Monthly Archives: May 2015

A Magnesium-deficient diet results in what changes to the microbiome and behavior?

The microbiome affects brain and behavior, but what affects the microbiome? Well, brain and behavior also do-it’s a two way street-but dietary deficiencies can also affect the microbiome! It turns out that a magnesium deficiency affects the microbiome in a way that produces depression. Make sure you get enough magnesium, as deficiency can also affect your muscles.

To learn how the microbiome affects the brain and behavior, and many other concepts about our bacterial gut symbionts, please check out my book The Symbiont Factor: http://tinyurl.com/pgl98sj

Reference:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25690713

11 Easy Steps to Improving your Microbiome and Symbiont-healthy Lifestyle!

So today I thought I would share some simple practical microbiome advice!

Steps to a Healthy Microbiome
1. Start noticing how tense, stressed or up-tight you may have become. Dedicate a few minutes several times a day to taking an emotional census of this, then focus on deep breathing and refocusing your attention on a positive, healthy or loving thought and emotion. Notice how you feel afterward!

2. Be honest with yourself about what you eat or drink. I know many people who eat a great deal of sweets or fast food, making an excuse for each time “it’s a reward for such-and-such” or “it’s just a one-time treat” and my favorites “it’s just a little” and “gotta die from something”. All of these statements are simply our imbalanced gut microbiome craving something and then our mind making excuses for not eating healthier. Be honest with yourself and look at what you’re really eating!

3. Sleep is critical-if you’re not sleeping enough it is very challenging to build a healthy microbiome. We should sleep at least 7 1/2 hours per night and preferably 9 when possible. Notice these are both multiples of 90 minutes, which is the typical length of a sleep cycle that the brain goes through. Waking up halfway through one makes us feel sluggish and irritated-complete your sleep cycles by planning on it!

4. Learn to observe your mood, your bodily functions and their timing in relation to your diet. Did you get sleepy, sluggish and mildly irritated after lunch? You may have eaten something that triggered an inflammatory response in your gut, which then affects the brain. Do you cough or sneeze after eating certain foods? This can also be a clue. If you’re not having a daily bowel movement of normal consistency; not loose and not stone; then your gut bacteria/gut/immune system are imbalanced in function and you have homework to do.

5. Eating organic or wild meat or fish is much better than normal store-bought meat. The antibiotic residues in farmed meat that is not organic are sufficient to seriously imbalance your gut bacteria with long-term consequences. I believe this may be one reason that many people get healthier when they eliminate meat from their diet-no meat is better than unhealthy meat.

6. Eating homegrown or organic vegetables and produce helps also, because if it isn’t it probably has significant RoundUp glyphosate on or in it. These residues are very toxic to beneficial gut bacteria.

7. Limit your use of chemicals such as Roundup. It’s poisoning the planet’s microbiome, and it starts with your microbiome. Pesticides and solvents are also quite harmful so if you must use them, wear protection and use ventilation to avoid inhaling fumes.

8. Read and understand the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines for medical antibiotic use, and hold your doctor to them. It will help you to understand when you really do need them and when you actually don’t. I haven’t personally taken antibiotics in at least 28 years and intent to extend that as long as possible.

9. Drink filtered water or spring water. Sweet soft drinks are bad for gut bacteria, and so is chlorinated municipal water.

10. Eat or drink some fermented foods such as natural sauerkraut or kombucha tea, yogurt (if not dairy sensitive) or kefir. You can even make your own. Along with taking good probiotics (which should be selected specifically based on your microbiome profile) this can help maintain a good population of healthy gut bugs.

11. Learn more about the microbiome and its tremendous effect on health, both physical and emotional. One great starting point, if I might suggest it, is my book The Symbiont Factor which you can find on eBay. I put a crazy amount of work into making it the best referenced comprehensive scientifically based book on the subject.

I hope these simple suggestions help you to start your own journey toward a healthier and happier Symbiont lifestyle!

The Brain as a Puppet: Gut Bacterial Control of Human Development and Behavior

Human intelligence brain medical symbol represented by a close up of active neurons and organ cell activity related to neurotransmitters showing intelligence with memory and healthy cognitive thinking activity.

Human intelligence brain medical symbol represented by a close up of active neurons and organ cell activity related to neurotransmitters showing intelligence with memory and healthy cognitive thinking activity.

One of the most fascinating discoveries of the last decade is the extent of influence that our bacterial microbiome has on our brain. We are really quite used to thinking of “ourselves” as a singular identity and yet our very mind may be more of a chorus than a solo. Trillions of bacteria all compete to have their needs met and their voice heard, and all of them have the ability to alter the very function of our brain at the most fundamental level. Several research papers have documented this (see references below in case you feel I’m off my rocker for saying some of the things I’m going to say 🙂

Today’s researchers are examining the many ways that gut bacteria can communicate with the human brain, and have found many pathways. The symbionts can alter the sensitivity of our neurotransmitter receptors, can release molecules that mimic neurotransmitters, produce neurotransmitters and release them into blood circulation, inflict pain or stimulate pleasure. What is the motive and why would they do this? How did bacteria learn Pavlovian training and use it to manipulate our mood, behavior and activity? The answer goes back quite far, but comes down to one thing: survival. From the beginning of evolution, bacteria have influenced the development of the multicellular organism. In many ways, you could look at bacteria as the most basic unit of life although this is generally a title attributed to the cell. Cells themselves are composed of structures that may have originated as bacteria that learned/evolved cooperative relationships. Today’s robotics researchers are studying spontaneous collective functioning as well, a parallel interest of mine. We now are fairly certain that gut bacterial symbionts not only guide the development of the human brain after birth, but influence its development before birth as well. To take that thought a step further, previous generations of symbionts have guided and facilitated the evolution of the human brain itself. Their genetic reservoir of DNA “data” is orders of magnitude greater than that of the human host, and has the ability to evolve and adapt on-the-fly during a lifetime. This gives the potential for intragenerational evolution as well as intergenerational, allowing us to evolve a bit during our lifetime and then pass this on to our children (unless they are born by caesarian section or blasted with antibiotics and vaccinations at a young age, but…that is the subject of other posts!) During our lifetime, from our earliest moments, our symbiont organisms are constantly tweaking our behavior and senses to suit their needs. In a way, we are the machine that permits them to live as a multicellular organism in a far more advanced manner, and in a world that many of them cannot survive in without us. It’s as if we built a gigantic robot that could house the entire human population (except, well, there are more gut bacteria in one human than there are humans on the planet) and used this robot to live in places that we normally could not survive in. We would certainly guide the robot to find foods that we can benefit from and do things that aid our survival. Gut bacteria do exactly that, and very elegantly. It isn’t coincidence that obligate anaerobes cause us to be stressed, which makes us breathe shallowly, tense up our muscles so they burn up oxygen, and even begin to develop apnea during the daytime and at night. What is the result? less oxygen in the gut, and that is what an obligate anaerobe benefits from. Our eating behavior is controlled by gut symbionts, to the point that some can inflict pain directly if we don’t eat something they need or trigger euphoric feeling when we give in and eat what they need. This is the reason that “diets” are so challenging, and particularly so for the obese individual-we are Pavlov’s dog, and the trainer has a cattle prod in one hand and a direct brain pleasure stimulation in the other. What will be your choice today? Yes, we can overcome that and eat a diet of “our” choosing, but only successfully after that diet and behavior changes result in changes to the microbiome. You see, once the microbiome is fed a certain way, the organisms that survive on that diet are the ones that become dominant. You can “starve out” harmful/nonbeneficial organisms, but it isn’t easy or pleasant. During a recent podcast interview with the entertaining and brilliant Clint Paddison (The Paddison Program for Rheumatoid Arthritis) he explained to me that fasting is a primary step in recovery/healing from RA. So, you see, we are as much the puppet as the master-it’s a two way street and while the host influences the symbionts, it works both ways. Symbionts can change our very perception of our world, altering our senses to guide our behavior to their benefit.

Ok, so with these thoughts in “mind” consider what the true effect of our diet is. Every single thing you eat and drink or even breathe alters symbiont bacteria to favor those that thrive on the substances in question. Eat a lot of fast “food”? You’ve selectively feeding the organisms that thrive on that. The problem is that apparently most of them are not beneficial to host health! We should also consider that all of these changes to gut bacteria as a result of our eating/drinking/breathing have consequences to our mental function. Everything from mental clarity, intelligence, emotional stability, personality-our very potential as human beings-is influenced by the bacteria that live in our gut. So which do you want to feed, the ones that may make you feel ill mentally and physically or the ones that could help you reach your true potential and live as long and healthy a life as possible?

If you’re intrigued by this discussion even a bit, you should consider reading the reference articles below. If you’d like to understand the subject better but want to read it in English and not research-ese, then please read my book, The Symbiont Factor. You can find it on Amazon as an e-book or paperback at the following link: http://tinyurl.com/p7mx6hh

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25401092

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25772005

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25103109

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25974299

New study reveals effect of dietary sugar and fat on gut bacteria, and the effect of altered gut bacteria on memory and cognitive flexibility.

One of the core, pillar concepts of my book The Symbiont Factor is the fact that “our” mind is heavily influenced by the presence and activity of our gut symbiont organisms. Gut bacteria influence different parts of the host/human brain and alter genetic expression and neurotransmitter sensitivity, which alters everything from our stress response to our very personality. In this new research study, researchers demonstrated that changes in gut bacteria resulting from changes in diet result in changes in behavior. Specifically, diets high in sugar and fat resulted in reduced short and long term memory as well as less cognitive flexibility. If you click the link and read the research abstract, you’ll see that the diet used simulates the “Western Diet”. This, folks, is basically the American diet, which has now spread to other parts of the world. In research it is used as the standard diet to produce disease in a laboratory animal! So, what does this have to do with humans, since the study was performed on mice? Well, short and long term memory are daily issues and probably declining across Western society. Don’t think so? Try not using your smart phone to recall phone numbers or addresses but just key them in from memory. Try shopping without any list or remembering the last ten meals you ate. These are not really difficult tasks and yet our modern technology combined with our modern diet/loss of microbiome diversity has resulted in significant reductions in these basic mental functions. What is cognitive flexibility? It is the ability to solve a problem when the rules have changed, or to simply adapt to changes in daily life. When you see a person that gets upset because his/her daily routine gets changed, that is a lack of cognitive flexibility. When you see someone who can no longer figure out how to balance a checkbook because now some of the transactions use debit cards, that is a loss of cognitive flexibility. This research article does a simple, elegant job of pointing out that our diet does in fact alter our microbiome, and that has profound effects on how well our brain operates! The gut microbiome heavily influences the brain, and is in turn heavily influenced by what we eat. Think about that when you see how much sugar today’s children consume…every day that I visit a WalMart I see parents with kids that are unfocused, unruly, and hyperkinetic (all signs of reduced brain frontal lobe function) and then see those parents fill their shopping cart with frozen dinners, cases of sweet soft drinks, and let the kids pick out those fake popsicles that are straight colored sugar water. Think it doesn’t change how a child’s brain and mind develop? The average American is now consuming 152 lbs of sugar per year! that is an average, and includes many like my family who consume far less. So, that is today’s “food for thought”… and also one of the reasons that we should all know more about our gut bacteria. For more information, read my book-The Symbiont Factor-available on Amazon here: http://tinyurl.com/mbb8fvc. If you’d like to know more about your personal microbiome, what organisms are there, good guys and bad guys and what can be done to improve it, contact me. This is one of the services that I now offer!

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25982560

Top Ten Reasons that the Microbiome Matters:

As I’ve been busily shutting down one clinic to open another, I’ve logged many miles of driving-which has given me time to think about the microbiome as well (really!) Why would the microbiome matter? Here’s my top ten list, as a microbial tribute to David Letterman’s years of late night entertainment:

10. It guides the development of the human brain early in life

9. It influences our moods, desires, behaviors throughout life

8. The microbiome helps develop and guide the immune system

7. Our HPA axis (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal) is heavily influenced by the microbiome early in life, which determines our response to stress…

6. The human microbiome can alter the way our brain’s receptors respond to neurotransmitters, changing it significantly.

5. If our microbiome becomes imbalanced (dysbiosis) it can cause inflammation, brain dysfunction, immune dysfunction, changes in appetite, obesity, depression…and many other problems

4. The microbiome is extremely vulnerable to antibiotics from doctors or in (non-organic) meat that we consume. Once species die off and diversity is lost, dysbiosis results

3. Glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide on the planet, is toxic to gut bacteria (and also mitochondria that supply our cells with energy)

2. Gut bacteria are true symbiont organisms; they aren’t “hitching a ride” but are indeed a part of us that functions more like a vital organ. They are part of why we are alive; death of the microbiome causes disease and aging!

1. The only source of energy that fuels this planet is sunlight, and only plants (true plants, algae, cyanobacteria) can process sunlight into biomass. After that, only bacteria can digest plants to produce energy…so everything from termites to cattle including us can only digest plants because of our gut bacteria. No gut bacteria? very very bad news!

So, get out your copy of my book, The Symbiont Factor, and read up on the microbiome, okay? Oh, you don’t have it yet? Be good to your bugs and buy a copy then!

http://tinyurl.com/kh4g8nm

And the meek shall inherit the Earth…

As a human being living on Planet Earth, I sometimes ponder where my species fits in to the planet’s ecosystem. I know, it’s not really a normal thought, and it might be more entertaining to see what one of the Kardashians wore yesterday (Who? LOL) but as the author of The Symbiont Factor I really do think about such things. You see, from a physics point of view (yes, I was initially an engineering major before biology) this planet really only has one source of incoming energy to keep “the circle of life” going. That incoming source of energy is of course sunlight. Only photosynthetic organisms can convert sunlight into biomass that is usable by other life forms such as humans. Photosynthetic organisms are all some version of a plant, simple or complex. Yes, cyanobacteria and algaes, it could be argued, are not plants-but they have chlorophyll and they photosynthesize, so they could for this purpose be grouped as “plants” in a looser way of thinking.

Here’s where things get interesting, because the only organisms which can digest cellulose are bacteria. The only remaining photosynthetic organisms are cyanobacteria, which are bacteria. It is therefore accurate to say that the processing of all “incoming energy” beyond the plant is dependent on bacteria. Think about it for a moment-termites cannot digest wood fiber, being completely dependent on their microbiome (gut bacteria!) to digest it. The same thing can be said of any other organism on the planet which eats plant material! Cows, horses, rabbits-all depend on a complex gut microbiome to digest plant fiber. We humans also depend on our gut bacteria to digest plant fiber. Nothing can digest plants without the aid of bacteria.

Why is this important? The above discussion should point out that without bacteria there could not be much life beyond the plant world and cyanobacteria. Indeed, some researchers have stated the belief that cyanobacteria may have been the first organisms on the planet, with complex groups evolving into what we see as plants and algaes today. Our present life form would not exist if it were not for our symbiont bacteria. Symbiont organisms, as explained in The Symbiont Factor, have provided us with a fast acting rapid evolution capability that has aided our survival and permitted our continued development. These symbiont organisms guide the development of our brain, endocrine system, and immune system. Without a balanced microbiome we cannot develop normally. Our microbiome greatly enhances our ability to cope with famine, stress, or immune challenges without having to resort to inter-generational evolution. The microbiome has at least 100x the gene count as our human cells and can change the activation of those genes (and our own!) to help us adapt and survive.

When you consider the above discussion and realize that we are routinely destroying our internal microbiome as well as the planet’s microbiome, it should be food for thought that our present level of function at the top of the food chain may be more precarious that we believe. The delicate microbial balance that allows our brain and body to function at a high level is easily disturbed by poor nutrition (think McDonald’s) and high levels of antibiotics from both medicinal use and residues in meats, as well as other factors discussed in my book. Learning the importance of the microbiome is essential to understanding life itself!