Nov
26
2018

Gut Bacteria Crucial To Healthy Aging

New research presented at the London Microbiome Meeting asked the question “are gut bacteria crucial to healthy aging?” Marina Ezcurra, is a Ph.D. is a researcher working at the Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom. She uses a nematode (round worm) model to investigate various aspects of aging. Nematodes like C. elegans provide a useful model not only for genetic work, but also for the human gut flora as well. Moreover, it allows making observations about the connection between bacterial genes and aging. Coupled with the fact that the worm has such a short lifespan, the researchers can test bacterial genes, the aging of the worm and get meaningful results in short order.

It seems like one of the research objectives was changing the nematode’s gut flora and observing life expectancy and age-related diseases.

Pathological versus healthy gut bacteria composition

Dr. Ezcurra did a couple of experiments with the nematode C. elegans as a model. She could show that the worm’s gut bacteria composition mattered. First of all, if there was a pathological composition of the gut flora, the worm did not turn as old and there were various age-related diseases that developed. Secondly, they were very comparable to human age-related degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.

Another senior author researched how genes of gut bacteria influence life expectancy

Meet Dr. Meng Wang, associate professor of molecular and human genetics, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. He did extensive genetic research on C. elegans. He used this model, because C. elegance lives only 2 to 3 weeks. This animal model is easy to manipulate. For instance, he studied the gut bacteria composition. This link explains that he tested about 4000 E.coli bacteria with various gene defects. 29 E.coli strains when deleted, increased the worms’ lifespan.12 bacterial mutants among those prevented cancer and amyloid-beta, found in Alzheimer’s disease. Some mutant bacteria caused longevity by acting on processes linked to aging.

Colanic acid is an important anti-aging factor in C.elegans

Dr. Wang joined Dr. Christophe Herman, associate professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor, for further research. It turned out that one of the keys to longevity of the nematodes were the mutant bacteria in the gut over-producing the polysaccharide colanic acid. This allowed the nematodes to live much longer. The researchers could show further that fission and fusion processes with regard to mitochondria are important. Mitochondria are the energy packages in cells and these processes are regulated by the presence of colanic acid. As a result, if your gut has good bacteria you can grow old and escape Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Dr. Meng Wang said: “Of the nearly 4,000 bacterial genes we tested, 29, when deleted, increased the worms’ lifespan. Twelve of these bacterial mutants also protected the worms from tumor growth and accumulation of amyloid-beta, a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease in humans.” 

Creating longevity with metformin, a diabetic drug

Physicians have known for some time that metformin stimulates longevity genes. This is the reason why diabetics on metformin live longer than diabetics on insulin. Dr. Ezcurra mentioned on 24 October, 2018 in her talk at the London microbiome Meeting that she had done experiments with C. elegans and metformin. Metformin reduces the risk of cancer and increases longevity in C. elegans as well as in mice (other experiments). Currently there is a clinical trial going on that investigates anti-aging under the influence of metformin in older people.

Effects of metformin on anti-aging

Metformin has the potential to target diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s pathologies all at once.

The anti-aging effect in humans with metformin involves the gut bacteria. Dr. Ezcurra says that this is the reason why diabetics on metformin live longer than diabetics on insulin. Metformin influences the folate bacterial metabolism of the gut flora. Other research has shown that the Akkermansia bacteria in the gut, which are good, desirable bacteria, will increase from 3-5% to 12.44% of the gut flora under the influence of metformin. Here is the discussion in detail in the following link.

Effect of gut bacteria on psychiatric diseases, obesity and diabetes

Dr. Ezcurra said that there are many studies showing that dysbiosis of the gut can lead to psychiatric diseases, Parkinson’s disease, obesity and diabetes etc.

We need to know more about whether a healthy gut flora will let us age without causing age-related diseases. Dr. Ezcurra stated: “By better understanding the links between nutrition, microbiome, and health, we can understand how the elderly can maintain their microbiome, and also help them directly by using pre- and probiotic strategies. This would help us age in a better way, maintaining health and quality of life in old age without drugs or surgery.”

Gut Bacteria Crucial To Healthy Aging

Gut Bacteria Crucial To Healthy Aging

Conclusion

The composition of the gut microbiome appears to determine whether we age gracefully or not and whether we get sick as we age or not. Everything depends on the diversity of the gut flora. There are bacteria in the gut that are good for us and also bacteria that are bad for us. Metformin has been shown to stimulate the good gut bacteria to multiply. Dr. Ezcurra is continuing her research into this. She clearly stated that it should be possible for us to age in a better way and maintain health and quality of life in old age without drugs or surgery.

Jan
27
2018

Bacterial Toxins Threatening The Brain

Dr. Robert G. Silverman gave a talk about bacterial toxins threatening the brain. He spoke at the 25th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas on Dec. 15, 2017. First of all, he pointed out how changes in the gut flora can affect the integrity of the gut wall. In addition this can eventually this lead to a leaky gut syndrome. But it does not end here. As a result the toxins enter the blood stream and affect the blood/brain barrier. Consequently in the end various neurological diseases can develop from this.

Here I am giving a brief overview of the talk by Dr. Silverman. But he was not the only one speaking to this subject. Several other speakers also brought up this subject throughout the conference. They stressed the importance of rectifying any gut dysbiosis to stop leaky gut syndrome and a leaking blood/brain barrier.

Leaky gut syndrome

When the gut flora changes there are often enteropathogenic E. coli strains, Shigella and Salmonella that invade the lining of the gut causing leaky gut syndrome. When toxins enter the blood stream, the body is starting to form antibodies against various proteins. Antibodies are acting against various targets: bacterial cytotoxins, cytoskeletal proteins, tight junction proteins and food antigens. Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from toxins of gram-negative gut bacteria can also leak into the blood. This affects key organs like the liver, the heart, lungs, the joints, the immune system and the thyroid. When this process has gone on for some time, the blood/brain barrier is breaking down next. The intestinal inflammation causes the release of inflammatory cytokines that circulate in the blood stream. The cytokines cross the blood/brain barrier and activate the support cells in the brain, called microglia. This in turn causes inflammatory degenerative changes in the brain.

Blood/brain barrier

LPS circulating in the blood from gut bacteria endotoxins increase the permeability of the blood/brain barrier. This is bad news for the brain as it becomes vulnerable to attacks from the antibodies mentioned and from food particles. Dr. Silverman cited papers showing that circulating antibodies that cause inflammation in the brain can be the starting point for early Parkinson’s disease. Autoimmune antibodies can cause even depression.

Intestinal permeability can be assessed by various antibody constellations. For instance IgA antibodies point to an ongoing issue/early leaky gut syndrome. IgM antibodies indicate early onset and IgG antibodies chronic issues of leaky gut syndrome. If you add various antigens like LPS, zonulin and actomyosin you can pinpoint which structure of the gut wall is affected by leaky gut syndrome, and the antibody type adds more information about the timing of the onset of leaky gut syndrome.

Bacterial toxins threatening the brain when BBB damaged

As I already mentioned the blood/brain barrier (BBB) is often simultaneously affected when there has been leaky gut syndrome. There may be a delay, but eventually the BBB breaks down also, and the brain will be in jeopardy. Dr. Silverman gave an example of how depression can develop as result of a breakdown of the BBB. Chronic intestinal inflammation can suppress the sensitive hippocampus cells from regenerating. Physicians call that impairment of hippocampal neurogenesis. Inflammatory cytokines damage the neuronal cell progenitors. As a result patients with inflammatory bowel disease can have mood disorders and cognitive impairment. Sophisticated BBB blood tests can pinpoint whether the BBB is intact or establish whether there is impairment. The important thing to remember: there is a gut brain connection.

Fixing the gut to stop bacterial toxins threatening the brain

In order to fix the BBB, you must first concentrate on fixing leaky gut syndrome.

  • Avoid gluten, as gluten is causing inflammation of the gut wall.
  • Start taking probiotics that contain more than 30 Billion lactobacillus plantarum, lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis per daily dose.
  • Do a heavy metal detox involving phytonutrients, hops, turmeric, Andrographis, zinc, polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids, and watercress plant extract. Andrographis, also known as the “King of Bitters”, is an Ayurvedic medicine used to promote digestion and stimulate appetite.

Nutrients to fix the blood/brain barrier

Dr. Silverman uses the following nutrients to repair the blood brain barrier.

  • Acetyl L-Carnitine: this helps to protect the mitochondria from oxidative damage
  • Berberine: reduces inflammation in brain injuries
  • Alpha-lipoic acid: preserves the integrity of the BBB by controlling oxidative stress
  • Curcumin: decreases brain swelling, preserves the BBB and increases tight junction protein in brain cells
  • Vitamin D3 (5000 IU or more): protects the BBB by various mechanisms
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: they increase cell membrane fluidity and protect the BBB
  • Resveratrol: reduces inflammation and restores the BBB

Neuroplasticity

In order for the brain to adapt to changes, it must be flexible, which means on a cellular level that nerve cells form new synapses, neurological pathways etc. This is what neuroplasticity means. Here are the factors that Dr. Silverman listed as facilitating neuroplasticity.

  • Regular exercise
  • DHA from fish oil capsule supplements
  • Turmeric
  • Whole coffee extract
  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • Lactobacillus brevis and Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium animalis Lactis 420 (B420)
  • Probiotics: they feed the healthy gut bacteria (e.g. apple cider vinegar)
  • Elevate magnesium in the brain through L-threonate
Bacterial Toxins Threatening The Brain

Bacterial Toxins Threatening The Brain

Conclusion

In the last few years it has become abundantly clear that leaky gut syndrome is not an isolated matter. It is invariably connected to a breakdown of the blood/brain barrier (BBB). Leaky gut syndrome alone is bad enough as it can lead to a number of autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto thyroiditis and others. But when the BBB is affected, antibodies can now affect nerve cells, can cause Parkinson’s disease, depression, and even Alzheimer’s disease. There is no reliable database for what can happen to the brain when the BBB breaks down.

Because of these connections it is important to sanitize the gut, re-establish a healthy gut flora and overcome leaky gut syndrome. This will at the same time repair the broken down BBB. It will also prevent further possible damage to the brain in the future. Your gut health is your brain health. Take care of both your gut as well as your brain!

Oct
05
2013

Fighting Back Against The Flu

Every year there is concern about the upcoming flu season. Mostly the discussion centers on the composition of the latest flu bugs and what type of strains would be included in the latest vaccine recommended. The first flu case of the season has just been reported in a child. Here I am going to review what you can do to minimize your probability of getting the flu, or if you get it, how to minimize the severity of the illness.

The immune system

We know for some time that the antibody-mediated immune system is what helps overcome flus. The body’s immune system produces antibodies against the flu via T-helper cells that recognize the glycoprotein (hemagglutinin) of the flu virus and pass a signal on to B cells (bone marrow derived lymphocytes), which in turn are turned on to produce a lot of antibodies (Ref.1). These protect you from future flus of this type. If you have pre-existing antibodies that fit the bug in circulation you are OK ,and you will usually not get the disease.

The factors that protect you from the flu

However, there are many other factors that support your immune system. I will discuss the most important factors in more detail here.

1. We do know that vitamin D3 strengthens the immune system. I would recommend 1000 to 2000 IU per day in the wintertime, but up to 4000 IU or 5000 IU per day during an active epidemic would be reasonable. There is less flu when people are taking Vitamin D3 supplements.

Influenza A was reduced in school children supplemented with 1200IU of vitamin D3. This study recommended higher doses of 2000 to 7000 IU of vitamin D3 per day; but it also stated that as a precaution serum vitamin D levels should be monitored (technically it is serum 25-hydroxy-vitamin D levels that are measured) to avoid vitamin D toxicity. Normal levels are between 40-70 nanograms per ml. Toxic levels are above 100 nanograms per ml. Your family doctor can order a serum 25-hydroxy-vitamin D level for you.

2. Eating fruit and vegetables is important for maintaining a healthy immune system. In a randomized study from Belfast, UK elderly volunteers (82 of them, aged 65 to 85) were assigned to either eat 2 portions or 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day over 16 weeks. At 12 weeks into the trial both groups received a Pneumovax II vaccination, and the antibody response was measured at the end of the 16th week of the study.  There was a significant increase in antibody binding capacity to pneumococcal capsular polysaccharide in the 5 portion fruit and vegetable group compared to the 2 portion group that had no such increase. The authors concluded that there is a measurable improvement of the immune system when an older population increases their fruit and vegetable intake.

3. Avoid stress, because stress has been shown to weaken the immune system. This review shows that the immune system is weakened by the stress response via the elevated corticosteroid hormones (the stress hormone ACTH stimulates cortisol release from the adrenal glands). The stress of social isolation is also contributing to the weakening of the immune system in older people.

Fighting Back Against The Flu

Fighting Back Against The Flu

4. Exercise moderately and your immune system will get strengthened. Over exercising should be avoided as too much cortisol is released from your adrenal glands, which is toxic to lymphocytes thus weakening your immune system.

5.  Socializing is good for you as studies have shown that you live 2 ½ years longer. This study here is from Connecticut, but other studies confirmed this as well.

6. Make love. The endorphins that are released in the process stimulate the immune system.

7. Take probiotics, because they help your gut flora to stay normal. A normal gut flora promotes a stronger immune system as the Peyer’s patches (clumps of immune cells) in the gut wall are intimately linked to the immune system. In this way probiotics indirectly support your immune system.

8. Avoid smoking.  Smokers have more upper and lower respiratory tract infections than non-smokers. Here is information that explains this as well.

9. Get enough sleep. The circadian rhythm of your hormones ensures that your hormones function at their optimal level. Melatonin from the pineal gland is important in triggering the circadian rhythm, but melatonin itself supports the immune system as well. Your adrenal glands need resetting overnight so that cortisol is secreted according to your stress level, not too much and not too little. Overstimulation from performance sports, grief reactions, car accidents, injuries etc. lead to a surplus of cortisol and weakening of the immune system.

10. Take your flu shot (but without thimerosal) every year, but take it as a single shot (without thimerosal as a preservative). This CDC link explains that single shot flu vaccines are available without thimerosal. I recommend this type of flu vaccine. The central nervous system is extremely sensitive to nanograms of mercury, and it is for this reason that I would not buy into the argument of the CDC that one should not be concerned about safety of thimerosal. The newest for this flu season is the quadrivalent (or four-strain) flu vaccine, which is now available in pharmacies throughout the US.

11. Vitamins and supplements support your immune system, particularly vitamin D3. DHEA, which is available over the counter in the US stimulates antibody production when the flu vaccine is given, particularly in the elderly, in other words DHEA strengthens the immune system Vitamin C is known to support the immune system and is rapidly depleted in those who suffer from any viral infection. There are other nutrients that are useful to stimulate your immune system.

12. Consider herbs: Echinacea, Siberian ginseng, Asian and American ginseng, astragalus, garlic, and shiitake, reishi (also called “lingzhi mushroom”) and maitake mushrooms have all been shown to stimulate the immune system with negligible side effects.

13. Wash your hands, particularly when there is a flu going around. Door knobs for instance are known to keep live viruses for 2 to 8 hours, so washing your hands will reduce the amount of virus you are exposed to.

Conclusion

There is no single solution to prevent the flu, but we can all minimize our exposure to the virus and strengthen our immune system. Although it is wise to get a yearly flu shot to boost your immune system (without thimerosal as a preservative) just before the epidemics come around, this alone is not as good as combining the non-specific factors mentioned here with it. Particularly vitamin D3 (2000 IU to 4000 IU per day) and the old stand-by vitamin C (1000 mg to 2000 mg daily) will stimulate your immune system. Spice up your dinners with mushrooms that stimulate your immune system (maitake, shiitake, reishi mushrooms). Go to bed early enough to allow your circadian hormone rhythms to be reset overnight as you sleep. This will stimulate your immune system (from melatonin and DHEA of your adrenal glands).

More info on the Flu: http://nethealthbook.com/infectious-disease/respiratory-infections/flu/

References:

1. Long: Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 4th ed. Prevention. Vaccine. © 2012 Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

May
11
2013

Changes Of Gut Bacteria Can Cause Heart Attacks

The recent news of gut bacteria possibly being involved in causing heart attacks (see details below) sounds pretty outrageous. In order to make this more understandable, we need to start backtracking how bacteria end up in our gut and what they are doing there.

Gut bacteria in our bowels at various stages in life

Even among infants there is a huge difference in the composition of the gut flora depending on whether the baby was vaginally delivered, born by Cesarean section or prematurely born and nursed in an intensive care unit for a prolonged period of time.

When we are grown up, it depends on where we live on our planet as to what type of gut flora we have. A 2011 study of the bacterial composition of stool samples in Europe versus Africa showed that the European microbiome in the colon was typical of the Bacteroides enterotype, whereas the African microbiome was dominated by the Prevotella enterotype. Other studies have shown that the type of diet we eat causes us to harbor different types of gut flora. A person eating a more vegetarian diet will have a Prevotella enterotype gut flora, while another person eating a Western style fat and protein dominated diet will have a Bacteroides enterotype gut flora. What is the gut flora doing? It lives within our gut for our mutual benefit. We provide the gut bacteria a comfortable home at body temperature where they grow best. They in turn ferment undigested foods, protect us from the growth of harmful bacteria, produce vitamins like vitamin K and biotin, and produce hormones that direct the body to store excess food as fat.

Changes Of Gut Bacteria Can Cause Heart Attacks

Changes Of Gut Bacteria Can Cause Heart Attacks

Cleveland Clinic’s gut flora research linked to heart attacks

In April 2013 reports that heart attacks may be related to the composition of your gut flora hit the popular press, articles like this. Two years earlier, in April of 2011, the same Cleveland research group under Dr. Stanley Hazen found that the gut flora composition has an impact on heart disease. They stated that a “byproduct called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) is produced when intestinal bacteria digest the nutrient phosphatidylcholine, commonly known as lecithin”. It was determined that the liver was responsible for producing TMAO out of absorbed materials from gut bacteria and that this was responsible for accelerating hardening of the arteries, which in turn caused deadly heart attacks and strokes.

As can be seen from this link the Cleveland research group is suggesting that TMAO could become a valuable screening tool when measured in patients’ blood to screen for their risk to develop a heart attack or stroke in the future. Furthermore, once these patients are identified, they can be sent to a dietitian and be put on a different diet that prevents heart attacks and strokes; also, the progress could again be monitored through repeat TMAO blood tests down the road.

Criticism of research from the Cleveland Clinic

Not every one has welcomed the study as clear-cut proof for a link between the gut flora and heart attacks, strokes and deaths. This link shows that it is questioned whether perhaps low antibiotic residues in red meat would explain the findings of the study. It rightly points out that there was no control for whether the more than 4000 patients were eating organic foods or a regular American diet. The comment goes on to say that the regular American diet contains residual antibiotics from milk, milk products, beef, chicken and turkey. These traces of antibiotics are powerful enough to have an effect on the gut flora, which likely is the reason for the differences between the vegetarian diet versus a Western style fat and protein dominated diet. It is entirely possible that grass fed beef would not lead to TMAO levels in the blood whereas regular beef or hamburger meat will raise the TMAO levels. The same could be true for egg consumption, which was also accused of raising TMAO levels. However, we do not know whether organic eggs that do not contain antibiotics would have done the same as regular eggs that contain traces of antibiotics.

Cancer caused by gut flora

This 2008 review article explains how lactobacillus and bifidobacteria (probiotics) prevent colon cancer, while bacteria of the Bacteroides and Clostridium variety increase the incidence of colon cancer and the growth rate of colonic tumors. So, the composition of your gut flora does not only matter with regard to prevention of heart attacks and strokes, but is also important in preventing colon cancer.

Change your gut flora to boost your health

Here is where the “rubber hits the road”. What I mean is that you can benefit from all of this research with regard to your health by paying attention to a few facts and possibly making a few changes as follows.

  1. I think that the argument of the bulletproofexec.com website holds true and we should all eat organic meats whenever possible. The Cleveland study has already shown that the gut flora in vegetarians stayed healthy even when they occasionally slipped and ate a regular steak.
  2. Take supplemental probiotics from the health food store. It will improve your gut flora within a day or two.
  3. Higher intake of fruit and vegetables make a measurable difference in the body decreasing the risk for heart attacks and strokes as this British research group has shown. Another research group from Italy has confirmed that an increased intake of fruit and vegetables mobilizes genetic switches that will stabilize the metabolism of the gut wall and prevent cancer of the colon.

So, the verdict for boosting your health is out: eat organic foods, use probiotics as supplements and eat more fruit and vegetables!

More information on nutrition: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/

References

  1. http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v19/n5/full/nm.3145.html
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23614584

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014