Branched Chain Amino Acids, BCAA’s, are a common addition to the diet for bodybuilders and athletes. Here’s a new research study, published this month, that shows BCAA’s help change your gut bacteria. Specifically, the encourage more Bifidobacteria (which boosts immune function but lowers inflammation) and Akkermansia (which helps build lean muscle mass and reduce fat). As there is much research now connecting aging with inflammation, even calling it “inflammaging”, these are both great things. It’s also somewhat of a departure from the thought of using probiotics and prebiotics to modulate the gut bacteria, adding amino acids to our microbiome toolbox!
A while back I wrote about a synbiotic (prebiotic fiber + probiotic bacteria) fermented breakfast, and I’ve improved significantly on it since then so here is an update!
The concept of a synbiotic ferment is to give the beneficial bacteria a headstart before they get introduced into the body by eating them-and then include enough fuel for the journey and any upcoming microbial challenges. With this in mind, a new study was published that verified that prebiotic fibers can selectively benefit specific bacteria down to the species level. That is very useful to know! (Chung) As a note, the best way to read this blog post and many of my others is to right-click on each of the references below and open them in new tabs, take a look at each one, then read the rest of the blog post. Then, you can skip back to the research article when you see something connecting it. The research articles about these ingredients show benefits such as increased testosterone in men, reduced body fat, increased insulin sensitivity/reduced weight gain, prevention of cancer, reduced LDL cholesterol…in other words, fairly profound benefits of letting our microbial friends have their way with the breakfast food before we consume it!
This isn’t a chemical formula, so the proportions can vary a bit and not ruin things. I tend to be someone who cooks by feel and adds a bit of this and a bit of that, so take that into account LOL. I’ll approximate what I usually use and you can adjust accordingly if need be. Note that the picture of adding the grated apple isn’t included, as the day I took these pics I didn’t have an apple! I’ll add it later though. For now, follow the text more than the pictures please 😉
- One cup gluten free oats, uncooked
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 3/4 cup Kefir (I make my own with coconut milk; use what you have!)
- 3 tbsp ground Flaxseed
- 3 tbsp Inulin powder
- One organic apple, peeled and grated
- Enough extra coconut milk to make it totally wet with enough fluid to cover but not make soup (or your fave milk/substitute, but not vanilla or chocolate flavored stuff as the bacteria don’t seem to like that)
Mix all the ingredients in a glass bowl, and place on top of your fridge or other convenient place that isn’t too cold or too warm. Put a saucer under and over the bowl, as it can get frothy and try to escape! Now leave it alone for at least 24 hours, 36 or even 48 if you’re bold. When it’s a bit foamy feeling if stirred, and smells fermented, it’s ready to eat. I take 1/4 to 1/3 of the batch in another bowl, then add a handful of walnuts and some more coconut milk, and sometimes some maple syrup or molasses-just a spoonful-and even a sprinkle of cinnamon. If you heat it, you kill the bacteria so it’s probably much healthier cold. Enjoy!
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!
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
Testosterone is central to growing muscle and getting in shape, for both men and women. Now before you think I’m endorsing injecting testosterone, understand that what I’m talking about is getting your body’s natural production and usage of testosterone up to where it should be. After all, if you could grow muscle or get in shape more like you did as a teenager, you would get more out of exercise, right?
There are many factors affecting testosterone, such as sleep (or lack thereof), inflammation, and gut bacteria. Yes, those microscopic organisms who outnumber human cells 10:1 and whose gene count dwarfs our human DNA! They don’t just help digestion, but also help manage our endocrine system which produces our hormones-including testosterone!
The bodybuilding community is beginning to catch on to the fact that gut health and probiotic bacteria can play a big role in muscle growth. Here is a great article about this very thing: http://bit.ly/1mVz5gE. A very well written and entertaining article, by the way!
It isn’t quite as simple as just taking probiotics, of course, although that is a great start. To establish and improve gut bacterial colonies, you should also learn about how mood and behavior impact gut bacterial health, and what steps can be taken to optimize diet and chemical exposure for maximum gut bacterial benefit. The result can be reduced inflammation (which permits harder workouts!) and better testosterone levels (which maximizes the benefits of the exercise!).
More information about how to accomplish these goals, as well as preventing health problems related to gut bacterial imbalances, can be found by reading The Symbiont Factor. You can check it out here: http://amzn.to/1jz3kPt
Today is the day I finally got to click on the “submit” button and make my book available on Amazon. After a year of hard work writing and making edit corrections, it’s done! A print copy will be available soon-for now only the e-book version is available.
Here is the link to the book on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1jz3kPt
Kefir is a fermented milk product with at least a two millenium history of human use. Native people such as the Maasai have used fermentation to preserve their milk products. Kefir is the most popular fermented dairy product in Russia and is thought to have originated in the Caucasus mountain region. Milk that is fermented into kefir has been found to last at least six weeks in refrigeration with no spoilage or loss of probiotic organisms! This is significantly longer than pasteurized and unfermented milk, and works the same way whether with camel, cow, goat or sheep’s milk. Kefir has been found to have many health benefits, among them:
-Kills drug-resistant myeloid leukemia cells
-Slows the progression of kidney disease
-Improves fatty liver disease
-Reduces obesity/body fat content
So, how do you make your own? It’s really simple, actually! All you need is milk, a starter culture, and a jar. Starter cultures can be obtained from someone else who is making kefir, or started from commercially available packets:
The culture that ferments kefir is known as a SCOBY, or symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Over time, this culture will grow until it looks a bit like soggy cauliflower:
If making kefir for the first time using a package mix, it is best to follow the directions provided with the kefir grains. When you strain out the grains as shown above, they will grow over time and form a bigger SCOBY. This SCOBY is fairly advanced-it’s a good time to share with someone else! This one can ferment a quart of milk into kefir in 24 hours.
The first step to making kefir from a SCOBY is to add the SCOBY to the fermenting vessel (fancy word for quart mason jar in this case!)
The next step is to add the milk:
Then cover the top with a coffee filter or paper towel, to keep dust and insects from contaminating your kefir culture.
and use either a rubber band or one of the threaded rings (since this is a canning jar) to keep the filter attached tightly:
At this point, I place the jar on top of my refrigerator.
It works best if you take it down and stir it lightly 2-3x/day, or at least give it a good swirling-about, to distribute the bacteria more evenly in the milk. If you prefer a lighter fermentation, 24 hours may be sufficient. I prefer a thicker, stronger fermentation, and often leave it 48 hours or place it in the refrigerator the last 24 hours before removing the SCOBY. The next step is to strain out the SCOBY:
The SCOBY culture can then be put into a smaller glass jar with some fresh milk and stored in the refrigerator, or the process can be repeated to start the next batch of kefir. Using this information, you can create your own healthy kefir at home! We use goat milk obtained from a local farm, but it will work with other types of milk or store-bought goat milk also. Fermentation of milk in this manner preserves the milk, as the bacterial culture will actively inhibit or kill any invading bacteria that might cause spoilage or disease. It has been shown to last at least six weeks, as mentioned above. Will pasteurized milk last six weeks if not fermented? Hardly-it would be a horrid stinking mess! In the same manner, unfermented milk that is fermented is safer for consumption than pasteurized milk that is unfermented. Once finished, kefir can be enjoyed as-is, blended with fruit to make smoothies, or added to other drinks and dishes. So get started and enjoy this healthy probiotic beverage!