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
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
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!
If you have been following my blog posts and tweets, you know that I’m really against gluten in the diet. Many people have antibodies to gluten itself, resulting in gut inflammation, systemic inflammation, discomfort and a whole host of cascading health problems. Some people do not have antibodies to gluten, but have a type of autoantibody: antibodies to transglutaminase, the enzyme that breaks down gluten in the digestive process. And, some people have antibodies to gliadin, a protein that is one of the by-products of the breakdown of gluten. We perform blood tests for gluten sensitivity in our office (well, we obtain the sample and mail it to the lab!) as well as salivary tests for transglutaminase and gliadin. But, once you suspect or know you have a sensitivity, how do you avoid it? Traditionally, that answer is straightforward: avoid wheat and most grain products. Meat should be safe, right? The Paleo diet is considered a gluten free diet, and yet…what if some meats contained transglutaminase? How could that be, you ask? It is apparently used as a “glue” to bind smaller pieces of meat together to make a bigger piece of meat. Think…cold cuts. Many brands of cold cuts are not shaped like normal meat! When I was a teenager and worked in a deli, a big roast beef was tied together with string. Today, it’s just…a big piece of unnaturally shaped meat. Transglutaminase is used to glue these together. Here’s an article about it: http://bit.ly/1n9neeI plus a research article on antibodies: http://1.usa.gov/TU1Seh
The moral of the story? If it doesn’t look like a normal piece of meat…it probably isn’t. Ironic that people avoiding gluten could still have similar reactions while eating meat, isn’t it?
One of my large containers of kombucha had grown such a thick scoby (probably close to 3″ thick!) that I decided to peel off the bottom layers and leave the nice clean top layers. The other reason is that the original bottom layer had some spots where the scoby growth had been inhibited by a competing organism-this did not continue through the top, so peeling off this layer made it like new again. I placed the layer of scoby on a plate for examination, and this was what I found looking back at me!
The entire scoby looked like this:
Not a very happy scoby, is it? They never look too pretty…but are rarely this expressive!
This image does clearly show three or four areas of inhibited growth, a good reason to peel away the affected layers. You should occasionally give your scoby a once-over; a quick physical exam. It should smell like kombucha and not have holes or discolorations other than the light to dark seen here. The bottom left shows two areas that are too dark-some other microoganism is trying to take root there! The scoby appears to have successfully prevented its further growth but peeling off the layer keeps things on the safe and less-unattractive side.
I continue to share scobys with local contacts, but run out of people and always have more scoby than I can give away. Maybe these could be made into some type of food! I have seen some recipes for how to eat them but have yet to try it. My kids are daring me…I will keep you posted!
Antibiotic resistance is a growing threat in the world. The concept is simple enough: the frequent use of antibiotics causes bacteria to develop resistance. Antibiotic resistance is easily shared among bacteria, potentially resulting in pathogenic bacteria becoming drug resistant. Why is that such a big deal? Because then if you get an infection antibiotics will have no effect! Even a mild pathogen can become fatal through this mechanism.
Many people think that it is only those in the natural/alternative health community who are opposed to the frequent use of antibiotics. This is simply not true! The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization) are both advising patients and their doctors to not use antibiotics except in specific cases. That doesn’t seem to be what is really happening however, as my patients report that their family doctors put them on antibiotics for almost everything including all of the conditions the CDC warns not to use antibiotics for.
If that weren’t bad enough, antibiotics are used a great deal on farm animals, resulting in antibiotic exposure even if you don’t get any prescription antibiotics. Antibiotic resistant “superbugs” are now being found in food destined for human consumption, an ominous indicator of the spread of resistance.
There are now “nightmare superbugs” affecting the elderly and frail in healthcare settings, completely resistant to the strongest antibiotics available. This has the potential of becoming an epidemic, yet most people (and most of their doctors) remain either ignorant or skeptical of the facts.
What can you do to protect yourself and limit your contribution to a potential plague? First, learn the CDC guidelines and remind your doctor about them. Secondly, learn how to keep your microbiome (your internal population of beneficial bacteria) healthy and functioning. Learn how to keep your immune system protecting you-in other words, work at being healthy! Understanding how antibacterial soaps and disinfectants may promote these problems (which is very counter-intuitive) is also a good idea.
Please take a moment and read some of the articles I’ve linked below:
The HPA axis is not a part of the body that is often discussed. It is a functional “axis” that is used to describe the relationship between three parts of the body: the Hypothalamus, the Pituitary gland, and the Adrenal glands. All three of these organs have critical functions with far-reaching implications for physical and mental health. Many psychiatric drugs have been found to affect the HPA axis, resulting in the therapeutic benefit of the drug. Imbalances in HPA function have been implicated in a wide array of neuropsychiatric conditions including in autism. The gut microbiome, gut bacteria, exert control over the development and function of the endocrine hormone system, in particular the HPA axis. Why does this matter? Because imbalances in gut bacteria can therefore result in imbalances in HPA axis development in early life-and this imbalance has the potential to make the person develop autism (as well as other problems in different individuals). It is important because the gut bacteria are so vulnerable to birth practices (c-section vs. natural), antibiotic use, antibiotics in food, pesticides, herbicides such as RoundUp, and even stress levels perceived by the individual. Higher stress is harmful to the gut bacteria through alterations of the digestive functions, secondary to autonomic nervous system imbalance (more sympathetic, or “fight-or-flight”, function). Many of these are factors under our influence if not control! Gut bacterial populations are one of the most variable factors in human health, and yet one of the most neglected. My work on The Symbiont Factor is my contribution to spreading knowledge about the gut microbiome, so that more people can take control of their health and more conditions like autism can hopefully be prevented or successfully treated. The book is being configured/edited/reconfigured/formatted so that it works well on all Kindle download platforms, a task that is keeping me quite busy the last two weeks! Almost there, almost there…It will be so exciting when it is finally published! The book will also be available as a print format following its release as an e-book. Until then, stay tuned in and take care of your gut bacteria!
And, best of all, a slide show from one of the head researchers in the field, Ted Dinan: http://www.genome.gov/Multimedia/Slides/HumanMicrobiomeScience2013/33_Dinan.pdf