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
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!
The Symbiont Factor: 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
If you have been following my blog posts and tweets, you know that I’m really against gluten in the diet. Many people have antibodies to gluten itself, resulting in gut inflammation, systemic inflammation, discomfort and a whole host of cascading health problems. Some people do not have antibodies to gluten, but have a type of autoantibody: antibodies to transglutaminase, the enzyme that breaks down gluten in the digestive process. And, some people have antibodies to gliadin, a protein that is one of the by-products of the breakdown of gluten. We perform blood tests for gluten sensitivity in our office (well, we obtain the sample and mail it to the lab!) as well as salivary tests for transglutaminase and gliadin. But, once you suspect or know you have a sensitivity, how do you avoid it? Traditionally, that answer is straightforward: avoid wheat and most grain products. Meat should be safe, right? The Paleo diet is considered a gluten free diet, and yet…what if some meats contained transglutaminase? How could that be, you ask? It is apparently used as a “glue” to bind smaller pieces of meat together to make a bigger piece of meat. Think…cold cuts. Many brands of cold cuts are not shaped like normal meat! When I was a teenager and worked in a deli, a big roast beef was tied together with string. Today, it’s just…a big piece of unnaturally shaped meat. Transglutaminase is used to glue these together. Here’s an article about it: http://bit.ly/1n9neeI plus a research article on antibodies: http://1.usa.gov/TU1Seh
The moral of the story? If it doesn’t look like a normal piece of meat…it probably isn’t. Ironic that people avoiding gluten could still have similar reactions while eating meat, isn’t it?
The HPA axis is not a part of the body that is often discussed. It is a functional “axis” that is used to describe the relationship between three parts of the body: the Hypothalamus, the Pituitary gland, and the Adrenal glands. All three of these organs have critical functions with far-reaching implications for physical and mental health. Many psychiatric drugs have been found to affect the HPA axis, resulting in the therapeutic benefit of the drug. Imbalances in HPA function have been implicated in a wide array of neuropsychiatric conditions including in autism. The gut microbiome, gut bacteria, exert control over the development and function of the endocrine hormone system, in particular the HPA axis. Why does this matter? Because imbalances in gut bacteria can therefore result in imbalances in HPA axis development in early life-and this imbalance has the potential to make the person develop autism (as well as other problems in different individuals). It is important because the gut bacteria are so vulnerable to birth practices (c-section vs. natural), antibiotic use, antibiotics in food, pesticides, herbicides such as RoundUp, and even stress levels perceived by the individual. Higher stress is harmful to the gut bacteria through alterations of the digestive functions, secondary to autonomic nervous system imbalance (more sympathetic, or “fight-or-flight”, function). Many of these are factors under our influence if not control! Gut bacterial populations are one of the most variable factors in human health, and yet one of the most neglected. My work on The Symbiont Factor is my contribution to spreading knowledge about the gut microbiome, so that more people can take control of their health and more conditions like autism can hopefully be prevented or successfully treated. The book is being configured/edited/reconfigured/formatted so that it works well on all Kindle download platforms, a task that is keeping me quite busy the last two weeks! Almost there, almost there…It will be so exciting when it is finally published! The book will also be available as a print format following its release as an e-book. Until then, stay tuned in and take care of your gut bacteria!
And, best of all, a slide show from one of the head researchers in the field, Ted Dinan: http://www.genome.gov/Multimedia/Slides/HumanMicrobiomeScience2013/33_Dinan.pdf
Recent research studies have demonstrated that there is a high level of communication between the gut and the brain. This communication arc has been termed the Gut-Brain Axis. The bacterial microbiome that exists within the human colon consists of a higher number of bacteria than the population of human beings on the planet. This bacterial colony communicates with the brain, influencing neurotransmitter receptor sites and modulating brain activity. One of the pathways that is affected by the intestinal microbiome is the HPA axis. This functional axis links the Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Adrenal glands to provide regulation of stress responses and other important functions. If the colony consists of predominantly beneficial symbiont organisms, the result is balanced and “normal” function. Conversely if the colony is ruled by non-beneficial organisms, or has been reduced in population due to antibiotic exposure, the result can be brain dysfunction. A study being published next month in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology studied the effect of a loss of gut bacteria on behavior in rats. The researchers found that the absence of the intestinal microbiome resulted in anxiety through dysfunction of the HPA axis. The genetic expression in the hypothalamus and hippocampus were altered, as was the Dopamine activity in the frontal lobe, hypothalamus and striatum. The significance of these changes is not only that gut bacteria help prevent inappropriate anxiety, but also that the microbiome wields influence over the function of multiple areas of the brain. Alteration to these parts of the brain has the potential to fundamentally change personality and behavior. This is yet another study documenting the importance of cultivating and developing a healthy colony of beneficial symbionts. The concepts explained in the research study are central to the theme of The Symbiont Factor, adding to the already expansive pool of knowledge documenting symbiont effects on human physical and mental health and function.
Link to study mentioned: http://1.usa.gov/1ptZHrg