Thursday, November 5, 2015

Your Health Depends on Your Gut Bacteria. How's Yours?

It's hard to really fathom, but we have trillions of  microorganisms that coexist with us in our bodies- on our skin,  in our gut, vagina, and in our mouth and nose. Plus, one half of our stool weight is composed of bacteria. Together these microbes weigh about 3 or 4 pounds. 

We actually  have 10x more microorganisms in our body than we have human cells! This microbial community  has been coined "the microbiome." by scientists, and it is the latest new medical topic. 
Numerous large-scale studies including the Microbiome Project are currently in progress to determine how specific microbe populations relate to our health, especially our immune, brain and gut functioning. Even our body weight!

Microbiome researcher, Dr. Rob Knight of U.C. San Diego has concluded from his studies that "It is hard to find a disease that is not linked to the microbiome;" and Washington University scientists have discovered that having a smaller diversity of strains of microbes could result in obesity.
 Scientists studied obese mice and healthy lean mice, and found that:
  • Lean mice had a more diverse microbiome with more fat-burning microorganisms
  • Obese mice had  less diverse microbe populations with more fat-storing microorganism
  • Researchers even went further by extracting the microbes from the stool of obese mice and transferring the stool to the lean mice. This resulted in the lean mice gaining a substantial amount of weight over a two week period, despite the fact that they ate less.
    In another study published in the Journal of Science in 2013, researchers took gut bacteria from the stool of lean humans and transferred it to mice eating a poor carb-dense, low fiber diet, and amazingly these mice did not gain any weight!

    The upshot from these studies is that obese humans possess higher levels of fat loving- disease promoting bacteria; now termed firmicutes.

    Dysbiosis is the general term for an inflammatory microbiome made up of  sparse bacterial diversity, and/or an overgrowth of firmucutes, parasites or candida yeast. This type of microbiome  crowd out our beneficial bacteria and disrupt our hormones, metabolism, gut functioning, immunity, our genes; and predisposes us to disease.

    If we don’t possess a healthy population of beneficial bacteria, and therefore a healthy ratio of good bacteria (85%) to bad bacteria (15%) we may experience health difficulties.

    Aging also has an effect on bacterial populations where beneficial bacteria are replaced by E. coli and streptococci lactobacilli-  often leading to constipation. 
Conditions/Diseases Particularly Linked to A Disrupted  Microbiome

colon disorders/ cancer
mood disorders-depression/anxiety
periodontal disease
cardiovascular disease
auto immune disease, Parkinson's, c. fibrosis
chronic constipation/diarrhea
food sensitivities/allergies
nail/skin fungus
poor skin/eczema
vaginal yeast infection
chronic fatigue/insomnia
poor memory and focus/Alzheimer's
frequent bloating and gas
sugar/carb/bread/pasta cravings
alcohol cravings
Joint/muscle aches
R. arthritis
 leaky gut/
 athletes food/jock itch

Our standard Western diet and lifestyle contribute to creating an imbalanced microbiome as it starves our beneficial bacteria while encouraging an overgrowth of bad bacteria . 
The chief offender is a fiber deficient diet high in bad fats, large meat servings, carbs, sugars, and high fructose corn syrup- with low vegetable intake. Beneficial bacteria feed on fiber-rich foods, and if they are in short supply bacteria populations will go hungry and waste away.

Our birth environment and infant history also play a large role in bacterial populations- whether we were born vaginally or from C-section, and if or how long we were breast-fed. If we experienced a birth canal birth, and were breast fed, we will have received our mother’s friendly bacteria. 
Foods/Lifestyle Factors that Kill Good Bacteria & Feed Bad Bacteria

refined white carbs: bread/rice/pasta
processed foods
fried foods/French fries
trans fats/hydrogenated oils
vegetable oils: corn, soy  sunflower, safflower, peanut
antibiotics/antibiotics in meat                    hand sanitizing gels and soaps
low stomach acid
chronic stress
birth control pills
excess alcohol
chlorinated water
large meat servings
environmental chemicals/BPA plastics
low fiber in diet
insufficient vegetables
NSAIDS- Advil/Aleve
Roundup weed killer found in GMO foods (most processed foods)
poor stomach acids (acidity is necessary to kill pathogens- see previous post)
The bulk of our healthy bacteria reside in the small, and large intestine.  Over 500 different species thrive in our digestive tract. The most common bacteria are the Lactobacillus strain which mostly resides in our small intestines, and bifidobacteria which reside in our large intestine.
Bacteria have a myriad of supportive roles:
  • They are vital for proper digestion and absorption of foods. 
  • Colonic bacteria also synthesize B vitamins, and vitamin K2, and convert flavonoids, and lignans to their active forms.
  • They inhibit gut inflammation.
  • They help strengthen the immune system and support detoxification.
  • They prevent and reverse leaky gut syndrome by crowding out the bad bacteria, and candida yeast.
  • They help to prevent estrogen-dependent breast cancer by controlling the damaging enzyme known as glucoronidase, produced by bad bacteria. 
Fortunately it is fairly easy to reseed healthy bacteria into our body. We can do this by:
  • Eating a diverse mix of colorful and inulin-rich fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Choose orange, red, purple, yellow, green, and blue. Try new produce! Eat from the Rainbow!
  • Consuming "Live and Active" probiotic- rich fermented foods and drinks at least once a day.
Inulin-rich Prebiotics and Fermented Foods that Feed Our Microbiome.   
(Fill half your plate with veggies! Reduce carbs, sweets, and bad fats! Increase fiber slowly to avoid gas and bloating))


*Garlic, onions, leeks


*Dandelion greens




Lentils, chickpeas, black beans

“Live and Active” unsweetened plain  yogurt and kefir, beet kvaas, kambucha



Pickled foods in brine (not vinegar)

*Chickory root


*Raw asparagus

*Jerusalem artichoke


 Drink filtered water

* Very high inulin content
When trying to rebalance our microbiome we need to practice what is termed the 4 R's
  1. We need to Remove the offending foods, and disease promoting bacteria.
  2. We need to Replace with healthy foods and supplements- such as HCL and enzymes. (see above)
  3. We need to Re-inoculate with  probiotic rich foods and supplements.
  4. We need to Repair our gut lining. (More on this in an upcoming post.)

Remove the Disease Promoting Microbes with Anti-Microbials

  • I suggest the Designs For Health's GI Microb-X. It is a proven anti-microbial containing a blend of botanical extracts with a lengthy history of use for building a healthy gastrointestinal microbial balance.
  • Designs for Health's Prephage is also recommended. It contains benevolent viruses (bacteriophages) that exclusively infect bacteria and kill them.
  • Thorne Research's Formula SF722 is also a very powerful antimicrobial- especially used for Candida overgrowth.

                     Re-inoculate with Probiotic Supplementation

Taking daily  probiotic dietary supplements is a great way to jump-start your beneficial bacteria populations, and is one of the mainstays of healthy aging. 

Dr. Michael McCann of Georgetown University Medical Center also espoused probiotics. He declared, “Probiotics will be to medicine in the 21st century, as antibiotics, and microbiology were in the 20th century.”

You do however have to be careful when selecting probiotics- as many do not have viable living strains or can't make it past our harsh stomach acids.
  • The best probiotic brand that I have found is Probiotic Synergy spheres and the higher dosage  Probiotic Supreme by Designs for Health  These products are  designed to support the proliferation of beneficial bacteria throughout the small and large intestines in order to promote healthy GI and immune function. Probiotic Synergy spheres and Probiotic Supreme are formulated  with cutting edge Biotract technology that uses the most advanced patented delivery and shelf stability technology available to ensure maximum potency and viability. It is this tableting technology and shape that protects fragile probiotic organisms from harsh stomach acid and delivers the highest number of live organisms to the intestinal tract. The end result—higher potency, superior delivery, and minimal waste.. (DFH, 2015) Take one a day.
  • Designs For Health FloraMyces is a yeast strain called Saccharomyces Boulardii that is especially beneficial after anti-biotic use; and when suffering from chronic diarrhea, IBS, IBD, C. Difficile, leaky gut; and is also used for boosting SigA gut immunity.
  • Lab Testing for Dysbiosis and Candida is also recommended. Many physicians will not order these lab tests, If so, I recommend Direct Labs- an online direct access certified clinical lab that can be used without a doctor's referral. You can order these tests under my account code: R-SAN and receive negotiated discount prices by calling 800-908-0000.
The optimization of  our gut bacteria is the "New Frontier" in health. Enhancing the diversity of our microbiome with probiotic foods and inulin-rich prebiotics; (foods that feed good bacteria);with the addition of  probiotics and anti-microbial supplements (temporarily) is well worth the effort if we would like to experience major shifts in our health, and protect ourselves from age associated diseases.  

Wishing You Vibrant Health,

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is intended for informational purposes, and is not meant to substitute or conflict with the advice from your physician. It is also not meant for pregnant or nursing women. Do not use this information for diagnosis or treatment of any health problems. Please consult with your physician before attempting any practices in this blog.  Information in this blog is general and to the best of my knowledge is true and complete, and is offered with no guarantees on the part of the author. The author disclaims all liability in connection with the use of this blog.

If you find this post helpful, please share it with your friends and family.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Digestive Enzymes and Healthy Aging

In this series of blogs based on my new book: "Vibrant Midlife Aging and Wellness" I introduced the "5 keys to healthy aging."

These 5 key health areas need to be optimized if we want to slow the aging process and prevent age-related diseases.

In my last post I discussed that our gut is the foundation of our health, and optimizing its functioning is vital to healthy aging.

Today, I want to discus the importance of having sufficient pancreatic enzymes so that we can adequately digest our foods.

Our small intestine uses pancreatic enzymes  to speed the breakdown of protein, carbs and fats so they can be absorbed through the intestinal lining.
However, aging, stress, and a poor diet can reduce our enzyme production. See chart below.
 Signs of Low Levels of Pancreatic Enzymes

Fatigue, belching, indigestion excessive fullness 1-3 hours after eating
Cramping, pain, soreness on left side under rib cage
Gas or bloating 1-4 hours after eating.
Constipation or diarrhea, fiber causing constipation
Stool containing undigested food, or foul smelling, greasy, mucus-like, and poorly formed
The three main categories of pancreatic enzyme are:
  • amylase, for carbohydrate breakdown
  • proteases that cleave proteins
  • lipases that decompose fats
The pancreas secretes these enzymes into the small intestine, but a lack of HCl (see previous post) or depleted beneficial bacteria will lead to a deficiency of digestive enzymes.

You will have the most trouble digesting fats when suffering from an enzyme deficiency and you will have difficulty absorbing the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. 

Low pancreatic enzymes can also contribute to food allergies and irritable bowel syndrome.

Pancreatic Enzyme Support

You can support your pancreatic functioning by eating mineral rich, high fiber foods like leafy greens, seaweed, beans, and avocados.  

Raw foods, and bitter foods like parsley, arugula, and dandelion greens are also recommended.

Fermented vegetables are also high in natural enzymes created by the friendly bacteria, which will support your pancreas.

Additionally, you will need to limit refined carbs (white rice/ bread/crackers/pasta) and sugars.

Stress management is also essential for optimal enzyme production.

*If you experience any of the above symptoms of low pancreatic enzyme production- you can compensate, and relieve your symptoms by taking:
          Take 350-1,000 mg. before or with each meal.
  • Betaine HCL is also recommended for low stomach acidity. (See previous post)
  • Taking a high quality mineral supplement can also support your enzyme production.
  • It also might be wise to perform pancreatic enzyme lab testing
Well, I hope that this helps you to take your health to the next level, as I mentioned earlier-our gut is the foundation of our health, and is the key to vibrant aging.

My next post will be discussing the importance of beneficial bacteria. It's been suggested that probiotics are the new frontier in health, and are being widely studied for disease prevention, treatment, and overall health maintenance.

To Your Vibrant Health,

         Disclaimer:  The information provided in this blog is intended for informational purposes, and is not meant to substitute or conflict with the advice from your physician. It is also not meant for pregnant or nursing women. Do not use this information for diagnosis or treatment of any health problems. Please consult with your physician before attempting any practices in this blog.  Information in this blog is general and to the best of my knowledge is true and complete, and is offered with no guarantees on the part of the author. The author disclaims all liability in connection with the use of this blog.
If you find this post helpful, please share it with your friends and family.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Optimize Gut Health to Slow the Aging Process

"All disease begins in the gut"   Hippocrates

In this series of blogs based on my new book: "Vibrant Midlife Aging and Wellness: Natural Ways to Slow the Aging Process,"  introduced the:
"5 Keys to Healthy Aging."

These 5 key health areas need to be optimized if we want to slow the aging process and prevent disease; otherwise premature aging is more likely to occur.
So, here is the first key to high level health and aging:

#1. Optimize Your Gut Health

Leading-edge science now confirms what Hippocrates proclaimed over 2,000 years ago-that "the foundation of our health is in our gut." A well functioning gut is vital for strong  bones, joints, skin, immunity, brain function, mood health, and our vitality.
Basically, our overall health depends on a healthy gut. 

Many times we aren’t aware that we have gut issues because we don’t have the typical symptoms of digestive problems like heartburn or reflux, but gastrointestinal issues affect millions of Americans in distant parts of their body in addition to their GI tract.
There are eight vital components of gut health
  1. Stress Management
  2. Nutritious High-fiber Diet
  3. Mindful Eating (slow and thorough  chewing)
  4. Sufficient Stomach Acid (HCL) levels
  5. Sufficient Digestive Enzymes in saliva and intestines.
  6. Beneficial gut  bacteria
  7. Healthy intestinal lining
  8. Daily bowel elimination
Weakening digestion (low stomach acidity) and mal-absorption problems are a very common issue for many of us in middle age.

In fact, it has been suggested that stomach acid declines by half after age 40, and about 50% of individuals over 60 suffer from low stomach acid production. (Low HCL)

This can hinder the digestion and absorption of the nutrients in the foods that we eat.

In addition, undigested food can decay, build up and become food for opportunistic health-impairing microbes.

Without proper HCL, the pancreas and liver will also under-function.

Our digestion and absorption of proteins, minerals, vitamin C, and vitamin B12 can be especially compromised due to impaired HCL output; resulting in nutritional deficiencies.

It’s important to note that if you have a stress-filled life it’s more than likely that you have low acid levels, as stress suppresses stomach acid production.
Stomach Acidity (HCL) Functions
  • Breaks down proteins so they can be absorbed. 
  • Separates/ionizes minerals from foods so they can be utilized.
  • Extracts vitamin B12 from food
  • Supports vitamin C absorption
  • Kills harmful bacteria that come from our mouth or from our food
  • Supports our immunity
 Low Stomach Acidity (HCL) Quiz. We are not what we eat, but what we absorb!
Check symptoms if they occur regularly. One or more checks indicate possible deficiency in stomach acid production.

Excess burping, gas, bloating, and/or heart burn immediately after eating a meal
Undigested food in stool
A feeling of heaviness in the stomach post meal- Food just sits there
Feeling nauseous when taking supplements; Not craving meats due to difficulty in digesting them.
Having intestinal parasites, candida overgrowth or dysbiosis
Indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, or difficult bowel movements
Weak, cracking, spoon shaped and ridged nails 
Iron deficiency anemia or low zinc levels
Having multiple food allergies or  sensitivities

One of the most important things that we can do to prevent disease and to sidestep accelerated aging is to ensure that we have sufficient stomach acidity.
There is a very easy home test to determine your stomach acid status utilizing baking soda, water and a timer. It’s a good idea to test yourself from time to time to ensure proper digestion and absorption of your food. I tested myself this morning, and had a positive result. Here is the test:

Home Baking Soda Stomach Acid (HCL) Functional Test
Upon rising, drink ¼ tsp. baking soda with 1 cup water; then time yourself. A loud burp should come up within 1-5 minutes if you have adequate HCL levels. (Due to the reaction between an acid and an alkaline compound)  

If a late burp, or no burp- poor HCL levels are indicated.

*There is a standard dietary supplement known as Betaine HCL with Pepsin that is widely used to support HCL production. It will also help you to reverse your symptoms and to digest and absorb your foods optimally.
A very common cause of poor stomach acidity in middle-age is zinc deficiency. Zinc is a vital mineral for all areas of health as it has over 200 functions (enzyme reactions) in our body, and we have an increased need for zinc as we age.

Zinc is required for proper liver functioning and detoxification, and for brain and mood health. Additionally, zinc is needed for good sleep, proper immunity; and thyroid, sex hormone, prostate and skin health. It's also important for prevention of eye diseases and arthritis. Fortunately, you can easily determine your zinc status at home using a natural product known as Zinc Challenge by Designs for Health. See below for more info on this home test.

Note: Individuals with GERD (reflux and indigestion) may have excess stomach acid production, or ill placed acid in the esophagus and will burp immediately. An excess of stomach acid is also not optimal. To test if you have excessive stomach acid production while having reflux symptoms: take 1 tsp. baking soda with 1 cup water; If your GERD is resolved with baking soda- then excessive or ill placed stomach acids are indicated. If it is resolved with 1 tsp. of apple cider vinegar in 1 cup water; it may indicate low stomach acid levels. Test for H. Pylori antibodies when suffering from GERD.

*Another way to determine HCL status is through Lab testing known as the Heidelberg capsule test.

The following chart lists a few tips to increase HCL production:                

For very low HCL stomach acid levels: (flatulence immediately after meals) Take Betaine HCL with Pepsin:  Take 1-4 Betaine HCL capsules before meals. Start with one capsule before your first meal and build up by one capsule until a slight burning sensation is felt, then back-off by one. This should be the optimal dose to support protein digestion. Stomach acid levels may improve with stress management and improved nutrition. Some people need to take 4 capsules, and others only one. 
Option one- for mild HCL support: Drink the juice of 1 lemon in 6 oz. of water shortly before meals (stimulates HCL)
Or option two-for mild HCL support: Drink  1 tsp-3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar with one cup water shortly before meals (stimulates HCL)
Eat bitter foods; such as arugula, dandelion, and parsley 15 min. before eating, to help stimulate stomach acid production, or buy "Swedish Bitters."
Drink home-made bone stock to improve long-term HCL production (glycine-rich)
Avoid drinking liquids with meals, (except lemon or vinegar water)
Liquids dilute stomach acids.
To increase “digestive fire”: Drink ginger tea before meals, or eat hot peppers, black pepper and other spicy foods with meals.
To repair acid-secreting cells in the stomach/increase HCL: Drink bone stock.
Take supplemental L-glutamine, vitamin B5, zinc, glycine, and DGL-licorice
To prevent gas: Use carminatives: dill, fennel and peppermint with or after your meal.
Avoid chlorinated water, medical x-rays, radiation: they reduce HCL

*Zinc Challenge Taste Test Directions for Determining Zinc Status
No food, drink, or smoking 1 hour before taking the zinc challenge. Take 1 Tbsp. of the liquid Zinc Challenge, and swish it in your mouth for 10 seconds. Observe the flavor.
Four Different Categories of Scores:
Category 1: No flavor at all. Like water. Severe and typical zinc deficiency is present. Greatest need for zinc. Zinc supplementation suggested along with zinc-rich foods.
Category 2: No flavor at the beginning, but later a reaction occurs. Taste described as either “dry,” “fluffy;” like baking soda, or sweet.  Moderate zinc deficiency is present. Some need for zinc. Zinc supplementation suggested, along with zinc-rich foods.
Category 3: A strong, but not necessarily unpleasant flavor is registered immediately, and builds up little by little; minimal zinc deficiency. You can try to build up zinc levels with food alone and by using stress reduction practices. Supplementation can also be of use.
Category 4: An extremely unpleasant flavor is registered immediately. You makes a face immediately, and want to spit it out right away. Good zinc status. Keep doing what you are doing. You are in the minority!
Zinc Supplementation: Zinc glycinate, orotate, aspartate, citrate or chelated zinc for best absorption. Take along with a multi-mineral supplement. Don’t take on an empty stomach, as it will cause nausea.
Optimal Daily Dosage: 15-20 mg if mild zinc inefficiency is present.
Therapeutic Dosage if severe or moderate zinc deficiency is present: 30-75 mg/daily.

Take supplements for 2-3 weeks and retest again with the zinc challenge taste test. If your zinc deficiency is more severe, it may take several months before tasting anything. When zinc levels have normalized stop zinc supplementation and continue eating zinc rich foods: oysters, soaked pumpkin seeds, ginger root, lamb, grass-fed beef, liver, egg yolks, and herring.
Well, I hope I have opened your eyes to the importance of gut health and good digestion.  When we ensure optimal stomach acidity and HCL levels we are more likely to age well. My next post will discuss optimizing another element of gut health: enhancing our pancreatic enzyme production.

To Your Vibrant Health,
Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is intended for informational purposes, and is not meant to substitute or conflict with the advice from your physician. It is also not meant for pregnant or nursing women. Do not use this information for diagnosis or treatment of any health problems. Please consult with your physician before attempting any practices in this blog.  Information in this blog is general and to the best of my knowledge is true and complete, and is offered with no guarantees on the part of the author. The author disclaims all liability in connection with the use of this blog.
If you find this post helpful, please share it with your friends and family.