Month: June 2015

You Can Lose the Weight – Four Simple Steps from Dr. David Perlmutter

Go to the mall. See a movie. Look around next time you’re in an airport. What you’ll see is the confirmation of all the statistics that we’re hearing so much about these days related to the ever-increasing prevalence of obesity. It’s everywhere and it’s affecting most of us.

Books, online information, infomercials, daytime T.V., and even nightly news programs are constantly hammering us with the scary news that relates increasing abdominal girth to just about every bad medical condition you don’t want to get. At the same time, these same resources offer up some new trendy solution to the obesity epidemic daily, often in the form of some new and exotic dietary supplement.

Truth is, losing weight doesn’t happen when you give in and buy the latest pill. Weight loss happens when the body shifts from storing fat to burning fat. It is that simple, and far and away how we signal our metabolism to make this fundamental shift depends on what we choose to eat.

But it’s understanding how our food choices influence the ratio of fat storage to fat burning that will help give commitment to making the right dietary changes to trim down.

When we humans consume glucose or carbohydrate-rich foods that are then broken down into glucose, it stimulates the pancreas to secrete the hormone insulin. We all learned in high school biology that insulin works in the body by facilitating the reduction of blood sugar by driving it into cells. But while that is true, insulin performs two other functions in your body that you need to be aware of: it stimulates fat production and inhibits fat breakdown. This explains why sugars and carbs make people fat.

In our hunter-gatherer days, the ability of insulin to stimulate fat production might well have paved the way for our ability to survive. Long before wheat fields, apple orchards or convenience stores, late summer and early fall were pretty much the only times of the year when humans would stumble upon sugars, because that’s when fruit ripens. Eating these sugar-rich foods would stimulate insulin production, leading to fat storage that provided us a calorie buffer for the winter, when food was scarce. This is actually an incredible adaptive mechanism. Unfortunately, sugar-rich foods are no longer just something we have for a few weeks a year. Sugar and carbs are available in abundance 365 days a year, all the while telling us to store fat for the winter of food scarcity that never comes.

Dietary fat has pretty much the opposite effect in terms of insulin signaling. It actually sends signals to our physiology that food is abundant, shutting down the need to store fat for the future.

The other player influencing whether we are fat or lean is the microbiome, the collection of more than 100 trillion organisms living within our body. So influential are these organisms in terms of our metabolism that scientists now regard the 3-pound microbiome as actually representing an organ within the body like the liver or the heart. Specifically, the bacteria within the gut play a huge role in regulating how many calories we extract from a given meal, the level of our desire to eat, and even the production of the brain chemicals that influence our eating habits.

So here’s the skinny:

  1. Eat a diet that’s really low in sugar and carbohydrates. I recommend a target of 60-80 grams/carbs/day. Opt for whole fruit, not fruit juice. Avoid dried fruit as it is highly sugar-concentrated.
  1. Eat more fat. Welcome fat back to the table in the form of extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, free-range eggs, wild fish and grass-fed beef.
  1. Add probiotic-rich fermented foods to your plate. Foods like fermented fish, kimchi, fermented vegetables, kombucha, and cultured yogurt are teeming with healthy probiotic bacteria that can help pave the way for weight loss.
  1. Eat more fiber. Fiber rich foods increase the sense of fullness and that helps reduce overall food consumption. More importantly, foods containing a special type of fiber, prebiotic fiber, cater to the healthy gut bacteria, expanding their numbers and enhancing their positive influence on your health. These include choices like jicama, dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichoke, onion and garlic.

Junk food kills bacteria that protect against obesity, heart disease and cancer, study find

from the Telegraph:

A McDonald's double cheeseburger with a bite missing

Tom, the subject of the experiment, spent spend 10 days on a fast-food-only diet of McDonald’s hamburgers, chips, chicken nuggets and Coca Cola Photo: Alamy

Eating junk food kills stomach bacteria which protect against obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, inflammatory bowel conditions and autism, fresh studies have found.

The human gut contains around 3,500 difference microbial species, which together make up some three pounds in weight.

Scientists now believe a diet based on a limited range of highly processed foods, rather than those found in a balanced, healthy diet, can wipe out the number of stomach flora by more than a third.

The discovery could explain why some people put on weight while others don’t, despite eating roughly similar amounts of fat, sugar, protein and carbohydrates.

The finding emerged from studies conducted by Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London.

He enlisted the help of his 23-year genetics student son Tom, who agreed to spend 10 days on a fast-food-only diet of McDonald’s hamburgers, chips, chicken nuggets and Coca Cola.

Tom said: “Before I started my father’s fast food diet there were about 3,500 bacterial species in my gut, dominated by a type called firmicutes.

“Once on the diet I rapidly lost 1,300 species and my gut was dominated by a group called bacteriodetes. The implication is that the McDonalds diet killed 1,300 of my gut species”.

Almost two thirds of adult Britons are overweight.

However Professor Spector’s findings appear to support existing research which indicates the problem is far more complex than simply eating too much.

Stomach flora also play a key role in warding off potentially harmful microbes, regulating the metabolism.

They produce digestive enzymes alongside vitamins A and K, which are needed to aid the absorption into the body of important minerals such as calcium and iron.

Bacterial imbalances have been linked increased chances of developing conditions such as colitis and inflammatory bowel disease, while there is evidence that autism may be linked to lower gut bacterial activity.

Yet the precise make up of our microbial populations may vary from country to country, while there are even suggestions that obesity may be contagious.

Tests conducted by the University of Colorado in the US found that transferring bacteria from an obese human to a mouse led to the animal gaining weight, while lean mice placed in cages with obese ones also became fat.

Professor Spector said: “Microbes get a bad press, but only a few of the millions of species are harmful, and many are crucial to our health.

“What is emerging is that changes in our gut microbe community, or microbiome, are likely to be responsible for much of our obesity epidemic, and consequences like diabetes, cancer and heart disease”.

Professor Spector oversees a UK registry of 12,000 twins who are monitored over the course of their lives for the effects of a variety of genetic and environmental factors.

The findings are the result of early work carried out by the British Gut Project, of which he is a founding member.

Excluding fat and sugar are less important to a healthy diet than making sure the food one eats is as diverse and natural as possible, Professor Spector said.

His advice chimes with studies suggesting that Belgian Beer, garlic, coffee, leeks and celery are ideal foods for promoting healthy gut flora.

Professor Spector said: “Fifteen thousand years ago our ancestors regularly ingested around 150 ingredients in a week.

“Most people nowadays consume fewer than 20 separate food types and many, if not most, are artificially refined.

“Most processed food products come, depressingly, from just four ingredients: corn, soy, wheat or meat”.

A spokesman for McDonald’s said: “We have a wide range of foods available in our restaurants and McDonald’s can be enjoyed as part of a healthy balanced diet.

“We have also reformulated our ingredients to reduce the amount of salt, fat and sugar and removed trans fats entirely from our menu”.

Vitamin K2: The Missing Nutrient for Heart and Bone Health

“A recent study found statins may increase calcification in the arteries”……

June 28, 2015

By Dr. Mercola

Most everyone, including many conventional physicians, have begun to appreciate the importance and value of vitamin D. Few, however, recognize the importance of vitamin K2, which is nearly as important as vitamin D.

Dr. Dennis Goodman,1 who was born in South Africa and trained at the University of Cape Town, has multiple board certifications in cardiology (and several subspecialties) and holistic integrative medicine.

After his internship at the Grootte Schuur Hospital—where Dr. Christian Barnard did the first heart transplant in 1967—he came to the US, where he did his cardiology fellowship at the at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where Dr. Michael DeBakey performed the first bypass surgery.

“I was really very lucky to be in a situation where I had these two cardiac giants as mentors and teachers,” he says.

Dr. Goodman is also the chairman of the Department of Integrative Medicine at the New York University (NYU), and has authored the book, Vitamin K2: The Missing Nutrient for Heart and Bone Health. In it, he explains why vitamin K2 isevery bit as important as vitamin D.

“For 20 years I was putting stents in; running around day and night at the hospital. When I got called to the emergency room for someone having a heart attack, I was like a fireman putting out a fire in a house.

Sometimes, you were very lucky and could save the house from burning down, and sometimes not.

What I started to realize is that prevention is really the key for us to making the maximum impact. I’ve always been interested in the idea that everything we need to be healthy is provided by the Lord above –namely what’s out there for us to eat.

80 percent of these chronic diseases including atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes, diabetes, and obesity are preventable. So I got into the whole idea of learning integrative medicine,” he says.

He got his training in integrative medicine at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, and ended up being the chief of cardiology at the Scripps clinic for many years.

“Obviously, when you understand holistic medicine, you understand that so much of what we’re doing, unfortunately, in traditional medicine is procedures, testing, and prescribing drugs, because that’s what we’re taught—and making diagnoses instead of taking care of people who basically may not have a disease, but are not healthy and well.”

As a cardiologist, it’s quite appropriate to delve into vitamin K2, as it has two crucial functions: one is in cardiovascular health and the other is in bone restoration.

It performs many other functions as well, but by helping remove calcium from the lining of the blood vessels, vitamin K2 helps prevent occlusions from atherosclerosis.

Vitamin K Basics

Vitamins K1 and K2 are part of a family, but they are very different in their activity and function. Vitamin K1, found in green leafy vegetables, is a fat-soluble vitamin involved in the production of coagulation factors, which are critical for stopping bleeding.

This is why when someone’s on a blood thinner such as warfarin, they need to be careful not to take too much vitamin K1, as it will antagonize the effect of drug. Vitamin K2 is very different. There’s a complex biochemistry that occurs with K2 involving two enzymes:

  • Matrix Gla-protein (MGP)
  • Osteocalcin

“Gla” is short for glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is imported into the cells in the wall of your arteries, where it binds to calcium and removes it from the lining of your blood vessels.

Once removed from your blood vessel lining, vitamin K2 then facilitates the intergration of that calcium into your bone matrix by handing it over to osteocalcin,. The osteocalcin then helps cement the calcium in place.

Vitamin K2 activates these two proteins. Without it, this transfer process of calcium from your arteries to your bone cannot occur, which raises your risk of arterial calcification.

“Vitamin K2 is like a light switch—it switches on MGP and osteocalcin, which takes calcium out of the arterial wall and keeps it in the bone.

There’s so much information showing this relationship between osteoporosis (not having enough calcium in your bones) and having an increased incidence of heart disease. What’s actually happening, I think, a lot of patients are vitamin K2-deficient,” Dr. Goodman says.

“So now, I tell all patients – especially when they have risk factors for calcification – ‘You’ve got to get vitamin K2 when you take your vitamin D, and your calcium, and magnesium.’ Because we need to make sure that the calcium is going where it’s supposed to go.”

Statins May Increase Arterial Calcification by Depleting Vitamin K2

Besides a vitamin K2-poor diet, certain drugs may affect your vitamin K2 status. Dr. Goodman cites a recent article2 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which suggests statin drugs may increase calcification in the arteries.

Interestingly enough, another recent study3 published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology shows that statins deplete vitamin K2.

“For me, that is so huge because if that’s true, everybody that is put on a statin, you want to make sure they’re also taking vitamin K2,” Dr. Goodman says.

This is an important observation, considering one in four adults in the US over the age of 40 is on a statin drug. Not only do all of these people need to take a ubiquinol or coenzyme Q10, which is also depleted by the drug, it’s quite likely they also need vitamin K2 to avoid cardiovascular harm.

Sources of Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 is produced by certain bacteria, so the primary food source of vitamin K2 is fermented foods such as natto, a fermented soy product typically sold in Asian grocery stores. Fermented vegetables can be a great source of vitamin K if you ferment your own using a specially-designed starter culture. My Kinetic Culture is high in strains that make vitamin K2. If you would like to learn more about making your own fermented vegetables with a starter culture, you can watch the video and read more on this page.

Please note that not every strain of bacteria makes K2, so not all fermented foods will contain it. For example, most yogurts have almost no vitamin K2. Certain types of cheeses, such as Gouda, Brie, and Edam, are high in K2, while others are not. It really depends on the specific bacteria. Still, it’s quite difficult to get enough vitamin K2 from your diet—especially if you do not eat K2-rich fermented foods—so taking a supplement may be a wise move for most people.

How Can You Tell if You’re Deficient in Vitamin K2?

The major problem we face when it comes to optimizing vitamin K2 is that, unlike vitamin D, there’s no easy way to screen or test for vitamin K2 sufficiency. Vitamin K2 cannot at present be measured directly, so it’s measured through an indirect assessment of undercarboxylated osteocalcin. This test is still not commercially available, however. “That’s our problem. If that was available, we could start testing and showing people that their levels are low,” Dr. Goodman says.

Without testing, we’re left with looking at various lifestyle factors that predispose you to deficiency. As a general rule, if you have any of the following health conditions, you’re likely deficient in vitamin K2:

That said, it’s believed that the vast majority of people are in fact deficient these days and would benefit from more K2. One reason for this is very few (Americans in particular) eat enough vitamin K2-rich foods. So, if you do not have any of the health conditions listed, but do NOT regularly eat high amounts of the following foods, then your likelihood of being vitamin K2 deficient is still very high:

  • Certain fermented foods such as natto, or vegetables fermented using a starter culture of vitamin K2-producing bacteria
  • Certain cheeses such as Brie and Gouda (these two are particularly high in K2, containing about 75 mcg per ounce)
  • Grass-fed organic animal products (i.e. egg yolks, butter, dairy)

Different Kinds of Vitamin K2

The vitamin K puzzle is even more complex than differentiating between K1 and K2. There are also several different forms of vitamin K2. The two primary ones—and the only ones available in supplement form—are menaquinone-4 (MK-4) and menaquinone-7 (MK-7). MK-4 has a very short biological half-life—about one hour—making it a poor candidate as a dietary supplement. MK-7 stays in your body longer; its half-life is three days, meaning you have a much better chance of building up a consistent blood level, compared to MK-4.

In supplement form, the MK-4 products are actually synthetic. They are not derived from natural food products containing MK-4. The MK-7– long-chain, natural bacterial-derived vitamin K2– on the other hand comes from a fermentation process, which offers a number of health advantages.

Research4 has shown MK-7 also helps prevent inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory markers produced by white blood cells called monocytes. MK-7 is extracted from the Japanese fermented soy product natto, and since it’s longer lasting, you only need to take it once a day. With an MK-4 supplement, you need to take it three times a day. The duration of action is also much longer with MK-7.

As for a clinically useful dosage, some studies have shown as little as 45 micrograms per day is sufficient. Dr. Goodman recommends taking 180 micrograms per day, making sure the K2 is in the form of MK-7. If you’re eating natto, all you need is about one teaspoon.

That said, vitamin K2 is non-toxic, so you don’t need to worry about overdosing if you get more. Do keep in mind that vitamin K2 may not necessarily make you “feel better” per se. Its internal workings are such that you’re not likely to feel the difference physically. Compliance can therefore be a problem, as people are more likely to take something that has a noticeable effect. This may not happen with vitamin K2, but that certainly does not mean it’s not doing anything! Last but not least, remember to always take your vitamin K supplement with fat since it is fat-soluble and won’t be absorbed without it.

Magnesium Recommendations

Another important nutrient is magnesium, which Dr. Goodman addressed in an earlier book called Magnificent Magnesium: Your Essential Key to a Healthy Heart & More. There are at least 350 enzyme systems in your body that require magnesium for proper function. Perhaps even more importantly, the quartet of calcium, vitamin D, K2, and magnesium all work together synergistically. “They’re all in the symphony. You should take them all,” Dr. Goodman says. I couldn’t agree more, and have discussed this in previous articles.

If you can find a supplement that contains vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin K2 in combination, that might be ideal, and then add calcium according to your individual needs. One way to get calcium from your diet that doesn’t cost you anything extra is to pulverize the eggshell from an organic, pastured egg. I use a coffee grinder to do this. I then add the powdered eggshell to my smoothie. Do be sure the eggs you use are organically raised on pasture though. You do not want to use eggs from chickens raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Getting back to magnesium, the only people who really need to be concerned about taking too much are those with renal failure. “If your creatinine’s high, or you got renal failure, you can get into trouble with magnesium,” he says. “But everybody else, the only thing that can happen is some loose stools.”

As for the type of magnesium, Dr. Goodman recommends taking magnesium that ends in “ate”: threonate, glycinate, citrate, and dimalate —the latter of which has a slow-release technology (JIGSAW). “I cannot tell you how many people have written to me, e-mailed me, and thanked me because of magnesium supplementation – no more headaches, they’re sleeping at night, no more leg cramps or palpitations. In some patients it actually helped them lose weight. It’s huge,” he says.

More Information

In closing, Dr. Goodman notes, “I really hope that people get the message that we both are trying to send: to be healthy, you’ve actually got to do something about it. You’ve got to get up, think about nutrition, and think about exercise, stress management, and sleep.” In fact, in addition to vitamin K2, we discuss a number of side issues essential to optimal health in this interview, so for additional pointers please listen to the full interview, linked below the condensed video above, or read through the transcript.

I also recommend picking up one or both of Dr. Goodman’s books: Vitamin K2: The Missing Nutrient for Heart and Bone Health, and Magnificent Magnesium: Your Essential Key to a Healthy Heart & More to learn more about these two underappreciated nutrients. While going into complex topics, Dr. Goodman’s books are easy to read and understand for the layperson.

Scientists Find Direct Link Between Brain and Immune System

 By Dr. Mercola

A new discovery by a team of researchers from the University of Virginia (UVA) “may call for a reassessment of basic assumptions in neuroimmunology” (a field involved in the study of the nervous system and the immune system).1

A direct link between the brain and the immune system, via lymphatic vessels that were not previously known to exist, was found. Similar to blood vessels, which carry blood throughout your body, lymphatic vessels carry immune cells throughout your body.

However, it was long believed that such vessels stopped before reaching the brain. The new discovery, which detected lymphatic vessels beneath a mouse’s skull, could open new avenues for understanding autism, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and many other diseases.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that your brain, your immune system and your gut microbes are intricately linked. Autism, for instance, is associated with gastrointestinal problems and potentially an over-reaction in the immune system. As reported by io9:2

Moreover, neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s have long been linked to changes in immune system function, and autoimmune diseases of the gut, like Crohn’s disease, correlate with psychiatric illness.”

It wasn’t always clear how such connections occurred, but now both a gut-brain axis and a pathway from your immune system into your brain have been uncovered.

‘They’ll Have to Change the Textbooks’

This was the reaction of Kevin Lee, PhD, chairman of the UVA Department of Neuroscience, when he heard of the new finding.3 The lymphatic vessels were detected in the meninges, the protective membranes that cover the brain, and found to closely follow blood vessels.

The study’s lead author, Jonathan Kipnis, a professor in UVA’s Department of Neurosciences and the director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology, highlighted the importance of the discovery:4

“We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role. Hard to imagine that these vessels would not be involved in a [neurological] disease with an immune component…

In Alzheimer’s [for example], there are accumulations of big protein chunks in the brain. We think they may be accumulating in the brain because they’re not being efficiently removed by these vessels.”

It makes sense. Why wouldn’t your brain have a direct conduit to your immune system, after all? And there have been clues along the way. The brain was once considered to be free of normal immune surveillance, which was thought to be necessary, for starters, because swelling (a normal immune response) inside the brain can be deadly.

However, considering the brain “immune privileged” was overly simplistic. According to io9:5

“Careful studies have shown that the brain does interact with the peripheral immune system, albeit in unique ways. Immune cells do, somehow, circulate through the brain, and antigens—which would normally stoke an immune response—do drain from the brain into the lymph nodes.”

The newly discovered lymphatic vessels in the brain indeed suggest there’s an intimate and essential connection between the brain and the immune system that is only beginning to be uncovered.

Microbes in Your Gut Influence Your Brain, Too

It’s not only your immune system that has a direct line to your brain. Your gut, which is teeming with microbial life, also communicates with your brain, via what’s known as the “gut-brain axis.”

In fact, in addition to the brain in your head, embedded in the wall of your gut is your enteric nervous system (ENS), which works both independently of and in conjunction with the brain in your head.

This communication between your “two brains” runs both ways and is the pathway for how foods affect your mood or why anxiety can make you sick to your stomach, for instance. However, this gut-brain connection is about far more than just comfort food or butterflies in your stomach. According toScientific American:6

“The gut-brain axis seems to be bidirectional—the brain acts on gastrointestinal and immune functions that help to shape the gut’s microbial makeup, and gut microbes make neuroactive compounds, including neurotransmitters and metabolites that also act on the brain.”

This also explains why changes in your gut bacteria are linked to brain disorders and more, including depression. Jane Foster, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster University, described to Medicine Net the multiple ways your gut microbes communicate with your brain:7

One is via the enteric nervous system, the part of the nervous system that governs the digestive tract. Also, gut bacteria can alter how the immune system works, which can affect the brain. The gut bacteria are involved in digestion, too, and the substances they make when they break down food can affect the brain.

And under certain conditions, such as stress or infection, potentially disease-causing gut bacteria, or bad bugs, can leak through the bowel wall and enter the bloodstream, enabling them and the chemicals they make to talk with the brain through cells in blood vessel walls.

Bacteria could also communicate directly with cells in certain regions of the brain, including those located near areas involved in stress and mood…”

Altering Your Gut Bacteria May Influence Your Mood

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Gastroenterology enlisted 36 women between the ages of 18 and 55 who were divided into three groups:8

  • The treatment group ate yogurt containing several probiotics thought to have a beneficial impact on intestinal health, twice a day for one month
  • Another group ate a “sham” product that looked and tasted like the yogurt but contained no probiotics
  • Control group ate no product at all

Before and after the four-week study, participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, both while in a state of rest and in response to an “emotion-recognition task.”

For the latter, the women were shown a series of pictures of people with angry or frightened faces, which they had to match to other faces showing the same emotions.

“This task, designed to measure the engagement of affective and cognitive brain regions in response to a visual stimulus, was chosen because previous research in animals had linked changes in gut flora to changes in affective behaviors,” UCLA explained.9

Interestingly, compared to the controls, the women who consumed probiotic yogurt had decreased activity in two brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation:

  • The insular cortex (insula), which plays a role in functions typically linked to emotion (including perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning, and interpersonal experience) and the regulation of your body’s homeostasis
  • The somatosensory cortex, which plays a role in your body’s ability to interpret a wide variety of sensations

During the resting brain scan, the treatment group also showed greater connectivity between a region known as the “periaqueductal grey” and areas of the prefrontal cortex associated with cognition. In contrast, the control group showed greater connectivity of the periaqueductal grey to emotion- and sensation-related regions.

‘Psychobiotics’ for Better Mental Health?

The research is growing showing that your body’s brain and microbes are intricately linked. In December 2011, the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility reported the novel finding that the probiotic known as Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 may help normalize anxiety-like behavior in mice with infectious colitis.10

Separate research also found the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus had a marked effect on GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is significantly involved in regulating many physiological and psychological processes) levels in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior.11

Just as you have neurons in your brain, you also have neurons in your gut — including neurons that produce neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is also found in your brain. In fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, depression and aggression, is found in your intestines, not your brain.

Psychobiotics or “bacteria for your brain” are even being used to successfully treat depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric problems,12 although more research is needed to determine which probiotics, and in what doses, work best for different mood disorders.

Currently, researchers are exploring so-called “magic bullet” antibiotics that are able to target specific “bad” bacteria while leaving good bugs unharmed. Fecal transplants are also being increasingly explored as a way to achieve a healthy microbial balance.

The Inflammatory Connection Between Your Gut and Your Brain

Your gut is also the starting point for inflammation—it’s actually the gatekeeper for your inflammatory response. According to psychoneuroimmunologist Kelly Brogan, your gut’s microorganisms trigger the production of cytokines. Cytokines are involved in regulating your immune system’s response to inflammation and infection. Much like hormones, cytokines are signaling molecules that aid cell-to-cell communication, telling your cells where to go when your inflammatory response is initiated.

Most of the signals between your gut and your brain travel along your vagus nerve—about 90 percent of them.13 Vagus is Latin for “wandering,” aptly named as this long nerve travels from your skull down through your chest and abdomen, branching to multiple organs. Cytokine messengers produced in your gut cruise up to your brain along the “vagus nerve highway.” Once in your brain, the cytokines tell your microglia (the immune cells in your brain) to perform certain functions, such as producing neurochemicals.

Some of these have negative effects on your mitochondria, which can impact energy production and apoptosis (cell death), as well as adversely impacting the very sensitive feedback system that controls your stress hormones, including cortisol. So, this inflammatory response that started in your gut travels to your brain, which then builds on it and sends signals to the rest of your body in a complex feedback loop. The take-home message is this: your body’s parts are intricately connected, and the health of your gut is of utmost importance to the health of your brain and that of your immune system.

‘Nutritional Psychiatry’ for Your Brain Health

Coming back full-circle to your brain health, consuming naturally fermented foods is one of the best ways to optimize your microbiome, which in turn may optimize the health of your brain. Fermented foods are also a key component of the GAPSprotocol, a diet designed to heal and seal your gut. Scientific studies have revealed a positive-feedback loop between the foods you crave and the composition of your microbiome, which depends on those nutrients for survival. So, if you’re craving sugar and refined carbohydrates, you may actually be feeding a voracious army of Candida!

Once you’ve begun eliminating foods that damage your beneficial flora, start incorporating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, naturally fermented pickles, miso, tempeh, and fermented dairy made from raw, unpasteurized grass-fed milk (yogurt, kefir, etc.). These probiotic-foods will help heal, repopulate, and “re-educate” your gut. An article in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology makes the case that properly controlled fermentation amplifies the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods, thereby improving brain health, both physical and mental. The authors wrote:14

“The consumption of fermented foods may be particularly relevant to the emerging research linking traditional dietary practices and positive mental health. The extent to which traditional dietary items may mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress may be controlled, at least to some degree, by microbiota.”

They go on to say that the microbes associated with fermented foods (for example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species) may also influence your brain health via direct and indirect pathways, which paves the way for new scientific investigations in the area of “nutritional psychiatry.” Developing a healthy gut flora begins at birth. Childbirth and breastfeeding set the stage for what organisms are going to inhabit your baby’s body. Therefore, if you’re a mother-to-be, it’s important that you optimize your own microflora, as you will be passing it along to your child.

The good news is, fermented vegetables are easy to make in your own kitchen. They are also the most cost-effective way to get high-quality probiotics in your diet. Your goal should be to consume one-quarter to one-half cup of fermented veggies with each meal, but you may need to work up to this amount. Consider starting with just a teaspoon or two a few times a day, and increase as tolerated.

If that is too much (perhaps your body is severely compromised), you can even begin by drinking a teaspoon of the brine from the fermented veggies, which is rich in the same beneficial microbes. You may also want to consider a high-potency probiotic supplement, but realize that there is no substitute for the real food.

Should You Really Be Taking Fish Oil? by Dr. Chris Kresser

Biomarker Helps Identify Mental Illness in Women By Rick Nauert PhD

The discovery of the inactive “X” traits opens a great field of possibility in treating a wide variety of illnesses.

The connection between an inactive X trait (ie. G6PD def) and development of neurological disorders (MS in this case) was one topic in my PhD research. This tendency has been known for more than a decade. I am happy to see more acknowledgement that “inheritance” is not as simple as Mendel’s peas!

The press release begins here:

In a new study, researchers have identified a biomarker that could be an indicator of mental illness in females.

As background information, researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine explain that psychiatric disorders can be difficult to diagnose because clinicians must rely upon interpreted clues.

The indications of a mental illness often include a patient’s behaviors and feelings. Identification of a mental illness by matching behaviors to genetic predispositions would facilitate a timely diagnosis, and aid intervention and research.

In the study, University of California, San Diego investigators report that for the first time, they have identified a biological marker: the over-production of specific genes that could be a diagnostic indicator of mental illness in female psychiatric patients.

The study was published this week in the journal EBioMedicine.

Researchers discovered the gene XIST — which is responsible for inactivating one of the two copies of the X chromosome in cells that store genetic material — works overtime in female patients with some forms of mental illnesses.

Investigators found that the illnesses include bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia.

The study suggests that over-production of XIST and genes from the inactive X chromosome are common denominators in the development of psychiatric disorders in patients with rare chromosome disorders, such as Klinefelter syndrome and Triple X syndrome, and in the general population of female psychiatric patients.

“There has been an utmost urgency to identify biomarkers for mental illness that could significantly impact research and drug development,” said Xianjin Zhou, Ph.D. , assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and lead author.

The study was conducted on 60 lymphoblastoid cell lines from female patients, most of whom had a family history of mental illness. Approximately 50 percent of the female patients exhibited abnormally higher levels of XIST and other genes related to the X chromosome.

Zhou and his team said reversing the abnormal activity of the inactive X chromosome in patients suffering from mental illness may offer a potential new strategy for treating psychiatric disorders.

“Our results indicate that a large subpopulation of female psychiatric patients from the general population may have abnormal function of the inactive X chromosome,” said Zhou.

“These results are powerful in that early diagnosis of mental illness could possibly happen with a simple blood test, leading to better interventions, therapy, and treatment options.”

Source: University of California, San Diego/EurekAlert!

This Popular Heartburn Medication is Causing Heart Attacks!!

By Dr. Mercola

Are you among the 20 million1 Americans taking an acid inhibiting drug to treat your heartburn?

Please be aware that for most, the risks far outweigh the benefits as there are plenty of alternative effective strategies to eliminate heartburn without serious side effects.

Previous research2,3,4,5,6,7 clearly shows that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid, are severely overprescribed and misused.

Indeed, PPIs are among the most widely prescribed drugs today, with annual sales of about $14 billion8–this despite the fact that they were never intended to treat heartburn in the first place.

Proton Pump Inhibitors Were Not Designed to Treat Heartburn

PPIs, the most powerful class of antacid drugs, were actually designed to treat a very limited range of severe problems,9 such as bleeding ulcers, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (a rare condition that causes excess stomach acid production), and severe acid reflux, where an endoscopy has confirmed your esophagus is damaged.

PPIs were never intended for people with heartburn, and according to Mitchell Katz, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health,10 “about 60 to 70 percent of people taking these drugs have mild heartburn and shouldn’t be on them.”

If you’re taking a PPI drug to treat your heartburn, understand that you’re treating a symptom only; you are in no way addressing the underlying cause. And, by doing so, you’re exposing yourself to other potentially more dangerous health problems, courtesy of the drug itself.

These drugs were initially released during the first years of my practice in the late ’80s. It is important to note that, these drugs could only be obtained with a prescription and were not recommended to use for more than ONE WEEK. Today, they’re sold over the counter and frequently used continuously by many!

The recommendation is to use them for a maximum of two weeks at a time, no more than three times per year, but many ignore this and stay on them farlonger, which could have serious consequences. For example, reported side effects of PPI drugs include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bone loss
  • Hip fractures
  • Infection with Clostridium difficile, a harmful intestinal bacteria (this risk is particularly heightened in children11)

It’s also important to realize that while PPIs suppress the production of stomach acid—which in some severe cases may be warranted, short-term—the vast majority (about 95 percent) of heartburn cases are not caused by too much stomach acid, but rather from having too little.

Hence taking these drugs will actually worsen your condition over time… Reducing stomach acid also diminishes your primary defense mechanism against food-borne pathogens, thereby increasing your risk of food poisoning. PPIs simply do nothing to treat the underlying cause of ulcer pain.

PPIs May Raise Your Risk for Heart Attack

More recent research12,13 has also linked PPIs with an increased risk for heart attack, even if you have no prior history of cardiovascular disease. Lead author Nigam H. Shah of Stanford University in California told Reuters Health:14

“[G]iven the underlying biology and the effect of these drugs in reducing nitric oxide in the blood vessel walls, the observed association is not super surprising…”

However, he also noted that: “Although the results are compelling, this study does not prove that PPIs cause MI [myocardial infarction]…”

What he’s referring to is that nitric oxide (NO) has the effect of relaxing your blood vessels, so by reducing the amount of NO in your blood vessel walls, PPI’s may raise your risk of a heart attack.

To assess whether the use of PPIs were associated with a heightened cardiovascular risk among the general population, the team mined clinical data from more than 16 million medical records on 2.9 million patients.

This revealed that patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) who took PPIs had a 16 percent increased risk of heart attack. Moreover, as reported by Scientific American:15

“Survival analysis in a prospective cohort found a two-fold increased risk of cardiovascular mortality in PPI users… H2 blockers, which include famotidine (Pepcid AC) and ranitidine (Zantac), were not associated with increased cardiovascular risk…

“Consistent with our pre-clinical findings that PPIs may adversely impact vascular function, our data-mining study supports the association of PPI exposure with risk for MI in the general population,” the authors write.”

What Causes Heartburn?

Before we get into treatment, let’s review the actual causes of heartburn, as this will help explain why acid blockers are so detrimental. “Heartburn,” also referred to as acid reflux, is characterized by a burning sensation originating behind your breastbone, sometimes traveling up into your throat.

Heartburn is a hallmark symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as peptic ulcer disease. In some cases, this burning pain can be severe enough to be mistaken for a heart attack. But what’s responsible for this painful effect?

After food passes through your esophagus into your stomach, a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) closes, preventing food or acid to move back up. Acid reflux occurs when the LES relaxes inappropriately, allowing acid from your stomach to flow (reflux) backward into your esophagus.

But the conventional rationale that acid reflux is caused by excessive amounts of acid in your stomach is incorrect. Excessive acid production is actually extremely rare, and the vast majority of acid reflux cases are in fact related to:

  • Hiatal hernia16
  • Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) imbalance

In the early 1980s, Dr. Barry Marshall, an Australian physician, discovered that an organism called helicobacter pylori (initially called campylobacter) can contribute to a chronic low-level inflammation of your stomach lining, which is largely responsible for producing many of thesymptoms of acid reflux. One of the explanations for why suppressing stomach acid is so ineffective—and there are over 16,000 articles in the medical literature attesting to this—is that when you decrease the amount of acid in your stomach, yousuppress your body’s ability to kill the helicobacter bacteria. So suppressing stomach acid production only tends to just worsen and perpetuate the condition.

While it would seem logical to attempt to eradicate this organism as Dr. Marshall suggested (and eventually received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1995), this is clearly not the ideal approach. We now understand that helicobacter bacteria can actually be part of your normal healthy microbiome. It is only when it becomes imbalanced by other bacteria that it becomes a problem. This typically occurs as a result of the poor food choices in a Western diet.

How to Normalize Your Body’s Production of Stomach Acid

Additionally, contrary to popular belief, heartburn is often associated with having too little stomach acid to begin with, and one simple strategy to address this deficiency is to swap out processed table salt for an unprocessed version like Himalayan salt. By consuming enough of the raw material, you will encourage your body to make sufficient amounts of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) naturally. Himalayan salt will not only provide you with the chloride your body needs to make hydrochloric acid, it also contains over 80 trace minerals your body needs to perform optimally, biochemically.

Research17 has also shown that sauerkraut or cabbage juice is among the strongest stimulants for your body to produce stomach acid. Another benefit is that it can provide you with valuable bacteria to help balance and nourish your gut. Having a few teaspoons of cabbage juice before eating, or better yet, fermented cabbage juice from sauerkraut, will do wonders to improve your digestion. Fresh raw cabbage juice can also be very useful to heal resistant ulcers.

Another option is to take a betaine hydrochloric supplement, which is available in health food stores without prescription. You’ll want to take as many as you need to get the slightest burning sensation and then decrease by one capsule. This will help your body to better digest your food, and will also help kill the helicobacter and normalize your symptoms. Now, while hiatal hernia and H.pylori infection are unrelated, many who have a hiatal hernia also have H. pylori18 and associated symptoms. If you have a hiatal hernia, physical therapy on the area may work, and many chiropractors are skilled in this adjustment.

Important Advice when Quitting PPIs

While I strongly advise you to quit using PPIs, getting off them is not easy and you simply can’t quit them cold turkey without a relapse and severe pain, as they actually worsen the condition the longer you are on them. It is a perfect scenario for the drug companies that get you hooked, as you can’t stop them without being in misery. These drugs promote both tolerance and dependence, so you have to gradually wean yourself off them.

To minimize this risk, you can gradually decrease the dose you’re taking, and once you get down to the lowest dose of the proton pump inhibitor, you can start substituting with an over-the-counter H2 blocker like Tagamet, Cimetidine, Zantac, or Raniditine. Then gradually wean off the H2 blocker over the next several weeks. While weaning yourself off these drugs, start implementing the lifestyle modifications discussed below to help eliminate your heartburn once and for all.

Safe and Effective Strategies to Eliminate Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Ultimately, the answer to heartburn and acid indigestion is to restore your natural gastric balance and function and to do that, you need to address your gut health. The most important step is to eliminate processed foods and sugars as they are a surefire way to exacerbate acid reflux. They also alter your gut microbiome and promote the growth of pathogenic microbes. So be sure to eat lots of fresh vegetables and other unprocessed organic foods. Food allergies can also be a contributing factor to acid reflux, so eliminate items such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.

Reseeding your gut with beneficial bacteria, either from traditionally fermented foods or a high-quality probiotic supplement is also important, as this will not only help balance your bowel flora, it can also help eliminate helicobacter bacteria naturally. Probiotics and fermented foods, especially fermented vegetables, also aid in proper digestion and assimilation of your food. Other helpful strategies to get your heartburn under control include the following suggestions, drawn from a variety of sources, including everydayroots.com, which lists 15 different natural remedies for heartburn;19 as well as research from the University of Maryland School of Medicine,20 the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center,21 and others.22

Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar Acid reflux typically results from having too little acid in your stomach. You can easily improve the acid content of your stomach by taking one tablespoon of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a large glass of water.
Betaine Another option is to take a betaine hydrochloric supplement, which is available in health food stores without prescription. You’ll want to take as many as you need to get the slightest burning sensation and then decrease by one capsule. This will help your body to better digest your food, and will also help kill the H. pylori bacteria.
Baking soda One-half to one full teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in an eight-ounce glass of water may ease the burn of acid reflux as it helps neutralize stomach acid. I would not recommend this as a regular solution but it can sure help in an emergency when you are in excruciating pain.
Aloe juice The juice of the aloe plant naturally helps reduce inflammation, which may ease symptoms of acid reflux. Drink about 1/2 cup of aloe vera juice before meals. If you want to avoid its laxative effect, look for a brand that has removed the laxative component.
Ginger root Ginger has been found to have a gastroprotective effect by blocking acid and suppressing helicobacter pylori.23According to a 2007 study,24 it’s also far superior to lansoprazole for preventing the formation of ulcers, exhibiting six- to eight-fold greater potency over the drug! This is perhaps not all that surprising, considering the fact that ginger root has been traditionally used against gastric disturbances since ancient times.

Add two or three slices of fresh ginger root to two cups of hot water. Let steep for about half an hour. Drink about 20 minutes or so before your meal.

Vitamin D Vitamin D is important for addressing any infectious component. Once your vitamin D levels are optimized, you’re also going to optimize your production of about 200 antimicrobial peptides that will help your body eradicate any infection that shouldn’t be there.

As I’ve discussed in many previous articles, you can increase your vitamin D levels through sensible sun exposure, or through the use of a tanning bed. If neither of those are available, you can take an oral vitamin D3 supplement; just remember to also increase your vitamin K2 intake.

Astaxanthin This exceptionally potent antioxidant was found to reduce symptoms of acid reflux in patients when compared to a placebo, particularly in those with pronounced helicobacter pylori infection.25 Best results were obtained at a daily dose of 40 mg.
Slippery elm Slippery elm coats and soothes the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines, and contains antioxidants that can help address inflammatory bowel conditions. It also stimulates nerve endings in your gastrointestinal tract. This helps increase mucus secretion, which protects your gastrointestinal tract against ulcers and excess acidity. The University of Maryland Medical Center26makes the following adult dosing recommendations:

  • Tea: Pour 2 cups boiling water over 4 g (roughly 2 tablespoons) of powdered bark, then steep for 3 – 5 minutes. Drink 3 times per day.
  • Tincture: 5 mL 3 times per day.
  • Capsules: 400 – 500 mg 3 – 4 times daily for 4 – 8 weeks. Take with a full glass of water.
  • Lozenges: follow dosing instructions on label.
Glutamine Research27 published in 2009 found that gastrointestinal damage caused by H. pylori can be addressed with the amino acid glutamine, found in many foods, including beef, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products, and some fruits and vegetables. L-glutamine, the biologically active isomer of glutamine, is also widely available as a supplement.
Folate or folic acid (vitamin B9) and other B vitamins As reported by clinical nutritionist Byron Richards,28research suggests B vitamins can reduce your risk for acid reflux. Higher folic acid intake was found to reduce acid reflux by approximately 40 percent. Low vitamin B2 and B6 levels were also linked to an increased risk for acid reflux. The best way to raise your folate levels is by eating folate-rich whole foods, such a sliver, asparagus,spinach, okra, and beans.
Melatonin, l-tryptophan, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, methionine, and betaine A dietary supplement containing melatonin, l-tryptophan, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, methionine, and betaine, was found to be superior to the drug omeprazole in the treatment of GERD.29 Part of the success is thought to be due to melatonin’s inhibitory activity on nitric oxide biosynthesis, which plays an important role in transient lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxation, which, as I mentioned earlier, is part of the real underlying problem of GERD.

Impressively, 100 percent of patients receiving this supplement reported a complete regression of symptoms after 40 days of treatment, compared to just under 66 percent of those taking omeprazole. The authors concluded that “this formulation promotes regression of GERD symptoms with no significant side effects.”