Tag Archives: Lyme

About those “Turmeric Curcumin” capsules…

th (2)

I have been recommending curcumin for years, because of the huge number of research studies demonstrating its power to reduce inflammation, block oxidative stress, and inhibit or kill cancer (and other great benefits!) Lately there has been an explosion of supplements labeled as “turmeric curcumin” or “curcumin complex”. This is about like trying to buy pure cranberry juice. If you see “cranberry juice cocktail” or “cranberry drink” or “cranberry juice beverage”, what does it tell you? Right-it’s mostly apple juice or some other inexpensive juice, with enough of the cranberry juice to flavor it!

The same thing applies to curcumin. I have recommended it to several patients recently, who then tell me a couple weeks later that it didn’t help them. When I ask about the brand and details, it’s one of those labeling bait-and-switch schemes all over. Often the label reads “turmeric curcumin” which really doesn’t mean much, as they are two separate products…which is it? or “turmeric curcumin complex”…

The active, desired ingredient is Curcumin. Turmeric, the spice, is quite inexpensive but only contains typically 5% curcumin. Pure curcumin is most often 95% curcumin, and costs much much more. So, when the label explains that the product contains 450 mg of Turmeric, and 50 mg of curcumin, you can easily see that you’re getting basically ripped off because they’re cutting the good stuff 9:1 with the inexpensive less effective stuff! Then, of course, it doesn’t work as well, because you can’t take enough. I often recommend 6 capsules per day for a very inflamed patient (someone with Lyme disease, for example). That’s 6, 500mg capsules at 95%, or 2850 mg of actual curcumin. If those capsules are 450/50 as in the above example, that’s only 70mg of curcumin in each 500 mg capsule. To get the same effect as 2850 mg of pure curcumin, you’d have to consume over 40 of those capsules, instead of 6 when it’s 95% curcumin!

So, make sure that you get what you’re paying for-real 95% curcumin. There isn’t a “bioavailability problem” as some manufacturers of blends state. It’s a fat soluble substance, so chase your capsules with a spoon of coconut oil. It’s also alcohol soluble…well, I won’t go there just yet!

Aspartame, blood sugar levels, and oxidative stress in the brain! a Paleo, microbiome-based perspective

400 x 400 tsf gb

In the course of researching patient cases and working on my next book, I read a lot of research studies. Sometimes, I come across information that wasn’t really what I was looking for, but is fascinating!

I have several patients who have chronic Lyme disease (yes, there is such a thing, but that’s a different subject…) and neurologic problems from depression/anxiety to failing memory, movement disorders, and even seizures are often commonplace in this type of patient. I was looking up more information about how oxidative stress, one of the underlying processes that drives neurologic problem progression, affects the brain. Along the way, I came across this study about N-acetyl cysteine and Aspartame.

N-acetyl cysteine, or NAC, is a precursor to glutathione (a powerful antioxidant) and as such it is a great tool to help reduce oxidative stress. Aspartame, more commonly known as NutraSweet, is a very common artificial sweetener.

This research study (see link below) was published in the journal Neurochemical Research in 2014, looked at NAC being used to protect the brain from the effects of Aspartame. Now mind you, if you ask 50 random people if they think NutraSweet is safe, most will claim it is and offer you a tinfoil hat if you mention anything about Monsanto and conspiracy to push the product to market. However, that is actually now an accepted fact, as Monsanto purchased G.D. Searle in 1985-the very company that held the patent to aspartame. In 1980 the FDA had banned aspartame, because the Board of Inquiry found that it might cause brain tumors. The Searle chairman at the time vowed he would get it approved. The chairman would later become famous as the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. A new FDA commissioner was appointed, who added people to the FDA board, and personally voted to break a tie and make aspartame legal. He later became employed by a public relations firm contracted by Monsanto and GD Searle. This product is now used in over 6,000 products, including over 500 different drugs.

The study in the Journal of Neurochemical Research matter-of-factly states that “Long-term intake of aspartame at the acceptable daily dose causes oxidative stress in rodent brain mainly due to the dysregulation of glutathione homeostasis”. It goes on to explain that aspartame reduced several antioxidant levels that are critical to brain health. They did find that NAC was able to exert a protective effect on the brain when it had been exposed to aspartame’s toxic effects.

One more tidbit is revealed in the study: “However, N-acetylcysteine was unable to reduce serum glucose levels, which were increased as a result of aspartame administration.” Another study evaluated the microbiome’s metabolism of aspartame and found that the end product is a short chain fatty acid, propionate, which raises blood sugar and reduces insulin sensitivity. In case that didn’t make sense to you, it makes blood sugar go up and insulin not work as well-building blocks of Type 2 diabetes. Isn’t the whole reason that people choose an artificial sweetener the idea that it won’t raise blood glucose like real carbohydrates would? Looks like it doesn’t really work that way! Now ask yourself why this isn’t more common knowledge…

In case you were wondering, that isn’t the only study that shows toxic effects of NutraSweet. Others have shown elevated cytokine levels (inflammation), as well as harmful/imbalancing effects on the gut microbiome.

Sometimes it is best to go back to what the body evolved and optimized to consume as food. The key word there is food, not chemistry! While many people are attempting to be on low-carb and Paleo diets to promote weight loss and health, the use of artificial sweeteners is definitely not a good addition to these diets. Some diets, such as South Beach, are actually recommending the full-fledged replacement of all simple carbs with artificial sweeteners. Many diabetics, the very people who need more insulin sensitivity and better glucose control, rely on very large doses of artificial sweeteners that are far above what is used in studies. For those pursuing a more traditional approach, the facts are even more clear. Consider that Paleo is supposed to mean Paleolithic; cave-dweller or hunter-gatherer. For 99+ percent of human existence, we’ve eaten meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts-essentially whatever could be picked, dug up, gathered, or killed in the region and season being occupied. I’m pretty certain that didn’t include Monsanto’s chemical cocktails.

References:

Impact of aspartame and saccharin on the rat liver: Biochemical, molecular, and histological approach.

Alkafafy Mel-S, Ibrahim ZS, Ahmed MM, El-Shazly SA.

Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2015 Jun;28(2):247-55. doi: 10.1177/0394632015586134. Epub 2015 May 26.

PMID:26015492

Longer period of oral administration of aspartame on cytokine response in Wistar albino rats.

Choudhary AK, Sheela Devi R.

Endocrinol Nutr. 2015 Mar;62(3):114-22. doi: 10.1016/j.endonu.2014.11.004. Epub 2015 Feb 11.

PMID:25681123

Low-dose aspartame consumption differentially affects gut microbiota-host metabolic interactions in the diet-induced obese rat.

Palmnäs MS, Cowan TE, Bomhof MR, Su J, Reimer RA, Vogel HJ, Hittel DS, Shearer J.

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 14;9(10):e109841. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109841. eCollection 2014.

PMID:25313461

Free PMC Article

Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota.

Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, Zilberman-Schapira G, Thaiss CA, Maza O, Israeli D, Zmora N, Gilad S, Weinberger A, Kuperman Y, Harmelin A, Kolodkin-Gal I, Shapiro H, Halpern Z, Segal E, Elinav E.

Nature. 2014 Oct 9;514(7521):181-6. doi: 10.1038/nature13793. Epub 2014 Sep 17.

PMID:25231862

The carcinogenic effects of aspartame: The urgent need for regulatory re-evaluation.

Soffritti M, Padovani M, Tibaldi E, Falcioni L, Manservisi F, Belpoggi F.

Am J Ind Med. 2014 Apr;57(4):383-97. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22296. Epub 2014 Jan 16. Review.

PMID:24436139

Effect of aspartame on oxidative stress and monoamine neurotransmitter levels in lipopolysaccharide-treated mice.

Abdel-Salam OM, Salem NA, Hussein JS.

Neurotox Res. 2012 Apr;21(3):245-55. doi: 10.1007/s12640-011-9264-9. Epub 2011 Aug 6.

PMID:21822758

Aspartame administered in feed, beginning prenatally through life span, induces cancers of the liver and lung in male Swiss mice.

Soffritti M, Belpoggi F, Manservigi M, Tibaldi E, Lauriola M, Falcioni L, Bua L.

Am J Ind Med. 2010 Dec;53(12):1197-206. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20896.

PMID:20886530

Aspartame and incidence of brain malignancies.

Davis DL, Ganter L, Weinkle J.

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 May;17(5):1295-6. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-07-2869. No abstract available.

PMID:18483354

Free Article

Life-span exposure to low doses of aspartame beginning during prenatal life increases cancer effects in rats.

Soffritti M, Belpoggi F, Tibaldi E, Esposti DD, Lauriola M.

Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Sep;115(9):1293-7.

PMID:17805418

Free PMC Article

SIBO, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

small intestine

What happens if your microbiome becomes too excessive and colonizes parts of the body where it really shouldn’t set up camp? SIBO, or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, is an example of just that! Since this comes up very frequently in discussions with patients, it’s time to share some information about it. This problem is much more common than most would realize, and like many such things can be looked at as a “spectrum” from mild to severe/debilitating. If you feel worse after eating, and feel like taking probiotics makes things worse instead of better, these are some of the symptoms of low stomach acidity.

In the normally functioning digestive tract, the stomach is (relatively) sterile, having a very low pH due to the production of HCl, hydrochloric acid along with enzymes. This means that the stomach is a filter of sorts, killing most bacteria and viruses that might be present on food or beverage you consume. This understanding is validated by the observation that an animal’s stomach acidity is directly related to its place in the food chain. Animals that are pure carrion eaters or predators have the most acidic stomach secretions, while those that eat plants have the least. This serves two purposes: the first is to disinfect food that may even be actively decomposing, while the second is to break the peptide bonds that hold amino acids together to build proteins in meat. Since the stomach is so acidic in meat-eaters, they can eat roadkill and not become ill. A healthy human’s stomach acid inhibits bacterial growth in the stomach and the first part of the small intestine, before it is neutralized by bile secretions. This limits the amount of bacteria that can exist in those areas. This is part of our evolutionary heritage that allowed early Humans to survive on anything from seafood to insects, hunted or trapped meat animals, or stealing the prey of other predators.

Modern lifestyles conspire to reduce this needed acidity. Lack of sleep, too much stimulation, poor breathing dynamics all cause an autonomic imbalance that promotes everything from high blood pressure to poor digestion from low stomach acid. If stomach acid stays abnormally low for too long though, some organisms such as Helicobacter pylori can colonize and take over. This organism will then inhibit stomach acid production, wrecking your health in the process. So, without high stomach acid levels the predator (or human) would get infections and become ill; he also wouldn’t be able to digest the meat he consumes. Humans do not produce quite the stomach acid levels of a cat or dog, but are much closer to that level than a goat or cow.

The first question that brings up is the old debate about whether we are evolved to be vegetarians or meat-eaters. The facts here point squarely toward our physiology being optimized for some of each; definitely a meat-eater but capable of digesting plants too.

It is important to note that in this way, our individual “optimum diet” may be tied to our gastric acid status. If you have low stomach acidity, you’re not likely to digest meat very well, and may find yourself gravitating toward a vegetarian diet. If this choice is made due to low stomach acidity, it’s really running from the problem and still leaving the door open to a dysfunctional disease state. On the other hand, if you’d really like to do well on a Paleo type diet, you should also make sure your autonomics are balanced enough that you can produce adequate stomach acid to break down meat.

The second question is about what would happen if our stomach were not acidic? The obvious answer is bacterial colonization of the stomach and small intestine, with overgrowth compared to the normal condition. This results in a variety of symptoms, from heartburn (think summer roadkill in your stomach…ick) to bloating, allergic sensitization, indigestion, etc. It most definitely results in disruption of the entire microbiome downstream from the stomach also, with many consequences!

Now it gets interesting: What do most people do when presented with those symptoms? Take antacids! I have seen many patients who have been prescribed PPI (protein pump inhibitor; acid-blocking) medications, despite having never undergone any tests to confirm their symptoms indicated excess stomach acid. Stomach acidity declines with age, which is probably because of autonomic imbalance. Our fight-or-flight system (sympathetic system) becomes the dominant system when we’re under stress, fatigued, or if our brain is slowing down. Sound familiar? The parasympathetic system is stimulated by relaxation, deep breathing, less stress, slow relaxed eating, better sleep. Are you getting these things in your life?

To really build a balanced and high-functioning microbiome, it is necessary to start with balanced stomach function, then work downstream from there. Better liver function, small intestine function, large intestine function. One of the reasons many people cannot balance their large intestinal microbiome is that they haven’t managed their stress, breathing, sleep, and eating habits and therefore still have low stomach acid and SIBO to one degree or another.

Lifestyle habits that can help re-balance your autonomic function include deep breathing, yoga, meditation, taking time for yourself to do those things you love, scheduling and planning sleep more effectively, and taking the time to relax and breathe when you eat. There are also very specific functional neurology rehab activities that can aid in this goal. It is also possible to take a supplement that includes HCl and enzymes, to help kill off excess bacteria/H. pylori and begin to heal from SIBO.

So, be nice to your stomach, and your symbionts will thank you!

References:

http://progressivelabs.com/product.php?productid=14&cat=0&page=1

The Symbiont Factor: http://www.amazon.com/Symbiont-Factor-Bacteria-Microbiome-Redefines-ebook/dp/B00LV6H1UY/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1455197979&sr=8-1

http://drmyhill.co.uk/wiki/Hypochlorhydria_-_lack_of_stomach_acid_-_can_cause_lots_of_problems

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24310148

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1494326

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20572300

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18685464

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4682110

 

 

 

 

Super Synbiotic Breakfast, Improved!

A while back I wrote about a synbiotic (prebiotic fiber + probiotic bacteria) fermented breakfast, and I’ve improved significantly on it since then so here is an update!

The concept of a synbiotic ferment is to give the beneficial bacteria a headstart before they get introduced into the body by eating them-and then include enough fuel for the journey and any upcoming microbial challenges. With this in mind, a new study was published that verified that prebiotic fibers can selectively benefit specific bacteria down to the species level. That is very useful to know! (Chung) As a note, the best way to read this blog post and many of my others is to right-click on each of the references below and open them in new tabs, take a look at each one, then read the rest of the blog post. Then, you can skip back to the research article when you see something connecting it. The research articles about these ingredients show benefits such as increased testosterone in men, reduced body fat, increased insulin sensitivity/reduced weight gain, prevention of cancer, reduced LDL cholesterol…in other words, fairly profound benefits of letting our microbial friends have their way with the breakfast food before we consume it!

This isn’t a chemical formula, so the proportions can vary a bit and not ruin things. I tend to be someone who cooks by feel and adds a bit of this and a bit of that, so take that into account LOL. I’ll approximate what I usually use and you can adjust accordingly if need be. Note that the picture of adding the grated apple isn’t included, as the day I took these pics I didn’t have an apple! I’ll add it later though. For now, follow the text more than the pictures please 😉

Ingredients:

  • One cup gluten free oats, uncooked
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup Kefir (I make my own with coconut milk; use what you have!)
  • 3 tbsp ground Flaxseed
  • 3 tbsp Inulin powder
  • One organic apple, peeled and grated
  • Enough extra coconut milk to make it totally wet with enough fluid to cover but not make soup (or your fave milk/substitute, but not vanilla or chocolate flavored stuff as the bacteria don’t seem to like that)

Mix all the ingredients in a glass bowl, and place on top of your fridge or other convenient place that isn’t too cold or too warm. Put a saucer under and over the bowl, as it can get frothy and try to escape! Now leave it alone for at least 24 hours, 36 or even 48 if you’re bold. When it’s a bit foamy feeling if stirred, and smells fermented, it’s ready to eat. I take 1/4 to 1/3 of the batch in another bowl, then add a handful of walnuts and some more coconut milk, and sometimes some maple syrup or molasses-just a spoonful-and even a sprinkle of cinnamon. If you heat it, you kill the bacteria so it’s probably much healthier cold. Enjoy!

References:

The Microbiome as an Ecosystem. What’s in common between wolves and our microbiome?

tick_deer

The microbiome is often described as an ecosystem, but what does that mean really? To understand this, we really have to use a bigger analogy, one that applies to an ecosystem that we can see. A video about the wolves of Yellowstone National Park has been making the rounds on Facebook (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q), and it does a great job of illustrating how things really work. Most of us are led to believe that biological systems are inherently stable, but that is simply not true-they are truly quite dynamic and always in a state of flux. In the Yellowstone example, the reintroduction of a few wolves after a 70 year absence caused a cascade effect greatly out of perceived proportion to the introduction of a few animals. The wolves chased the elk out of the valleys and river basins, where they had been overgrazing. This resulted in increased grass, shrub and tree growth, which reduced river erosion and altered the whole terrain. The effect was compounded by bears descending to the valleys to eat from the newly grown berries, chasing more elk away. Beavers returned, since they eat the bark of the young trees. Their activities changed the topography even further! Many other species end up returning, bringing stability to the ecosystem. That is a recurrent theme: ecosystem diversity increases function and systemic stability.

When we consider our internal ecosystem, a similar effect happens. When the microbiome is healthy and diverse, its effects can be seen in skin, immune, brain, hormone function along with practically everything else directly or indirectly. The person is healthier, happier and better functioning physically, mentally and emotionally. Isn’t that the goal when we want to become “healthy?”

In contrast is the unhealthy microbiome, often resulting from poor diet or antibiotics in food or as medicine, and function is lost throughout the body. As I’m working on a short book on Lyme disease, I am constantly reminded of this. The tremendous loss of diversity in gut bacteria (one patient’s uBiome results showed her to be in the “0 percentile” compared to other women for gut bacterial diversity) results in immune dysfunction. Examples include a loss of Interleukin-10 production, important because it protects brain cells from bacterial infection as occurs in neuroborreliosis. IL-10 also inhibits inflammatory IL-17 production triggered by the Lyme spirochete, thereby restoring the integrity of the blood-brain barrier and joint capsule membranes, making it harder for the spirochete to evade phagocytic immune cells sent to kill it. Another classic example is microbiome production of alpha-galactosylceramide, which activates invariant Natural Killer T-cells. These iNKT cells are necessary for several of the body’s immune reactions to Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme bug. So, through antibiotic treatment to kill Borrelia, the body’s microbiome is decimated-taking with it much of the immune response needed to prevent reinfection or relapse. Why is this important, and what can we do about it? well…stay tuned to find out!