Tag Archives: gut health

3 Things That Happen To Your Brain With Leaky Gut

Gut health is essential for overall health. That connection is fairly easy to make. But what about your brain? Can the health of your gut really affect your brain? The answer is a resounding yes! Here are three things that happen to your brain when you have a leaky gut.

  1. Depression – the bacteria that naturally exist in our GI tract are mostly beneficial. However, if metabolic byproducts and cell constituents are able to escape the gut they cause a potent inflammatory response. This happens through a “leaky gut.” The resulting response alters levels of inflammatory hormones called cytokines. These cytokines have the ability to communicate with the brain and eventually change neurotransmitter levels. This change in neurotransmission actually begins to rewire the brain leading the changes in how we think and feel. Most often, people begin to feel depressed. 3.02-brain-on-fire
  2. An Inflamed Brain – through the mechanisms just mentioned, not only do your neurotransmitters and thoughts/feelings change, your brain becomes inflamed. This signals the immune cells within the brain, called glial cells, to become very active. This may sound like a good thing, but it’s not. As a result of being activated glial cellsgenerate more inflammation and create oxidative stress. This means the glial cells begin breaking down the brain. This may increase your risk of brain fog, fatigue, depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and possibly even neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
  3. Blood Brain Barrier Breakdown – there is a barrier than exists that separates what is circulating in our blood from our brain. Only things that are beneficial for the brain are supposed to have access to it. The blood brain barrier is an exceptionally important structure. With increased inflammation from a leaky gut and glial activation, the blood brain barrier breaks down. Now toxic byproducts, inflammatory hormones, and other noxious chemicals have free access to the brain. This is a disastrous consequence that interferes with brain function leading to a multitude of symptoms which include depression, brain fog, anxiety, and more. Leaky gut leads to a leaky blood brain barrier!

Gastrointestinal health is essential for brain health. Knowing how to fix the gut can lead to dramatic improvements in how you feel cognitively and emotionally.

For much more information and strategies to improve your gut and brain health join me for a FREE webinar on Tuesday, November 10th at 7:30PM called “The Gut-Brain Connection – Mood, Food, and More!” We’ll explore the amazing connection between gut health and brain health and give you tips and tricks to make both healthy.

Dr. Vreeland is a nationally recognized expert and author in functional medicine and will present information that will be life changing! You don’t want to miss this event!

Click here to register: http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EC51D98085463A

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Do Antibiotics Raise Diabetes Risk via Gut Microbiota?

People who take multiple courses of antibiotics may face an increased risk of developing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, potentially through alterations in gut microbiota, conclude US researchers.

The team, led by Ben Boursi, MD, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of gastroenterology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, found that the risk of diabetes was increased by up to 37%, depending on the type of antibiotic and the number of courses prescribed.

“Overprescription of antibiotics is already a problem around the world as bacteria become increasingly resistant to their effects,” commented Dr Boursi in a statement.

“Our findings are important, not only for understanding how diabetes may develop, but as a warning to reduce unnecessary antibiotic treatments that might do more harm than good.”

The study was published online ahead of print March 24 in the European Journal of Endocrinology.

The More Courses of Antibiotics, the Greater the Risk

Dr Boursi explained that studies both in animal models and humans have shown an association between changes in gut microbiota in response to antibiotic exposure and obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes.

Speaking to Medscape Medical News, he noted: “In mice, we know that germ-free mice are lean and, by fecal transplantation, we can transmit obesity to them. We also know that low dose of penicillin may induce obesity in mice models.”

He added that there have been several studies in humans indicating that exposure to antibiotics in early childhood is associated with an increased risk of obesity in later life, while other investigations have reported differences in gut microbiota between people with and without diabetes.

To investigate further, Dr Boursi and colleagues conducted a nested case-control study using data from the Health Improvement Network (THIN), a UK population-based database, from which they identified 1,804,170 patients with acceptable medical records.

As diabetes is associated with an increased risk of infection, the team wanted to exclude all cases with prediabetes or undiagnosed diabetes. To do that, they removed all patients diagnosed with diabetes within 183 days of starting follow-up and included only patients with exposure to antibiotics more than 1 year prior to the index date.

From the original cohort, they were able to select 208,002 diabetes patients and 815,576 controls matched for age, sex, general practice site, and duration of follow-up before the index date.

Conditional logistic regression analysis revealed that exposure to a single antibiotic prescription was not associated with an increased risk of diabetes, adjusted for body mass index (BMI), smoking, last blood glucose level, and the number of infections before the index date, alongside a history of coronary artery disease and hyperlipidemia.

However, treatment with two to five courses of antibiotics was linked to an increased risk of diabetes with penicillin, cephalosporins, macrolides, and quinolones, at adjusted odds ratios (ORs) ranging from 1.08 for penicillin to 1.15 for quinolones.

The highest risk for diabetes was seen among people who received more than five courses of quinolones, at an adjusted OR of 1.37. An increased risk of diabetes was also seen in patients who took more than five courses of tetracyclines, at an adjusted OR of 1.21.

Interestingly, the researchers were unable to find an association between diabetes risk and treatment with imidazole, antiviral drugs, and antifungals, regardless of the number of courses.

To account for further possible confounding factors, the researchers repeated the analysis only in individuals without skin or urinary-tract infections, which are more common among diabetes patients. This had no impact on the results.

Next Steps

When the analysis was restricted to type 1 diabetes, the risk was increased only following exposure to more than five courses of penicillin or two to five courses of cephalosporin, at odds ratios of 1.41 and 1.63, respectively.

Commenting on the findings, study coauthor Yu-Xiao Yang, MD, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania, pointed out their investigation was observational in nature.

“We are not able to establish cause and effect necessarily, but it is actually pretty consistent with the experimental data, which is more definitive in terms of the animal data than in humans.”

Dr Yang said that the next step for the team will be to expand their focus, as the antibiotics data “provide indirect evidence suggesting the importance of gut microbiota on metabolic outcomes, including diabetes.”

Describing their findings as “important evidence,” he concluded: “Based on this indirect evidence and existing data in animals, we are planning to more directly investigate the effect of altered microbe environments in humans.”

The work was supported by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. The authors have reported no relevant financial relationships.

Eur J Endocrinol. 2015. Published online March 24, 2015. Abstract

via Do Antibiotics Raise Diabetes Risk via Gut Microbiota?.

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8 Pictures That Perfectly Describe Leaky Gut (and how to fix it)!

Our gut has many functions. Changes in the balance of bacteria, leaky gut, bacterial overgrowth and other factors may affect how your GI system works. This may have systemic consequences.

Our gut has many functions. Changes in the balance of bacteria, leaky gut, bacterial overgrowth and other factors may affect how your GI system works. This may have systemic consequences.

Increasingly, chronic disease is being seen as stemming from altered gut function. Follow the arrows to see what the risks for chronic disease are. All of the factors that increase chronic disease risk adversely affect gut function too.

Increasingly, chronic disease is being seen as stemming from altered gut function. Follow the arrows to see what the risks for chronic disease are. All of the factors that increase chronic disease risk adversely affect gut function too.

The bacteria in our gut is EXTREMELY important and there is lots of it. If it becomes unbalanced, all symbiotic functions are lost.

The bacteria in our gut is EXTREMELY important and there is lots of it. If it becomes unbalanced, all symbiotic functions are lost.

These disease have all been linked to changes in the balance of bacteria in the gut

These disease have all been linked to changes in the balance of bacteria in the gut

The gut forms an important barrier between what's inside the intestines and what gets absorbed. Those blue structures highlighted by the orange arrows are tight junctions. They hold the cells together do nothing can squeeze between them and pass into the local blood supply unchecked. This is a very important function.

The gut forms an important barrier between what’s inside the intestines and what gets absorbed. Those blue structures highlighted by the orange arrows are tight junctions. They hold the cells together do nothing can squeeze between them and pass into the local blood supply unchecked. This is a very important function.

All of these factors can lead to breakdown of the tight junctions and leaky gut. NSAIDs are pain relievers like Aspirin, Aleve, Advil, etc. SIBO is an acronym for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

All of these factors can lead to breakdown of the tight junctions and leaky gut. NSAIDs are pain relievers like Aspirin, Aleve, Advil, etc. SIBO is an acronym for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Additionally, low exercise levels is a stressor under the category of physical stress. 

LPS are toxic structures located on the surface of the bacteria in the gut. When bacteria die, they are free to potentially enter our bloodstream. This would happen through a leaky gut. If this occurs your body's response is inflammatory. This inflammation alters your energy levels, your mood, and eventually increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other chronic diseases.

LPS are toxic structures located on the surface of the bacteria in the gut. When bacteria die, they are free to potentially enter our bloodstream. This would happen through a leaky gut. If this occurs your body’s response is inflammatory. This inflammation alters your energy levels, your mood, and eventually increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other chronic diseases.

Start in the upper left corner of the diagram and follow the arrows to see how a leaky gut leads to disease.

Start in the upper left corner of the diagram and follow the arrows to see how a leaky gut leads to disease.

Fixing the problem – follow these steps to fix your leaky gut

  1. Get advanced stool testing done to properly evaluate your GI health.
  2. Eat a paleo-inspired diet full of vegetables, healthy proteins, and healthy fats.
  3. Avoid food sensitivities.
  4. Consume fermented foods regularly.
  5. Supplement according to your needs. This might include nutrient repletion, probiotics, whey protein, anti-inflammatory herbs like curcumin, or fish oil.
  6. Exercise vigorously 3-4 times per week.
  7. Eliminate artificial sweeteners, do not overuse NSAIDs, antibiotics, or alcohol, manage your stress, and manage your stress.

If you do all of that, your can heal your leaky gut and feel better than you ever thought you could!

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The Gut-Brain Connection

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 2.42.44 PMA large body of evidence is accumulating to support a role between healthy gut function, brain development and function of the central nervous system. The organisms contained in the gut should be considered an inner organ with functions similar in importance to any other organ present in the body. Disruptions in this “organ” may alter many things including brain function and cause symptoms like depression, anxiety, ‘brain fog’ and more.

At birth the human gastrointestinal tract is sterile, however, it is quickly colonized and by the age of one year, the bacterial profile looks similar to that of an adult.1 The connection between the gut and the brain is known to be bidirectional. This means messages from the gut affect brain function just as much as messages from the brain affect gut function.2

 The mechanism by which alterations in bacterial profiles of the gut affect how we feel, think and move is fascinating. It all begins with lipopolysaccharides (LPS). LPS are structures located on the surfaces of bacteria present in our gut. These LPS may actually get out of the gut and into the blood stream producing a very strong immune response. Normally, the gut does a very good job keeping these LPS from getting into the blood stream.3 However, when the barrier in the gut weakens (‘leaky gut’) LPS is more easily absorbed and enters circulation.  When this occurs, inflammation ensues. If the process continues, high levels of inflammation are generated and this begins to alter neurotransmitter levels in the brain. With enough change in neurotransmitter levels, mood, behavior and cognitive function suffer.

What causes leaky gut? There are a lot of factors, however, evidence points to a high fructose diet (sugary beverages), the Western diet (high in processed foods) and nutrient deficiencies like vitamin D, A, zinc and magnesium.These factors are also known to increase the ability of LPS to get into the blood stream.4

 Symptoms of depression, anxiety, ‘brain fog,’ or poor memory may not always be coming from your brain. The genesis of the problem might actually be in your gut! By maintaining a healthy diet and addressing potential nutrient deficiencies you may see many of your symptoms disappear without the need for expensive, mind-altering medications!

1Palmer C, Bik EM, DiGiulio DB, Relman DA, Brown PO. Development of the human infant intestinal microbiota. PLoS Biol. 2007 Jul;5(7):e177.

2O’Mahony SM, Hyland NP, Dinan TG, Cryan JF. Maternal separation as a model of brain-gut axis dysfunction. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2011 Mar;214(1):71-88.

3Bested AC, Logan AC, Selhub EM. Intestinal microbiota, probiotics and mental health: from Metchnikoff to modern advances: Part II – contemporary contextual research. Gut Pathog. 2013 Mar 14;5(1):3.

4Teixeira TF, Collado MC, Ferreira CL, Bressan J, Peluzio Mdo C. Potential mechanisms for the emerging link between obesity and increased intestinal permeability. Nutr Res. 2012 Sep;32(9):637-47.

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Probiotics for that colicky baby

Escherichia coli: Scanning electron micrograph...

Image via Wikipedia

Below is a short article from the NY Times.  It summarizes some of the studies that have been done regarding probiotics (healthy bacteria) and colic in babies.  See my comments at the end.

NY Times Article

Colic is one of the most prevalent conditions of infancy: about 20 percent of all babies suffer the inconsolable bouts of crying that characterize it.

Yet no one really understands what makes a baby colicky. Scientists have investigated a number of causes — allergies, hormones in milk, even stress in the womb. But some now think it may stem from inflammation in the gut, perhaps a result of too many harmful bacteria and not enough beneficial ones.

A 2009 study, for example, found that colicky babies had gastrointestinal inflammation and traces of a bacterium in their guts that may have prompted it. Babies without colic had no inflammation and a greater diversity of beneficial bacteria.

So could higher levels of gut-friendly bacteria make a difference?

In a 2007 study, Italian researchers looked into this by examining 83 colicky babies who were breast-fed. Over 28 days, some of the infants were given simethicone, a medication that reduces gas; the others were given a supplement containing L. reuteri, one of the beneficial bacteria known as probiotics and often found in yogurt. At the end of the study, the babies who received the probiotic cried an average of 51 minutes a day, compared with about two and a half hours in the other group. A 2010 study had similar results.

Gut microbiota changes induced by the probiotic could be involved in the observed clinical improvement,” the researchers wrote. Still, experts say they would like to see more studies.

Dr. Court’s Comments

Our gastrointestinal system is extremely complex.  A huge part of that complexity is the trillions and trillions of microorganisms that exist in your gut in the form of bacteria.  It is the balance of these bacteria that determines, to a large extent, the health of your gut and therefore, you.

Babies are no different.  An imbalance of bacteria can lead to many problems including allergies, maldigestion and malabsorption and now possibly colic.

It is not a surprise that research points to gut inflammation as a source of colic.  It makes perfect sense.  I see many patients in my office who have gastrointestinal complaints.  Through stool testing we are often able to determine that there is significant inflammation present in their GI system.  This inflammation is often helped by using potent probiotics to restore the balance of good and bad bacteria.

Taking a probiotic is very simple.  They are available in pill or powder form.  Many companies even make infant formulas that are specifically designed to be gentle on developing systems.

So if you have a young child who just won’t stop crying, consider trying a probiotic.  It’s a safe and effective tool to reduce colic and give your baby some much needed relief.

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Quick! Get that kid some bacteria!

I recently came across an article that got my interest for a couple of reasons.  The article was about allergies and how many health practitioners are reporting an increase in the number of children they are seeing with allergies.  I agree.  In my office I see several children whose parent’s only complaint is their child’s allergies.  The second reason for my interest was one of the proposed reasons for this – an unhealthy balance of bacteria in the gut.

The number of kids with food allergies went up 18 percent from 1997 to 2007, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 3 million children younger than 18 had a food or digestive allergy in 2007, the CDC said.  These numbers are high and seem to be rising rapidly in rich, industrialized countries like the U.S. and Britain.  In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that visits to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital Boston for allergic reactions more than doubled from 2001 to 2006.

In my practice I have always contended that the Western diet and lifestyle plays a major role in the development of allergies in our children.  Now a small Italian study seems to confirm what I have postulated.

My theory has always been that the combination of being overly clean and eating diets high in refined carbohydrates and other allergenic foods has caused a massive immune imbalance.  This imbalance leads to over activation of the entire immune system resulting in reactions that range from minor annoyances to life threatening.

A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences compared the gut bacteria from 15 children in Florence, Italy, with gut bacteria in 14 children in a rural African village in Burkina Faso. They found that the variety of flora in these two groups was substantially different.

The children in the African village live in a community that produces its own food. The study authors say this is closer to how humans ate 10,000 years ago. Their diet is mostly vegetarian. By contrast, the local diet of European children contains more sugar, animal fat and calorie-dense foods. The study authors posit that these factors result in less biodiversity in the organisms found inside the gut of European children.

Now, in my opinion, it has very little to do with the fact that this African culture eats very little meat and simply with the fact that they consume a more natural, raw diet.  This leads to a more favorable balance of bacteria in the gut because of exposure.

Why are these bacteria important?

The bacteria in our gut work symbiotically with our systems in order to help us survive.  It is a true symbiotic relationship in that neither one of us (the bacteria or the person) would survive without the other.  They are important because they help digest certain proteins, help up absorb certain vitamins and minerals and perhaps most importantly with regards to allergies, maintains gut wall integrity or permeability.

Gut wall integrity is crucially important in not only preventing allergies but maintaining the health of the entire immune system.  So what happens when the balance of good bacteria changes in the gut?  Good question.

As the balance begins to be altered, the permeability of the gut begins to increase. Our digestive systems are designed to absorb a lot of things, but these things must be fully digested and of the appropriate size to be absorbed.  When our system becomes overly permeable, proteins that are undigested or are partially digested may get absorbed into our blood stream.  This is problematic.

Proteins are simply chains of amino acids linked together.  A small chain of amino acids is called a peptide.  A larger chain of amino acids or several peptides linked together is called a protein.  When we consume a hamburger, for example, the proteins are large and may be thousands of amino acids long.  It is the job of our intestinal tract to break down each and every one of those proteins into its individual components or amino acids.  If this does not happen, then peptides are what remain.  This is not problematic unless you have high gut permeability or a leaky gut. This leaky gut, from abnormal bacterial balance, now absorbs these peptides into the blood stream.

Why are these peptides a problem?  Because your body doesn’t recognize them as useful.  Your body recognizes amino acids as helpful.  Amino acids are often referred to as building blocks because they are used for so many things in the body.  That is precisely the reason the digestive system is designed to break down proteins into these components.  Peptides are not recognized and therefore the body sees them as foreign invaders and generates an immune response, or allergy, to them.  For some people this response is minor (itchy eyes, runny nose, hives, etc.) and for others it is life threatening (anaphylaxis).

Gluten, the protein from wheat, rye, oats and barley and casein, the protein from milk are notorious for being broken down incompletely in the gut and causing allergic reactions.  They are the most common simply because they are two of the most commonly consumed foods in the world (wheat and milk products).

What can I do to help myself or my child?

There are many things you can do.  First and foremost eliminate any food that you know causes you an issue. Secondly, you may consider having an allergy test.  This is important because many people are allergic to things they aren’t aware of.  An allergy test should also include food sensitivities. These are reactions to foods that don’t necessarily generate a full immune response in your body but do initiate a response on a lower level.  These are important to know because reducing your total allergic load is critical for helping you overcome your major allergies.

Also, take a digestive enzyme that is high in protease.  A protease in an enzyme that breakdown protein.  If you take this with a meal it will help insure that all proteins are properly digested.

Last, but certainly not least, take a probiotic.  A probiotic will help restore the healthy balance of bacteria in your gut and help you maintain the integrity of you gut wall.  This will insure that the permeability is appropriate and you are not absorbing micronutrients that your immune system views as dangerous.

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