Yes, You Can Predict the Future

I’m excited to inform you all that I’ve recently formed a relationship with the Cleveland Heart Lab—a branch of the renowned academic hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, located in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Cleveland Heart Lab specializes in predicting inflammatory issues, diabetes, and other things that can impact the quality of your life. In particular, it offers many different tests that are used across North America, Europe, and Asia in the management and prevention of heart disease—the number one killer of men and women in the US. A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Economics predicts that Cleveland Heart Lab’s inflammation testing could reduce the average heart attack and stroke rate by 10% over the coming years. That translates to about $187 million dollars saved and thousands of healthier, happier people. 

Cleveland Heart Lab can predict the future of your health by measuring the level of inflammation in your body, an often over-looked indicator of health problems either now or to come. People with higher levels of inflammation are more likely to suffer from heart attack, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and hypertension, amongst other things. 

What sorts of life choices might cause the body to become inflamed? Namely, poor diet. Certain foods are naturally pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory, which means that what you choose to eat can have a serious impact on your inflammation responses. Eating sugary, processed foods and trans fat, which tend to be found in fried foods, snack foods, industrial seed oils and baked goods, is one of the best ways to put your body on track to chronic inflammation.

When you eat inflammatory foods like the ones mentioned above, chemicals called “cytokines” are released into the blood and tissues. Cytokines are known to be destructive to our normal cells and, if the inflammation is chronic, they often wear down tissues and lead to further systemic inflammation. The result? Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. Even if you manage to evade the worst outcome, studies have shown that inflammation of internal organs also leads to mental and emotional imbalances, digestive disorders, skin problems, and more.

This brings me back to the Cleveland Heart Lab. If you want to know the future of your health as it stands with your current lifestyle, consider getting one of the many tests offered by the Lab. Here is a quick summary of some of the tests available and how they can help you:

  1. C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) test: often used in combination with a lipid profile to evaluate an individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease. CRP is a protein found in the blood that increases with inflammation. The hs-CRP test is used to detect low but persistent levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, thereby indicating low levels of inflammation that could result in heart disease given enough time. The consensus within the medical community is that this test can be used to target people who have a moderate risk of heart attack over the next ten years. Very high levels of hs-CRP, especially in combination with high levels of LpPLA2 (an enzyme that produces inflammation in the artery walls) can be used to predict an adverse cardiac even within the next one to six months.
  2. TMAO test: another incredibly powerful way of predicting heart attack and stroke risk in individuals who seem otherwise healthy. This test measures the level of trimethylamine-N-oxide in the blood, a compound produced by the liver.
  3. Adiponectin test: targets individuals at risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes due to poor life choices. People with low adiponectin levels have a 3X greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome and a 9X increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  4. Fibrinogen test: Fibrinogen is a protein essential for blood clot formation. Low levels of fibrinogen can indicate a bleeding disorder or disseminated intravascular coagulation. 
  5. Vitamin D test: Vitamin D deficiencies are known to lead to a host of health problems including osteoporosis, some forms of cancer, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, and more—even in people who seem perfectly healthy. 
  6. Hemoglobin A1C test: used to monitor the glucose control of diabetics, helping to prevent the health complications that can come from long-term high glucose levels. This test can also be used to diagnose diabetes and pre-diabetes in individuals with or without symptoms.
  7. Homocysteine test: helps target individuals at high risk of myocardial infarction or stroke or individuals with a family history of coronary artery disease. A homocysteine test can also reveal Vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiencies. 

Finding out this information now can help you pursue the most promising and tailored path of preventative care—before it’s too late. Yet, your doctor is likely not going to recommend any of these tests to you. While conventional medicine often focuses on the treatment of present illness, Cleveland Heart Lab saves lives every day by revealing prophecies of ill health before they become a reality. With this information so readily available, patients can make informed decisions about how to ensure disease prevention based on their personal situation and disease risk. The Lab offers many more tests than the ones mentioned here for people at all different places in their health. Chances are there is at least one test that can help illuminate the future wellbeing of you and almost anyone else.

The effects of inflammation on your body may not always be obvious—but that means you have even better reason to seek professional help to predict the future of your health. It is crucial that you monitor low, but persistent levels of inflammation on your body now before the effects start to appear. To find out more about the services offered by Cleveland Heart Lab, please contact Gary Merel at garymerel@annarborholistichealth.com or call 734-222-8210.

Why Go Paleo?

Need more reasons to go Paleo? Just look at the Tokelau, an indigenous population of the South Pacific. Tokelauans are characterized by two extraordinary things: 1) their reliance, for centuries, on a limited diet of coconut, seafood, wild fowl, and fruit and 2) remarkably low rates of heart disease, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes among the population.

In fact, as a general rule, the most common killers of modern times (cancer, heart disease, etc.) are absent or barely present in most indigenous peoples across the globe. What might account for the disparity in health between us and them? Well, we know that these people generally don't consume modern foods like wheat flower, industrial seed oils, and sugar. We also know that when these populations are introduced to the foods listed above, we see disease rates rise significantly within their communities.

To be sure, diet is not the only relevant factor when it comes to disease prevalence. But the fact remains: some of the healthiest people in the world tend to eat a nutrient-rich diet of grass-fed meat, seafood and starchy vegetables; otherwise known as the Paleo diet! To find out more about going Paleo, see this link.

Toxins in Modern Day Farming: What Your Food Labels Aren’t Telling You

The next time you go the grocery store and fill up your cart with fruits, vegetables, bread, and snacks, chances are that most of them will contain traces of a chemical called glyphosate. Glyphosate is the most widely produced herbicide in the world. In the US, it’s referred to as “Roundup.” You could say that Roundup is ubiquitous in our environment. People everywhere, every single day, are being exposed to over 700 different products treated with it (from agriculture and forestry to home use). That’s why I want to take this newsletter to call your attention to something that has almost certainly had an effect on your health.

Certain individuals and organizations have taken great pains to make sure that the safety of glyphosate remains foggy. Proponents claim that it’s organic and breaks down, but that is highly debatable. In reality, new data is suggesting that glyphosate is NOT harmless; rather, it may pose serious health risks to anyone who ingests it.

The World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer just published a study this past March classifying glyphosate as a probable carcinogen in humans, citing correlations to cancers of the thyroid, liver, bladder, pancreas, and kidney. In addition, glyphosate exposure may be a cause of many chronic health problems. Autism in particular tends to be strongly correlated to glyphosate usage (see chart). Stroke, diabetes, obesity, metabolism disorders, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and inflammatory bowel disease are other conditions that become more common with increased glyphosate exposure. In one instance, a 54-year old man accidentally sprayed himself with glyphosate. A month later, he developed parkinsonian syndrome. 

Scientists think glyphosate might even be disruptive to the community of bacteria living in our intestines—otherwise known as the microbiome—by causing the population of bad bacteria to overtake the gut. Studies show that good bacteria tend to be more susceptible to glyphosate than bad. The good bacteria often can’t survive at all when exposed. Scientists are still assessing the importance of the microbiome to overall human health, but it is speculated that the disruption of the microbiome could be tied to diseases such as metabolic disorder, diabetes, depression, autism, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disease. Other conditions glyphosate has been tied to include allergies, infertility, depression, and Crohn’s disease. 

Remember, correlations are not causations; but they do give us good reason to be concerned over the use of a chemical that seeps into each and every one of our lives. Glyphosate enters the body by being either 1) absorbed through the skin or 2) directly ingested with food and water containing glyphosate. Soy, corn, and sugar beets tend to be heavily treated with glyphosate. These crops have been genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate; so when farmers treat their fields with roundup, the weeds die but the crops live—only saturated with glyphosate. These crops are referred to as “Roundup Ready Crops.” Roundup Ready crops are staple ingredients in most processed foods. Soy especially is often used in livestock feed; meaning animals are also ingesting large amounts of glyphosate. We then ingest that glyphosate when we eat meat. 

Avoiding glyphosate isn’t easy and unfortunately, no one alive today will have led a glyphosate-free life. The question is, just how much has it affected your health? If you want to know more about the effects glyphosate has had on you personally, Ann Arbor Holistic Health can perform a comprehensive test for you measuring glyphosate exposure. For more information please contact Gary Merel at garymerel@annarborholistichealth.com or 734-222-8210. 

As far as how to avoid glyphosate: try to eat non-genetically modified foods and drink reverse osmosis water. Always buy organic when you can and always buy grass-fed meat. Avoid products made with corn, soy, and other roundup ready crops which, like I said, tend to be in most processed products. Ideally, you would wean yourself off processed foods altogether. Drinking extra water might also be helpful. Since glyphosate is water soluble, drinking more can help flush your system. 

Again, if you want to know more about the effects glyphosate has had on you, consider getting tested. When a toxin is ubiquitous in our environment, it becomes almost impossible to escape the consequences; but the first step to better health is to be informed on the state of your own body.

The Calcium Lie--How Much is Enough?

When it comes to calcium, more is not better. You’ve heard that calcium is the key to good bone health, or even bodily health in general—but that is only partially true. When taken in the right form and in the right amount, calcium is very beneficial. But if you exceed that “right amount,” you won’t be doing yourself any favors.
In fact, you could be setting yourself up for some problems that have serious health implications—and I’m not just talking about kidney stones, which are one result of too much calcium in the body. Excess calcium can actually play an important role in the development of diseases like osteoporosis, obesity, and even heart disease. See below to find out why.

Osteoporosis:
Shockingly, excess calcium actually puts us at greater risk of fracturing our bones. Bones are made of at least 12 different minerals, and when these minerals are out of balance with each other, bones are compromised. Having too much calcium in our bodies exaggerates these mineral imbalances and deficiencies, and even causes other minerals to be lost or excreted in urine, leaving our bones more susceptible to fractures.

Further, bones serve as storehouses for the minerals we ingest, so when the body needs a particular mineral to perform some bodily function, it goes to the bones to get it. These minerals include magnesium, phosphorous, fluoride, and more—all of which are vital for bone strength. If some of the minerals are depleted, your body will substitute a more accessible one—but not without consequences. Minerals are responsible for maintaining the pH balance in the body, facilitating the transfer of nutrients across cell membranes, maintaining proper nerve conduction, helping relax and contract the muscles, and much more. Forcing your body to substitute one for the other could cause any of these important roles minerals play to suffer.

Obesity:
Excess calcium in the body may be a contributing factor to obesity. Too much calcium again leads to mineral imbalances, which in turn make it harder for our cells to get the essential amino acids and glucose needed for good health. As a result, the cells become starved for glucose and the body starts craving simple carbohydrates. The more carbs we eat, the greater chance we have of gaining weight and developing conditions like insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.

Heart Disease:
Several recent studies show that excess calcium in the body puts us at risk for cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Researchers believe that the calcium that goes unabsorbed in our bodies starts to settle in the arteries, causing them to harden. This is most prevalent in people taking over 1,000 mg of calcium a day.
For example, in one large study, researchers followed a group of 60,000 women for almost two decades. They found that those who ingested the most calcium (1,00mg+) were more likely to develop heart disease. This is because the extra calcium in your body builds up on the inside the arteries. Normally, arteries are elastic enough to flex and pulse with each heartbeat. However, calcium buildup will harden them, which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood through the body. As a result, we are more susceptible to heart attack and stroke.

With stakes this high, it’s important to know how much calcium is really enough. We want to have healthy bones without the worry of gaining weight or developing heart disease. The National Institute of Health puts the upper limit of calcium ingestion at 2,000 mg a day. In reality, you really shouldn’t ingest any more than about 1,000mg of calcium a day. Additionally, you’ll want that 1,000mg to come form your food, not from a supplement. The calcium in food is easier for our bodies to absorb and utilize, reducing the risk of calcium build-up. Since the body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at any one time, supplements are often a significant cause of calcium build-up because your body can’t absorb all that calcium at once.


Though you’ve been told a lie about calcium, I don’t want to downplay the fact that bone-loss can be a debilitating problem. It’s also much easier to prevent than it is to resolve. There are many steps you should be taking to ensure proper bone health, such as getting the proper minerals through your diet. This can be as simple as adding more organically grown vegetables in your diet. Vegetables contain a great balance of vitamins and minerals and vegetable juicing is a fast and easy way to give your body the nutrition it needs.

Omega 3 and Vitamin K2 also play important roles in osteoporosis prevention. Flax seed and seafood are two great choices for omega-3; fermented foods (like cheese and natto), spinach, kale, and collard greens for Vitamin K2. Some studies indicate that Vitamin K2 specifically can even increase bone mass and reverse osteoporosis in some people. For calcium-rich foods, try eating a container of yogurt with lunch (contains about 200-300mg of calcium), and incorporating a couple ounces of cheese into any meal (another 200-300mg). You really don’t need much more calcium than that.

Apart from diet changes, sunshine exposure is a great way to keep your bones strong. The Vitamin D that we get from the sun’s rays is vital to bone health and also helps your body absorb the calcium you ingest. 15 to 20 minutes a day is all it takes. Even better, spent those 20 minutes in the sun exercising. Bone is living tissue that requires physical activity in order retain and rebuild itself.

The takeaway here is that there are important steps to take when it comes to preventing bone-loss. So don’t dwell on the calcium lie—otherwise you might find yourself faced with health issues that are easily prevented, but much harder to cure.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

Why Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is a Superfood

I would like to share with you some of the “super foods” I have found to have a great effect on maintaining one’s health. These include organic Coconut Oil, Extra virgin Olive Oil, fermented foods, and eggs, all of which I’ll talk about in future newsletters. But for this month, I would like to highlight one of nature’s most useful gifts: organic Apple Cider Vinegar.

Organic ACV has too many different uses to list all of them, but here are a few:
·      Sunburn treatment
·      Hair growth stimulant
·      Shower cleaner
·      Acne treatment
·      Workout booster
·      Deodorant
·      Weed killer
·      Flea repellent
·      Laxative
·      Gout relief
·      And many more!

The power of organic ACV has been known for centuries, dating all the way back to the Ancient Romans and Greeks. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is said to have used it as his go-to antiseptic. Overtime, this cooking staple has gained a reputation as a natural alternative for ailments such as: sunburns, acne, itch/rashes, infections, and more. There are a number of ways to use it. Here are some examples:

Simply gargling with a mixture of 1 part water, 1 part organic ACV can relieve a sore throat, treat canker sores, and prevent bad breath. Dab the mixture on itchy spots, boils, athlete’s foot, calluses, sunburns, warts, and even varicose veins a couple times a day for relief of redness, swelling, and pain.

You can also create your own apple cider vinegar hair rinse to get rid of product build-up/residue and to seal the hair follicle, making the hair shiny and glossy. Other organic ACV recipes you can find on the web include deodorant, aftershave, skin moisturizer, face mask, etc.. The uses are almost endless.

These claims may sound like nothing more than an old wives’ tale, but there are many reasons, both practical and profound, why I wanted to share this information about organic ACV with you. The typical person’s diet is contaminated with fillers, chemicals, pesticides, and more toxins that can and will harm your body. But unfortunately, the harm doesn’t stop at what you ingest. What you put on your hair and skin is also absorbed into the blood stream, and that often includes ingredients known to be toxic. Some of them have even been linked to cancer, loss of fertility, and Alzheimer’s.

Organic ACV is the perfect natural alternative to these products—and, its only about $6 for a huge bottle of it. You’d spend at least that much on any single hair, face, or body product. So why pay for individual, potentially harmful personal care products when you could get the same benefits from just one—without the harsh chemicals?

But the power of organic ACV reaches even farther than personal care. In addition to the properties I listed above, science is now finding that ACV has the potential to do a lot more for your health then just treat a rash. For one thing, its packed with naturally occurring nutrients, including: Potassium (essential for organ and cellular function), Iron, Magnesium (important for heart health), Enzymes (boost chemical reactions in the body), Acetic acid (slows the digestion of starch), Calcium, Pectin (helps regulate blood pressure and cholesterol), Mycoderma aceti (delivers nutrients and good bacteria) and Alpha hydroxy acid (improves cell regeneration).

Heart-healthy nutrients like potassium and magnesium provide a supply of power and energy to the heart, helping to boost your workout potential and strengthen the heart muscle itself. Scientists also think organic ACV may help stave off some of today’s most common killers—metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease—by helping regulate blood sugar and normalize blood pressure and cholesterol. It could even help in the fight against obesity by making people feel fuller, thereby managing their hunger.

Whether you’re concerned with preventing heart disease or getting silkier hair, I hope I’ve convinced many of you to try and incorporate organic ACV into your lives. But before you do, there are a few things you should know: ALWAYS buy organic, unpasteurized ACV, and cloudy is better than clear. I suggest drinking a little bit every day, but you MUST dilute it with water (otherwise the acidity could burn your throat and tooth enamel). My recommendation is 2 tsp ACV mixed in 8 oz of water. More ACV recipes and directions, such as household cleaning agents or garden maintenance, can be found with a simple web search.

These days, we tend to underestimate or even ignore all that Mother Nature has provided us with. It doesn’t always make sense to turn to processed food, products, and treatments (if ever). This is where organic ACV comes in. A couple substitutions in your diet or personal care routine can translate to a BIG step in leading a more natural and healthy lifestyle—and may even help keep you out of the doctor’s office longer. 

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

Are Xylitol, Sorbitol, and Other Sugar Alcohols Safe Replacements For Sugar?

In the last article of this series I discussed artificial sweeteners, and gave you my take on whether you should include them in your diet. This week, I want to talk about sugar alcohols, which are another popular low-calorie sugar substitute.

Xylitol is the most popular and most extensively researched, so I’ll focus my discussion on it, but the general takeaway of this article applies to other sugar alcohols as well, such as sorbitol and erythritol.

Xylitol and sorbitol are commonly used as sugar replacements, but are they safe? Here’s what you need to know!

What exactly are sugar alcohols?

Sugar alcohols are a type of ‘low-digestible carbohydrate,’ a category that also includes fiber and resistant starch. Sugar alcohols occur naturally in many fruits and are also known as ‘polyols,’ which you may recognize as a FODMAP. Unlike artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols aren’t completely calorie-free, because we are able to digest and absorb them to some extent. The absorption rate varies among sugar alcohols, from about 50% for xylitol to almost 80% for sorbitol, depending on the individual. Erythritol is almost completely absorbed, but is not digested, so it provides almost no calories. 

Compared with artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols have very few safety and toxicity studies, and are generally accepted as safe. In one long-term human study, 35 participants consumed xylitol as their primary dietary sweetener for two years, and no adverse effects other than GI distress were observed, and GI symptoms dissipated after the first couple months. The amount of xylitol consumed during this trial regularly exceeded 100g per day, often going over 200g per day, depending on the participant.

Metabolic effects of sugar alcohols

Sugar alcohols are a popular choice for weight loss due to their reduced calorie content, and for diabetics due to their low glycemic index. There’s not nearly as much research on the metabolic effects of sugar alcohols as there is on artificial sweeteners, but the evidence we have suggests that sugar alcohols are at least harmless, and possibly beneficial.

For the most part, sugar alcohols cause no appreciable changes in blood glucose or insulin in humans, and sorbitol and xylitol have not been found to raise blood glucose following consumption. In diabetic rats, 5 weeks of xylitol supplementation (as 10% of their drinking water) reduced body weight, blood glucose, and serum lipids, and increased glucose tolerance compared with controls. Two other rat studies also found that xylitol-supplemented rats gained less weight and fat mass compared with control rats, and had improved glucose tolerance. 

Because sweetness does not predict caloric value in sugar alcohols, one might expect that they would cause the same ‘metabolic confusion’ that is seen with noncaloric artificial sweeteners. Unfortunately there isn’t enough evidence to form a conclusion about this, but my feeling based on what I’ve read is that this isn’t a significant issue for sugar alcohols.

For one, sugar alcohols aren’t ‘intense sweeteners’ like artificial sweeteners, which are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. In fact, many are less sweet than sugar. Also, sugar alcohols do provide some calories, so there’s not as much of a discrepancy between the caloric load your body expects and the caloric load it actually gets.

Does xylitol prevent tooth decay?

The most well-known health benefit of xylitol is easily its effect on dental health, and evidence for xylitol’s ability to prevent tooth decay is pretty robust. A couple trials have found xylitol to be more effective at preventing cavities than fluoride, and benefits of xylitol consumption have even been observed in children whose mothers chewed xylitol-containing gum. Unsurprisingly, the most drastic effects are observed when xylitol replaces sucrose in either the diet or in chewing gum, but significant reductions in cavities have been observed when xylitol is simply added on top of a normal diet as well. 

Although some effects of xylitol are undoubtedly due to nonspecific factors such as increased saliva production or the replacement of sugar, it does appear to have specific properties that support dental health. Xylitol is not fermentable by common plaque-forming oral bacteria like sugar is, so it doesn’t provide a food source. Additionally, xylitol actively inhibits the growth of these bacteria. It also forms complexes with calcium, which may aid in remineralization.

Sugar alcohols and digestive health

While sugar alcohols appear to be safe and potentially therapeutic, they are also notorious for causing digestive distress. Because sugar alcohols are FODMAPs and are largely indigestible, they can cause diarrhea by pulling excess water into the large intestine. The fermentation of sugar alcohols by gut bacteria can also cause gas and bloating, and sugar alcohols may decrease fat absorption from other foods. However, most evidence indicates that people can adapt to regular sugar alcohol consumption, and the adverse GI effects reported in studies tend to fade after the first month or two.

Erythritol is probably the best-tolerated sugar alcohol, and a few human trials have found that if the amount of erythritol is gradually increased and doses are spread throughout the day, many people can tolerate large amounts (up to1g/kg of body weight) of erythritol without GI distress. The average tolerance for xylitol and sorbitol is lower; most study subjects could tolerate about 30g per day without a problem, but significant adaptation was necessary to increase xylitol content in the diet. 

A few studies indicate that sugar alcohols may have a prebiotic effect. This isn’t too surprising, considering the prebiotic effects of other low-digestible carbohydrates such as fiber and resistant starch. Animal studies have found that xylitol causes a shift from gram-negative to gram-positive bacteria, with fewer Bacteroides and increased levels of Bifidobacteria. A similar shift has been observed in humans, even after a single dose of xylitol. Additionally, the shifts observed allowed for more efficient use of the sugar alcohols by gut bacteria, which largely explains the reduction in GI symptoms after a few months of regular consumption.

In addition to the potential metabolic, dental, and prebiotic benefits already discussed, xylitol shows promise for preventing age-related decline in bone and skin health. One interesting study found that 10% xylitol supplementation over 20 months increased collagen synthesis in the skin of aged rats, resulting in thicker skin. Preliminary rat studies have also shown that xylitol can increase bone volume and mineral content and protect against bone loss. 

Overall, sugar alcohols appear to be safer than artificial sweeteners with several potentially therapeutic effects. Although the metabolic and weight loss benefits of sugar alcohols haven’t been studied as extensively, I would recommend sugar alcohols over artificial sweeteners to anyone who needs a low-calorie sweetener, although I wouldn’t recommend that anyone consume huge amounts of them. I’ll also be interested to see additional research on their ability to alter the gut microbiome and disrupt biofilms, because this could make sugar alcohols a useful tool for certain patients.

At this point, there don’t seem to be any major problems with sugar alcohols, so if it’s something you’re interested in, I would experiment with your own tolerance and see how they affect you. However, people with gut issues should be cautious.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

 

http://chriskresser.com/are-xylitol-sorbitol-and-other-sugar-alcohols-safe-replacements-for-sugar

From Birth, Our Microbes Become As Personal As A Fingerprint

Look in the mirror and you won't see your microbiome. But it's there with you from the day you are born. Over time, those bacteria, viruses and fungi multiply until they outnumber your own cells 10 to 1.

As babies, the microbes may teach our immune systems how to fight off bad bugs that make us sick and ignore things that aren't a threat.

We get our first dose of microbes from our mothers, both in the birth canal and in breast milk. Family members tend to have similar microbiomes.

"The mother's microbiome has actually poised itself over nine months to basically become the prime source of microbes to the infant," says , director of the at the National Institutes of Health.

But ultimately each person's microbiome seems to be unique, perhaps as personal as a fingerprint.

As the microbes colonize our bodies, they pick specialized real estate. The mouth, with all those moist nooks and crannies, is home to one of the most diverse habitats, like the Amazon jungle.

Wet places like our armpits are lush, too. But they have different microbes than those in the mouth.

The armpit microbes feast on nutrients in sweat, Proctor says, and produce antimicrobial compounds to protect the skin against harmful microbes.

Other body parts are like the Sahara Desert to your microbes. That forearm skin, for example, is dry — very dry. But even that driest habitat is brimming with microbes.

Feet have oily parts and dry parts, and it's those wet parts that the foot fungus just loves.

But the biggest habitat is the gut. It hosts the most complex and diverse group of microbes. Everything that microbes are doing elsewhere in the body, they're doing in the gut, in spades.

Diverse as these habitats are, the microbes on the various body parts communicate with each other and with our cells. Scientists have started eavesdropping on those conversations, and have started testing them as possible treatments for diseases like Crohn's, multiple sclerosis and asthma.

This research is all really new. No one knows for sure what most of our microbes are doing. But many scientists now think that if we're going to remain healthy, we have to maintain the health and well-being of the ecosystems for our microbes.

How A Change In Gut Microbes Can Affect Weight

The evidence just keeps mounting that the microbes in our digestive systems are a factor in the obesity epidemic.

A team of European researchers recently they'd found that obese people appeared to have less diverse microbes in their guts than did lean people. The research also showed that people with less diverse communities of gut microbes were more likely to be at risk for health problems associated with being overweight, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Now, U.S. researchers are reporting the results of some intriguing experiments involving mice that got new gut microbes through transplants. The source: obese and lean human twins. (By using twins, the researchers were trying to eliminate any genetic variation that could influence the results.)

Biologist , of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and his colleagues removed bacteria from the guts of four pairs of human twins in which one was obese and the other was lean. The researchers then transplanted those microbes into the guts of lab mice who didn't have any of their own microbes.

The mice that got microbes from the obese twins gained more weight and accumulated more fat than those who got microbes from the lean twin, even when the mice ate identical diets, the researchers report in a in the journal Science.

Next, the scientists let the animals live together. And since eating each other's feces is a common habit among mice, they were soon exposed to each other's gut microbes. After 10 days, the researchers found that the mice with the obese microbes adopted the lean microbes and started to look healthier.

And, finally, the researchers showed that the animals were unable to be colonized by the lean microbes when they were fed diets aimed at simulating a typical unhealthful Western diet high in saturated fats and low in fiber.

"We now have a way of ... thinking about what features of our unhealthy diets we could transform in ways that would encourage bacteria to establish themselves in our guts and do the jobs needed to improve our well-being," Gordon said in a statement.

In an accompanying the report, and of the in Britain called the findings an "intriguing" step toward finding ways to fight obesity, including developing "relatively simple mixtures of bacteria for testing as anti-obesity therapeutics."

Staying Healthy May Mean Learning To Love Our Microbiomes

Not so long ago, most people thought that the only good microbe was a dead microbe.

But then scientists started to realize that even though some bugs can make us sick and even kill us, most don't.

In fact, in the past decade attitudes about the bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes living all over our bodies has almost completely turned around. Now scientists say that not only are those microbes often not harmful, we can't live without them.

"The vast majority of them are beneficial and actually essential to health," says , program director for the at the National Institutes of Health. The project is identifying microbes on key body parts, including the nose, gut, mouth and skin, in order to get a better sense of the microbes' role in human health.

This sea change began with a pretty simple realization.

"When you're looking in the mirror, what you're really looking at is there are 10 times more microbial cells than human cells," Proctor says. "In almost every measure you can think of, we're more microbial than human."

The horde of microbes is so vast that their genes swamp our genes. In fact, 99 percent of the genes contained in and on our bodies are microbial genes.

Scientists are getting a much broader idea of what microbes do for us. We've known for a long time that we depend on bacteria to digest food. But there's a growing realization that they're really like an 11th organ system. Proctor says, "You know, you have your lungs, you have your heart and, you know, you have your microbiome."

This week, scientists from NIH and research institutions are gathering in Bethesda, Md., to debate the in disease and human health, including obesity, behavior, heart disease and cancer.

Perhaps one of the most important things the microbiome does it to train the human immune system, starting at birth.

"It learns early on which microorganisms are friendly and how to recognize microorganisms that are not so friendly," says , an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine who studies the relationships between microbes and humans.

Microbes influence how much energy we burn and how much fat we store. There is even evidence that the microbes in our guts send signals that can affect our minds. These signals may affect how the human brain develops, and our moods and behavior as adults.

People who live in places like the United States tend to have far less diverse microbiomes than people who live in less developed countries and take fewer antibiotics. That, some scientists think, could be a factor in human diseases.

"As organisms are being lost, a lot of diseases have just skyrocketed," says , who directs the human microbiome program at the NYU Langone Medical Center. He lists diabetes, celiac disease, asthma, food allergies, obesity and developmental disorders like autism as health problems that have become more common.

But many researchers caution that we're still a long way from knowing if the microbiome is involved in any of those diseases and conditions.

"Yes, the microbiome is important," says , a professor who studies genes, microbes and evolution at the University of California, Davis. "Yes, the microbiome differs between all sorts of health and disease states. But no, we don't know that the microbiome causes these health or disease states."

Even more important, Eisen says: we don't know how to fix a microbiome, even if we knew what was wrong with it.

Still, some doctors have already started performing microbe transplants. have been used to cure people with life-threatening infections with the bacterium Clostridium difficile. The patient's ailing gut bacteria is replaced with new colonies donated by a healthy person.

Getting good bacteria to drive out bad is also the idea behind probiotics, which are widely marketed as health supplements. But it's which of those microbes are helpful, and for whom. The same goes for , which serve as food for microbes.

This expanding view of the microbiome is changing how some people think about humans — not as individual entities but as what philosopher calls a "supraorganism."

"We're not just us by ourselves but a combination of us and them," Rhodes says. "And that makes us very much more a part of our environment as opposed to something freestanding and separate from our environment. Those are very radical changes in the way we see self-identity."

Rhodes, who is also a bioethicist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, says some people might find this idea shocking or gross. "But I think it's going to slowly seep into our culture and understanding of ourselves and change our understanding and consequently our behavior in important ways."

What Our Gut Microbes Say About Us

What if it's not just our genes or our lifestyle, exactly, that makes us skinny or fat, healthy or sick? What if it's also the makeup of the bacterial ecosystem that inhabits our gut?

A growing pile of is pointing us in that direction. Researchers in this hot new field describe the microbes in our gut as a vital organ that's as essential as our liver or kidneys. They're finding that this organ, which they call the "microbiome," varies greatly from person to person.

Some microbial communities are better than others at important nutrients, for instance. Also, this internal ecology is altered by the food that we eat, causing in the diet world.

But what constitutes a microbiome that's good for us, and how might you get one? So far, the researchers can't say.

The of these studies was published this week by the journal Nature. It compares the gut microbes of people who live in three very different parts of the world: The United States, the small African country of Malawi, and a remote Amazonian part of Venezuela.

The researchers, led by at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found some across cultures and lifestyles. For instance, in each population, the makeup of the gut microbes changes dramatically as children grow older, whether they live in Amazonia or Philadelphia. In all three places, adults possess a more diverse collection of microbes than children.

But Gordon and his colleagues also found some intriguing differences, especially between people in the United States and those of the two other research sites. He found adults in the U.S. have a rather uniform collection of microbes living in them, compared to people in rural Malawi or the Amazon forests of Venezuela.

Gordon can only speculate about the reasons why — it could be because the U.S. uses more antibiotics, or perhaps because people in Malawi and Amazonia are exposed to more microbe-rich environments.

Gordon found some evidence that the microbiome of the gut may help a body out when there's a shortage of particular nutrients. Babies growing up in Malawi and in Venezuelan Amazonia both tended to have more microbes that can help to synthesize vitamin B2.

As Gordon puts it, "it is tempting to speculate" that these microbes may be helping to compensate for a lack of this vitamin in the babies' diets. These babies also had higher levels of microbes that are able to break down urea and use it to make essential amino acids. "This could be beneficial when protein isn't available in the diet," Gordon tellsThe Salt.

Sep 9, 2013 www.npr.org/.../from-birth-our-microbes-become-as-perso...

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