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
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
In The Symbiont Factor (http://amzn.to/1jz3kPt), I explain that one of the most important variables that we can influence to improve our gut bacteria is autonomic tone. When we are stressed, we become sympathetic (think “fight or flight”) dominant and this functional pattern inhibits digestion and gut mobility. This inhibition is also very harmful to beneficial gut bacteria! So, what can be done short-term to reverse this pattern? Breathing exercises. When under stress, most people suppress their breathing, contributing to sympathetic autonomic tone. When you take deep breaths instead, it stimulates your parasympathetic system, and this is the system that makes your gut function improve. Gut bacteria thrive in this functional pattern! Now the only question is how to learn to improve breathing dynamics and build a “better-breathing” habit. One resource that I found tremendously helpful in learning this came from one of the sports I participate in: Freediving. There is a great book called Breatheology, written by Stig Severinsen, which deals with specifically that: how to improve our breathing. You can find the book here: http://amzn.to/1nQYwAr. FYI-as I’m in Arkansas, I earn nothing from that link/referral; I’m listing it purely because I think it is that good! Of course, it makes a nice complement to the book I wrote…
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
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