers recently found another reason to avoid these soaps. The main active ingredient in antibacterial soaps is triclosan, an endocrine-disrupting (hormone-disrupting) chemical (EDC) that acts like a hormone in the body and disrupts normal hormone function. A recent study published in the journal Chemical Research and Toxicology found that triclosan, as well as another antibacterial compound called octylphenol, interfered with genes involved in breast cancer cell growth, resulting in an increased growth of cancer cells in laboratory and animal studies.

“Although the doses of EDCs were somewhat high, we did this to stimulate their effects of daily exposure, as well as body accumulation due to long-term exposure,” noted Kyung-Chul Choi, PhD, lead researcher. “Exposure to EDCs may significantly increase the risk of breast cancer development and adversely affect human health.”

Triclosan is estimated to be found in urine samples of 75 percent of Americans. In May, the state of Minnesota banned antibacterial soaps, the first step toward phasing out these harmful, yet widespread, products. I hope other states follow suit.

If you were not aware of the dangers of antibacterial soaps before, it’s time to change soaps. Washing your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds is a highly effective way to remove germs from your hands. No toxic antibacterial compounds needed.

Antimicrobial Soap Compound Linked to Nasal Bacterial Growth

Filed in Antibiotic resistance, Environmental Toxins | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/02/2014


Do you have a bottle of antimicrobial soap on your sink because you think that it’s the best way to kill 99.99 percent of germs? A little compound called triclosan is the antimicrobial responsible for the germ-killing effects of antimicrobial soaps, and it is also found in a number of personal care products including shampoos and toothpastes. What advertising for these products fails to mention, however, is that overuse of triclosan is contributing the development of super bugs—microbes that are resistant to normal antimicrobials. I have blogged about the harmful effects of triclosan a number of times.

A new study published in the journal mBio, the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, researchers found triclosan in the nasal passages of 41 percent of adults sampled. They found that a higher percentage of people with triclosan also had colonization by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus.

“It’s really common in hand soaps, toothpastes, and mouthwashes, but there’s no evidence it does a better job than regular soap,” said Blaise Boles, PhD, senior author. “This agent may have unintended consequences in our bodies. It could promote S. aureus nasal colonization, putting some people at increased risk for infection.”

Antibacterial soap is simply not necessary. If you are in the habit of using it, do your research. Triclosan is overused, and the consequences of its use are far greater than anyone could have imagined. It’s time two switch back to old-fashioned soap and water.

Antibiotics in Agriculture Impacting Microbes in Soil

Filed in Antibiotic resistance, Antibiotics, General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 05/26/2014


The use of antibiotics in raising livestock is widespread, so much so that it’s added as a growth promoter to the drinking water of many animals. As a result of overuse, the antibiotics are excreted from these animals in manure and urine, which results in the deposit of antibiotics into the soil. A recent study published in the Public Library of Sciences ONE journal revealed that the repeated application of one particular antibiotic, sulfadiazine, resulted in a decrease in the diversity of soil microbes along with an increase in harmful microbes.

“This means a loss of fertility and, thus, in the long run, a decline in crop yields,” noted Michael Schloter, PhD, lead researcher. He also commented on the increase in harmful bacteria, saying “The increase in human pathogenic microorganisms in the environment has wide-reaching consequences for human health.”

It is crystal clear that antibiotics are being overused, and that overuse has grave implications for our health. Antibiotics in personal care products, antibiotics in agriculture, antibiotic prescriptions for every little sniffle—all of these uses for antibiotics contribute to the development of pathogens more dangerous than the original bugs we sought treat in the first place. Schloter summed it up nicely when he said, “We must therefore urgently develop a new mindset as regards the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry.”

In the meantime, if you eat meat or dairy, opt for those brands that do not use antibiotics to help keep antibiotics out of our soils.

 

Antibiotic Resistance—A Call for Global Response

Filed in Antibiotic resistance, Antibiotics, Cold and Flu, General, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Respiratory issues | Posted by lsmith on 12/11/2013


A new report published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal warns that “we are at the dawn of a post-antibiotic era,” with “almost all disease-causing bacteria resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat them.”1 The gravity of the problem was summed up in a commentary on the report: “Rarely has modern medicine faced such a grave threat. Without antibiotics, treatments from minor surgery to major transplants could become impossible,” and “infection-related mortality rates in developed countries might return to those of the early 20th century.2 The report describes the global situation of antibiotic resistance, its major causes and consequences (which affect “everybody in the world”), and identifies key areas in which action is urgently needed.

The report states that the global burden of resistance is probably concentrated in three major categories: longer duration of illness and higher death rates in patients with resistant infections, increasing costs of treatment for resistant infections, and inability to perform procedures (i.e. surgeries) that rely on antibiotics to prevent infection. Sadly, this message is not new. In fact, back in 1945 Sir Alexander Fleming warned of the danger of antibiotic resistance resulting from overuse of antibiotics. Yet here we are almost 70 years later, still largely ignoring age-old advice.

The report calls for national commitment, on a global scale, to the implementation of successful strategies for “getting out of the impasse.” They call for rational use of antibiotics in hospitals and in the community. They call for education and changing social norms. (The attitude, “But I always take/prescribe antibiotics for a cough/sore throat/cold/urinary tract infection/acne/etc.” must change if we are to reverse the impasse.) They call for an increased role of better diagnostics, a reduction of the inappropriate use of antibiotics in agriculture, and for new antibiotics and alternative strategies to treat existing and future antibiotic-resistant infections.

“The future of antibiotics and survival of every human being that acquires a bacterial infection will depend on the serious commitment of many stakeholders, including government authorities, policy makers, health-care workers, university teachers, pharmaceutical companies, and consumers,” they warn.

The judicious use of antibiotics is crucial not only at the global population level, but also at the individual level. If you take antibiotics frequently, your bacteria gradually become more resistant to those antibiotics and one day you find that the antibiotic that always worked suddenly does not. Then you have to take a broad-spectrum antibiotic, which targets a broad range of bacteria. But the more you take broad spectrum antibiotics, the more likely a broad range of your bacteria are to become resistant. Do you see the vicious cycle here?

According to the CDC, “nearly 2 million people in the United States acquire an infection while in a hospital, resulting in 90,000 deaths. More than 70 percent of the bacteria that cause these infections are resistant to at least one of the antibiotics commonly used to treat them.”3

Certainly, if you are treating an infection that cannot be addressed by any other means, then antibiotics are necessary. But there are many conditions for which antibiotics should not be used, yet their use continues. Brenda and I have written many times about the inappropriate use of antibiotics and the threat of antibiotic resistance. See those articles for more information.

The opposite of danger, some say, is opportunity. I think it is high time that the medical science and the medical profession look at nutritional and lifestyle factors that predispose to infection and cause prolonged illness and/or death.

A real preventative health care program would include the following: prebiotics, probiotics, and cultured beverages/foods, a plant-based diet, optimum amounts of omega-3 oils and fish, vitamin D3, vitamin C (oral and intravenous), zinc, selenium, magnesium, and multiple mushrooms (from supplements and/or food) to name a few.

If you are under your physician’s care and you are doing all of the above, it is possible that you may be able to shorten your antibiotic course from 10 days to 3 to 5 days, which may help prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea as well as further resistance to antibiotics. If you do this and your symptoms return, immediately recontact your physician.

All of the above have been shown to balance immunity and prevent, treat, and survive many microbial infections, be they bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic. There is testing that can assure that the levels of most of these nutrients are in the high normal range and would confer protection, as well as be therapeutic. It would be interesting to see how nutrient deficient are the 23,000 people who die annually from an infection that has high antibiotic resistance.

So we are now basically being forced back to the natural order of things in which bacteria fight bacteria. With healthy, flexible immune balance most people will likely survive serious infections with appropriate lifestyle, diet, supplements, stress reduction, exercise, sleep, and good elimination.

 

References

  1. Laxminarayan R, Duse A, Wattal C, et al., “Antibiotic resistance—the need for global solutions.” Lancet Infect Dis. 2013;13(12):1057–98.
  2. Howard SJ, Catchpole M, Watson J, et al., “Antibiotic resistance: global response needed.” Lancet Infect Dis. 2013;12(13):1001–3.
  3. http://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm143568.htm

Gut Microbes in Children Carry Numerous Antibiotic Resistance Genes

Filed in Antibiotic resistance, Antibiotics, Children, Digestive Health, General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/09/2013


The microbes inside digestive tracts of healthy children have many antibiotic resistance genes, according to a recent study published in the Public Library of Sciences ONE journal. These genes may place the children at higher risk of developing resistance to antibiotic treatments.

“From birth to age 5, children receive more antibiotics than during any other five-year time span in their lives,” noted Gautam Dantas, PhD, lead author. “Frequent exposure to antibiotics accelerates the spread of antibiotic resistance. Our research highlights how important it is to only use these drugs when they are truly needed.”

The researchers analyzed microbial genomes of the microbes present in fecal samples from 22 children aged six months to 19 years. They were able to identify 2,500 new antibiotic resistance genes—30 percent more than were currently known—in this relatively small sample of individuals.

“There were quite a few resistance genes in microbes from every child we looked at. This was true even in children who were only six months old,” stated Dantas. They plan to study these children at multiple points throughout their lives. Antibiotic-resistant infections cause at least 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths each year (and that’s a conservative estimate according to the Centers for Disease Control).

I often highlight the latest news about antibiotic resistance because it’s an issue that needs to be taken more seriously. Although scientists have been warning of the detriments of antibiotic resistance since the 1940s, little has been done to change our course, which is headed toward the ineffectiveness of antibiotics, arguably the most important class of drugs ever created. Antibiotics need to be used only when necessary. Period.