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...

 Find out how healthy your microbiome is!

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.

What Fats Do, and Why You Should Eat More!

Fats have a bad name, but why?

Dr. Ancel Keys was an American scientist who studied the impact of diet on health. Dr. Keys’ study, “The Seven Countries Study,” showed a strong statistical relationship between fat consumed and incidence of cardio-vascular disease in the United States and 6 other countries in Europe. The American Heart Association as a result made a public service announcement encouraging the American people to avoid eating fats. It was later discovered that the study originally included 22 countries, not only 7, and that Keys had thrown out the conflicting results. In other words, his hypothesis did not hold water in the remaining 15 countries originally studied. However, the damage was done, and ever since, the American public has been convinced that a diet high in vegetable oils and grains and low in fat was the only way to avoid heart disease. In the following article, we will describe what fats actually do, how they serve our bodies, and how you can develop a healthy relationship with fat that works for your body.

What does fat actually do?

-          Building block for cell membranes.

-          Main composition for our brains, nerves, and reproductive hormones.

-          Key contributor to strong memory.

-          Key source of energy.

-          Stabilizes insulin and glucose metabolism.

-          Prevents us from overeating. It is physically impossible to overeat fat. Sugar and carbs, yes, but not fat.

What happens without fat?

-          Without the right ratios of each type of fat, or without enough fat, there are serious health implications.

What kinds of fats are there?

Saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.

What do those names mean?

This is a bit of biochemistry. It is important to understand what makes each type of fat different.  They indicate how many, if any, double bonds exist in a given fat. Chemically, all fats are triglycerides, meaning they contain a glycerol and any of several different kinds of fatty acids. Therefore, the fats are differentiated by the fatty acids which they are made from. Fatty acids are composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Long chains of carbon and hydrogen raise the melting point of the fat, and also yield greater energy per molecule when metabolized. Saturated fat means that every carbon in the chain has a hydrogen pair. Unsaturated fats contain double bonds within the carbon chain, meaning the carbons bond to each other, rather than a hydrogen atom. Polyunsaturated fats are triglycerides in which the fatty acid chains contain more than a single carbon-carbon bond.

Saturated fats and unsaturated fats differ in melting point and energy yield. Unsaturated fats provide less energy because they have fewer carbon-hydrogen bonds. Saturated fats can stack themselves neatly because of the carbon-hydrogen pairing, and therefore freeze more easily. This is why at room temperature saturated fats tend to remain solid, while unsaturated fats are liquid.

3 Characteristics of Fat

1.Inert and stable: Solid at room temperature. For example, coconut oil, which is a short-chain saturated fat that rarely becomes rancid, even if exposed to air for years and years.

2. Liquid and easily oxidized: Linseed oil, a polyunsaturated fat, goes bad quickly.

3. The middle of the pack: Monounsaturated fats fall somewhere in the middle between saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats in terms of how quickly they go bad, and how inert they are at room temperature.

What Fats do What?

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats have suffered a pretty terrible reputation the past few years. In fact, they were singled out as the cause of cardio-vascular disease (CVD). Researchers have even linked them to things from cancer to neuro-degeneration to other autoimmune disorders. The truth is that saturated fats are actually quite helpful when consumed within reason. If we make sure to keep our saturated fat and carbohydrate intake within the levels consumed by our ancestors, it is unlikely that you will develop CVD.

-          Lauric Acid. Found in coconut, palm oil, and human breast milk. Boasts antiviral properties including fighting against HIV and chicken pox. It also helps heal the gut.

-          Palmitic Acid. Found in palm oil, beef, eggs, milk, poultry, and seafood, among other animal products. Palmitic Acid helps to optimize cognitive function by helping us to make new memories and store the old. However, among the saturated fats, Palmitic does actually pose the greatest risk for CVD.

-          Stearic Acid. Found in meat, eggs, and chocolate. Stearic Acid helps to decrease systemic inflammation. 

Monounsaturated Fats

Though there are many monounsaturated fats, the only that is important to discuss for the purposes of this paper is oleic acid. Monounsaturated fats were the primary fat in our ancestral diet, so eating plenty of it will help us to enhance physical performance.

-          Oleic Acid. Found in plant sources such as olive oil, avocados, nuts, and even some grass-fed meat. Boosts insulin sensitivity, improves glucagon response, and decreases cholesterol levels. 

Polyunsaturated Fats

These fats could be called “the essential fats,” since we absolutely cannot make them and must get them from our diet. Without them, our bodies suffer. Our current lack of sufficient polyunsaturated fat represents one of the worst consequences of our heavily processed modern diet. We will look at two subfamilies of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) called omega-3 (abbreviated as n-3) and omega-6 (abbreviated as n-6). In general, n-3/n-6 are good for us, and found in grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish. However, n-3/n-6’s can be unhealthy when eaten out-of-balance. For example, our ancestors ate 1:1 ratios of n-3 to n-6. Our ratios of consumption today are around 1:10. Why? We eat way too much corn, soy, safflower, and vegetable oils, the source of much of our n-6 fats. This imbalance is the cause of many health-related issues.

1. Omega-3 (n-3)

-          Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA). Found in flax, hemp, and other plant sources. It supports enhanced performance, health, and longevity, but doesn’t deliver the nutritional punch that other n-3’s do.

-          Eicosapentaenoci Acid (EPA). Found in fish oil and human breast milk. EPA is a strong anti-inflammatory, helps to thin the blood, and blocks the growth of new blood vessels thereby preventing the spread of cancer. EPA is really good for us!

-          Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). Found in cold-water oceanic fish, this fat is critical for fetal brain development and cognitive function throughout our lives. Low levels of DHA are detrimental both for the unborn fetus, and the mother. With low DHA levels, women more frequently suffer preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and postpartum depression. DHA also boasts antitumor and anti-inflammatory capabilities. 

2. Omega-6 (n-6)

-          Linoleic Acid (LA). Found in vegetable oils such as safflower and sunflower. LA can actually cause inflammation and block the inflammatory powers of n-3 fats such as EPA and DHA. It’s not very good for us!

-          Gamma Linolenic Acid. Found in borage, primrose, and hemp oils. GLA can act as an anti-inflammatory agent.

-          Dihomo-Gamma-Linolenic Acid. DGLA is made in the body by the elongation of GLA, and very rarely traces of it are found in animal products. DGLA regulates the production of several molecular messengers that support immune function, increase inflammation, and monitor the body’s experience of pain.

-          Arachidonic Acid (AA). Found predominantly in animal products, AA regulates metabolic functions and is critical for our adaptation to exercise, muscle repair, and general brain function. AA is vital to life, but can lead to excessive inflammation if over-consumed.

Fats that we should never, ever eat.

-          Trans fat. Found in nothing our ancestors ate, ever. In fact, they’ve only existed for about 50 years. Exposing polyunsaturated fats to hydrogen gas creates trans fats, which look and act similar to saturated fats. However, trans fats have some serious flaws. They destroy liver function, ruin blood lipids, and undo our insulin sensitivity. Thankfully, trans fats are being phased out. Now even the FDA is calling for an eventual ban. 

Eat Fat: How Much, What Type, and How You’ll Feel

Now that we’ve described most of the fats we encounter in our lives at great length, we will discuss how to eat it and what the effects on your body will be.

1. How much?

While some medical practitioners have staked their careers on telling people to eat as little of fat as possible, it seems that fat intake actually has little bearing on health, disease, and even weight! The best course of action is to find what works for you through experimentation or discussing with an appropriate health practitioner.

2. What type?

-          Saturated fat is no longer the big bad wolf ready to blow down your house, or blow out your heart. The ancestral diet included 10-15% of calories from saturated fats, unless the population lived in areas near coconut, in which case the population may have eaten up to 40% of its’ calories from saturated fats such as Lauric Acid.

-          Our ancestors also tended to avoid eating much Palmitic Acid, which is a huge indicator in increasing LDL cholesterol.

-          Balanced n-3:n-6 ratios. Since omega-3’s tend to decrease inflammation and omega-6’s increase it, the fact that our ancestors ate about an equal amount of both meant that our bodies remained in balance. Our current diet skews heavily in favor of consuming omega-6’s, leading to increased inflammation throughout the body. To balance this out, eat grass-fed and wild-caught fish, and supplement with fish oil. Try to avoid most seed and grain oils, as well.

-          Coconut Oil improves heart health, boosts metabolism, promote weight loss, supports the immune system and even helps our skin look young when applied topically!

3. How will I feel and look?

Eating good, healthy fats suited to your bodies needs will help you lose fat, gain muscle, and feel amazing.

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.

A Cure for the Allergy Epidemic

Allergies are often seen as an accident. Your immune system misinterprets a harmless protein like dust or peanuts as a threat, and when you encounter it, you pay the price with sneezing, wheezing, and in the worst cases, death.

What prompts some immune systems to err like this, while others never do? Some of the vulnerability is surely genetic. But comparative studies highlight the importance of environment, beginning, it seems, in the womb. Microbes are one intriguing protective factor. Certain ones seem to stimulate a mother’s immune system during pregnancy, preventing allergic disease in children.

By emulating this naturally occurring phenomenon, scientists may one day devise a way to prevent allergies.

This task, though still in its infancy, has some urgency. Depending on the study and population, the prevalence of allergic disease and asthma increased between two- and threefold in the late 20th century, a mysterious trend often called the “allergy epidemic.”

These days, one in five American children have a respiratory allergy like hay fever, and nearly one in 10 have asthma.

Nine people die daily from asthma attacks. While the increase in respiratory allergies shows some signs of leveling off, the prevalence of food and skin allergies continues to rise. Five percent of children are allergic to peanuts, milk and other foods, half again as many as 15 years ago. And each new generation seems to have more severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reactions than the last.

Some time ago, I visited a place where seemingly protective microbes occurred spontaneously. It wasn’t a spotless laboratory in some university somewhere. It was a manure-spattered cowshed in Indiana’s Amish country.

My guide was Mark Holbreich, an allergist in Indianapolis. He’d recently discovered that the Amish people who lived in the northern part of the state were remarkably free of allergies and asthma.

About half of Americans have evidence of allergic sensitization, which increases the risk of allergic disease. But judging from skin-prick tests, just 7.2 percent of the 138 Amish children who Dr. Holbreich tested were sensitized to tree pollens and other allergens. That yawning difference positions the Indiana Amish among the least allergic populations ever described in the developed world.

This invulnerability isn’t likely to be genetic. The Amish originally came to the United States from the German-speaking part of Switzerland, and these days Swiss children, a genetically similar population, are about as allergic as Americans.

Ninety-two percent of the Amish children Dr. Holbreich tested either lived on farms or visited one frequently. Farming, Dr. Holbreich thinks, is the Amish secret. This idea has some history. Since the late 1990s, European scientists have investigated what they call the “farm effect.”

The working hypothesis is that innocuous cowshed microbes, plant material and raw milk protect farming children by favorably stimulating their immune systems throughout life, particularly early on. That spring morning, Dr. Holbreich gave me a tour of the bonanza of immune stimuli under consideration.

We found our hosts, Andrew Mast and his wife, Laura, hard at work milking cows in the predawn chill.

Dr. Holbreich, slight and bespectacled, peppered them with questions. At what age did Mr. Mast begin working in the cowshed? “My first memory is of milking,” he said, at about the age of 5. What about his children, two straw-haired girls, then ages 2 and 3; did they spend time in the cowshed? The elder girl came to the barn at 3 months of age, he said. “People learn to walk in here.” Do expectant mothers work in the barn? “Yes,” Laura said. “We work.”

Dr. Holbreich had made his point: whatever forces were acting here, they were chronic, and they began before birth. As the sun rose, Dr. Holbreich and I sniffed the damp, fermented feed (slightly malty); shoveled fresh cow manure (“Liquid gold,” Dr. Holbreich said only half-jokingly, “the best medicine you could think of”); and marveled at the detritus floating in the air. Extrapolating from previous research, with each breath we were inhaling perhaps 1,000 times more microbes than usual. By breakfast time, grime had collected under our nails, hay clung to our clothes, and muck to our boots. “There’s got to be bacteria, mold and plant material,” Dr. Holbreich said. “You do this every day for 30 years, 365 days a year, you can see there are so many exposures.”

The challenge of identifying the important exposures — and getting them into a bottle — is a pressing one. In parts of the developing world, where allergic disease was once considered rare, scientists have noted an uptick, especially in urban areas. China offers a dramatic case in point. A 2009 study found a more than threefold difference in allergic sensitization (as judged by skin-prick tests) between schoolchildren in rural areas around Beijing and children in the city proper. Doctor-diagnosed asthma differed sixfold. Maybe not coincidentally, 40 percent of the rural children had lived on farms their whole lives.

Immigrants from the developing world to the developed tend to be less allergic than average. But the longer they reside in their adopted countries, the more allergic they become. And their native-born children seem to gain the vulnerability to asthma, sometimes surpassing it. All of which highlights a longstanding question in the allergy field. As Dr. Holbreich puts it, “What is it about westernization that makes people allergic?”

When hay fever first emerged as a common complaint among the upper classes of Britain in the 19th century — and became a badge of refinement — farmers, who were exposed to more pollen than probably anyone else, seemed relatively invulnerable to the new affliction. In the 1990s, European scientists rediscovered the phenomenon in the small alpine farms of Switzerland. A bevy of studies followed, comprising thousands of subjects across Switzerland, Germany, Austria and elsewhere. Critically, by comparing children living in the same rural areas, scientists could discount urban pollution. Everyone was breathing the same country air.

And earlier this year, some of Dr. Holbreich’s collaborators, from the University of Basel in Switzerland, made a strong case that physical activity couldn’t explain the disparity either. They had rural children wear devices that measured movement for a week. There was little difference in physical activity between farming and nonfarming children. 

What matters then? Erika von Mutius, a doctor and epidemiologist at Munich University in Germany who has led much of this research, suspects diversity is important. Farms with the greatest array of microbes, including fungi, appear to be the most protective against asthma. At the Mast farm, the cowshed wasn’t more than 60 feet from the house. In Europe, scientists found that microbes waft from cowsheds into homes.

In one study, they showed that an infant’s risk of eczema was inverse to the microbial load in her mother’s mattress.

Timing seems to matter tremendously. The earlier exposure begins, it seems, the greater the protection — and that includes during pregnancy. Children born to mothers who work with livestock while pregnant, and who lug their newborns along during chores, seem the most invulnerable to allergic disease later.

Here, the farm effect dovetails with the burgeoning science on the prenatal origins of disease generally. What happens to your mother during the nine months before your birth may affect your vulnerability to many diseases decades later, from heart disease and obesity to schizophrenia.

Allergies and asthma seem to follow the rule as well.

Susan Prescott, a doctor and researcher at the University of Western Australia in Perth, has noted differences in the placentas of children who later develop allergies. A critical subset of white blood cells — called regulatory T-cells — seems relatively scarce at birth. Rather than enabling aggression, these cells help the immune system restrain itself when facing substances that are not true threats. A healthy population of these and other “suppressor” cells is important, scientists now suspect, in preventing allergies and asthma. So it seems significant that European farming children are born with a comparative surfeit of these cells. Bianca Schaub, a doctor and researcher at Munich University, has found that farming newborns have more regulatory T-cells in cord blood than babies of nonfarmers. In test tubes, these cells more effectively quash allergic-type reactions. And that suppressive ability increases with the number of different types of animals the mother tended while pregnant. The more cows, pigs and chickens a mother encounters, essentially, the more easily her offspring may tolerate dust mites and tree pollens.

Animal studies demonstrate how this might work. Some years back, scientists at Philipps University of Marburg in Germany sprayed pregnant mice with microbes originally isolated from Bavarian cowsheds. The exposure induced favorable changes in gene expression at the placenta. The pups born to these mice were protected against asthma.

This research suggests that farming mothers might benefit from a naturally occurring immunotherapy, one that preprograms the developing fetus against allergic disease. Yet how to apply that therapy deliberately remains unclear. Is “microbial pressure” what matters — a stiff microbial wind in our sails? Or do certain cowshed microbes actually colonize farmers, and favorably calibrate their immune function?

There’s evidence to support both explanations, which aren’t mutually exclusive anyway.

Before you rush to the nearest farm, however, a word of caution. Some studies indicate that if you grow up in an urban environment, occasional visits to the farm may exacerbate allergic propensities. If you haven’t matured with abundant microbial stimulation, the thinking goes, encountering it intermittently may push you into overdrive, prompting the misery you seek to avoid.

And yet, a prospective study from Denmark published this month suggests that it’s never too late. Young adults who began farming (with livestock) were less likely to develop new allergic sensitivities than rural peers who chose other professions. Existing allergies didn’t disappear. Rather, the farming environment seemed to prevent new sensitizations.

Which brings us to farm milk. In Europe, the consumption of unpasteurized milk has repeatedly correlated with protection against allergic disease. In America, 80 percent of the Amish studied by Dr. Holbreich consume raw milk. In a study published earlier this year, Dr. Schaub’s group showed that European children who consumed farm milk had more of those regulatory T-cells, irrespective of whether they lived on farms. The higher the quantity of those cells, the less likely these children were to be given diagnoses of asthma. Here, finally, is something concrete to take off the farm.

None of these scientists recommend that people consume raw milk; it can carry deadly pathogens. Rather, they hope to identify what’s protective in the milk and either extract it or preserve the ingredients during processing. Microbes may not be the key ingredient in this case. Instead, farm milk may act as a prebiotic — selectively feeding good microbes within. Another possibility is that as with human breast milk, antibodies and immune-signaling proteins in cow’s milk influence the human immune system, steering it toward tolerance.

As a whole, this research reframes the question of what prompted the late 20th-century allergy epidemic. Is the problem one of exposure to allergens, many of which aren’t exactly new to human experience? Or is the problem one of increasing sensitivity to whatever allergens are present?

The science suggests the latter. The Mast cowshed, with its rich array of microbial stimuli, probably resembles the world in which the human immune system evolved more than, say, an apartment high above Manhattan. The Amish in Indiana, who for reasons of religious faith have maintained a 19th-century-like lifestyle, may not be less allergic. Rather, during the dramatic reordering of human existence that began with the Industrial Revolution, everyone else may have become more allergic. Immunologically speaking, the farming Amish and farmers generally may more closely resemble an evolutionary norm for our species.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/10/opinion/sunday/a-cure-for-the-allergy-epidemic.html?emc=eta1

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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.

Digestive Health Ann Arbor - A call to action

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A “Typical” Breakfast Leads to A Child's Hospitalization: What Every Parent Must Know About Children's Food Allergies

How Food Can Turn Our Children's Bodies Against Them
Though our nation may be one of the wealthiest in the world, our children are still not safe from epidemics such as Type II diabetes, obesity, and food allergies. Since 1998, there has been a 265% increase in hospitalizations related to food allergies among children under 18, according to a 2008 CDC report. With an 18% increase in food allergies between 1997 and 2007, an unbelievable 3 million children now have food allergies. Unfortunately, these trends are not merely related to a general population increase. It is the very food we feed our families that is turning their immune systems against them.
 
A “Typical” Breakfast Leads to A Child's Hospitalization
Robyn O'Brien, a former food industry analyst and mother of four, admits she had not given a lot of thought to what was in the food they ate. Like many busy moms, she raised her kids on a typical American breakfast of Eggo waffles, blue yogurt, and scrambled eggs. “And then one morning,” she says quietly, “over breakfast, life changed.” Her youngest child suffered an acute, allergic reaction and O'Brien rushed her to the hospital. When the doctors announced that her daughter had food allergies, O'Brien channeled her energy towards raising awareness about these health issues. She now has her own website, gives speeches, and interviews with Fox News and the New York Times. Thankfully, O'Brien's daughter has thrived, but O'Brien's confidence in America's supermarkets has not.
 
The First Question O'Brien Asked: “What is a food allergy?”
O'Brien invested her self-described Type-A personality into understanding how food affects human physiology. She was astonished to learn that 70% of the immune system is located in the digestive tract. This means that a lot of what determines our health depends on how our food is digested and absorbed. Food not digested or absorbed properly affects the entire body. A food allergy is triggered when the body somehow perceives a food protein as a foreign invader – the immune system then attacks. The most common allergens can be harmless substances such as peanuts, eggs, wheat or milk. But why the sudden rise in food allergies? O'Brien recalls that very few people had food allergies when she was a child. “Is there something foreign in our foods that wasn't there when we were kids?,” she asked herself.
 
Something Foreign in the Food?
In fact, there is. Processed foods, which account for a large portion of the standard American diet, contribute to allergies in a number of ways. Most processed foods contain food colorings, preservatives and genetically engineered proteins that were never present in Grandmother's baked lasagna. If the saying “you are what you eat” holds any weight, then it is unsurprising that these frankenfoods are waging war in our digestive tract. Processed foods can lead to obesity (they have an intentionally large caloric content) and Type II diabetes (processed foods are notoriously sopped in high fructose corn syrup, a sugar derivative), and food allergies (foreign proteins can trigger an autoimmune reaction), among other complications.
 
The Rise of GM Crops: Where Have all the Mom and Pop Farmers Gone?
Since the mid-1990s, new food proteins were engineered into our food supply. This was done to maximize profits for the commercial food industry. Each new protein makes more money for the labs that develop them and companies that patent and produce them. Agriculture took an even greater step in the direction of biotechnology, leaving many Mom and Pop farms scrambling to make ends meet. Farms that did not purchase the newest technologically advanced seeds, pesticides and harvesting equipment struggled to keep afloat in a market increasingly interested in profits rather than healthful food. As a market analyst, O'Brien admits the scenario made perfect sense to her. However, as a mother, she was incensed to learn that agricultural scientists, or agriscientists, did not conduct a single human trial to check for potential side effects. Agriculture is the backbone of a healthy society. While technology is certainly the wave of the future, shouldn't our citizen's health be a national priority?
 
Currently Commercialized GM Crops in the U.S.:
As of May 2010, the Institute for Responsible Technology reported the following percentages (in parenthesis) of these standard crops were genetically modified:
 
Soy (91%) Cotton (71%) Canola (88%) Corn (85%) Sugar Beets (90%) Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%) Alfalfa (at Supreme Court), Zucchini and Yellow Squash (small amount) Tobacco (Quest® brand)
 
Other Sources of GMO:
·      Dairy products from cows injected with the GM hormone rbGH
·      Food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet®) and rennet used to make hard cheeses
·      Meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that have eaten GM feed
·      Honey and bee pollen that may have GM sources of pollen
·      Contamination or pollination caused by GM seeds or pollen
 
3 Case Studies: Milk, Corn and Soy
1. Milk: It Doesn't Always Do A Body Good
According to CNN and the Wall Street Journal, milk is the most common of all food allergens. This seems unsurprising when examined alongside the dairy industry's chemical make-over 15 years ago. In 1994, scientists created a new synthetic growth hormone, recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to help cows produce more milk. Unfortunately, it also made the cows sick. Besides growing at a monstrous rate and falling under the weight of their own udders, dairy cows also developed ovarian cysts, skin disorders, and udder infections. But the cows produced much more milk. So, despite the obvious pain and illness caused by these hormones, the dairy industry continued (and continues) with this practice. To get a few more years out of the chronically ill cow's life, industrial dairy farmers decided to feed the cows a steady diet of antibiotics, too.
 
“How many sippy cups have I filled with this milk?!”
This procedure isn't only dangerous for cows - it's also extremely detrimental for humans. According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, rBGH milk significantly increases consumers risk of developing breast, colon and prostate cancer. Exposure to the low-grade antibiotics found in milk is also linked to the development of allergies, autoimmune disorders and super bugs (bacteria that are impervious to even the strongest of antibiotics). Despite these dangers, Monsanto Co., the manufacturer of rBGH, has strong-armed U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into permitting the sale of unlabeled rBGH milk. The corporation has also tried to bribe investigative reporters from a Fox News station in Florida who researched the issue of rBGH milk. When the reporters did not accept the money, they were fired by Fox. As Robyn O'Brien uncovered more and more stories about the toxicity of industrial milk, she decided to purge her kitchen, wondering in alarm, “how many sippy cups have I filled with this milk?!”
 
2. GM Corn No Longer Classified as a Vegetable, but a Pesticide
Industrial plants are now engineered to sustain increasing increments of weed killer. The weed killer is needed because of a recent rise in plant parasites. Many scientists believe the plant parasite boom relates to a monoculture style of farming, where one kind of plant crop is grown on vast plots of land, land often severely depleted of soil nutrients. As concerns rose over pesticide sprays in the 1990s, agriscientists developed genetically modified plants which imbedded pesticide-like chemicals in their very DNA. One such example is the corn product, StarLink™ .
 
StarLink™  is a genetically engineered variety of yellow corn which releases the protein Cry9C, a toxic substance for various insect pests. During the 1990s, its registering corporation, Aventis Agroscience, Inc., received approval by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to produce the corn as livestock feed. Presumably, this poisoned food product was supposed to calm our fears over chemical pesticides released into the air. It doesn't feel very reassuring to find out it was regulated by the EPA as a pesticide. Though Aventis Agroscience, Inc. promised to use the corn product exclusively for animal feed, traces of it were soon found in taco shells. Since it was never conclusively determined whether or not StarLink™  was harmful for humans, regulatory authorities removed it from the market.
 
Foreign markets refused (and continue to refuse) to accept GM corn and other food products from the U.S. Though StarLink™ got the boot by the EPA, plenty other frankenfoods feed our animals and stock our market shelves.
 
3. GM Soy Affects Reproduction, Growth
In a study published in July 2010, Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov investigated if Monsanto's genetically modified soy lead to problems in growth or reproduction. Backed by Surov's Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Association for Gene Security, the study found that three generations of hamsters fed for 2 years on a GM diet showed devastating results. By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to reproduce. They also grew more slowly, had a high infant mortality rate, and strangely developed patches of hair inside their mouths.
 
The Institute of Responsible Technology reports that cooked GM soy contains as much as 7 times the amount of a known soy allergen, and that soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, soon after GM soy was introduced.
 
A Concerned Mother asks, “What are the Effects?”
O'Brien was astounded by the food industry's complete and utter lack of consideration for consumers. Having already witnessed some shocking results in her own children, O'Brien asked, “what other effects are we seeing now in the American public?”
 
Cancer.
O'Brien noticed a huge increase in cancer rates in the United States. In fact, a consultation with a variety of cancer NGOs confirmed that the U.S. has some of the highest rates of cancer in the world. What has caused this cancer epidemic? Dr. Stanley Ewen, consultant histopathologist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, says GM foods could be the culprit. He points to the fact that GM foods serve as a “growth factor” in the stomach and colon, encouraging the rapid proliferation of polyps. Apparently, the faster and bigger the polyps grow, the more likely it is they will be malignant. This risk is not limited to direct human consumption, either. Dr. Ewen's studies show that eating livestock which has eaten GM foods can also lead to increased cancer risk. Dr. Ewen urges a ban on GM crops until their safety is sufficiently tested.
 
Asthma.
Though scientists agree dairy products exacerbate asthma because they encourage the development of mucus, it is now believed that an allergic reaction to dairy itself can cause asthma. Dr. Frank Osky, the Chief of Pediatrics at the John Hopkins School of Medicine, believes that 50% of all school children may be allergic to milk, though many of them remain undiagnosed. Dairy allergies are now considered one of the leading causes of asthma in America.
 
ADD/ADHD.
Dr. Rapp, Pediatric Allergist and champion of Environmental Medicine, devotes her life to treating children with behavioral issues like ADD/ADHD. She believes that most hyperactive, aggressive or easily distracted children have some undetected food allergy affecting their biochemistry. Many of her patients see drastic results after slight diet modification.
 
Autism.
There is a high prevalence of food allergies among autistic children. Some scientists predict that autistic children lack an enzyme which helps digest the proteins in milk (casein) or in bread-like products (gluten). It could be these very foods which prevent children from developing normally. Many parents report staggering success when removing these foods from their children's diets.
 
Autoimmune Disorders.
Chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis, and many more, are linked to food allergies and GM crops.
 
Other Developed Nations Reject GM Foods: “Unsafe for Citizens”
Canada, Japan and 23 other European countries now ban GM foods. If these technologically advanced foods were really superior to what humans have been eating for the past 200,000 years, wouldn't the whole developed world be jumping at the chance to import or produce them themselves?
 
Tax Payer Dollars Support GM Crops: Who Supports our Skyrocketing Health Bill?
As rates of food allergies, cancer and other chronic illnesses skyrocket, the amount of money needed to manage these diseases skyrockets, too. According to a 2009 World Health Organization (WHO) report, the U.S. spends 16% of it's Gross National Product (GNP) on healthcare costs, more than any other nation on the planet. Even countries with government-funded healthcare systems are still paying less than the United States. This doesn't only affect our pocketbooks, but our role as a player in the international marketplace.
 
3 Steps: Take a Stand for Your Families Health
In her closing remarks in her video conference, O'Brien conceded that though she is no foodie, addressing the industrial food system is vital for our nation's well-being, in fact “there is nothing more patriotic that we could be doing.” Here are a few small and reasonable changes that we can all make to keep our families healthy and safe:
 
1. Support local farmers
Small-scale and organic farmers are often targeted by the United States Farm Bill, the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government. They are charged fees to prove their crops are grown without chemicals or GM seeds, more fees to label their crop a certain way, and denied subsidies - it's tough to make ends meet. By supporting local farmer's markets and purchasing with the seasons we can help build a healthier community.
 
2. Demand Changes from Large Corporations
Kraft, Coca Cola, and Walmart all have international branches. How have they dealt with the rejection of GM foods in their stores? By not selling them. These large corporations have listened to consumer demand and formulated their products differently to not include GM ingredients. Even Whole Foods sells products that contain GM ingredients in it's non-organic products. We must demand that large corporations protect our families and communities. Avoid purchasing items from stores or companies that don't care how their product may be effecting your family's health.
 
3. Learn the 15 Signs and Symptoms of Food Allergies
1. Tiredness, drowsiness, no energy.
2. Frequent headache or migraines.
3. Stomach bloating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence.
4. GI disorders including, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis & IBS
5. Mouth Ulcers.
6. Chronic cough, bronchitis, asthma, colds and 'flu'.
7. Eczema, psoriasis, and chronic skin problems.
8. Aching joints, backache.
9. Gradual weight change.
10. Tinea or Yeast (Candida) infections.
11. Clumsiness, lack of coordination.
12. Miscarriage, infertility.
13. Hemorrhoids and Ear pain.
14. Cravings, addictions.
15. ADHD/ADD, behavioral problems
 
New Beginnings at Digestive Health Ann Arbor
Biologist David Schubert of the Salk Institute alerts us that “children are the most likely to be adversely affected by toxins and other dietary problems” related to GM foods. The lack of clinical human trials means our nation's children are in fact “the experimental animals.” Monitoring your child's health is imperative. Though facing a food allergy or a related condition can be daunting, we must heed the body's messages and remember that there is hope. After slight modification to our diets and lifestyles, and taking appropriate supplements as needed, our bodies can heal. If you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of a compromised digestive system, make an appointment with one of the experts at Digestive Health Ann Arbor.

Please call 734-222-8210 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we provide professional and compassionate care guiding people towards a comprehensive and holistic strategy of healing. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life. Please visit our website at www.digestivehealth-annarbor.com.
 
To read or see more about Robyn O'Brien, check out the following links:
On Fox News:
http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/health/food-allergies-and-their-symptoms-051111
In the New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/09/dining/09alle.html?pagewanted=all
Her personal webpage, with a link to her video conference:
http://www.robynobrien.com/

Allergies to Immune System Shutdown? 13 Warning Signs & 3 Steps to Healing

The term “allergy” was first used only a hundred years ago, and even then allergies were rarely diagnosed. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of children under 18 who suffered from food allergies jumped 17%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Allergies are a growing health condition and can cause serious immune system problems that go deeper than the sufface annoyances of allergy sufferers. Finding out what you are allergic to is critical for effective allergy treatment.

Many people with untreated allergy symptoms aren't aware of how much better they can feel once their symptoms are properly diagnosed by an allergist.
60% of people with food allergies display symptoms that are seemingly unrelated to their digestive system.
Check out these 13 allergy warning signs:

1. Tiredness, drowsiness, no energy.
2. Frequent headache or migraines.
3. Stomach bloating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence (IBD/IBS).
4. Mouth Ulcers.
5. Chronic cough, bronchitis, asthma, colds and 'flu'.
6. Eczema, psoriasis, and chronic skin problems.
7. Aching joints, backache.
8. Gradual weight change.
9. Tinea or Yeast (Candida) infections.
10. Clumsiness, lack of coordination.
11. Miscarriage, infertility.
12. Hemorrhoids and Ear pain.
13. Cravings, addictions.
Digestive Health Ann Arbor uses Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay panel (ELISA) - a comprehensive blood test that examines 96 of the most common foods.  The food categories tested include animal products, dairy, meat and fowl, grains, nuts, vegetable, seafood, fruits, and more. ELISA tested patients receive in-depth professional interpretations of their IgE, IgA and IgG immune responses. 
3 Steps to Healing:

1. Learn about food allergy testing
2. Find an allergist who can perform allergy testing
3. Take our allergy test and have the results interpreted with an action plan put into place
The most important question you can ask yourself is: What is stopping my body from healing?
If you or your child show symptoms it's time to get tested. 
Call (734) 222-8210 today and mention offer: [allergy-free] for a no-cost consulation & evaluation.