The Bugs That Make You

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Trillions of microorganisms inhabit the complex ecosystem we call our body.  Most of this bacteria work within our digestive systems.  Recently, scientists have been discovering bacteria ‘s beneficial and deleterious roles in our health.  However, most of the bacteria that reside inside and on our body are yet to be classified. The microbial cloud is thought to shape our behavior, disease rates, inflammation degrees, enzyme makeup, digestion, fat storage and obesity among other things.   Approximately 90% of our serotonin (a neurotransmitter that effects mood) is located in our gut.  And some bacteria is linked to its increases and thus potentiating serotonin’s anti-depression effects.   Other bacteria seems to promote healthy immune systems but excessive use of antibiotics, which kills good and bad bacteria, has been shown to increase rates of autoimmune diseases and obesity!

Big pharma is pouring lots of money into the development of drugs that would decrease the bacteria strains that have been seen to increase inflammation and obesity.  According to Dr. John DiBaise at the Mayo clinic, “Accumulating evidence suggests that the gut microbiota plays an important role in the harvest, storage, and expenditure of energy obtained from the diet. The composition of the gut microbiota has been shown to differ between lean and obese humans”.  Many obesity researchers are looking into the possibility of manipulating digestive bacteria to decrease body weight and obesity associated diseases.  Interestingly since the 1950’s  it has been common knowledge within the farming industry that antibiotics contributes to increases in animal size.  Scientist think that the antibiotic medication changes the digestive flora and make it easier for animals to store fat and increase its biomass.   On another note,  a few doctors recently started performing successful fecal transplants, which can completely revitalize ones bacterial community,  in order to fight (and in some cases cure) autoimmune diseases.

What To Do or Not To Do?

Probiotic Supplementation?

The problem with probiotic supplementation is at most it only has 4 or 5 differing species of helpful bacteria.  Our bodies carry thousands of different species.  Many scientists seem to think that disrupting the balance of bugs living in our bodies may be just a deleterious as killing them off.  However “probiotics have a long record of safety, which relates primarily to lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Experience with other forms of probiotic is more limited” according to Dr. Shanahan from the University of College Cork.  Unfortunately there is little research done of the efficacy of probiotic supplementation.   The National Center for Biotech Information recommends probiotics “may be helpful in the prevention and treatment of acute diarrhea…and the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea in adults and children”.  And according to the Wall Street Journal “…clinical studies have suggested some probiotics may be beneficial for certain gastrointestinal problems, allergies and vaginal infections.”  Talk to your doctor before starting a regimen.

Colonics and/or Colon Cleansing Pills?

There is no scientific evidence that colon cleaning through colonics and laxatives has any known medical value.  However the risks are well documented, including infections, electrolyte imbalances and the removal of many good types of bacteria (and bad ones too).  The body has an evolved natural way of removing waste and colon cleaning.  California Health Department’s Infectious Disease Branch states: “The practice of colonic irrigation by chiropractors, physical therapists, or physicians should cease. Colonic irrigation can do no good, only harm.” The National Council Against Health Fraud agrees.

Take Antibiotic Medication Often?

An antibiotic kills the weakest specimens in a population and sometimes eradicates useful bacteria (that never come back).   Those that are resistant to the drug survive and resume breeding.  Over time, the resistant strains outnumber the susceptible ones – and the antibiotic becomes useless.  This hurts you and the whole population. We also get a big serving from the animal protein we eat (70% of the antibiotics made in this country go to the animals we farm).  Moreover, all the antibacterial soaps and cleansers we use increase pressure for new super bacteria to evolve.  There is new research showing a link between early antibiotic use and increased obesity rates.

Eating Food which Contains Natural Bacteria and Probiotics?

This is probably the best method to increase your beneficial bacteria and restore balance to your digestive flora and fauna.  Here is a list of some foods that may help:

  • Yogurt

  • Miso

  • Pickles

  • Kambucha

  • Sauerkraut

  • Kim chi

  • Fermented cheese

  • Buttermilk

  • Apple cider vinegar

  • Honey

  • Red wine

  • Cottage cheese


Special Mention: Asparagus , Garlic and Leeks – prebiotic foods containing life sustaining nutrients (inulin) for the healthy bacteria in your intestines.

Fermented foods have been around for thousands of years and are thought to help you better digest and absorb the nutrients you are eating.  Many kinds of fermented foods carry higher levels of vitamins and nutrients.  Personally I try to incorporate at least one of the above foods in my diet everyday.

 

Sources:

1- Eisen, Jonathan.  TED talks: Meet your Microbes.  TEDMED, April 2012.

2- Alvarez, WC (1919). “Origin of the so-called auto-intoxication symptom”. JAMA 72 (1): 8–13.

3-Krajmalnik-Brown R, Ilhan ZE, Kang DW, DiBaise JK.NutritionClinical Practice. “Effects of gut microbes on nutrient absorption and energy regulation”. 2012 Apr.

4- Shanahan F. Gastroenterol Clin North Am.  “A commentary on the safety of probiotics”.  2012 Dec;41(4):869-76. doi: 10.1016/j.gtc.2012.08.006.

5-Jarvis WT. Colonic Irrigation. National Council Against Health Fraud, 1995.

6- Boyd W. Making meat: science, technology, and American poultry production. Technol Cult. 2001;42:631-64.

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