Cheap Way To Study Your Microbiome

I think it is fair to say that I have written a few posts on the evolving nature of the relationships we enjoy with the commensal and non-commensal organisms we share our human structure with. This area of interest has excited scientists from around the world and many millions of pounds have been and are been invested in the understanding of why and how these organisms contribute to health and disease.

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Microbes and Us

Over the past several years, studies have revealed an astonishing diversity in our so-called microbiome. A five year project utilising researchers from around the world has been constructed to identify our mutual cohabitants that define our microbiome.[1] In Europe the MetaHIT project has pulled 8 countries and 13 academic partners together to add further data to this project.[2]

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Microbes Are What You Eat

Most nutritional therapists and others that regard the role of the bacterial populations in the human gut as being a significant part of our capacity to operate and function in health or otherwise, understand that food choice has an effect.

A recent study on mice published in Science raises some very interesting early observations.[1] The same group published an earlier study exploring the same strategy.[2] Aware that food choices alter bacterial colony ratios and may favour certain bacterial species over others, mice were impregnated with a small number of commonly found human bacteria (10) and then were fed, via human pureed baby food concentrations of 4 commonly consumed ingredients. The researchers state that some 60% of the variation in species is attributable to dietary food choice.

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Gut Flora, Probiotics and Vitamins A+D – Do they influence Allergy and Autoimmunity.

Michael Ash BSc, DO, ND FDipION

The fields of immunology, microbiology, nutrition, epigenetics and metabolism are rapidly converging utilising a systems biology methodology to explain our intimate relationships with our microbial cohabitants. For over 30 years data has been building to scientifically support the hypothesis that intestinal cohabitants operate in a collective manner with macro and micro food intakes to shape and define our immune systems from an early age. The result is a collective impact bound by mutual cooperation that may have unintended consequences including a wide range of pathologies.

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Mechanism of Fatty Acids Anti Inflammatory Effects – Explained?

Most Nutritional Therapists are comfortable in the concept and application of concentrated essential fatty acids especially fish oils as a means of altering abnormal inflammatory pathways in the body. Some EFA’s are perceived to be anti-inflammatory and others pro-inflammatory. Whilst the simplistic dichotomy of interpretation (Omega 3 Anti/Omega 6 Pro) has kept many a student content that they have mastered the art of complex fatty acid biochemistry – the reality is that cell membranes operate in a state of competitive inhibition with fatty acids of all carbon chain lengths and their role is highly sophisticated and complementary.

So…the paper out in the journal Cell this month (Sept 2010) from the lab of Prof. Olefsky at the University of California is a really exciting addition to the extensive research available – in that it elegantly describes a key anti-inflammatory mechanism using a G-protein coupled receptor.[1]

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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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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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A Bacteria Triggers Arthritis.

The gut microbiomes of humans and mice are broadly similar which is helpful as this paper has used the mouse model to explain how a resident bacteria in the gut can induce arthritis. In both hosts human and mouse upwards of ∼1000 different microbial species from ∼10 different divisions colonise the gastrointestinal tract, but just two bacterial divisions—the Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes—and one member of the Archaea appear to dominate, together accounting for ∼98% of the 16S rRNA sequences obtained from this site.[1] 16SrRNA is a laboratory method for analysing bacterial and provides species-specific signature sequences useful for bacterial identification but is not routinely used in diagnostic settings yet.

Their analysis revealed that despite the enormous species variation in the gut a single species of bacteria that lives here is able to trigger a cascade of immune responses that can ultimately result in the development of arthritis.[2] Gut-residing bacteria can also play a role in disorders of the immune system, especially autoimmune disorders in which the body attacks its own cells. The gut microbiota is now known to shape intestinal immune responses during health and disease with systemic effects.

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Can Bacteria Make You Smarter?

The potential cognitive gains linked to the role of gastrointestinal bacteria continues to attract international interest. The scientific community are becoming entranced with the notion that our bacterial exposure affects not only the local tissues, but also others including the brain.

Exposure to specific bacteria in the environment, already believed to have antidepressant qualities, could increase learning behaviour.  Mice fed live cultures of Mycobacterium vaccae were able to learn and complete a maze twice as fast as control mice were the key comments delivered at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology last week.

Mycobacterium vaccae is a natural soil bacterium which people likely ingest or breath in when they spend time in nature,” says Dorothy Matthews of The Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, who conducted the research with her colleague Susan Jenks.

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Resveratrol Adds Another Benefit

Ulcerative colitis is a nonspecific inflammatory disorder characterised by oxidative and nitrosative stress, leucocyte infiltration and upregulation of inflammatory mediators. Resveratrol is a polyphenolic compound found in grapes and wine, with multiple pharmacological actions, mainly anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumour and immunomodulatory activities.

Inflammatory bowel disease is a recognised as a chronic pathology by uncontrolled inflammation of the intestinal mucosa which can affect part of the gastrointestinal tract, with causes including genetic factors, immune deregulation, barrier dysfunction, and a loss of immune tolerance toward the enteric flora.

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