Tag Archives: brain

Aspartame, blood sugar levels, and oxidative stress in the brain! a Paleo, microbiome-based perspective

400 x 400 tsf gb

In the course of researching patient cases and working on my next book, I read a lot of research studies. Sometimes, I come across information that wasn’t really what I was looking for, but is fascinating!

I have several patients who have chronic Lyme disease (yes, there is such a thing, but that’s a different subject…) and neurologic problems from depression/anxiety to failing memory, movement disorders, and even seizures are often commonplace in this type of patient. I was looking up more information about how oxidative stress, one of the underlying processes that drives neurologic problem progression, affects the brain. Along the way, I came across this study about N-acetyl cysteine and Aspartame.

N-acetyl cysteine, or NAC, is a precursor to glutathione (a powerful antioxidant) and as such it is a great tool to help reduce oxidative stress. Aspartame, more commonly known as NutraSweet, is a very common artificial sweetener.

This research study (see link below) was published in the journal Neurochemical Research in 2014, looked at NAC being used to protect the brain from the effects of Aspartame. Now mind you, if you ask 50 random people if they think NutraSweet is safe, most will claim it is and offer you a tinfoil hat if you mention anything about Monsanto and conspiracy to push the product to market. However, that is actually now an accepted fact, as Monsanto purchased G.D. Searle in 1985-the very company that held the patent to aspartame. In 1980 the FDA had banned aspartame, because the Board of Inquiry found that it might cause brain tumors. The Searle chairman at the time vowed he would get it approved. The chairman would later become famous as the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. A new FDA commissioner was appointed, who added people to the FDA board, and personally voted to break a tie and make aspartame legal. He later became employed by a public relations firm contracted by Monsanto and GD Searle. This product is now used in over 6,000 products, including over 500 different drugs.

The study in the Journal of Neurochemical Research matter-of-factly states that “Long-term intake of aspartame at the acceptable daily dose causes oxidative stress in rodent brain mainly due to the dysregulation of glutathione homeostasis”. It goes on to explain that aspartame reduced several antioxidant levels that are critical to brain health. They did find that NAC was able to exert a protective effect on the brain when it had been exposed to aspartame’s toxic effects.

One more tidbit is revealed in the study: “However, N-acetylcysteine was unable to reduce serum glucose levels, which were increased as a result of aspartame administration.” Another study evaluated the microbiome’s metabolism of aspartame and found that the end product is a short chain fatty acid, propionate, which raises blood sugar and reduces insulin sensitivity. In case that didn’t make sense to you, it makes blood sugar go up and insulin not work as well-building blocks of Type 2 diabetes. Isn’t the whole reason that people choose an artificial sweetener the idea that it won’t raise blood glucose like real carbohydrates would? Looks like it doesn’t really work that way! Now ask yourself why this isn’t more common knowledge…

In case you were wondering, that isn’t the only study that shows toxic effects of NutraSweet. Others have shown elevated cytokine levels (inflammation), as well as harmful/imbalancing effects on the gut microbiome.

Sometimes it is best to go back to what the body evolved and optimized to consume as food. The key word there is food, not chemistry! While many people are attempting to be on low-carb and Paleo diets to promote weight loss and health, the use of artificial sweeteners is definitely not a good addition to these diets. Some diets, such as South Beach, are actually recommending the full-fledged replacement of all simple carbs with artificial sweeteners. Many diabetics, the very people who need more insulin sensitivity and better glucose control, rely on very large doses of artificial sweeteners that are far above what is used in studies. For those pursuing a more traditional approach, the facts are even more clear. Consider that Paleo is supposed to mean Paleolithic; cave-dweller or hunter-gatherer. For 99+ percent of human existence, we’ve eaten meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts-essentially whatever could be picked, dug up, gathered, or killed in the region and season being occupied. I’m pretty certain that didn’t include Monsanto’s chemical cocktails.

References:

Impact of aspartame and saccharin on the rat liver: Biochemical, molecular, and histological approach.

Alkafafy Mel-S, Ibrahim ZS, Ahmed MM, El-Shazly SA.

Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2015 Jun;28(2):247-55. doi: 10.1177/0394632015586134. Epub 2015 May 26.

PMID:26015492

Longer period of oral administration of aspartame on cytokine response in Wistar albino rats.

Choudhary AK, Sheela Devi R.

Endocrinol Nutr. 2015 Mar;62(3):114-22. doi: 10.1016/j.endonu.2014.11.004. Epub 2015 Feb 11.

PMID:25681123

Low-dose aspartame consumption differentially affects gut microbiota-host metabolic interactions in the diet-induced obese rat.

Palmnäs MS, Cowan TE, Bomhof MR, Su J, Reimer RA, Vogel HJ, Hittel DS, Shearer J.

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 14;9(10):e109841. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109841. eCollection 2014.

PMID:25313461

Free PMC Article

Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota.

Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, Zilberman-Schapira G, Thaiss CA, Maza O, Israeli D, Zmora N, Gilad S, Weinberger A, Kuperman Y, Harmelin A, Kolodkin-Gal I, Shapiro H, Halpern Z, Segal E, Elinav E.

Nature. 2014 Oct 9;514(7521):181-6. doi: 10.1038/nature13793. Epub 2014 Sep 17.

PMID:25231862

The carcinogenic effects of aspartame: The urgent need for regulatory re-evaluation.

Soffritti M, Padovani M, Tibaldi E, Falcioni L, Manservisi F, Belpoggi F.

Am J Ind Med. 2014 Apr;57(4):383-97. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22296. Epub 2014 Jan 16. Review.

PMID:24436139

Effect of aspartame on oxidative stress and monoamine neurotransmitter levels in lipopolysaccharide-treated mice.

Abdel-Salam OM, Salem NA, Hussein JS.

Neurotox Res. 2012 Apr;21(3):245-55. doi: 10.1007/s12640-011-9264-9. Epub 2011 Aug 6.

PMID:21822758

Aspartame administered in feed, beginning prenatally through life span, induces cancers of the liver and lung in male Swiss mice.

Soffritti M, Belpoggi F, Manservigi M, Tibaldi E, Lauriola M, Falcioni L, Bua L.

Am J Ind Med. 2010 Dec;53(12):1197-206. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20896.

PMID:20886530

Aspartame and incidence of brain malignancies.

Davis DL, Ganter L, Weinkle J.

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 May;17(5):1295-6. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-07-2869. No abstract available.

PMID:18483354

Free Article

Life-span exposure to low doses of aspartame beginning during prenatal life increases cancer effects in rats.

Soffritti M, Belpoggi F, Tibaldi E, Esposti DD, Lauriola M.

Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Sep;115(9):1293-7.

PMID:17805418

Free PMC Article

Stress, Microbiome, Inflammation and the Pancreas & Liver

flow chart stress intestinal function inflammation

Sometimes things happen that seem to come out of nowhere. It happens to all of us, usually when we least expect it because we are busy taking care of others or life in general. So here’s a scenario: Imagine that one day your blood sugar suddenly skyrockets and your Medical physician informs you that your liver and pancreas are not functioning properly. What could cause this? Well, many things could, but the one thing in common is inflammation. If the pancreas is inflamed, the Islets of Langerhans sometimes stop producing insulin and blood sugar doesn’t get stored, so it jumps up. If the inflammation is early in life, the immune system may go to the point of forming antibodies to the Islets, destroying them and causing Type 1 diabetes. If the body becomes inflamed later in life, cells may not respond to insulin anymore, causing Type 2 diabetes. But if the pancreas is inflamed, it doesn’t work properly. The liver can be implicated too, as it stores extra energy (glucose) reserves for when you need them. Liver inflammation can also cause diabetes. While these changes are all known to occur in people that are obese and have an unhealthy diet, how is it possible for it to happen this quickly, and in someone who isn’t obese? The answer lies in the fact that the immune system is mostly controlled by our gut bacteria and GALT, or gut-associated lymphoid tissue, dendritic nerve endings, and other points of information exchange between the microbiome and the host immune system.

Research has shown that exposure to short-term social/emotional stress causes alteration of the gut microbiome. This altered microbiome in turn does not control the immune system approriately, resulting in increased systemic inflammation (which can make the social stress worse, as both the inflammation and the altered microbiome affect brain function and mood). See the illustration above, which is from my book The Symbiont Factor.

Another factor that can alter the microbiome and trigger widespread inflammation is short term dietary change, to a less beneficial diet. In research terminology, a diet that causes microbiome demise, inflammation and disease is called a Western Diet. It is used to produce a sick lab animal to study, and mimics what the average American consumer eats every day.

Sleep is absolutely necessary for a healthy microbiome, and disruptions of our circadian rhythms and sleep cycles has been shown to disrupt our microbiome and cause inflammation.

Exposure to air affects our microbiome too! Air is actually replete will huge numbers of human skin cells and bacteria from other people in the vicinity. The longer we are in a space with other people, the more we inhale parts of their microbiome combined with the microbiome of the space. These organisms then influence our own microbiome, so if the exposure was to unhealthy microbiomes, the result can be…inflammation once more.

Sometimes the scenario can revive imbalances and infections we’ve had before, such as chronic viral infections (shingles, for example, or herpes) or chronic bacterial infections such as Lyme disease-where the organism was in a dormant state due to good immune function-waiting for an opportunity.

Ok, so…can we picture a scenario where all of the above are combined? Stress, bad food, interrupted sleep with no real dark/light cycles, and lots of sick people/bad bacteria? Bingo-it’s the place where we send people to get well: a hospital.

What should we do to recover from this systemic inflammation?

  1. Regular sleep, hitting the bed and waking same time every day, preferably in a multiple of 90 minutes. So, 6 hours, 7.5 hours, 9 hours so that we don’t interrupt a sleep cycle. No lights, no devices at night. No bright little blue “charging” LEDs.
  2. Healthy food, and preferably some of it fermented. There is a great fermented oatmeal recipe earlier on this blog, and many areas have private individuals making fantastic fermented vegetables. Here in coastal Maine, “A Stone’s Throw to Health” is one such business, with handcrafted ferments by Sheila Perloff-Eddison.
  3. Avoid deep fried food, hydrogenated fats, sweets, gluten. Even if you’re not gluten sensitive, eating it when you’re inflamed raises the odds of you becoming gluten sensitive. No fast food. Real meat, vegetable, greens, fruit.
  4. Probiotic Bifidobacteria, in double the normal doses. Add prebiotic inulin, pectin, FOS, GOS supplements to help feed the newly introduced organisms.
  5. Curcumin is hugely effective for reducing inflammation, improving insulin sensitivity, healing liver and pancreas. Not turmeric, which is 5% curcumin, but 95% curcumin-the real stuff. I take 6-8 capsules a day, minimum, if I’m injured or inflamed. It works better than drugs-check out the Ghosh study in the bibliography below.
  6. Some other products, such as jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes, jicama, artichokes, asparagus, pomegranate, rhubarb, ginger have been shown to have fantastic prebiotic and anti-inflammatory benefits.
  7. Make a point of, several times per day, praying or meditating on peaceful/optimistic and loving thoughts while breathing deeply. The physiologic effects improve autonomic tone and gut function, helping to recolonize healthy bacteria while healing gut membranes.

 

Sources:

Fermented Vegetables: http://www.astonesthrowtohealth.com/

Curcumin: http://progressivelabs.com/product.php?productid=17110&cat=0&page=1

Inulin: http://www.amazon.com/Prebiotin-Prebiotic-Fiber-8-5-Powder/dp/B001RVFSFS/ref=sr_1_2_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1459361720&sr=8-2&keywords=prebiotic

For more info: http://www.amazon.com/Symbiont-Factor-Microbiome-Redefines-Humanity/dp/1500553948/

Fermented oatmeal recipe: https://thesymbiontfactorblog.com/2016/01/26/super-synbiotic-breakfast-improved/

 

Bibliography:

Rhubarb extract prevents hepatic inflammation induced by acute alcohol intake, an effect related to the modulation of the gut microbiota.

Neyrinck AM, Etxeberria U, Taminiau B, Daube G, Van Hul M, Everard A, Cani PD, Bindels LB, Delzenne NM.

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 Mar 18. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201500899. [Epub ahead of print]

PMID:26990039

Combination with Red ginseng and Polygoni Multiflori ameliorates highfructose diet induced metabolic syndrome.

Kho MC, Lee YJ, Park JH, Cha JD, Choi KM, Kang DG, Lee HS.

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016 Mar 9;16(1):98. doi: 10.1186/s12906-016-1063-7.

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Chronic Psychological Stress Disrupted the Composition of the Murine Colonic Microbiota and Accelerated a Murine Model of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Watanabe Y, Arase S, Nagaoka N, Kawai M, Matsumoto S.

PLoS One. 2016 Mar 7;11(3):e0150559. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0150559. eCollection 2016.

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Early Alterations in Glycemic Control and Pancreatic Endocrine Function in Nondiabetic Patients With Chronic Pancreatitis.

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Hepatoprotective Effect and Synergism of Bisdemethoycurcumin against MCD Diet-Induced Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Mice.

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Exposure to a social stressor alters the structure of the intestinal microbiota: implications for stressor-induced immunomodulation.

Bailey MT, Dowd SE, Galley JD, Hufnagle AR, Allen RG, Lyte M.

Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Mar;25(3):397-407. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2010.10.023. Epub 2010 Oct 30.

PMID:21040780

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Administration of different Lactobacillus strains in fermented oatmeal soup: in vivo colonization of human intestinal mucosa and effect on the indigenous flora.

Johansson ML, Molin G, Jeppsson B, Nobaek S, Ahrné S, Bengmark S.

Appl Environ Microbiol. 1993 Jan;59(1):15-20.

PMID:8439146

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Effect of fermented oatmeal soup on the cholesterol level and the Lactobacillus colonization of rat intestinal mucosa.

Molin G, Andersson R, Ahrné S, Lönner C, Marklinder I, Johansson ML, Jeppsson B, Bengmark S.

Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 1992 Apr;61(3):167-73.

 

New Study shows a Bacterial Colony communicates like a Brain!

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.

A new study published recently has shown that bacterial colonies have an additional channel of communication than previously thought-they can communicate through ionic channels between cells. This allows bacteria in a colony to exchange data through electrical impulses; electrically charges particles (ions) in a manner remarkably similar to how a brain’s neurons communicate with one another!

This new study is fascinating to me, as one of the principal concepts in The Symbiont Factor was that a bacterial colony acts more like a multicellular organism than a group of single celled organisms. Professor Eshel Ben-Jacob had shown this communication ability through his many research studies, and was the first (as far as I know) to profess that colonies functioned in a logical intelligent manner. In my book, I show how gut bacteria influence the host organism to facilitate their continued survival and reproduction (traits normally attributed to far more complex organisms) by altering our metabolism, gut function, appetite for different items, brain function and many other variables.

This new study should make the health of your symbiont bacterial colony even more of a priority!

http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/biologists_discover_bacteria_communicate_like_neurons_in_the_brain

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130528180900.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26200335

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18298829

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25968641

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

http://www.amazon.com/Symbiont-Factor-Bacteria-Microbiome-Redefines-ebook/dp/B00LV6H1UY/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1443640302&sr=8-6

Australopithecus sediba, our vegetarian past? What does it take to grow a brain?

Very detailed and scientifically correct human skullcutaway, with all brain details, mid-sagittal side view, on white background. Anatomy image.

I’m watching a PBS special about some new fossils of our ancestors, specifically Australopithecus sediba, discovered in a cave in South Africa. I noted that the reconstruction of the ribcage appeared to be wide and consistent with an individual having a large abdomen, similar to a gorilla, providing room for a long enough digestive tract to digest a mostly vegetable diet. Just as horses and cattle need a relatively large abdomen to provide a “fermentation vessel”, so too the gorilla (and A. sediba) have a skeletal structure to accommodate this structure. Later in the show, it was revealed that dental calculi (plaque) provided evidence of a vegetarian high-fiber diet. This validates my observation of the ribcage dimension and clinches, in my mind, that this ancestor was a veggie eater. The braincase suggests that this ancestor had not yet evolved the larger brain, particularly frontal lobes, characteristic of modern humans.

Scientists have identified two requirements for the evolution of large brains (termed “encephalizaton”). The first requirement is sociality, as much of the brain enlargement is frontal lobe and this part of the brain is where much of our social dynamic originates from. Executive functions, self control, altruism are frontal lobe functions for the most part. Species with large frontal lobes have advanced social societies (dolphins, whales, elephants are prime examples). The second requirement is DHA, an essential fatty acid found mostly in seafood but also in fats of prey animals.

It is thought by many research authors (see Ben-Dor and Jandhayala below in references) that mankind’s encephalization involved a shortening of the digestive tract to support eating more energy-dense foods like meats and fats. The consumption of plant material for a diet requires that most of the waking time be spent foraging and eating, and the digestive process depends on a large gut. The development of tools and weapons was a necessary step to becoming an omnivore, as was the development of social structure necessary to successfully hunt larger prey animals.

It is for these reasons that a diverse and unique gut bacteria were a critical component of our development. The gut bacteria help produce BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), required for the development of new brain cells and is essential for plasticity and learning. High levels of DHA in the diet also help with BDNF production. The human brain requires essential fats in the diet to support both its energy requirements and its health. There is evidence that during the phases where early man was developing the large brain characteristic of our species, diet shifted from plant based to include meat and fat. Those near the ocean likely obtained all the DHA fats needed from seafood, while those dwelling inland may have obtained it from…brains and marrow fat. Fossil remains show that prey animals consumed by early man have been found with cranial vault damage suggesting that the brain was removed for consumption. Obviously, those living near the ocean had a much easier time of things, as clams do not run fast nor pose much of a threat! Ancient settlements near water are often characterized by large piles of seashells.

What this boils down to is that we developed our big and (usually) useful brains due to a dietary shift away from vegetarian to eating meat and animal fats. Accompanying this shift, and codependent on it, was a behavioral shift toward toolmaking, weapon use, and increased social interaction. It should also be noted that as I explained in The Symbiont Factor, a higher functioning brain is codependent on a diverse microbiome. More brain activity helps the gut become healthy and encourages a healthy microbiome, and vice versa. The modern Western diet has high levels of omega-6 fats, which displace DHA and increase inflammation, leading to more disease and less brain development! That type of diet is also typically very unheathy for the microbiome, further hindering brain function. A vegetarian or vegan diet can still be brain-healthy, but apparently not without additional supplementation of DHA as even the presence of healthy fats in vegetable sources does not provide enough DHA due to a low conversion rate. That subject is discussed at length in some of the references provided, and may be fodder for many who have strong opinions one way or the other.

References:

The Symbiont Factor: http://tinyurl.com/ppyh9yr

Energetic and nutritional constraints on infant brain development: implications for brain expansion during human evolution:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24928072

Docosahexaenoic acid, the aquatic diet, and hominin encephalization: difficulties in establishing evolutionary links. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17160979

Encephalization is not a universal macroevolutionary phenomenon in mammals but is associated with sociality. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21098277

Evidence for the unique function of docosahexaenoic acid during the evolution of
the modern hominid brain. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10419087

Man the Fat Hunter: The Demise of Homo erectus and the Emergence of a New Hominin Lineage in the Middle Pleistocene (ca.400 kyr) Levant http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3235142/

New Insights into the Evolution of the Human Diet from Faecal Biomarker Analysis in Wild Chimpanzee and Gorilla Faeces http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4465628/

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): An Ancient Nutrient for the Modern Human Brain http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257695/

Role of the normal gut microbiota: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4528021/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australopithecus_sediba

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/ancient/new-ancient-hominid-skeleton-found-in-south-africa/

 

ADHD and the Microbiome: Any useful connections?

ADHD

Life sometimes keeps us quite busy, doesn’t it? I apologize to you, my readers, for the scarce blog posts. I’ve been in the process of pulling off an epic home move of about 1700 miles! So, I write this post while in a campground in Lamoine, Maine USA where I’ve been hunting up a new home for my family and I.

I did quite a bit of research reading about ADHD recently, and thought I would share a few thoughts about it.  Most of these thoughts are summarized in the flow chart drawing I created; refer to it when reading this blog post and you’ll see what I mean. What can be learned from a simple uBiome stool sample that can help with ADHD? Well, it turns out that there is quite a bit to look at there! As usual, this isn’t meant to replace your physician’s advice, and it is an example-which may not exactly describe your situation. You should consider using uBiome to run your (or your child’s) sample to see what your particular situation consists of.

The first thing to consider is the imbalance that frequently occurs in a microbiome. You see, it isn’t just about how many species of bacteria live in your gut, it is also about the relative numbers of those species. uBiome, after processing your sample, shows this in the simplest way by clicking on Taxonomy tree. In this format, the larger circles indicate larger populations while the smaller ones indicate, well, smaller. Clicking on each allows one to expand the data down from the phylum level all the way down to the genus level (remember, all life is cataloged by Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. We usually use Genus, Species to identify organisms, such as Homo sapiens or Helicobacter pylori.) When expanding these circles, often there is an obvious imbalance. At this point, I’m going to share some very specific information, and some or all of it may not apply to you or your child. It is an example of how a uBiome analysis can correlate with a condition and symptoms, directing some interventions. One recent patient case was a good example; the only large circles were Firmicutes, which is not such a bad thing. Opening that led to Clostridia being dominant, while Bacilli was minimal. This is meaningful because Bacilli includes Lactobacillus-one of the definite “good guys” that keep things working well. The phylum Actinobacteria was also minimal, significant because it includes another desirable genus, Bifidobacterium. This organism is an initial colonizer of the gut, tames the immune system, and also works with Lactobacillus to produce BDNF.

BDNF stands for Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, and it is necessary for the brain to develop new connections and grow/adapt to the life an individual leads. It is needed for plasticity, that ability of the brain to learn and adapt as needed. Low levels of BDNF are associated with ADHD. Your microbiome helps your brain to produce BDNF. Remember that a big part of what your brain learns to do as you grow up is actually blocking things out, not paying attention to more of them. It is a learning process, and in order to concentrate to accomplish tasks we must learn to attenuate non-essential information. This is also necessary for the brain to conserve fuel, because having a neural response to every incoming signal would burn a lot of fuel-in fact, enough to run out in some areas and cause Oxidative Stress.

Oxidative stress can result from depressed levels of antioxidant reserves or from too much stimulation. When nerve cells get overstimulated, they build up waste products and the energy-producing mitochondria become damaged. This is a “cellular death spiral”, because as soon as the mitochondria become damaged, the cell’s capability to metabolize fuel and produce energy is compromised, leading to more oxidative stress and further damage. This has been identified as part of the disease process in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as well as ADHD and Autism. One of the problems that can promote Oxidative Stress is Inflammation.

Inflammation occurs when the immune system become too reactive and begins to attack tissue that is “self” and not “intruder/enemy”. Bifidobacteria are known for helping to dampen the immune inflammatory response, and a deficiency of Bifido contributes to inflammation. Again, inflammation is a key building block of…yes, all the same neurologic diseases. Low levels of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus are also significant because these organisms produce a neurotransmitter called Gamma Amino Butyric Acid or GABA.

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, and calming drugs or herbs often boost GABA levels. Valerian root or Valium (copycat drug companies, you know?) are good examples as is Kava Kava. Low levels of Lacto and Bifido gut bacteria result in low levels of GABA at the brain. Low levels of GABA at the brain result in less inhibition…ergo, more stimulation! And, the process continues in a positive feedback loop.

It is interesting to note that one intervention that helps elevate GABA and BDNF is exercise. Kids with ADHD are known for often being hyperkinetic, so if you wondered why, it is their brain’s way of balancing the equation to save nerve cells! When kids are reprimanded by teachers and parents are shamed into medicating their children’s “high energy”, it can be detrimental to the developmental process for this reason. This doesn’t mean that doing nothing is better, as a child must be able to focus in order to be able to learn. It just means that medicating their energy level down does not address the root causes of the problem.

So, what would be some natural interventions? First, improved nutrition. Any food that is causing more inflammation needs to be removed from the diet. Often that is sweets (note that Clostridia like sweets) and sometimes specific items such as gluten containing foods. Adding probiotics that contain the Lacto and Bifido organisms (in this patient example) can of course be helpful, but more so if they are also fed the prebiotic fibers that they need to survive (again, ideally this is case-specific). Both can be added to a fruit and vegetable smoothie that is tasty. Neuroprotective supplements such as N-Acetylcysteine will help to minimize the neuronal damage that is occurring. Also DHA/Omega-3 oils are neuroprotective and have been shown to help with ADHD. Curcumin can also reduce the neuroinflammation and is protective as well. It can also help settle gut function and heal the membranes of the intestines if they were inflamed too. Eating less processed food and more fresh (organic as possible) fruits and vegetables helps.

All of these steps are best carried out after having a stool sample analyzed for gut bacteria. Only after seeing the “bacterial census” is it possible to be extremely specific. A different patient’s samples could result in different recommendations! Please contact me for more details should you wish to find out more or schedule an analysis. This does not have to be done locally, as I only need the data from uBiome and a patient questionnaire to determine recommendations. Some of the supplements recommended are not case-specific, such as NAC, DHA/Omega and Curcumin as these will help most types of situations as will a healthier diet. The probiotic formulation is ideally case-specific, as is the prebiotic fibers and these will preferentially feed some categories of organisms more than others.

With proper lab work and specific interventions, it is possible for many individuals with ADHD to control and manage their situation more effectively. For some, it will be more of a cure, with no medication needed. For others, it may mean less medication is needed or the medication works more effectively. It is important to realize that we are all different, and our situations are also different!

Sources for supplements: http://progressivelabs.com/   You’ll have to register to order from them, and it requires specifying who referred you. Please feel free to put my name on that line, and then you will be able to receive your supplements directly from the same manufacturer I use!

References:

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TNF-alpha inhibition prevents cognitive decline and maintains hippocampal BDNF levels in the unpredictable chronic mild stress rat model of depression.

Şahin TD, Karson A, Balcı F, Yazır Y, Bayramgürler D, Utkan T.

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Effect of dietary supplementation of Bacillus subtilis B10 on biochemical and molecular parameters in the serum and liver of high-fat diet-induced obese mice.

Lei K, Li YL, Wang Y, Wen J, Wu HZ, Yu DY, Li WF.

J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. 2015 Jun;16(6):487-95. doi: 10.1631/jzus.B1400342.

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26055910

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Enteric short-chain fatty acids: microbial messengers of metabolism, mitochondria, and mind: implications in autism spectrum disorders.

MacFabe DF.

Microb Ecol Health Dis. 2015 May 29;26:28177. doi: 10.3402/mehd.v26.28177. eCollection 2015.

PMID:
26031685

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Clinical trials of N-acetylcysteine in psychiatry and neurology: A systematic review.

Deepmala, Slattery J, Kumar N, Delhey L, Berk M, Dean O, Spielholz C, Frye R.

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2015 Aug;55:294-321. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.04.015. Epub 2015 May 6. Review.

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Gastrointestinal dysfunction in autism spectrum disorder: the role of the mitochondria and the enteric microbiome.

Frye RE, Rose S, Slattery J, MacFabe DF.

Microb Ecol Health Dis. 2015 May 7;26:27458. doi: 10.3402/mehd.v26.27458. eCollection 2015.

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Comparing interval and continuous exercise training regimens on neurotrophic factors in rat brain.

Afzalpour ME, Chadorneshin HT, Foadoddini M, Eivari HA.

Physiol Behav. 2015 Aug 1;147:78-83. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.04.012. Epub 2015 Apr 11.

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Probiotics as potential antioxidants: a systematic review.

Mishra V, Shah C, Mokashe N, Chavan R, Yadav H, Prajapati J.

J Agric Food Chem. 2015 Apr 15;63(14):3615-26. doi: 10.1021/jf506326t. Epub 2015 Apr 6.

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A possible link between early probiotic intervention and the risk of neuropsychiatric disorders later in childhood: a randomized trial.

Pärtty A, Kalliomäki M, Wacklin P, Salminen S, Isolauri E.

Pediatr Res. 2015 Jun;77(6):823-8. doi: 10.1038/pr.2015.51. Epub 2015 Mar 11.

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Increased levels of plasma glial-derived neurotrophic factor in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Shim SH, Hwangbo Y, Yoon HJ, Kwon YJ, Lee HY, Hwang JA, Kim YK.

Nord J Psychiatry. 2015 Mar 9:1-6. [Epub ahead of print]

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Evaluation of improved γ-aminobutyric acid production in yogurt using Lactobacillus plantarum NDC75017.

Shan Y, Man CX, Han X, Li L, Guo Y, Deng Y, Li T, Zhang LW, Jiang YJ.

J Dairy Sci. 2015 Apr;98(4):2138-49. doi: 10.3168/jds.2014-8698. Epub 2015 Jan 23.

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The role of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor genotype and parenting in early life in predicting externalizing and internalizing symptoms in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Park S, Kim BN, Kim JW, Jung YK, Lee J, Shin MS, Yoo HJ, Cho SC.

Behav Brain Funct. 2014 Nov 25;10:43. doi: 10.1186/1744-9081-10-43.

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Gut microbes and the brain: paradigm shift in neuroscience.

Mayer EA, Knight R, Mazmanian SK, Cryan JF, Tillisch K.

J Neurosci. 2014 Nov 12;34(46):15490-6. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3299-14.2014. Review.

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The Physiology of BDNF and Its Relationship with ADHD.

Liu DY, Shen XM, Yuan FF, Guo OY, Zhong Y, Chen JG, Zhu LQ, Wu J.

Mol Neurobiol. 2014 Oct 30. [Epub ahead of print]

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Excitatory GABA induces BDNF transcription via CRTC1 and phosphorylated CREB-related pathways in immature cortical cells.

Fukuchi M, Kirikoshi Y, Mori A, Eda R, Ihara D, Takasaki I, Tabuchi A, Tsuda M.

J Neurochem. 2014 Jun 26. doi: 10.1111/jnc.12801. [Epub ahead of print]

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The effects of gut microbiota on CNS function in humans.

Tillisch K.

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From the Zombie Files: Ampulex dementor, obesity, and brains. What’s the connection?

One of the central concepts of The Symbiont Factor is that there are times in nature that organisms can take control of another organism’s nervous system, rendering it “a zombie”. This isn’t a zombie in the Hollywood sense, just a host organism that no longer is singularly in control of itself due to the effects of other organisms that “hijack” its nervous system.

In this case, a new organism has been discovered, a fearsome looking wasp in Thailand. This wasp hunts cockroaches, and injects a neurotoxin into them. This makes the cockroach lose active control of its legs so that it cannot escape, and the wasp can eat it slowly while it is still alive. Nature really has some gruesome stories, doesn’t it?

In our own bodies, we have a colony of trillions of bacteria. The late Prof Eshel Ben-Jacob performed experiments and wrote articles documenting how large bacterial colonies were able to act with logic, more as multicellular  organisms. Like multicellular organisms, their activities have a goal: survival. In the case of our microbiome, it is beginning to appear that their ability to alter our nervous system function and our brain activity is not randomized. There is a bi-directional influence at work: as an example, the bacteria that thrive on a fatty diet make us crave fatty foods, and those that thrive on sweets make us crave sweets. If we eat the fatty foods or sweets, it of course preferentially benefits the organisms that thrive on it. This is why there seems to be a “tipping point” in gaining weight such that our energy level drops and our appetite changes, facilitating weight gain. The actual organisms that help us lose weight and stay lean have been identified (Akkermansia mucinophilia is one example), as have those that make us gain weight. Their effect is significant enough that they have been called “obesogens”. It isn’t a single organism but a pattern of demographic shift-more of these/less of those-that results in weight gain or loss.

The changes to brain function, sensory sensitivity (ie what smells tasty to you), mood and behavior shift (a stress microbiome!) make us just a little like a zombie too in some cases. Certainly our behavior and our function is the result of the activity of trillions of symbiont organisms as well as our own decision-making. In effect “we” are composed of many organisms!

Relevant links (many are in the bibliography of The Symbiont Factor: http://tinyurl.com/p3b9o9d):

http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/terrifying-new-dementor-wasp-species-named-evil-spirits-harry-potter.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3995701/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4380304/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26047662

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24430437

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25968641

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25401094

http://iopscience.iop.org/1478-3975/11/5/053009/pdf/1478-3975_11_5_053009.pdf