Fat – I’m Not To Blame Its My Bugs!

A trial to see if the ingestion of a probiotic bacterium enriched drink might have a beneficial impact on central obesity was funded by Snow Brand Milk Products company in Japan and the results were published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition this June 2010. [i]

Whilst it may seem a stretch that bacteria can influence our body mass, (I have written a previous review) it is an area of growing interest and investigation as bacteria have previously been implicated in the metabolic storage of fat. Studies in mice have shown up to 30% greater fat storage in mice with gastrointestinal colonies of commensals rather than their skinnier counterparts operating with sterile guts.

One proposal for this is that certain bacteria (Bacteroides Thetaiotaomicron is one likely contender) are able to manipulate energy to be stored in adipocytes through a pathway that involves microbial regulation of the intestinal epithelial expression of fasting-induced adipocyte protein (Fiaf), a circulating inhibitor of lipoprotein lipase (LPL).[ii]

The microbiota can then, based on this and other studies be viewed as a metabolic “organ” exquisitely tuned to our physiology and performing functions that we have not had to evolve on our own.

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Butyrate Improves Bowel Transit

Problems such as poor transit or constipation are common, and can produce significant misery for the individual compromised in this manner. Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid, manufactured in the gut by the anaerobic fermentation of dietary fibres by resident microbiota. It is proposed that apart from its already well understood properties that it has another remarkable effect – the ability to increase the neuronal concentration of the Enteric Nervous System.[1]

Butyrate-generating foods and supplements might become an effective and simple option to prevent or treat functional gut disorders via modulation of enteric neuroplasticity.

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Leaky Gut & Food Reactivity – What’s the Mechanism?

Michael Ash looks at leaky gut with a contemporary approach to investigation, relevance and restoration. It is quite clear that in order to extract nutrients and other sentinel information carrying agents the barrier that divides the contents of the gastric lumen from the host must be permeable. The question that has interested clinicians for many years is – when is it too permeable and what does that mean in terms of health and illness.

A paper in the March edition of Mucosal Immunology explores this concept in some detail and delivers some much needed information and potential direction in terms of dietary management and risk.[1]

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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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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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Microbes in Mum – Act as Inhibitors of Allergy in Children

coverA new twist to the hygiene hypothesis shows that allergic risk can also be modulated by microbial exposure before birth. Mice born to dams that were exposed to bacteria during pregnancy were less likely to develop allergic responses than those born to unexposed mothers. And maternal Toll-like receptor (TLR) signals were required for the transmission of protection.

TLRs are a type of pattern recognition receptor (PRR) and recognise molecules that are broadly shared by pathogens but distinguishable from host molecules, collectively referred to as pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs).

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Coeliac Disease – Local & Systemic Consequences

leaky gutCoeliac disease is an inflammatory disorder with autoimmune features that is characterised by destruction of the intestinal epithelium and remodelling of the intestinal mucosa following the ingestion of dietary gluten. The human gut is home to trillions of commensal microorganisms, and we are just beginning to understand how these microorganisms interact with, and influence, the host immune system. This may also include the late onset development of Coeliac Disease, or gluten intolerance.

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All Immunity is Mucosal – The GUT is No 1

The Gut is The Formula 1 of Immunity

mi_cimageProperly regulated mucosal immunity is critical to overall health and well being. The cells found in the mucosal surfaces of the body meet on a daily basis, local challenges from foods, microbes and environmental pollutants. The result is a series of immunological decisions that on a single day exceed those made by the systemic immune system in a lifetime.

The immune system bound up in these tissues – mostly the ‘innate immune system’, must translate this infornatic onslaught to the ‘systemic immune system’  affecting the body as a whole. Immune tolerance or homeostasis in these tissues will help ensure adequate nourishment from passing ‘foreign’ food stuffs and so maintain bacterial/commensal balance. It is this bacterial balance that will ensure immunological tolerance so keeping the balance of power in the hands of health promoters (commensals) via this yin and yang relationship.

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Blastocystis hominis. Is It Really A Problem?

Blastocystis hominis cyst-like forms in a wet mount stained in iodine

Blastocystis hominis cyst-like forms in a wet mount stained in iodine

Problem?

Michael Ash BSc DO ND FDipION reviews the latest studies on this pathogen.

Blastocystis is an unusual enteric protozoan parasite of humans and many animals. It has a worldwide distribution and is often the most commonly isolated organism in parasitological surveys. The parasite has been described since the early 1900s, but only in the last decade or so have there been significant advances in the understanding of Blastocystis biology.

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Lactobacillus GG: A Potent Immune Regulator Effective in Many Disorders

front-cover-Focus-sept-2009New Research Reveals Probiotic’s Anti-Toxin, Anti-Inflammatory, Immune Boosting Properties

Lactobacillus GG is the most prolifically researched probiotic in the world—over 400 studies have been published that document its remarkable immune-modulating properties.This unique immunobiotic was isolated from a healthy human in 1985 by a team of two Tufts University researchers,Barry Goldin, M.S., Ph.D. and Sherwood L. Gorbach, M.D. They spent nearly a decade testing organisms until they discovered one that was a potent antimicrobial, survived stomach and bile acid, and was very, very sticky—it adhered well to the gut mucosa.

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