Spore probiotics: The latest innovation in probiotics

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As we continue to learn how important healthy gut bacteria is for the brain and immune system, interest in cultivating a rich and diverse “gut microbiome” grows. One important tool in this quest are spore-based probiotic supplements. “Spore” is derived from the word “seed,” and spore-based probiotics are a hardy delivery system that germinate in the small intestine and help you colonize your gut with more healthy bacteria.

Modern humans face many challenges to developing and maintaining healthy gut bacteria. In fact, studies of primitive people who live much like our hunter gatherer ancestors did show their guts have about 50 percent more diversity in gut bacteria than the average American. Researchers are finding this lack of microbiome diversity plays a role in many chronic health and brain disorders, including depression and autoimmunity.

Low-fiber, junk food diets, antibiotic overuse, chlorinated water, heavy environmental toxin and pollution loads, chronic stress, alcohol, and various medications all play a role in reducing the diversity and amount of beneficial gut bacteria. As a result, opportunistic and infectious “bad” gut bacteria are able to more easily conquer the gut. This weakens the gut lining, increases inflammation, and promotes brain and mood disorders.

There are many ways we can build a healthy and diverse population of gut bacteria. The most important is to eat a whole foods diet that is predominantly vegetables and fruits. It’s important to vary the kind of produce you eat regularly. It’s also helpful to include cultured and fermented foods and take probiotics. Also, avoid drugs such as antibiotics, NSAIDs, and heartburn medication as much as possible.

Given the challenges the modern gut faces, it’s not a bad idea to make probiotics a part of your routine. This is where spore-based probiotics come in. What makes spore-based probiotics special?

  • The survive the acidic environment of the stomach on their way to the intestines.
  • They resist breakdown by digestive enzymes.
  • They are heat stable and don’t need to be stored in the refrigerator.
  • Some spores are antibiotic-resistant, which means you can take while taking antibiotics.

Once in the small intestine, spore-based probiotics can germinate if you provide the right environment with plenty of plant fiber.

Spore probiotics and healthy gut bacteria in general can help improve your health in several ways. They improve the health and integrity of the lining of the small intestine. This lining contains not only bacteria but also plenty of immune cells to defend the bloodstream from bad bacteria, yeast, toxins, undigested foods, and other pathogens that can trigger inflammation if they make their way through the gut lining into the bloodstream. This is called leaky gut.

For instance, one strain of spore-based probiotic, bacillus coagulans, has been well studied for its beneficial effect on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease. Bacillus coagulans produces lactic acid, which has been shown to help protect the gut and boost immune resistance to viruses. It has also been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.

Ask my office for more information on how to support healthy gut bacteria and help eradicate bad bacteria to improve immune health.


New study shows sugar industry sold us lies for decades

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A new investigation reveals the sugar industry successfully blamed fat for heart disease using skewed science, when sugar is the main culprit. This corporate deceit triggered more than 50 years of a nutritional “low-fat” policy that helped make Americans the fattest and most chronically ill population on the planet, thanks to diets high in sugars and processed carbohydrates. Sadly, it’s an ideology still touted today in many doctors’ offices.

Using tactics similar to those of the tobacco industry, the sugar industry funded research that downplayed the role of sugar consumption in raising levels of fat in the blood and did not disclose findings that linked sugar with heart disease.

The industry’s own animal studies showed high-sugar diets increased triglyceride levels, thus raising the risk of heart attack and stroke, and also increased the risk of bladder cancer. They pulled the plug on the study before it could be completed.

The Washington DC-based Sugar Association said the study was stopped because it was over budget and coincided with restructuring of the Sugar Research Foundation. It also said scientific recommendations to limit sugar to no more than 10 percent of daily calories are “out of bounds.”

Had the study been completed, it could have led to further research and policies that put the welfare of American citizens — not the sugar and processed food industries — first. This could have saved millions of Americans and their families from the heartbreak and devastation of sugar-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.

We can see another telling example in a 2018 European study that shows a significant correlation between the amount of processed foods people keep in their homes and obesity and related diseases. Though Americans and Europeans have, surprisingly, eaten roughly the same number of calories over the decades, significantly more Americans than Europeans are obese and ill thanks to corrupt marketing and nutritional policy.

While the policies of the last several decades have steadily made Americans fatter and sicker, they have also been fuel for the multi-billion-dollar weight loss industry that arose in response to the collective weight gain. Sugar content simply replaced fat calories in fat-free foods dominating the shelves.

The trouble with foods high in sugar and processed carbs (which are essentially sugar once ingested) is not only do they make people fatter, but they also trigger a hormonal cascade that increases sugar cravings while turning off the satiety hormones so that one feels constantly hungry. Diets have been shown to fail most people in sustained weight loss and even trigger eating disorders.

The low-fat, high-carb diet sends you on a downward spiral that ends with a foundation for chronic disease based on high inflammation, accelerated brain degeneration, and metabolic imbalances.

In functional medicine, we see myriad chronic disorders that can be significantly ameliorated or even reversed simply by stabilizing blood sugar and saying goodbye to the Standard American Diet (SAD) in favor of a whole foods diet.

Ask my office for advice on the best diet for your chronic health condition.

Exercise creates good gut bacteria independent of diet

730 exercise gut bacteriaWe’re learning what a vital role good gut bacteria play in immune health, brain health, mood, and, of course, gut health. We also know that the best way to beef up your good gut bacteria is through eating lots of different kinds of vegetables and fruits every day. But researchers have discovered yet another way to promote healthy gut bacteria: Regular exercise.

Our digestive tract is home to trillions of gut bacteria that weigh about three to four pounds all together, and are made up of over a 1,000 different species and 5,000 strains. Our body depends on these gut bacteria to:

  • Metabolize nutrients
  • Protect the intestinal wall
  • Produce vitamin K and short chain fatty acids (SCFA), which are important for immune health
  • Maintain health of the digestive tract
  • Regulate immunity
  • Prevent inflammation
  • Promote good brain health and function

As our understanding of healthy gut bacteria evolves, so does the information on how to cultivate your own “microbiome” while inhibiting overgrowth of “bad” bacteria that are infectious and inflammatory. Initially, fermented foods and probiotics were thought to be the main recourse.

Then we learned eating a diet comprised primarily of vegetables and fruits and continually changing up the produce you eat is a great way to develop a rich and diverse gut bacteria population.

Now, scientists have used both a mouse study and a human study to show regular exercise, independent of diet or other factors, also promotes healthy gut bacteria.

In the first study, researchers transplanted fecal material from both exercised and sedentary mice into mice with sterile guts. The activity level of the mice receiving the transplants clearly mirrored that of their donors, showing that the kind of gut bacteria we have plays a role in how inclined we are to be sedentary or active.

The exercised mice recipients also showed more bacteria that produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) that promotes healthy intestinal cells, reduces inflammation, and increases energy. They also were more resistant to ulcerative colitis.

In the second study, researchers tracked the composition of gut bacteria in 18 lean and 14 obese adults as they transitioned from a sedentary lifestyle, to an active one, and then back to a sedentary one. Their exercise routine consisted of 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week for six weeks. Their diets remained the same.

They found that exercise raised levels of SCFAs and then declined again as the subjects became sedentary. A rise in SCFAs means concentrations of good gut bacteria increased. The lean participants showed more dramatic increases of SCFAs than obese ones, and more diverse ratios of bacteria, suggesting obese people respond differently to exercise. Nevertheless, increases happened in both populations.

As our knowledge of gut bacteria, functional medicine, and the human body continues to evolve, it nevertheless circles back to some age-old pearls of wisdom: Eat your vegetables and exercise.

Canola oil worsens memory, raises Alzheimer’s risk

Canola OilWe’ve long been pitched canola’s health benefits. After all, Whole Foods uses it in all their prepared foods and many vegetarian and vegan products proudly promote it as a feature ingredient. But when scientists, who had shown the brain benefits of olive oil in mice, decided to run the same studies with canola oil, they uncovered a darker truth: Canola oil worsens memory and promotes amyloid plaques, a hallmark Alzheimer’s symptom.

In the olive oil study, researchers gave mice with Alzheimer’s Disease a diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil and found that compared to the control group, the mice experienced improvements in memory as well as a reduction in amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau, which creates the neurofibrillary tangles that degenerate the brain in Alzheimer’s.

They replicated the study with canola oil, one of the cheapest and most widely used oils in the world, to see what effects it might have on the brain.

The control group ate a normal diet while the study group was fed the equivalent of two tablespoons a day of canola oil.

After 12 months, researchers observed the following in the canola oil mice:

  • They weighed significantly more than the control group.
  • They suffered impairments in working memory.
  • They had greatly reduced levels of a beneficial form of amyloid beta (amyloid beta 1-40). Amyloid beta 1-40 acts as a buffer to the damaging amyloid beta 1-42. When amyloid beta 1-40 goes down, it leaves the 1-42 form unchecked to degenerate the brain.
  • They showed reduced connectivity between neurons in the brain. Synapses are areas of neurons through which they communicate with one another, playing a vital role in memory formation and retrieval. The drop in amyloid beta 1-40 caused extensive synapse injury.

The scientists plan to conduct a follow-up study to determine how soon neuron damage begins to happen after regular consumption of canola oil, whether it impacts tau phosphorylation, and whether canola oil promotes other neurodegenerative diseases in addition to Alzheimer’s.

What to eat instead of canola oil

When you eat out or buy processed and packaged foods, it’s difficult to find foods that don’t contain canola oil, soybean oil, or processed vegetable oils, none of which are healthy for the brain. It’s especially important to avoid hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, which have also been linked with memory loss.

The brain is made up primarily of fat, which means the fats you eat help determine the structure of your neurons and how well they are able to communicate with one another. For instance, hydrogenated fats have been shown to make cell membranes more rigid and less able to function properly.

Instead of industrially processed vegetable oils, use extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and ghee. Ask my office for more advice.

How to talk to an overweight child about their weight

728 talking to overweight child copyOurs is a tricky culture in which to raise a child. We idolize thinness, shame the fat, yet live in a society that constantly begs — if not harasses — us to over indulge in sugary, fattening foods. Also, thanks to busy working parents, many kids are left to their own devices when it comes to meals and it’s no surprise they go for junk food and sodas. As a result, about 20 percent of America’s children are now obese and rates of type 2 diabetes among children are on the rise.

Children who are obese are more likely to be bullied. Research shows that not only does bullying impact a child’s mental health and self-esteem, it also further promotes obesity. The bullied kid eats more and is further sedentary in an attempt to cope with the painful emotions of being bullied.

The way children are spoken to, or in front of, by doctors and by their parents, as well as teased by family members, can also further promote obesity, according to research.

In essence, many people unconsciously believe that an overweight person does not recognize they are overweight and that telling them will address the problem and make it go away. As it turns out, this has the opposite effect of worsening the situation among children who are typically acutely aware and ashamed of their weight.

The effects of being bullied by peers and teased or shamed by family members last well into adulthood. For women especially, being teased and bullied about their weight as teens is associated with binge eating, poor body image, and obesity later in life.

About two-thirds of overweight children report being bullied by their peers and about a third are teased by family members. Because so many already experience enormous pressure and disapproval, it doesn’t help the overweight child to point out their weight.

Instead, caregivers and doctors should be careful with their language, focus on health instead of weight, and use positive reinforcement instead of shaming, guilt, blame, or stigmatizing.

Some ideas include:

Opt for neutral words such as “weight” or “body mass index” instead of the more emotionally charged words “obese” or “fat.”

Remember the whole child and not just the weight. Praise them for all that is positive about them so their self-esteem is buoyed when a challenging topic is discussed.

When talking about nutrition and exercise, focus on health and not size or weight.

Make small changes slowly, such as introducing one new vegetable at a time, clearing the kitchen of sugary drinks and junk foods, and introducing exercise in small, regular amounts.

And, most importantly, have the whole family adopt healthy habits regardless of their weight. In the end, thin people can be unhealthy too and good habits in kids start with good habits in parents.

Antacids raise stomach cancer risk; address the root cause

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A recent study found regular use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for acid reflux raises the risk of stomach cancer. PPI users (Prilosec, Prevacid) in the study had twice the risk for stomach cancer compared to those who used H2-receptor acid reducing drugs (Tagamet, Pepcid).

About 20 percent of Americans suffer with acid reflux and heartburn. Most people attribute acid reflux to excess stomach acid. However, the problem is too little stomach acid. How does low stomach acid cause acid reflux?

The stomach is highly acidic by design so that it can quickly break down foods and kill bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens. Good stomach acidity also helps absorb minerals and signal the rest of the digestive tract to release the right hormones, enzymes, and emulsifiers. Sufficient stomach acid is an important first step in ensuring overall digestion runs smoothly and that you are less susceptible to heartburn, indigestion, belching, gas, food allergies, bacterial infection, and abdominal pain.

What causes low stomach acid?

Common factors that cause low stomach acid include stress, bacterial infection, poor diet, and nutritional deficiencies. However, an H. pylori infection, which is linked to stomach ulcers, is the most common cause of low stomach acid.

Other factors that play a role in low stomach acid include hypothyroidism, pernicious anemia, and deficiencies in zinc B12, magnesium, or chloride. People who have been vegetarians or vegans for a long time may be deficient in zinc and B12, which are abundant in meats.

How low stomach acid causes acid reflux

In order for the small intestine to receive food from the stomach, the contents must be acidic enough to trigger that passage. When this fails to happen, the food shoots back up into the esophagus.

Although the food is not acidic enough for the small intestine, it is too acidic for esophageal tissue. This is what causes the burning of acid reflux, or heartburn.

Why antacids worsen acid reflux in the long run

Antacids or acid blockers bring temporary relief but can cause bigger problems in the long run. Without stomach acid to trigger the release of enzymes, digestive hormones, and emulsifiers, nutrient absorption suffers and the digestive tract is more prone to infection, inflammation, and damage.

How to improve low stomach acid

The first thing to do with low stomach acid is address the root cause. As we age, stomach acid naturally decreases. You can boost stomach acid by taking a supplement that contains betaine hydrochloric acid (HCl). However, if you have stomach ulcers or stomach autoimmunity (when the immune system attacks and destroys tissue), supplementing with HCl could make you worse. In these situations you need to address the existing condition first.

Ask my office how to correct low stomach acid, safely supplement with HCl, and improve overall gut health.

What your gut bacteria need to eat to survive and thrive

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You can eat fermented foods every day and take all the probiotic supplements you want, but if you aren’t also feeding those intestinal bacteria what they want, you could be throwing your money away. That’s because to thrive and multiply, healthy gut bacteria need to eat. And what your gut bacteria like best is fiber.

Recently published research done at the University of Oveido in Spain found that obese people with low levels of a group of intestinal bacteria — Bacteroides, Prevotella, and Porphyromonas — also had a lower intake of fruit.

Fruit is a good source of pectin, which is metabolized in the colon by bacteria, such as Bacteroides, producing small chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are known to keep the immune system in check and turn down inflammation, known to be implicated in obesity.

The researchers conclude in the journal Nutrients, “These results could be useful for designing strategies targeted to obesity prevention.”

Why Feed Your Microbiome Prebiotics

Researchers have yet to agree on a precise definition of prebiotics, the substances that intestinal bacteria feed on, but generally the scientists agree that these are “undigested dietary carbohydrates that are fermented by colonic bacteria yielding short chain fatty acids.”

Different prebiotics may nourish different types of bacteria, and researchers have not yet pinned down the specifics — that is, exactly what prebiotic nourishes which bacteria. But you can’t go wrong covering your bases by eating with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

A high fiber diet has often been recommended for people who need to lose weight, but now we know the point of eating more fiber is not only to make you feel full, but also because of its integral role in sustaining a healthy diversity of gut bacteria. Meanwhile, the opposite — an unhealthy microbiota — is being increasingly associated with inflammation and obesity.

Supporting gut bacteria with probiotics

In addition to a diet of ample and diverse produce that is rich in prebiotic fiber, you can also support your microbiota with probiotics. Probiotics work best when you are already fostering your gut environment with healthy prebiotic fiber. Look for probiotics that will survive the acidic environment of the environment. Many different strains exist and researchers are increasingly finding different strains support different aspects of health. Research which ones may be best for you and switch them up on occasion.

Fermented foods such as kimchee, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha contain live microbes that can help improve the health of your gut bacteria. Make sure you get truly live products and not pasteurized. They will usually be in the refrigerated section at the store.

Ask my office for more advice on building good gut health.