Disease

Disease risks and other issues related to poor digestive health.

probiotics and IBS written on a paper on a clipboard.

Probiotics and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the number one reason patients are referred to gastroenterologists.

IBS is a chronic disorder that creates a variety of painful symptoms, including diarrhea, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation and other abdominal pain.

Anywhere from 10-20 percent of Americans commonly experience IBS symptoms (usually younger than age 45). Typically, IBS affects twice as many women as it does men and often begins during young adulthood.

Despite the ability of modern medicine to spot the symptoms of IBS, nailing down a culprit has been far more difficult.

Certainly, stress may be a trigger for IBS, given the role the gut-brain axis plays in connecting your intestines, emotions and brain. The kinds of foods and the amounts we consume (too many carbohydrates) can also be big problems. Ditto for alcohol.

Although there’s no definitive tests for IBS, your gastroenterologist will want to perform some of these procedures to help him/her rule out other health problems.

  • Blood work
  • Stool culture
  • Colonoscopy or upper GI endoscopy
  • Hydrogen breath test

Another aspect that makes treating this disease really tricky: There’s different subtypes of IBS: Diarrhea-predominant (IBS-D), constipation-predominant (IBS-C) and alternating type (IBS-A).

And, IBS is a health problem that patients can switch from one subtype to another.

Treating a moving target

Many doctors will recommend some very basic lifestyle changes that may make a difference, especially if a patient’s IBS symptoms are mild:

  • Avoiding high-gas foods and gluten.
  • Eating more fiber and low FODMAP meals (with supervision from a physician or dietician.
  • Getting more sleep and exercise.
  • Reducing stress as much as possible.

(If some of these lifestyle changes sound familiar to you, health care professionals recommend them for fighting the obesity epidemic too.)

Physicians can prescribe medications, but shifts in an IBS patient’s subtype make that problematic too. For example, one drug for IBS-D — alosetron (Lotronex) — is recommended only for women with IBD-D and with special precautions and warnings.

Should stress also play a role, your doctor may want to prescribe an antidepressant drug, like a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (fluvoxamine or sertraline), an older tricyclic drug (amitriptyline or imipramine) or an antispasmodic drug (dicyclomine).

The probiotic approach

Out of the many non-drug therapies medical experts cite to control IBS, however, probiotics always seems to rise to the top of the list because they are among the safest ways to treat this condition effectively.

Why? Probiotics are much more versatile in the ways they work in your body, compared to a drug.

They do a great job in maintaining the motility in your intestines and lessening constipation, a key symptom of IBS.

And, probiotics are a safe, effective means to treat diarrhea and reducing its duration.

When emotions and stress begin to manifest in problems with your gut-brain axis, probiotics can be a difference-making tool.

But not just any probiotic will do.

The evidence

A very recent review of studies appearing in the medical journal Nutrients that examined controlled trials over the past five years underscored the effectiveness of multi-strain probiotics in relationship to IBS.

Of the 11 studies that met the final cut for the review, seven of them reported significant improvements among IBS patients taking probiotics. But that’s not all.

Eight of those 11 trials evaluated how IBS patients benefit from taking a daily multi-strain probiotic. When IBS patients were given multi-strain probiotics for eight weeks or more, the benefits were far more distinct, especially over a long period of time.

Probiotics containing a single species of bacteria may be good for treating one specific problem, but not several health challenges like those that occur with IBS.

Your gut contains a diverse accumulation of bacteria, 10 times more than the cells in your body (in the tens of trillions) and more than 1,000 different species.

That’s why a multi-species probiotic is built to be a more effective way to treat the symptoms associated with IBS and give your body’s immune system a healthy boost.

Taking a probiotic with 10 strains of beneficial bacteria from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families (plus a prebiotic that feeds the bugs in your gut) like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic can be a safer, better alternative for treating IBS that may help you avoid taking a prescription drug too.

Flu Season Ahead Sign

Are You Ready For The Flu Season? Take Your Probiotics!

Are you REALLY ready for the upcoming flu season?

Medical experts agree you can never be too careful — or too early — when it comes to being prepared for the flu season.

Preliminary numbers from the CDC estimate up to 43 million Americans were affected by the flu during the 2018-19 season and as many as 61,000 died from the flu.

If those early estimates of deaths attributed to the flu shock you, it’s an improvement on the 2017-18 season when some 79,000 Americans died.

The first takeaway for this article I cannot stress enough is to get your entire family vaccinated for the flu NOW. Please don’t put a flu shot off until it gets colder or even as late as Thanksgiving.

This advisory is especially true for seniors whose immune systems aren’t as robust as those of younger adults, according to the experts.

Plus, if you’re dealing with any of the risk factors associated with heart disease, protecting your body from the flu becomes far more important.

You may be six times more likely to experience a heart attack after being diagnosed with the flu, according to a 2018 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Help your gut and the flu shot do their work

The health of your gut plays a critical role in how well the flu shot does its work too.

Your gut can be an important anchor to a stronger, healthier immune system, until a very familiar culprit — broad-spectrum antibiotics — enters the picture, according to a very recent study appearing in the journal Cell.

Researchers from Stanford University and Emory University examined the effect broad-spectrum antibiotics plays in reducing the effect of the flu vaccine by testing 33 human subjects (ages 18-45) over two consecutive flu seasons.

In the first group of test subjects conducted over the 2014-15 flu season, exposure to antibiotics did the expected damage, reducing bacteria in the guts of patients by 10,000 fold. Also, the loss of bacterial diversity in the gut lasted for up to a year.

However, patients still had enough of the antibodies from the flu shot to protect them, suggesting exposure to current or previous vaccines may have been helpful.

So, researchers tried a different approach for a second group of 2015-16 subjects who hadn’t been vaccinated for the prior three years before the study, and the results were very different.

Like before, these newer patients lost huge amounts of their gut bacteria after receiving antibiotics, but this exposure also lowered levels of an antibody that reduced the immune response of one of the three virus strains contained in the vaccine, making patients more vulnerable to the flu.

But that’s not all…

Those who received antibiotics along with a flu shot showed signs of systemic inflammation only seen by researchers in seniors age 65 and older in a previous study. This inflammation mirrored a depletion of metabolites in the blood requiring help from the human gut to replenish.

These key metabolites (secondary bile acids) are responsible for easing inflammation process in the body’s immune system.

Probiotics to the rescue

As we know, probiotics are a great natural tool that may help in protecting your body from the flu. Did you know taking probiotics may mean taking fewer antibiotics and missing less work too?

Those are the key findings in a systematic review of studies conducted by the Cochrane Collective and York Health Economics Consortium, featured in Frontiers in Pharmacology.

Scientists were tasked with assessing how much the use of probiotics in the management of acute respiratory tract infections — from mild colds to the flu — would save Americans, and it’s a lot.

Based on increased productivity (using fewer sick days), taking fewer drugs and overall medical bills, Americans could save as much as $1.4 billion on their total health costs.

The only catch: Those savings apply if everyone takes probiotics regularly. No one enjoys having the flu, or taking an antibiotic that may do as much harm to your body as good.

Taking a probiotic, formulated with 10 strains of beneficial bacteria and a prebiotic that feeds the bugs in your gut, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic may be a great way to avoid the doctor’s office during this flu season, but only after getting your annual flu shot!

Don’t forget to increase your child’s chances of avoiding the flu too with a daily dose of EndoMune Junior Advanced Chewable Probiotic, fortified with four essential strains of beneficial bacteria along with a prebiotic.

sterile white couch

Your House Paint May Contain Gut-Harming Antimicrobials

I’ve talked about all of the trouble associated antibacterial products (preventing the development of bacteria) and antimicrobial products (preventing the spread of fungi, viruses and bacteria) too many times to count on my blog.

Over-sterilizing your life creates lots of problems for your gut microbiome. And, this doesn’t include exposures to all sorts of things under our very noses — from yoga mats to common personal care products like toothpaste — that contain gut bacteria-robbing chemicals.

Could the latex paint that lines the walls of your home be another problem hiding in plain sight?

Antimicrobial latex paints put to the test

Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago tested the effect of three kinds of antimicrobial, synthetic latex paints (formulated to improve indoor air quality) on bacteria in a study featured in the journal, Indoor Air.

To reproduce the typical home environment, scientists painted a group of 2×2-inch squares of drywall twice (with a day in between applications for drying), added tiny drops of water and placed them in sealed glass jars.

Then, some of the samples were exposed to five forms of bacteria taken from gym facilities that are commonly found in homes.

Within a day, all but one of the bacterial species — the spore-forming Bacillus timonensis — had died. The concern: Most bacteria die on dry, cold surfaces, but why not this one?

Spreading bacteria where it shouldn’t be

When bacteria are attacked with antimicrobial chemicals, they will mount a defense, says lead researcher Erica Hartmann. “Bacillus is typically innocuous, but by attacking it, you might prompt it to develop more antibiotic resistance.”

Spore-forming bacteria like Bacillus timonensis protect themselves on painted surfaces by lying dormant for a time, and resisting harsh conditions until they reactivate.

By now, you’re probably wondering why paint companies don’t test their antimicrobial products on common forms of bacteria. That was the gist of the test, Hartman says.

All too often, companies test their products on how E. coli — considered by some to be the “lab rat” of the microbial world — and Staphylococcus survive, yet ignore other microbes people encounter every day.

“We should be judicious in our use of antimicrobial products to make sure that we’re not exposing the more harmless bacteria to something that could make them harmful,” Hartmann says.

Protecting your immune health

The presence of antimicrobial cleaners and paints in our lives can create a “too clean for our own good” environment that hurts our health in many ways.

Exposure to antibacterial and antimicrobial products, even those seemingly as benign as paint, can harm us by eroding the delicate balance of bacteria in our gut.

Maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria helps our body do critical things like fortifying our immune systems and creating nearly all of the serotonin our bodies need.

Taking a good probiotic, ideally with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, is an easy way to protect your overall health and your gut from antibacterial products that may hiding on your walls, countertops and elsewhere.

Could Probiotics Reduce Fat in Your Liver?

The health of your microbiome may be critical in spotting the early signs of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFD), the most common form of chronic liver disease affecting up to 100 million Americans.

Between 20-25 percent of that group will face the most severe form of NAFD — nonalcoholic steatohepatitis that can inflame and damage the liver — at some time in their lives.

Insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity are some of the variables that lead to the accumulation of fat in the liver, triggering NAFD.

Interestingly, Spanish researchers at the University of Granada spotted some of the first signs of a gut health connection with NAFD in a PLOS One study using probiotics.

Scientists discovered feeding obese rats beneficial strains of probiotic bacteria — either separately or combined — reduced steatosis, the first stage of NAFD in which fat accumulates in the liver.

Researchers used three proprietary strains (Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium breve and Lactobacillus paracasei) that are part of EndoMune Advanced Probiotic’s active formula of beneficial bacteria in their research.

For the study, obese rats were fed single strains of beneficial bacteria or a combination of them for 30 days. Compared to animals receiving a placebo, rats fed probiotics produced significantly reduced amounts of lipids (mainly triacylgylcerides) in their livers, along with lesser quantities of pro-inflammatory molecules in their blood.

The good news about NAFD: Making small lifestyle adjustments can do a lot of good. Losing those extra pounds (even as little as 3 percent of your starting weight), managing your cholesterol levels and moving on a regular basis with an exercise program can make a healthy difference.

Boosting your gut diversity with the help of a multi-strain probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic can be a healthy way to protect your health from problems related to obesity like NAFD too.

a medical writing down a list of medication

The Best Weapon Against C. Diff: Probiotics

Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections are the most common superbug pathogens patients face in American healthcare settings (hospitals and long-term care facilities), largely due to doctors overprescribing antibiotics.

Some 500,000 patients are sickened by C. diff infections annually in America and nearly 30,000 lives (largely seniors) are lost as a result.

Fortunately, medical experts are coming around to the idea that less — in the case of antibiotics — is more and multi-strain probiotics may be better weapons for preventing these infections, based on a pair of studies published earlier this year in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

The first report — a metanalysis of 18 controlled trials and about 6,800 patients in 12 countries — found probiotics reduced the chances patients would be sickened by a C. diff infection by roughly two-thirds.

Moreover, multi-species probiotics (probiotics with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria) were much more beneficial to preventing C. diff infections, compared to single-strain probiotics.

Interestingly, probiotics were very effective in preventing C. diff infections in cases where patients were taking more than one antibiotic and in healthcare settings where the risks of infection were higher than 5 percent.

A second study, conducted in the Cook County Health System in Illinois, reported more positive results with multi-strain probiotics (featuring three of the 10 strains contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic) providing a long-term benefit.

Over a 12-month period of monitoring treatment with probiotics, reports of C. diff infections fell significantly during the final six months. During that time, patients took probiotics initially within 12 hours after receiving their first antibiotic dose until five days after completing their course of antibiotics.

It’s not surprising how protective and beneficial multi-strain probiotics can be for your health, given how effective they are in easing the symptoms of a variety of health conditions, including leaky gut, depression and constipation.

Even when you’re not actively taking antibiotics for a health condition, you may be surprised by how often you’ve exposed to them merely by eating meat or dairy products that retain traces of antibiotic-resistant germs that can trigger foodborne infections all on their own.

All the more reason you may want to consider taking a multi-strain probiotic like EndoMune to protect your health.

a pair of glasses sitting on top of a computer

Question What You Read Everywhere!

If you follow my blog and keep up with the news, you’ve heard about a pair of recent studies published in the medical journal, Cell, that found probiotics may have very limited value.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media — seemingly everyone from CBS News to Forbes — jumped on the bandwagon to dispute the value of probiotics without looking at their considerable and proven benefits over time, many of which we’ve discussed here.

Since you have some questions and concerns about these reports, we have some answers.

What do the studies say?

Study one examined how well a generic probiotic with 11 strains of bacteria could colonize the intestinal lining when given to 25 healthy adults, as determined with a colonoscope taking specimens from the mucosa, versus a placebo.

This approach differs from most previous studies in which probiotics were measured in stools. Their justification was to determine if the generic probiotics you find at most supermarkets “colonize the gastrointestinal tract like they’re supposed to, and then whether these probiotics are having any impact on the human host.”

Study two investigated whether patients should be taking a probiotic when they were prescribed an antibiotic to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Twenty-one healthy patients were divided into three groups: Seven took an antibiotic, six more were given an antibiotic and the same generic probiotic from the first study and the rest received an antibiotic and pills containing fecal samples from their own microbiome.

What were the results?

In study one, the generic probiotic bacteria were found in the stools of each patient, and only in the lining of the colon of a few patients. This finding led scientists to conclude that, if probiotic bacteria weren’t found in the colon, they’re not beneficial. It also explains why many stories reported probiotics were ‘’useless.”

The results of study two were a bit more complicated:

  • The microbiomes of patients who received just an antibiotic returned to their healthy composition after 21 days.
  • Patients given fecal transplants experienced a normal intestinal microbiome within days after stopping the antibiotic.
  • Among patients treated with a generic probiotic, their microbiomes did not return to their original composition even five months later.

Problems with both studies

Now that you’ve had a chance to review both studies, it’s easier to see why taking these results at face value is tricky.

The problem with study one that examined the use of a generic probiotic was pretty straight-forward. These generic probiotics were given to healthy people with normal microbiomes, so the beneficial bacteria wouldn’t find a place in the lining of the colon to colonize.

In fact, the immune system of the intestines and existing microbiome would prevent it!

Studies have shown when patients struggle with gut health problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), taking a good probiotic can treat their symptoms and rebalance their microbiomes. So, probiotics aren’t “useless!”

In study two, because patients treated with a generic probiotic after receiving an antibiotic didn’t return to normal right away, researchers assumed the probiotic might cause ”harm” by increasing their risk of intestinal disorders. Moreover, researchers suggested patients “personalized probiotics” in the form of fecal transplants might lessen any risks.

Unfortunately, this phase of the study set up patients for more health problems like diarrhea down the road, merely by giving them antibiotics.

Plus, antibiotics change the composition and balance of bacteria in the gut, which may increase the activity of enzymes that trigger a faster absorption of carbohydrates, leaving you more vulnerable to obesity and diabetes.

Remember those extra carbs and fats feed poor dietary habits that disrupt your gut-brain axis, the biological connection that links your intestines, brain and emotions.

One more variable this research team didn’t consider in either study: The contribution of prebiotics, the non-digestible starches that feed the bacteria in your gut contained in a lot of probiotics, including EndoMune Advanced ProbioticEndoMune Junior Probiotic and EndoMune Metabolic Rescue.

Prebiotics have been shown to offer a number of health benefits connected with probiotics, like improving your sleep and giving your body some extra protection from type 2 diabetes.

Also, I have to take issue with the use of fecal transplants to engineer the results of this study. Fecal transplants may have performed better among three options in this second study, but going this route isn’t without its risks, especially if you’re receiving fecal matter from another donor.

In one 2015 report, a patient was successfully treated for a recurring C. diff infection with a fecal transplant from an overweight donor (her daughter) only to gain 34 pounds in just 16 months.

In other cases, people who have tried “do-it-yourself” fecal transplants from donors have suffered brand new health problems they never expected from people who seemed to be very healthy, but were carriers of germs they could pass on to others.

I cannot stress enough that using these results from both studies to imply that probiotics in many cases are “useless” or “harmful” just isn’t accurate.

As a physician specializing in gastroenterology, I’ve seen firsthand how the use of probiotics has changed the lives of patients suffering from simple problems like constipation and hard-to-treat ones like IBS. Also, patients who are on a strong course of antibiotics may avoid the risks of experiencing life-threating infections just by taking a probiotic too.

two men running in the sunset

Prebiotics May Help Treat Osteoarthritis

If your joints begin to stiffen and feel painful — especially when you wake up in the morning or as swelling becomes more common — your body could be telling you that osteoarthritis may be just around the corner.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common chronic conditions that harms the joints, often affecting the lower backs, necks, small joints of fingers and the knees of nearly 10 percent of all Americans.

A deterioration of cartilage is the common culprit in osteoarthritis, leading to breakdowns that spur inflammation, pain and joint damage. Because this discomfort makes it harder to move around, you may be dealing with other health problems related to a sedentary lifestyle that lead to obesity and cardiovascular problems like heart disease or diabetes.

Osteoarthritis also increases your chances of experiencing more falls (30 percent) and debilitating fractures (20 percent) than someone in good health.

You may be very surprised to learn the health of your gut could be a driving force behind osteoarthritis and that prebiotics — non-digestible carbohydrates/plant fiber that feeds the good bacteria living in your gut — may play an important role in treating this condition, according to a study appearing in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Prebiotics to the rescue!

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered how prebiotics could help in treating osteoarthritis while studying mice fed high-fat foods, not unlike the cheeseburgers and shakes humans eat in a Western diet.

After 12 weeks on a high-fat diet, mice experienced all of the telltale signs of eating a poor diet (obesity, diabetes) and their gut health showed it.

Not only were their microbiomes dominated by bacteria that triggered inflammation, they were nearly depleted of beneficial bacteria, including Bifidobacteria.

(These symptoms are also linked very strongly with leaky gut, a serious health condition that occurs when unintended substances seep through the intestinal barrier to the bloodstream.)

These internal changes were evident with signs of inflammation prevalent all over the tiny bodies of obese mice, along with a faster progression of osteoarthritis (nearly a total loss of knee cartilage within 12 weeks after a meniscal tear) compared to leaner mice.

However, the damage done by obesity was prevented almost completely when obese mice were fed a prebiotic (oligofructose). Although their body weight remained the same, the effects of osteoarthritis lessened greatly.

In fact, obese mice that were fed prebiotics had healthy knee cartilage indistinguishable to those of leaner mice and signs of diabetes diminished too.

“This reinforces the idea that osteoarthritis is another second complication of obesity, just like diabetes, heart disease and stroke, which all have inflammation as part of their root cause,” says Dr. Robert Mooney, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, according to the URMC Newsroom.

These positive results of the mice study have set the stage for a follow-up study with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs using probiotics and prebiotics to help vets suffering from obesity-related osteoarthritis.

Just a reminder that EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Jr. (Chewable and Powder) contain multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, and the prebiotic FOS (fructooligosaccharides). Both are proven weapons for fighting obesity that could also protect your body from the damage done by osteoarthritis.

little girl playing with a puppy

A Dog’s Gut Health May Look Like Yours

How many of you think of your pets as if they were members of your own family? You’d probably have a hard time finding anyone who doesn’t feel that way about their four-legged family members, especially dogs.

Did you know a dog’s gut health has developed very similarly to ours, and good gut health may be beneficial to dogs and their human masters?

Not only did researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory discover great parallels in the gut health and microbial composition of 64 retrievers and beagles, they concluded our gut health could be more similar to dogs, according to their study published in the open access journal Microbiome.

The latter finding is an interesting one, given that pigs and mice are used commonly in gut health research, which led scientists to study how the gut health and diversity of lean and overweight dogs changed when fed low carb/high protein diets.

Just like their overweight masters, the microbiomes of heavier dogs changed significantly when fed high protein/low carb food, but not those of leaner dogs (a sign that thinner canines had healthier, more resilient gut microbiomes).

“These findings suggest that dogs could be a better model for nutrition studies than pigs or mice and we could potentially use data from dogs to study the impact of diet on gut microbiota on humans, and humans could be a good model to study the nutrition of dogs,” says Dr. Luis Pedro Coehlo, as told to BioMed Central.

The hygiene hypothesis connection

You may be wondering how the microbiomes of dogs and their masters became so interconnected. That’s where the hygiene hypothesis may come into play due to Western cultures living in more sterile environments that are too clean for our good.

On the other paw, dogs only get soapy when they’ve been dirty (and probably bad) and they tend to scratch, sniff and lick spots on their bodies and those of fellow canines that most of us would never do.

Dogs may not be the only animals that provide microbial protection to humans either. Based on a 2016 study from the New England Journal of Medicine, Amish children raised around farm animals were up to six times less likely to experience asthma.

What can you do to protect the microbiomes of your family if you don’t live on or near a farm and caring for a pet just isn’t realistic?

Taking a probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior Probiotic for kids, containing multiple strains of beneficial bacteria can make a healthy difference in your gut health profile even if Fido isn’t available to help.

(Anecdotally, my wife and I have given our dogs EndoMune for seven years with no problems. All of them have a healthy GI tract and have experienced no gas, bloating or diarrhea during that time.)

a plane in the sky flying over a small town

How to Stay Healthy While Flying

Right now, we’re in the midst of a blazing hot summer when many of us are traveling in airplanes to cooler vacation destinations for some well-deserved R&R.

Along the way to that relaxing vacation hideaway, most of us have to put up with a lot of inconveniences — TSA security checks, overpriced foods in airport lounges and sitting next to or behind screaming kids and seat kickers — for hours surrounded by a lot of strangers.

Sounds like a lot of fun doesn’t it?

While your body is feeling out of sync due to traveling, your gut is experiencing something familiar. That’s because the typical commercial airplane has a “microbiome” too, and it’s very similar to the ones that occupy our homes and offices, according to a recent study that appeared in Microbial Ecology.

Scientists at Georgia Tech and Emory University studied 230 bacterial samples taken from commonly-touched areas in the typical airplane cabin — seat belt buckles, lavatory door handles and tray tables — and sampled cabin air before and after 10 transcontinental flights.

Although the microbiomes that inhabited airplane flights varied from flight to flight, the bacterial strains scientists detected were pretty ordinary.

“What we found was bacterial communities that were mostly derived from human skin, the human mouth and some environmental bacteria,” says Dr. Howard Weiss, a professor at the Georgia Tech School of Mathematics who worked on the study (according to a press release).

The bacterial communities that were found seemed benign and not unexpected. But, what about fellow travelers who may have the flu or a respiratory infection? In this case, closeness counts a great deal…

In a companion study featured earlier this year in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, passengers who may be fighting the flu or another virus probably won’t spread their sickness much farther than two seats laterally or one row in back or front of you on a plane.

That distance sounds pretty safe, unless you’re traveling out of the country to an international destination or flying long distances. Plus, can you count on the person sitting next to you to admit they’re sick while traveling?

Some simple tips to keep in mind when you’re traveling:

  • Keep your hands as clean as possible with plain soap and water and limit your use of antibacterial soaps. Antibacterial soaps can make your body more vulnerable to superbugs, a growing worldwide health problem, due to the overuse of antibiotics and disinfectants.
  • Keep up with your sleep, especially when traveling across multiple time zones. Jet lag will disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythms just like shift work does.
  • Give your natural immunities an extra boost by taking a probiotic, ideally with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.
woman having trouble getting out of bed

Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome a gut issue?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a very frightening and complicated disorder. Defined as severe exhaustion that can’t be relieved by rest, this condition has frustrated modern medicine for a long time.

Also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS), this disease has no real triggers or underlying conditions, and diagnosing it requires a lot of time and testing. Although anyone can have CFS, women are far more likely to suffer from it than men, most commonly in their middle years.

Its symptoms run the gamut, from extreme fatigue lasting more than a day and unexplained joint or muscle pain to enlarged lymph nodes, headaches, poor sleep and even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

While CFS is a condition with very few connections, research teams at Columbia and Cornell Universities have found important markers that link it to the human gut.

83 percent accurate

The discovery that connects chronic fatigue syndrome to the human gut was a welcome confirmation to Cornell researchers that its origins were definitely not psychological.

“Our work demonstrates that the gut bacterial microbiome in ME/CFS patients isn’t normal, perhaps leading to gastrointestinal and inflammatory symptoms in victims of the disease,” says Dr. Maureen Hanson, senior author of the study, according to a press release. “Furthermore, our detection of a biological abnormality provides further evidence against the ridiculous concept that the disease is psychological in origin.”

For the record, the Cornell study compared blood and stool samples from 48 CFS patients to 39 health controls. The links to a gut health connection were obvious.

Chronic fatigue patients had less gut bacteria diversity and their blood samples showed signs of inflammation linked to leaky gut. Stool samples also found markers for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, even more serious gut problems.

Moreover, scientists were able to detect which patients were battling CFS based on microbiome testing with 83 percent accuracy.

Gut imbalances affect severity

Mirroring the Cornell findings, Columbia researchers also found bacterial imbalances – too much of some bacterial species including Faecalibacterium – in the fecal samples of the 50 chronic fatigue syndrome patients they examined (versus an equal number of healthy ones), according to the study appearing in Microbiome.

These imbalances varied depending on whether CFS patients were also suffering from IBS or not (21 of the 50 patients did have IBS). Also, depending on which bacteria imbalance chronic fatigue syndrome patients had and the metabolic pathways affected, the severity of their symptoms differed too.

“Individuals with ME/CFS have a distinct mix of gut bacteria and related metabolic disturbances that may influence the severity of their disease,” says Columbia researcher Dorottya Nagy-Szakal, according to a press release.

Probiotic success

Despite all of the attention paid by Columbia and Cornell researchers, a few scientists already had an eye on the intersection of gut health and chronic fatigue syndrome.

In fact, a systemic review of studies appearing very recently in Beneficial Microbes cited studies that showed how using probiotics may be effective in treating CFS and fibromyalgia.

(Both studies cited in this review used proprietary strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, the two building blocks of EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.)

Based on these results, it seems more likely probiotics could become part of a more comprehensive treatment plan for chronic fatigue syndrome. 

“If we have a better idea of what is going on with these gut microbes and patients, maybe clinicians could consider changing diets using prebiotics such as dietary fibers or probiotics to treat the disease,” says Ludovic Giloteaux, a researcher in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell University.

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