Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Part Three: Nutritional Deficiencies

Part Three: Nutritional Deficiencies 

It’s common to see supplements containing high doses of antioxidants lining the shelves of health food stores, but they can be dangerous in high levels. Most of these vitamins are manufactured in a few chemical plants in China and then sprayed on processed foods to prevent deficiency as opposed to the broad spectrum of antioxidants and vitamins found in natural foods. These chemical defenses found in plants are referred to as antinutrients. They can be found in roots, leaves, and seeds. Some are bitter substances that discourage animals from eating that plant again. Antinutrients are found in the largest quantities in cereals and legumes, although they can be in other plants also. They can prevent nutrient absorption by binding to vitamins and minerals, which may lead to nutritional deficiencies. They can also prevent the absorption of protein, in the case of legumes, which may lead to protein deficiency if the diet is not well balanced to include other protein sources. Soy products consumed in this highly processed form can be problematic for health. People with allergies to soy can be triggered by soy lecithin, which is hidden in foods as a common emulsifier. Soy lecithin may also impair cognitive function and impact brain chemistry. Soaking, sprouting, cooking, fermenting, or even just chewing plants can help reduce their negative effects on digestion and reduce toxins to some degree. In starting a vegetarian or vegan diet, people tend to also eliminate a lot of problematic foods like sugar and processed foods, which will immediately make anyone healthier. But this great feeling of health has nothing to do with the elimination of animal foods, as many would like to believe. Among the most concerning nutrient deficiencies prevalent in the vegetarian and vegan population is vitamin B12. Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide, Heme iron, found in red meat, is the most absorbable kind of iron, two to three times better than plant-based iron, and absorption is also dependent on current iron stores. Although a package label of a meat-free food may say it contains a lot of iron, only about 1.4–7 percent of plant based iron can actually be absorbed, compared to 20 percent in red meat. The calcium found in plant foods is not as bioavailable as calcium from foods like dairy and sardines. Greens like spinach and kale contain compounds that actually block calcium absorption. Other nutrients of concern for those on meat-free diets include glycine, selenium, methionine, taurine, creatine, choline, and iodine. Iodine deficiency can lead to brain damage There are several studies that have found a disturbing link between depression and meat-free diets. Many of the nutrients commonly missing in meat-free diets are directly shown to have impacts on depression and anxiety. 

Here is a list of the common nutritional deficiencies and their effects:

Zinc: Serotonin Synthesis

B6: Neurotransmitter Synthesis

D3: Calcium Regulation

Iron: Neurotransmitter Synthesis

B12: Myelin Synthesis

Magnesium: Glutamate Inhibition

Omega 3: Neural Signaling 

Because many people choose to eliminate meat for environmental or ethical reasons, when there is a health decline, some people tend not to realize that the food they’re eating is causing the problem. People may simply feel their health issues come from not following the diet strictly enough. And, for certain people, even taking the “right” supplements isn’t enough.  If you are someone eating mostly or all plants, and have some health issues like fatigue, light-headedness, acne, skin rashes, mood swings, brain fog, digestive distress, blood sugar regulation problems, or other health symptoms, it’s critical to consider that being meat-free could be contributing to these issues. Red meat research is not based on strong science and that the real culprit for the growing health issues we’re facing are hyperpalatable, ultraprocessed modern foods. Observational research can only show associations, not prove causation. The decisions made around what constitutes a “healthy” diet has likely not only made people less healthy but has accelerated and entrenched perhaps the most injurious elements of our food production system, for both human and global health. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Part 2: Diet Culture

Part Two: Diet Culture

I’m sure everyone has heard that meat causes cancer and all of the other scare tactics involving meat, specifically red meat. Truth is people who eat a lot of processed meats also tend to be heavier, smoke, and engage in other activities that increase their chances of cancer. Unless the food is a proven toxin, it’s impossible to say x food causes y disease with 100 percent certainty.

The association between meat consumption and a lower-quality diet may complicate studies on meat and health. Then one day it’s “high carb,” the next it’s “low carb.” This gets pretty damn confusing, especially when we observe a variety of cultures that eat both more and less fat or carbs than Americans yet have generally better health than we do. It seems that neither researchers nor the government are looking at the continued failure of our food recommendations to try to actually make us healthier. A study was done showing how the “everything in moderation” tactic can be shown not to work. This study showed the more someone liked a specific food, say pizza, the more pizza that person felt was a “moderate” amount. Participants tended to define “moderate” as more than what they personally ate to justify their own intake, and defended their current consumption of most foods as “appropriate.”

The context of today’s ultraprocessed food landscape, limitless food options make portion control difficult. What if the very idea of “moderating” hyperpalatable modern foods is actually going against the grain of human physiology and evolution? Whether you care to consider a low-fat vegan diet, a high-protein, low-carb diet, or something in between, the eating strategies that consistently get results have something in common: to some degree, they all limit our food options. Another study done on over nine thousand hospitalized mental patients found they were fed either a diet rich in saturated fat or a diet in which the saturated fat was replaced with polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils. The patients fed vegetable oils showed a decrease in cholesterol levels but, interestingly, no decrease in mortality. In fact, the opposite was seen; the patients fed vegetable oils were more likely to die during the study period than those fed saturated fat, who coincidentally had higher cholesterol levels. The burgeoning vegetarian movement, coupled with questionable nutrition research and guidelines, resulted in a shift in governmental food recommendations toward more carbohydrate and less fat intake. Second, when people reduce their overall caloric intake, they will lose weight. But weight loss is not the same as fat loss. Both low-carb and low-fat diets lead to weight loss because they usually also involve restricting calories, but what is important to note is that high-protein diets that are either lower in carbs or low in fat lead to more fat loss. When taking out an entire food group, such as meat, you are going to need to supplement with the nutrients that you are losing and contrary to what some people assume, plant foods do not contain vitamin B12. There are trace amounts of B12 analogs in foods like algae, but these are not as effective as real B12 in the body, and actually increase your need for real B12. A deficiency in this vitamin can cause nerve damage, mental illness, neurological problems, and infertility. Meat contains heme iron, the most absorbable type of iron. One study showed that when iron was fortified to teens, only the heme-iron fortification raised iron levels.4 Iron deficiency anemia is the most common mineral deficiency in the US, affecting more than 25 percent of the population and almost half of all preschool children. Meat is a great source of highly bioavailable minerals, including zinc, magnesium, copper, cobalt, phosphorus, nickel, selenium, and chromium. Plants actually can block the absorption of minerals, making meat the better way to get these in your diet. Zinc, in particular, is a common deficiency in those avoiding animal products, and zinc in animals is highly absorbable. Remember variety is everything. An ethical clinician would never tell a patient that they should eat only organic vegetables or no vegetables at all. We have the same position on meat. For those who simply don’t have access to grass-fed beef, we still feel red meat in general is an important, nutrient-dense food for humans. Not everyone has the privilege to “know their farmer.” For all the talk about privilege in our modern dialogue, we don’t seem to talk enough about the fact that the cheapest foods are often the unhealthiest, which has a disproportionate effect where people can’t spend as much on food (low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, and rural areas). This is where the “less meat, better meat” ideology can be problematic when we consider the public health impacts of this message. We don’t hear people say “organic vegetables or no vegetables” or “less vegetables, better vegetables.” Many people don’t have access to grass-finished beef, or can’t afford it; there are manifold benefits to eating more protein, specifically from animal sources like beef; and there are few human health advantages to eating grass-finished beef compared to typical beef. So our position is that folks should buy the best meat they can afford. Protein is made up of amino acids (AAs). There are twenty AAs that our bodies utilize, nine of which are essential, meaning that our bodies must obtain these from food. Digestibility of plant proteins is also affected by age and the state of the person’s gut. It is widely agreed that animal protein (eggs, milk, meat, fish, and poultry) is the most bioavailable source. Meat-based proteins also have no limiting amino acids, whereas soy is low in the AA methionine and is not considered a “complete” protein. Animal products overall are a much better source of protein per calorie than plants. Plant-based protein is not the same as animal-based protein in terms of amino acids, and enriching a product with synthetic vitamins and minerals doesn’t mean we will absorb them in the same way we do from natural sources. These products are popularly seen as “healthier” and better options than meat, but are actually ultraprocessed foods, and often much worse for our health than the real thing. It’s worth noting that on paper, foods like lettuce can appear to have a high nutrient-density score. This is because on a per-calorie basis they can contain a lot of vitamins and minerals. But once we factor in the volume of food and the number of calories in a typical serving size, the picture changes very quickly. One cup of lettuce has only eight calories, so the volume of lettuce you’d need to eat to match the same nutrient-density in a small serving of, say, oysters is quite dramatic. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Sacred Cow Part 1: Protein

Diving into a new book this month titled “Sacred Cow” by Diana Rodgers and Robb Wolf. This book goes deep into the meat industry, specifically cows, agriculture, and notes both the human impact and the environmental impact meat has on the world. As a former vegetarian, this book was very interesting to read as I dove back into the meat eating world. I do read all books through unbiased eyes and take only the best, most relevant information to give to you. Here is “Sacred Cow”.

Part One: Agriculture and Protein, Plant based vs Meat based

Contrary to the popular narrative, red meat is one of the most nutrient-dense foods available; indeed, the extent of access to nutrient-dense animal products such as meat is one of the greatest distinguishers between the poor and wealthy in developed or developing countries. Perhaps more controversially, when raised properly, cattle and other grazers may be one of our most promising tools toward mitigating climate change. Although grass-fed meat may be superior from a sustainability perspective, current research indicates that it is only marginally different from conventionally raised meat when it comes to health and nutrients. All in all just make sure your meat is organic when you can and try your best to shop locally from your butcher or farmers market. As America was growing so was our agriculture. Farming meant we had more reliable food supplies to support bigger, denser populations—so small settlements of people gradually grew into cities. Human health declined during this time. The development of irrigation systems (around eight thousand years ago) and the plow (around five thousand years ago) allowed us to produce far more food, but it was at the price of soil fertility. We now live in a time of industrial agriculture. As we entered the industrial era and moved into cities, meat production and slaughter was pushed farther and farther out of sight. Jumping into modern history, the human lifespan, particularly in developed nations, is declining. Chronic degenerative diseases are rapidly increasing. And despite knowing more about nutrition than ever before, our obesity and diabetes rates continue to soar. Despite the nutritional benefits of meat, plant proteins are labeled as “pure” and “clean” while meat and animal products have been labeled as dirty, unhealthy, and sinful. On a calorie-by-calorie basis, animal products provide far more nutrition than any plant material, and raw, unprocessed plants required far more energy and resources to digest, so animal products were highly prized. Worldwide, traditional, healthy foods like meat and traditional fats are being abandoned in favor of ultra processed seed oils and highly refined wheat, corn, and soy. Highly processed and refined foods are becoming more common; on supermarket shelves and in our homes, at least in the West, food products have taken the place of whole fresh foods. For the first time in our history, humans in the West are overfed and at the same time undernourished. Today, in what can be considered a “postdomestic” society, many consider the act of eating meat barbaric. It’s labeled as unhealthy, unsustainable, and morally reprehensible. These attitudes stem from our lack of connection to food production and nature itself, but government guidelines that prop up industrial agriculture and further entrench biased research are also to blame. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) had been discovered in the 50s, but it was only in the 70s that a process had been found to harness it for mass production. HFCS was soon pumped into every conceivable food: pizzas, coleslaw, meat. It provided that “just baked” sheen on bread and cakes, made everything sweeter, and extended shelf life from days to years. Dietary fat was being vilified, particularly fats of animal origin. The main solution then was to consume more carbs and vegetable oils. Conveniently, the government also began the subsidization of corn and other commodities that are easily transformed into hyperpalatable, shelf-stable, high-profit-margin junk food. The depiction of red meat as our main dietary foe plays nicely into our current fears about a warming planet and the ethical and sustainability considerations of factory farming. Every animal has a biologically appropriate diet, including humans. Humans appear to thrive on a diet that is more nutrient dense than that of our great ape cousins. We evolved to have more real estate in the small intestine, which preferentially absorbs nutrient-dense, highly digestible foods. Relative to other primates, the fiber-fermenting portion of our digestive tract, the colon, is comparatively smaller. Varied food sources provide a more nutrient-rich diet, which is what we need. Our bodies naturally want variety, and we get bored of eating the same thing all the time. Also, with a larger small intestine, we’re adapted to eating nutrient-dense foods like meat and cooked starches because we are able to better absorb the nutrition from these foods. We need nutrients that are found in both plants and animals. Many people also feel that we already get too much protein and that too much protein is dangerous. In reality, we’re not eating anywhere close to 265 pounds of meat per person, per year. In 2016, when adjusted for loss, Americans ate an estimated 1.8 ounces of beef per day (40 pounds per year), 1.4 ounces of pork per day (31.6 pounds per year), and 2.6 ounces of poultry per day (59.8 pounds per year). Since 1970 our intake of beef has actually declined from 2.7 ounces per person per day to 1.8 ounces per day in 2016, while our poultry intake has more than doubled. We’ve increased our intake of caloric sweeteners, and our intake of grain products has gone up about 30 percent (and by grains, we’re not talking about pearl barley; this is largely ultraprocessed foods made from wheat and corn). We’ve tripled our intake of ultraprocessed seed oils. If you go to the internet and look up, “How much protein should I eat?” the numbers you’ll often find are 56 grams a day for men and 46 grams per day for women. This is also what most health professionals will tell you. Remember that this is a minimum requirement, not the optimal amount in order to thrive or in order to be functional. Humans don’t really need “protein”; we need amino acids, and meat has the perfect balance of amino acids plus micronutrients that plants don’t have. The Dietary Reference Intakes by the Institute of Medicine actually sets no upper level for protein on the basis of chronic disease risk because high protein intake has not been found to have a detrimental effect. Your body needs protein, and if you don’t get enough through diet, your body will start breaking down your muscles and other tissues in order to get it. This leads to muscle wasting and weakness. Immune function decreases because protein is required for antibodies. You also need protein to make enzymes and to carry oxygen to tissues, so low protein can cause lethargy. Low protein is also associated with hair loss, brittle nails, and cold hands and feet. Low protein can cause weight gain. B12 deficiency, which is common in vegetarians and vegans, has been shown as an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease and serious neurological disorders in infants of vegan mothers. Higher levels of protein are effective for weight loss. According to the protein-leverage hypothesis, people will continue to eat food in order to satisfy their protein needs. If the food you’re eating is ultraprocessed, low in protein but high in calories and carbohydrates, the brain will tell you to continue eating that food until you reach your protein minimum. Because protein is highly satiating, when we increase our protein intake, our overall caloric intake generally reduces. Protein is the most satiating of the macronutrients, and intake of 15–30 percent of total calories can be quite helpful in regulating appetite by increasing leptin sensitivity and inducing weight loss and increasing blood sugar control. Think 4 to 6 ounces of animal protein per meal. Hopefully you understand now that the idea of “too much” is not based on science, but more likely on a “feeling” that meat is, by nature, gluttonous and unhealthy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

How do we take care of our gut health: pharmaceuticals, probiotics, and diet:

 How do we take care of our gut health: Pharmaceuticals, Probiotics, and Diet:

Pharmaceutical manufacturing has become one of the biggest businesses in the world. The number of drugs that you can choose from is staggering. They are not, however, without problems of their own. Your medications for acne, insomnia, asthma, malaria, birth control, smoking cessation, and blood pressure may come with a side effect of depression. Ironically, even some anxiety meds can cause depression. Your first act on your psychobiotic journey is to rebuild your gut, taking steps to heal any lesions or permeability —so-called leaky gut. There are a number of possible causes for such distress, including: infections, inflammation, chronic stress, overuse of painkillers, continuing or repeated rounds of antibiotics, excessive alcohol consumption, autoimmune disorders like lupus, IBD and IBS, gluten sensitivity or food allergies, radiation or chemotherapy, overeating, and lack of exercise. When choosing a probiotic to help give your gut the good stuff you’ll want to take note of the main features: product name, manufacturer’s name and contact info, claims, dosage, format, suggested use, warnings, supplement facts, %DV, other ingredients, expiration date, lot number, and quality seals. The bacteria should be compatible with one another in a combined psychobiotic formula. It’s useful to note that most are Bifido and Lacto species. Bifidobacterium longum (R0175 & 1714) or Bifidobacterium infantis (35624): B. longum inhibits pathogens in the large intestine, reducing inflammation and helping to prevent diarrhea. It also helps mitigate lactose intolerance and food allergies. Some research has shown that it can lower cholesterol and can act as an antioxidant. B. longum reduces anxiety and cortisol levels. B. longum boosts the amount of available tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, which can have an antidepressant effect. Bifidobacterium breve (1205): It seems to have a greater influence on anxiety than depression. It prevents the growth of E. coli, as well as Candida albicans, the fungus behind yeast infections. Its strong antipathogen effect may explain why it helps in the fight against diarrhea, IBS, and allergies. In addition, B. breve has long been known to alleviate problems associated with antibiotics. B. animalis, another member of the Bifido genera that includes the subspecies B. animalis lactis, has proven a benefit to people with ulcerative colitis. It has been shown to improve both constipation and diarrhea associated with irritable bowel syndrome. If you were born vaginally, B. bifidum will be one of your oldest bacterial friends. B. bifidum in combination with L. acidophilus and L. casei (in capsule form) for eight weeks has been shown to help people with major depressive disorder. L. acidophilus is the most popular bacteria in probiotic and psychobiotic formulations. found in fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir. It helps to prevent diarrhea and is useful in treating small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). L. acidophilus is a potent fighter against Campylobacter jejuni, a pathogen that causes gastroenteritis and anxiety. L. bulgaricus is found in yogurt and kefir and is often found with other Lacto and Bifido species in these products. It has been shown to improve mood when used in a mix with other milk fermenters. Because it ferments lactose, it can help with lactose intolerance. L. helveticus is a popular addition to cheese cultures, as it inhibits bitter flavors. It has been shown to reduce blood pressure as well as depression and anxiety. Its main mode of action is to lower inflammation and enhance serotonin signaling. L. rhamnosus has been found to be useful for treating peanut allergies, diarrhea, dermatitis, and obesity. It lowers levels of corticosteroids, which reduces levels of stress, and it produces short-chain fatty acids, including butyrate, that both feed and heal the gut. Butyrate can also penetrate the BBB, where it acts as an antidepressant. L. rhamnosus is found in yogurt, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, kefir, fermented sausage, and fermented soy cheese. Note: Use caution with this psychobiotic if you have an impaired immune system, such as what accompanies HIV or lupus, as it could trigger sepsis. L. reuteri produces antibiotics against pathogenic bacteria, yeasts, and protozoans, making it a potent probiotic and an anti-inflammatory. It improves skin tone, along with reproductive fitness, lowers inflammation, and increases oxytocin levels in both mice and humans.29 It increases levels of leptin (the satiety hormone) and decreases levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone), potentially decreasing your caloric intake. L. plantarum is found in many fermented foods, including pickles, kimchi, brined olives, and sauerkraut—all great ways to consume this psychobiotic. It has been shown in humans to attenuate soy allergies and reduce inflammation. Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome had less anxiety and better gut health after eating L. casei. L. paracasei is commonly found in fermented milk products and is common in probiotic mixes. It has been shown to lower levels of pain and intestinal distress caused by antibiotics and is a good adjunct when taking those drugs. Not all probiotics are reliable. One sobering study showed that out of 13 commonly available probiotics, only four contained what was claimed on the label. The few that have been found reliable include: Probio’Stick, VSL#3, Mutaflor, Align, Culturelle, Florastor, Yakult, and Activia. Please note eating the right kinds of foods has always been and still is the best way to achieve and maintain a healthy gut and will always be better than taking a pill form of a probiotic. Remember supplements are meant to supplement the diet not replace the diet. You should be eating more vegetables and fruit and less not so great meat. Among other good things, fruits and veggies contain substances called polyphenols that are important to your health. Polyphenols act as antioxidants, protecting you against pathogens as well as diabetes, heart disease, and neurological problems. They are, however, largely useless unless your microbiota is healthy and can properly break them down. Some of your friendly gut bacteria really like fiber. Bifido, for example, consumes the fiber moving through your intestines and produces butyric acid as a by-product. Butyric acid turns out to be a superfuel for the cells lining your gut, helping to rebuild your lining on a continuous basis. Butyric acid can also affect your brain, encouraging the production of feel-good neurotransmitters. The problem with refined food is that it takes no account of your gut bacteria. What we gave up was manna for our microbes. Today, we recognize the fiber processed out of refined foods as prebiotic—food for gut bacteria. Manufacturers cannot force us to eat healthy food. They are in the business of selling what people will buy. The more we demand our missing fiber, the sooner new products will show up on our store shelves. Fiber comes in soluble and insoluble forms. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and mostly passes through your gut quickly and with little ceremony. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, is the real gold. Prebiotic rich foods are key. These molecular chains are called oligosaccharides, Greek for “a few sugars.” The oligosaccharide chains that feed your microbiota have at least three sugar molecules and rarely more than ten. Typically a chain is made by adding identical links of a single sugar, which determines the first part of that complex sugar’s name. Fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) is a chain of fructose, whereas galacto-oligosaccharide (GOS) is a chain of galactose, and both are proving to have psychobiotic possibilities. The advantage of eating prebiotic-rich foods over taking prebiotic supplements is that you are less likely to overdo it. Inulin is a kind of FOS found in many plants and a major natural source of fiber. Other great prebiotic foods include: sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), artichokes, chicory, endive, lentils, asparagus, beans, especially limas, onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, beets, broccoli, and fennel root. Many studies of gut-healthy diets recommend a Mediterranean diet, but other studies have found more species of gut bacteria, lowered anxiety, and improved cognition on a diet that includes lean beef. This is likely because the greater the diversity in your diet, the greater the diversity in your microbiota. Eat Fermented Foods, look for the Live & Active Cultures seal to ensure that the product has living probiotics in it. If you are trying yogurt for the first time as a psychobiotic, give yourself four weeks of a daily serving to see if it works for you. If you get bloating or diarrhea, back off the serving size. One caveat: Many yogurts are packed with sugar, which pretty much negates their probiotic benefit. Read the label and choose yogurt with no added sugar. So go for full fat if you can find it, or reduced fat—but stay away from fat-free yogurt products. The biggest psychobiotic contributor to your diet should be leafy greens and vegetables. Fruits, nuts, and berries are important, as are fish and fermented foods. You should consider probiotic supplements an important but relatively small player in the mix of what you eat for gut health and good mood. As far as a healthy diverse microbiota is concerned, diet turns out to trump environment and geography both. Studies have shown that a high-fat, low-fiber diet increases inflammation and endotoxins—illness-inducing chemicals released by certain injured or killed bacteria—by some 70 percent. High-fat and high-sugar diets increase inflammation, the source of much disease and discomfort, and can actually degrade your blood-brain barrier allowing dangerous toxins to access your brain. Minimize Sugar: Sugar, of course, can actually make you happier, but the effect is temporary. Long-term sugar use can make you sick, inflamed, and depressed. Fructose, a common sugar, can increase circulatory bacterial toxins and lead to liver damage as that poor organ tries valiantly to eliminate those toxins. Fortunately, we have some sugar substitutes that may actually be good for you. Real maple syrup, Honey has also been shown to decrease edema and lower inflammation. Get Plenty of Omega-3s: Saturated fats—think those that are solid at room temperature, like butter or meat fat—are the ones that can cause inflammation and gut distress. Omega-3 oils are the opposite. They are polyunsaturated as are olive or nut oils and the oils naturally occurring in fish. A diet deficient in omega-3s leads to microbial overgrowth in the small intestine—related to IBS—and inflammation,88 whereas a diet rich in omega-3s dampens inflammation and improves the diversity of your microbiota—These oils are also essential for creating new nerves and synapses, which can improve cognition and memory. Drink Less Alcohol. Get Antioxidants From Food: Antioxidants are your body’s way of fighting off the damage brought about by ordinary metabolic processes. Certain antioxidant foods—such as coffee, cocoa, green tea, turmeric, strawberries, and blueberries—have been shown to lower the risks of depression and cognitive decline. Just adding berries to your diet can delay mental decline by two and a half years or more. Avoid Emulsifiers: Two commercially important emulsifiers, carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) and polysorbate 80 (P80), have been shown to negatively affect both the thickness of your gut mucus and the diversity of your microbiota.Lecithin, originally isolated from egg yolk and now also derived from soybeans, is a good substitute, because it doesn’t induce the same dysbiotic effect as CMC and P80. Minimize Your Use of Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 Blockers. Exercise. It’s actually difficult to overstate the benefit of low to medium levels of exercise (aerobics), which improves every system in your body. Although there are many ways to help your gut there are also many ways in which your gut can be hurt. People under chronic stress often change their eating habits, and many of them overeat. Psychological stress elevates circulating ghrelin, which stimulates a preference for calorie-rich “comfort” foods. These foods activate reward circuits, increasing dopamine and reducing stress-induced anxiety and depression.In our laboratory, we found that a high-fat diet protects against the deleterious effects of chronic stress. Fasting changes your microbiota, increasing levels of Akkermansia, a microbe known to encourage your gut to produce more mucus, providing greater protection from pathogens. Akkermansia is associated with a healthy gut and improved insulin sensitivity. Intermittent fasting and calorie restriction also increase levels of Lacto species with psychobiotic properties. When starting your gut healing journey try to monitor three or more things in your life that contribute to your health and mood the best: feelings of sadness or despair, feelings of nervousness or fear, sleep patterns, daily cycles of alertness, clarity of thought, ability to concentrate, changes in bowel movements, and changes in appetite or cravings. When talking about gut health we also have to talk about the many diseases of the gut. Up to 90 percent of people with IBS also experience depression or anxiety, making it clear that IBS is a disorder of the gut-brain axis. There might be a reason to try foods with a low insulin response to treat IBS. The microbiota is the number one culprit in these inflammatory diseases. Both UC and CD have been characterized by a reduction in Bifido and Lacto species, and treatment with probiotics has had encouraging results—but only in the quiescent stage, before the symptoms become virulent. When the disease becomes active, that situation reverses and there is an overgrowth of these species, so adding more only exacerbates the problem. Also unhelpful: In the last century, the government decided to recommend high levels of carbohydrates in the diet. A food pyramid was published and widely circulated that placed bread and pasta at the foundation of your diet. That was a bad decision based on bad science, but it has taken far too long to redress the error. Carbs are delicious, but they become deadly when the fiber is refined out. The microbiota of people with obesity is perversely efficient, squeezing the last bit of energy out of each morsel. That’s why your skinny friends don’t gain weight: Their bacteria are inefficient. People with obesity appear to have excess quantities of Bilophila, a family of bacteria that loves bile. Bile is necessary to digest meat and fats, two common mainstays of a weight-enhancing diet. But Bilophila also appears to secrete toxins that may, in turn, lead to chronic inflammation that can affect your mood. But exhortations to diet don’t lead to long-term success, likely because the complex system of hunger and satiety has been somehow compromised. Your gut microbes play a role in the health of your heart. A chemical called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) is known to contribute to atherosclerosis. When the gut microbiota processes meat, it may produce excess TMAO and thus increase your odds of getting heart disease. Those who suffer from CFS often have dysbiotic guts, including IBS. Their levels of Bifido are lower than normal. Modern processed foods were developed, for the most part, in the United States. We have a tradition going back only hundreds of years and resulting in a mixed, poorly vetted, inconsistent cuisine. The quintessential American food is the hot dog, a finely ground sausage of varying animal parts. We eat corn products like they are going out of style (they are not). As we spread our cheap treats around the world, Western diseases and obesity follow close behind. The diets we should strive for all have fiber and probiotics, the items most desirable for a well-balanced microbiota. Western food has lost both. Probiotic foods like sauerkraut have often been abandoned now that refrigeration is ubiquitous. Most store-bought fermented products such as sauerkraut are likely pasteurized, meaning that most of the microbes have been killed. Remember real food is king to a healthy gut and I hope the takeaways from this book have helped you and that you have learned something about your gut health.

Monday, May 2, 2022

The Gut-Brain Connection

 The Gut-Brain connection:

This week we’ll discuss the gut-brain connection as it involves mental health and the nervous system. We will also dive into a bit about inflammation (my favorite topic).

Your gut is wired to your brain through your spine and through your vagus nerve, but the vagus is the primary two-way communication channel for mood, so it’s the one we pay the most attention to when discussing psychobiotics. The bacteria in your gut both secrete and respond to neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin, and GABA, all which can have antidepressant properties in the brain. It’s likely that this is one of the primary ways gut bacteria influence your mood. Why do bacteria churn out so many neurotransmitters? One theory is that these bacteria want to control your cravings. But the cells lining the gut can also produce cytokines—which means that virtually every cell of the GI tract can trigger an immune response. Immune factors like fatty acids and cytokines activate microglia, the immune cells in the brain, which will fight pathogens but may also lead to anxiety or depression. Pathogenic microbes can encourage inflammation. The good news is that psychobiotic microbes will lower inflammation, either directly or indirectly, by helping to heal the gut lining that became inflamed. Acetylcholine plays a role in this healing. Stimulating the vagus nerve causes acetylcholine to be produced, which, along with cortisol, suppresses the immune system. Many bacteria, including Lacto species, can also produce acetylcholine, and they may thereby gain access to the powerful levers of the immune machine. They effectively inject themselves into your homeostatic system, and that is a major aspect of their psychobiotic effect. Your immune system has been using antibodies as if they were “Wanted” posters identifying foreign microbes. But under stress, the antibody traffic slows down—one of your immune system’s ways to conserve energy for the most essential tasks. That lowers the level of scrutiny, allowing pathogens to sneak through and gain a foothold. The hypothalamus is part of your limbic system—the ancient neurological circuitry shared by birds and crocodiles all the way up to mammals. It is central to your mood, motivation, hunger, and sleep. The hypothalamus is a cross between a brain and a gland, and it bridges the nervous system and the endocrine system. It can reach out past the blood brain barrier (BBB) with specialized nerve cells that sample your blood to detect signs of inflammation. These three organs—the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland—constitute the HPA axis, a primary network for communication between the gut and the brain. When inflammation is detected, the HPA axis releases cortisol, among other hormones, to respond to the stress. This response is instrumental in mood regulation, and many people with depression or anxiety have a problematic HPA axis. Fixing problems with this axis, we now understand, can be a way to relieve depression and anxiety. The biological imperative to stabilize the internal environment is called homeostasis, and it’s fundamental to all living creatures. Homeostasis is life pushing back, but it’s a moment-by-moment adjustment not designed for long-term engagements. The ultimate goal is to return to an optimal set point, which is done with negative feedback: When a signal is detected, the feedback quickly dampens it. Thus, chronic inflammation produces stress hormones indefinitely, leading to a surprising number of mental issues, including bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit disorder, depression, and anxiety. First the nervous system is alerted and your gut signals your brain through the vagus nerve. Then your immune system kicks in, battling the pathogens, but not without collateral damage. Finally your endocrine system is called upon to moderate your raging immune system. The circulation of lymph is entirely driven by body motion, so exercise is essential to lymphatic health. Sometimes your gut bacteria get into the action and set up defenses against pathogens. Lactobacillus reuteri, for example, can directly excite sensory neurons in the gut and influence peristalsis, typically to slow it down. L. reuteri can also dampen pain, with signals to the brain through the vagus that things are okay in the gut. Butyrate is another SCFA with a lot of benefits. It’s the preferred energy source for the cells lining your gut. It can also enter the brain, where it encourages brain growth factors and acts as an antidepressant. It’s all about balancing your microbiota. The nervous system uses neurotransmitters to communicate while the endocrine system uses hormones. Norepinephrine is a clear favorite of many. These molecules are stress hormones, called upon as part of the fight-or-flight response. Their job is to make you anxious and alert. Fight-or-flight reaction takes precedence over all other bodily functions. It subdues the gut and the immune system, which lowers your guard throughout your entire GI tract, potentially allowing pathogens to thrive. Stress can cause other physical and chemical changes in your gut. It can alter the levels of acids, mucus, and other intestinal secretions, disturbing the cozy environment your microbes have grown accustomed to. A different kind of stress is depression. When you get down to it, what is depression? Stripped to its essentials, it is almost indistinguishable from sickness behavior. Depression behavior likely has a long primal history of survival value by keeping you at home when you are sick. It may also conserve energy so that you can fight infection. In the modern world, however, where inflammatory triggers may be more prevalent—coming from stress, high-fat and high-sugar diets, and sedentary lifestyles—depression may no longer be a useful adaptation. Remember, probiotics are not a cure, but an ongoing therapy and gut issues can affect the brain, but the brain can also affect the gut.