Monthly Archives: April 2014

Symbiotic Gut Bacteria and The Meaning of Life. How Does it Feel to be 1% Human?

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The last decade of research has advanced the understanding of life itself to such a degree that our definitions of “life” must now be adjusted. Until now, you may have regarded yourself as a singular entity; a “human being,” a “person” or just “me.” All of these terms indicate a belief system grounded in what is now an outdated concept. What if we were actually a cooperative group of organisms existing together for mutual benefit? Trillions of organisms, all sharing physical space and each contributing to the functioning of the whole. What if even our very consciousness were not a singular thing or the result of one personality, but more of a democratic/summative system or even a type of hive consciousness? All of these are functional realities to one extent or another. Oh, and one more thing…those human cells? They are in the minority and are outnumbered at least 10:1. Well, you might be thinking, a human being is defined by a specific genetic code, 23 pairs of chromosomes, a little over 21,000 genes that code for everything we are, right? Not so fast! Genes do encode for the protein molecules that carry out life functions, but if a person were to develop with only those 21,000 genes the brain, nervous system, immune system, endocrine and digestive systems would not develop or function normally at all. So where does all the other information come from?

“We” are an organism that includes several trillion symbiont organisms that all contribute genes. In fact, looking at a person from head to toe genetically reveals that the human genes are only 1/100th, or 1 percent, of the genes present. The majority of the remaining genome is bacterial in origin. We are only 1% or less human from a genetic standpoint! Scientists and researchers now know that the human body depends on this bacterial genetic reservoir of information for normal development and function. The human immune system, for example, is cultivated by the bacteria and “taught” how to function, what to kill and what to tolerate. Without this ancient genetic wisdom (bacteria have existed for an estimated 2 billion years) the human immune system does not function normally. Our brain is no different; without bacterial symbiont assistance the human brain is emotionally and functionally unstable. The result is an inflamed brain, anxiety and depression or schizophrenia, and an increased likelyhood of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or neuroimmune conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis. The digestive tract would not function normally either! Even our mind, that last refuge of a singular “self,” is not the result of a singular organism’s activities. Dominant colonies of bacteria wield significant influence on our mood, decision making and basic personality. Our appetite for specific food items as well as our overall appetite is heavily influenced by gut bacteria. Neurotransmitters that determine mood are both produced and consumed by the gut bacteria, exerting influence over mood. Neurotransmitter receptor sites in various specific areas of the human brain are sensitized or desensitized by symbiont bacteria. The result is a distinctly different emotional profile and personality! It is truly the result of the interactions of many organisms.
Our human parts in turn “farm” these bacterial colonies to keep them viable and performing their needed tasks.

The terms that have been coined for these concepts refer to “us” as Holobionts-a host plus its symbionts form the organism we call “human.” The total gene pool within the holobiont is called the Hologenome. All other eukaryotic life is thought to exist on the same principle of cooperative function between host and symbionts. The bacterial symbionts are capable of influencing mate choice, reproductive success and driving speciation to create new species from existing ones (really.)

After re-reading the previous discussion, you might be incredulous that life itself has been essentially redefined, and yet it did not really result in significant changes in healthcare practices. This is perhaps the most promising yet overlooked, proven yet controversial new development in decades. Healthcare is replete with legions of “singular organism, flat-earth-society” members who are slow to accept this new concept despite its promise of more effective interventions. As examples of the conflicts in logic that result, consider the following questions-each of which may be the subject of another blog post and are written of in The Symbiont Factor.

-If the body is dependent on symbiont bacteria for normal function, what is the result of taking antibiotics?
-If antibiotics are added to our food, what is the effect on our own personal hologenome?
-If food is routinely disinfected, what is the effect on hologenomic diversity?
-What are the long-term consequences of bacteria sharing plasmids (DNA fragments) that code for antibiotic resistance?
-If symbiont bacteria maintain immune system function, why do we kill them in cases of infection or cancer, when the immune system is needed the most?
-If so much physical and mental function depend on gut bacteria, why do we not evaluate the gut bacteria when something seems physically or mentally dysfunctional?
-Where do all of these symbiont bacteria come from in the environment?
-What is the effect of chemical environmental pollution on the potential microbiome?
-How does nutrition affect their population demographics?
-If two people have differing microbiomes, would a given medication affect them differently?
-Do different birthing and childcare practices affect the hologenomic outcome?
-If the bacterial symbionts have such an influence on human emotion and personality, why is this not addressed in psychology and psychiatry practice?
-How does being a holobiont with such a diverse colony of bacteria provide an evolutionary or competitive advantage?

As we move forward into the 21st century, we must strive to add holobiont concepts to the practice of healthcare and teach individuals why “taking care of yourself” might need to become “taking care of each other.” Perhaps better pollution control, for example, would be more meaningful if people understood that it isn’t only to save some small toad that lives far away, but also to save the bacterial diversity that our future depends on. Perhaps parenting practices would mean more when the importance of imparting a beneficial microbiome/hologenome to our children is better understood. These concepts form the basis for The Symbiont Factor, referenced with more than 1300 peer-reviewed research papers and due to be published by 15 June 2014.

Kombucha: Fun with SCOBY! A pictorial how-to about a probiotic fermented tea.

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If you have read some of the information about the health benefits of probiotics and fermented foods, then you know that Kombucha is one of the oldest fermented beverages. It is thought to have at least a 2000 year history as a healthy and tasty drink! I will write another post purely on its health benefits but for the moment, let’s get some brewing as it takes about 7-10 days to finish a batch. That will give us time to review its health benefits before getting to enjoy its taste!

Step one is to obtain a one or two gallon glass jar, preferably with a tap at the bottom. I bought this one yesterday at Stage, while clothes shopping with my wife:
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It cost about $22, which I mention because just last week one of my patients told me that she found a “kombucha kit” online for $300. She was happy when I told her making Kombucha does not need to cost that much! Here is what it looks like out of the box:
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Ok, so the next step is securing a SCOBY, or symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (I guess that should be spelled ‘scobay’). The best way to get one is to ask someone who makes kombucha, as the things grow like tribbles and spawn off babies every time you add more tea! Several online sources will sell starter cultures, as scoby’s can be dried for future use:
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It is also possible to use a commercial bottle of kombucha as a starter culture, or to grow one from a glass of kombucha. Believe it or not, if you leave a large glass of kombucha out for about two or three weeks, this is what happens:
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You can see that a scoby has grown on the surface and sealed itself to the sides of the glass to prevent the tea from evaporating! They are fascinating…
The next step is to heat up two gallons of filtered or spring water on the stovetop, and mix in about three cups of sugar and about eight teabags (plain black tea, not Earl Gray or anything):
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Stir while hot to thoroughly dissolve all of the sugar:
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The next step is to let the whole pot of tea cool to room temperature so as to not kill the bacteria in the scoby, then pour the tea into the (washed and rinsed) new glass container:
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At this point, with clean hands, remove the scoby from the glass, bag or other container that it is in, and add it to the tea. If it was growing or delivered in a kombucha solution as this one was, add in the entire glassful as the fluid contains active culture also:
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They are slimy little guys, so don’t drop it! The floppy rubber like material is cellulose that the bacteria and yeast colony creates as a habitat. Sometimes the scoby may sink instead of floating. While I’ve read that this means the colony is not viable (ie “dead”) I have tested that idea and it still grows and makes kombucha just fine! Some float and some sink though. What the “sinkers” do is to stop up the spigot on the jar, which is inconvenient. Since I prefer the scoby to live at the surface, if it sinks I like to make a sling out of cotton cooking twine to hold it there. Later, when the scoby has grown and floats more easily, the string can be removed. A small rubber band can hold the string to the edge of the jar.
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Scobys grow in layers, and you can see I’ve peeled this on into two layers to cover the surface more evenly. The last steps are to put a coffee filter over the top to keep dust and insects out, and place the jar out of direct sunlight. Our favorite place is on top of the fridge, as the temperature is about right and it is out of the way there.
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In that last picture, you can see a smaller jar to the left, with lighter colored tea. This one has green tea in it, also fermenting into kombucha! Green tea kombucha is particularly good for the liver as I will share later. The colony does not grow a solid scoby as fast, though it will ferment the sugar quite quickly. It also seems to be more temperature sensitive and prefers temps in the low eighties. I use a heater pad designed for reptile terrariums under the green tea kombucha jar and that keeps it contentedly fermenting.
Now comes the hard part-waiting! It will take a week to ten days, sometimes a bit more, for the batch to finish. If you had a big scoby and a glass of kombucha like I added here, it will get going faster than if you only added a small scoby or used another small starter culture that was dried.
After a few days, tap off a tiny bit to taste. When it tastes vinegary instead of sweet, and is mildly effervescent, it is ready for consumption! Some like it straight up, or over ice cubes. Sometimes we mix it 50:50 with apple juice or pomegranate juice.
A word here about different methods:
When using a jar with a tap as shown here, you can brew your kombucha as a “continuous brew”. This means that after removing some for consumption, at the end of each day make a pot of tea with volume equal to that which was consumed. When it is cooled off in the morning, just remove the coffee filter a moment and pour the tea in the top. The culture will convert this small amount to kombucha quickly. An alternative is to bottle the entire batch in glass bottles and start a whole new batch. If you do this, you can add some apple or pomegranate or other juice, cap lightly and leave out for 24 hours. Then cap tightly and place in the refrigerator. This secondary fermentation step adds to the flavor of the final product and can help create even more beneficial byproducts of fermentation. While we often do this, we usually do not have time for the bottling then making a big batch again. The continuous brew method is very easy to keep up with on a daily busy schedule and offers an ongoing supply of fresh kombucha. Of course you can do both, to have some special flavored batches for special occasions or special people!
I am often asked how to tell if the kombucha spoils. There would be two signs to look for, though both are unlikely if your starter is good. One sign would be a moldy scoby. If this happens, you should start over with a fresh one, as the molds will create byproducts that have neither taste nor health benefits and it means the scoby is weak or dying. Normally the bacteria and yeast inhibit the growth of any other microorganism, and so it really cannot spoil. Of course, if it stinks badly or has an awful not-kombucha smell, it may indicate (just like mold) that other organisms are growing. I have never had this happen through many batches of kombucha, but it is theoretically possible if enough things go wrong (water/tea too hot and kills the colony, for example).
Lastly, remember to share and pass it on. This means when you scoby has babies, give ’em away when possible!

Fatty Liver Disease and Exercise: What you Need to Know!

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Fatty Liver Disease is an increasingly common problem, estimated to affect up to 30% of the population at some point in their lives. Also called Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease or NAFLD (or initially steatohepatitis which means the same thing) this condition is considered to be a very significant liver disease. It can lead to liver failure or liver cancer, both of which can be fatal. If you drink alcohol or are exposed to elevated levels of chemicals (this can be everything from pesticides, parts cleaner, spray paint and solvents, to hair spray and nail polish then this information applies particularly to you as these chemicals are toxic to the liver!

NAFLD or fatty liver does not initially have any distinct symptoms; poor energy levels may be the single most noticeable symptom and is often attributed to either age or fitness level. This makes it a sneaky problem that can kill you!

Fatty liver is caused by several problems including liver inflammation, overactivity of natural killer immune T-cells (NK cells), sedentary lifestyle, high fat diet or high carbohydrate diet, weight gain or lack of exercise and alteration of the normal gut bacteria. These factors are in turn inter-related; sedentary lifestyles cause weight gain for example. High fat diets or diets with high levels of sugar alter the gut bacteria. Overall it could be said that this condition is a result of modern diet and lifestyle as its incidence is directly proportional to these factors.

Diets that are high in sweets or fats, weight gain, stress and antibiotics cause major shifts in the types of bacteria composing the gut bacterial colony and result in immune dysfunction. Many aspects of immunity are affected, but those that are significant to NAFLD include:

-loss of control of NK T-cells, resulting in liver inflammation
-increased permeability of intestinal lining membranes, resulting in bacterial translocation (ie they end up in the bloodstream), resulting in liver inflammation
-altered digestive processes, resulting in elevated fat levels in blood and deposition in the liver
-altered sense of smell and appetite, resulting in reduced satiety (ie harder to feel “full” after eating), resulting in overeating and weight gain
-lowered metabolism and altered hormonal levels, resulting in weight gain
-weight gain results in more systemic inflammation
-systemic inflammation results in liver inflammation

Regular aerobic exercise combined with a low carbohydrate diet has a beneficial effect on the gut bacteria, restoring populations to a more beneficial profile. Aerobic exercise will help to heal the liver from NAFLD! This improvement is thought to be in part because of the way that aerobic exercise improves the gut bacteria. Other factors that improve gut bacteria include using probiotics-a good combination with exercise. The use of probiotics to restore normal gut bacteria has also been shown to:

-protect the liver against NAFLD
-reduce liver inflammation
-aid in maintaining normal energy levels
-restores normal natural killer T-cell control
-restores normal immune function
-helps the liver to heal from NAFLD

This discussion adds to the body of evidence that shows gut bacteria to not only be a useful addition but in fact a necessary functional organ. Our bodies and our symbionts evolved together and neither can thrive without the other. So, remember to exercise, limit your carbohydrates and take your probiotics!

References:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24400795
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24438438
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24733426
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24113768
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24075647
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23619251
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23432669
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23112961

Simple Steps to Being a Good Host to your Symbionts: Stress Reduction to Become a Happy Holobiont

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Having a healthy population of gut bacteria is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your health! Many people think that this is very complicated but in fact, as in many things, it begins with simple steps. With this in mind, I would like to share some simple steps and concepts that can easily be implemented in your daily life. This theme will be repeated from time to time in future blog posts as I cover other aspects of being a good host.

Today’s subject: stress reduction and symbiont health

Why it is important: The importance of managing stress levels cannot be overstated when looking at symbiont bacterial health. The largest colony of bacteria live in the intestines (“the gut”) and are responsible for developing and maintaining brain function, immune function, hormonal balance and emotional health. Your state of mind, or stress level, regulates the environment this vital colony lives in. The bacterial colony influences the mind as well! Human beings, like all other creatures, are not single organisms but a host + symbiont organisms, or a “holobiont.” Since the bacteria outnumber human cells 10:1 and their genetic count is 150-400 times our human genes, they can be looked at as an additional organ almost, and normal physical or mental function is impossible without symbionts. More about that in an upcoming post!

How it works: The intestinal tract is a variable environment and is controlled by your autonomic nervous system. When you are relaxed, kicked back and not stressed your autonomic nervous system becomes Parasympathetic dominant. This mode of function results in dilated blood vessels, lower blood pressure, improved gut movement and digestion. These changes make conditions optimal for beneficial gut bacteria! When you are stressed out, tense, shallow breathing and poorly rested your system become sympathetically dominant. This is the “fight or flight” mode, and results in blood vessel constriction, reduced circulation, higher blood pressure, and reduced intestinal activity. This set of conditions is very bad for the good gut bacteria, and instead favors the growth of non-beneficial populations that cause disease and dysfunction.

What to do:

1. Autonomic imbalance has become a widespread issue in our society as electronics invade every moment of our life that previously provided a moment of mental refuge. Choosing some period of each day to be “electronic free” can be very relaxing. Perhaps at meal time, while in the bathroom, walking the dog or some other daily task or time-leave the mobile phone turned completely off and learn to be “in the moment” and not constantly redirected by the brain prosthesis known as the cell phone!

2. Choose an activity such as yoga that can be instrumental in learning to control your autonomic nervous system. Yes, traditionally it is taught that we do not control the autonomics, but in reality that isn’t true. All doctors would agree that being stressed raises blood pressure, right? It does so because the stressed state of mind activates the fight-or-flight sympathetic system. If a person thinks angry thoughts for a few minutes, blood pressure goes up, he may become red in the face and heart rate will elevate. This is the mind controlling the autonomics. If it works that way, it must also work the other way-relaxing activates the parasympathetic! Most communities offer at least one yoga program and it is not an expensive activity. Breathing exercises, meditation and stress reduction are central to Yoga practice and this provides a way to learn.

3. Begin to re-evaluate your outlook on daily events and life in general. It could be said that the only difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude or outlook. It is very easy to let the things that went “wrong” color our emotional responses to events that are neutral or even good! This is a result of re-living, mentally replaying, events in the past that are perceived to have had a negative outcome. In reality, this is destructive as it prevents us from having present time consciousness, enjoying good things currently happening, or focusing on “what’s next.” We cannot change the past-the only things we can change are how it affects us and what we do in the present. Mentally re-living past stresses also continues to keep the sympathetic system dominant, further altering gut bacterial populations. This alteration to a less beneficial population of symbionts can also affect brain function and make us more stressed, anxious or depressed! And so the cycle of stress can be perpetuated if permitted to do so.

4. Breathing exercises can be very helpful in learning to improve autonomic balance, gut function and symbiont health. This can be yoga breathing exercises or playing wind instruments. My favorite for breathing exercises is the didgeridoo, in part because of the extreme breathing exercises used to play it and also due to its rhythmic, hypnotic and relaxing sound. It can be used as a meditational tool in itself. They are very inexpensive and learning a basic technique is easy!

5. Sometimes there is nothing better than a good soak in a hot bath or hot tub! The bubbles are soothing, the jets massage tight muscles, and the heat helps to stimulate the parasympathetics. It is an old-time stress remedy that still works well!

Learning to undo the effects of stress and to balance your autonomic function can help you improve your gut function, digestion and symbiont health. This can be a life-altering addition to your preventive healthcare!

Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. Larry Smarr Talk About the Microbiome and Hologenome!

I watched a fascinating interview today, with Dr. Deepak Chopra interviewing Professor Larry Smarr about the microbiome and its implications. Many topics were covered, including our identity/”who we are” as a metaspecies or Holobiont. They also spoke about the influence of the microbiome on the brain and on mood. For any of you reading this who have not come across the term before, holobiont theory is the concept that humans (and all eukaryotic organisms actually!) are not singular organisms but function as a “superorganism” that is composed of a larger host organism (human in our case) and all of its symbiont organism populations. In our case this is the trillion-plus population of symbiotic gut bacteria that extends to much of the rest of our body. The reason for considering us a superorganism or holobiont is that without these bacteria, the human brain, immune system, hormonal/endocrine system and digestive systems do not function normally at all. Our mind itself, that refuge of “self” that we mentally and emotionally exist within, is influenced and even somewhat controlled by populations of gut bacteria. As Dr. Smarr states, “If your microbiome is unhappy, you will be unhappy.” It is truly wonderful to see the core concepts of hologenome theory being discussed from an increasingly diverse group of people. Since the symbiont bacteria outnumber the host cells at least 10:1, to not acknowledge the microbiome is to ignore 90% of what we are! Dr. Chopra points out also that meditation can help the microbiome, as can proper diet. Dr. Smarr is a fascinating individual, an astrophysicist and computer scientist now working on quantifying and understanding the human body and its microbiome. The interview is worth watching/listening to!

Link to video:

More about Professor Larry Smarr:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/the-measured-man/309018/
http://quantifiedself.com/2013/02/larry_smarr_croneshope_in_data/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Smarr

Babies, Breasts, Brains and Bugs: How the Microbiome Helps Build a Baby’s Brain-and How Autism Can Happen if it Doesn’t!

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The human microbiome has been the focus of intense scientific scrutiny for the last decade and some truly surprising discoveries have been made. One of the most interesting is the finding that the gut bacteria communicate with the brain through the Vagus nerve. The brain and the gut bacteria have constant cross-talk through what is known as the microbiome-gut-brain axis. The vagus nerve is the parasympathetic output of the brain and serves to provide motor function to the digestive tract. Reduction of output of the vagus nerve results in sluggish intestinal activity. In the newborn, this sluggishness can result in constipation and colic as well as inflammation. There are many factors necessary for the proper development of baby’s brain, some of which we will focus on here:

-Vagal tone is necessary for the brain to develop normally. Reduced vagal tone is one of the best indicators of neurologic health of a newborn and poor vagal tone is associated with social, behavior, emotion and communication problems later in life. It is also associated with failure to grow and gain weight. Autism is an example of these problems! Probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus stimulate vagal function, resulting in improved weight gain and brain function. Other factors that have been found to improve vagal tone include Kangaroo Care (so named in the care of premature infants, it used to be called a mother holding her baby skin-to-skin and cuddling). Massage therapy of the newborn improves vagal tone as well. One of the most interesting factors that improves vagal tone is when a mother plays with an infant, making faces and communicating. This interaction has been found to greatly increase vagal tone and improve digestion, growth, and brain functions related to communication, expression and social behaviors. Of course, not doing this has the opposite effect! If the mother is depressed or angry and has a flat expression the baby’s brain does not develop as well. This may be one of the undiscussed causes for the increased incidence of autism-as autistic individuals become old enough to be parents, they are uniquely not suited to this face-to-face play and expression, thereby hindering their child’s brain development in a manner similar to their own. The increasing use of day care centers and babysitters has this effect as well, as babies do not generally receive the same level of interaction a they would with a full-time mother.

-Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF: this vital neurotropin helps the brain to grow new neurons and new synapses and is essential for learning to occur. Without normal levels of BDNF, a baby could not learn new behaviors and develop normally. Abnormally elevated levels of BDNF have been found to occur in autistic individuals. Symbiotic gut bacteria modulate the levels of BDNF to keep them normal.

-Normal functioning of the immune system: If the nervous system is not regulated properly it may begin attacking nerve tissue in a process known as neuroinflammation. The brains of autistic individuals have elevated concentrations of microglia (the brain’s immune cells) combined with other signs of inflammation. The human immune system is developed, programmed and regulated in part by symbiotic gut bacteria. Reductions in beneficial symbionts and reduced gut biodiversity cause inflammation that can progress to neuroinflammation. It is vital for the newborn infant to receive adequate starter cultures of probiotic bacteria from the mother and for these to thrive so that they can help with immune and brain development.

In light of modern birth and infant care practices, the rapid increase in autism is not surprising. Symbiotic bacteria are not acknowledged during most of the pregnancy and childbirth process and are not considered during healthcare decisions. Routine use of caesarian section births, often for “convenience and safety” in cases where there are no contraindications to normal vaginal birth, is the first major insult to the new infant’s microbiome. The vaginal canal provides a big starter culture that children born by c-section do not receive. The next boost to the infant microbiome is breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact, both of which are not considered when a newborn is whisked away by attending nurses and physicians. When breastfeeding is explained as “an option” instead of “vitally necessary,” mothers are less likely to breastfeed their infants. Of course, sometimes c-sections are necessary, and it is possible to have medical reasons not to breastfeed. Understanding the significance of all these factors helps, so that probiotics, skin to skin contact and the remaining strategies can be properly utilized to help the developing microbiome and brain.

One of the most poignant causes of initial reductions in vagal tone come from the autonomic nervous system’s function as a “fight-or-flight” system. Consider the baby in the nine months prior to birth: a soft, warm, moist, dark and relatively quiet environment exists in the womb. Vagal tone is “relaxed” tone-so consider what happens when childbirth occurs in a brightly lit exam room with a multitude of voices and electronic sounds, and the newborn is removed from the mother’s warmth and examined, reflexes tested, held upside down, and injected with several vaccinations. The effect to the baby’s autonomic nervous system is to trigger a full fight-or-flight panic response, effectively supressing any vagal tone present. Commercial formula is frequently provided, reducing or eliminating the benefits of breastfeeding and instead using sugar-laden formula that encourages the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. The human body and its symbionts are not evolved to handle the consumption of “acellular carbohydrates” or simple sugars not in fruit or vegetable form.

When all of the above factors are considered, where are we heading as a species? Subsequent generations born and raised with such methods will be less able to care for new infants due to reduced emotional expression, reduced symbiont diversity and potentially forgetting “the old ways” that have worked successfully for millenia. Until parents and their physicians learn, acknowledge and promote a healthy microbiome, the health of babies and the incidence of autism may be fated to continue in the wrong direction.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24709243
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24500031
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21683077
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2556849/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24614401
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18295898
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24639668
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24566540
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22826636
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945747/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23139216

Soda, Sugar, Obesity and the Microbiome: Predicting Weight Loss

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With the upcoming release of the movie “Fed Up” with Katie Couric (http://bit.ly/1m60mlD) I feel it’s time to review some of the current information on soda, sugar, obesity and the role of the microbiome (the trillion residents of our insides). The first observation to consider is that drinking soda with meals is a direct predictor of weight gain due to the extreme sugar content of soda. Indeed, the intake of sugar sweetened soda has been known to be causative of weight gain and obesity for several years, yet its intake has not been curtailed particularly among youth. Half of the empty calories in 2-18 year olds comes from only six foods: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk. The changes that come from empty calories and in particular sugar are due to the effect of the diet on the intestinal microbiome, a fact that is highlighted by the observation that a survey of the microbiome can predict how easily the person will lose weight! The effect also carries over to obesity, cholesterol levels, and liver cancer though that is the subject of another post coming up. What’s the lesson? Perhaps that parents should take an active role in teaching their children to avoid sugars and soda, and that those who influence our children should also. Perhaps when athletic coaches are driving a team home late at night, stopping for fast food (high in sugar) and sodas (super high in sugar) is not a good idea. Sorry, coaches, but…if you’re trying to make kids perform better in their sports, part of that is teaching them to be healthier-and this relates directly to what they eat or drink! All of us need to work harder at avoiding sugar, as the average person in the US now consumes 152 lbs of sugar per year. The rate of obesity and the diseases it causes continues to rise, and predictions are dire when looking at how this trend could continue in the future.  In view of the effects described above, it is no wonder that the obesity rate and disease incidence have skyrocketed! Remember the people in the movie “Wally?” Great, funny animated movie with some real messages!

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24603757

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23803760

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20869486

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16895873

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24321742