Tag Archives: fermented foods

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










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.

References quoted:
1: Shaw CA, Seneff S, Kette SD, Tomljenovic L, Oller JW Jr, Davidson RM.
Aluminum-induced entropy in biological systems: implications for neurological
disease. J Toxicol. 2014;2014:491316. doi: 10.1155/2014/491316. Epub 2014 Oct 2.
Review. PubMed PMID: 25349607; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4202242.
2: Gress S, Lemoine S, Séralini GE, Puddu PE. Glyphosate-Based Herbicides
Potently Affect Cardiovascular System in Mammals: Review of the Literature.
Cardiovasc Toxicol. 2014 Sep 23. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 25245870.
3: Chłopecka M, Mendel M, Dziekan N, Karlik W. Glyphosate affects the spontaneous
motoric activity of intestine at very low doses – in vitro study. Pestic Biochem
Physiol. 2014 Jul;113:25-30. doi: 10.1016/j.pestbp.2014.06.005. Epub 2014 Jun 24.
PubMed PMID: 25052523.
4: Morley WA, Seneff S. Diminished brain resilience syndrome: A modern day
neurological pathology of increased susceptibility to mild brain trauma,
concussion, and downstream neurodegeneration. Surg Neurol Int. 2014 Jun 18;5:97.
doi: 10.4103/2152-7806.134731. eCollection 2014. Review. PubMed PMID: 25024897;
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4093745.
5: Mahendrakar K, Venkategowda PM, Rao SM, Mutkule DP. Glyphosate surfactant
herbicide poisoning and management. Indian J Crit Care Med. 2014
May;18(5):328-30. doi: 10.4103/0972-5229.132508. PubMed PMID: 24914265; PubMed
Central PMCID: PMC4047698.
6: Schinasi L, Leon ME. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and occupational exposure to
agricultural pesticide chemical groups and active ingredients: a systematic
review and meta-analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Apr
23;11(4):4449-527. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110404449. Review. PubMed PMID: 24762670;
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4025008.
7: Mesnage R, Defarge N, Spiroux de Vendômois J, Séralini GE. Major pesticides
are more toxic to human cells than their declared active principles. Biomed Res
Int. 2014;2014:179691. doi: 10.1155/2014/179691. Epub 2014 Feb 26. PubMed PMID:
24719846; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3955666.
8: Samsel A, Seneff S. Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue
and gluten intolerance. Interdiscip Toxicol. 2013 Dec;6(4):159-84. doi:
10.2478/intox-2013-0026. Review. PubMed PMID: 24678255; PubMed Central PMCID:
9: Chaufan G, Coalova I, Ríos de Molina Mdel C. Glyphosate commercial formulation
causes cytotoxicity, oxidative effects, and apoptosis on human cells: differences
with its active ingredient. Int J Toxicol. 2014 Jan-Feb;33(1):29-38. doi:
10.1177/1091581813517906. Epub 2014 Jan 16. PubMed PMID: 24434723.
10: Garlich FM, Goldman M, Pepe J, Nelson LS, Allan MJ, Goldstein DA, Goldfarb
DS, Hoffman RS. Hemodialysis clearance of glyphosate following a life-threatening
ingestion of glyphosate-surfactant herbicide. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2014
Jan;52(1):66-71. doi: 10.3109/15563650.2013.870344. PubMed PMID: 24400933.
11: Krüger M, Shehata AA, Schrödl W, Rodloff A. Glyphosate suppresses the
antagonistic effect of Enterococcus spp. on Clostridium botulinum. Anaerobe. 2013
Apr;20:74-8. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2013.01.005. Epub 2013 Feb 6. PubMed PMID:
12: Shehata AA, Schrödl W, Aldin AA, Hafez HM, Krüger M. The effect of glyphosate
on potential pathogens and beneficial members of poultry microbiota in vitro.
Curr Microbiol. 2013 Apr;66(4):350-8. doi: 10.1007/s00284-012-0277-2. Epub 2012
Dec 9. PubMed PMID: 23224412.

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

Ebola and the Microbiome-Facts You Need to Know!

In light of the most recent microbial scare, the Ebola virus outbreak in Africa which threatens to spread to the United States, I thought that perhaps it would be interesting to research and review some potential connections to the microbiome. What do our gut bacteria have to do with Ebola? Read on to find out!

The first issue to consider is susceptibility. Are some people resistant? This is not readily available knowledge, as there is no way to conduct ethical research with a virus boasting a 90% mortality. However, it has been researched with animals-and some animals are resistant when others are susceptible. The difference between the two appears to be reduced levels of circulating B and T cells, a part of the immune system that builds antibody responses to pathogens. (Chepurnov)

A second issue is the difference in mortality between survivors and those who perished from the disease. What has been found (in humans this time) is that those who succumbed had depressed levels of CD3+, CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes and greatly elevated inflammation levels. The inflammation was termed a “cytokine storm” due to the activation of the cytokine system that causes the inflammatory cascade. (Wauquier)

Is there a connection between the immune system function and the microbiome? Yes, there is such a connection, and it is well documented in The Symbiont Factor. Deficiency of gut bacteria causes depression in the immune components involved, resulting in depressed levels described above as causing increased vulnerability to the Ebola virus (Huang, Chung). Adding probiotics helps to stimulate the development of the CD4+ and CD8+ immune components important for resistance (Qadis, Palomar). Antibiotics that disrupt gut bacteria and cause dysbiosis can result in greatly elevated inflammatory response (Bercik).

How did the Ebola (and HIV) viruses begin to affect humans, instead of remaining diseases of animals? One current theory that is gaining momentum has to do with our micro-microbiome. Most of the microbiome discussed in The Symbiont Factor is bacterial, but humans can also have viral microbiomes. Some viruses exist within us and serve useful purposes! One such virus is a “primate T-cell retrovirus” that occurs only in areas that have had high levels of malaria for many generations. This virus elevates levels of T-cells that combat malaria, providing greater resistance to malaria. The use of anti-malarial drugs has caused development of drug resistance in this virus, also providing a pathway for the Ebola and HIV viruses to cross species barriers and infect humans. So, it is possible that in effect, we caused the Ebola and HIV problem. (Parris)

What does this mean in the big picture of things? Encouraging innate immunity is always safer than resorting to drugs, particularly as a preventive measure. Building up your microbiome so that your immune system is in tip-top shape may actually reduce the odds of contracting the infection if exposed to the pathogenic virus. More reasons to learn about The Symbiont Factor that keeps our body and mind at its best!

Recommended Reading:

The Symbiont Factor: http://amzn.to/1jz3kPt












Exercise, Bodybuilding, Testosterone and Probiotics!

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


How Women can Reduce their Susceptibility to Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Including HIV Infection!

Did you know that a woman’s microbiome, her resident population of symbiont bacteria, plays a critical role in her susceptibility to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection? How could bacteria protect a person from disease? If you would like answers to questions like this one, check out my newly released book, The Symbiont Factor. Find it here: http://amzn.to/1jz3kPt