Tag Archives: IBS

When is an Ice Cream Sundae not ice cream? Synbiotic Deception!


So, time for a treat, right? Here’s an example based on my book, The Symbiont Factor. Before reading the rest of this, open the picture and look closely. Doesn’t that look like the best vanilla ice cream/butterscotch/hot fudge sundae ever? LOL clever deception…in fact, it is plain greek yogurt, with tahini and blackstrap molasses! Why you might ask? Probiotic and Prebiotic combined with healthy fats that are metabolized into cancer-fighting agents…let me explain. Gut bacteria metabolize sesamins in sesame into mammalian lignans that are powerful substances that protect agains some cancers along with other benefits. The yogurt of course has some probiotic bacteria (I had a probiotic capsule right before eating this) and blackstrap molasses has great nutritional value (it is basically the nutrients that were removed when white sugar is made!) It is also a good source of antioxidants. Lactobacillus rhamnosus, another beneficial symbiont, can be cultured on blackstrap molasses as can other good bacteria. It serves as a prebiotic. So, this is a synbiotic treat masquerading as an ice cream sundae!

GMO Corn, Bacillus thuringiensis-Do you know what’s in YOUR gut?


I’ve recently had the opportunity to perform a bacterial census on a patient, from a stool sample. This analysis reveals what bacteria live in the intestines and in what ratio, by DNA analysis of stool. This has yielded some interesting results, including one soil based organism that is a known pathogen (although I should note that it was not present in large quantities). Bacillus thuringiensis is a rather famous and well known microorganism, because it produces an insecticide (or at least, most strains of it do). Why is this important? Because, you see, the bacterial genes that encode for the production of this insecticide have been isolated…and transplanted…into corn that you probably eat regularly. The insecticidal toxin is a crystalline protein, known biologically as a Cry protein. When genes coding for this protein are inserted into the genome of a corn plant, the GMO corn is commonly called Bt corn, for Bacillus thuringiensis. The Bt toxin produced by the plant is estimated to be 1500 times more toxic than that of the bacteria originally producing it. This GMO corn was engineered to provide corn with resistance to the European Corn Borer, a larvae of a type of moth (moths are part of a group known as Lepidopterae). The corn is considered by the FDA to be as safe as non-GMO corn, though no sane person would spray their corn with an insecticide and then claim it to be as safe as unsprayed corn. When money is concerned, logic seems to be the first thing to fly away—like a moth as it were. This Bt corn is used for everything from corn syrup to tortilla chips and corn meal. So, how did this organism get into my patient’s gut? When people consume this “food”, they also consume Bt toxin and genes for the production of Bt toxin. Bacteria are notably capable of having a genetic swap meet, where they exchange useful little “sub-programs” of DNA known as plasmids. This allows bacteria to share useful genetic sequences with others within their colony. In addition, some bacteria such as B. thuringiensis, can form spores which allow them to assume a dormant nonreactive form. This can result in the colonization of the human gut by Bacillus thuringiensis when a person is exposed to GMO food that has B. thuringiensis spores on it. This was first noticed in farm workers, though it is not associated with any acute gut reaction or illness. The result of this genetic exchange and bacterial colonization of the human gut is the expression of the Bt toxin in the human body. But, wait you say, didn’t Monsanto say that Bt corn was completely and totally safe? Let’s take a closer look at that! The first thing to consider is if there is any consequence to the microbiome from the body having Bt toxin present. There are always gut bacterial reactions to new toxins! Bacteria are masters at adaptation, and they can evolve resistance to the toxin. This has been seen in farming, because farmers who grow Bt corn were initially instructed to plant a smaller plot of non-GMO corn also. This was to provide a place where the corn borer and moths could complete their life cycle without the increased evolutionary pressure of an entire crop expressing Bt toxin. Farmers, however, are not biologists and apparently often do not heed this instruction. The result is an increasing level of Bt toxin resistance in corn borers-so the GMO is not working as well as originally to prevent crop loss. How is this possible you say? It is possible because the corn borer also has a microbiome that lives in its gut and digests the plant fiber that it consumes. This microbiome is a bacterial colony that can systematically work at developing toxin resistance until it succeeds, then share that genetic material with the rest of the colony. The result-voila!-is a larva that is no longer affected by Bt toxin from GMO corn. When this happens internally, our own microbiome can develop resistance as well. One reason this could be important is that Bt toxin has been researched as a potential anti-cancer drug to treat colorectal cancer. If gut bacteria are able to metabolize the toxin and break it down without harmful effects, this could result in the drug not working when it is needed most. The second thing to consider is what effect Bt toxin has on the human body. Its toxicity is demonstrated by the experience of some German farmers, who found that their cattle died when fed Bt corn, though the company that made the corn apparently tried to cover up this inconvenient truth. Researchers have found that male rats experience changes in organ size and function, particularly the organs of detoxification: the kidneys and the liver. Abnormal changes were also seen in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and the bone marrow. These changes included fatty degeneration of liver cells, a process resulting in fatty liver disease which is a precancerous condition. Since GMO corn often also includes genes for resistance to RoundUp (glyphosate) to allow killing of weeds and pre-harvest spraying to increase yield, GMO corn has elevated levels of glyphosate as well as Bt toxin (sounds yummy, doesn’t it?). Researchers have looked at this combination and concluded that it is probably more toxic to human cells than Bt alone! Bt toxin has been found to trigger an inflammatory immune response, with the combination also affecting the mucosal lining of the intestines. As detailed in The Symbiont Factor, this is the habitat where our gut microbiome resides, so inflammatory mucosal changes are harmful to gut bacteria. An imbalanced microbiome will affect brain function, immune function, emotional balance…the list is quite long. The effects of Bt toxin are not isolated to human beings but affect the ecosystem (that place we live) by disturbing the food chain. For example, butterflies that land on Bt corn are killed by the toxin, and it has been implicated as one of the factors killing honeybees. Without pollinating insects, plants cannot reproduce. Plants are what consume the carbon dioxide that we breathe out, and produce the oxygen we need to live. What is bad for plants is bad for us (apologies to biologists for simplifying a much more complex topic!) So, what is your exposure? Bt toxin has been found in pregnant mothers and in their babies, and Roundup has been found, well, everywhere including in Froot Loops. Since the whole planet appears to have gone somewhat bezerk with the spraying of RoundUp, it has probably even been found in penguins. What is important is to at least minimize exposure, eat organic corn and corn products (or, avoid the subject entirely by adopting a true Paleo diet with organically raised meats!) and be aware. When humongous corporations are allowed to set public policy and heavily influence FDA guidelines (read up on the FDA/Monsanto/Merck revolving door mechanism!) we can expect more of the same: inaccurate information and deliberate disinformation and a systematic death of our ecosystem with only one entity benefiting: the corporate giant pushing the buttons. People have far more influence and power than they realize, but only in large groups. Can a single ant accomplish anything? Yet a colony of ants can build spectacular nests and take down far larger prey. So it is with people, if we could just rise up to the level of the ant and learn to work together!


















Today’s Synbiotic Smoothie Breakfast

This morning’s synbiotic smoothie breakfast:

1 big handful of fresh organic spinach
1 organic carrot, peeled
1″ slice of fresh ginger, peeled
2″ piece of fresh turmeric root, peeled
1 organic apple, peeled/cored/sliced into quarters
1 tsp glutamine powder
1 tsp magnesium powder
juice of about 1/3 fresh lemon
1/2 cup fresh coconut kefir, homemade
1 tbsp inulin powder

Blended up in NutriBullet! this was very tasty, but the carrot had so much fiber there was a little fiber-foam left at the end that I couldn’t get through the straw. Still a super breakfast!

A Kefir Orange Creamsicle drink!

So, you’ve been buying or making kefir, and looking at ways to incorporate it into daily life…Here is one tasty treat I’ve found:

Mix equal parts of unflavored kefir (I make coconut kefir because I have lymphocyte sensitivity to dairy but regular kefir would work great) with vanilla soy or almond milk and orange juice, then mix. That’s all there is to it! of course if you freeze it in those handy popsicle maker ice trays, it becomes creamsicle treats. I’m sure if you prefer vanilla flavored kefir, such as Lifeways, that would work out well also-just a bit sweeter if you like that.

This simple drink is great with breakfast, as a snack, or an evening probiotic nightcap before bed. It’s yet another easy way to add some probiotic goodness to your day! Try it out and be sure to let me know how it works out for you, ok?

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

Clostridium difficile, bacterial census and gut ecology restoration

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????There are many conditions that result at least in part from bacterial dysbiosis, or imbalanced gut bacteria. As gut symbionts, our bacterial microbiome is vital to normal immune function as well as neurologic/brain function and hormonal balance. Some of the diseases or conditions that occur from dysbiosis can be life-threatening! One such example is a Clostridium difficile reaction. This species of bacteria can cause a gut infection usually known as “c-diff”, and this infection is most often acquired in a hospital. One case I recently became aware of was caused by a colonoscopy procedure. Clostridium infections often happen after antibiotic use as a result of the antibiotic suppressing the normal healthy bacteria that keep Clostridium difficile bacteria populations suppressed.

C-diff is usually treated with strong antibiotics such as vancomycin, which reduces the infection but also further imbalances the dysbiosis (as well as encouraging the formation of antibiotic resistant strains of C. difficile). While this may be necessary if there is an acute flareup, long term stabilization is only accomplished through restoration of the microbiome. Often the first step in gut restoration is a bacterial census, or tallying up what bacteria live in your colon.

There are different tests available, but I am going to look specifically at two tests: Metametrix GI Effects Microbial Ecology Profile Stool, and the tests that ubiome.com offer. A sample test of Metametrix can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/ohzzrzx

A good video that shows the depth of information available from the ubiome test can be seen on this video: http://tinyurl.com/k7ky7gj

Reviewing these two sources of data immediately should illustrate a critical difference: the Metametrix test report only provides genus but not species specificity. In many cases the genus does not provide enough information without the species. On the other hand, the ubiome test provides many layers of information that can be re-sorted to answer different questions. Data is available all the way down to the species level, and even linked to Wikipedia entries for that specific species. The Metametrix test can show large, genus-level imbalances and generalized patterns, but for someone evaluating not only Clostridium difficile populations, but also the populations of beneficial bacteria that reduce its effects (Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus lactis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium animalis are examples that come to mind) the Metametrix data set is clearly lacking. What you really need to know is not only what the C. difficile levels are, but also its antagonists! A complete deficiency in antagonists can permit moderate levels of Clostridium difficile to produce disasterous infections.

What other factors can help to restore gut ecology? Here is a short list:

1. Mental: stress is bad for beneficial gut bacteria; relaxation and deep breathing, yoga etc. are good stress reductions, but do what works for you! Freediving is what works for me, as an example. Good stress reduction helps the gut to be a good environment for beneficial organisms.

2. Nutritional: When you choose what you eat, you’re choosing which populations of gut organisms you feed. Feel like a donut? you’re feeding yeast and other less beneficial species! A good green smoothie such as those made with a Nutri-bullet are gut bacteria superfood. McDonalds? quite the opposite. The “Western Diet” is the research standard in producing a sick lab animal, and it does the same for humans!

3. Food Sensitivities: IgG or Immunoglobulin G tests can identify immune sensitization to food ingredients. If you have a food sensitivity, eating that food will initialize an immune inflammatory cascade that makes your gut lining slough off and look more like sunburn-a very poor environment for gut symbionts. In addition, intestinal permeability goes up, pieces of bacterial protein (LPS; lipopolysaccharides) can translocate across the intestinal barrier into the bloodstream and cause a myriad of other problems in the body. Food sensitivities are often foods that we like, eat often, and are otherwise healthy. I’ve seen sensitivity to olives, chicken, flax, dairy, cinnamon as well as pesticides, Agent Orange, food colors and similar ingredients. Getting tested is the shortest road to knowing what to avoid. For someone fighting Cdiff, it may be the only road.

4: Supplements that can help: Kefir decreases the effects of Clostridium difficile toxins, and reduce C. difficile growth. It is also protective against Clostridium difficile. Coconut oil reduces Clostridium difficile as well. Curcumin is a very potent anti-inflammatory that can help to reduce systemic inflammatory reactions and help heal the gut lining. L-Glutamine is also a great supplement to speed healing of the gut and make it a better place for healthy gut bacteria. Of course probiotics can help, with some of the ones showing more different species showing promise (a good example would be from Prescript-Assist).

5. Medical/DIY procedures: the biggest one that comes to mind is FMT or Fecal Microbial Transplant. This is increasingly showing promise and for many individuals helps a great deal. It is probable that its success still depends on items 1-3 above, however, and having a major food allergy, not sleeping enough, or eating poorly can make the newly introduced population of gut bacteria unsustainable, requiring repeat procedures. Use of encapsulated feces is one possibility, although some have expressed concern at potentially causing SIBO or small intestine bacterial overgrowth as colonic bacteria are different than small intestinal bacteria. Every area of the body has an “optimal microbiome” and yet what is optimum varies between individuals. It is important t remember this when comparing microbiomes on test reports!

For more answers and a great deal more information, see my book on Amazon here:   It is also available in print here: . The printed version should be on Amazon as well within one week.

references for this article:

Role of the intestinal microbiota in resistance to colonization by Clostridium difficile.

Britton RA, Young VB.

Gastroenterology. 2014 May;146(6):1547-53. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2014.01.059. Epub 2014 Feb 4. Review.

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Antimicrobial effects of virgin coconut oil and its medium-chain fatty acids on Clostridium difficile.

Shilling M, Matt L, Rubin E, Visitacion MP, Haller NA, Grey SF, Woolverton CJ.

J Med Food. 2013 Dec;16(12):1079-85. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.0303.

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Protective effect of a mixture of kefir-isolated lactic acid bacteria and yeasts in a hamster model of Clostridium difficile infection.

Bolla PA, Carasi P, Bolla Mde L, De Antoni GL, Serradell Mde L.

Anaerobe. 2013 Jun;21:28-33. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2013.03.010. Epub 2013 Mar 29.

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In vitro inhibition of Clostridium difficile and Clostridium perfringens by commercial probiotic strains.

Schoster A, Kokotovic B, Permin A, Pedersen PD, Dal Bello F, Guardabassi L.

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Kefir-isolated Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis inhibits the cytotoxic effect of Clostridium difficile in vitro.

Bolla PA, Carasi P, Serradell Mde L, De Antoni GL.

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Lactic acid production by Streptococcus thermophilus alters Clostridium difficile infection and in vitro Toxin A production.

Kolling GL, Wu M, Warren CA, Durmaz E, Klaenhammer TR, Timko MP, Guerrant RL.

Gut Microbes. 2012 Nov-Dec;3(6):523-9. doi: 10.4161/gmic.21757. Epub 2012 Aug 16. Erratum in: Gut Microbes. 2013 Mar-Apr;4(2):175. Timko, Michael P [added].

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Surface proteins from Lactobacillus kefir antagonize in vitro cytotoxic effect of Clostridium difficile toxins.

Carasi P, Trejo FM, Pérez PF, De Antoni GL, Serradell Mde L.

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The Symbiont Factor is now Published!! Live on Amazon!

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