Autoimmunity and the Worm

An immunologist, Dr Joel Weinstock provoked mixed reactions from the scientific community when he suggested that in line with Strachan’s hygiene theory[1] and Rook’s ‘old friend’s theory,[2] that the removal from the western world of helminths, had provided the opportunity for inflammatory diseases of the bowel and elsewhere to increase in frequency.[3] 20 years on from Strachan’s first proposals and Weinstock’s hypothesis have been examined in human trials and found to be effective, and the human microbiome project has uncovered other interesting relationship’s.[4]

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Massage Beneficially Impacts Immune Response.

There are very few people that do not like to have a massage, and those of us that do – me, me, me, now have an extra justification for throwing yourself onto the nearest couch and shouting “fetch the oil, I’m ready for basting”.

Published in the Sept Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010 a paper suggests that a single session of Swedish Massage Therapy produces measurable biologic effects.[1] The intervention tested was 45 minutes of Swedish Massage Therapy versus a light touch control condition, using highly specified and identical protocols.

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Genes, Viruses, Microbes and IBD

Crohn’s disease is common and miserable to suffer from, yet its actual cause is still under some debate as no clear understanding has yet been fully elucidated. It is known that there are some gene variations and that the environment has an impact. A paper out in Cell suggests, based on a mouse model that it may be a virus that makes the difference between health and inflammation. demonstrate that a viral infection, a toxic insult to the gut, commensal bacteria, and a Crohn’s disease susceptibility gene collude to cause inflammatory disease in the mouse gut.[1]

To be clear, Cadwell and co-workers are not arguing that Crohn’s disease is caused by infection with norovirus (as used in this study) or by any other single microbe. The environmental factors that predispose to and protect from Crohn’s disease remain uncertain, but the balance among commensal and pathogenic gut bacteria and viral infections is likely to be part of the story. These studies make an urgent and compelling case for characterising the human virome as well as the microbiome and defining its effects on physiology and gene expression. In addition, further explanations to help us to understand how the virome interacts with polymorphisms in the host genome and how numerous toxins in the environment alter this complex interplay will need to be unravelled.

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Vegas, Pregnancy, Immunity and Allergy Prevention!

The saying is ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’, or if you are English ‘what happens in Blackpool….’ but the same cannot be said about what happens in utero, as increasing evidence supports the understanding that the maternal nutritional environment and early feeding affects the health of the foetus beyond infancy and into adulthood.[1],[2] An article in Nature’s Mucosal Immunology this month explores some of the key events in foetal and neonatal immune management.[3] It stimulated a revisit to the area of what to consider for parents to be and mums of young children when they ask ‘is there anything I can do to prevent or reduce the risk of allergy or atopy in my child’.

The first moments, weeks and months of life can determine the health outcomes of an individual over the duration of their lifetime and this knowledge represents a significant choice for prospective parents. Fortunately the remarkable adaptability of the immune and central nervous system means that there are numerous opportunities in the early years of life to positively influence health outcomes even if the early stages were less than optimal.

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Could a ‘Bacterial Thali’ Resolve Inflammation? – A Novel Strategy

Michael Ash BSc(Hons) DO, ND, DipION reviews the possibility that strategically selected foods and food concentrates represent a valid therapy for inflammatory illnesses.

There is substantive interest in the potential translation from bench to bedside of simple safe strategies to modify the adverse effects of inflammation. Approaching from a preventative and restorative angle the numbers of papers being published on the role of orally ingested bacteria (probiotics) and in this article – the herb Tumeric (active ingredient of which is curcumin) is presenting increasingly supportive evidence for their reasonable and safe clinical use.

Modern analytical techniques are helping to reveal novel opportunities for inflammation control in the gut and the systemic tissues in new ways that even a few years ago would have been thought of as very alternative!

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Antibiotics Can Cause Gut Related Diseases

Michael Ash BSc (Hons), DO, ND FDipION reviews the current understanding of the role of antibiotics in the initiation of gut associated inflammation and local and systemic health problems, and briefly explores some strategies to prevent and manage this.

What is perhaps the greatest medicinal discovery in the last 100 years has a sting in its tail, the tremendous success in managing bacterial infection has encouraged over and inappropriate use of antibiotics, the problems of which have been well documented. This review explores the developing comprehension that even a single day of antibiotic use has consequences that may produce transient and long term effects that compromise the health and well being of the patient and their bacterial co-habitants.

Sir Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic substance penicillin in 1928 and was awarded a co share in the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945.

It was a discovery that would change the course of history. The active ingredient in that mould, which Fleming named penicillin, turned out to be an infection-fighting agent of enormous potency. When it was finally recognised for what it was—the most efficacious life-saving drug in the world—penicillin would alter forever the treatment of bacterial infections. By the middle of the century, Fleming’s discovery had spawned a huge pharmaceutical industry, churning out synthetic penicillin’s that would conquer some of mankind’s most ancient scourges, including syphilis, gangrene and tuberculosis. (Time Magazine April 1999)

However, as the combined benefits of decent engineering for sanitation, prevention via vaccination and bacterial infection control through antibiotics have contributed to life extension, they have also produced microbe and human disturbances. The incidence of immune mediated disorders is continuing to increase and the gastrointestinal tract is continuing to gain traction as a site of significant origination.[1],[2]

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Gluten May be Causing Your Brain Problems!

An interesting paper published in the Sept 2008 Annals of Neurology described a ‘new to science’ brain aggravating enzyme, triggered by reactivity to gluten, but acting independently of other coeliac symptoms.[1]

Most clinicians understand that overt gluten reactivity is classified under coeliac disease and the the classic constellation of symptoms and signs characterising  malabsorptive syndrome is a readily recognised manifestation  of  coeliac  disease. Frank malabsorptive symptoms include steatorrhea, weight loss or failure to thrive, bloating, and flatulence, with multiple deficiency states. More common but more difficult to recognise, however, are the other diverse ways in which coeliac disease presents.

Coeliac disease may also mimic many common clinical entities. These atypical modes of presentation include deficiencies of single micronutrients; nonspecific gastrointestinal complaints such as bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation, flatulence, secondary lactose intolerance, and dyspepsia; and non-gastrointestinal complaints such as fatigue, depression, arthralgia, milk intolerance, osteomalacia or osteoporosis, and iron deficiency anaemia.

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Obesity, Probiotics and Pregnancy

There are numerous reasons to lose weight but scientists continue to explore complex connections between weight and health risks. A new study in the journal FASEB using rats as a model found that those mothers overweight during pregnancy passed on cellular programming in utero that made their off spring predisposed to inflammation related diseases including Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Stroke, Heart Disease and others from the day they are born. Even more depressing was the discovery that it made no difference if the off spring maintained normal weight during their life.

To determine this link the scientists gave rats one of three diets; (low-fat, high-saturated fat, and high-trans fat) four weeks prior to mating and throughout pregnancy and lactation. The high-fat diets rendered the mice clinically obese. The science team analysed the brains of the newborn pups after challenge by inflammatory stimuli.

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Immune Tolerance in the GUT Relies on Dendritic Cells

cover_natureThe differing origins of gut dendritic cells — white blood cells that modulate immune responses — may explain how the intestinal immune system manages to destroy harmful pathogens while tolerating beneficial bacteria says an article by Sophie Laffont & Fiona Powrie in Nature journal out on Dec 10th 2009.

The immune system must protect the body from invading pathogens without mounting damaging responses to its own tissues. Dendritic cells, a rare population of white blood cells, have a crucial role in determining the nature of immune reactions and in fine-tuning the balance between tolerance (where the immune system ignores or tolerates an antigen) and the induction of inflammation to destroy pathogenic organisms.

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Fatty Diet Suppresses Immune System

untitledFresh evidence that fatty food is bad for our health has come to light: mice fed a lard-based diet over a long period got worse at fighting bacteria in the blood, reveals a thesis from the Sahlgrenska Academy based at the University of Gothenberg in Sweden.

The mice fed the lard-based diet derived 60 per cent of their total calories from fat. They were compared with mice fed a low-fat diet, where no more than ten per cent of their calories came from fat. As expected, the mice on the high-fat diet got fatter. A more surprising result was that their immune system was less active. The white blood cells got worse at dealing with bacteria in the blood, which could have contributed to many dying of sepsis.

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