Monthly Archives: January 2015

C-sections, Immune/Autoimmune Disorders, the Microbiome and Why You Should Read The Symbiont Factor!

The lowly microbiome appears to be capturing an ever-increasing audience in the news these days. This explosion of new knowledge about our microscopic symbionts and how they contribute to who we are prompted me to write The Symbiont Factor. It has been exciting to see the continued flow of news stories that support and contribute to the concepts I wrote about in my book. This article is about one of those concepts and recent news that supports it.

There are many aspects to how the microbiome is crucial to human function, with one of the most significant involving the immune system. Our human immune system depends on the microbiome for its early development, as well as continued “target practice” to maintain its functional accuracy throughout life. This is one reason that the diversity and integrity of the human microbiome in the first few years of life is of such crucial significance. If the microbiome is lacking in diversity or imbalanced in some other way, the immune system will not develop normally. The result is often a lack of specificity, with many body tissues falling prey to friendly fire as the immune system begins to mutiny against the body and autoimmune disease manifests.

The newborn baby receives a huge dose of gut bacteria “starter culture” from the mother during normal childbirth. Children born via Caesarian section  (“c-section”) do not receive this gift of microbiome, instead developing a microbiome characterized by the interior of the hospital room. Recent studies suggest that newborns are not born sterile and may receive some bacterial symbionts prior to birth, yet this is a small amount compared to that received from vaginal birth.

A large, long-term study was recently completed in Denmark to evaluate whether being born via c-section resulted in increased incidence of autoimmune disease. The study spanned 35 years and included 2 million individuals, providing substantial support for the different outcomes from birth methods. The researchers found an increased incidence of several autoimmune diseases in those who were born by c-section compared to those born via vaginal section. The researchers did not claim that the different outcomes were a result of differences in microbiome, yet the study does lend considerable weight to that argument! It is the largest, longest-running study yet published showing different health outcomes for the two birth methods. Other studies have already established the connection between altered infant/early life microbiome and a variety of chronic health conditions. Many of these are discussed in The Symbiont Factor, and I’ve included some references below as well.

If you were about to have a baby and had to choose a hospital (with a safe outcome being your top concern) would you choose a hospital that provides free or low-cost care to an indigent or poor population? Surprise! that hospital might actually be safer. San Francisco General is just that hospital, and boasts a very low rate of c-section (and great outcomes). Why would that be? This article identified one major difference: SFG has its physicians on salaries, so they make no additional money if they perform a c-section than if they help a mother deliver naturally. In addition, they are not on a “time-table” to complete a delivery during their shift, as they lose no income if the next physician does the delivery instead! It has been estimated that many (potentially more than half) of all c-sections are not medically necessary and are instead performed for convenience. This is not necessarily the convenience of the mother, but often that of the physician as the example above illustrates. If you’re a physician, please don’t take that personally-just contemplate how it would be if your paycheck never changed regardless of how many procedures of any kind you performed. It might actually be less stressful!

Once again, the microbiome seems to be central to human function and health. If the microbiome is compromised, then problems result-making it extra critical for us to learn the signs of dysbiosis (imbalanced microbiome), what can be done to ensure its health, and how it affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally. All of these concepts and more are discussed in The Symbiont Factor, and referenced with 1327 references-most of them from peer-reviewed professional journals. Now is the time to learn about symbionts and their powerful influence on our lives, so check it out!


Prebiotic Aztec Warrior Coffee!


Ok, so I still drink coffee, and from the statistics I’ve read, most of you readers probably drink coffee too! I decided to try to make the coffee as healthy as possible, stacking some other health benefits along with reduction of Parkinson’s probability/severity and making the world seem like a happier place. Coffee has also been found to inhibit some types of cancer. Cocoa also has cancer-preventive properties. Cayenne pepper reduces the effects of high cholesterol, helping prevent oxidative stress to heart cells. I’ve read that the Aztecs used coffee, and cocoa and of course cayenne pepper-so why not combine the three? I know I’m not the first to do this, but it certainly does have a particular taste and kick to it! Especially (espressoly?) when made with espresso.

Recently I have been reading quite a bit about Yacon syrup and its health benefits. It turns out that yacon, which is a South American root vegetable, is processed into a molasses-like syrup that is a natural sweetener. If that wasn’t good enough, most of the carbohydrates in the syrup are not digestible, so it is a low-calorie sweetener that isn’t poisonous like Splenda. Yacon is also a prebiotic, with fiber that some of our gut bacteria just love. The species that thrive on it include Bifido and Akkermansia. Why, you ask, is that significant? Bifido is a “colonizer” species that helps to heal gut wall damage, and Akkermansia makes us burn up fat faster-increasing lean mass and lowering BMI. Akkermansia is also helpful in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes and immune system regulation.

Since Yacon is also from the same continent (and possibly region) as the Aztecs were, I reasoned that it should be good in coffee! Now, to a double shot of espresso or a mug of normal coffee, I add a teaspoon of cocoa powder and a tablespoon of yacon syrup, and a couple of sprinkles of cayenne pepper. On occasion, I’ve also added half a teaspoon of powdered inulin (another beneficial prebiotic; this one is from Jerusalem Artichoke). The inulin seems to disappear and not add any particular flavor, but the yacon gives the coffee a slight sweetness and the molasses-like flavor complements the cocoa/coffee/cayenne trinity quite nicely! Some who have tried it say that it’s too strong a taste, while many have adopted it as a coffee drink. Our local coffee shop, the Jitterbug, will make an Aztec espresso if asked, though I have yet to introduce them to yacon as a sweetener.

So there you have it-a new coffee drink has been invented and it has some powerful health benefits!