Tag Archives: synbiotic

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:

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]

 

 

 

A quick how-to: Fermented oats with flax. A Synbiotic Breakfast!

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Tonight I thought I would share one of my favorite fermented foods: oatmeal, with ground flax seeds. Since it is made with kefir (fermented milk or, in this case, fermented coconut milk) and includes fiber to feed the microbes, it is more than a probiotic, it is a synbiotic. This is really easy to make, and fermented oats have been found to be very healthy. The fermentation releases more of the nutritional value of both items. Has some sour taste, but not strongly so-I got used to it quite quickly and enjoy it now.

I use coconut kefir that I make myself (see a previous post for this) but you could also use commercial kefir. Yogurt can work but more slowly as it doesn’t have as much bacteria. The first step is adding one cup of oats (preferably organic, but this is what I had today) to a bowl:

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Then, add about two tablespoons of ground flax seeds:

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Now the critical ingredient-the symbionts! Add 1/2 cup of kefir, then 1/2 cup of coconut milk:

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Stir the whole mess up until all the dry ingredients become wet:

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I usually put a plate over it to keep dust and such out of it:

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Then, it goes on top of the fridge next to another batch of coconut kefir!

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I typically mix this in the morning, and leave it up there until the next morning. Then, I add blueberries, cut up peaches, some walnuts, maybe a little maple syrup even. Mix it all together, and enjoy!

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC526387/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26130143

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25644341

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25267244

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22457771

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26113960

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24140807

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

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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

Today’s Synbiotic Smoothie Breakfast

This morning’s synbiotic smoothie breakfast:

1 big handful of fresh organic spinach
1 organic carrot, peeled
1″ slice of fresh ginger, peeled
2″ piece of fresh turmeric root, peeled
1 organic apple, peeled/cored/sliced into quarters
1 tsp glutamine powder
1 tsp magnesium powder
juice of about 1/3 fresh lemon
1/2 cup fresh coconut kefir, homemade
1 tbsp inulin powder

Blended up in NutriBullet! this was very tasty, but the carrot had so much fiber there was a little fiber-foam left at the end that I couldn’t get through the straw. Still a super breakfast!

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!

Symbiotic Gut Bacteria and The Meaning of Life. How Does it Feel to be 1% Human?

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The last decade of research has advanced the understanding of life itself to such a degree that our definitions of “life” must now be adjusted. Until now, you may have regarded yourself as a singular entity; a “human being,” a “person” or just “me.” All of these terms indicate a belief system grounded in what is now an outdated concept. What if we were actually a cooperative group of organisms existing together for mutual benefit? Trillions of organisms, all sharing physical space and each contributing to the functioning of the whole. What if even our very consciousness were not a singular thing or the result of one personality, but more of a democratic/summative system or even a type of hive consciousness? All of these are functional realities to one extent or another. Oh, and one more thing…those human cells? They are in the minority and are outnumbered at least 10:1. Well, you might be thinking, a human being is defined by a specific genetic code, 23 pairs of chromosomes, a little over 21,000 genes that code for everything we are, right? Not so fast! Genes do encode for the protein molecules that carry out life functions, but if a person were to develop with only those 21,000 genes the brain, nervous system, immune system, endocrine and digestive systems would not develop or function normally at all. So where does all the other information come from?

“We” are an organism that includes several trillion symbiont organisms that all contribute genes. In fact, looking at a person from head to toe genetically reveals that the human genes are only 1/100th, or 1 percent, of the genes present. The majority of the remaining genome is bacterial in origin. We are only 1% or less human from a genetic standpoint! Scientists and researchers now know that the human body depends on this bacterial genetic reservoir of information for normal development and function. The human immune system, for example, is cultivated by the bacteria and “taught” how to function, what to kill and what to tolerate. Without this ancient genetic wisdom (bacteria have existed for an estimated 2 billion years) the human immune system does not function normally. Our brain is no different; without bacterial symbiont assistance the human brain is emotionally and functionally unstable. The result is an inflamed brain, anxiety and depression or schizophrenia, and an increased likelyhood of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or neuroimmune conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis. The digestive tract would not function normally either! Even our mind, that last refuge of a singular “self,” is not the result of a singular organism’s activities. Dominant colonies of bacteria wield significant influence on our mood, decision making and basic personality. Our appetite for specific food items as well as our overall appetite is heavily influenced by gut bacteria. Neurotransmitters that determine mood are both produced and consumed by the gut bacteria, exerting influence over mood. Neurotransmitter receptor sites in various specific areas of the human brain are sensitized or desensitized by symbiont bacteria. The result is a distinctly different emotional profile and personality! It is truly the result of the interactions of many organisms.
Our human parts in turn “farm” these bacterial colonies to keep them viable and performing their needed tasks.

The terms that have been coined for these concepts refer to “us” as Holobionts-a host plus its symbionts form the organism we call “human.” The total gene pool within the holobiont is called the Hologenome. All other eukaryotic life is thought to exist on the same principle of cooperative function between host and symbionts. The bacterial symbionts are capable of influencing mate choice, reproductive success and driving speciation to create new species from existing ones (really.)

After re-reading the previous discussion, you might be incredulous that life itself has been essentially redefined, and yet it did not really result in significant changes in healthcare practices. This is perhaps the most promising yet overlooked, proven yet controversial new development in decades. Healthcare is replete with legions of “singular organism, flat-earth-society” members who are slow to accept this new concept despite its promise of more effective interventions. As examples of the conflicts in logic that result, consider the following questions-each of which may be the subject of another blog post and are written of in The Symbiont Factor.

-If the body is dependent on symbiont bacteria for normal function, what is the result of taking antibiotics?
-If antibiotics are added to our food, what is the effect on our own personal hologenome?
-If food is routinely disinfected, what is the effect on hologenomic diversity?
-What are the long-term consequences of bacteria sharing plasmids (DNA fragments) that code for antibiotic resistance?
-If symbiont bacteria maintain immune system function, why do we kill them in cases of infection or cancer, when the immune system is needed the most?
-If so much physical and mental function depend on gut bacteria, why do we not evaluate the gut bacteria when something seems physically or mentally dysfunctional?
-Where do all of these symbiont bacteria come from in the environment?
-What is the effect of chemical environmental pollution on the potential microbiome?
-How does nutrition affect their population demographics?
-If two people have differing microbiomes, would a given medication affect them differently?
-Do different birthing and childcare practices affect the hologenomic outcome?
-If the bacterial symbionts have such an influence on human emotion and personality, why is this not addressed in psychology and psychiatry practice?
-How does being a holobiont with such a diverse colony of bacteria provide an evolutionary or competitive advantage?

As we move forward into the 21st century, we must strive to add holobiont concepts to the practice of healthcare and teach individuals why “taking care of yourself” might need to become “taking care of each other.” Perhaps better pollution control, for example, would be more meaningful if people understood that it isn’t only to save some small toad that lives far away, but also to save the bacterial diversity that our future depends on. Perhaps parenting practices would mean more when the importance of imparting a beneficial microbiome/hologenome to our children is better understood. These concepts form the basis for The Symbiont Factor, referenced with more than 1300 peer-reviewed research papers and due to be published by 15 June 2014.