Tag Archives: symbiotic

Bifidobacterium breve in premature infants…Really no benefit?

2baby newborn b

It’s early morning on the Maine coast, and as I do my usual “thing” and look at my social media feeds I see a pattern on Twitter: dozens of people have either written about or retweeted references to a Lancet study showing “no benefit for Bifidobacterium breve in premature infants”. Well, that sounded unlikely to me, so I started to drill deeper into the information. First, it is important to state that several prior studies have found that Bifido does indeed help; a review of the studies by Baucells had the same conclusion. There is a very obvious major problem with the logic behind the study saying there is no benefit, and I’m going to point it out in a moment. Let’s look at a bit of background for anyone not familiar with the issues discussed.

Our bodies are colonized by trillions of symbiotic bacteria, and they help to build our immune system and keep our gut healthy (along with many other critical functions). Premature infants face several challenges, including necrotizing enterocolitis-an inflammatory infection of the intestines that is often fatal. The colonization of the intestines with symbiotic bacteria begins prior to birth, but really progresses after normal birth because of ingestion of a starter culture of vaginal bacteria and breastfeeding, which provides needed prebiotics (substances that feed beneficial bacteria) present in breast milk. Not breastfeeding is a risk factor for an abnormal gut bacterial population, as is birth by c-section, as both rob the infant of the mother’s bacteria. Premature infants often face both challenges.

The research study in question examined the use of a strain of Bifidobacterium breve in premature infants to reduce the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis. The probiotic was added to dilute elemental infant formula, with the control group receiving only the formula. There was no benefit found to the introduction of B. breve in this manner. This finding has been trumpeted across the Twitterverse since the study was published, usually with the title just saying there is no benefit.

The first issue is that infant formula has already been shown to be inferior to human breast milk for the prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis (Hay). Why use infant formula instead of human breast milk? Apparently this is quite common, which astounds me. With the hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and training involved in premature infant care, human breast milk is not routinely used although it reduces fatal infections?  I was actually a little shocked by this, but considering the anti-breastfeeding bias that still exists for some reason, it may not be so surprising. Corporate influence on the birth process has long promoted formula over breast, against all scientific logic.

The second issue is related to the first. One of the basic foundation concepts of probiotic interventions that is familiar to any health practitioner versed in symbiont-based health strategies is “Seed and Feed”. Adding beneficial organisms and then not feeding them does not work as well as nourishing them after their introduction. Sounds simple enough, right? Studies have already been done showing that formula and breast milk are quite different in their effect on symbiont organisms (Liu) with breastmilk being superior. Another study (Repa) showed that probiotics prevented necrotizing enterocolitis in infants fed breastmilk but not in those fed formula. Another study (Yao) found that adding Oligosaccharides (a prebiotic) to infant formula raised Bifidobacterium levels in those infants.

So, in summary, this study found that the introduction of Bifidobacterium probiotic to a premature baby receiving formula of no nutritional benefit to the organism was of no benefit. And this is somehow considered newsworthy? The concepts behind “seed and feed” are not revolutionary, complex nor undiscovered. It isn’t rocket science; if you don’t feed the organisms they do not survive. Yet, the articles referring to the study simply state “Bifidobacterium of no use in premature infants”…..which is simply not true, even if it is “on the Interwebs”.

References:

The Symbiont Factor: http://tinyurl.com/h2m5lq8

1.

Bifidobacterium breve BBG-001 in very preterm infants: a randomised controlled phase 3 trial.

Costeloe K, Hardy P, Juszczak E, Wilks M, Millar MR; Probiotics in Preterm Infants Study Collaborative Group.

Lancet. 2015 Nov 25. doi:pii: S0140-6736(15)01027-2. 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01027-2. [Epub ahead of print]

 
2.

[Probiotic associations in the prevention of necrotising enterocolitis and the reduction of late-onset sepsis and neonatal mortality in preterm infants under 1,500g: A systematic review].

Baucells BJ, Mercadal Hally M, Álvarez Sánchez AT, Figueras Aloy J.

An Pediatr (Barc). 2015 Nov 20. doi:pii: S1695-4033(15). 10.1016/j.anpedi.2015.07.038. [Epub ahead of print] Spanish.

PubMed [citation]
3.

Effects of term infant formulas containing high sn-2 palmitate with and without oligofructose on stool composition, stool characteristics, and bifidogenicity.

Yao M, Lien EL, Capeding MR, Fitzgerald M, Ramanujam K, Yuhas R, Northington R, Lebumfacil J, Wang L, DeRusso PA.

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2014 Oct;59(4):440-8. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000000443.

 
4.

Probiotics (Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum) prevent NEC in VLBW infants fed breast milk but not formula.

Repa A, Thanhaeuser M, Endress D, Weber M, Kreissl A, Binder C, Berger A, Haiden N.

Pediatr Res. 2015 Feb;77(2):381-8. doi: 10.1038/pr.2014.192. Epub 2014 Nov 25.

5.

Human Breast Milk and Infant Formulas Differentially Modify the Intestinal Microbiota in Human Infants and Host Physiology in Rats.

Liu Z, Roy NC, Guo Y, Jia H, Ryan L, Samuelsson L, Thomas A, Plowman J, Clerens S, Day L, Young W.

J Nutr. 2015 Dec 16. doi:pii: jn223552. [Epub ahead of print]

 
6.

Strategies for Feeding the Preterm Infant.

Hay WW Jr.

Neonatology. 2008/01/01 00:00; 94(4): 245-254

PMC [article]

 

 

 

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

IMG2015

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!
References:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23387872
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19537732
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16549449
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19103324
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7765100
https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jgam/54/4/54_4_237/_pdf
tinyurl.com/m4agxd5

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!

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25452656

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/07/in-delivery-rooms-reducing-births-of-convenience/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24217032

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21645799

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25601913

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25578246

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25346925

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!

How Women can Reduce their Susceptibility to Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Including HIV Infection!

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

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

Nauseous,Vomiting Dog + Goat Milk Kefir=Happy Dog!

Ok, so most of what I’ve written in regards to probiotics and gut bacteria is about humans-but much of it applies to other species as well! Yesterday, my kids informed me that Jill, our oldest dog, had been nibbling grass for a couple of days and had thrown up all of her food in the morning. I made the suggestion to give her about 3/4 cup of goat milk kefir, surmising that it would help settle her stomach the same way it does a human’s. I found out when I got home that it worked, and really well! Not only did she love it, but she perked up completely, ate all of her food, and had no nausea. Another victory for kefir!