Tag Archives: asd

New book cover, and ebook price is cut to $6.99!

Hi Rez Cover ebook gut brain

I’ve been working on rewriting my book description, as I’ve never liked the one I used. So, today’s post is all about updates on TSF. I’m working on the next book too, and it’s all about applying the information from TSF to everyday life! So, here’s the update so far, with a linky at the bottom:

What if many of the things you thought you knew about being human did not actually work the way you were taught?

What if scientific research into gut bacteria had revealed huge amounts of information about their role in human function, health, emotions and appetite and healthcare hadn’t caught up at all?

What if you could find out the key to controlling your weight without starving yourself or undergoing dangerous surgery?

What if the book you’re looking at could teach you about the explosion of scientific research on the microbiome, without you having to read a few thousand studies to understand it?

You’ve probably heard that our gut bacteria vastly outnumber our human cells, and our gut bacteria’s gene pool includes more than one hundred times the gene count as our human cells. What does that mean and how does it work?

If you’re interested in knowing more about “what makes us tick” physically and emotionally, how to hurt less and age more gracefully, then this book is for you!

If you’re tired of books that state the author’s opinion or make broad claims without scientific backing or support, this book includes about 1300 peer-reviewed research studies, and the e-book has links to those studies on the National Library of Health/National Library of Medicine.

One of the inspirations for this book was research published by the late Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob, a brilliant Israeli researcher. I was able to share this book with him before he passed away, and this is what he said about it:

“This excellent and long needed book presents in a clear and sound manner the recent dramatic findings about our gut bacteria. These thousands of trillions microorganisms living inside us play a crucial role in regulating our well-being throughout life. The new message is of great importance to the entire medical community, life sciences researchers, as well as the general public. Realizing the role of gut bacteria can help each of us to better understand the effect of nutrients, as mediated by the gut bacteria, on our body in health, in disease and in special times, such as pregnancy, nursing or periods of high stress. For example, we now understand that the massive use of antibiotics in children, adults and agriculture has endangered our vital microbiome and is liable to cause diseases such as Type 2 diabetes on a global scale. The gut microbiome is emerging as a vital part of humanity, without which health and happiness are severely compromised. The time has come for this knowledge to be widely understood!”

Professor Eshel Ben-Jacob, International member of the American Philosophical Society

Professor of Physics
The Maguy-Glass Professor
in Physics of Complex Systems
School of Physics and Astronomy
Tel Aviv University, 69978 Tel Aviv, Israel


Why Diet and Gut Bacterial Symbionts may be the most important thing you learn about Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism is a neurobehavioral condition that has been dramatically on the rise in the last decade. There are many factors that contribute to its causes, but none so pervasive as gut bacterial imbalance. To see the connections, you first have to realize that our brain development is heavily influenced by the interaction between our gut bacterial symbionts, our immune system, and those little cell organelles that produce energy-known as mitochondria. I explained at length how the gut bacteria influence brain development in The Symbiont Factor; in short there are many pathways for influence including gut bacterial alteration of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF. This substance is necessary for proper nerve growth and development, and a deficiency or imbalance in gut bacteria results in a reduced level of BDNF. New research has shown another factor in brain development, Short Chain Fatty Acids or SCFA. This substance is produced by bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates (sweets, essentially!)  Eating too many carbohydrates results in increased populations of the gut bacteria that thrive on sugars, including Clostrida, desulfovibrio, and Bacteroides. When these bacteria ferment carbs, they produce high levels of SCFA including propionic acid which is one SCFA. Propionic acid is also a common food preservative in prepared foods, so read your ingredients and eat organic as much as possible. New research has shown that high propionic acid levels interfere with mitochondrial function, reducing the energy available for nerve cell function and producing ASD. It is important to understand that some of the organisms that produce propionic acid are not necessarily pathogens; more like “frenemies” in this case (see Jerry Seinfeld; friend + enemy, and a good laugh too) Establishing and maintaining a microbial balance is really a more accurate way to state the goal. The overuse of vaccines and antibiotics in children, combined with chemicals in packaged food and toxins in farm-raised food are all factors that conspire to imbalance our gut bacteria. It is worth noting that reduced mitochondrial function also results in elevated oxidative stress, which is the neuroinflammatory/degenerative process that drives many diseases from fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome to Parkinson’s, dementia, and aging in general. Significant variables that we can influence include diet (less sweets, more organic fruits and veggies and organic grassfed meat; organic Paleo diet essentially) and behavior. Pushing ourselves past the point of fatigue, or allowing small children to stay “in overdrive” too long with video games and sweets, causes more bacterial imbalance and neurologic dysfunction. Many supplements, from Curcumin and probiotics with Lactobacillus and Bifido species, to fermented foods and drinks such as GoodBelly and Lifeway Kefir, can help to build and maintain healthy levels of gut bacteria and give our kids the best chance possible of good health and function. The next time a stranger at the bank drive through offers your child “a sucker”, consider the potential effects of regular sugar ingestion on a child’s microbiome and brain function. Really!

For much more about the role of diet and gut symbiont bacteria on brain development, behavior and health, please check out my book The Symbiont Factor: http://tinyurl.com/qyg85t9










Measles, Vaccines and Autism: An Evidence-Based Discussion

This blog post is longer than most, and for that I apologize (somewhat). I can guarantee that the information you’re about to read will be worth the time spent if you’re interested in learning more evidence-based facts about the issue of vaccination. Enjoy!

The concept of vaccination, using an attenuated or dead pathogen to trigger an immune response, is inherently valid (Miravalle). Overwhelmingly, research has demonstrated that vaccines have dramatically reduced the incidence of several communicable diseases. They have in some ways been the greatest advancement in public health since soap. As current events have highlighted, the execution of vaccination as a public health strategy is a very contentious subject. A slightly different approach supported by current research may offer some potential solutions. The current discussion between those who oppose vaccination and its proponents is becoming increasingly polarized and non-constructive as further attempts to force vaccination cause anti-vaccination activists to more deeply entrench in their beliefs about vaccine risks and injuries. While these beliefs are often criticized and villified in published opinions, most recently advocating legal action against non-vaccinating parents (Diamond), evaluation of current research does show some basis for those beliefs (Karussis, Rowhani-Rahbar).

Enough research has been done to show that vaccines do not directly cause autism, yet also show that if a vaccine causes an inflammatory response in a susceptible individual, neurologic problems may result secondary to the inflammatory response. Adjuvants are additives in vaccines that increase the immune response and improve the vaccine’s efficacy at triggering immunity. Research articles show the inflammatory effects of metallic vaccine adjuvants(Agmon-Levin, Esposito), increased vulnerability to neurologic and immune problems as a result of early life exposure to metallic adjuvants (Stejskal, Dorea), encephalomyelitis (CNS inflammation) from vaccination (Alicino) and vaccine triggering of underlying seizure disorders (Verbeek).

The most likely secondary causality scenario involves inflammation as an intermediary problem between vaccination and neurologic problems. Many studies have shown inflammatory reactions to vaccination (Stejskal, Dorea, Alicino, de Theije are examples). The inflammatory reaction to adjuvants, for example, is common enough that an acronym has been created and used in research: ASIA (Autoimmune/inflammatory Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants). Autism and other neurologic diseases have been shown to have an inflammatory basis in many studies (Mitchell, Anderson, Rossignol, Zerbo, McDougle, Noriega, Agmon-Levin for example).

Despite the evidence suggesting that vaccine adverse reactions do occasionally happen, there is virtually no transparency in the vaccine debate, with one side of the debate saying flatly that reactions do not occur despite research indicating otherwise and a huge government vaccine injury compensation fund that pays out millions annually to parents of vaccine injured children. On the other side of the debate are parents and activists who maintain that vaccines are dangerous and cause autism and other neurologic illness. Parents who bring a reaction to the attention of their pediatrician are often routinely ignored or find their statements summarily dismissed. This lack of acknowledgment and open discussion serves only to fuel the fires of distrust and vaccine resistance, as it is predicated on a position that is unsupported by the facts and is also quite insensitive to a parent’s experience. To the mother of a child who screams incessantly for hours after a vaccination or develops seizures followed by developmental regress, vaccine reactions are facts. When physicians completely discount these experiences, a lifetime anti-vaccination advocate is born.

Even the most controversial of all vaccine reaction issues, autism, can be included in this issue. We have writers such as Dan Diamond vehemently stating that there is no link whatsoever, whereas there is research (see Hooker) that it may occur in a manner that is not directly cause-effect. There are many studies saying that MMR vaccination does not cause autism (Uno is a good recent example) so any connection is probably not directly causal. Secondary causality is much more difficult to prove or disprove in research. The issue of vaccine injury is often dismissed under the justification that because the Wakefield paper (see footnote below) was falsified and retracted, all reactions must never occur. This reasoning is overly generalizing, as autism is but one of many neurologic problems with roots in an overly zealous inflammatory response. While there may be a genetic susceptibility in some individuals, inflammation still plays a key role. Timing of vaccination can also be optimized to reduce the chances of adverse reactions (Rowhani-Rahbar).

When considering inflammation and vaccination, there is a cogent connection—both involve the immune system. The immune system of different people is dramatically variable yet this variable is almost never assessed prior to vaccination. The purpose of vaccination is to trigger an immune response, such as the formation of antibodies to the pathogen in question. Systemic or neurologic inflammation, on the other hand, is an overactivity or misdirection of the immune system. It would not seem unreasonable then to consider that inflammation could result from an unintended response of the newly vaccinated immune system (Ye). To understand how this is possible, we need to look at what variables influence the immune system; in particular, how should we identify individuals that could be at elevated risk of an inflammatory response to vaccination? This need has been identified (Soriano) and further work is necessary. One obvious variable is the human microbiome: this population of trillions of bacteria are critical for immune system programming (Underwood, Pabst, Oh, Spasova, Valdez, Hsieh, Matthews). Most of the immune system resides in the abdomen around the gut, where it can be influenced by the gut microbial symbionts known as the microbiome. The immune system receives its “training and mission profile” in part through this mechanism. As the gut bacteria are affected very significantly by diet and antibiotics, some individuals have a very compromised and imbalanced microbiome (we call this dysbiosis) and this imbalance alters immune response.

Instead of steadfastly refusing to acknowledge and discuss vaccine reactions, wouldn’t it be more productive for physicians and scientists (and various pundits) to discuss what can be done to minimize the possibility of an adverse reaction? If parents understood what reactions have been shown to happen and what reactions have been disproven, and what can be done to minimize the risk of an adverse event, they might feel more confident in the process and participate more readily. Respecting a parent’s concerns and knowledge might provide opportunity for discussion instead of resistance. When physicians are unwilling (or too overscheduled) or unversed in discussing vaccine reactions, patients resort to the Internet, with notoriously variable results. The search parameters used and persistence of false information have even been researched (Ruiz) suggesting that search engine results are less than accurate or authoritative. What else are parents to do if they believe that they could do more to protect their child but the physician refuses to discuss the options? As an example of the dogged persistence of false information when delivered via the Internet, think about the small mammal known as a lemming. What comes to mind? Does it involve lemmings jumping off a cliff? This is a frequently used analogy and many of us think it because a Disney movie in 1958 showed lemmings jumping off a cliff into the ocean. But did that actually happen? A little known fact is that Disney purchased lemmings and dumped them out of a big truck for this scene! Lemmings, in fact, do no such thing of their own accord, yet most people believe that they do—because of decades old misinformation.

If it is possible to evaluate a child’s microbiome via a stool analysis and determine if the child is at elevated risk of inflammatory adverse vaccine reaction (Huda) why would a physician not discuss that with a concerned patient or parent? The connections between intestinal dysbiosis and immune system dysfunction are both logical and well documented (Matthews) and yet this information is seldom utilized or discussed. Risk factors can be assessed with questionnaires; genetic susceptibility could be inferred from adverse reactions to siblings for example. Signs of inflammation can include constipation, diarrhea, loose stool, or alternating between these. Chronic headaches can indicate systemic inflammation, as can depression or anxiety. Joint pain can indicate inflammation also. While any one of these does not prove inflammation, a combination of these problems may indicate systemic inflammation. Blood tests can show C-Reactive Protein (CRP) levels as another indicator of underlying inflammation. Should these evaluations show dysbiosis and inflammation, why not recommend some probiotics and a dietary change to improve immune function? Perhaps also something to reduce inflammation, such as curcumin (Prasad) could be used to stem inflammatory response. Probiotics are already being recommended as a vaccine adjuvant (Pabst) so this simple and safe intervention could help reduce the chances of a vaccine reaction as well as improving the immunity triggered by the vaccine. Doing this might be what it takes to keep the doctor “in the loop” and avoid creating another vaccine-resistant parent due to failure to discuss options. These simple steps could also prevent some adverse reactions or simply ease any fear of adverse reactions.

There are some historical statistics that are interesting when reviewing the vaccination debate, and in my opinion they point toward the need for additional recommendations to reduce infections. One example has to do with measles: the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported in 1920 there were 469,924 measles cases in the U.S. with 7,575 deaths. Between 1958-1962 this annual average was 503,282 measles cases—but only an average of 432 deaths. The measles vaccine was licensed in the U.S. in 1963, which begs the question of why deaths had declined by over 94% prior to vaccines being used. Could it have been the development of a more robust natural immunity conferred by infection with wild virus? There is evidence to suggest exactly that, as a study of measles in Poland compared immune status of people who acquired immunity from wild infection with immunity resulting from vaccination (Cześcik). This study showed that the immune system responds more strongly to wild infection and the resultant immunity is both stronger and longer lasting than immunity from vaccination. The researcher also stated that natural immunity appears to decline in the absence of viral stimulation that normally results from recurrent outbreaks.

Reading and watching the recent news gives the impression that if a person is vaccinated, she will be immune and not be a carrier of a disease. This is also not completely accurate, as infectious outbreaks have been documented in well-vaccinated populations (Parker, Rosen) and immunity conferred by vaccination may be far shorter-lived than is commonly believed (Cherry).

There is no substitute for living a healthy lifestyle, cultivating a diverse and balanced microbiome and thereby building the most capable immune system possible. Whether immunity is naturally acquired from infections or received from vaccinations, the immune function determines how severe the infection becomes or if there is an adverse vaccine reaction—as well as the degree of immunity that remains after either method of acquisition.

In summary, dismissing parents’ concerns or flatly denying any possibility of adverse reactions occurring are strategies that have plainly failed. Believing that vaccines are the only answer and result in the healthiest individual possible is also not sufficient or true. All of these approaches are guilty of oversimplifying how the immune system functions and what the best course of action is to assure health. Physicians and other healthcare providers owe it to the public to fully disclose the entire story, all of the facts and options, if they are to live up to their healthcare oath. The issue of “informed consent” that has been so vigorously taught and enforced in healthcare also dictates that the patient’s consent is only valid after having been informed of all the facts, including any possible risks as well as any alternatives or additional recommendations that may reduce risks. When looking at the issue of vaccination, this is simply not being done. This doesn’t reduce the importance of vaccination, but explains how it can be more effective as well as safer and less feared. The time has come for more transparency and open, honest discussion between parents and physicians. The role of the microbiome (and all the interventions that influence its integrity) in vaccine efficacy and reactions must be acknowledged (Matthews) and harnessed to identify at-risk patients and improve both the efficacy and safety of the vaccination process.

Footnote: Andrew Wakefield is a former British surgeon and researcher. He is quite possibly the most controversial and notorious character in the vaccine debate, having published in 1998 a research paper describing a link from the MMR vaccine to autism. His research was officially discredited and he was stripped of his license, as well as the research journal withdrawing his paper. There were allegations of conflict of interest and falsification of results, invalidating the paper completely. He maintains his innocence and the accuracy of his paper, as well as maintaining that he was a victim of pharmaceutical conspiracy to discredit his findings. He has been described as “the Jesus of the anti-vaccination movement.”

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Mood: Does it affect gut symbiont health and intestinal function?

flow chart stress intestinal function inflammation

What are the causes of dysbiosis and resultant dysfunction/disease? One cause that seems to be greatly underestimated may be simply our mood! Human beings, having been gifted with large frontal lobes, are capable of experiencing and expressing a variety of moods. Our bodies respond to these moods with different functional states, some of which have been categorized. These are “fight or flight (or sometimes, fight/flee/fortify)” or “wine and dine”.  There are many more physiological functional arousal states that we could elaborate on, but many of them could make this blog post NSFW. We’ll just assume that your imagination can fill in the blanks with how the body responds to the mind! With the brain-gut connection in mind, and being also cognizant that it’s a two-way street since the gut influences the brain, what would be the influence of stress? One that comes to mind right away is a reduction in gut motility. This changes the environment in which the microbiome exists, and will change the demographics of the microorganisms. What about the effects of peristalsis on the small intestine? If there is less peristalsis, wouldn’t it make it easier for colonic organisms to migrate to the small intestine? If transit times increase, different stages of food digestion could release different nutrients, feeding different organisms. When do we cross from fermentative to putrefactive dominance? Using one of the concepts in The Symbiont Factor, this two-way function of gut/brain/gut axis can cause a positive feedback loop. If gut organisms that flourish during emotional stress can also alter neurotransmitter function at the brain, wouldn’t that predispose the brain to perceive stress following stressful events? What if that is why sometimes after a stressful day we just have more stress, no matter what happens? It is as if our very perception of our environment is vulnerable to plasticity. If this is allowed to happen without our conscious intervention (things like deciding to meditate or do some yoga even though you’re angry) the combination of evoked brain plasticity with gut symbiont evolution could be what makes it hard to shake off stress! Ironically, this same plasticity is probably an evolutionary advantage, allowing genetic selection of the microbiome on an ongoing real-time basis to adapt to circumstances. The problem is that our modern circumstances provide constant chemical and emotional pressure to this system, resulting in “learned dysfunction” of both the gut and the brain!  This highlights the importance of “mental housekeeping” and lifestyle choices in determining our “perceptual future”. If you don’t want the world to seem as stressful, start taking care of mind, body, and symbiont health!

The Problem with RoundUp and its health effects


The Problem with RoundUp and its health effects
Sometimes during a debate it becomes obvious that one side is simply not telling the truth. Such seems to be the case when considering RoundUp, currently still promoted as the safest herbicide ever produced. It is also the most commonly used, with a recorded 187 million pounds used by US farmers in 2007. More current usage is not known, but estimated at over 200 million pounds in the US. The maker of RoundUp, Monsanto, continues to maintain that it is nontoxic and completely safe. This belief permeates to those who use it, with readers offering comments at the end of the article defending its safety. Most homeowners use RoundUp to control weeds, and most farmers use it liberally on crops. This is possible because of genetic modification of crops to permit resistance to glyphosate, permitting the killing of weeds without killing the crop. Recently articles have been published online suggesting that the problem with wheat causing celiac disease or gluten sensitivity has more to do with residual levels of glyphosate than with gluten content. The suggestion that pre-harvest spraying of crops with glyphosate to reduce weed content, promote dessication and improve yield is typically met with a hailstorm of accusations of “pseudoscience” and “fearmongering.” There are usually some vehement denials that pre-harvest spraying is ever carried out. An example of one such article can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/n9rtzpn

With this in mind let us consider two questions: Is glyphosate toxic, and are crops really sprayed prior to harvest?

The reason that glyphosate is “considered safe” is that it inhibits a metabolic pathway in plants known as the Shikimate pathway. This inhibition interrupts the plant’s metabolism and kills it. Humans and other eukaryotic species do not have a Shikimate pathway, and so the claim of safety appears to be scientifically sound…or is it? All eukaryotic organisms including humans have cellular power-producing structures known as mitochondria. These structures are where energy is produced so that the cell and the organism have fuel. Mitochondria, however, are really not of human origin. Thought to be the end result of ancient indwelling symbionts (endosymbiont theory if you’d like to look that up) mitochondria are more similar to bacteria than human cells. Their DNA is circular, just as bacterial DNA is circular. This isn’t some new discovery as geneticists have been using this mitochondrial DNA to track the human family tree for years. You see, mitochondrial DNA is matrilineal-it is only inherited from the mother, not from the father. This provides a unique opportunity to track one side of the family tree more accurately than is possible with human DNA. It’s also the first clue to glyphosate’s toxicity, as bacteria have a Shikimate pathway! Predictably mitochondria also have a Shikimate pathway. There is already a research paper stating this (Mesnage, Seneff). There is also an effect in the microbiome, as glyphosate is more toxic to some microorganisms than to others, causing an imbalance in this critical ecosystem. Kruger found that glyphosate reduced the inhibition of Clostridium (a pathogen) by Enterococcus species, causing imbalance and disease. A differential toxic effect was found in chickens by Shehata, who showed the glyphosate inibited beneficial microbial species yet did not inhibit pathogenic ones. Changes in gut bacteria in humans can alter serotonin levels, affecting behavior, mood and susceptibility to brain trauma (Morley). The microbiome living in our intestines are critical to our health and are vulnerable to changes in intestinal function (Matthews). It has been found that at very dilute concentrations, far less than commercial farming uses, glyphosate reduces intestinal motility (Chlopecka). This would result in more constipation, dramatic shifts in population dynamics and an increased risk of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) due to reduced motility allowing contents of the colon to move into the small intestine. Glyphosate has been found to trigger pathways producing cellular apoptosis (think cell sepuku) and increased reactive oxygen species producing damaging oxidation (Chaufan).
There is always someone who, in the comments following an article critical of Roundup, offers to drink a glass of it to prove its safety. This is ill advised, as glyphosate is far from nontoxic. Instead, it has been found to produce respiratory depression, bradycardia (so, you can’t breathe and your heart slows), acidosis, hyperkalemia, cardiac block or arrythmia and death. Hemodialysis and intubation are required to help the patient survive, as there is no antidote to glyphosate poisoning (Garlich, Gress).

Okay, so Roundup is definitely toxic in many ways even at small doses. What about all of the people who argue that it is not recommended for use before harvest? Doing a basic search on the internet looking for pre-harvest advice as a farmer provides some insight into this! Monsanto itself provides a “Pre-Harvest Staging Guide” for using RoundUp: http://tinyurl.com/q2o8f96. North Dakota State University published “Glyphosate as a Pre-Harvest Aid in Small Grains” July 2014: http://tinyurl.com/ll98tfj. Michigan State University published something similar for soybeans: http://tinyurl.com/o6f5dqy. University of Arizona Extension also got in on the game, publishing a guide to pre-harvest spraying of wheat to kill broad-leaf weeds: http://tinyurl.com/ljs6547. Similar publishing can be found at http://tinyurl.com/l69bdzc, http://tinyurl.com/kbem9ht, http://tinyurl.com/k6o4lwf, and http://tinyurl.com/m7nxm6a.

You might notice that many of these organizations providing pre-harvest spraying guidelines are university agricultural programs. If you’re not familiar with ag programs, you might even wonder why they would recommend such a practice in light of the research information on glyphosate’s biologic effects (and there are many more articles showing its effects; I didn’t even scratch the surface really!). The old adage of “follow the money” could never be more accurate: http://tinyurl.com/mhyvwzy, http://tinyurl.com/ctw2aq7 as the codependent relationship that has evolved between Monsanto and institutes of higher education is both diabolically brilliant and nauseatingly common.

If you needed more reasons to shop for organically grown fruits and vegetables or use grains other than wheat, you now have them. If you think just avoiding wheat will solve the problem, consider that the same recommendations exist for barley, oats, flax, canola, peas, lentils, soybeans and dried beans (page 31 of http://tinyurl.com/q2o8f96 lists all of these as recommendations for pre-harvest spraying in Canada, and others list ‘small grains’ in the guidelines: http://tinyurl.com/o994mk2).

We have arrived at a time in history when the business interests of corporate entities often take precedence over the health needs of society’s human members. When we allow large corporations to control what is taught in schools and what guidelines are imposed by government, we can count on one thing-being counted out of the deal.

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The Symbiont Factor is now a paperback, available on Amazon!

After a year and a half of having a second job as a new author, my first book is finally available in print! A comprehensive, thoroughly referenced guide to how our gut bacteria influence physical and mental health: The Symbiont Factor is now available on Amazon as a paperback! If you ever wondered if and why probiotics are healthy you should read this book. Please share with your contacts 🙂     http://tinyurl.com/pe2g4xt

Brain/Gut/Symbiont function seen as Rock-Paper-Scissors. Or, why you crave french fries and can’t lose weight!

Rock-Paper-Scissors is an ancient Chinese game, often used in modern society instead of flipping a coin. The concept is that each player, on que, puts his hand out flat (paper) or in a Vulcan-like “V” (scissors), or a fist (rock). Each beats the next: scissors cut paper, paper covers rock, rock crushes scissors. It occurred to me that this is quite similar to how symbiont bacteria, the brain, and the gut interact! I’ll explain the short version, then explain more about it. The symbiont bacteria influence the brain, the brain controls the gut (intestines) and the intestines provide a habitat/home for the symbionts. Imbalances in any of these three can therefore affect the next item in the functional triad: Imbalanced symbionts (dysbiosis) can alter brain neurotransmitters, mood, pain perception, cognition, sense of smell, appetite for specific foods and behaviors. Alterations of this type in the brain result in, amongst other things, cravings for specific foods that would benefit the dominant genera of gut symbionts combined with discomfort/lack of satisfaction if those cravings are not met. Here’s a very common example: one pattern of gut bacteria imbalance results in what researchers have termed “obesogens”, dominant populations of bacteria that cause obesity. How do they do that? In part, by altering appetite, olfaction (sense of smell), and frontal lobe processing to create food cravings and increased appetite, specifically for foods that benefit the bacteria-in this case greasy/sweet and fattening foods. Along with this dietary predilection there are behavioral changes that result in lower energy levels, less ambition, and a preference for a sedentary lifestyle that does not burn calories. These behavioral changes have been evaluated in laboratory animals by taking a sterile (no bacteria) animal of normal weight and transferring the gut bacteria from an obese animal to it. The result is a behavioral and appetite/food preference change similar to that which the obese animal had! In other words, the behavior goes with the bacteria. So, what do you do if you want more energy, want to lose weight and get more done? try to work on improving your gut bacteria! Pre and probiotics as well as exercise and dietary changes provide some ways to accomplish this.

Here’s another example of this triad at work: a stressful lifestyle affects the brain’s control of the gut, by altering autonomic function and causing sympathetic (fight-or-flight) dominance. This suppresses the gut digestive process and causes more putrefaction, altering the balance of symbiont populations. Damage to the mucous lining of the intestines and sloughing off of microvilli that normally improve nutrient absorption and house gut bacteria reduce beneficial symbiont populations. What’s the result? As above, weight gain and a cascade of health problems.

The changes to the symbiont bacteria can alter brain function sufficiently to cause depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, autism, ASD, and altered brain function, personality and pain perception. These are deeply fundamental changes to “who we are” and are representative of the level of influence that the gut symbionts have on our function.

The “rock paper scissors” explanation should also illustrate why researching specific cause-effect/double blind mechanisms are so challenging in this system, as unless the third variable is controlled for (and it often cannot be) the results may be more inconsistent that they would be in a simpler system.

This functional trifecta is one of the reasons why in my clinic, if I recommend an exercise and a dietary change and the patient immediately becomes resistant and “whiney” about making the changes, I record the resistance as a symptom and try to show the patient how their feelings are in fact potential confirmation of this functional system at work!


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