TAG | Probiotics
Fermented foods are on my mind today. Yes, I’m glad to see that there’s an article about their health attributes written about them nearly every day. In contrast, it’s interesting to me how often I’m asked if my recent eating plan, Skinny Gut Diet, can “work” if a person doesn’t like fermented foods. Someone just the other day posed that in our Facebook support group.
When I created Skinny Gut Diet – even though the word “diet” is in the title, I envisioned this program much more as an eating plan – for life. And the reason fermented foods were included was their incredible health benefits.
Having been such a strong advocate of probiotics for so long, I’ve been fermenting in many different ways for decades. So my answer to the question was – if you are only interested in “losing” weight – eliminating processed carbs, increasing good fats, regular protein intake, essentially following the 3 rules of Skinny Gut Diet, will certainly direct you to reach your goal. By the way, Rule #2 is “eat living foods daily”. “Living foods” includes both non-starchy vegetables as well as fermented offerings, so you can understand how weight loss might result, even sans fermented goodies.
What’s important to understand in the bigger picture of creating a life of vibrant health is – omitting fermented products will negate an easy and affordable way to balance your gut with good probiotics. Those helpful microbes support stronger immunity and detox capabilities for your body.
In my newsletter recently I wrote about my granddaughters, and how varied their palate is due to the fact that they had only been offered healthy foods to eat since birth. Fermented foods like sauerkraut were among their choices, and they now love them.
It’s clearly a matter of “palate conditioning”. And if you don’t enjoy fermented foods, listen up – it’s not just about pickles and sauerkraut at all!
I know – it’s the sour taste you just don’t like. Well there are recipes that include some sweet aspects that persist even through the fermentation process. My friend Donna Schwenk offers this one – Cultured Broccoli Salad in a Jar. The grapes retain much of their sweetness, probably because the outer skins are left intact. Really yummy.
And I look at it this way. If the requirement for a sweeter taste is what’s blocking you from fermented foods, and you’re eating sweet stuff anyway in other foods, then when you prepare your fermented foods, add in a bit of sweetener. Isn’t it better to eat something sweet that contains wonderful probiotics too, than just something sweet made with other forms of carbs?
Another friend of mine has a recipe for Pickled (fermented) Beets that she makes. Everyone loves it! One day I asked her for the recipe and was somewhat dismayed to learn that she adds in a bit of sugar AFTER the fermentation process. No wonder it was so delicious. Although personally I didn’t eat the beets again quite as voraciously, it occurs to me that for those of you who have that sour aversion, this could be an option. You just need to calculate approximately that added sugar when you’re noting it in your daily food journal.
And don’t forget the option of kefir! Did you know that milk kefir contains 35-50 different strains of bacteria? Now that’s diversity.
Kefir can be added to everything from coleslaw to pudding. Here’s a great recipe we include in Skinny Gut Diet for kefir ice cream! Imagine that favorite treat – guilt-free! And remember to substitute zero-calorie sweeteners like erythritol or stevia for at least 2/3 of the regular sweetener suggested in other dessert recipes. This will lower your sugar count considerably.
Also consider kombucha. It’s now available even in grocery store chains. Kombucha offers you the gut balancing good yeast called S. boulardii. Often store-bought kombucha can be a bit too sweet, so limit this, or dilute it a bit. Your label is your guide, so be sure to check it out.
If you’re not a kitchen type, no worries. I simply can’t believe that you won’t find a recipe you will learn to love right here. The great news about fermenting is that the bacteria do the work for you. Yours is a simple assembly job. Couple that with a dash of willingness to experiment – for the good of your own gut – and I’ll bet you’ll be eating fermented foods in no time. Palate diversity is a very good thing.
Constipation may not be a topic you’d choose for daily conversation, but it’s really nothing to be embarrassed about. We’ve all experienced it at one time or another – and we realize how debilitating it can become. Although in our society, the medical professionals still say that 3 bowel movements weekly is “normal” – let me tell you, you don’t want to be “normal”. A healthy human being should eliminate daily. And it’s the same for our faithful canine companions.
Dogs also suffer from constipation. If your dog is showing signs of having trouble eliminating, take him to the vet to make sure there is not an underlying condition. If there’s not a physical problem, then it’s up to us, and what we provide as owners, to help our dogs eliminate better.
Dogs show signs of being constipated by straining to defecate – with small volume expelled. You may notice hard bowel movements. As I mentioned, dogs need to eliminate everyday to be healthy. They may also look bloated and/or show signs of pain when attempting to defecate. Lack of appetite or even depression could be a sign of toxic buildup or discomfort due to constipation. Be sure to notice any differences in color or texture.
Well, what exactly can we do at home to help our dogs? Making sure they eat a good diet with moist food – not just dry food – is a must. Supply your pet with plenty of clean water and exercise.
Certain supplements have also been shown to help. Just like people, dogs need the good bacteria from probiotics to balance their guts and help with regularity. Choose a supplement that is potent enough to make a difference – at least 20 billion cultures per serving (whether in pill or powder) and containing 10 different strains of lactobacillus and bifido bacteria. Dogs have many of the same strains of good bacteria in their gut as their owners so providing them with a high culture count and multi strain supplement is as important for them as it is for us.
Here’s another important tip that many may not know – Omega 3s, which vets suggest for many other problems in dogs like kidney, heart and joint diseases, is also very effective in relieving constipation. A high dose omega blend of EPA and DHA totaling about 750mg of total omega3 is best.
Chances are good that you regularly clean up as your dog eliminates. That poop helps you to notice any changes that may be occurring in your pet’s health. Our dogs are so willing to give us unconditional love – and we enjoy it thoroughly! However they depend on us totally for their digestive needs. Let’s make sure they have the same opportunities for vital health that we do!
Statistics show constipation in humans is an extremely common and sometimes very expensive issue. Too often people end up in the doctor’s office or emergency room when the problem becomes painful or even potentially dangerous due to the fact there could be a blockage of some kind.
Well, our dogs and cats can have the same problem with constipation, even though diarrhea is seen more often in pets.
I’ll bet most loving pet owners pay more attention to how their animals poop then they do to their own poop – an interesting thought in itself.
What is the very first thing a vet will ask you when you take your animal in for a problem or an exam? “How are they pooping?” Right? Wouldn’t it be great if our human doctors asked us that on our regular check-ups? Most doctors haven’t been trained to consider it very important. I’ll sadly tell you that from lots of experience.
Back to our pets. Let’s start with cats. Cats should poop every single day. If you are disciplined about cleaning out that litter box you will be able to monitor this easily. Their poop should be brown, formed (not loose) and soft and moist enough for the litter to stick to it. Simple enough. If this is not happening then your cat is constipated.
Not every cat is going to let you know if they are uncomfortable because they are constipated. People will think it’s normal for their cat to go once every 2 or 3 days! Cats, like humans, are supposed to detox through their poop – every day.
So if you believe your cat is constipated, first take them to the vet to be checked. It’s important to make sure there is not a blockage or serious problem. After that, it’s time to consider some steps you can take at home to help remedy the problem.
The biggest issue with cats and constipation is dehydration, so make sure your cat is eating a moisture rich food. Did you know that cats are designed to get the majority of the water they need from what they eat? Actually 70-75%. Studies show that generally a dry food diet may not be the best choice for your cats. They won’t realize they need to make up the moisture difference by drinking more water. It’s impossible to force them to drink more water than they normally desire. Of course, be sure they have plenty of fresh, clean water available at all times so they can drink when they’re thirsty.
Natural remedies for constipation are as effective and safe as those made for humans. The addition of aloe vera juice into your cat’s food may be very helpful.
Perhaps one of the best solutions is to increase the good bacteria in your cat’s digestive tract with probiotics. Make sure you choose a probiotic that is formulated specifically for cats. Just like in people cats need a high potency probiotic with at least 10 strains.
Using a powdered probiotic that can be added to your cat’s food makes supplementing with probiotics effortless. I’m sure you’ve experienced how interesting (or impossible) it can be in many cases to persuade your cat to take a pill. A powdered form removes that issue all together.
I’ll bet you’re relieved to know that there is so much that can be done to help your feline friends should they suffer from constipation. I can say with sincerity, having suffered from it myself and having worked to help countless others – you just feel miserable. We certainly don’t want our loving pets to live in misery, as they bring us so much JOY!!!!
Let’s help them out.
04/2/15 0 Comments | Posted by Brenda Watson in Adults, Antibiotics, Cleansing, Diabetes, Dogs - Pets, Environmental Toxins, General, Human Microbiome, Immune System, Mental Health, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Supplements
For many years I have written about the benefit of probiotics on our health. In my early years, working in a Natural Health Clinic that offered total health solutions, I experienced first hand the great effects probiotics have on people. I worked one on one with many who were trying to reverse health conditions naturally or in conjunction with traditional medicine. In my own practice as well as throughout the clinic our goal was to assist people in detoxification of their bodies. These cleansing practices were found effective in prevention of disease, as well as in supporting the healing of many conditions that traditional medicine had not been able to solve.
In our Clinic this was accomplished with modalities like massage, sauna, herbs, colon hydrotherapy, juice fasting and nutrition. During this period of time probiotics were a vital part of my practice. My specialty was the digestive system (I’ll bet you might have guessed!) and I was performing colonics as well as suggesting herbal remedies and teaching good nutrition. So in this way very early on, through practical application, I observed over and over how probiotics could greatly improve people’s health.
Now let’s fast forward to today – many years later! We have entered the age of the study of the Human Microbiome (fancy name for gut population) and its effects on human health and disease. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has supported this so scientists can have the funding to study all aspects of bacteria, both in and on our bodies. Almost daily we can read more research studies touting the benefits of probiotics on everything from GI problems to anxiety and depression. As new studies have come forth, we have even offered many of them to you on this blog.
Since we have trillions of bacteria and over 180 different strains of bacteria in our guts, we now fully realize two important things – how critical it is to replenish our good bacteria if we want to be healthy, and also just what type of probiotic supplement our bodies need most – one that is high potency (meaning a high culture count) and that also contains many different good bacterial strains.
BUT – have we forgotten about the digestive systems of our babies? Those wonderful animals that keep us company, are always excited to see us and never criticize us for our shortcomings? Gosh I hope not.
Come to find out these guys (dogs and cats) need probiotics just like we do. In fact their digestive systems take a beating from antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and toxins just like ours do. Actually they are finding that the gut bacteria of the animals we live with actually mimic ours, having many of the same bacteria – even though there are certain strains that are specific to animals.
I interviewed Dr. Rob Knight who is a scientist studying the gut microbiome and founded The American Gut Project. These scientists actually analyze stool samples (for a fee) from anyone, and they will accept your animal’s sample as well. Dr. Knight explained to me that he can take samples from humans and match them to their dog by simply comparing their bacterial composition, without knowing anything else about them. He can literally match owners with their dogs through their similarities of bacteria!
Even though “official” research is beginning to demonstrate that dogs and cats derive many health benefits from probiotics, Stan and I and countless other dog owners and vets have already experienced that high dose, multi-strain probiotics can help pets with digestive upsets like vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation, skin issues – the list goes on. For cats and dogs, a healthy population of gut bacteria is vital for gut health, and just like with their humans, plays a critical role in removing toxins, enhancing digestion and out-competing many strains of disease causing microorganisms.
In conclusion, I know I am going to make sure my animals have the benefit of quality probiotics – ones made especially for cats and dogs – with at least 20 billion cultures per capsule and 10 different probiotic strains.
In this simple way we can provide our animals a much better chance of keeping their health on the right track — so that we have them around longer to love!!! YEA!!!
Scientists are hard at work researching the effects of probiotics and prebiotics on metabolic abnormalities such as those seen in people with diabetes and related conditions. A recent study published in the journal Diabetes highlights the effects of a Lactobacillus probiotic on blood sugar levels. The researchers engineered the Lactobacillus strain to secrete glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). Glucagon-like peptide-1 is normally produced in the small intestine and stimulates insulin release to lower blood glucose levels.
People with diabetes are either unable to produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin (insulin resistance) due to an overabundance of insulin produced in response to continually high blood sugar levels (type 2 diabetes).
In an animal model, the GLP-1–producing probiotic induced the conversion of intestinal lining cells so that they would produce insulin, much like beta cells found in the pancreas. “It’s moving the center of glucose control from the pancreas to the upper intestine,” noted John March, PhDlead researcher. The probiotic reduced blood sugar levels in diabetic rats by up to 30 percent.
This proof-of-concept study will need to be followed up with more study to determine dosage, and later in humans to determine efficacy, but it shows promise that we might soon be able to better control blood glucose levels by targeting the site of glucose absorption.
Some evidence in humans does exist, however. For example, a recent human study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that people who ate a high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet and also drank a probiotic fermented milk experienced less insulin resistance than those individuals who did not drink the probiotic milk.
Brenda and I have talked at length, here on the blog and also in our books, about the importance of gut bacterial balance to weight management. Having the wrong microbes in your gut predisposes you to weight gain, the topic of our last book, The Skinny Gut Diet. Following this line of thinking, researchers have tested the effects of pre- and probiotics on a range of metabolic abnormalities in humans. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Clinical Nutrition found that prebiotics and synbiotics (prebiotics plus probiotics) had a beneficial effect on a range of metabolic abnormalities in overweight or obese adults.1
Remember that prebiotics are compounds—usually soluble fibers—that act as food for the beneficial gut bacteria. They help to increase the levels or activity of the beneficial bacteria in the gut.
The analysis included 513 overweight or obese adult participants from thirteen different clinical trials. Nine of the trials administered prebiotics, and four of the trials administered synbiotics. The prebiotics were mostly inulin-type fibers at doses ranging from 5.5 to 21 grams per day, while the synbiotics were composed of a maximum of 2.5 grams of the prebiotic FOS (fructooligosaccharide) along with 270 million to 5 billion cultures of Bifidobacterium, and/or Lactobacillus, and/or Streptococcus probiotic bacteria daily.
Prebiotic supplementation was found to reduce total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) concentrations, while also reducing triglycerides and increasing HDL-cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) in participants with diabetes. Synbiotic supplementation was found to reduce fasting insulin and triglyceride levels.
“The supplementation of prebiotics or synbiotics could take part in the management of obesity-related comorbidities, such as dyslipidemia and insulin resistance.”
Some of the studies reported abdominal symptoms such as bloating, pain, and nausea, but they also noted improvement of symptoms during the supplementation and no withdrawal of participants from the studies, which the researchers believe is due to an adaptation period. Some people have difficulty tolerating inulin-derived prebiotics (including FOS), which are fermented in the digestive tract to a high degree and can trigger symptoms.
The authors of the review did not look at the effects of taking probiotics alone for some reason. Previous studies administering fermented milk and yogurt containing probiotics have found beneficial effects on cholesterol levels.2 Another study found that a high-dose, multistrain probiotic reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL-cholesterol, as well as increased HDL-cholesterol in overweight adults.3 More studies are needed to determine the effects of probiotics alone on metabolic abnormalities in overweight and obese adults.
The really good news is whether you take prebiotics, synbiotics, or just probiotics, they all seem to have a significant benefit on mitigating metabolic syndrome (high cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides, insulin, blood sugar, and blood pressure, and low HDL, along with increased waist size). Metabolic syndrome is now the world’s greatest health challenge.
Since fiber is critical, it would be wise to eat an 80%+ plant-based diet or at least take prebiotics in addition to probiotics. As we have stated many times: Taking beneficial bacteria plus prebiotic fibers leads to major benefits in immune balance by modulating inflammation. In other words, you will have appropriate inflammation if attacked by an infection, but not the inflammation that is the foundation of metabolic syndrome, autoimmunity, allergies and most all disease conditions.
Start out slow with these products and increase gradually. If there is too much gas, bloating, or abdominal discomfort, stop for a few days and start back on a lower dose. You wouldn’t think of doing a marathon without training, likewise it may take time and persistence to retrain your intestinal response to good bacteria and fiber. Those on an 80 percent or more plant-based diet usually adapt quicker since they are already eating plenty of fiber, the foods preferred by beneficial bacteria.
- Beserra BTS, Fernandes R, do Rosario VA, et al., “A systematic review and meta-analysis of the prebiotics and synbiotics effects on glycaemia, insulin concentrations and lipid parameters in adult patients with overweight or obesity.” Clin Nutr. 2014; online ahead of print.
- Pereira DI and Gibson GR, “Effects of consumption of probiotics and prebiotics on serum lipid levels in humans.” Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 2002;37(4):259-81.
- Rajkumar H, Mahmood N, Kumar M, et al., “Effect of probiotic (VSL#3) and omega-3 on lipid profile, insulin sensitivity, inflammatory markers, and gut colonization in overweight adults: a randomized, controlled trial.” Mediators Inflamm. 2014;2014:348959.
Only over the last century have humans been exposed to such a huge alteration in the sleep-wake cycle that, previously, was dependent only upon the revolution of the earth in relation to the sun. With the advent of lighting and airplanes, the rhythms of daily life have changed for most of us, and have changed drastically for some of us who engage in shiftwork or who travel great distances on a regular basis via plane.
Might these alterations of daily life have an effect on the microbes living within our guts? And if so, might those alterations play a role on our health? Researchers from the Weismann Institute of Science set out to find the answers to these questions. In a study published in the journal Cell, the scientists determined that yes, disruptions in daily cycles do have an impact on gut bacterial composition and function, and those alterations trigger obesity and other metabolic abnormalities.
Shift workers and frequent flyers, especially those who cross numerous time zones on a regular basis, are more likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and infections. The scientists wondered if gut microbes play a role.
The researchers first used an animal model to determine whether alterations in day-night cycles play a role on gut microbes. They found that changes in day-night cycles, powered by the circadian clock, triggered changes in gut microbial composition and function. Sixty percent of the gut microbe composition was altered (dysbiosis) in those mice who experienced a change in day-night cycle. They determined that these alterations were the result of an altered feeding schedule, and that they could be reversed by reverting to a feeding schedule that mimicked the normal day-night cycle.
Next, the researchers determined that these fluctuations of the gut microbiota triggered metabolic abnormalities such as fat accumulation and glucose intolerance (simply put, high blood sugar), which were ameliorated after administration of antibiotics, confirming the fact that the gut microbe dysbiosis was responsible for the metabolic abnormalities.
To test these effects in humans, they analyzed the gut microbes of two adults over the course of several days and found similar fluctuations in composition and function. Next, they analyzed stool of two adults who took a flight from the United States to Israel. They tested stool before the flight, 24 hours after the flight (jet lag), and two weeks after the flight. They found dysbiosis of the gut microbes under conditions of jet lag when compared to before the flight or two weeks after. Interestingly, they also found an abundance of the Firmicutes bacteria, which have been linked to obesity and metabolic abnormalities in humans.2
To take the study yet one step further, they transplanted stool from the dysbiotic, jet lagged humans into the digestive tracts of mice without gut microbes and found that those mice gained more weight and body fat and had higher blood sugar levels compared to mice that received stool from the individuals before and after being jet lagged.
“Our inner microbial rhythm represents a new therapeutic target that may be exploited in future studies to normalize the microbiota in people whose lifestyle involves frequent alterations in sleep patterns, hopefully to reduce or even prevent their risk of developing obesity and its complications,” noted the researchers. They recommend that “probiotic or antimicrobial therapy may be tested as potential new preventive or therapeutic approaches.”
Another recent study from the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found an increased risk of ulcerative colitis in people who get less than six hours of sleep per night. Ulcerative colitis is a severe digestive disease that involves inflammation of the colon and has been linked to gut bacterial imbalance. The results of this study are not surprising, given what we have just learned about the effects of the sleep-wake cycle.
The adverse health effects of sleep deprivation are widespread. Perhaps one day we will be able to combat these effects by improving our gut microbes without having to alter our poor sleep habits. Time and more research will tell.
- Thaiss CA, Zeevi D, Levy M, et al., “Transkingdom control of microbiota diurnal oscillations promotes metabolic homeostasis.” Cell. 23 Oct 2014;159(3):514–29.
- Ley RE, Turnbaugh PJ, Klein, et al., “Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity.” Nature. 2006 Dec 21;444(7122):1022–3.
- Ridaura VK, Faith JJ, Rey FE, et al., “Gut microbiota from twins discordant for obesity modulate metabolism in mice.” Science. 2013 Sep 6;341(6150):1241214.
- Ananthakrishnan AN, Khalili H, Konijeti GG, et al., “Sleep duration affects risk for ulcerative colitis: A prospective cohort study.” Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014 Apr 26.
The liver is the body’s powerhouse of detoxification. The main function of the liver is to filter blood that comes directly from the intestines to the liver via the portal vein. The health of the liver, therefore, is very much dependent on the health of the gut. The intestinal lining is the main interface between the immune system and the external environment, and the health of the intestinal lining is determined by its balance of bacteria. When gut bacteria are out of balance, the intestinal lining can become damaged. As a result, a higher amount of toxins are able to pass through the lining and into the bloodstream, accessing the immune system as they travel directly to the liver for processing.
Because of the close proximity and intimate relationship between the gut and the liver, conditions that affect the liver are being increasingly linked to gut bacterial disturbances. There are two main ways in which researchers believe that gut bacteria contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), as discussed in a recent review paper published in the Journal of Functional Foods:
- Increased production of ethanol (alcohol) by gut bacteria2
- Increased absorption of bacterial toxins (such as lipopolysaccharide, or LPS)3
These toxins trigger inflammation in the liver via upregulation (increase) of immune function, which initiates the development of NAFLD. These toxins more readily flow to the liver under three main conditions, all known to be contributing risk factors of NAFLD:
- Leaky gut (increased intestinal permeability)
- Small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a form of dysbiosis in which bacteria from the colon back up into the small intestine and overgrow.
- Bacterial translocation, or the migration of bacteria from the gut through the intestinal lining and into the mesenteric lymph nodes, where they trigger inflammation that reaches the liver.
To reverse or prevent the harmful effects of gut bacterial disturbances on the liver, probiotic administration has been suggested. The researchers note the following possible mechanisms by which probiotics can improve NAFLD:
- Decreased inflammation
- Decreased SIBO
- Immune system regulation
- Decreased LPS production
- Decreased bacterial translocation
An important function of probiotics is the protection of the intestinal lining. This function explains the protective functions of these beneficial bacteria. In a human clinical trial, patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)—a condition that often follows NAFLD—received a multi-strain, high-dose probiotic and were found to have significant decreases in inflammation and improvements in levels of the liver enzyme aminotransferase.4 In another uncontrolled trial on the same probiotic formula, NAFLD and alcoholic cirrhosis patients experienced decreased inflammation and lipid peroxidation.5 In another clinical trial, the probiotics Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus supplementation resulted in improved liver aminotransferase levels in people with NAFLD.6
“Probiotics, as safe and effective compounds, have the potential to influence gut barrier functions and immune cell regulations resulting in liver health improvements,” noted the researchers.
Due to the scarcity of treatments available for NAFLD, probiotics are a promising option. More studies are needed to further pinpoint just how the probiotics exert their benefits in people with fatty liver disease.
- Mohammedmoradi S, Javidan A, and Kordi J, “Boom of probiotics: This time non-alcoholic fatty liver disease—A mini review.” J Functional Foods. 2014 Nov;11:30–35.
- Compare D, Coccoli P, Rocco A, et al., “Gut—liver axis: the impact of gut microbiota on non alcoholic fatty liver disease.” Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2012 Jun;22(6):471–6.
- Vanni E and Bugianesi E, “The gut-liver axis in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: Another pathway to insulin resistance?” Hepatology. 2009 Jun;49(6):1790–2.
- Loquicercio C, De Simone T, Fe3derico A, et al., “Gut-liver axis: a new point of attack to treat chronic liver damage?” Am J Gastroenterol. 2002 Aug;97(8):2144–6.
- Loquicercio C, Federico A, Tuccillo C, et al., “Beneficial effects of a probiotic VSL#3 on parameters of liver dysfunction in chronic liver diseases.” J Clin Gastroenterol. 2005 Jul;39(6):540–3.
- Aller R, DeLuis DA, Izaola O, et al., “Effect of a probiotic on liver aminotransferases in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients: a double blind randomized clinical trial.” Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2011 Sep;15(9):1090–5.
Early life is a critical development period in many respects, and particularly as it relates to gut microbial composition. Even before birth, gut microbes are transferred from mother to fetus, a transfer that continues during birth and later via breast milk. Once established, gut microbes in the infant play a protective role on the infant’s health.
A disturbance of gut microbial balance during early development has been linked to obesity. Epidemiological studies have found that exposure to antibiotics during infancy can lead to weight gain later in life.1-3 Animal studies have confirmed this link and determined that low-dose antibiotics administered after weaning lead to an increased fat mass, altered metabolic hormones, liver metabolism, and microbiota composition.4
A recent study published in the journal Cell followed up this research and confirmed that the increased fat mass was the result of changes in gut bacteria and not to the antibiotic itself.5 Low-dose penicillin was administered either to the mother before birth and then to mouse pups until weaning, or they were administered to pups after weaning. In both cases, alterations in gut bacterial balance occurred, but they fully recovered after antibiotics were stopped. On the other hand, metabolic changes occurred that persisted into adulthood. Increased growth, which included lean mass, fat mass, bone mass, or a combination were induced by the antibiotic exposure. In addition, decreases were found in four main bacteria: Lactobacillus, Allobaculum, Rikenellaceae, and Candidatus arthromitus. Finally, a decrease in intestinal immune responses and impaired intestinal barrier function were found, which may help explain how bacteria might trigger metabolic dysfunction.
To confirm that these metabolic effects were the result of microbial alterations, the researchers transplanted feces from the obese mice into germ-free mice who inherited the altered gut microbes and went on to gain fat mass in a similar manner. They proposed the term microbe-induced obesity (MIO) as a condition of increased fat accumulation that results from alterations in gut bacteria. This study suggests that losses of the four bacteria are detrimental when they occur (Lactobacillus, Allobaculum, Rikenellaceae, and Candidatus) during the critical developmental period of early infancy.
“These four organisms have either metabolic and/or immunologic interactions, which may contribute to the observed protection from weight gain in the control animals,” noted the researchers.
“This highlights a need for judicious use of antibiotics in clinical practice in early life,” noted Martin Blaser, MD, lead researcher and author of the eye-opening book Missing Microbes. Brenda and I discuss some of his research in our new book, The Skinny Gut Diet.
Microbe-induced obesity in conjunction with diet-induced obesity (because the two go hand in hand as we discuss in our book) are a sure set up for difficult-to-lose weight gain. This was confirmed by feeding a high-fat diet to the mice given low-dose penicillin, in which they found an amplified increase in fat mass. The researchers suggest that restoration of lost microbes after antibiotic use during infancy as a potential strategy to reverse MIO and its related effects.
It is clear to me that pre- and probiotics during pregnancy will prove to be a major way to ensure that the immune system and intestinal lining of the fetus will optimally develop, which may negate the need for antibiotics, for the most part. In the event that there is a need for antibiotics, I think it will soon become standard of care to place everyone who is taking antibiotics on probiotics to maintain microbiome stability. Probiotics can provide high colony count numbers with increased species of commensal bacteria to block the emergence and dominance of pathogenic bacteria that can spell disaster.
Further studies are needed to confirm these effects in humans, and to determine what species are key to the prevention of weight gain in later life.
- Ajslev TA, Andersen CS, Gamborg M, et al., “Childhood overweight after establishment of the gut microbiota: the role of delivery mode, pre-pregnancy weight and early administration of antibiotics.” Int J Obes (Lond). 2011 Apr;35(4):522–9.
- Murphy R, Stewart AW, Braithwaite I, et al., “Antibiotic treatment during infancy and increased body mass index in boys: an international cross-sectional study.” Int J Obes (Lond). 2014 Aug;38(8):1115–9.
- Trasande L, Blustein J, Liu M, et al., “Infant antibiotic exposures and early-life body mass.” Int J Obes (Lond). Jan 2013; 37(1): 16–23.
- Cho I, Yamanishi S, Cox L, et al., “Antibiotics in early life alter the murine colonic microbiome and adiposity.” Nature. 2012 Aug 30;488(7413):621–6.
- Cox LM, Yamanishi S, Sohn J, et al., “Altering the intestinal microbiota during a critical developmental window has lasting metabolic consequences.” Cell. 2014 Aug 14;158(4):705–21.
One out of every three adults has high blood pressure (hypertension), yet only about half of them have their blood pressure under control. Another one out of three adults has prehypertension, which means that they are on their well on their way to joining the first group. With two-thirds of American adults suffering from hypertension or prehypertension, the search is on for effective ways to lower blood pressure.
A recent systematic review and meta-analysis published in the American Medical Association journal Hypertension found that probiotics are an effective means of lowering blood pressure. The researchers analyzed nine studies that included 543 participants and found that probiotic consumption lowered systolic blood pressure by 3.56 and diastolic blood pressure by 2.38 mm Hg when compared to those adults who did not take probiotics.
The blood pressure lowering effects were even stronger in people taking higher doses of probiotics and when they were taken for a period of at least eight weeks. They also found greater effect from consuming multiple rather than single strains of probiotics. These findings suggest that taking a high-dose, multi-strain probiotic for a longer duration is more effective at lowering blood pressure.
“We believe probiotics might help lower blood pressure by having other positive effects on health, including improving total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol; reducing blood glucose and insulin resistance; and by helping to regulate the hormone system that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance,” stated Jing Sun, PhD, lead researcher.
The reduction of blood pressure in this analysis, although modest, is similar to that found in another analysis of salt reduction of 2,000 mg daily. Even modest blood pressure reductions are beneficial, however, and have been associated with a 22 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular death, heart attack, or stroke.
The benefits of probiotics for conditions outside the gut are growing at a rapid pace. This new analysis is excellent evidence that what happens in your gut affects the rest of your body. Keep taking your probiotics.