Tag Archives: microbiota

Stress, Microbiome, Inflammation and the Pancreas & Liver

flow chart stress intestinal function inflammation

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Probiotic Bifidobacteria, in double the normal doses. Add prebiotic inulin, pectin, FOS, GOS supplements to help feed the newly introduced organisms.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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/

Curcumin: http://progressivelabs.com/product.php?productid=17110&cat=0&page=1

Inulin: http://www.amazon.com/Prebiotin-Prebiotic-Fiber-8-5-Powder/dp/B001RVFSFS/ref=sr_1_2_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1459361720&sr=8-2&keywords=prebiotic

For more info: http://www.amazon.com/Symbiont-Factor-Microbiome-Redefines-Humanity/dp/1500553948/

Fermented oatmeal recipe: https://thesymbiontfactorblog.com/2016/01/26/super-synbiotic-breakfast-improved/



Rhubarb extract prevents hepatic inflammation induced by acute alcohol intake, an effect related to the modulation of the gut microbiota.

Neyrinck AM, Etxeberria U, Taminiau B, Daube G, Van Hul M, Everard A, Cani PD, Bindels LB, Delzenne NM.

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 Mar 18. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201500899. [Epub ahead of print]


Combination with Red ginseng and Polygoni Multiflori ameliorates highfructose diet induced metabolic syndrome.

Kho MC, Lee YJ, Park JH, Cha JD, Choi KM, Kang DG, Lee HS.

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016 Mar 9;16(1):98. doi: 10.1186/s12906-016-1063-7.


Free PMC Article

Chronic Psychological Stress Disrupted the Composition of the Murine Colonic Microbiota and Accelerated a Murine Model of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Watanabe Y, Arase S, Nagaoka N, Kawai M, Matsumoto S.

PLoS One. 2016 Mar 7;11(3):e0150559. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0150559. eCollection 2016.


Free PMC Article

Early Alterations in Glycemic Control and Pancreatic Endocrine Function in Nondiabetic Patients With Chronic Pancreatitis.

Lundberg R, Beilman GJ, Dunn TB, Pruett TL, Freeman ML, Ptacek PE, Berry KL, Robertson RP, Moran A, Bellin MD.

Pancreas. 2016 Apr;45(4):565-71. doi: 10.1097/MPA.0000000000000491.


Hepatoprotective Effect and Synergism of Bisdemethoycurcumin against MCD Diet-Induced Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Mice.

Kim SB, Kang OH, Lee YS, Han SH, Ahn YS, Cha SW, Seo YS, Kong R, Kwon DY.

PLoS One. 2016 Feb 16;11(2):e0147745. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147745. eCollection 2016.


Free PMC Article

Protective Role of Dietary Curcumin in the Prevention of the Oxidative Stress Induced by Chronic Alcohol with respect to Hepatic Injury and Antiatherogenic Markers.

Varatharajalu R, Garige M, Leckey LC, Reyes-Gordillo K, Shah R, Lakshman MR.

Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:5017460. doi: 10.1155/2016/5017460. Epub 2016 Jan 5.


Free PMC Article

Targeting arachidonic acid pathway by natural products for cancer prevention and therapy.

Yarla NS, Bishayee A, Sethi G, Reddanna P, Kalle AM, Dhananjaya BL, Dowluru KS, Chintala R, Duddukuri GR.

Semin Cancer Biol. 2016 Feb 4. pii: S1044-579X(16)30003-7. doi: 10.1016/j.semcancer.2016.02.001. [Epub ahead of print] Review.


Preventive effect of curcumin on inflammation, oxidative stress and insulin resistance in high-fat fed obese rats.

Maithilikarpagaselvi N, Sridhar MG, Swaminathan RP, Sripradha R.

J Complement Integr Med. 2016 Feb 4. pii: /j/jcim.ahead-of-print/jcim-2015-0070/jcim-2015-0070.xml. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2015-0070. [Epub ahead of print]


Curcumin Attenuates Oxidative Stress and Activation of Redox-Sensitive Kinases in High Fructose- and High-Fat-Fed Male Wistar Rats.

Maithili Karpaga Selvi N, Sridhar MG, Swaminathan RP, Sripradha R.

Sci Pharm. 2014 Nov 4;83(1):159-75. doi: 10.3797/scipharm.1408-16. eCollection 2015.


Free PMC Article

Oral Probiotic VSL#3 Prevents Autoimmune Diabetes by Modulating Microbiota and Promoting Indoleamine 2,3-Dioxygenase-Enriched Tolerogenic Intestinal Environment.

Dolpady J, Sorini C, Di Pietro C, Cosorich I, Ferrarese R, Saita D, Clementi M, Canducci F, Falcone M.

J Diabetes Res. 2016;2016:7569431. doi: 10.1155/2016/7569431. Epub 2015 Dec 8.


Free PMC Article

Curcumin prevents paracetamol-induced liver mitochondrial alterations.

Granados-Castro LF, Rodríguez-Rangel DS, Fernández-Rojas B, León-Contreras JC, Hernández-Pando R, Medina-Campos ON, Eugenio-Pérez D, Pinzón E, Pedraza-Chaverri J.

J Pharm Pharmacol. 2016 Feb;68(2):245-56. doi: 10.1111/jphp.12501. Epub 2016 Jan 15.


Alternating or continuous exposure to cafeteria diet leads to similar shifts in gut microbiota compared to chow diet.

Kaakoush NO, Martire SI, Raipuria M, Mitchell HM, Nielsen S, Westbrook RF, Morris MJ.

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 Jan 14. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201500815. [Epub ahead of print]


Curcumin prevents inflammatory response, oxidative stress and insulin resistance in high fructose fed male Wistar rats: Potential role of serine kinases.

Maithilikarpagaselvi N, Sridhar MG, Swaminathan RP, Zachariah B.

Chem Biol Interact. 2016 Jan 25;244:187-94. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2015.12.012. Epub 2015 Dec 20.


Curcumin protects against gallic acid-induced oxidative stress, suppression of glutathione antioxidant defenses, hepatic and renal damage in rats.

Abarikwu SO, Durojaiye M, Alabi A, Asonye B, Akiri O.

Ren Fail. 2016 Mar;38(2):321-9. doi: 10.3109/0886022X.2015.1127743. Epub 2015 Dec 27.


Curcumin upregulates Nrf2 nuclear translocation and protects rat hepatic stellate cells against oxidative stress.

Liu Z, Dou W, Zheng Y, Wen Q, Qin M, Wang X, Tang H, Zhang R, Lv D, Wang J, Zhao S.

Mol Med Rep. 2016 Feb;13(2):1717-24. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2015.4690. Epub 2015 Dec 17.


Curcumin Supplementation Decreases Intestinal Adiposity Accumulation, Serum Cholesterol Alterations, and Oxidative Stress in Ovariectomized Rats.

Morrone Mda S, Schnorr CE, Behr GA, Gasparotto J, Bortolin RC, da Boit Martinello K, Saldanha Henkin B, Rabello TK, Zanotto-Filho A, Gelain DP, Moreira JC.

Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:5719291. doi: 10.1155/2016/5719291. Epub 2015 Nov 23.


Free PMC Article

Biological and therapeutic activities, and anticancer properties of curcumin.

Perrone D, Ardito F, Giannatempo G, Dioguardi M, Troiano G, Lo Russo L, DE Lillo A, Laino L, Lo Muzio L.

Exp Ther Med. 2015 Nov;10(5):1615-1623. Epub 2015 Sep 17.


Free PMC Article

Curcumin prevents the non-alcoholic fatty hepatitis via mitochondria protection and apoptosis reduction.

Wang L, Lv Y, Yao H, Yin L, Shang J.

Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2015 Sep 1;8(9):11503-9. eCollection 2015.


Free PMC Article

Curcumin attenuates chronic ethanol-induced liver injury by inhibition of oxidative stress via mitogen-activated protein kinase/nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 pathway in mice.

Xiong ZE, Dong WG, Wang BY, Tong QY, Li ZY.

Pharmacogn Mag. 2015 Oct-Dec;11(44):707-15. doi: 10.4103/0973-1296.165556.


Free PMC Article

High Fat High Cholesterol Diet (Western Diet) Aggravates Atherosclerosis, Hyperglycemia and Renal Failure in Nephrectomized LDL Receptor Knockout Mice: Role of Intestine Derived Lipopolysaccharide.

Ghosh SS, Righi S, Krieg R, Kang L, Carl D, Wang J, Massey HD, Sica DA, Gehr TW, Ghosh S.

PLoS One. 2015 Nov 18;10(11):e0141109. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141109. eCollection 2015.


Free PMC Article

Structural & functional consequences of chronic psychosocial stress on the microbiome & host.

Bharwani A, Mian MF, Foster JA, Surette MG, Bienenstock J, Forsythe P.

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016 Jan;63:217-27. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.10.001. Epub 2015 Oct 9.


T-Helper Cell-Mediated Islet Inflammation Contributes to β-Cell Dysfunction in Chronic Pancreatitis.

Talukdar R, Sasikala M, Pavan Kumar P, Rao GV, Pradeep R, Reddy DN.

Pancreas. 2016 Mar;45(3):434-42. doi: 10.1097/MPA.0000000000000479.


Curcumin Induces Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma Cell Death Via Reduction of the Inhibitors of Apoptosis.

Díaz Osterman CJ, Gonda A, Stiff T, Sigaran U, Valenzuela MM, Ferguson Bennit HR, Moyron RB, Khan S, Wall NR.

Pancreas. 2016 Jan;45(1):101-9. doi: 10.1097/MPA.0000000000000411.


Curcumin inhibits lung cancer invasion and metastasis by attenuating GLUT1/MT1-MMP/MMP2 pathway.

Liao H, Wang Z, Deng Z, Ren H, Li X.

Int J Clin Exp Med. 2015 Jun 15;8(6):8948-57. eCollection 2015.


Free PMC Article

Curcumin attenuates ethanol-induced hepatic steatosis through modulating Nrf2/FXR signaling in hepatocytes.

Lu C, Zhang F, Xu W, Wu X, Lian N, Jin H, Chen Q, Chen L, Shao J, Wu L, Lu Y, Zheng S.

IUBMB Life. 2015 Aug;67(8):645-58. doi: 10.1002/iub.1409. Epub 2015 Aug 25.


Curcumin pretreatment mediates antidiabetogenesis via functional regulation of adrenergic receptor subtypes in the pancreas of multiple low-dose streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.

Naijil G, Anju TR, Jayanarayanan S, Paulose CS.

Nutr Res. 2015 Sep;35(9):823-33. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2015.06.011. Epub 2015 Jul 2.


Pancreatic β-Cells Limit Autoimmune Diabetes via an Immunoregulatory Antimicrobial Peptide Expressed under the Influence of the Gut Microbiota.

Sun J, Furio L, Mecheri R, van der Does AM, Lundeberg E, Saveanu L, Chen Y, van Endert P, Agerberth B, Diana J.

Immunity. 2015 Aug 18;43(2):304-17. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2015.07.013. Epub 2015 Aug 4.


iNKT and MAIT Cell Alterations in Diabetes.

Magalhaes I, Kiaf B, Lehuen A.

Front Immunol. 2015 Jul 2;6:341. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2015.00341. eCollection 2015. Review.


Free PMC Article

Innate inflammation in type 1 diabetes.

Cabrera SM, Henschel AM, Hessner MJ.

Transl Res. 2016 Jan;167(1):214-27. doi: 10.1016/j.trsl.2015.04.011. Epub 2015 Apr 29. Review.


The dynamics of the human infant gut microbiome in development and in progression toward type 1 diabetes.

Kostic AD, Gevers D, Siljander H, Vatanen T, Hyötyläinen T, Hämäläinen AM, Peet A, Tillmann V, Pöhö P, Mattila I, Lähdesmäki H, Franzosa EA, Vaarala O, de Goffau M, Harmsen H, Ilonen J, Virtanen SM, Clish CB, Orešič M, Huttenhower C, Knip M; DIABIMMUNE Study Group, Xavier RJ.

Cell Host Microbe. 2015 Feb 11;17(2):260-73. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2015.01.001. Epub 2015 Feb 5.


Free PMC Article

The impact of diet and lifestyle on gut microbiota and human health.

Conlon MA, Bird AR.

Nutrients. 2014 Dec 24;7(1):17-44. doi: 10.3390/nu7010017. Review.


Free PMC Article

Curcumin enhances recovery of pancreatic islets from cellular stress induced inflammation and apoptosis in diabetic rats.

Rashid K, Sil PC.

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2015 Feb 1;282(3):297-310. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2014.12.003. Epub 2014 Dec 23.


Curcumin ameliorates streptozotocin-induced liver damage through modulation of endoplasmic reticulum stress-mediated apoptosis in diabetic rats.

Afrin R, Arumugam S, Soetikno V, Thandavarayan RA, Pitchaimani V, Karuppagounder V, Sreedhar R, Harima M, Suzuki H, Miyashita S, Nomoto M, Suzuki K, Watanabe K.

Free Radic Res. 2015 Mar;49(3):279-89. doi: 10.3109/10715762.2014.999674. Epub 2015 Jan 28.


Free PMC Article

Curcumin improves high glucose-induced INS-1 cell insulin resistance via activation of insulin signaling.

Song Z, Wang H, Zhu L, Han M, Gao Y, Du Y, Wen Y.

Food Funct. 2015 Feb;6(2):461-9. doi: 10.1039/c4fo00608a.


Curcumin ameliorates testicular damage in diabetic rats by suppressing cellular stress-mediated mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum-dependent apoptotic death.

Rashid K, Sil PC.

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2015 Jan;1852(1):70-82. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2014.11.007. Epub 2014 Nov 11.


Free Article

The gut microbiota modulates glycaemic control and serum metabolite profiles in non-obese diabetic mice.

Greiner TU, Hyötyläinen T, Knip M, Bäckhed F, Orešič M.

PLoS One. 2014 Nov 12;9(11):e110359. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110359. eCollection 2014.


Free PMC Article

Resveratrol and curcumin enhance pancreatic β-cell function by inhibiting phosphodiesterase activity.

Rouse M, Younès A, Egan JM.

J Endocrinol. 2014 Nov;223(2):107-17. doi: 10.1530/JOE-14-0335.


Free PMC Article

Exposure to a social stressor disrupts the community structure of the colonic mucosa-associated microbiota.

Galley JD, Nelson MC, Yu Z, Dowd SE, Walter J, Kumar PS, Lyte M, Bailey MT.

BMC Microbiol. 2014 Jul 15;14:189. doi: 10.1186/1471-2180-14-189.


Free PMC Article

Gut microbiota, probiotics and diabetes.

Gomes AC, Bueno AA, de Souza RG, Mota JF.

Nutr J. 2014 Jun 17;13:60. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-60. Review.


Free PMC Article

Circadian disorganization alters intestinal microbiota.

Voigt RM, Forsyth CB, Green SJ, Mutlu E, Engen P, Vitaterna MH, Turek FW, Keshavarzian A.

PLoS One. 2014 May 21;9(5):e97500. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097500. eCollection 2014.


Free PMC Article

A maternal gluten-free diet reduces inflammation and diabetes incidence in the offspring of NOD mice.

Hansen CH, Krych L, Buschard K, Metzdorff SB, Nellemann C, Hansen LH, Nielsen DS, Frøkiær H, Skov S, Hansen AK.

Diabetes. 2014 Aug;63(8):2821-32. doi: 10.2337/db13-1612. Epub 2014 Apr 2.


Free Article

Impact of stressor exposure on the interplay between commensal microbiota and host inflammation.

Galley JD, Bailey MT.

Gut Microbes. 2014 May-Jun;5(3):390-6. doi: 10.4161/gmic.28683. Epub 2014 Apr 1. Review.


Free PMC Article

Curcumin inhibits tumor growth and angiogenesis in an orthotopic mouse model of human pancreatic cancer.

Bimonte S, Barbieri A, Palma G, Luciano A, Rea D, Arra C.

Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:810423. doi: 10.1155/2013/810423. Epub 2013 Nov 10.


Free PMC Article

Human intestinal microbiota and type 1 diabetes.

Vaarala O.

Curr Diab Rep. 2013 Oct;13(5):601-7. doi: 10.1007/s11892-013-0409-5. Review.


Curcumin attenuates diet-induced hepatic steatosis by activating AMP-activated protein kinase.

Um MY, Hwang KH, Ahn J, Ha TY.

Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2013 Sep;113(3):152-7. doi: 10.1111/bcpt.12076. Epub 2013 May


Free Article

Exposure to a social stressor alters the structure of the intestinal microbiota: implications for stressor-induced immunomodulation.

Bailey MT, Dowd SE, Galley JD, Hufnagle AR, Allen RG, Lyte M.

Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Mar;25(3):397-407. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2010.10.023. Epub 2010 Oct 30.


Free PMC Article

Administration of different Lactobacillus strains in fermented oatmeal soup: in vivo colonization of human intestinal mucosa and effect on the indigenous flora.

Johansson ML, Molin G, Jeppsson B, Nobaek S, Ahrné S, Bengmark S.

Appl Environ Microbiol. 1993 Jan;59(1):15-20.


Free PMC Article

Effect of fermented oatmeal soup on the cholesterol level and the Lactobacillus colonization of rat intestinal mucosa.

Molin G, Andersson R, Ahrné S, Lönner C, Marklinder I, Johansson ML, Jeppsson B, Bengmark S.

Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 1992 Apr;61(3):167-73.


What is the “Perfect Diet”?


What is “the best diet”? Have you ever noticed that what works for one person does not work for another? We all have gut bacteria, and those gut bacteria are literally a functional part of us. Really, it would be more accurate to say that “we” are not an organism with symbionts living in/on it, but an organism composed of trillions of smaller organisms. They influence the function of our nervous system, immune system, brain, hormones and probably everything else to an extent! There is a relationship between the human immune system and the gut bacteria such that the bacteria help program the immune system, and the immune system “agrees” to not kill the gut bacteria. Which species of bacteria and how much of each in the microbiome is variable over a person’s lifetime as well as their individual genetic profile. So the “optimum gut bacteria” is different for each person, though all are within a certain spectrum of course. The healthiest diet is one that supports the most diverse and healthy microbiome (gut bacteria), so….the perfect diet is a little different for each person. The human body has been evolving for millions of years (ok, that includes some near ancestors) and the current age of grains and processed foods is just a heartbeat in the lifetime of our species. Our bodies are not adapted to eating these foods! Understanding what helps your gut bacteria and what is bad for them, and why that is important, is a big part of why I wrote The Symbiont Factor. I based all of my statements on published peer-reviewed research, so this book has the most reliable accurate information I could find.

Studying our own Microbiome! The search for answers continues…

I got my ubiome results back today! It is amazing how much data there is in the report-it’s possible to dig down to the genus level, even species, in most of the organisms listed. Comparing microbiomes with typical healthy omnivores, paleo diet followers, heavy drinkers, and other categories. Considering the tremendous impact that the microbiome has on who we are and how healthy we will be in our future, this test is vital. It’s still only as useful as you make it however! Keeping in mind that increased diversity is associated with health, and a loss of diversity is associated with dysfunction and disease, it’s also good to understand all of the influences of the microbiome on our physical/mental/emotional health and function. That’s where all of the information in my book, The Symbiont Factor, comes into play. Yes, it may sound like a pitch…but it really does have a great spectrum of information in it! Check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/m4agxd5

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?

Measles, Vaccines and Autism: An Evidence-Based Discussion

This blog post is longer than most, and for that I apologize (somewhat). I can guarantee that the information you’re about to read will be worth the time spent if you’re interested in learning more evidence-based facts about the issue of vaccination. Enjoy!

The concept of vaccination, using an attenuated or dead pathogen to trigger an immune response, is inherently valid (Miravalle). Overwhelmingly, research has demonstrated that vaccines have dramatically reduced the incidence of several communicable diseases. They have in some ways been the greatest advancement in public health since soap. As current events have highlighted, the execution of vaccination as a public health strategy is a very contentious subject. A slightly different approach supported by current research may offer some potential solutions. The current discussion between those who oppose vaccination and its proponents is becoming increasingly polarized and non-constructive as further attempts to force vaccination cause anti-vaccination activists to more deeply entrench in their beliefs about vaccine risks and injuries. While these beliefs are often criticized and villified in published opinions, most recently advocating legal action against non-vaccinating parents (Diamond), evaluation of current research does show some basis for those beliefs (Karussis, Rowhani-Rahbar).

Enough research has been done to show that vaccines do not directly cause autism, yet also show that if a vaccine causes an inflammatory response in a susceptible individual, neurologic problems may result secondary to the inflammatory response. Adjuvants are additives in vaccines that increase the immune response and improve the vaccine’s efficacy at triggering immunity. Research articles show the inflammatory effects of metallic vaccine adjuvants(Agmon-Levin, Esposito), increased vulnerability to neurologic and immune problems as a result of early life exposure to metallic adjuvants (Stejskal, Dorea), encephalomyelitis (CNS inflammation) from vaccination (Alicino) and vaccine triggering of underlying seizure disorders (Verbeek).

The most likely secondary causality scenario involves inflammation as an intermediary problem between vaccination and neurologic problems. Many studies have shown inflammatory reactions to vaccination (Stejskal, Dorea, Alicino, de Theije are examples). The inflammatory reaction to adjuvants, for example, is common enough that an acronym has been created and used in research: ASIA (Autoimmune/inflammatory Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants). Autism and other neurologic diseases have been shown to have an inflammatory basis in many studies (Mitchell, Anderson, Rossignol, Zerbo, McDougle, Noriega, Agmon-Levin for example).

Despite the evidence suggesting that vaccine adverse reactions do occasionally happen, there is virtually no transparency in the vaccine debate, with one side of the debate saying flatly that reactions do not occur despite research indicating otherwise and a huge government vaccine injury compensation fund that pays out millions annually to parents of vaccine injured children. On the other side of the debate are parents and activists who maintain that vaccines are dangerous and cause autism and other neurologic illness. Parents who bring a reaction to the attention of their pediatrician are often routinely ignored or find their statements summarily dismissed. This lack of acknowledgment and open discussion serves only to fuel the fires of distrust and vaccine resistance, as it is predicated on a position that is unsupported by the facts and is also quite insensitive to a parent’s experience. To the mother of a child who screams incessantly for hours after a vaccination or develops seizures followed by developmental regress, vaccine reactions are facts. When physicians completely discount these experiences, a lifetime anti-vaccination advocate is born.

Even the most controversial of all vaccine reaction issues, autism, can be included in this issue. We have writers such as Dan Diamond vehemently stating that there is no link whatsoever, whereas there is research (see Hooker) that it may occur in a manner that is not directly cause-effect. There are many studies saying that MMR vaccination does not cause autism (Uno is a good recent example) so any connection is probably not directly causal. Secondary causality is much more difficult to prove or disprove in research. The issue of vaccine injury is often dismissed under the justification that because the Wakefield paper (see footnote below) was falsified and retracted, all reactions must never occur. This reasoning is overly generalizing, as autism is but one of many neurologic problems with roots in an overly zealous inflammatory response. While there may be a genetic susceptibility in some individuals, inflammation still plays a key role. Timing of vaccination can also be optimized to reduce the chances of adverse reactions (Rowhani-Rahbar).

When considering inflammation and vaccination, there is a cogent connection—both involve the immune system. The immune system of different people is dramatically variable yet this variable is almost never assessed prior to vaccination. The purpose of vaccination is to trigger an immune response, such as the formation of antibodies to the pathogen in question. Systemic or neurologic inflammation, on the other hand, is an overactivity or misdirection of the immune system. It would not seem unreasonable then to consider that inflammation could result from an unintended response of the newly vaccinated immune system (Ye). To understand how this is possible, we need to look at what variables influence the immune system; in particular, how should we identify individuals that could be at elevated risk of an inflammatory response to vaccination? This need has been identified (Soriano) and further work is necessary. One obvious variable is the human microbiome: this population of trillions of bacteria are critical for immune system programming (Underwood, Pabst, Oh, Spasova, Valdez, Hsieh, Matthews). Most of the immune system resides in the abdomen around the gut, where it can be influenced by the gut microbial symbionts known as the microbiome. The immune system receives its “training and mission profile” in part through this mechanism. As the gut bacteria are affected very significantly by diet and antibiotics, some individuals have a very compromised and imbalanced microbiome (we call this dysbiosis) and this imbalance alters immune response.

Instead of steadfastly refusing to acknowledge and discuss vaccine reactions, wouldn’t it be more productive for physicians and scientists (and various pundits) to discuss what can be done to minimize the possibility of an adverse reaction? If parents understood what reactions have been shown to happen and what reactions have been disproven, and what can be done to minimize the risk of an adverse event, they might feel more confident in the process and participate more readily. Respecting a parent’s concerns and knowledge might provide opportunity for discussion instead of resistance. When physicians are unwilling (or too overscheduled) or unversed in discussing vaccine reactions, patients resort to the Internet, with notoriously variable results. The search parameters used and persistence of false information have even been researched (Ruiz) suggesting that search engine results are less than accurate or authoritative. What else are parents to do if they believe that they could do more to protect their child but the physician refuses to discuss the options? As an example of the dogged persistence of false information when delivered via the Internet, think about the small mammal known as a lemming. What comes to mind? Does it involve lemmings jumping off a cliff? This is a frequently used analogy and many of us think it because a Disney movie in 1958 showed lemmings jumping off a cliff into the ocean. But did that actually happen? A little known fact is that Disney purchased lemmings and dumped them out of a big truck for this scene! Lemmings, in fact, do no such thing of their own accord, yet most people believe that they do—because of decades old misinformation.

If it is possible to evaluate a child’s microbiome via a stool analysis and determine if the child is at elevated risk of inflammatory adverse vaccine reaction (Huda) why would a physician not discuss that with a concerned patient or parent? The connections between intestinal dysbiosis and immune system dysfunction are both logical and well documented (Matthews) and yet this information is seldom utilized or discussed. Risk factors can be assessed with questionnaires; genetic susceptibility could be inferred from adverse reactions to siblings for example. Signs of inflammation can include constipation, diarrhea, loose stool, or alternating between these. Chronic headaches can indicate systemic inflammation, as can depression or anxiety. Joint pain can indicate inflammation also. While any one of these does not prove inflammation, a combination of these problems may indicate systemic inflammation. Blood tests can show C-Reactive Protein (CRP) levels as another indicator of underlying inflammation. Should these evaluations show dysbiosis and inflammation, why not recommend some probiotics and a dietary change to improve immune function? Perhaps also something to reduce inflammation, such as curcumin (Prasad) could be used to stem inflammatory response. Probiotics are already being recommended as a vaccine adjuvant (Pabst) so this simple and safe intervention could help reduce the chances of a vaccine reaction as well as improving the immunity triggered by the vaccine. Doing this might be what it takes to keep the doctor “in the loop” and avoid creating another vaccine-resistant parent due to failure to discuss options. These simple steps could also prevent some adverse reactions or simply ease any fear of adverse reactions.

There are some historical statistics that are interesting when reviewing the vaccination debate, and in my opinion they point toward the need for additional recommendations to reduce infections. One example has to do with measles: the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported in 1920 there were 469,924 measles cases in the U.S. with 7,575 deaths. Between 1958-1962 this annual average was 503,282 measles cases—but only an average of 432 deaths. The measles vaccine was licensed in the U.S. in 1963, which begs the question of why deaths had declined by over 94% prior to vaccines being used. Could it have been the development of a more robust natural immunity conferred by infection with wild virus? There is evidence to suggest exactly that, as a study of measles in Poland compared immune status of people who acquired immunity from wild infection with immunity resulting from vaccination (Cześcik). This study showed that the immune system responds more strongly to wild infection and the resultant immunity is both stronger and longer lasting than immunity from vaccination. The researcher also stated that natural immunity appears to decline in the absence of viral stimulation that normally results from recurrent outbreaks.

Reading and watching the recent news gives the impression that if a person is vaccinated, she will be immune and not be a carrier of a disease. This is also not completely accurate, as infectious outbreaks have been documented in well-vaccinated populations (Parker, Rosen) and immunity conferred by vaccination may be far shorter-lived than is commonly believed (Cherry).

There is no substitute for living a healthy lifestyle, cultivating a diverse and balanced microbiome and thereby building the most capable immune system possible. Whether immunity is naturally acquired from infections or received from vaccinations, the immune function determines how severe the infection becomes or if there is an adverse vaccine reaction—as well as the degree of immunity that remains after either method of acquisition.

In summary, dismissing parents’ concerns or flatly denying any possibility of adverse reactions occurring are strategies that have plainly failed. Believing that vaccines are the only answer and result in the healthiest individual possible is also not sufficient or true. All of these approaches are guilty of oversimplifying how the immune system functions and what the best course of action is to assure health. Physicians and other healthcare providers owe it to the public to fully disclose the entire story, all of the facts and options, if they are to live up to their healthcare oath. The issue of “informed consent” that has been so vigorously taught and enforced in healthcare also dictates that the patient’s consent is only valid after having been informed of all the facts, including any possible risks as well as any alternatives or additional recommendations that may reduce risks. When looking at the issue of vaccination, this is simply not being done. This doesn’t reduce the importance of vaccination, but explains how it can be more effective as well as safer and less feared. The time has come for more transparency and open, honest discussion between parents and physicians. The role of the microbiome (and all the interventions that influence its integrity) in vaccine efficacy and reactions must be acknowledged (Matthews) and harnessed to identify at-risk patients and improve both the efficacy and safety of the vaccination process.

Footnote: Andrew Wakefield is a former British surgeon and researcher. He is quite possibly the most controversial and notorious character in the vaccine debate, having published in 1998 a research paper describing a link from the MMR vaccine to autism. His research was officially discredited and he was stripped of his license, as well as the research journal withdrawing his paper. There were allegations of conflict of interest and falsification of results, invalidating the paper completely. He maintains his innocence and the accuracy of his paper, as well as maintaining that he was a victim of pharmaceutical conspiracy to discredit his findings. He has been described as “the Jesus of the anti-vaccination movement.”

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C-sections, Immune/Autoimmune Disorders, the Microbiome and Why You Should Read The Symbiont Factor!

The lowly microbiome appears to be capturing an ever-increasing audience in the news these days. This explosion of new knowledge about our microscopic symbionts and how they contribute to who we are prompted me to write The Symbiont Factor. It has been exciting to see the continued flow of news stories that support and contribute to the concepts I wrote about in my book. This article is about one of those concepts and recent news that supports it.

There are many aspects to how the microbiome is crucial to human function, with one of the most significant involving the immune system. Our human immune system depends on the microbiome for its early development, as well as continued “target practice” to maintain its functional accuracy throughout life. This is one reason that the diversity and integrity of the human microbiome in the first few years of life is of such crucial significance. If the microbiome is lacking in diversity or imbalanced in some other way, the immune system will not develop normally. The result is often a lack of specificity, with many body tissues falling prey to friendly fire as the immune system begins to mutiny against the body and autoimmune disease manifests.

The newborn baby receives a huge dose of gut bacteria “starter culture” from the mother during normal childbirth. Children born via Caesarian section  (“c-section”) do not receive this gift of microbiome, instead developing a microbiome characterized by the interior of the hospital room. Recent studies suggest that newborns are not born sterile and may receive some bacterial symbionts prior to birth, yet this is a small amount compared to that received from vaginal birth.

A large, long-term study was recently completed in Denmark to evaluate whether being born via c-section resulted in increased incidence of autoimmune disease. The study spanned 35 years and included 2 million individuals, providing substantial support for the different outcomes from birth methods. The researchers found an increased incidence of several autoimmune diseases in those who were born by c-section compared to those born via vaginal section. The researchers did not claim that the different outcomes were a result of differences in microbiome, yet the study does lend considerable weight to that argument! It is the largest, longest-running study yet published showing different health outcomes for the two birth methods. Other studies have already established the connection between altered infant/early life microbiome and a variety of chronic health conditions. Many of these are discussed in The Symbiont Factor, and I’ve included some references below as well.

If you were about to have a baby and had to choose a hospital (with a safe outcome being your top concern) would you choose a hospital that provides free or low-cost care to an indigent or poor population? Surprise! that hospital might actually be safer. San Francisco General is just that hospital, and boasts a very low rate of c-section (and great outcomes). Why would that be? This article identified one major difference: SFG has its physicians on salaries, so they make no additional money if they perform a c-section than if they help a mother deliver naturally. In addition, they are not on a “time-table” to complete a delivery during their shift, as they lose no income if the next physician does the delivery instead! It has been estimated that many (potentially more than half) of all c-sections are not medically necessary and are instead performed for convenience. This is not necessarily the convenience of the mother, but often that of the physician as the example above illustrates. If you’re a physician, please don’t take that personally-just contemplate how it would be if your paycheck never changed regardless of how many procedures of any kind you performed. It might actually be less stressful!

Once again, the microbiome seems to be central to human function and health. If the microbiome is compromised, then problems result-making it extra critical for us to learn the signs of dysbiosis (imbalanced microbiome), what can be done to ensure its health, and how it affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally. All of these concepts and more are discussed in The Symbiont Factor, and referenced with 1327 references-most of them from peer-reviewed professional journals. Now is the time to learn about symbionts and their powerful influence on our lives, so check it out!









Mood: Does it affect gut symbiont health and intestinal function?

flow chart stress intestinal function inflammation

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!