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!
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Probiotic Bifidobacteria, in double the normal doses. Add prebiotic inulin, pectin, FOS, GOS supplements to help feed the newly introduced organisms.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Fermented Vegetables: http://www.astonesthrowtohealth.com/
Fermented oatmeal recipe: https://thesymbiontfactorblog.com/2016/01/26/super-synbiotic-breakfast-improved/
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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!
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
Having just completed most of a 1700 mile epic family move, I have spent a great deal of time on the road driving…and thinking. One of the things I thought about a great deal was how come so many people experience an imbalanced microbiome, with not enough of some good bacteria and way too many of some toxic species. You see, the human body is an ecosystem (somewhat like a region or territory), with warring factions of bacterial species or sub-colonies, each striving to rise to the top and suppress its enemies to achieve a dominant role. It really is a bit more like a microbial Game of Thrones episode than a benign fireside chat!
In this bacterial jousting we have a number of “white knights” such as some Enterococcus species and some “black knights” such as many members of the Clostridium family. Remember that Clostridium is the bacterial clan whose progeny include Clostridium difficile, responsible for hospital-borne bloody life-threatening diarrhea, and Clostridium botulinum that produces the neurotoxin responsible for Botulism. Definitely more of a “black knight clan.”
Researchers (Ackermann et al) have found that glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp weedkiller, caused dysbiosis in the rumen of cows and resulted in increased production of Clostridium botulinum and botulin neurotoxin. This alone is significant, as these are meat animals for many non-vegan/vegetarian humans. Another study headed by Kruger suggests that glyphosate’s suppression of lactic acid and Enterococcus bacteria is probably responsible for the increase in botulin-related diseases in German cattle. This is because lactic acid bacteria and Enterococcus family bacteria are natural suppressors of the Clostridium family. When Clostridium loses its natural enemy, it is free to claim the throne of bacterial domination! Seriously though, you may be thinking this is only in cattle so why does it matter in humans?
Another research group described a case of glyphosate ingestion which resulted in a Clostridium overgrowth after suppression of Enterococcus family bacteria. While this case study was an attempted suicide and therefore a significant ingestion of the chemical, studies of low-level environmental intake have also show toxic effects to the liver and kidney (Mesnage) and a correlation between glyphosate use and hospital admissions for ADHD (Fluegge). These studies indicate that glyphosate’s biologic toxicity is maintained at very low concentrations. Normally, lactic acid bacteria (yes, part of the white knight microbial clan!) help prevent this liver and kidney damage (Bouhafs) but as glyphosate is toxic to this family of bacteria their guarding of the bacterial throne is hampered, allowing Clostridia to attain more power and toxicity.
What all this boils down to at the end of the melee and before the final credits is that RoundUp is toxic to many life forms including humans, but it is toxic in a back-handed, subversive manner that is not immediately obvious without much study. This ability to facilitate growth of toxic bacteria while suppressing protective ones and maintaining an appearance of feigned innocence is what reminded me of Game of Thrones. As this is real life, my hope is that more people will begin learning about the toxicity of RoundUp and the importance of a balanced microbiome. This knowledge can only help us to build a healthier life for ourselves and our planet despite those “dark forces” that would rob us of the “throne of power and health.”
Thanks for reading my attempts at fantasy medieval microbial humor! I hope the analogy and metaphor helps to make the subject just a bit clearer and perhaps even entertaining. For more on the subject of the microbiome and health, please check out my book The Symbiont Factor on Amazon, and stay tuned for the next book about how to apply these concepts to your everyday life so that you too can have a White Knight Microbiome!
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
The microbiome affects brain and behavior, but what affects the microbiome? Well, brain and behavior also do-it’s a two way street-but dietary deficiencies can also affect the microbiome! It turns out that a magnesium deficiency affects the microbiome in a way that produces depression. Make sure you get enough magnesium, as deficiency can also affect your muscles.
To learn how the microbiome affects the brain and behavior, and many other concepts about our bacterial gut symbionts, please check out my book The Symbiont Factor: http://tinyurl.com/pgl98sj