Tag Archives: Probiotics

Digestion and Weight Gain

2014 Year of the Horse
2014 Year of the Horse

I occasionally read through veterinary catalogs for horse supplements.  These animals, worth up to millions of dollars get the best of care and often state of the art medicine before it percolates down to humans. Many herbal and nutritional supplements are described for effectiveness in terms that the FDA would prohibit for people -which tends to prevent good information from getting to us about how to use nutritional supplements.

As I was reading through the catalog it struck me that the weight-gain supplements contain some of the very same ingredients that are touted for weight loss in articles and ads all over the web.  What gives? Continue reading Digestion and Weight Gain

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Nutrition for Parkinson’s Disease- Part 1

Nutrition for Parkinson’s Disease has four components: What to Eat, What Not to Eat, Useful supplements and How to Eat, given symptoms of the disease.  This will be a four piece series.  Some of it is basic: the foods and superfoods that enrich the diet.  Some is specific to the typical complaints from either the disease, the medications and the often restrictive lifestyles that PD patients often adopt.   And the how-to acknowledges that the disease creates some physical problems that adaptive devices might help.

Mucuna in flower, source of L.Dopa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nutrition for Parkinson’s Disease Part 1:  Continue reading Nutrition for Parkinson’s Disease- Part 1

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H. Pylori Can Keep You Thin

This month’s Scientific American has an article on a subject close to my heart, “Your Inner Ecosystem.”  Only 10% of the DNA in our bodies is human.  In other articles I have advanced the idea that we are walking colonies of microbes, worms and fungi in a human superstructure, where ecological balance is the goal of health rather than purity.  That begs the question of which creatures might be pathogenic- I certainly don’t want ebola in my ecology. Not only doesn’t  it play well with my other creatures, but it is deadly.

Ebola is easy to classify.  However some organisms are difficult to classify.  Acidophilous is great in your gut, especially if you have difficulty assimilating nutrients but it can eat away at your teeth where you might prefer Streptococcus oralis.  There are benign E. coli strains, sold in Europe but not the USA as probiotics, which  tend to predominate in thin people while firmiciute bacteria like the Lactobaccili predominate in fat people and can make thin rats fat.  Even low level staph infections on the skin may crowd out nasty drug-resistant MRSA.

Heliobactor pylori is another example.  This bacteria increases acidity in the stomach, resulting in both the environment where it thrives and breakdown of food.  However in susceptible individuals, it causes ulcers.  When Dr. Martin Blaser, now professor of microbiology and internal medicine at NYU found H. pylori 25 years ago, he approached it as a simple pathogen causing ulcers- and with antibiotic treatment ulcer diagnoses have reduced by more than 50%.  But in 1998 he published research showing that in the vast majority of people H. pylori is beneficial, regulating the acidity of the stomach properly.  H. pylori was also linked to a reduction in adenocarcinomas.  In 2008 he found that H. pylori regulates ghrelin which tells your body to stop eating.  When ghrelin levels are high you become hungry.  After you eat -unless your H. pylori levels are low- ghrelin levels plummet.  In a study of 92 veterans treated with antibiotics to lower H. pylori for ulcers, gained weight in comparison to uninfected peers.  Lower H. pylori is also linked to higher diabetes rates.

Helicobacter Pylori, Stomach Biopsy, Giemsa Stain
Helicobacter Pylori, Stomach Biopsy, Giemsa Stain (Photo credit: euthman)

One of the curious things is that two or three generations ago something like 80% of children were hosts to H. pylori.  Now fewer than 6% of children have the appetite suppressing bacteria, perhaps because of broader-range antibiotics and the inclusion of antibiotics in meat production which could account for less exposure to seed the microbiota.  There is apparently preliminary information suggesting a second mechanism for this where antibiotics silence bacterial signalling for undifferentiated stem cells to make tissue other than fat.

The hygiene hypothesis also may affect the acquisition of H. pylori.  Water is cleaner.  Plant food trucked across the country may contain fewer live bacteria.  Increased C-section rates may prevent the transmission of a mother’s microbiota to the infant in the birth canal.  We have fewer commensal bacteria now altogether and H. pylori is a stunning example of the reduction of a bacteria that can help keep us thin.

However it appears that adding H. pylori may not be helpful once you are fat and possibly the age of acquisition is important.  In further experiments people who were obese and diabetic had higher levels of H. pylori.  Researchers think lowering H. pylori with antibiotics might help lower A1c levels in diabetics.   Is H. pylori exerting a U-shaped influence where too little and too much cause weight gain?  We don’t really know. In the human body with all its feedback loops, direct interventions work quite differently than in petri dishes.

Still, farmers have known for some time that adding antibiotics and increasing starchy feed is the best way to get animals fat for market.  When we do this to ourselves and our children, it should not surprise us if we get the same result.  While it is not a likely single cause of obesity and diabetes, its effect may be far from trivial.


Your Inner Ecosystem: Jennifer Ackerman  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ultimate-social-network-bacteria-protects-health

Endosymbiosis: Lynn Margulis http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/_0/history_24

Ecological and Evolutionary Forces Shaping Microbial Diversity in the Human Intestine http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0092867406001929

Gut Reaction: Environmental Effects on the Human Microbiota http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=2685866&blobtype=pdf

Immune Gene Evolution May Be Driven By Parasites http://www.dana.org/news/features/detail.aspx?id=22816

The Body Politic http://seedmagazine.com/content/print/the_body_politic/ (picture from this article.)

Gut Bacteria Do More Than Digest Food http://www.hhmi.org/bulletin/aug2010/features/gut_bacteria5.html

Swapping Germs:  Should fecal transplants become routine for debilitating diarrhea? Maryn McKenna  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=swapping-germs

See Also:

Our Symbionts, Ourselves

Chemicals and Obesity: What if if isn’t all your fault?

Why A Parasite Cleanse Can Make You Worse

Probiotics and Probiotic Foods

How to Make Miso

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Natural Remedies for Indigestion

stomach on FireThis is the season of holiday meals and parties, when indigestion raises its ugly head. There are a variety of causes and patterns, so not everyone will fit the same remedies. If you tend to feel excessive heat in your stomach and upward rising energy, go with cooling herbs like peppermint, gentian and artichoke leaf. If your stomach feels cold, unable to mount the fire to digest, Continue reading Natural Remedies for Indigestion

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Our Symbionts, Ourselves

Only 10% of the cells in our bodies are human.  Ponder that.  We BodyPolitic_HPhave easily a hundred trillion bacterial cells, not just in our gut but all over our body.  They make us work:  breaking down food into something we can assimilate, fighting infection, signaling our cellular processes, converting sunlight to Vitamin D, forming biofilms to protect us.   We have fungi that break down wastes, yeasts that ferment and transform extra sugars, worms that can prevent autoimmune disease.  Some of our bacteria themselves have viruses.  We are walking colonies of organisms in a human superstructure. Continue reading Our Symbionts, Ourselves

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Vinegar, lemon juice and lactic acid fermented fruits and vegetables can reduce blood sugar spikes, lower the glycemic index of foods being fermented and can cause weight loss. Information on how to make lactic acid fermented foods.

Vinegar, lemon juice and lactic acid fermented fruits and vegetables can reduce blood sugar spikes, lower the glycemic index of foods being fermented and can cause weight loss. Information on how to make lactic acid fermented foods.

January 29th 2005 – Acidic Foods, Fermentation and Blood Sugar
copyright by Karen S. Vaughan, L.Ac.,MSTOM

Eating acid foods- vinegar, lemon juice or lactic acid fermented foods- can reduce blood sugar spikes after meals, giving glycemic control comparable to Metformin. It has the greatest effect in people who are at risk of diabetes but still test within normal ranges. As such it is a good practice for all meals, and reflects traditional practices of most ethnicities.

Nutritionist Carol S. Johnston of Arizona State University East in Mesa has found that 2 tablespoons of vinegar before a meal can dramatically lower the increased insulin and blood sugar (glucose) levels that typically occur in people who have type 2 diabetes. In her study, she looked at 29 people divided into type 2 diabetics, diagnosed pre-diabetics, and a control with no signs of diabetes. Measuring blood levels after a high-carb breakfast, Johnston found that vinegar improved the readings for all 3 groups, but results were most dramatic among those who were prediabetic. In their case, vinegar cut their blood sugar increase in the first hour after eating by as much as half, a greater reduction than was found with normal participants. Diabetics lowered their blood glucose levels by 25% with the vinegar. The study was a crossover, placebo-controlled study.

In another study, Johnston had half the volunteers take a 2-tablespoon dose of vinegar prior to each of two meals daily for 4 weeks, and the other group members were told to avoid vinegar. Interestingly, the vinegar users had an average 2 pound weight loss over 4 weeks (as much as 4 weeks in some participants), compared to constant average weight in the group not drinking vinegar. There was no improvement in cholesterol, whcih was tested as a likely mechanism for the blood sugar control.

A 2001 paper from Lund University in Sweden evaluated pickles—cucumbers preserved in vinegar—as a dietary supplement to lower the blood-sugar rise in healthy people after a meal. The Swedish team, led by Elin M. Östman, reported that pickles dramatically blunted the blood-sugar spike after a high-carb breakfast. Fresh cucumbers didn’t affect the blood sugar spike.

Traditionally pickled vegetables like sauerkraut, pickles, olives, kimchee, and other lactic and acetic acid fermented foods were served with meals to improve digestion. The probiotic bacteria in these foods as well as the acetic acid can reduce digestive problems. Note that actual vinegar or pickled foods seem to do the trick but vinegar supplements don’t work, because they don’t contain acetic acid, which, based on studies, is the ingredient Johnstons suspects is helping control blood sugar. (1)

Fermented foods also reduce blood glucose levels. The natural fermentation of starch and sugars by a yeast starter culture that produces lactic and propionic acid is what makes sourdough bread. In a third study the glycemic index of sourdough bread was 68 compared 100 for non-sourdough bread. Cornmeal loses 88% of its glycemic index when fermented into the Ghanain dish ga kenkey. Fermented vegetables are a traditional component of Korean, Japanese and traditional European cooking.

Rick Mendoza’s site quotes a woman who tried lactic acid fermentation (fermentation with whey instead of vinegar) of beets and apples and recorded their effect on her mother’s blood sugar after 2 hours. Normally beets and apples will cause her blood sugar to spike, but when fermented they had no effect on the blood sugar. The fermented apples were cooked into apple sauce and did not cause a sugar spike either. (2)

Other acids are believed to be similarly effective. Lemon or lime juice in water can reduce blood glucose, according to Professor Jennie-Brand Miller of the University of Sydney, author of the glycemic index. (3) Kombucha is a vinegar made by fermenting tea and sugar with a gelatinous “mushroom” mother culture drunk for health reasons and its benefits may be due to similar mechanisms.

Note that taking vinegar in salad dressing, over meat or in pickled food may be perferable to the taste of drinking vinegar.  However I routinely drink blueberry or balsamic vinegar diluted in a cup of water and the taste is not objectionable.   Lemon or lime juice in water before breakfast is excellent for the liver and may be more readily accepted in the morning.

Sally Fallon’s excellent cookbook, Nourishing Traditions (4) describes making lactic acid fermented vegetables or fruits which will convert the starches and sugars of fruits and vegetables into lactic acid and creates beneficial enzymes.  The lactobacilli are ubiquitous, present on all living things, especially on leaves and roots. However with our long term transportation of food, it is better to add the whey drained from live plain yogurt.

Chop the vegetables and lay in a clean mason jar. Add 2 Tablespoons whey and 2 teaspoons sea salt per cup of water. Fill to within an inch of the top of the jar and tightly cap as lactic acid fermentation is an anerobic process. Leave in a warm room for two days, then move to cold storage. The vegetables can be eaten at once but develop better flavor in 2 months. They are meant to be eaten as condiments rather than as main courses. Don’t worry about white scum or foam which may form on the top. If a batch goes bad it will smell so bad that nothing could persuade you to eat it.

If the vegetables get soft, throw them into a soup stock made with bones from organic meat and boil down to make the mineral-rich gelled stock that helps prevent blood sugar spikes and lowers the glycemic index of the carbohydrates that accompany it. The acid will help pull the gelatin out of the bones and the minerals from the vegetables.

(1) http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20050101/food.asp
(2) http://www.mendosa.com/acidic_foods.htm
(3)Brand-Miller, Jennie, Kaye Foster-Powell, and David Mendosa. “What is the advantage of vinegar, lemon juice, and sourdough bread?” in What Makes My Blood Glucose Go Up…and Down? New York: Marlowe & Company, 2003, p. 141-2.
This is by far the most extensive discussion of the advantage of acidic foods in the popular literature
(4) Fallon, Sally, Enig, Mary and Connolly,Pat. Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. San Diego: ProMotion Publishing. pp81-109
Contact Member:
Acupuncture and Herbs by Karen Vaughan, L.Ac.
253 Garfield Place 1R
Brooklyn, NY 11215 US
(718) 622-6755

Rick Mendoza, Sally Fallon

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