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Whoa.... a recent study examined food microbiomes (community of microbes) of some foods and found that the foods contained many species of microbes - hundreds of species! The foods examined were a variety of masala spice mixes, cilantro, smoked salmon, cucumbers, and mung bean sprouts. Other studies have also found large numbers of bacterial species in all sorts of foods, including raw fruits and vegetables, cheeses, and fermented foods, such as kimchi. There are also bacterial differences between conventional and organic foods. No wonder it's good to eat a diverse diet - all those microbes that you're ingesting! A diverse gut microbial community in humans is considered healthy by researchers.

The researchers (all associated with the US FDA - Food and Drug Administration) looked at the bacterial "species richness" (number of different bacterial species) normally found on the 5 types of foods. They used modern genetic sequencing methods to analyze the food microbiomes and found a LOT of bacterial species ("high bacterial diversity"), as well as species unique to the different foods sampled - whether animal or plant based foods. They found not only beneficial species, but also species associated with food spoilage. Every food had some bacteria that could eventually lead to food spoilage (which makes sense - eventually all foods can spoil). Also, how the food was handled and packaged, as well as moisture levels, influenced the bacterial species found in the foods.

The masala spice mixes were especially rich in bacterial species (from from 968 to 1097) and in unique species (19), but the mixes also contained as many as 17 ingredients. Cucumbers had between 227 and 423 bacterial species, and 216 to 573 species for cilantro. Smoked salmon samples had fewer species - ranging from 89 to 181 species. An example of the diversity is that the cucumber microbiome is comprised of species within Proteobacteria (45 to 85%), Firmicutes (2 to 40%), Actinobacteria (8 to 31%), and Bacteroidetes (0 to 2%).

I don't know if one can ever replenish all the bacteria lost from years of antibiotics (e.g. for sinus infections - both chronic and acute sinusitis), but this is a good reason to eat a variety of foods - for all the species of bacteria. These bacterial species are not found in general probiotic pills - one must eat the foods to ingest the variety and richness of microbes. The researchers wrote: "Once established, the most likely source of new microbes joining our GI microbiome is the food we eat: each food stuff and commodity we consume likely contains a microbiome that passes through our bodies while nutritional ingredients and components are digested."

It is unknown how many of these microbes stick around in our body, but lots of research finds that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, some fish and meat (including poultry), some dairy - are beneficial to our gut microbiome, along with numerous health benefits. The fiber in these foods is also beneficial in that it feeds beneficial microbes. [see category NUTRITION for research, also Feeding Your Gut Microbes page.]

Excerpts from research by Karen G. jarvis et al in Frontiers In Microbiology:

Microbiomes Associated With Foods From Plant and Animal Sources

...continue reading "Common Foods Contain Hundreds Of Diverse Bacterial Species"

Something to think about: a group of international researchers found a correlation in Brazil between colon cancer and pesticides. Brazil is one of the largest pesticide users in the world, and annual pesticide use is still increasing - along with increases in colon cancer and colon cancer deaths, especially in agricultural areas. While the study was correlational (didn't prove that pesticides caused the cancer) - what supports the findings is that some other studies in both humans and rodents found that pesticides increase the risk of colon cancer. Many pesticides are considered carcinogenic (cancer-causing).

The researchers pointed out that pesticides are contaminating water and food in Brazil, pesticide residues have been found in breast milk, pesticide residues in cow's milk exceed safety standards in some regions of Brazil, and 20% of food samples analyzed by one government agency between 2013 and 2015 were found to be unsafe for humans to eat due to high pesticide residue levels. One reason for recent  big increases in pesticide used is from genetically modified crops - so that they are resistant to pesticides (herbicides) applied.

Does all this sound familiar? It should - many of the same problems are occurring in the US, with pesticides found in water and food samples, in house dust, with steep increases in certain pesticides used due to their use on crops that are genetically modified to be resistant to pesticides (esp. glyphosate, 2,4-D), and pesticides are found in people (can be measured in blood, urine) - with levels of certain pesticides increasing (e.g. glyphosate). Think of how casually people use pesticides - on their lawns, gardens, and in their homes. The bottom line is: what are we doing to ourselves with chronic low-level pesticide exposures? And it's not just one pesticide, it's many (so we're actually exposed to mixtures). [See posts on pesticides.]

Excerpts from Beyond Pesticides: Brazilian Researchers Link Rise In Colon Cancer To Increase In Pesticide Use    ...continue reading "Pesticides and Colon Cancer?"

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Probiotics are the future of sinusitis treatment. Research found that a probiotic (beneficial bacteria) that is lacking in those with chronic sinusitis and which successfully treats sinusitis is Lactobacillus sakei. This article is the full summary of what has been learned over the past 6 years: the best L. sakei products (such as kimchi and Lacto Sinus - which can treat even the worst recurring sinus infections), results of people trying various L. sakei products, ways to use the products, and other possible probiotics for sinusitis and sinus health.

Back in 2012, a study by Abreu et al suggested Lactobacillus sakei as a possible treatment for sinusitis. In the past 6 years those conclusions have been supported by the experiences of hundreds of people contacting me, and my family's experiences with L. sakei products. It really is the best sinusitis treatment for most people!  When Lactobacillus sakei works as a treatment - it can seem miraculous as sinusitis symptoms gradually disappear or greatly improve. Unfortunately it doesn't work for everyone - for a minority there seems to be no effect, and it is not clear why. It also doesn't treat allergies or allergy symptoms. (See Treatment Summary page for different ways to use products.)

Sinusitis research in the last decade has found that not only do sinusitis sufferers lack L. sakei, they have too much of some other bacteria, and they also don't have the bacteria diversity in their sinuses that healthy people without sinusitis have. In other words, the sinus microbiome (microbial community) is out of whack (dysbiosis) in chronic sinusitis -  with a depletion of some bacterial species, and an increase in "abundance" of other species.

Luckily Lactobacillus sakei is found in some foods (such as some brands of live fermented kimchi), some sausage starter cultures (such as B-2), and recently in some probiotic supplements (e.g. Lacto Sinus). One reason it is used in sausage starter cultures is because L. sakei dominates over and inhibits growth of pathogenic bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus.

BACKGROUND STORY: Six years ago there were no probiotics containing L. sakei. None. So instead members of my family experimented using a very easy kimchi sinusitis treatment (basically dabbing and smearing kimchi at certain stages of fermentation into the nostrils like a very messy eater) and found that it cured  chronic sinusitis of many years within several weeks. Obviously it contained L. sakei. It felt miraculous, especially because it was so easy to do. (See Sinusitis Treatment Story page for our background story).

After 6 years we still feel great! Generally all 4 of us only need to treat again with a product containing Lactobacillus sakei (we've been using refrigerated Lacto Sinus) after a virus which goes into sinusitis, or if for some other reason we feel like we're sliding into sinusitis. The last few years we've needed to do this far less (and more minimally) than the first year because every year we have improved – fewer colds and viruses, and an improved sinus microbiome. Because we no longer have chronic sinusitis and can easily treat sinusitis if it occurs with L. sakei, we have NOT taken antibiotics or any other bacteria killing spray or product (such as xylitol) for over 6 years. We do not use cortisone or antihistamine nasal sprays either.

WHEN A TREATMENT WORKS: Many of you have contacted me to report your own progress with various sinusitis treatments. Thank you! People used terms such as "miraculous", "transformative", and "fabulous" when they had positive results with a product containing L. sakei. I’ve also heard from a few people of some other beneficial bacteria species that may treat sinusitis. When a treatment works, then all sinusitis symptoms go away, including post nasal drip, sinus headaches, "clogged ears", bad breath, and sinusitis-related coughs. Even tonsil stones! (Please note that trying such products to treat sinusitis is self-experimentation - effects can be positive or negative. One should always be very cautious.)

OVERALL RESULTSThe majority of people contacting me with results reported positive results (chronic sinusitis greatly improved or totally gone) from some form of L. sakei treatment. Successes have been from the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa. But since it's from self-experimentation and not a clinical trial, then I don't know the actual percentage of positive results. Some of the people reporting success have had multiple operations, some currently have deviated septums, some with nasal polyps, and all have had long-standing chronic sinusitis, some for decades.

Those same chronic sinusitis sufferers also reported that the same treatments also worked to treat acute sinusitis. It seems that after colds, etc. they (including myself) may develop acute sinusitis again and need re-treatment (apparently the L. sakei frequently doesn't stay or colonize in the sinuses from earlier treatments). However, the sinuses do continue improving over time so our experience has been that fewer and more minimal treatments are needed over the years. Another very small group reported that other probiotic strains helped (but it is not always clear whether they also tried a L. sakei product), and minority of people reported that nothing has helped and there could be a variety of reasons for this (see below). Some people reported that one product helped, but not another - whether kimchi or a L. sakei product.

THREE MAIN PRODUCT CATEGORIES: Currently there are 3 main categories of products containing live Lactobacillus sakei, and which people have reported success in treating sinusitis: kimchi (and some sauerkraut), refrigerated products (e.g. Lacto Sinus), and frozen products. Note that at this time the FDA does not allow any probiotics to be sold as a medical treatment – they can only be sold as a supplement. Using the following products to treat sinusitis is self-experimentation (results are unknown and can vary). Always be cautious when testing a new product. (See Sinusitis Treament Summary page for treatment methods.)

KIMCHI - Many people report that kimchi helped them (without naming brands), while others named brands that helped them. And one person reported a homemade kimchi worked great (he was finally symptom free after 8 years). A few have even mentioned that kimchi has helped sinusitis with fungal problems. Kimchi brands that people reported helping their chronic sinusitis: Sinto Gourmet brand kimchiMama-O's Premium Kimchi, the white Napa kimchi and cabbage kimchi made by Choi's Kimchi Company (in Portland, Oregon), Farmhouse Culture Kimchi (in California), Ozuke Kimchi (in Colorado), Sunja's Kimchi(medium spicy cucumber kimchi and mild white kimchi), in the United Kingdom the brand Mr Kimchi, and in Australia Kehoe's Kitchen white kimchi. I'm sure some (many?) other brands also contain L. sakei.

(Not all kimchi brands or types of kimchi within brands contain L. sakei - finding one that has it is due to self-experimentation. The kimchi must be live, and not pasteurized. We found that kimchi may contain L. sakei from about day 14 (or earlier) to about 2 to 2 1/2 months (from the day it's made). When the kimchi contained L. sakei we felt the same or started feeling better within one or 2 days. If we felt more mucusy or phlegmy over the next 2 days, or the acute sinusitis kept getting worse, than it did not contain L. sakei.) Some researchers feel that it's the garlic in kimchi that encourages L. sakei growth.

SAUERKRAUT - Sauerkraut has worked for some people if it is sauerkraut made with garlic. Some researchers feel that it's the garlic in kimchi that encourages L. sakei growth, and sauerkraut typically doesn't contain garlic.]

REFRIGERATED LACTOBACILLUS SAKEI PRODUCTS  – A high-quality refrigerated L. sakei product specifically meant for the sinuses is sold by Lacto Health. The kimchi derived Lactobacillus sakei product called Lacto Sinus is meant to be used when needed. Lacto Sinus  is sold as a dietary supplement, holds up well in the refrigerator, is effective, reliable, and easy to use. This product ships well because it holds up for a while (days) without refrigeration.

People have reported success using it mixed with bottled water (dabbing, smearing, spooning a little in nostrils), or swishing it dry in the mouth. I’ve been a consultant with Lacto Health on this product and have been testing and using this product successfully for over a year (self-experimentation!).    ...continue reading "The Best Probiotic For Sinus Infections"

Suffering from "tennis elbow" ? A new study suggests that it may be best to just wait for the elbow to heal on its own.

Tennis elbow is the painful condition that develops after "overuse" - it's a repetitive stress injury, which typically occurs in the person's dominant arm. The medical name for tennis elbow is enthesopathy of the extensor carpi radialis brevis (eECRB), or lateral epicondylitis. There are many non-surgical alternatives available, such as ultrasound, laser therapy, botulinum toxin injection, corticosteroid injection, etc., but there has been controversy over what works best in reducing pain and improving grip strength (grip strength is diminished in tennis elbow).

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center compared 11 non-surgical methods of treating tennis elbow, including a placebo group (which received a "sham treatment", such as a saline injection to mimic a treatment, but really was a no treatment group. They reviewed 36 high quality studies, and found that for persons receiving only a placebo - within four weeks most reported little or no pain, and by 26 weeks 99 percent reported little or no pain. Those who received no treatment (placebo) also had the fewest side-effects (e.g. worsened pain, reduced elbow movement, skin rash, nausea, allergic reaction). The odds of an adverse effect was significantly greater in all treatment groups than in the no treatment (placebo) group.

The researchers did mention that of all the treatments, only laser therapy improved both pain and grip strength more than placebo at one month. Some treatments, such as corticosteroid injections, while relieving pain short-term (in the first month), resulted in more pain at 26 weeks than individuals who received no treatment. The researchers wrote: " At best, all treatments provided only small pain relief while increasing the odds of adverse events." They also said that perhaps some people, such as manual laborers, may benefit by short term pain relief treatments. But long-term - doing nothing is best.

From Science Daily: Tennis elbow treatments provide little to no benefit, study finds        ...continue reading "Perhaps No Treatment Is Best For Tennis Elbow?"

A recently published study was good news for those who eat organic foods. The large French study (about 69,000 people) found a  significantly lower risk of getting cancer (25% lower) in people who ate a lot of organic food - when compared to people who rarely or never ate organic food. The participants in the study were followed for an average of 4.6 years. Cancers with the greatest decreased risk were breast cancer (especially in postmenopausal women) and all lymphomas, especially non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The researchers summarized the findings as:  "In a population-based cohort study of 68 ,946 French adults, a significant reduction in the risk of cancer was observed among high consumers of organic food." and "...if the findings are confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer." This could be an easy way to cut cancer risk! (Other organic food benefits.)

Of course the pesticide and conventional agriculture industry went nuts attacking the study - this finding goes against their message that pesticides are fine and necessary, don't worry about pesticide residues in food, and that antibiotics and other medicines are safe when given routinely to animals. Unfortunately, research finds that a number of pesticides used in conventional farming are considered carcinogenic (cancer causing), and pesticide residues are found in conventionally grown foods. Eating conventional foods every day results in chronic low-dose pesticide residue exposure. The researchers suspect the pesticide residues in foods is the reason for the higher cancer risk. [Note: those pesticides are not allowed to be used in organic farming.]

What foods did the researchers ask about? They asked people about the consumption of 16 types of labeled organic food products: fruits; vegetables; soy-based products; dairy products; meat and fish; eggs; grains and legumes; bread and cereals; flour; vegetable oils and condiments; ready-to-eat meals; coffee, tea, and herbal tea; wine; biscuits, chocolate, sugar, and marmalade; other foods; and dietary supplements. In other words, all the foods we eat daily.

But what I found really interesting was a review of the study by Dr. Charles Benbrook (Visiting Scholar in the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, and a Visiting Professor at the Univ. of Newcastle in the UK). He correctly points out that the results are big news and a big deal. Excerpts from Environmental Health News:

Charles Benbrook: New study showing organic diets cut cancer risk is a big deal. Let’s treat it that way.      ...continue reading "Lower Cancer Risk By Eating Organic Food?"

Taller people have increased rates of cancer. Why? A study from a Univ. of California researcher found a link between height and cancer risk, and support for it being due to taller people having a greater number of cells. The more cells, the more mutations - which increases the risk of getting cancer. The study pooled data from 4 large studies (from the UK, the US, Norway, Sweden and Austria, and Korea). The researcher found that the increase in height and increased cancer relationship held for most cancers in both men and women. 18 out of 23 cancers (when combining male and female data) showed a "height effect".

The average heights for women  were 162 cm (64 inches) and 175 cm (69 inches) for men - and beyond that for every 10 cm (4 inches) increase in height, there was a 10% increase in cancer risk. The cancers that did not show a height effect were pancreas, esophagus, stomach, mouth/pharynx, as well as cervical cancer in women. From Medical Xpress:

Study finds taller people more likely to get certain cancers due to cell numbers

A researcher at the University of California's Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology has found evidence that taller people are more prone to getting cancer due to their larger number of cells. In his paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Leonard Nunney describes his study, involving comparing height with cancer risk and factoring in the total number of cells in the body. 

...continue reading "Increased Height Increases Risk of Cancer"

It turns out that we're all eating tiny bits of plastic in our food. Yes, teeny tiny bits of plastic that are smaller than 5 mm and are called microplastics. Why are there tiny plastic pieces in our food? Is it doing anything to us, to our health? What can we do about it? After all, it's not normal or desirable to eat plastic.

Most of us have heard of the "garbage patches" in the oceans - consisting of many pieces of plastic debris, both big and small. But the reality is that tiny pieces of plastic are all around us, not just far away in the ocean. Microplastics can be found in our drinking water, bottled water, in the seafood we eat, in honey and sugar, in beer, table salt, even in our house dust (which includes tiny synthetic fibers, such as polyester, that are constantly being shed from soft furnishings, clothing, and carpet fibers), and outside air (e.g. from tires). This is microplastic pollution, and unfortunately this pollution is increasing each year because we are increasing our use of plastics. [Other posts on this topic here, here, here.]

Every time we eat a meal we ingest any plastics that are in the food, as well as any plastic particles floating in the air that settle on our food and which we then ingest. One recent study found that about 80 to 100 pieces of tiny plastic particles are eaten over the course of each meal in this way!

Currently no one knows what ingesting all these microplastics is doing to us, if anything. The research hasn't been done. However, there are questions and concerns, especially because toxic chemicals (carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, etc) used in plastic manufacturing are in the microplastics, as well as any contaminants that the plastics were exposed to in the environment. There may  even be microbes (including pathogens) on the plastics. A recent study found that we excrete microplastics  in our feces.

A 2017 United Nations report about microplastics and food safety said that while much remains unknown, microplastics in our food doesn't appear to be health threat: "It is thought that only the smallest particles (1.5 µm or less) will penetrate into the capillaries of the organs and the remaining will be excreted." and "Based on the available scientific evidence, it is safe to state that microplastics neither seem to pose a significant food safety threat and the health benefits associated with the intake of fishery products will exceed the potential risks.Nonetheless, there are many knowledge gaps..."

From National Geographic: Microplastics found in 90 percent of table salt ...continue reading "We Are All Eating Microplastics"

Can pesticides be detected in your home? A Cornell University study found that every single home they studied in different areas of upstate New York had detectable pesticide residues in the homes. Every single one of the 132 rural homes. Pesticides are colorless and odorless, but they still may be in your home from applications in the home or around the home from long ago. Pesticides can also be tracked in by your shoes or bare feet, on fur and clothing, or come in on the air (drift from pesticides being applied nearby), even off-gassing from soil. They stay in the dust in homes, and are absorbed by soft materials (such as rugs and upholstery, and even stuffed toys). Pesticides stay around so long (some even years) inside homes because they are not broken down easily (as they can be outdoors in the sun and rain).

The researchers pointed out that Americans use over 1 billion pounds of pesticides each year. Pesticides have health risks, even at low doses - for example, higher risks of various cancers, birth defects, neurological and immunological problems. Pregnant women (developing babies) and children are especially vulnerable to pesticide effects. For example, children are playing and crawling around on the floor sticking objects and their hands into the mouth. Pets also have health risks from pesticides, such as cancer.

While the pesticide residue samples in this study were taken in 2001 to 2002, the findings should apply today because pesticide use has risen tremendously since then - both on farms and elsewhere. And they tested for pesticides that are still commonly used today - such as 2.4-D (a commonly used herbicide, e.g. weed & feed for lawns, and on crops genetically modified to resist 2,4-D). The researchers didn't test for all the possible pesticides commonly used - just 15 of them. Unfortunately they didn't test for glyphosate , which is in Roundup, and heavily used nowadays - in crops and elsewhere as an herbicide (weed killer).

Think about it - at least in in the northeast, more people are using lawn pesticide services to get that "perfect, carpet-looking lawn" (really a monoculture that is environmentally horrible -  to bees and butterflies, soil organisms, birds, and anyone walking on it). How many people do you know get monthly or annual pesticide treatments in or around their homes "just in case"? In every instance  people are getting exposed to pesticides - breathing them in, getting them on their shoes, feet, clothing, bodies. Besides this study, other studies have also found pesticides in household and daycare center dust. How do studies measure pesticides in people? Typically by measuring their levels in blood and urine.

So what can one do to lower the amount and number of pesticides in the home? 1) First of all, don't use pesticides casually or routinely in your him. Use non-toxic alternatives instead - this is called least toxic IPM (Integrated Pest Management), which emphasizes monitoring the problem, looking for what causes the pest problem (moisture getting into the house, holes in the wall, etc.) and then treating the cause. It uses alternatives to "just spraying a pesticide" such as baits, traps, vacuuming of pests!, caulking where needed, fixing wet areas. It means thinking like a pest and what attracts the pest (the cause), and using the most non-toxic way possible to correct the problem. 2) Very important: take off shoes when entering your home. 3) Wipe up dust and vacuum frequently in the home. Other contaminants are also in the dust, such as lead and fire retardant chemicals. 4) Use organic approaches to gardening and taking care of your lawn. [Click on category PESTICIDES for all posts on pesticides, including their health effects. All 2,4-D posts. All pregnancy and pesticide posts.]

The study by Laquatra et al in JSM Health Education & Primary Health Care: Common Pesticide Residues in Rural Homes of New York State

Excerpts from Beyond Pesticides discussion of this study in its Daily News Blog: Study of New York State Homes Finds Pesticides In Every Sample Tested ...continue reading "Can Pesticides Be Detected In Your Home?"

Do you have a good sense of smell and are also good at navigation? A series of studies by Canadian researchers found that they are linked - and that these abilities are located in overlapping brain areas - the orbitofrontal cortex and hippocampus. The Canadian researchers found that both the cortical thickness of the left orbitofrontal cortex and the right hippocampus were bigger in the better smellers and better navigators (the subjects had MRI scans).

The researchers say the findings support the view that olfaction (the sense of smell) evolved to aid navigation - this hypothesis is called the olfactory spatial hypothesis. For example, all animals use chemical cues to navigate, to find food, to avoid being preyed upon, while in contrast vision and hearing are not present in all animals. In humans, good navigators have what the researchers call "spatial memory". From Laura Sanders at Science News:

People who have a good sense of smell are also good navigators ...continue reading "Are You Both A Good Navigator And Have A Good Sense of Smell?"

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I'm always on the lookout for probiotics (beneficial bacteria) that can somehow  suppress or dominate Staphylococcus aureus  - because that bacteria is implicated in many illnesses, including sinusitis. Some strains of S. aureus are antibiotic resistant and the cause of serious illnesses, such as MRSA  (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). However, S. aureus is also found in the microbiomes (microbial communities) of healthy people - including on the skin, nose, and gut - but it appears to reside there harmlessly in healthy people.

So finding species of bacteria that suppress or controls S. aureus is noteworthy. Researchers (from National Institute of Health and Thailand) found that in both humans and mice strains of Bacillus, especially B. subtilis, which is already added to many probiotic products, suppressed all strains of S. aureus. Interestingly, the researchers found no S. aureus in any of the gut and nasal samples from humans where Bacillus species were present.The researchers think that the Bacillus species eradicate S. aureus - in both the gut and nasal passages. So the researchers tested further using mice - they gave B. subtilis to the mice every 2 days, and it eliminated S. aureus in the guts of the mice.

But why did I title this post '"another probiotic" ? Because from research and personal experiences told to me - Lactobacillus sakei seems to have the same effect against S. aureus. Stay tuned for more research with B. subtilis and other probiotics versus S. aureus. [UPDATE: Since I posted this, I've read some concerns over B.subtilis. Be careful.]  From Science Daily:

Probiotic bacillus eliminates staphylococcus bacteria  ...continue reading "Another Probiotic That Treats Infections?"