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There are microbial differences (microbiome) in babies who are born by cesarean vs vaginal deliveries. Research shows that bacterial differences can be minimized by a simple procedure - swabbing the newborn infant with the mother's vaginal fluids (using a gauze pad).

An infant normally picks up bacteria during birth as it passes through the birth canal, and these bacteria "seed" (colonize) the baby's skin and gut microbial community. On the other hand, babies born by C-section are colonized by microbes floating around in the operating room (from doctors, nurses) and these are predominantly skin bacteria. These bacterial differences between babies born by vaginal birth or C-section persist and are thought to explain some health differences between babies born vaginally or by C-section.

Dr. Dominguez-Bello has been doing a long-term study in which babies born by cesarean section are immediately swabbed with a gauze cloth soaked with the mother's vaginal fluids (which contain the mother's microbes). This resulted in the infants' skin and gut microbial community being more like vaginally born babies. These microbial changes persisted during the first year of life.

Such big changes from such a small procedure!

From The Scientist: Maternal Vaginal Fluids Mimic Microbe Transfer of Vaginal Birth

Babies born by C-section carry an increased risk of immune and metabolic disorders later in life, which studies have suggested may be associated with the communities of microbes on and in their bodies at the time of birth.  ...continue reading "Missing Birth Canal Bacteria Can Be Restored to Cesarean Birth Babies"

The findings of a recent study caught my eye - that eating milk chocolate daily was beneficial for health a number of ways. Consuming a 3.5 oz bar of milk chocolate daily did not cause weight gain, that it actually resulted in reducing hunger and desiring fewer sweets the rest of the day, increased beneficial polyphenols, improved the gut microbiome, and morning consumption decreased fasting glucose (good). Overall, it was best to eat the chocolate in the morning (as compared to the evening before bedtime). Yes!!!

The researchers studied postmenopausal women (48 to 62 years old) in Murcia, Spain who ate milk chocolate daily, or no chocolate for 2 weeks while eating as usual (regular dietary pattern), and then did the opposite for 2 weeks after a one week break. (Thus everyone ate chocolate daily at some point). This meant that the chocolate eaters actually ate slightly more calories during the study than those not eating chocolate.

The researchers state that a 2018 review of chocolate studies (clinical trials) found that overall eating chocolate daily for 2 to 24 weeks (each study lasted a different length) "does not change body weight or body fat distribution". Some studies also find that eating chocolate daily slightly reduces waist size (waist circumference reduction). And this is what they also found in this study.

How much chocolate? The women in this study ate 100 grams per day (3.5 ounces) - a normal sized chocolate bar! Chocolate lovers - rejoice!

From Medical Xpress: Starting the day off with chocolate could have unexpected benefits

A new study of postmenopausal women has found that eating a concentrated amount of chocolate during a narrow window of time in the morning may help the body burn fat and decrease blood sugar levels.  ...continue reading "Milk Chocolate Has Health Benefits"

We've known for a while that exposure to microbes during the baby's first year is important (and good) for the developing immune system. In addition, recent research suggests that during the second trimester of pregnancy the developing fetus already has microbes in its body which help "educate" the developing immune system.

An international team of researchers found that bacterial species are present in the fetus during the second trimester. They examined and found bacteria in the  gut, lungs, skin, and placenta of the fetuses. Gardnerella, Lactobacillus, and Staphylococcus species were found in most of the fetal organs. Streptococcus, Enterococcus, and Prevotella species were also frequently found, as well as other species. The view is that the microbes came from the mother ("vertical transmission of microbes").

What the researchers found exciting was not just that there were microbes living already in the fetus in the second trimester, but that these microbes "educate" the developing immune system, especially memory T cells. This prepares the newborn with all sorts of exposures (including harmful microbes) once it is born.

The researchers used genetic sequencing (16S ribosomal RNA sequencing) on fetal and placental tissues, which were obtained from second trimester (starting with week 13) abortions.

Excerpts from The Scientist: Microbes in Human Fetuses Spur immune Development

Over the last decade, scientists have shown that the fetal immune system comes online much sooner than was initially thought, but what type of antigens train nascent immune cells and how this affects subsequent development remain open questions. In a study published June 1 in Cell, researchers determined that second-trimester human fetuses harbor live bacteria in tissues all over their bodies that can activate fetal T cells.  ...continue reading "Bacteria Are In the Developing Baby By the Second Trimester"

Uh oh... Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide (plant-killer) in the world, and its pervasive use may be harming our gut microbiomes. Glyphosate (which is in Roundup) is used not only as a weed-killer, but also applied to glyphosate resistant genetically engineered (GE) crops such as soy, canola, corn, and also right before harvest (preharvest) on many grain crops. Thus we find glyphosate and glyphosate residues all around us, including in the foods we eat.

Researchers at the University of Turku  in Finland developed a bioinformatics tool to examine glyphosate effects on gut bacteria. They found that glyphosate kills many bacterial species found in the human gut, including such important keystone bacteria as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii. Their words: "54% of species in the core gut microbiome are sensitive to glyphosate". (A nice way of saying it kills them.) They summarize:

"A large proportion of bacteria in the gut microbiome (Qin et al., 2010) are susceptible to glyphosate (class I); thus, the intake of glyphosate may severely affect the composition of the human gut microbiome. "

Glyphosate has already been linked to a number of health problems (e.g. cancer, endocrine disruption). The gut microbiome or microbiota is the millions of microbes living in our intestines, and they are very important to our health. Imbalance or disruptions to our gut microbiome result in inflammation, chronic conditions, and diseases.

What to do? Try to eat as many organic foods, especially grains, soy, and corn, as possible. Organic farmers are not allowed to use glyphosate. Try to avoid using glyphosate-based herbicides on your property.  Unfortunately, our government agencies are not protecting us with regards to glyphosate, and the US allows higher glyphosate residues in food than in the European Union.

From Science Daily: Glyphosate may affect human gut microbiota

Glyphosate is the most commonly used broad-spectrum herbicide. Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland have developed a new bioinformatics tool to predict if a microbe, e.g. a human gut bacterium, is sensitive to glyphosate.  ...continue reading "Glyphosate May Be Having a Harmful Effect On Our Gut Microbiome"

Nowadays many people apply antibiotic ointments on any and all skin wounds, no matter how minor. This is recommended by doctors in an effort to prevent the wound from becoming infected and to promote wound healing. However, surprising results from a recent small study found that applying an antibiotic ointment on skin wounds actually slows down healing.

The John Hopkins Univ. School of Medicine researchers found that our skin microbes (microbiome), including bacteria thought of as pathogenic, are involved in skin wound healing. The skin wound healing was faster in both humans and mice when antibiotic ointments were not applied.

Their recommendation: “...perhaps people may need to reconsider their use of these products (antibiotic ointments)". Of course more research needs to be done to see if the results from the small study (six adults) hold up. Perhaps a good approach would be to let small skin wounds heal on their own, and only apply an antibiotic ointment if the wound looks infected.

From Medical Xpress: Study examines why skin lacerations may be slow to heal, even with topical antibiotics

When you get a cut, scrape or other minor skin laceration, doctors recommend that you take measures to ensure that the wound doesn't get infected and heals properly. Many people opt to use over-the-counter medications, such as topical antibiotic ointments and liquids, to aid the repair process—and as commonly believed, promote healthy skin healing.  ...continue reading "Small Skin wounds May Heal Faster Without the Use of an Antibiotic Cream"

Human lungs Credit: Wikipedia

We have millions of all sorts of microbes living throughout our respiratory tract (nose, sinuses, mouth, lungs, etc.). A recent study looked at the microbes in the lungs and found that fungi normally live in healthy lungs, including fungi that are usually thought of as harmful. Surprisingly, the fungi found in lungs of people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are basically similar to those in healthy people.

The fungi living in different parts of the body is the mycobiome. The lung (pulmonary) microbiome is unique, meaning it is different than in other parts of the respiratory tract, such as the mouth. It used to be thought that the lungs were sterile (unless there was an infection). But now we know that is not true - we normally have fungi, bacteria, and viruses living in our lungs.

University of Bergen researchers analyzed both the oral (mouth) mycobiome and lung mycobiome of 93 persons with COPD and 100 healthy persons (the control group). Surprisingly, both the oral and lung mycobiomes of both healthy and COPD groups were dominated by Candida fungi, with more Candida in the mouth, than in the lungs for both groups. Finding that Candida resides in the lungs of heathy individuals was surprising because it can be a "fungal pathogen" (thus harmful and invasive) in different parts of the body.

One piece of good news - using inhaled steroids didn't seem to affect the lung mycobiome.

Keep in mind that fungi are all around us, both indoors and outdoors, and we are constantly breathing in fungal spores. Our bodies have evolved to handle normal amounts just fine. As the researchers wrote: "Healthy airways possess effective removal of such spores". It's when a person is immunocompromised or has COPD that problems can develop.

From Medical Xpress: Fungi are present in your lungs

The lungs were for a long time considered to be sterile in health, while in diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) failure in immune mechanisms were thought to allow microorganisms to proliferate and persist. New sequencing techniques have shown that several microorganisms reside in the lungs of healthy individuals, as well. Few studies have examined the fungal community in COPD and compared it to healthy controls using such techniques. ...continue reading "Fungi Are Living In Your Lungs"

Another study has confirmed that if a person wants to have beneficial gut microbes that are associated with lower rates of chronic inflammation and many health conditions and diseases, then you need to eat a diet that nourishes the beneficial gut microbes. And once again, research finds that it is a plant based diet that does this.

A plant based diet is one rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans), nuts, and seeds, thus containing lots of fiber - and these nourish beneficial gut microbes. In this group is also oily fish. This is an anti-inflammatory diet. It feeds short-chain fatty acid (SCFA)-producing microbes (this is good). A great example of plant foods also containing bacteria, as well as nutrients and fiber: one raw apple has about 10 million bacteria!

On the other hand, a diet rich in processed foods and lots of meat (an animal derived diet), is associated with microbes linked to intestinal inflammation - thus an inflammatory diet . Also includes foods with high amounts of sugar and alcohol. This type of diet is low fiber and considered a Western diet.

To arrive at these conclusions, researchers in the Netherlands looked at the gut microbiome of 1425 persons in 4 groups - those with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and the general healthy population. They found 38 associations between dietary patterns and microbial clusters, as well as 61 individual foods and nutrients with 61 bacterial species. They found that specific foods and nutrients were associated with species known to give mucosal protection and have anti-inflammatory effects.

These beneficial bacterial species are NOT found in probiotics or supplements. You must eat the foods on a daily basis. [Another study with similar findings.] Studies show changes will occur very quickly - within two weeks, both in microbes and effects on the intestines.  Think of the saying: You are what you eat. Yes!

From Medical Xpress: Diet rich in animal foods, alcohol and sugar linked to 'inflammatory' gut microbiome

A high dietary intake of animal products, processed foods, alcohol and sugar is linked to a gut microbiome that encourages inflammation, finds research published online in the journal Gut.  ...continue reading "What You Eat Determines The Type Of Bacteria Living In Your Gut"

The millions of bacteria, fungi, viruses (human microbiome) that live on and within us are extremely important for our health in all sorts of ways. The birth experience (as the baby travels down the birth canal) is one way that a mother's microbes get transmitted to the baby ("seeds" the baby's microbiome). But babies born by Cesarean delivery start out picking up different species of microbes - from dust in the operating room.

Thus there has been concern with the possibility that a baby born by C-section, as compared to a vaginal delivery, will have life long microbiome differences. Swedish researchers studied this issue in 471 children and determined that by 5 years of age that the microbiome differences at birth and first year of life have generally disappeared. The differences in microbial composition had decreased to less than 2% in the 2 groups. This is good news!

Over the 5 years everyone had a great increase in the number of microbial species that live in the gut. The gut microbiome became more "adult-like", but it wasn't yet like that of adults. A conclusion was that not only does it take years to develop adult microbial complexity, but there is also individual variation in how long this takes. A person's diet, especially the introduction of solid foods, and environment all have an effect on species diversity and composition.

By the way, another way mothers transmit hundreds of species of microbes to their babies is during nursing in the breast milk (this is great!), and these species change over time. This is a good reason to breast feed - it's not just the nutrition, but also the microbes.

From Science  Daily: Gut microbiota in Cesarean-born babies catches up

Infants born by cesarean section have a relatively meager array of bacteria in the gut. But by the age of three to five years they are broadly in line with their peers. This is shown by a study that also shows that it takes a remarkably long time for the mature intestinal microbiota to get established.  ...continue reading "Five Year Olds Have Similar Gut Microbes, No Matter the Type of Birth"

Breastfeeding
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Anton Nosik

For years it has been known that breast milk transfers hundreds of microbial species to the baby -  which is very important and beneficial for the baby's microbiome (community of fungi, viruses, bacteria, and other microbes) and health. A recent study found that the bacteria in breast milk varies over time, which is a good reason to breastfeed for at least 6 months - the baby ingests all these beneficial species in the breast milk.

Breast milk samples were collected from 76 breastfeeding (lactating) mothers living in 8 villages in the remote Western Highlands of Guatemala during "early lactation" (6–46 days postpartum) or after months of breastfeeding or "late lactation" (109 to184 days postpartum). Modern technologies (genetic sequencing) were used to analyze the breast milk.

The researchers found a bacterial or microbiome shift from Staphylococcus and several Streptococcus species in early lactation to Sphingobium and Pseudomonas species in late lactation, along with other bacterial shifts. The changing bacterial species have different roles in the body. There were even species never before reported in breast milk, such as: Janthinobacterium agaricidamnosum, Novosphingobium clariflavumm, Ottowia beijingensis, and Flavobacterium cucumis.

Of course much is still unknown about the breastmilk microbiome, and even what is a "core" breast milk microbiome - that is, what species are the core species in all breast milk. But it's clear what the baby gets from the breast milk changes over time.  It's still early days in this research!

Note that all these hundreds of species are not those found in probiotic supplements or formula - a baby must breastfeed to get them. Unfortunately, it is estimated that only 26% of North American mothers breastfeed their babies for at least 6 months (Unicef data).

From Futurity: Breast Milk Offers Different Bacteria Over Time

This bacterial cocktail could act like a daily booster shot for infant immunity and metabolism. ...continue reading "The Bacteria In Breast Milk Change Over Time"

In the future, giving specific microbes or entire microbial communities may be part of some cancer treatments! This is because the composition of a person's gut microbiome (the community of bacteria, fungi, and viruses) influences whether a person responds to immunotherapy drugs. This means that the mixture and variety of microbial species living in your intestines may determine whether you respond to cancer immunotherapy drugs. Wow!

One recent study found benefits from fecal microbial transplants (FMT) - that is, transplanting the stool (which contains an entire microbial community of bacteria, fungi, viruses) from a donor who had responded well to immunotherapy drugs to a person with advanced melanoma who had not responded to immunotherapy drugs. In total, 15 persons received stool transplants, and 6 of them had changes to the gut microbiome (becoming more like the donor's gut microbiome) so that the immunotherapy drug now worked against melanoma.

Now studies are needed to identify which specific microbes are the ones that were critical for overcoming a tumor's resistance to immunotherapy drugs.

This is very exciting research because the best treatments for advanced melanoma (metastatic melanoma) are immunotherapy drugs, but it only works for a minority of patients at this point. Microbial manipulation (in this case with fecal transplants) could be a game changer!

Excerpts from Science Daily: Fecal microbiota transplants help patients with advanced melanoma respond to immunotherapy

For patients with cancers that do not respond to immunotherapy drugs, adjusting the composition of microorganisms in the intestines -- known as the gut microbiome -- through the use of stool, or fecal, transplants may help some of these individuals respond to the immunotherapy drugs, a new study suggests. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Center for Cancer Research, part of the National Institutes of Health, conducted the study in collaboration with investigators from UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at the University of Pittsburgh.  ...continue reading "Microbes and Advanced Melanoma Treatment"