I often make nutritional recommendations to my patients, usually with the intent of improving their microbiome and lowering their inflammation levels to reduce pain as examples. One of the most convenient sources of omega-3 fats that help to accomplish this goal is the lowly sardine. Now the sardine is very controversial, I realize, but it’s a small fish so it is low in environmental pollutants such as mercury, and it comes in a convenient single-serving container that needs no refrigeration. Yesterday I got a glimpse into why some of my patients don’t follow my sardine recommendation. A woman in her late twenties confessed to not eating sardines, interrupted by fits of laughter on her part, because…of a cartoon! She thought all along that sardines had their heads on and eyes intact, because that is how she remembered them from the movie “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”. Here is a clip from that scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSKhRVH1Iv4. Ah, the risks of making meal choices based on cartoons…We both got a good laugh from the discussion! So, FYI, sardines do NOT have their heads and eyes when they are canned! Sometimes a patient’s crazy stories can provide a doctor with a welcome break from a busy day. It was greatly appreciated yesterday.
Antibiotic resistance is a growing threat in the world. The concept is simple enough: the frequent use of antibiotics causes bacteria to develop resistance. Antibiotic resistance is easily shared among bacteria, potentially resulting in pathogenic bacteria becoming drug resistant. Why is that such a big deal? Because then if you get an infection antibiotics will have no effect! Even a mild pathogen can become fatal through this mechanism.
Many people think that it is only those in the natural/alternative health community who are opposed to the frequent use of antibiotics. This is simply not true! The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization) are both advising patients and their doctors to not use antibiotics except in specific cases. That doesn’t seem to be what is really happening however, as my patients report that their family doctors put them on antibiotics for almost everything including all of the conditions the CDC warns not to use antibiotics for.
If that weren’t bad enough, antibiotics are used a great deal on farm animals, resulting in antibiotic exposure even if you don’t get any prescription antibiotics. Antibiotic resistant “superbugs” are now being found in food destined for human consumption, an ominous indicator of the spread of resistance.
There are now “nightmare superbugs” affecting the elderly and frail in healthcare settings, completely resistant to the strongest antibiotics available. This has the potential of becoming an epidemic, yet most people (and most of their doctors) remain either ignorant or skeptical of the facts.
What can you do to protect yourself and limit your contribution to a potential plague? First, learn the CDC guidelines and remind your doctor about them. Secondly, learn how to keep your microbiome (your internal population of beneficial bacteria) healthy and functioning. Learn how to keep your immune system protecting you-in other words, work at being healthy! Understanding how antibacterial soaps and disinfectants may promote these problems (which is very counter-intuitive) is also a good idea.
Please take a moment and read some of the articles I’ve linked below:
The HPA axis is not a part of the body that is often discussed. It is a functional “axis” that is used to describe the relationship between three parts of the body: the Hypothalamus, the Pituitary gland, and the Adrenal glands. All three of these organs have critical functions with far-reaching implications for physical and mental health. Many psychiatric drugs have been found to affect the HPA axis, resulting in the therapeutic benefit of the drug. Imbalances in HPA function have been implicated in a wide array of neuropsychiatric conditions including in autism. The gut microbiome, gut bacteria, exert control over the development and function of the endocrine hormone system, in particular the HPA axis. Why does this matter? Because imbalances in gut bacteria can therefore result in imbalances in HPA axis development in early life-and this imbalance has the potential to make the person develop autism (as well as other problems in different individuals). It is important because the gut bacteria are so vulnerable to birth practices (c-section vs. natural), antibiotic use, antibiotics in food, pesticides, herbicides such as RoundUp, and even stress levels perceived by the individual. Higher stress is harmful to the gut bacteria through alterations of the digestive functions, secondary to autonomic nervous system imbalance (more sympathetic, or “fight-or-flight”, function). Many of these are factors under our influence if not control! Gut bacterial populations are one of the most variable factors in human health, and yet one of the most neglected. My work on The Symbiont Factor is my contribution to spreading knowledge about the gut microbiome, so that more people can take control of their health and more conditions like autism can hopefully be prevented or successfully treated. The book is being configured/edited/reconfigured/formatted so that it works well on all Kindle download platforms, a task that is keeping me quite busy the last two weeks! Almost there, almost there…It will be so exciting when it is finally published! The book will also be available as a print format following its release as an e-book. Until then, stay tuned in and take care of your gut bacteria!
And, best of all, a slide show from one of the head researchers in the field, Ted Dinan: http://www.genome.gov/Multimedia/Slides/HumanMicrobiomeScience2013/33_Dinan.pdf