I’ve been prepping for my upcoming training from the Institute of Functional Medicine’s Gastrointestinal Health Advanced Practice Module. Not surprisingly, I’ve been digging deeper into the science of our digestive track and those belly bugs that I’m obsessing over.
Recently, I’ve come across some interesting studies that link the physiological stresses of changes in sleep patterns, environmental exposures, and diet to shifts in our microbiome (belly bugs) diversity. This results in changes in our health.
On my homepage, I reviewed a really cool (and somewhat science fiction-like) study on the connection between our sleep-wake cycle and our gut microbiome balance. This change in gut bug results in alterations in our metabolism and can contribute to inflammatory weight gain.
In this blog, I’m going to explore more updates on how our gut bugs are impacted by life factors and why the “Yogurt Junk Food Scam” is something to watch out for!
Study Finds Microbiome Shift with ICU Stay-The Impact of Physiological Stress
A small recent trial with 14 selected patients in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) sought to determine how prolonged critical illness affected microbiome diversity. They found that the shift can be highly pathogenic, with as little as two communities of species remaining from his prolonged stress. This lack of diversity in gut bugs creates a decrease in resiliency and has negative health consequences. Although it is a small, selective trial, it supports how physiologic stress plays a key role in changing the microbiome composition in our bellies. (1)
Microbiome, Inflammation, Immune Modulation, and MS
An expert interview in Medscape had a fascinating discussion that showed how the gut of MS patients was different than healthy controls.
What this demonstrates is that if we treat our bellies good bugs right through healthy lifestyle measures (sleep, diet, proper supplements, and stress control), we can help modulate our immune response for the better. This supports the first study on how physiological stress can impact our immune response.
Here’s an excerpt:
Dr Jangi: The preliminary data show that there are at least a couple of different genera of bacteria that are different in the gut of MS patients compared with healthy controls. We found that a bug called Methanobrevibacteriaceae is enriched in the gut of MS patients and seems to have immunoproliferative properties that drive inflammation. We also found that the population of Butyricimonas bacteria is low in MS patients compared with healthy controls. This is an interesting result because these bacteria produce butyrate, which is thought to be immunosuppressive, but we do need to repeat this study in a larger cohort.
So it seems that our work initially supports the idea that the gut in MS patients contains bugs that drive inflammation and are low in the types of bacteria that control inflammation. This is consistent with work in rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. (2)
Probiotics Protect From Toxic Metals in Study
We are getting an explosion of information in science on how toxins in our world affect our health. Still, did you know that our microbiome could protect us from heavy metal exposure?
According to another study in mBio, consumption of probiotic yogurt (containing Lactobacilllus rhamnosus GR) had a protective effect against further increases in mercury and arsenic in pregnant women from Tanzania vs. than in controls. (3-4) According to the abstract, differences in microbiome composition were also linked to blood levels of lead:
The children and pregnant women in the study were found to have elevated blood levels of lead and mercury compared to age- and sex-matched Canadians. Consumption of probiotic yogurt had a protective effect against further increases in mercury (3.2 nmol/liter; P = 0.035) and arsenic (2.3 nmol/liter; P = 0.011) blood levels in the pregnant women, but this trend was not statistically significant in the
children. Elevated blood lead was associated with increases in Succinivibrionaceae and Gammaproteobacteria relative abundance levels in stool. (3)
And now, speaking of yogurt and probiotics…
THE YOGURT SCAM
Just this week, the Cornucopia’s Buyer’s Guide to yogurt was brought to my attention by Dr. Mercola. Did you know your yogurt could have more sugar than a candy bar!! Dr. Mercola writes:
- The Cornucopia Institute’s new Yogurt Report includes a handy scorecard to help you find truly healthy yogurt–a cultured food that can help you optimize your gut health
- Most commercial yogurts are chockfull of sugar, processed fructose (high fructose corn syrup), and/or artificial sweeteners and flavors, which nourishes disease-causing microbes in your gut
- A healthy microbiome is not only important for optimal digestion of food and absorption of nutrients, these bacteria also help your body produce vitamins, absorb minerals, and even aid in the elimination of toxins
- Recent research suggests yogurt containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus can help protect children and pregnant women against heavy metal poisoning
- Your absolute best bet, when it comes to yogurt, is to make your own using a starter culture and raw, organic grass-fed milk. However, there are high-quality USDA 100% organic yogurts on the market; the Yogurt Report reveals the top brands
Take Away Points:
1. If you keep your body healthy with optimizing your sleep, stress resiliency, and diet, you’ll have a beneficial impact on your gut bugs, metabolism, immune health, and weight management.
2. If you’re eating yogurt for your gut bugs, better check to ensure you’re eating the “good stuff”. Better yet, make sure you eat a healthy diet with fiber and plant foods full of polyphenols to keep them alive and happy! (5)
Below is the link to find out how your brand rates.
Cornucopia Yogurt Buyer’s Guide. http://www.cornucopia.org/test-yogurt-scorecard/
(1) Membership and Behavior of Ultra-Low-Diversity Pathogen Communities Present in the Gut of Humans during Prolonged Critical Illness. Mbio. September 23, 2014. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01361-14
(2) Stetka, B & Jang, S. Multiple Sclerosis and the Microbiome: What’s the Connection? An Expert Interview With Sushrut Jangi, MD. Medscape Neurology. Medscape.com. October 1, 2014.
(3) Bisanz JE, Enos MK, Mwanga JR, Changalucha J, Burton JP, Gloor GB, Reid G. 2014. Randomized open-label pilot study of the influence of probiotics and the gut microbiome on toxic metal levels in Tanzanian pregnant women and school children. mBio 5(5):e01580-14. doi:10.1128/mBio.01580-14.
(4) Halse, K. Probiotics in yogurt protect children, pregnant women against heavy metal poisoning. Daily Digest News. October 07, 2014. http://dailydigestnews.com/2014/10/probiotics-in-yogurt protect-children-pregnant-women-against-heavy-metal-poisoning/
(5) Mercola, J. New Report Reveals Which Yogurts Are Healthy, and Which Are Best Avoided. Mercola.com. October 20, 2014. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/10/20/yogurt gut-health.aspx