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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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4 Ways to Fuel Weight Loss

Filed in Adults, Constipation, Diet, Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health, Fermentation, Inflammation, Prebiotics, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Stress, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/02/2017


Fuel Weight Loss - brendawatson.com

As we say goodbye to the month of January, and begin to notice Valentine’s Day candy donning the grocery store shelves, I hope that your New Year’s resolutions to shift your dietary choices have not waned! No Peeps for you! With that thought in mind, I wanted to share 4 things that will most definitely fuel your weight loss. Let’s say goodbye to that plateau! Don’t give up! Remember, it takes three weeks to establish a new habit and we are barely beyond that in 2017~

It’s time to give yourself a break, especially if you made a dramatic switch from a so-called “Western diet” last month, one that was high in saturated fats and sugars, to a more healthy, calorie restricted, plant based diet. Am I talking to you? There is a good reason that your weight loss may have stalled. It’s all about your microbiome, the microbes in your gut.

You need to know that in many cases it takes time for your good gut bacteria populations to multiply and restore. Increasing your probiotic (good guy) population is at the core of successful and lasting weight loss. Do not despair – there are excellent things you can do help rebalance your gut TODAY, and continue to melt those pounds away!

 

1. Include a daily probiotic supplement.

That choice will directly encourage positive changes in those communities of good bacteria in your gut. When you’re considering a probiotic, look for one that offers at least 10 different types/strains of bacteria and at least 30 billion live cultures to increase your diversity. Make sure the formula includes bifidobacteria, the main bacteria in your colon.

 

2. Add fermented foods to your diet.

Fermented goodies are an excellent way to invite new and different microbes into your life. The process of fermentation provides lactobacillus strains of bacteria – necessary for proper absorption of nutrients along with intestinal repair and decreased inflammation, just to name a few important jobs those good guys do. Fermented veggies are delicious as condiments or even side dishes daily. Kefir provides you with an extensive variety of bacterial strains. Kombucha is rich in both healthy yeasts and bacteria. Let these foods be your friends!

 

3. Increase fiber in your diet.

Soluble fiber acts as a prebiotic, feeding those good microbes in your gut. Prebiotic foods like raw dandelion greens, garlic, leaks, jicama, and raw or cooked onions are delicious to include in your daily meals. Acacia fiber is an excellent fiber supplement that is tasteless and simple to add to your foods or smoothies for an extra fiber boost. Insoluble fiber found in vegetables, oats, beans and legumes provides bulk for your stool, which leads to me to #4.

 

4. Avoid constipation!

Many people notice initially when they make a dramatic dietary shift, they begin to experience changes in bowel habits. That makes total sense since the bacteria and other microbes also reorganize with dietary change. During the shift, both weight loss and bowel regularity may slow. Bottom line, constipated people simply don’t lose weight easily. Their bodies are too overwhelmed with toxicity and inflammation.

Should you experience constipation, please make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids. All three of my previous suggestions help to normalize your bowel and relieve constipation. However, depending on your circumstance, for a short time it may be wise to consider supplementing with a natural laxative formula. Remember, it’s imperative to avoid constipation, no matter what. Look for natural ingredients in a supplement formulation like magnesium, aloe, rhubarb and triphala.

Many people have great success adding magnesium citrate or other form of magnesium into their daily regimen. Magnesium deficiency is widespread so looking into ways to add magnesium for optimal health is always a great idea for well-being.

Learn more about magnesium here.

AND, hang in there! Be kind to yourself. Please don’t stress about immediate results. We know that stress itself decreases your ability to lose those pounds. Instead focus on your increased energy levels, perhaps a skin condition is resolving or you notice your mood has improved and/or your mind has cleared! It only gets better as your gut balances.

HOPE after Cancer – A Clinical Trial

Filed in Adults, Cancer, Chronic Disease, Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health, Enzymes, Immune System, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Prebiotics, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Ulcerative Colitis | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/30/2015


I’m writing to you today as I fly home from Baltimore. My assistant, Dr. Jemma Sinclaire and I traveled there to officially begin a clinical trial that has been in the works for a couple of years now. I hope you enjoy the story of how this project came to be.

Years ago I met Dr. Amando Sardi. He’s an extraordinary gastroenterologist and oncological surgeon at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Sardi and his team have perfected a surgical technique that has saved countless lives. When cancer is found in the gastrointestinal tract, many times a part of the intestine needs to be removed, along with other organs, like the gall bladder, spleen, and/or parts of the liver or stomach that may also be cancerous. Removal of parts of the intestine is called “bowel resection”.

Historically, after a surgery of this type, a person would then have to undergo whole body chemotherapy, a difficult and extremely taxing process to endure. It was not uncommon for the cancer to be technically gone, however the patient may have passed away from complications of the treatment.

Dr. Sardi’s unique treatment “perfuses the peritoneum” with chemotherapy. That means that after he removes the obvious cancerous growths and parts of the intestines that are involved, he fills the intestinal cavity with the cancer killing drug instead of allowing it to travel the entire body. In this way, the medicine is focused in the exact area where any remaining cancer cells may be, sparing the rest of the body from the debilitating side effects of chemo.

The total procedure is called Cytoreductive Surgery with Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) and Dr. Sardi has an amazing survival rate when he performs this protocol. However, after the initial healing phase, the quality of life the patients experience is often “in the toilet”. Sadly, chronic diarrhea is often unrelenting.

The term “Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS)” is used to describe those symptoms that may arise after bowel resection, diarrhea being one of the most persistent.

Initially, after a dramatic procedure of this type, there is a period of time during which a person’s body is stabilizing and adjusting, attempting to compensate for functional loss. It constantly amazes me how the human body is able to recover from that level of trauma.

Then the next phase of healing begins. Dr. Sardi’s vision, to be explored during the clinical trial, is to introduce appropriate nutritional support, through diet and supplementation along with targeted medication that will help a person to experience the highest quality of life possible. Surviving cancer surgery is one thing. Living life after cancer with a compromised intestinal tract is quite another.

This clinical trial was birthed in a conversation Dr. Sardi and I had about what might be possible for these people who had already endured so very much.

Through the Renew HOPE Foundation, Dr. Leonard Smith, Jemma and I along with Dr. Sardi’s team have designed a one-year research project that includes 10 patients who are all at least 2 years post surgery. Their cancer markers are within normal ranges. They are grateful to be alive.

We are teaching them about the HOPE Formula (High fiber, Omega-3s, Probiotics and digestive Enzymes) which I believe are the foundation of digestive health – for everyone.

Additionally we’re using aspects of the Skinny Gut Diet and are helping these people to rebalance the bacteria in their remaining bowel. It always comes back to supporting the good bacteria when you’re goal is improving digestive wellness and supporting the immune system.

I hope that soon we will be able to relate to you that the quality of life these people experience will be much improved.

I felt truly honored to meet with our first 5 patients along with Dr. Sardi and his excellent team, and I look forward to our next year together. I promise to keep you updated.

 

 

An Apple a Day Feeds Your Gut Bacteria and Keeps Obesity Away

Filed in Diet, Human Microbiome, Prebiotics, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/03/2014


You’ve heard the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but never has it rung more true than it does now. According to researchers from Washington State University, Granny Smith apples act as a prebiotic in the gut, altering the bacteria in obese individuals to be more like those found in lean individuals. Their study, published recently in the journal Food Chemistry, highlight the beneficial effects of the apples on gut bacteria.

Apples are a good source of fiber. Different varieties of apple carry different amounts of fiber and other compounds. Granny Smith apples are high in fiber and polyphenols, and are lower in available carbohydrates than other, sweeter apples. These properties make it particularly beneficial to the gut bacteria.

“The non-digestible compounds in the Granny Smith apples actually changed the proportions of fecal bacteria from obese mice to be similar to that of lean mice,” noted Giuliana Noratto, PhD, the study’s lead researcher.

In the study, the researchers tested the effects of Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, McIntosh, and Red Delicious apples on the gut bacteria of obese mice, and compared it with the gut bacteria of lean mice. The Granny Smith apples had the highest amount of non-digestible compounds and outperformed the other apples when it came to altering gut bacteria levels in the obese mice.

The effect our gut microbes have on our health—particularly when it comes to weight gain and obesity—is amazing. It’s the topic of my new book, The Skinny Gut Diet, and a topic Dr. Smith and I have covered many times on this blog. I love Granny Smith apples. They are lower in sugar than other apples, and so they make a great snack. Spreading almond butter on half a Granny Smith apple is the perfect snack—and it just got even better with the results of this study.

Metabolic Effect of Prebiotics and Probiotics in Overweight People

Filed in Diabetes, Heart Disease, Human Microbiome, Obesity, Prebiotics, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by lsmith on 11/26/2014


Brenda and I have talked at length, here on the blog and also in our books, about the importance of gut bacterial balance to weight management. Having the wrong microbes in your gut predisposes you to weight gain, the topic of our last book, The Skinny Gut Diet. Following this line of thinking, researchers have tested the effects of pre- and probiotics on a range of metabolic abnormalities in humans. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Clinical Nutrition found that prebiotics and synbiotics (prebiotics plus probiotics) had a beneficial effect on a range of metabolic abnormalities in overweight or obese adults.1

Remember that prebiotics are compounds—usually soluble fibers—that act as food for the beneficial gut bacteria. They help to increase the levels or activity of the beneficial bacteria in the gut.

The analysis included 513 overweight or obese adult participants from thirteen different clinical trials. Nine of the trials administered prebiotics, and four of the trials administered synbiotics. The prebiotics were mostly inulin-type fibers at doses ranging from 5.5 to 21 grams per day, while the synbiotics were composed of a maximum of 2.5 grams of the prebiotic FOS (fructooligosaccharide) along with 270 million to 5 billion cultures of Bifidobacterium, and/or Lactobacillus, and/or Streptococcus probiotic bacteria daily.

Prebiotic supplementation was found to reduce total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) concentrations, while also reducing triglycerides and increasing HDL-cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) in participants with diabetes. Synbiotic supplementation was found to reduce fasting insulin and triglyceride levels.

“The supplementation of prebiotics or synbiotics could take part in the management of obesity-related comorbidities, such as dyslipidemia and insulin resistance.”

Some of the studies reported abdominal symptoms such as bloating, pain, and nausea, but they also noted improvement of symptoms during the supplementation and no withdrawal of participants from the studies, which the researchers believe is due to an adaptation period. Some people have difficulty tolerating inulin-derived prebiotics (including FOS), which are fermented in the digestive tract to a high degree and can trigger symptoms.

The authors of the review did not look at the effects of taking probiotics alone for some reason. Previous studies administering fermented milk and yogurt containing probiotics have found beneficial effects on cholesterol levels.2 Another study found that a high-dose, multistrain probiotic reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL-cholesterol, as well as increased HDL-cholesterol in overweight adults.3 More studies are needed to determine the effects of probiotics alone on metabolic abnormalities in overweight and obese adults.

The really good news is whether you take prebiotics, synbiotics, or just probiotics, they all seem to have a significant benefit on mitigating metabolic syndrome (high cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides, insulin, blood sugar, and blood pressure, and low HDL, along with increased waist size). Metabolic syndrome is now the world’s greatest health challenge.

Since fiber is critical, it would be wise to eat an 80%+ plant-based diet or at least take prebiotics in addition to probiotics. As we have stated many times: Taking beneficial bacteria plus prebiotic fibers leads to major benefits in immune balance by modulating inflammation. In other words, you will have appropriate inflammation if attacked by an infection, but not the inflammation that is the foundation of metabolic syndrome, autoimmunity, allergies and most all disease conditions.

Start out slow with these products and increase gradually. If there is too much gas, bloating, or abdominal discomfort, stop for a few days and start back on a lower dose. You wouldn’t think of doing a marathon without training, likewise it may take time and persistence to retrain your intestinal response to good bacteria and fiber. Those on an 80 percent or more plant-based diet usually adapt quicker since they are already eating plenty of fiber, the foods preferred by beneficial bacteria.

References

  1. Beserra BTS, Fernandes R, do Rosario VA, et al., “A systematic review and meta-analysis of the prebiotics and synbiotics effects on glycaemia, insulin concentrations and lipid parameters in adult patients with overweight or obesity.” Clin Nutr. 2014; online ahead of print.
  2. Pereira DI and Gibson GR, “Effects of consumption of probiotics and prebiotics on serum lipid levels in humans.” Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 2002;37(4):259-81.
  3. Rajkumar H, Mahmood N, Kumar M, et al., “Effect of probiotic (VSL#3) and omega-3 on lipid profile, insulin sensitivity, inflammatory markers, and gut colonization in overweight adults: a randomized, controlled trial.” Mediators Inflamm. 2014;2014:348959.

Ultra-Low Diversity of Gut Microbes During Critical Illness

Filed in Antibiotics, Human Microbiome, Prebiotics, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by lsmith on 10/29/2014


The intestinal tract is a main source of health-care associated pathogenic infections, not surprisingly due to the high concentration of microbes residing there.1 The GI tract is also considered to the primary reservoir for the emergence of antibiotic resistance of such infections.2 In patients with prolonged critical illness, the risk of developing a gut-derived sepsis (blood infection) is increased.

In a recent study published in the journal mBio, researchers analyzed the gut microbial composition of 14 critically ill patients under prolonged stay in an intensive care unit.3 They found ultra-low-diversity communities of bacteria consisting of only one to four species in 30 percent of the patients. This ultra-low diversity is the result of harsh conditions in the gut during critical illness, including multiple antibiotic exposure, reduced nutrition, physiological stress, and additional medications, some of which also affect gut microbes (acid-suppressors and opioids, in particular).

The most common bacteria in these patients detected by 16S rRNA sequencing were Enterococcus and Streptococcus as well as microbes under the family Enterobacteriaceae. Culture-based analyses also revealed the presence of Candida albicans and Candida glabrata in about 75 percent of the ICU patients. Four patients harbored a 2-member pathogen community consisting of one Candida and one bacterial organism.

“Here we demonstrate that the intestinal microbiome in critically ill patients can be considered a “damaged organ” given that its main cellular mass, the normal microbiota, is disrupted and dominated by pathobiota which may be an ever-threatening source for disseminating pathogens,” concluded the researchers.

In further experiments, the researchers determined that the ultra-low-diversity communities showed low virulence (pathogenicity) when they were grouped together, or living commensally as “friendly” organisms. The bacteria were able to keep the fungal Candida species in check, reducing their ability to become pathogenic. The researchers also tested the use of phosphate-polyethylene glycol (an anti-virulence compound) and found that it helped to reduce the pathogenicity of the microbes, suggesting that it might be a useful compound for critically ill patients with an ultra-low diversity of antibiotic-resistant gut microbes.

“A major challenge in treating critically ill patients is the overuse of antibiotics, a practice that is often unavoidable with patients exposed to multiple invasive procedures and extreme physiologic stress,” noted the researchers.

Further study of compounds that positively affect gut microbe composition in this vulnerable population is needed.

Many critically ill patients are now getting a slow, continuous drip of liquid food fortified with gut supportive supplements such as zinc, glutamine, arginine, vitamin C, omega-3s, and many more. These feedings are administered either via a thin nasogastric tube or an endoscopically placed gastric feeding tube.

I personally think it is high time that prebiotics and probiotics be added to the feeding tube line. Many of these tubes have an extra opening to administer meds. The prebiotics could be administered with the continuous liquid feedings and the probiotics be injected via side port, ideally between antibiotic dosages. This allows for maintenance of microbial diversity and repopulation of probiotic species that diminish with chronic stress, which allows pathogenic bacteria and fungi to multiply out of control.

It has been well documented that probiotics ingest prebiotic fibers, creating short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate, acetate, and propionate. All three of these have been shown to bind to GPR43, and GPR41 receptors in the gut lining and on the surface of white blood cells. This action majorly helps to balance the immune system so that it can appropriately deal with pathogenic bacteria and fungi without overdoing it and leading to autoimmune disease.

This is only one action of SCFAs, and only one of many ways immunity is balanced when supported by good nutrition and beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, and fungi such as Saccharomyces boulardii, signaling through many different pathways. The optimum situation is to provide the nutrients, supplements, and probiotics that support our “damaged organ”—the gut lining and beneficial microbes.

This article provides a good picture of what happens when our normal microbiome, which normally consists of several hundred microbial species, is reduced to 2 to 4 pathogenic bacteria and fungi while everything else has been starved or killed by antimicrobials. It makes perfect sense to replenish that which has been lost, a practice that should be, and is slowly becoming, standard of care today.

References

  1. Alverdy JC and Chang EB, “The re-emerging role of the intestinal microflora in critical illness and inflammation: why the gut hypothesis of sepsis syndrome will not go away.” J Leukoc Biol. 2008 Mar;83(3):461-6.
  2. Salyers AA, Gupta A, and Wang Y, “Human intestinal bacteria as reservoirs for antibiotic resistance genes.” Trends Microbiol. 2004 Sep;12(9):412-6.
  3. Zaborin A, Smith D, Garfield K, et al., “Membership and behavior of ultra-low-diversity pathogen communities present in the gut of humans during prolonged critical illness.” mBio. 23 2014 Sep;5(5):e01361–14.

Low-Dose Antibiotics During Early Infancy Trigger Obesity Later in Life

Filed in Infancy, Obesity, Prebiotics, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by lsmith on 09/03/2014


Early life is a critical development period in many respects, and particularly as it relates to gut microbial composition. Even before birth, gut microbes are transferred from mother to fetus, a transfer that continues during birth and later via breast milk. Once established, gut microbes in the infant play a protective role on the infant’s health.

A disturbance of gut microbial balance during early development has been linked to obesity. Epidemiological studies have found that exposure to antibiotics during infancy can lead to weight gain later in life.1-3 Animal studies have confirmed this link and determined that low-dose antibiotics administered after weaning lead to an increased fat mass, altered metabolic hormones, liver metabolism, and microbiota composition.4

A recent study published in the journal Cell followed up this research and confirmed that the increased fat mass was the result of changes in gut bacteria and not to the antibiotic itself.5 Low-dose penicillin was administered either to the mother before birth and then to mouse pups until weaning, or they were administered to pups after weaning. In both cases, alterations in gut bacterial balance occurred, but they fully recovered after antibiotics were stopped. On the other hand, metabolic changes occurred that persisted into adulthood. Increased growth, which included lean mass, fat mass, bone mass, or a combination were induced by the antibiotic exposure. In addition, decreases were found in four main bacteria: Lactobacillus, Allobaculum, Rikenellaceae, and Candidatus arthromitus. Finally, a decrease in intestinal immune responses and impaired intestinal barrier function were found, which may help explain how bacteria might trigger metabolic dysfunction.

To confirm that these metabolic effects were the result of microbial alterations, the researchers transplanted feces from the obese mice into germ-free mice who inherited the altered gut microbes and went on to gain fat mass in a similar manner. They proposed the term microbe-induced obesity (MIO) as a condition of increased fat accumulation that results from alterations in gut bacteria. This study suggests that losses of the four bacteria are detrimental when they occur (Lactobacillus, Allobaculum, Rikenellaceae, and Candidatus) during the critical developmental period of early infancy.

“These four organisms have either metabolic and/or immunologic interactions, which may contribute to the observed protection from weight gain in the control animals,” noted the researchers.

“This highlights a need for judicious use of antibiotics in clinical practice in early life,” noted Martin Blaser, MD, lead researcher and author of the eye-opening book Missing Microbes. Brenda and I discuss some of his research in our new book, The Skinny Gut Diet.

Microbe-induced obesity in conjunction with diet-induced obesity (because the two go hand in hand as we discuss in our book) are a sure set up for difficult-to-lose weight gain. This was confirmed by feeding a high-fat diet to the mice given low-dose penicillin, in which they found an amplified increase in fat mass. The researchers suggest that restoration of lost microbes after antibiotic use during infancy as a potential strategy to reverse MIO and its related effects.

It is clear to me that pre- and probiotics during pregnancy will prove to be a major way to ensure that the immune system and intestinal lining of the fetus will optimally develop, which may negate the need for antibiotics, for the most part. In the event that there is a need for antibiotics, I think it will soon become standard of care to place everyone who is taking antibiotics on probiotics to maintain microbiome stability. Probiotics can provide high colony count numbers with increased species of commensal bacteria to block the emergence and dominance of pathogenic bacteria that can spell disaster.

Further studies are needed to confirm these effects in humans, and to determine what species are key to the prevention of weight gain in later life.

References

  1. Ajslev TA, Andersen CS, Gamborg M, et al., “Childhood overweight after establishment of the gut microbiota: the role of delivery mode, pre-pregnancy weight and early administration of antibiotics.” Int J Obes (Lond). 2011 Apr;35(4):522–9.
  2. Murphy R, Stewart AW, Braithwaite I, et al., “Antibiotic treatment during infancy and increased body mass index in boys: an international cross-sectional study.” Int J Obes (Lond). 2014 Aug;38(8):1115–9.
  3. Trasande L, Blustein J, Liu M, et al., “Infant antibiotic exposures and early-life body mass.” Int J Obes (Lond). Jan 2013; 37(1): 16–23.
  4. Cho I, Yamanishi S, Cox L, et al., “Antibiotics in early life alter the murine colonic microbiome and adiposity.” Nature. 2012 Aug 30;488(7413):621–6.
  5. Cox LM, Yamanishi S, Sohn J, et al., “Altering the intestinal microbiota during a critical developmental window has lasting metabolic consequences.” Cell. 2014 Aug 14;158(4):705–21.

Gut Microbes Are Target for Treatment of Diabetes

Filed in Diabetes, Human Microbiome, Prebiotics | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/08/2014


Prediabetes is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. It means that blood sugar levels are elevated, but not quite high enough to be considered full-blown diabetes. Without intervention, prediabetes will likely become type 2 diabetes within 10 years. At least 86 million US adults over age 20 have prediabetes, yet 9 out of 10 of them do not even know it. That means over 77 million adults are walking around with prediabetes unknowingly right this moment. That’s a startling fact.

Over the past few years, scientists have been uncovering a link between gut bacteria and the development of metabolic conditions such as diabetes. The research is fascinating. A study recently presented at the meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society helps to further our understanding of this link.

Twenty eight adults with prediabetes were given a new drug that contains bioactive food ingredients: inulin (a prebiotic fiber), beta glucan (another fiber), and polyphenolic antioxidant compounds, or a placebo twice daily for four weeks. The drug, called NM504, is the first in a new class of therapies called GI microbiome modulators. After four weeks, the group who had taken the prebiotic/fiber/antioxidant drug had lower blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity (the body’s ability to lower blood sugar levels) when compared to those taking placebo.

“We believe that modern Western diets contribute to development of type 2 diabetes, in part because they change the habitat of the microorganisms that reside in the gut. This shifts the microbial populations that live there in ways that affect metabolic health,” noted Mark Heiman, PhD, lead researcher. “This work indicates a new therapeutic target—the GI microbiome—that has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.”

These findings support the idea that it’s not only what you eat—but what your gut microbes do with what you eat—that affects your health. Choosing foods that support a healthy balance of microbes in your gut is the first step to gaining control of your health.

  • Eat plenty of living foods: non-starchy vegetables, low-sugar fruits, and fermented foods.
  • Eat more healthy fats.
  • Steer clear of sugar, grains, and starchy foods that affect blood sugar and feed potentially harmful bacteria.
  • Eat protein at every meal and snack.

Gut Balance the Missing Solution for Overweight Children and Teens?

Filed in Children, Human Microbiome, Inflammation, Obesity, Prebiotics, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/23/2014


Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the past 30 years. According to the CDC, in 2012 more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. The long-term health effects of obesity in children include an array of chronic diseases. More needs to be done to prevent childhood obesity so that the children of today do not grow up to be the chronically ill of tomorrow.

Probiotic Prebiotic Lower Inflammation

In a recent study published in the monthly publication of the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics, Jornal de Pediatra, researchers studied overweight and obese children and teens taking the prebiotic fructooligosaccharide (FOS) in addition to vitamins A, C, and E plus a multi-strain probiotic formula containing the following strains:

Lactobacillus casei
Lactobacillus rhamnosus
Lactobacillus acidophilus
Lactobacillus bulgaricus
Streptococcus thermophilus
Bifidobacterium breve
Bifidobacterium longum

They found that, when compared to children taking a placebo, those children taking the synbiotic (probiotic + prebiotic) formula experienced a decrease in weight associated with a decrease in two inflammatory markers in the blood, TNF-alpha and IL-6, as well as an increase in adiponectin, a hormone released from fat cells that plays a role in regulation of insulin sensitivity (blood sugar control) and energy.

They found that, when compared to children taking a placebo, those children taking the synbiotic (probiotic + prebiotic) formula experienced a decrease in weight associated with a decrease in two inflammatory markers in the blood, TNF-alpha and IL-6, as well as an increase in adiponectin, a hormone released from fat cells that plays a role in regulation of insulin sensitivity (blood sugar control) and energy.

“It appears that, because of the association between obesity and inflammation, it can be proposed that the favorable effects of probiotics in controlling inflammation may play a role in obesity prevention and control,” stated the researchers.

This study is more evidence of a strong link between gut bacteria and metabolic health. Truly, our gut bacteria are in control of our health and affect all areas of the body—especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. We can no longer consider that food and exercise are the only factors in achieving an ideal weight. As it turns out, the bacteria in our guts have a bigger say than even the foods we eat.

Many people do not yet realize that probiotics and prebiotics can have excellent benefits outside of the digestive tract, as found in this study. While it is true that a healthy diet plays a main role in helping children and teens get healthy—and stay healthy, balancing gut bacteria may be the missing piece that prevents these children from getting well. Share this article with parents you know who might not be aware of the wide-ranging positive effects of gut balance.

Prebiotics May Help Reduce Infection in Young Children

Filed in Children, Cold and Flu, Common Cold, Immune System, Prebiotics, Respiratory issues | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/09/2014


On average, children in the United States develop six respiratory tract infections each year. Another infection—gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach flu—accounts for over 1.5 million outpatients visits, 200,000 hospital visits, and about 300 deaths each year. Together, these infections account for a considerable degree of illness in children. If you are a parent, you are familiar with the frequency of these conditions during childhood.

The search continues for therapies that will reduce these childhood infections. A recent review published in the journal Nutrition Reviews highlights a potential answer for children under two.

The authors conclude that the evidence “suggests that preventive use of prebiotics decreases the rate of infections requiring antibiotic therapy in infants and children aged 0–24 months.”

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.

The researchers also state that prebiotics may be an effective preventive treatment for decreasing the rate of overall infections in these children. The prebiotics used in the studies include oligosaccharides, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), fructans, inulin, and oligofrutose.

Interestingly, the researchers were unable to find studies using prebiotics to prevent infections in children over the age of two. They suggest such studies be undertaken, since older children are commonly introduced to new environments in which they are exposed to acute infections.

I recently blogged about a meta-analysis that found beneficial effects of probiotics for the treatment and prevention of cold and flu in children. Together, these two papers give us strong evidence that gut microbes have a major effect on our children’s immune health both in and out of the digestive system.

When taken together, probiotics and prebiotics pack a powerful punch. There is a synergistic effect between the two. Fortunately, you can eat foods high in the prebiotic inulin. Chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, leeks, onions, garlic, and bananas all contain high amounts. A probiotic supplement plus prebiotic foods is a great combination to help maintain a healthy balance bacteria in your gut.

Human Placenta Contains a Community of Microbes

Filed in Conditions, Human Microbiome, Infancy, Prebiotics, Pregnant women, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Urinary Tract Infections | Posted by lsmith on 06/11/2014


The human microbiome is vast, accounting for 90 percent of our cells. Microbial composition varies from site to site across a range of niches in and on the body. Some niches—such as the colon—are colonized by a very high number of microbes. Other niches—such as the stomach—are colonized by lower amount of microbes. There are yet other areas of the body that are thought to be sterile. One such site—until recently—is the placenta that develops in the uterus during pregnancy.

Previously, it was thought that a healthy placenta is free of microbes. A recent study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine found that placenta does, however, contain an array of microbes. They analyzed the placenta of 320 women who had given birth and found that 10 percent of the placenta is made up of nonpathogenic microbes from the Firmicutes, Tenericutes, Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Fusobacteria phyla, or groups of bacteria. Most interestingly, they found that the bacteria in placenta is made up of a unique community that most resembles bacteria from the mouth, which may help explain the connection between periodontal disease and preterm birth. Only one participant of the study had periodontal disease, however, so further studies will be needed to determine whether periodontal pathogens are transmitted to placenta.

The study also found that women who had urinary tract infections during early pregnancy were at higher risk of premature birth, and the infectious bacteria turned up in the placenta even when the infection was cured. The researchers are not sure whether it was the infection or if it was the antibiotic treatment of the infection that had an effect on preterm birth.

It appeared as though vaginal gut bacterial colonization, maternal obesity, or mode of delivery were not linked to the composition of placental bacteria. More studies will be needed to determine just what role these bacteria play, how they are acquired, and whether they contribute to the development of gut bacteria in the infants.

It is not a surprise to me that placenta contains bacteria. Studies have previously found that commensal bacteria exist in umbilical cord blood of healthy neonates,2 and I have long suspected that infants receive the benefit of their mother’s bacteria even before birth.  Another recent study found DNA from Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in the placenta of newborn infants. These studies will continue to elaborate our understanding of how microbes are an integral component to each and every phase of our lives. I would bet that women who eat a diet high in plant-based foods with pre- and probiotics as well as some fermented foods will have healthier babies with highly educated gut and immune systems trained in utero by mom’s beneficial bacteria.

References

  1. Aagaard K, Ma J, Antony K, et al., “The placenta harbors a unique microbiome.” Sci Transl Med. 2014 May 21;237(6):ra65.
  2. Jimenez E, Fernandez S, and Marin ML, et al. “Isolation of commensal bacteria from umbilical cord blood of healthy neonates born by cesarean section.” Curr Microbiol. 2005 Oct;51(4):270-4.