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HOW GUT BACTERIA CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THE EXTRA WEIGHT

Linking the gut microbiota to obesity and diabetes Have you ever envied skinny people who eat a lot of unhealthy foods yet remain slim-figured? People often say it’s because of genes or better metabolism, but that’s not the whole story! Whose metabolism are they talking about? The person’s metabolism or the metabolism of their gut microbes? INTERESTED? First, let me explain that our intestinal microorganisms coevolved with us to support our physiology and our metabolism. Our body constantly communicates and cooperates with them. When our microbes, the so-called “internal garden,” are in a state of balance and when operate at peak efficiency, so do we and our metabolism. When things get out of balance and we suffer from microbial gut dysbiosis, it directly affects our health and our weight. To achieve and maintain a healthy weight it is essential to take care of our microbial selves. You may have, for example, difficulties in losing weight. Until you address your microbiome, you may be trapped in a vicious circle of dieting because you are missing an important player in a game — the gut microbiome. Let’s see how these microbes may contribute to weight control. Gut microbes affect our energy harvest and storage Recent studies indicate that gut microbes contribute to our energy harvest, storage, and spending. This process is optimal when the amount of energy extracted from the diet equals the amount used, maintaining equilibrium. Over the course of evolution, animals have developed a smart strategy to protect energy reservoirs by forming fatty adipose tissue. However, once energy-dense foods erupted in western countries, we began to over-accumulate and over-stimulate... read more

IS YOUR GUT LEAKY?

Let’s face it: exposure to certain factors makes our gut leak! Scientists all over the world are working hard to unravel the puzzles on the growing incidence of many diseases, particularly in Western countries. It will take time before we get all the pieces together, but what we already know is that many diseases are linked to poor diet, gut dysbiosis, pollution, and stress, to name a few. Our Western diet has changed over the last two to three decades, from simple and unprocessed foods to highly processed foods with high sugar content. Coincidently, as we eat more processed foods, there is also a growing number of diseases, including autoimmune diseases. So the primary question arises: What’s the link between a poor diet and how our Westernized diet make us sick? Multiple factors are often involved, such as genetics, environment, lifestyle, and diet. They determine why some people get sick while others do not. Diet is undoubtedly a very important factor in our well-being. As Hippocrates stated “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Diet choice may have a profound effect on our health. Actually, a poor diet is one of the factors that has been linked to a leaky gut and consequently to diseases. Let’s find out what a so-called leaky gut is. Intestinal barrier and intestinal permeability What exactly stands behind a “leaky gut”? A leaky gut commonly refers to an increased permeability within the intestinal wall. This condition is sometimes called a “leaky gut syndrome.” Permeability allows certain molecules and ions to pass through the (intestinal) membranes. A leaky gut can be associated with food sensitivities,... read more

EARLY ANTIBIOTIC USE MAY IMPACT HEALTH LATER IN LIFE

“Antibiotics, once being the best intervention ever, now lead to antimicrobial resistance, posing one of the greatest threats to human health” Antibiotic dilemma My first experience with an antibiotic dilemma was directly after my first daughter was born. Three hours after giving birth, we were heading home from the hospital, with my daughter in a newborn car seat. About 15 minutes later, I noticed she turned pale and I became suspicious. We returned immediately to the hospital, where the medical team discovered she had a respiratory insufficiency. No one knew the cause of it. She had no fever but doctors, following our approval, gave her antibiotics just in case it was an infection. We were told that if it turned out to be an infection, not giving her antibiotics would risk her life. That was a clear message which made us decide to go for antibiotics. Nobody, however, warned us about the potential consequences of (unnecessary) antibiotic exposure at such a young age. Eventually, it turned out that it wasn’t an infection. The microbiological tests came back negative. Doctors found no cause of a respiratory insufficiency. I have, however, a theory that placing her in a car seat (bended body, bended head) was a trigger leading to breathing difficulties. The antibiotic she was given at this very critical lifetime might have compromised her gut microbiome establishment and her immune system development, and hence could be the colic as the first sign of it and later on frequent sicknesses. Around her 2nd birthday she had 3 antibiotic courses, one for impetigo and two for ear infections. Each time she was... read more

CAN PROBIOTICS PREVENT FLU AND COLDS?

Respiratory tract infections and probiotics During the 2013-2014 winter, my family accounted many episodes of Respiratory Tract Infections (RTIs). I, my husband, and both my daughters were experiencing recurrent RTIs, and this saga lasted for about 6 months. My older daughter missed about 60% of her daycare days and my younger one about 90% of daycare because of RTIs. It was a tough burden (physically, emotionally and financially) for me and for my husband. Luckily, the last winter of 2014-2015 was much better; my daughters were only sick a few times and it was quite mild. Having the entire family suffering from recurrent RTIs, it was a wake-up call for me to look for ways to improve our health. The changes we have made were mostly around our diet and included the consumption of probiotic supplements, more fermented food, more vegetables, more salads, more fiber, more bone broths, less sugars, reduced intake of diary milk products, reduced consumption of wheat and gluten, and no processed food. Even though it’s not the season of colds and flu now, I want to give some attention to “RESPIRATORY TRACT INFECTIONS AND PROBIOTICS”. RTIs typically include cold, upper respiratory tract infections, influenza-like illness and flu, the majority of which is caused by a virus.  Associated symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough, sometimes fever and may last between 5 to 10 days. Children, on average, suffer from 6 to 12 RTI incidents annually, whereas adults average from 1 to 5 incidents. The management of RTIs typically includes the use of over-the-counter medications to relieve some of the symptoms. The average cost of... read more

Sauerkraut

Ingredients (for about 2 liters) 1 kilogram white cabbage About 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt Equipment Widemouth jar or ceramic crock Plate that fits inside jar/crock Smaller jelly jar (filled with water) that fits inside the larger jar/crock or clean stones, marbles, or other weights for pressing ferment under brine Cloth cover (towel or kitchen cloth) for covering the jar Instructions Clean all equipment properly Chop the cabbage finely. I first cut the cabbage into quarters, cut the core out, and slice each quarter further into fine pieces. Place chopped cabbage in a big bowl and sprinkle salt over the cabbage. I massage cabbage with my hands to distribute the salt into all cabbage pieces. Thanks to the salt, water will be pulled out of the cabbage making a brine solution, after about 10 min the cabbage will become watery. Presence of salt keeps the cabbage crunchy but it’s also possible to make sauerkraut with less or no salt at all. Optionally, you can add other vegetables, herbs or spices to the mix if you like. I like plain cabbage the most but you can get creative by adding onions, garlic, beets, brussels sprouts, or dill seeds, and more. Pack the cabbage into the jar. Use handful portions of cabbage (including any already released liquid) at the time then tamp it down hard using your fist. Tightly tamped cabbage will release more water. Weight the cabbage down. Once all the cabbage is packed, place a small plate or other glass/ceramic lid inside the jar to cover kraut. On the top of it place a clean weight (smaller jar filled... read more

RIGHT FROM THE START: GUT MICROBES IN INFANCY

Bringing my daughters into this world was quite an unforgettable experience. I had a lot questions and uncertainties prior to giving a birth for the first time so I took birthing workshops, pregnancy yoga classes, and a lactation workshop to prepare myself better for what was going to happen. These preparations certainly gave me some degree of confidence, yet looking back I feel like there was still something missing. Everybody kept elaborately telling how the baby goes through the birth canal and how to push, but nobody mentioned anything about the importance of the surrounding microorganisms in the first minutes, days, weeks of a newborn’s life. As governed by Mother Nature, babies acquire their first significant dose of microorganisms from their mothers during the birth. Bacteria colonize the newborn’s every surface, including their skin and the mucosal membranes of the digestive tract, respiratory tract and urogenital tract.  This population of microorganisms (microbiota) remains with us from birth to death, helping us maintain balance by constantly responding and adjusting to internal and external factors. Learning more about human microbiome, in infancy and through the lifespan, can help answer some fundamental questions, such as its importance in our health and disease. Interestingly, the most recent findings contradict the common belief that the healthy maternal womb is a sterile environment, and that the fetus is not colonized with bacteria until the birth. Thus, the new studies have found commensal bacterial species in placenta, amniotic fluid and fetal meconium, suggesting that the microbial acquisition actually happens before the birth. During the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, as the fetus matures it swallows more amniotic... read more

Gut feelings – gut microbes contribute to our MOOD and BEHAVIOR

It seems weird to think that our gut microorganisms may have something to do with our mood and our behavior. We know now that they play a role in many diseases, but do they also have a say in how we feel? Actually, yes, they do! There is a growing number of publications on the subject and I was prompted to write this piece after reading a recent (April 2015) article about the effect of probiotics on the activation of negative thoughts associated with sad moods. Please read on if you want to find out more about the results of this study. In the human body, in nature, nearly everywhere, microorganisms form complex and sophisticated communities of cells that communicate with each other by means of a special language, a sort of microbial language. They produce so called “language” molecules that they can sense and respond to accordingly. During my doctoral research, one of my study topics was to look at the signaling (“language”) molecules of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic human pathogen. It uses the signaling molecules to communicate with other bacteria of the same species or other species, to switch on and switch off certain genes/functions. The great spectrum of molecules produced by bacteria plays various functions within the bacterial community itself and within their host, affecting thus other bacteria and affecting their host, for example a human body. There are up to 1000 microbial species in our gut and the molecules produced by these microorganisms help them to occupy certain intestinal niches (neighborhoods), to compete with other microorganisms for food, to communicate, to establish their role within... read more

Gut Microbiota – an unappreciated organ

Microbiota – Behind the scenes The microorganisms within our intestines form a complex community called microbiota. The gut microbiota occupy intestinal spaces. Microbiota, sometimes called microflora, is a community of microorganisms to be found either on the surface of the body, or in its different cavities: the skin, mouth, ears, vagina and gastrointestinal tract. Our present day knowledge of microbiota began with the pioneering work of Russian scientist Élie Metchnikoff, winner of the 1908 Nobel Prize, who explored the ageing process and intestinal bacteria. It wasn’t until the 1970s that scientists began to publish about the importance of these intestinal inhabitants to the wellbeing of the human body. Our microbiota comprises of commensal (native) and transitional (just passing through) microorganisms. Transitional organisms typically include non-fermenting gram-negative-bacili from the environment, contracted through food and drinks. They travel through our digestive system mostly harmlessly, and are eliminated with feces. Microorganisms can be beneficial, opportunistic (potentially harmful) or pathogenic. Commensal beneficial microorganisms contribute to our normal, healthy flora, and are commonly referred to as indigenous friendly bacteria. Some commonly known microbes include Bifidobacterium, Eubacterium and Lactobacillus. Opportunistic microorganisms, typically non-pathogenic, will keep quiet in a healthy host with a healthy immune system and well established gut microbiome, but may strike (become pathogenic) causing health issues in individuals with compromised immune systems, causing gut dysbiosis. Common opportunists include Bacteroides, Peptococci, Staphylococci, Streptococci, Bacilli, Clostridia, Yeast, Enterobacteria and more. Common exogenous pathogenic microbes, entering the body via contaminated water or foods, include rotavirus, Salmonella typhimurium and some Escherichia coli strains. Indigested probiotic organisms are transient; some strains may colonise the gut temporarily, but will... read more

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