Living Well Blog: Saratoga's Holistic Health Forum

On my homepage blog, I outlined the health issues related to biotoxin exposure and reviewed the resultant Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) in susceptible individuals. This blog is a continuation of dealing with mold exposure and goes into detail about environmental mold testing. It is meant to be a resource guide for those who are concerned they may have mold in their dwelling.

I recently listed to a podcast with Chris Kresser and Mike Schrantz on how to test for mold. Mike currently owns and operates Environmental Analytics, LLC, an environmental consulting firm. Through my studies and this podcast, I've compiled some caveats and considerations related to environmental testing for mold.


Air Sampling

Many people use air sampling, which may be helpful in some situations, but has several limitations.

·         Not all molds float in air (some are heavier, some are lighter, some settle out quicker, some dry, some are too "stick.".)

  •  The sample itself may be accurate, but limited by a "grab sample." A "grab sample" only collects about 5 minutes' worth of air and may not represent the whole house.
  • Some heavier molds may be on the surface and only show up minimally in the air sample, making the air sample appear normal



Dr. Shoemaker, the "guru" on this topic, recommends ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) using the lab Mycometrics. This method involves getting a sample of dust off of surfaces or using a vacuum to collect dust. Then, you send it in for assessment via a DNA test.

The main issue with ERMI is quality of labs and that the test is dependent on good quality of probes and primers. Therefore, you must pick your lab wisely.


Other Caveats and Considerations of Mold Sampling:

  • You should collect more than one sample
  • Some mold is hidden within walls/foundation and may not be detected
  • Some mold can only be detected under certain conditions (temperature, moisture, etc.)
  • Neither methods consider the mold outside the home and the change inside, only a professional can do that
  • ERMI is an average of what molds are considered a problem, some people may be sensitive to some at lower levels or another species not tested


A complete review of mold in the home is thoroughly outlined by Harriet Ammam, a toxicologist from Washington State Department of Health. She states that there are four categories of health effects of mold: allergy, infection, irritation (mucous membrane and sensory), and toxicity. She lists the following caveats, though some of them have been revised as more research has been indicated:

·         Few toxicological experiments involving mycotoxins have been performed using inhalation, the most probable route for indoor exposures. Defenses of the respiratory system differ from those for ingestion (the route for most mycotoxin experiments). Experimental evidence suggests the respiratory route to produce more severe responses than the digestive route (Cresia et al., 1987)

  • Effects from low level or chronic low level exposures, or ingestion exposures to mixtures of mycotoxins, have generally not been studied, and are unknown...
  • Effects of multiple exposures to mixtures of mycotoxins in air, plus other toxic air pollutants present in all air breathed indoors, are not known.
  • Effects of other biologically active molecules, having allergic or irritant effects, concomitantly acting with mycotoxins, are not known.
  • Measurement of mold spores and fragments varies, depending on instrumentation and methodology used. Comparison of results from different investigators is rarely, if ever, possible with current state of the art.
  • While many mycotoxins can be measured in environmental samples, it is not yet possible to measure mycotoxins in human or animal tissues. For this reason exposure measurements rely on circumstantial evidence such as presence of contamination in the patient's environment, detection of spores in air, combined with symptomology in keeping with known experimental lesions caused by mycotoxins, to establish an association with illness.
  • Response of individuals exposed indoors to complex aerosols varies depending on their age, gender, state of health, and genetic make-up, as well as degree of exposure.
  • Microbial contamination in buildings can vary greatly, depending on location of growing organisms, and exposure pathways. Presence in a building alone does not constitute exposure.
  • Investigations of patients' environments generally occur after patients have become ill, and do not necessarily reflect the exposure conditions that occurred during development of the illness. ... (you can read the full article and list at the link below)


Testing with Experts:

Due to the caveats, self-testing is rarely accurate. You can try and find professionals in your area by visiting the following site: Look for professionals with CIEC, CMC, or CMI certifications. Another option would be to set up a consult with experts here:


What Happens if Mold is Found...or if it Isn't but Symptoms Are Present

Ah-ha, that's a good question! In my homepage blog I go through these tips, so visit it here.



Chris Kresser. RHR: How To Test Your Home for Mold, with Mike Schrantz. February 2016.

Lin K-T, Shoemaker RC. Inside Indoor Air Quality: Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI).

Ammann, HM. Is Indoor Mold Contamination a Threat to Health?

CDC. Mold: Cleanup and Remediation:

Atadtner A. Mold Testing - Air Quality Lab Interpretation. Healthy Building Inspections and Testing. February 14, 2013.

EPA. About the National Exposure Research Laboratory (NERL).

Meheust, D., J. Gangneux, T. Reponen, L. Wymer, S. Vesper, AND P. Le Cann. Correlation between environmental relative moldiness index (ERMI) values in French dwellings and other measures of fungal contamination. SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT. Elsevier BV, AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, 438:319-324, (2012).

Additional references on ERMI:

I know it's not just me that is "in love with the bugs" and all they do for us. I think the whole world's really gone buggy. I'm talking about our microbiota, the ecology of bugs that live in and on us. They interact with our own cells and modulate our biology in so many ways.

Whenever I get a cool study on critters and share it on social media, people tend to get excited and show it with their little hearts and likes. However, I got bugged recently by a blog that made a conclusion that probiotics weren't effective due to one review of seven studies. The authors determined there was no change in fecal microbiome population with their ingestion; therefore, probiotics weren't a good health tool.  What!?

So, I had to write a blog on my homepage in defense of the actions of probiotics. I went beyond poo population changes, even though other studies have found changes in fecal samples by swallowing bugs. For example, a recent review on weight loss did determine there may be a small, but significant effect, of taking probiotics in certain populations, though there were some limitations in the trials. Although swallowing critters to lose weight is still pretty controversial, their effects on our health in so many other ways isn't. In fact, there were two recent studies on their role in multiple sclerosis.

For example, there was a study from Science Daily finding an association between those with multiple sclerosis and the ratio of "bad bugs" to "good guys" in their belly. Following this, a few weeks later, was another study on the same topic.

In this article, researchers found that 60 subjects with multiple sclerosis (MS) had different compositions of gut microorganisms as compared to their 43 healthy counterparts. Furthermore, they discovered that the MS patients that were being treated had different gut populations than the untreated patients. What I found fascinating with this study is that the scientists didn't just study populations of microbial changes with the fecal samples, they also assessed serum levels of immune markers (cytokine and inflammatory measurement) and correlated alterations in genetic expression of certain immune cells (T cells and monocytes). Finally, they measured methane in breath tests, as a rudimentary marker of methane producing bacteria present. Quite an experiment! (Hence, the long list of authors in the reference section needed to carry out such a feat!)

 Science Daily reported on these findings as stated below:

Samples from MS patients contained higher levels of certain bacterial species -- including Methanobrevibacter and Akkermansia -- and lower levels of others -- such as Butyricimonas -- when compared to healthy samples. Other studies have found that several of these microorganisms may drive inflammation or are associated with autoimmunity. Importantly, the team also found that microbial changes in the gut correlated with changes in the activity of genes that play a role in the immune system. The team also collected breath samples from subjects, finding that, as a result of increased levels of Methanobrevibacter, patients with MS had higher levels of methane in their breath samples. The researchers also investigated the gut microbe communities of untreated MS patients, finding that MS disease-modifying therapy appeared to normalize the gut microbiomes of MS patients.

So, if anyone had a doubt that these little critters are modulating our immune response, these two studies that show which ones are present in our guts are associated with an autoimmune disease such as MS, may turn some into believers! This association wasn't a big surprise to me though, I think almost everything can connect back to the gut. I had a hunch on the connections between gut bugs, coffee, and MS a little while back, if you remember (see here:

Therefore, treat your belly bugs good with lifestyle and diet and they will treat you well. Read more here.



Qingqing Zhang, Yucheng Wu, Xiaoqiang Fei. Effect of probiotics on body weight and body-mass index: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2016; 67 (5): 571 DOI: 10.1080/09637486.2016.1181156

Kristensen NB, Bryrup T,  Allin KH, Nielsen T, Hansen TH, Pederson O. Alterations in fecal microbiota composition by probiotic supplementation in healthy adults: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Genome Medicine.2016; 8:52. DOI: 10.1186/s13073-016-0300-5

Hemarajata P, Versalovic J. Effects of probiotics on gut microbiota: mechanisms of intestinal immunomodulation and neuromodulation. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology. 2013;6(1):39-51. doi:10.1177/1756283X12459294.

Selhub EM, Logan AC, Bested AC. Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry. Journal of Physiological Anthropology. 2014. DOI: 10.1186/1880-6805-33-2

Ahmed M, Prasad J, Gill H, Stevenson L, Gopal P: Impact of consumption of different levels of Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 on the intestinal microflora of elderly human subjects. J Nutr Health Aging. 2007, 11: 26-31.

University of Iowa Health Care. Link between gut bacteria, MS discovered: MS patients show lower levels of good bacteria. ScienceDaily. June 2016.

Brigham and Women's Hospital. Changes uncovered in the gut bacteria of patients with multiple sclerosis: Study finds alterations in the gut microbiomes of treated and untreated MS patients. ScienceDaily. 12 July 2016.

Jangi S, Gandhi R, Cox LM, Li N, von Glehn F, Yan R, Patel B, Mazzola MA, Liu S, Glanz B, Cook S, Tankous S, Stuart F, Melo K, Nejad P, Smith K, Topcuolu BD, Holden J, Kivisakk P, Chitnis T, De Jager PL, Quintana FJ, Gerber GK, Bry , Weiner HL.. Alterations of the human gut microbiome in multiple sclerosis. Nature Communications. 2016; 7: 12015 DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS12015

I just finished posting a blog on my homepage on the power of nurturing our nature for optimizing health outcomes. I discussed the effects of childhood adverse events and parental styles on children's physical, emotional, and social well-being. You can read about this and how other environmental factors impact health outcomes here. With this information, you can gain a better understanding of your own emotional responses and discover how your lifestyle choices can influence your well-being.

However, did you know that one of the most powerful healing modalities can't be found in a technique, dietary theory, supplement, or medicine?

In this blog, I want to focus on one of the most important "environmental exposures" we have- our connections to others. Studies strongly support that isolation is an independent risk factor in heart disease and mortality. In fact, recently I just read an article on how single moms have a higher risk of heart issues. According to Health Day:

Compared to married mothers with jobs, single working mothers in the United States have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, researchers found. They're also more likely to smoke -- a known heart risk -- than women with other work and family patterns, said Frank van Lenthe, co-author of the new study.

Losing the support of a partner, along with the second income, "may cause stress and result in unhealthy behaviors," said van Lenthe. He is an associate professor of social epidemiology at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

In a related study, it was found that married people who suffered a heart attack were more apt to recover than single people. The study was comprised of 25,000 adults in England and the researchers reported that those with a spouse had a 14% less chance of dying than their single comparisons. Don't worry, this doesn't necessarily mean that you single people should run out and get married, just for the sake of heart health.

One review of the impact of social relationships and disease outcomes found that just as positive social support can decrease risk for many illnesses, negative relationships can cause health detriments. Therefore, it's the quality, not necessarily quantity, that is thought to create the positive benefits in wellness and disease risk.

Interestingly, these social patterns are thought to start in childhood, once again suggesting the importance of parental influence early in life. However, social ties vary with lifespan, with intimate partners being most important in later adulthood. Knowing this, single, older adults, may want to make sure their emotional intimacy is met in their loved ones and friendships.

Mental health and social support has also been shown to provide benefit in relieving depression. Depression is connected to various physical ailments and cardiovascular risk. In a recent study, it was found that those who had emotionally healthy relationships had a greater chance of complete recovery from depression than those without productive relationship ties.  

Though nurture is important, genetics also play a role in our ability to form connections. For example, those with low activity in the gene related to oxytocin were found to have a harder time decoding emotional facial cues and tended to be more anxious about relationships in one study. A 2009 study also linked genetic variations in oxytocin with social empathy and stress reactivity. This is interesting considering that this hormone is also linked to mental health and autism risk.

So, what is the takeaway? Click here to read my previous article on how to boost the "love hormone." Furthermore, you can take steps to reach out and heal emotional traumas to support building stronger relationships. On my homepage blog, I also discuss the impact of essential oils for emotional health and other factors important in nurturing our nature.


Loneliness, social isolation, and behavioral and biological health indicators in older adults. Health Psychol. 2011 Jul;30(4):377-85. doi: 10.1037/a0022826.

Single Working Moms Carry a Heart Burden. Health Day. June 16, 2016.

Marriage a Boost for Heart Attack Survivors. Health Day. June 8, 2016.

Umberson D, Montez JK. Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy. Journal of health and social behavior. 2010;51(Suppl):S54-S66. doi:10.1177/0022146510383501.

Two in five formerly depressed adults are happy, flourishing. Science Daily. June 7, 2016.

Depression Overview. PubMed Health. January 17, 2013.

Depression and cardiovascular disease: a clinical review. European Heart Journal. November 25, 2013.

'Love Hormone' Gene May Be Key to Social Life. Health Day. June 21, 2016th

Rodrigues SM, Saslow LR, Garcia N, John OP, Keltner D. Oxytocin receptor genetic variation relates to empathy and stress reactivity in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2009;106(50):21437-21441. doi:10.1073/pnas.0909579106.

This week, on my homepage, I provided a summary of the top news for the month of June in health, nutrition, and medicine. In my introduction, I discussed the theme of lifestyle medicine as a preventative and effective strategy in reducing risk of various diseases. There is a large amount of research in this area and in this blog I review some of the studies on how exercise impacts the brain and body.

But first, I wanted to discuss one of my favorite studies this month. It was based on how a personalized intervention program actually reversed Alzheimer's disease in 10 subjects!


Reversal of Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer's Disease with Personalized Approach

A paper published in Aging reported on ten case studies, including subjects with genetic risks, who showed reversal of Alzheimer's disease using a comprehensive, personalized approach known as the MEND protocol. In this method, doctors assess an individual's medical history, genetics, lifestyle, lab work, and current medications and use these results to find the best FDA-approved medications, supplements, and lifestyle changes for that specific patient's needs. Results prior to the intervention and after were based on quantitative MRI and neuropsychological testing.

The authors summarize the amazing findings in their discussion as follows:

These observations provide further support for the previously reported finding that the personalized protocol for metabolic enhancement (note that the metabolic evaluation included parameters shown to affect Alzheimer's disease pathophysiology, such as homocysteine [15], glucose [16], and inflammation [17], as well as numerous others as previously described [3]) in Alzheimer's disease leads to the reversal of cognitive decline in at least some patients with early Alzheimer's disease or its precursors, MCI (mild cognitive impairment) and SCI (subjective cognitive impairment). To our knowledge, the magnitude of the improvements documented in patients 1 and 2 is unequaled in previous reports: in patient 1, the increase in hippocampal volume from 17th percentile to 75th percentile supports the marked symptomatic improvement that he (and others) achieved on the protocol. In patient 2, quantitative neuropsychological testing demonstrated improvements of up to three standard deviations (CVLT-IIB, from 3rd percentile to 84th percentile), with multiple tests all showing marked improvements. These findings complement and support the marked subjective improvement already published for this patient [3].

Exercise and Movement for Memory Boost

A new study with 72 participants randomized them into three groups: exercise prior, four hours later, or no exercise, in relation to the completion of a memory task. 48 hours later, the participants returned to assess their memory and have a brain scan of representation of the task in the memory region. According to Medical Xpress, "The researchers found that those who exercised four hours after their learning session retained the information better two days later than those who exercised either immediately or not at all. The brain images also showed that exercise after a time delay was associated with more precise representations in the hippocampus, an area important to learning and memory, when an individual answered a question correctly."

It's not just interval training that may boost brain function. In a pilot study with older adults, it was found that yoga caused changes in neural connections in the brain and memory improvement. The study was a small group comparison consisting of 25 subjects with cognitive impairment. The researchers assessed yoga versus memory enhancement training for 12 weeks. According to the study, "The yoga group demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in depression and visuospatial memory. We observed improved verbal memory performance correlated with increased connectivity between the DMN and frontal medial cortex, pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, right middle frontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and left lateral occipital cortex. Improved verbal memory performance positively correlated with increased connectivity between the language processing network and the left inferior frontal gyrus. Improved visuospatial memory performance correlated inversely with connectivity between the superior parietal network and the medial parietal cortex."

Exercise May Help Adults Cope with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

In a recent study with 32 young men with ADHD researchers at the University of Georgia found that exercise helped the subjects with focus and motivation. According to Science Daily, the participants "cycled at a moderate intensity for 20 minutes on one day, and on another day sat and rested for 20 minutes as a control condition. The participants were asked to perform a task requiring focus both before and after the different conditions, and researchers noted leg movement, mood, attention and self-reported motivation to perform the task. As a result, researchers found that it was only after the exercise when the participants felt motivated to do the task; they also felt less confused and fatigued and instead felt more energetic. Interestingly, leg movements and performance on the task did not change after the exercise--rather, the exercise helped the young men feel better about doing the task."

Lifestyle Intervention Works for Diabetics at Risk

Results from a recent lifestyle intervention program developed at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health demonstrated the positive impact on diabetes and heart disease risk using the Group Lifestyle Balance program. The study consisted of 223 participants who had prediabetes and/or metabolic syndrome. The program was modified from the lifestyle intervention program used in the highly successful U.S. Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). The DPP previously demonstrated that weight loss and physical activity outperformed drugs in preventing diabetes or metabolic syndrome. According to a recent report on the study in Science Daily, "Group Lifestyle Balance is a 22-session program administered over a one-year period aimed at helping people make lifestyle changes to lower their risk for diabetes and heart disease. The goals of the program are to help participants reduce their weight by 7 percent and increase their moderate intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking) to a minimum of 150 minutes per week.


Read more on the power of lifestyle medicine on my current blog here.



Aging Article:

Mend Protocol:

Medical Xpress:

J Alzheimers Dis.:

Science Daily:

Science Daily:

We've discussed previously the importance of the microbiome. You can click here if you need a quick intro or refresher on the role of the bugs that line our insides and outsides. I also just wrote a blog on why the topic of the microbiome continues to be at the forefront of scientific research. You want to make sure you check that out to discover why it is important to consider that killing them off may not be the best idea and how to prevent growing the bad guys to begin with a healthy gut.

 "Anti" = against. "Biotic" = Life. Antibiotic. What happens when we kill our belly bugs in an attempt to rid of disease? (I wrote about this here. This is why I like the use of essential oils to modulate the immune response and keep happy bugs in place.)


Do Antibiotics Blunt Breastfeeding Benefits?

Health Day recently reported on a study linking antibiotics to reduced breastfeeding benefits:

Researchers found that babies who were prescribed antibiotics while they were breast-feeding or shortly afterward were prone to infections and obesity.

"In breast milk, unlike in formula milk, the infant receives bacteria from the mother and specific sugar components that promote the growth of certain [gut] bacteria," explained lead researcher Katri Korpela, from the immunobiology research program at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

The finding indicates that the health benefits of breast-feeding are largely due to how it helps a baby develop intestinal bacteria (microbiota), and that antibiotics disturb that development, she said.


Drugs and Bug Effects in Children- Antibiotics Effect Baby's Microbiome

A June 15, 2016 article in Science Transitional Medicine reported the following on the significance of a new study:

Despite widespread use of antibiotics in children, the effects of antibiotic exposure on the developing infant gut microbiome have remained underexplored. Here, Yassour et al. present a longitudinal study capturing how the gut microbiome responds to and recovers from antibiotic perturbations. Antibiotic-treated children had less stable and less diverse bacterial communities. Antibiotic resistance genes within the guts of these children peaked after antibiotic treatment but generally returned rapidly to baseline. Delivery mode (vaginal versus cesarean) also had strong long-term effects on microbial diversity. These data give insights into the consequences of early life factors such as birth mode and antibiotic treatment on the infant gut microbiome.


Antibiotics, Birth mode, and Diet Shape Microbiome Maturation During Early Life

A second study, released on the same day in Science Transitional Medicine was summarized as follows:

The intestinal "microbiota," that is, the community of microbes inhabiting the human intestinal tract, undergoes many changes during the first 2 years of life. Bokulich et al. now show that this pattern of development is altered in children who are delivered by cesarean section, fed formula, or treated with antibiotics, compared to those babies who were born vaginally, breast-fed, or unexposed to antibiotics. Future studies will determine whether these disturbances influence the health of these babies.


Can Antibiotics Make More Bad Bugs Grow?

A new study released on June 15, 2016 in Nature was reported by Science Daily. The article states:

Gastroenteritis is a common side effect of taking antibiotics. While diarrhea may be mild and clear up after antibiotic therapy is completed, in some cases, it can lead to colitis, an inflammation of the colon, or more serious conditions that cause abdominal pain, fever and bloody diarrhea.

Bäumler's research found that oral antibiotic treatment increased the synthesis of a host enzyme that generates nitric oxide radicals, which can oxidize sugars into sugar acids, such as galactarate, a key driver of Salmonella growth.




Walnuts for Belly Bugs and Colon Health

According to a study by the University of Connecticut, found in Cancer Prevention Research, as reported by Science Daily:

To figure out why walnuts were beneficial, the UConn Health team collaborated with Dr. George Weinstock and colleagues at The Jackson Laboratory. Weinstock's lab took fecal samples from the mice and analyzed the communities of bacteria living in their digestive tracts. They found that walnut consumption tended to push the gut microbiome toward an ecology that was potentially protective against cancer. It's not clear exactly how this works, but there are clues. For example, previous research has shown that some gut bacteria digest fiber into compounds with anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce tumor initiation. The microbiome analyses also reflected interesting differences between male and female. Males on walnut-free diets tended to have less-diverse gut flora than females. Adding walnuts to the diets of male mice brought their microbiomes closer to those of female mice on either of the diets. Whether this change contributes to the protection seen in male mice remains to be determined.


The Competition and Cooperation of Diet in Our Bodies with Our Bugs

A wonderful article in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences describes how some foods make our gut bugs and our cells work together for health, and others cause a competition to ensue:

Diet has been known to play an important role in human health since at least the time period of the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. In the last decade, research has revealed that microorganisms inhabiting the digestive tract, known as the gut microbiota, are critical factors in human health. This paper draws on concepts of cooperation and conflict from ecology and evolutionary biology to make predictions about host-microbiota interactions involving nutrients. To optimally extract energy from some resources (e.g., fiber), hosts require cooperation from microbes. Other nutrients can be utilized by both hosts and microbes (e.g., simple sugars, iron) in their ingested form, which may lead to greater conflict over these resources. This framework predicts that some negative health effects of foods are driven by the direct effects of these foods on human physiology and by indirect effects resulting from microbiome-host competition and conflict (e.g., increased invasiveness and inflammation). Similarly, beneficial effects of some foods on host health may be enhanced by resource sharing and other cooperative behaviors between host and microbes that may downregulate inflammation and virulence. Given that some foods cultivate cooperation between hosts and microbes while others agitate conflict, host-microbe interactions may be novel targets for interventions aimed at improving nutrition and human health

One example is the harmful fats and sugars found in the Western diet, which is consumed by both the host (our cells) and pathogenic bacteria. The authors state, "... these results suggest that diets high in fats and refined sugar can (1) fuel harmful ecological change in the gut, and (2) escalate the intensity of host countermeasures in the form of inflammation and possibly altered glucose metabolism."



Probiotics may be helpful for many, but remember, we all have our own unique microbiome related to our diet, environment, and lifestyle factors. Furthermore, it is now understood that it's more about the immune modulation of using specific bacteria, which actually create more diversity in our guts and better metabolites, rather than haphazardly throwing down billions or trillions of high dose probiotics that may or may not be a match to our own unique microbiome footprint.

This is why I usually suggest a reasonable amount of probiotic counts with multi-strains that have been clinically tested for immune modulation. If I can, I try to find a probiotic with specific bugs that have been shown in some studies to modulate specific issues in my clients. Unfortunately, the research still isn't perfect in clinical trials, but we are getting there.

So, the best way to keep a healthy gut is diet and lifestyle. Then, it's finding a probiotic that is right for you. If your gut isn't happy still, and you are taking a probiotic, that's probably "not it." The good news is; they are pretty darn safe...but if they aren't working, it may be a waste of bugs and dollars.



This past week, I sent an E-blast out to my essential oils subscribers discussing some cool studies on rosemary oil. Below is the E-blast revised preview provided online as an exclusive to my readers. I then expand more on the topic of this beautiful aromatic oil on my current homepage blog here.


The Serendipitous Event Leading to Rosemary Exploration

I am an avid follower of some of the pioneers in natural medicine, such as Dr. Mercola, and more recently, Dr. Eric Z. Recently, both of these health warriors happened to visit my inbox via their articles on rosemary oil in quick succession. (See the links below.) Whenever something like this happens, I pay attention to it. I feel it could be a prodding to explore deeper on a subject and share what I learn with my readers. As it so happened, I found that this popular oil was, in fact, missing from my essential oil database! (I do; however, at least reference it for brain health here).

So, as with any blog or article on essential oils, I went through all the references listed at the end. I do this in order to dig deeper into my understanding and improve my clinical expertise with these precious secondary metabolites. I found some great studies and did some more research myself.

One thing that can get confusing with essential oils blogs is when references to studies are on the extracts of the herb verses the essential oil, which may have different active constituents. I have been caught in this mistake a few times myself. Therefore, these blogs will continue to focus on the oil itself.


A Little Sneak Peek

Another prod for me to dig into rosemary oil happened just a few hours prior to my writing this. It was an article in Science Daily. It reported on a study that showed reversal of Alzheimer's disease in 10 subjects! The treatment was personalized medicine that consisted of a "complex, 36-point therapeutic personalized program that involves comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins, and multiple additional steps that affect brain chemistry."

The connection was strengthened. We know that essential oils have a profound effect on the brain, which you can read more about here and here. I then remembered a 2009 study in Psychogeriatrics which demonstrated how aromatherapy can help those who need brain support, and it used rosemary as one of the oils in the trial.

The abstract from the full study reads:

OBJECTIVE:  Recently, the importance of non-pharmacological therapies for dementia has come to the fore. In the present study, we examined the curative effects of aromatherapy in dementia in 28 elderly people, 17 of whom had Alzheimer's disease (AD).

METHODS:  After a control period of 28 days, aromatherapy was performed over the following 28 days, with a wash out period of another 28 days. Aromatherapy consisted of the use of rosemary and lemon essential oils in the morning, and lavender and orange in the evening. To determine the effects of aromatherapy, patients were evaluated using the Japanese version of the Gottfries, Brane, Steen scale (GBSS-J), Functional Assessment Staging of Alzheimer's disease (FAST), a revised version of Hasegawa's Dementia Scale (HDS-R), and the Touch Panel-type Dementia Assessment Scale (TDAS) four times: before the control period, after the control period, after aromatherapy, and after the washout period.

RESULTS:  All patients showed significant improvement in personal orientation related to cognitive function on both the GBSS-J and TDAS after therapy. In particular, patients with AD showed significant improvement in total TDAS scores. Result of routine laboratory tests showed no significant changes, suggesting that there were no side-effects associated with the use of aromatherapy. Results from Zarit's score showed no significant changes, suggesting that caregivers had no effect on the improved patient scores seen in the other tests.

CONCLUSIONS:  In conclusion, we found aromatherapy an efficacious non-pharmacological therapy for dementia. Aromatherapy may have some potential for improving cognitive function, especially in AD patients.


A Final Thought from Dr. Sarah

I have seen profound effects with integrating aromatherapy and essential oils in my practice. This holds true in all areas of wellness and in those who complain of memory issues and mood imbalances. I find diffusing, inhalation, and topical applications particularly effective for brain support, as the sense of smell is powerful for emotions and cognition.

Here's a link to a previous blog with some applications on using essential oils for emotions and brain health. (Note, make sure you read the labels to determine which oils are safe for ingestion).



Pre and post testing show reversal of memory loss from Alzheimer's disease in 10 patients. Science Daily. June 16, 2016.

Dr. Eric Z. 4 Rosemary Essential Oil Benefits and Uses.

Dr. Mercola. Refreshing Rosemary.

Jimbo D, Kimura Y, Tangiguchi M, Inoue M, Urakami K.  Effect of aromatherapy on patients with Alzheimer's disease. Psychogeriatrics. 2009; 9: 173-179. doi: 10.1111/j.1479-8301.2009.00299.x



The power of food as medicine is profound. I've written previously about the complexity of factors involved in brain health. Although the list can be quite long and confusing, one of the most powerful ways to preserve and support our cognitive function is found at the end of our forks.

For example, there is now research that shows that improving blood sugar by dietary measures could protect the brain and that diet quality modulates thought and mood. Furthermore, different nutrients such as healthy essential fats, vitamins, and minerals have all been shown to contribute to supporting mental processing. In the same blog mentioned above, I summarized several specific studies that support the importance of the quality of the diet for keeping our mental faculties.

Recently, there have been some headlines in the current research that highlights how certain nutrients and foods are powerful for brain health. Below is a brief summary of some of them.


A Multi-Nutrient Supplement Could Save the Aging Brain

A recent rodent study confirmed that a dietary supplement containing a blend of thirty vitamins and minerals exhibited anti-aging properties that could prevent and even reverse brain cell loss. The researchers believe that this mixture could be applicable in the future to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, ALS and Parkinson's.

In this study, the little mice were bred to have widespread loss of over half of their brain cells. They munched on this mixture of nutrients on tiny bagel pieces fed to them by their caretakers. Science Daily reported:

Over time, researchers found that it completely eliminated the severe brain cell loss and abolished cognitive decline.

"The research suggests that there is tremendous potential with this supplement to help people who are suffering from some catastrophic neurological diseases," says Lemon, who conducted the work with co-author Vadim Aksenov, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at McMaster.

Interestingly, the rodents also exhibited improvement in vision and smell. In the abstract of the original article, the authors concluded, "We know of no other treatment with such efficacy, highlighting the potential for prevention or amelioration of human neuropathologies that are similarly associated with oxidative stress, inflammation and cellular dysfunction."


Vitamins and Minerals for Potential Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury

This month, in Brain Research, researchers reviewed several nutraceutical therapies for brain injury in experimental models, "including vitamins (B2, B3, B6, B9, C, D, E), herbs and traditional medicines (ginseng, Gingko biloba), flavonoids, and other nutrients (magnesium, zinc, carnitine, omega-3 fatty acids)."

They concluded, "While there is still much work to be done, several of these have strong potential for clinical therapies, particularly with regard to polydrug regimens."


Green Tea for Improving Cognition in Combination with Training for Down Syndrome

Down's syndrome is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability. Science Daily reported on a recent study in which a compound in green tea combined with cognitive training produced better outcomes than cognitive training alone in young adults with Down Syndrome:

The work just published by the researchers in The Lancet Neurology presents the results of a clinical trial led by the Integrative Pharmacology and Systems Neuroscience Research group of Dr. Rafael de la Torre with 84 persons with Down's syndrome aged 16 to 34 years. "The results suggest that individuals who received treatment with the green tea compound, together with the cognitive stimulation protocol, had better score in their cognitive capacities," states Dr. de la Torre. However, studies in larger populations have still to be done.

The component in green tea, ECGC (epigallocatechin gallate) was previously shown to inhibit the excess of the DYRK1A gene in mice, which is associated with many of the deficiencies of cognition and neuronal plasticity in Down's syndrome.


Vitamin Deficiencies Common in Young Migraine Sufferers

According to Health Day:

Many young people who suffer from migraines have vitamin deficiencies, new research finds.

"Further studies are needed to elucidate whether vitamin supplementation is effective in migraine patients in general, and whether patients with mild deficiency are more likely to benefit from supplementation," said lead study author Dr. Suzanne Hagler in a Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center news release. She is a headache medicine fellow in the hospital's division of neurology.

The study included children, teens and young adult migraine patients who were treated at Cincinnati Children's Headache Center.

A high percentage of them had mild deficiencies in vitamin D, riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 -- a vitamin-like substance used to produce energy for cell growth and maintenance, the researchers said.



As our population ages, many are concerned with their memory and maintaining cognitive function. Lifestyle measures and nutrition have been shown to modulate brain health, even improving mental function at the genetic level! Isn't it nice to think that when you feed your body healthy, you could be nourishing your brain power as well?


Speaking of keeping our bodies healthy, I just wrote another blog on clove essential oil. Read all the benefits of this oil here.



Improving blood sugar control could help prevent dementia in patients with type 2 diabetes, study suggests. ScienceDaily. 14 September 2015.

Barnes JN, Joyner MJ. Sugar highs and lows: the impact of diet on cognitive function. The Journal of Physiology. 2012;590(Pt 12):2831. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2012.234328.

Harvard Health Publications. Blood sugar on the brain. April 1, 2015.

Deans E, Ramsey D. Medscape Psychiatry: Commentary-How Diet Influences Mental Health: New Findings, New Advances. Medscape. UPI. February 11, 2016.

Psaltopoulou, T., Sergentanis, T. N., Panagiotakos, D. B., Sergentanis, I. N., Kosti, R. and Scarmeas, N. Mediterranean diet, stroke, cognitive impairment, and depression: A meta-analysis. Ann Neurol. 2013; 74: 580-591. doi: 10.1002/ana.23944

Gómez-Pinilla F. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature reviews Neuroscience. 2008;9(7):568-578. doi:10.1038/nrn2421.

Sugar in the Blood! How Essential Oils Can Support Balance

Can essential oils really help with supporting healthy blood sugar levels? Previously, I discussed how flavonoids could be used to modulate sugar in the blood. For example, rodents imbibing grapefruit extract and helichrysum demonstrated positive changes in measurements of insulin resistance, oxidative stress, inflammation, and weight.  (Note: remember to be careful of medication interactions with grapefruit oil.)

Recently, I wrote an article on sugar addiction to be published in the Natural Path. It inspired me to publish this blog that was originally sent as a E-blast to my essential oils subscribers. In it, I will focus on the use of essential oils for blood sugar support. 


Of Mice (Well mice and rats)

The following is a list of several studies that support how certain oils modulate blood sugar in rodents:

1. In one study with rats, cinnamon oil of the linalool chemotype (specific secondary metabolite at the highest levels in the oil) was shown to have a benefit on blood sugar and relieve oxidative stress at a certain dose.

2. In another study, a specific type of lavender had blood sugar lowering effects and also decreased oxidative stress in our four-pawed rodent friends.

3. In a well-done study, which even analyzed the oil constituents (a lot of them don't), little diabetic rodents exhibited very impressive results regarding the use of lemon balm oil (Melissa off.) The study demonstrated that lemon balm alleviated many of the damaging effects that high amounts of sugar in the blood can cause.  Specifically, the lemon balm positively impacted lipids, insulin response, liver enzymes, and various cellular signaling pathways.

4. In another study, the synergistic effects of essential oils for blood sugar were tested. For the trial, researchers combined several blends of essential oils and tested them in hypertensive and diabetic rats. The researchers found beneficial effects on blood sugar with the oil blends.

5. A mouse study reported blood sugar lowering effects, oxidative stress protection, insulin enhancement, and a decrease in alpha-amylase using Korean Pine Oil.

6. One study that compared the use of Rose-scented geranium (Pelargonium graveolens L'Hér.) to an antidiabetic medication reported that the oil could be more effective in decreasing glucose and effecting liver and kidney antioxidant functions than the drug:

After the administration of two doses of essential oil of Pelargonium graveolens L'Hér. together with glibenclamide which is known by its antidiabetic activities and used as reference (600μg/kg b.w.), for four weeks, the serum glucose significantly decreased and antioxidant perturbations were restored. The hypoglycemic effect of P. graveolens at the dose of 150mg/kg b.w. was significantly (p< 0.05) more effective than that of glibenclamide. It is through the histological findings in hepatic and renal tissues of diabetic rats that these beneficial effects of geranium oils were confirmed.


Of Men

Remember the effect of stress on blood sugar and how essential oils can modulate this response and hormones (cortisol-insulin connection)? This can impact blood sugar levels. One study also listed potential uses for oils to use as support in those who were struggling with blood sugar issues.  These included using the oils to cleanse wounds, support for the stress response, and supporting mood.



Essential oils have been shown in rodent models to modulate pathways related to blood sugar and the damaging effects of too high amounts in the blood. In human trials, essential oils have prolific evidence for modulating stress and hormonal response. Taken together, there is good evidence that essential oils support healthy glucose levels.

If you want more on essential oils and their clinical use, click here.


Shih-Chieh Lee, et al., Chemical Composition and Hypoglycemic and Pancreas-Protective Effect of Leaf Essential Oil from Indigenous Cinnamon (Cinnamomum osmophloeum  Kanehira). J. Agric. Food Chem. 2013: 61 (20), pp 4905-4913

J Buckle. Diabetes and Aromatherapy. Diabetes Spectrum. August 2001; 14(3). 124-126

Sebai H, Selmi S, Rtibi K, Souli A, Gharbi N, Sakly M. Lavender (Lavandula stoechas L.) essential oils attenuate hyperglycemia and protect against oxidative stress in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. Lipids in Health and Disease. 2013;12:189. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-12-189.

Chung MJ, et al. Anti-diabetic effects of lemon balm ( Melissa officinalis) essential oil on  glucose- and lipid-regulating enzymes in type 2 diabetic mice. Br J Nutr. 2010 Jul;104(2):180-8.

Talpur N, et al. Effects of a novel formulation of essential oils on glucose-insulin  metabolism in diabetic and hypertensive rats: a pilot study.  Diabetes Obes Metab. 2005 Mar; 7(2):193-9.

Anti-Diabetic Potential of the Essential Oil of Pinus koraiensis Leaves toward Streptozotocin-Treated Mice and HIT-T15 Pancreatic β Cells. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 2013; 77(10).

Boukhris M, Bouaziz M, Feki I, Jemai H, El Feki A, Sayadi S. Hypoglycemic and antioxidant effects of leaf essential oil of Pelargonium graveolens L'Hér. in alloxan induced diabetic rats. Lipids in Health and Disease. 2012;11:81. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-11-81.


Lavender species:

Essential Oils and Medication Interactions:

Dr. Z:

Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as "100% pure" need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin.

This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.




May 2016 was a month that inspired health and inspiration to many integrative doctors. This is because there were many articles that supported the transformation of medicine into a more broad-based and inclusive model.

In my latest blog on my homepage, I discuss the topic of the "Re-connection and Integration of the Mind-Body in Modern Medicine- May 2016 Top Holistic and Integrative Health Reads."

In the past, I discussed how another topic, the microbiome, may be a discovery that unites the conversations between conventional viewpoints and holistic physicians.

If you've missed any of the important news on the tiny inhabitants that line our inner tubes and outer layers, you will want to skim through this link. Research is finding that these critters have an impact on almost anything you can think of in regards to modulating health!

For example, a May 4th article in Science Daily from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute reports:

Scientists have grown and catalogued more than 130 bacteria from the human intestine. Imbalances in our gut microbiome can contribute to complex conditions and diseases such as obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and allergies. This research will enable scientists to understand how our bacterial 'microbiome' helps keep us healthy and start to create tailor-made treatments with specific beneficial bacteria.

In this mentioned article published in Nature, researchers were able to come up with a unique method to study the behavior of our little buggy friends (via a combination of whole-genome phenotypic analysis, culture methods, and fecal specimen study of six healthy individuals). The goal was that this method would allow ways to accomplish microbe transfer between humans via their encapsulation into a pill, potentially replacing the "yuck factor" of those fecal transplants (more on that later). The research may also allow the scientific community to better understand these critters by finding ways to culture them and keep them alive, as most are not oxygen loving. The answer was speculated to be via spores!

Therefore, the way we treat our "bug forest" in our bodies (mostly by lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, stress, sleep, etc.) has major implications. This is not only related to our own health, but potentially using our healthy bugs to help others with a less desirable mix of friendly-crawly-friends.

Interestingly, it was also recently found that our bug residents are also fighting to keep us flexible in stressful circumstances. They don't only respond to their environment but also offer resilience when food is scarce, changing the diversity in our bellies. (Another explanation for how diet modulates our health). Science Daily reported:

In a recent paper in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers working with Frank Schreiber have shown that individual cells in bacterial colonies can differ widely in how they respond to a lack of nutrients. Although all of the cells in a group are genetically identical, the way they process nutrients from their surroundings can vary from one cell to another. For example, bacteria called Klebsiella oxytoca preferentially take up nitrogen from ammonium (NH4+), as this requires relatively little energy. When there isn't enough ammonium for the entire group, some of the bacteria start to take up nitrogen by fixing it from elementary nitrogen (N2), even though this requires more energy. If the ammonium suddenly runs out altogether, these cells at least are prepared. While some cells suffer, the group as a whole can continue to grow. "Although all of the bacteria in the group are genetically identical and exposed to the same environmental conditions, the individual cells differ among themselves," says Schreiber.


In celebration of focusing on the progress we are making, I wanted to review some more of the top articles in May 2016 that focused on our buggy foods and summarize them here for you.


Speaking of the Yuck Factor...

Currently, stool transplants are approved for treatment of an infectious gastrointestinal disease caused by Clostridium difficile. Health Day reported on another application of fecal transplant:

Stool transplants helped ease debilitating symptoms and heal the colons of tough-to-treat ulcerative colitis patients, new research shows.

Australian scientists said the findings could pave the way for such transplants to be used on a more widespread basis. Transferring fecal matter from healthy donors into these patients alters the composition of their gut bacteria, circumventing one of the drivers of ulcerative colitis, experts said.



Immunizing with Bugs

A rodent study published in PNAS demonstrated that vaccinating with a specific strain of bacteria modulated the immune response in stress-induced pathology.

The hygiene, or "old friends," hypothesis proposes that lack of exposure to immunoregulatory microorganisms in modern urban societies is resulting in an epidemic of inflammatory disease, as well as psychiatric disorders in which chronic, low-level inflammation is a risk factor. An important determinant of immunoregulation is the microbial community occupying the host organism, collectively referred to as the microbiota. Here we show that stress disrupts the homeostatic relationship between the microbiota and the host, resulting in exaggerated inflammation. Treatment of mice with a heat-killed preparation of an immunoregulatory environmental microorganism, Mycobacterium vaccae, prevents stress-induced pathology. These data support a strategy of "reintroducing" humans to their old friends to promote optimal health and wellness.


Why Use Bugs, Because Killing Them with Antibiotics Have Negative Effects

According to a new study reported in Science Daily (again):

Antibiotics strong enough to kill off gut bacteria can also stop the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, a section of the brain associated with memory, reports a new study in mice. Researchers also uncovered a clue to why -- a type of white blood cell seems to act as a communicator between the brain, the immune system, and the gut.



Our Baseline of Skin Bugs

A new study, reported in Health Day relating to an article in Cell, discussed that our skin may have a "baseline" of buggies. Although it has been found previously that our skin microbiota can be disturbed by cleansers and environmental factors, it appears that there does exist a population of critters on our skin that stay put:

The skin's "microbiome" -- containing bacteria, fungi and viruses -- is thought to be important to human health. Segre said it can help the body resist nasty germ invaders and maintain the barrier between the skin and inner organs. The new study aimed to discover how stable these skin germs are over time. This can help researchers understand what happens when skin disease develops, Segre said.

For the study, Segre and colleagues analyzed 17 skin sites of 12 healthy volunteers three times over two years.  The researchers found that skin germs as a whole remained fairly steady, although individuals have their own "microbial fingerprints."

"One person had a higher amount of fungi on their skin, another person had a lot of bacterial viruses on the side of their nose," Segre said. She thought these collections of germs might be temporary, but "when we examined the person's skin community a year later, it was still true."

Germs on the feet were the most variable of all, but it's not clear why. One possibility, Segre said, is that the feet encounter a lot of temperature differences. Dr. Stanley Spinola, a scientist who praised the research, said the variation seen in feet may have something to do with moist areas between the toes or differences in footwear -- from sneakers to leather shoes to flip-flops or none at all.

How is this research useful?

"The study shows over a long period of time, our skin microbiome stays pretty stable although we encounter different environments," said Spinola, who is chair of microbiology and immunology at Indiana University School of Medicine.  This is helpful because it gives researchers insight into the normal variation, allowing scientists to better study how disease causes differences, he said.


Next Time Some One Tells You to 'Eat Worms", You May Want To!

According to a recent article in Science Daily intestinal worms may assist with immunity in a surprising way. Yes, our belly bugs also contains worms that modulate our health, not just bacteria. Science Daily states:

In order to fight invading pathogens, the immune system uses "outposts" throughout the body, called lymph nodes. These are small, centimeter-long organs that filter fluids, get rid of waste materials, and trap pathogens, e.g. bacteria or viruses. Lymph nodes are packed with immune cells, and are know to grow in size, or 'swell', when they detect invading pathogens. But now, EPFL scientists have unexpectedly discovered that lymph nodes also contain more immune cells when the host is infected with a more complex invader: an intestinal worm. The discovery is published in Cell Reports , and has significant implications for our understanding of how the immune system responds to infections.


The Intelligence of Nature and Nurture- How Mamma's Hormones Effect Baby's Food

In another write-up by Science Daily from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, researchers explored the "role of human milk hormones in the development of infants' microbiome, a bacterial ecosystem in the digestive system that contributes to multiple facets of health." Specifically:

A new study finds that hormones in breast milk may impact the development of healthy bacteria in infants' guts, potentially protecting them from intestinal inflammation, obesity and other diseases later in life.

The hormones studied were insulin and leptin. The authors analyzed the stool samples of thirty infants exclusively breastfed- 18 were from normal weight moms and 12 were from obese mom to determine the bacterial population and the metabolic effects. They found the following:

In addition, researchers found significant differences in the intestinal microbiome of breastfed infants who are born to mothers with obesity compared to those born to mothers of normal weight. Infants born to mothers with obesity showed a significant reduction in gammaproteobacteria, a pioneer species that aids in normal intestinal development and microbiome maturation.

Gammaproteobacteria have been shown in mice and newborn infants to cause a healthy amount inflammation in their intestines, protecting them from inflammatory and autoimmune disorders later in life. The 2-week-old infants born to obese mothers in this study had a reduced number of gammaproteobacteria in the infant gut microbiome.


Now, here's some other noteworthy briefs:


The Microbe-Gene Connection Found in IBD

A recent study found a connection between a gene variation found in Crohn's disease patients and a certain bug that modulates inflammation in the gut. The study has implications for treatments that effect bacteria in our bellies versus focusing on drugs, which have a poor efficacy rate for Crohn's disease. According to this study summary by Science Daily:

Investigators found that the beneficial effects of Bacteroides fragilis bacterium, one of billions of microscopic organisms that normally inhabit the human gastrointestinal system, were negatively impacted by variations in the ATG16L1 gene.

These genetic variations increase the risk of developing Crohn's disease, one of the two common forms of IBD. As a result, the bacteria were prevented from carrying out one of their critical functions: suppressing inflammation of the intestinal lining...

"Given the low percentage of IBD patients who respond to drugs directed at the immune system, these results could point the way to improving treatment by identifying patients who might best respond to manipulation of bacteria in their digestive tract," said study co-author Stephan R. Targan, MD, director of the F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute.


The Microbiome Transfer to the Next Generation

In another gene-microbe interaction study, Science Daily reports:

A genome-wide association analysis of over 1,000 twins in the UK supports that some parts of our microbiomes are inherited and shaped--not through a spread of microbes from parent to child, but through our genes. The results, revealing new examples of heritable bacterial species--including those related to diet preference, metabolism, and immune defense -- appear May 11 in Cell Host & Microbe's special issue on the "Genetics and Epigenetics of Host-Microbe Interactions."

According to the article abstract:

Repeat sampling of subjects showed heritable taxa to be temporally stable. A candidate gene approach uncovered associations between heritable taxa and genes related to diet, metabolism, and olfaction. We replicate an association between Bifidobacterium and the lactase (LCT) gene locus and identify an association between the host gene ALDH1L1 and the bacteria SHA-98, suggesting a link between formate production and blood pressure. Additional genes detected are involved in barrier defense and self/non-self recognition. Our results indicate that diet-sensing, metabolism, and immune defense are important drivers of human-microbiome co-evolution.


Finally....the Announcement of a New Gut Research Tool

It's called the HuMiX, and it supposedly works like the "real thing". Science Daily states:

Scientists have now proven that a model of the human gut they have developed and patented -- HuMiX -- is representative of the actual conditions and processes that occur within our intestines. With HuMiX, the researchers can analyze the complex interactions between human cells and bacteria, predict their effects on health or disease onset, and study the action of probiotics and drugs.



Our microbiome has profound impacts on our health and disease risks. What I love regarding research with the microbiota (our critter populations in and on our body) and the microbiome (genes of the buggies) is that it proves there is a connection between our environment and lifestyle (exposures, food choices, exercise, stress, etc) by how both modulate these critters. Furthermore, there's ways in which our genes can modulate our microbiota and how our microbiome modulates our genetic expression. All of this research is proving the important concept of personalized healthcare- not just our biochemical individuality, but our unique bug blueprint as well!

Make sure to read more on the new healthcare here.



'Bugs' as drugs: Harnessing novel gut bacteria for human health. Science Daily. May 4, 2016.

Hilary P. Browne, Samuel C. Forster, Blessing O. Anonye, Nitin Kumar, B. Anne Neville, Mark D. Stares, David Goulding, Trevor D. Lawley. Culturing of 'unculturable' human microbiota reveals novel taxa and extensive sporulation. Nature, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nature17645

EAWAG: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. Science Daily. May 9, 2016.

Stool Transplant Soothes Tough-to-Treat Colitis in Study. Health Day. May 23, 2016.

Immunization with a heat-killed preparation of the environmental bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae promotes stress resilience in mice. PNAS. May 2016. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1600324113.

Cell Press. Antibiotics that kill gut bacteria also stop growth of new brain cells. Science Daily. May 19, 2016.

The Skin Microbiome. Dr. Kara Fitzgerald Web Site. April 14, 2016.

Your Healthy Skin Germs Stay Put, Despite Cleaning-Findings suggest your 'microbial fingerprint' is important to well-being. Health Day. May 4, 2016.

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Intestinal worms boost immune system in a surprising way. Science Daily. May 5, 2016.

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Breast milk hormones found to impact bacterial development in infants' guts: Intestinal microbiome of children born to obese mothers significantly different from those born to mothers of healthy weight. Science Daily. May 4, 2016.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Genetic variants in patients with crohn's disease prevent 'good' gut bacteria from working. Science Daily. May 6, 2016.

Cell Press. Twin study finds that gut microbiomes run in families. Science Daily. May 11, 2016.

Julia K. Goodrich, Emily R. Davenport, Michelle Beaumont, Matthew A. Jackson, Rob Knight, Carole Ober, Tim D. Spector, Jordana T. Bell, Andrew G. Clark, Ruth E. Ley. Genetic Determinants of the Gut Microbiome in UK Twins. Cell Host & Microbe, 2016; 19 (5): 731.

University of Luxembourg. New human microbiome research tool: Gut model HuMiX works like the real thing. Science Daily. May 11, 2016.


How Many People Really Are Effected?

Previously, I reviewed the various problems regarding the current diagnostics and estimates of number of people affected by Lyme disease. As far as surveillance, the CDC lists the limitations of their methods on their website which includes: under-reporting, lack of state funds to classify and monitor cases, different times of closing of estimates per year (between the CDC and different states), changes in case definitions throughout the years, and surveillance by county of residence, not county of exposure. (So, is it really 300,000?) Due to the fact that our biodiversity of deer, rodents, and mammalian creatures is declining due to our environmental fingerprint, we will probably see a continued rise in cases in the years to come.

Then, There's the Issue of Testing...

This is a huge controversy. Actually, for any diagnosis and lab use, there are issues with validity and reliability. I discussed that more in previous blog ( According to one article in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology (1999), the following issues crop up in diagnosis using the CDC's two-tier diagnostic system for Lyme disease. These can occur within and among different labs on the immunoblot testing due to:

  1. Subjective interpretation by the lab technicians
  2.  Antigen extract validity (measurements vary with different forms of B. burgdorferi and different antigens can be read and misinterpreted due to their same molecular mass)
  3. The expression of the antigen is related to how it is cultured in the lab and the growth phase of the critter, this can vary between labs and specimens

Many argue that this method is meant to be for surveillance only. In fact, the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance Data System for Lyme Disease (Borellia burgdorferi) CSTE Position Statement(s) states on the CDC site, "This surveillance case definition was developed for national reporting of Lyme disease; it is not intended to be used in clinical diagnosis." (


The Diagnosis Issues and More Lyme Controversies

So, the diagnosis of Lyme disease is based on a test that many feel is inadequate. Furthermore, even if the tests were 100% valid and reliable, different people have different immune responses. This makes one single test relating to one aspect of the immune response lacking in usefulness for many. I discussed why this critter is so hard to catch previously. Here is a review of these factors:

1.    Immunosuppression agents with entry of the tick saliva, making it hard to detect at "first bite."

2.    Genetic, phase, and antigenic variation makes the critter the "master of disguises" using unique mechanisms to evade antibiotics and the immune system's detection. Furthermore, most tests only look for one species, but different species with differing genetics can lead to different symptoms and differing immune responses (Borellia garini, Borellia afezlii, Borellia hammseli, Borellia miyamotoi)!!

3.    There's some evidence that Borellia is becoming resistant to antibiotics in vitro, meaning the bug may be getting smarter to our attempts to kill it.

4.    Physical seclusion which means not only can spirochetes and bacteria change forms and trick our immune system, they can also hide in our bodies by binding to certain substances in the body. This makes them "invisible" to the immune system.

5.    Borellia can secrete proteins to adhere to cells and pierce through their walls so they can "hibernate." Then, they come out of hiding when the immune system least expects it.

6.    This bug has become so smart it can go around iron poor environments and thrive on manganese. It can also produce a DNA base critical for its survival!

You can read more about this in this blog, where I gave a brief summary of Lyme disease, its complex and various symptoms (it is known as "the great mimicker"), the problem with its "posse" of co-infections, the controversy with treatment, and the existence of chronic Lyme disease (which I get into more below).

Thankfully, there are some new methods and tests for Lyme disease which offer some promise. These new methods are evaluating the person's genomics, searching for the actual protein in the serum (verses the immune response to it), a urinary antigen test, and more. I wrote about some of these on this site here. This may help with finding the critter faster, which could prevent chronic issues. However, will it help with treatment? I do not know for sure.

So, as you can see there are a lot of "issues" and many factors involved for one little bugger, right?


The Big One... Controversy That Is...

Speaking of chronic Lyme disease, there is a schism about this that runs pretty deep in society and in medicine. It ranges from indifference or lack of knowledge of the disease to those afflicted and suffering hopelessly. On the medical forefronts, there are many "Lyme literate physicians" (LLMDs) who have education in the chronicity of Lyme disease and dig into the treatment and pathology of the critter with antibiotics and other methods. The opposing position is one in which some physicians feel that Lyme cannot be chronic and that other factors are at play related to the symptoms:

These facts would seem to support that individuals with different genetic variations and immune robustness will respond differently to an infection with the spirochete.  Still, the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) does not believe in chronic Lyme and typically will not treat a Lyme patient beyond acute management. On the other hand, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) group does believe that Lyme can and often persists beyond a few weeks, and are willing to treat someone beyond the four-week period. These two groups represent the schism in LD and differ in treatment.27

According to Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Infectious Disease, the evidence for chronic Lyme Disease (CLD) is robust, 28-35 and recognizing it could facilitate efforts to avoid diagnostic delays of two years and durations of illness 4.7-9 years...

Interestingly, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also acknowledges a chronic form of Lyme disease called "Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome." Their website states here:

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also acknowledges a chronic form of Lyme disease called "Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome." (


The Power of Holism: A Naturopathic and Functional Medicine Perspective

With the complexity in diagnosis, various symptomology, immune evasion by the critter, and chronicity, many Lyme disease sufferers struggle with finding solutions and physicians who will understand their concerns. My method is to treat the whole person and balance their body, mind and spirit, not just go after the bug.

Click here to learn about a new model and integrative perspective on my homepage blog where I go into detail about treating the whole person versus killing the bug.  



Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme Disease.

J Clin Microbiol. 1999 Dec; 37(12): 3990-3996.

Clin Infect Dis. 1997 Jul;25 Suppl 1:S31-4.

Infect Drug Resist. 2011; 4:1-9.

BMJ. 2007 Nov 3; 335(7626): 910-912.!nanotrap-lyme-test/c64d

Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2008 Jun; 22(2): 217-234.

IFM. APM: Immune Module. Lyme Disease. Rancho Mirage, CA. March 2015.

Infection and Drug Resistance. 2011;4:97-113.

Infectious disease clinics of North America. 2008;22(2):217-234.

Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2013.

ScienceDaily. March 21, 2013.

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Reisa Mehlman

As a New York State Licensed Aesthetician, New York State Licensed Nail Specialist, and the Director of Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa, Reisa combines her love of spa services and healing arts to achieve optimum skin and nail health, create greater overall wellness and bring forth our optimal, individual beauty.

"I believe that the day spa should be an instant getaway; a place that is quiet without being stuffy, relaxed, elegant and yet entirely comfy. You should feel warm and welcome, surrounded by people who care about you and what they are doing. This is the environment we strive to create at Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa. Here, you are never just the "next" number; we allow ample time for your services, offer a flexible schedule and can be reached after hours. After all, to me, spa craft is not really a business, it's a lifestyle." Read more...

About Dr. Sarah Lobisco

Dr. LoBisco has been in holistic healthcare for over 10 years. She became interested in holistic medicine when she was able to heal two herniated discs through nutrition, yoga, supplementation, and chiropractic. She has mentored with holistic practices throughout New York, Vermont, and Connecticut. In addition to her Naturopathic and Functional Medical training, Dr. LoBisco has extensive training in a variety of healing modalities, including therapeutic essential oils, nutraceuticals, herbs, whole food supplements, nutritional medicine, and mind-body therapies. She is a graduate of the accredited, four year post-graduate program in Naturopathic Medicine at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. This program includes clinical rotations and a demanding scientific curriculum in integrating conventional and natural medicine. Dr. LoBisco holds her license from the state of Vermont.

Dr. LoBisco has completed her postdoctoral training as a certified functional medicine practitioner. She is also certified in Applied Kinesiology and holds a BA in psychology from SUNY Geneseo. She has contributed as an item writer for the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE)and has several articles that have been published in the Naturopathic Doctor News and Review Digest (NDNR) and the Townsend Letter, both physician- based journals. Dr. LoBisco is also a hired speaker on integrative medical topics for medical professionals.

Dr. LoBisco currently incorporates her training in holistic medical practices and conventional medicine through writing, researching, private practice, and through her independent contracting work for companies regarding supplements, nutraceuticals, essential oils, and medical foods. She has a small, private wellness consultation practice through telephone and Skype. Dr. LoBisco also enjoys continuing to educate and empower her readers through her blogs and social media. Her new book, BreakFree Medicine, is now available on Amazon and through Barnes & Noble. Please inquire here for more specific information.

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