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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"

There is strong evidence for a link between the foods a person eats, the microbes that live in the person's gut (gut microbiome), and the person's health, according to a large international study. Yes, it's all related.

The researchers were able to find clear patterns of the types of foods eaten and the microbes in the gut. They found that the presence of 15 specific bacteria are consistently associated with good health ("good microbes") and some other bacteria ("bad microbes") are associated with poor metabolic health (including inflammation, blood sugar control).

Study researcher Tim Spector (of King's College London) said: "When you eat, you're not just nourishing your body, you're feeding the trillions of microbes that live inside your gut."

They found that a diverse diet rich in minimally processed plant-based foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, dietary fiber) and fish supports and feeds "good" gut microbes associated with health, with favorable blood sugar levels (glucose control), lower levels of inflammation, improved metabolism, and thus lower risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions (e.g. type 2 diabetes).

On the other hand, persons that ate more highly processed foods, added sugars (desserts!), low fiber foods, artificial sweeteners, foods with additives were more likely to have "bad" microbes linked to poor health, inflammation, unfavorable blood sugar levels, and obesity.

They were able to see that specific foods clearly had an effect on specific bacteria, for example eating tomatoes with an increase in beneficial species of Roseburia. Eating a variety of plant based foods was also associated with an increase in diversity of bacteria (this is considered good), and also with the presence of beneficial keystone bacteria such as  Faecalibacterium prausnitzii.

VERY IMPORTANT: The beneficial bacteria the researchers list are NOT in probiotic supplements. Instead, you must eat a variety of foods that feed beneficial bacteria (e.g. eating a Mediterranean style diet). In fact, some of the microbes the researchers found have not yet been named. Foods also contain bacteria, and these are ingested. For example, an apple contains about 100 million bacteria!

From Science Daily: Link between gut microbes, diet and illnesses revealed

Diets rich in healthy and plant-based foods encourages the presence of gut microbes that are linked to a lower risk of common illnesses including heart disease, research has found.  ...continue reading "Your Diet, Your Gut Microbes, And Your Health"

Breastfeeding
Wikimedia Commons/ Anton Nosik

There are a lot of health reasons why breast milk is better for a baby then formula, and now another reason can be added to the list. A recent study found that specific immune cells (regulatory T cells) expand more in the first three weeks of life in breastfed human babies - nearly twice as abundant as in formula fed babies.

These cells control the baby's immune response against maternal cells transferred with breast milk and help reduce inflammation. In other words, breast milk is good for the baby's immune system development.

The University of Birmingham researchers also found that specific beneficial bacteria, called Veillonella and Gemella, which support the function of regulatory T cells, are more abundant in the gut of breastfed babies.

Breast milk is considered the best food for infants. It contains a range of complex nutrients, antimicrobial proteins, bacteria, human milk oligosaccharides, and hormones from the mother. Thus it isn't surprising that whether the baby receives breast milk or formula influences the gut microbiome (community of microbes in the gut).

From Science Daily: New insight into why breastfed babies have improved immune systems

Research led by the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust has revealed new insight into the biological mechanisms of the long-term positive health effects of breastfeeding in preventing disorders of the immune system in later life.  ...continue reading "Beneficial Effect of Breast Milk On the Baby’s Immune System"

It turns out that people experiencing a major depression have differences in their gut microbiome (community of microbes) when compared to healthy people who are not depressed. A persistent and prolonged period of extreme sadness or depression is called a major depressive disorder (MDD).

A team of researchers (in both China and the US) analyzed stool samples from 311 people  with either MDD or healthy and not-depressed (the control group). They used modern genetic sequencing to see what microbes were in the stools. They found differences in 47 bacterial species, 3 bacteriophages (a virus that infects bacteria), and 50 fecal metabolites - which suggested to the researchers that depression is characterized by gut microbiome problems (it's imbalanced or out of whack).

There actually was a "signature composition" of gut microbes in the depressed persons, all of whom were unmedicated. They found higher levels ("increased abundance") of 18 bacterial species in people with MDD (mainly belonging to the genus Bacteroides) and 29 were less common (mainly belonging to Eubacterium and Blautia), when compared to healthy persons.

The researchers point out that other studies also find the gut microbiome to be imbalanced in MDD, and there are animal experiments showing that the gut microbiome has a role in causing MDD (e.g. transplanting gut microbes from a depressed person into a rat results in the rat exhibiting depressive behaviors).

Excerpts from The Scientist: Distinct Microbiome and Metabolites Linked with Depression

The human gut microbiome is a world in miniature, populated by a chatty community of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa nestled within various gastrointestinal niches. Over the past decade, researchers have linked disturbances within this complicated microbial society to a variety of diseases. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is one such condition, but the studies have been small and the findings imprecise.   ...continue reading "Gut Microbiome Is Altered In Persons With Major Depression"

To boost the immune system of young children, as well as improve their skin and gut microbiomes - send them out daily to play in a natural environment. That means outdoors in a natural park-like setting with grass, plants, soil, and trees. Yes, germs and dirt!

Finnish researchers found that replacing the gravel and pavement in urban daycare playground areas with natural forest-type vegetation (forest plants, shrubs, sod, mosses, and peat blocks for climbing) resulted in beneficial changes to young children's immune systems, and skin and gut microbiomes. This happened in just one month!

The researchers studied 75 children (3 to 5 years old) at 10 daycare centers in 2 Finnish cities (urban areas). Four of the daycare centers had their gravel/paved playgrounds turned into a forest-type natural area (where the children played), 3 daycare centers weren't changed (kept the gravel/pavement), and 3 daycare centers were already nature-oriented with children visiting forests daily. All children spent the same amount of time outside each day.

An important finding was that after 28 days the skin and gut microbiomes (microbial communities) of children playing in the transformed forest-type playgrounds had shifted to become more similar to children attending nature-oriented daycares. This change was also reflected in their immune systems: they developed a higher ratio of anti-inflammatory proteins to pro-inflammatory proteins in their blood (this is good).

The researchers point out that getting exposed to all the microbes in a natural forest-type setting (environmental microbial diversity) is beneficial. On the other hand, playing outside on man-made landscaping materials does not result in beneficial changes. Translation: playing outside in the dirt and plants is good for you.

From Medical Xpress: Replacing asphalt with forest-type plants at daycare centers found to strengthen immune defenses in children

A team of researchers affiliated with multiple institutions in Finland and one in the Czech Republic found that replacing asphalt in play areas at daycare centers with natural vegetation can lead to stronger immune defenses in the children at the centers. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes removing asphalt from play areas at several daycare centers and replacing it with forest floor vegetation, and what they found when they tested the children who attended the centers.  ...continue reading "Playing Outside In Nature Is Healthy For Young Children"

This is rarely mentioned, but there is research showing that commonly used chemicals that we are exposed to, such as bisphenols (BPA, BPS), phthalates, persistent organic pollutants (e.g.flame retardants, nonstick cookware), heavy metals (e.g. lead), and some pesticides (e.g.chlorpyrifos, glyphosate), all have an impact on the gut microbiome in animals and humans.

For example, these chemicals may alter levels of certain microbial species, or alter the variety (diversity) and type of species in the gut, or increase intestinal inflammation. These alterations are associated with health effects, and the effects may be different depending on the stage of life. Yikes!

The human gut microbiome is the huge and complex community of microbes (fungi, bacteria, viruses) that live in our intestines and play important roles in our health. Trillions of microbes, hundreds of species. The presence of certain microbial species in the gut are associated with health, and the presence of certain other species are associated with disease. We know that what we eat and drink, whether we exercise, and other lifestyle factors can influence the gut microbes, but it appears we also need consider exposure to chemicals in the environment around us.

A recent study by University of Illinois researchers reviewed the environmental chemical and microbiome research, and found that many chemicals have an effect on the gut microbiome. They point out that humans are constantly exposed to hundreds of chemicals in the environment, and many get into humans (through inhalation, ingestion, absorption through the skin). Currently more than 300 environmental chemicals and their metabolites have been measured in humans (e.g. in blood and urine).

Many of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors, and many are associated with adverse health effects, including male and female reproductive and developmental defects, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular effects, liver disease, obesity, thyroid disorders, and immune effects.

By the way, gut microbiome effects are currently not considered by the EPA when regulating chemicals.

From Science Daily: Environmental contaminants alter gut microbiome, health

The microbes that inhabit our bodies are influenced by what we eat, drink, breathe and absorb through our skin, and most of us are chronically exposed to natural and human-made environmental contaminants. In a new paper, scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign review the research linking dozens of environmental chemicals to changes in the gut microbiome and associated health challenges.  ...continue reading "Some Common Chemicals Alter the Gut Microbiome"

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There have been concerns for years about the food additive titanium dioxide. This is because it may be in nanoparticle form, and recent studies have raised concerns that nanoparticles can travel to other organs in the body (because they are so small), and are inflammatory. Nanoparticles are so small that they are measured in nanometers or billionths of one meter.

It is added to food and medicines (e.g. Allegra) to make colors whiter and brighter, so it's not needed at all. It is in many processed foods, including candy and baked goods, so children actually consume more of it than adults. In Europe titanium dioxide nanoparticles (particles less than 100nm) are mainly found in the food additive called E171. Nanoparticles make up about 36% of the particles in E171.

Now a new study, even though done with mice, has raised more health concerns about titanium dioxide. Mice consuming titanium dioxide in their diet had significantly altered composition of their gut microbes, inflammation of their colon (the intestines), and changes in function of the liver. The effect was bigger in obese mice.

From Science Daily: Common food additive causes adverse health effects in mice

A common food additive, recently banned in France but allowed in the U.S. and many other countries, was found to significantly alter gut microbiota in mice, causing inflammation in the colon and changes in protein expression in the liver, according to research led by a University of Massachusetts Amherst food scientist.  ...continue reading "Titanium Dioxide Doesn’t Belong In Food"