Tag Archives: paleo diet

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

 

 

 

 

Why Diet and Gut Bacterial Symbionts may be the most important thing you learn about Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism is a neurobehavioral condition that has been dramatically on the rise in the last decade. There are many factors that contribute to its causes, but none so pervasive as gut bacterial imbalance. To see the connections, you first have to realize that our brain development is heavily influenced by the interaction between our gut bacterial symbionts, our immune system, and those little cell organelles that produce energy-known as mitochondria. I explained at length how the gut bacteria influence brain development in The Symbiont Factor; in short there are many pathways for influence including gut bacterial alteration of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF. This substance is necessary for proper nerve growth and development, and a deficiency or imbalance in gut bacteria results in a reduced level of BDNF. New research has shown another factor in brain development, Short Chain Fatty Acids or SCFA. This substance is produced by bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates (sweets, essentially!)  Eating too many carbohydrates results in increased populations of the gut bacteria that thrive on sugars, including Clostrida, desulfovibrio, and Bacteroides. When these bacteria ferment carbs, they produce high levels of SCFA including propionic acid which is one SCFA. Propionic acid is also a common food preservative in prepared foods, so read your ingredients and eat organic as much as possible. New research has shown that high propionic acid levels interfere with mitochondrial function, reducing the energy available for nerve cell function and producing ASD. It is important to understand that some of the organisms that produce propionic acid are not necessarily pathogens; more like “frenemies” in this case (see Jerry Seinfeld; friend + enemy, and a good laugh too) Establishing and maintaining a microbial balance is really a more accurate way to state the goal. The overuse of vaccines and antibiotics in children, combined with chemicals in packaged food and toxins in farm-raised food are all factors that conspire to imbalance our gut bacteria. It is worth noting that reduced mitochondrial function also results in elevated oxidative stress, which is the neuroinflammatory/degenerative process that drives many diseases from fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome to Parkinson’s, dementia, and aging in general. Significant variables that we can influence include diet (less sweets, more organic fruits and veggies and organic grassfed meat; organic Paleo diet essentially) and behavior. Pushing ourselves past the point of fatigue, or allowing small children to stay “in overdrive” too long with video games and sweets, causes more bacterial imbalance and neurologic dysfunction. Many supplements, from Curcumin and probiotics with Lactobacillus and Bifido species, to fermented foods and drinks such as GoodBelly and Lifeway Kefir, can help to build and maintain healthy levels of gut bacteria and give our kids the best chance possible of good health and function. The next time a stranger at the bank drive through offers your child “a sucker”, consider the potential effects of regular sugar ingestion on a child’s microbiome and brain function. Really!

For much more about the role of diet and gut symbiont bacteria on brain development, behavior and health, please check out my book The Symbiont Factor: http://tinyurl.com/qyg85t9

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26031685

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24466331

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26046240

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25956238

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25956237

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25852770

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25911232

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25852213

A Synbiotic Feast: 5 Minute Breakfast, Symbiont Factor Style!

Breakfast at the Matthews household, aka “Symbiont Central,” is often a rushed affair. The reality of several dogs, cats and two horses to feed, plus getting five people prepared for their day, makes it challenging at times to follow our own advice. This is when the right power tool comes in hand…enter the NutriBullet. No, this isn’t an ad and we don’t sell them. But, they work really well! So, what was in my breakfast this morning?

-3/4 cup of raw fresh baby kale and mixed organic greens

-3/4 cup of homemade goat milk kefir

-3/4 cup of frozen mango chunks

1 tsp glutamine powder

1 tsp creatine powder

1 tsp Multidophilus probiotic powder

2 opened capsules N-Acetylcysteine or NAC

1 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp Tahini (sesame seed butter)

Organic Almond milk, probably 1/2 cup or so, to bring the fluid level up in the cup

This odd-sounding combination, when blended and liquified in the NutriBullet, is actually quite tasty and extremely nutritious! It will carry me through most of the morning till lunchtime. Poured into a cup, with a lid and straw, it is breakfast-to-go, Symbiont style! It is also a good example of a Probiotic and Prebiotic combination, also referred to as a Synbiotic

What do all the ingredients do for the body? The kefir is chock full of beneficial bacteria and yeasts, and has much research evidence showing its benefit to the human body and mind. The greens also provide fiber for the gut bacteria, and the way the NutriBullet cuts up the fiber to tiny fragments dramatically enhances its surface area, permitting more bacterial digestion of the fiber. Sesame is metabolized by beneficial gut bacteria to produce byproducts that inhibit cancer growth and stimulate the immune system. The probiotic powder and kefir both improve immune system function and brain function. Creatine is good for muscle energy (I swam about a kilometer last night and plan to again today). Glutamine helps muscles too, and also helps to heal and maintain the integrity of the intestinal lining-preventing excess inflammation. Immune control is important to preventing inflammation, and excess inflammation limits how hard we can exercise as well as destroying health. NAC has a whole host of benefits, including being neuroprotective so that I don’t fry my brain cells trying to finish editing The Symbiont Factor! NAC also has been shown in multiple studies to promote mental and emotional stability-it has even been shown to help with many psychiatric conditions. Mango provides vitamins and fiber, plus it tastes really good! Maple syrup makes the whole combination taste better and provides some short-term carbohydrates to compliment the fats and protein in the combination. Sometimes I add soft tofu to the drink mix instead to supplement the protein content. It also tends to make it thicker and creamier!

The overall effect is a breakfast that takes about 5-6 minutes to create and is an incredibly healthy boost to the day. It also adds some time to relax and not rush, since it is easy to consume and fast to prepare! Almost every ingredient listed is available at WalMart, though I would rather get them from Whole Foods if it were close enough!