Digestive Health

Digestive Health related factors related to maintaining a healthy gut.

female reproductive system made out of paper flowers

Bad Gut Health Worsens PCOS Risks For Young Women

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a seriously frustrating condition that affects nearly 20 percent of women who want to conceive or experience hormonal challenges during their reproductive years.

Although the root cause of PCOS remains unknown, some experts believe an overproduction of insulin may be a prime suspect. (Up to 40 percent of women with PCOS have also been diagnosed with insulin resistance.)

Too much insulin can increase the production of androgens, leading to acne, irregular ovulation, depression, excessive body hair growth and weight gains.

More evidence is pointing to another telltale sign of PCOS: A gut bacteria imbalance.

An unhealthy imbalance

Scientists established a connection between gut bacteria imbalances and PCOS while examining the health of young girls for a study appearing in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

University of Colorado researchers tracked the gut health of obese and sedentary teens, including 37 patients with PCOS and 21 patients with regular menstrual cycles.

An analysis of fecal samples among teens with PCOS found telltale signs of problems related to imbalances of more bad gut bacteria: Higher levels of testosterone and markers of metabolic syndrome (liver inflammation, the appearance of plasma triglycerides and higher blood pressure numbers)

The good news: Previous research on reducing PCOS symptoms uncovered a simple, healthy solution that can rebalance the gut health of women early in their reproductive years: multi-strain probiotics.

This simple intervention improved issues with depression, lowered testosterone levels and reduced the incidence of extra body hair.

In fact, two of the beneficial bacterial strains used in this previous study from the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus families are among the 10 gut-healthy ingredients found in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.

EndoMune Advanced Probiotic contains 30 BILLION bacterial allies that protect your gut every day, plus a prebiotic (FOS) that keeps the beneficial bacteria in your gut fed and happy.

References

 

Bathroom sign with text that says, "IBS Sufferer?"

How Probiotics Can Aid IBS Sufferers

I’ve spent a lot of time talking with physicians, pharmacists and patients over the years about the benefits of probiotics. The topic that comes up most frequently when I talk to people is how probiotics help those who suffer daily from symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Routinely, patients consult with gastroenterologists about IBS more than any other condition, and it’s one of the most common problems primary care physicians see too.

As many as 20 percent of Americans experience symptoms of IBS, but a lot of patients still have a hard time recognizing them for what they are.

In fact, a global impact report of IBS estimates that it can take up to four years for a patient to receive an IBS diagnosis and only after undergoing many costly and unnecessary procedures.

Medical prescriptions for IBS

When I became a gastroenterologist, the medical understanding of IBS was very limited. Back then, many health professionals believed the common symptoms of IBS — abdominal pain, gas, constipation and diarrhea — were related to stress.

So, doctors treated stress by prescribing a range of tranquilizers and antidepressants combined with antispasmodics that affected the nerves going into the GI tract.

Nowadays, drug regimens have changed to more targeted IBS medicines like alosetron (Lotronex), eluxadoline (Viberzi), rifaximin (Xifaxan) and lubiprostone (Amitiza).

However, these drugs create their own sets of side effects, including pancreatitis, abdominal pain, nausea and constipation. Also, the kind of drugs doctors prescribe will differ depending on the subtype of IBS.

What about probiotics for IBS sufferers?

The good news for IBS patients who are otherwise healthy: Among the many non-drug therapies used to treat IBS, probiotics rises to the top of the list due to their effectiveness and the lack of drug interactions with other medications.

Probiotics work in versatile ways to reduce IBS symptoms safely. However, the kind of probiotic you take really matters when it comes to treating IBS effectively.

The benefits of multi-strain probiotics are well-documented, as it takes a variety of beneficial bacteria to maintain and protect the balance of good bugs in your gut.

A recent review of studies appearing in the medical journal Nutrients concluded probiotics containing multiple strains of beneficial bacteria provided better results in treating IBS.

Overall, seven of those 11 trials reviewed by European researchers found probiotics significantly improved IBS symptoms compared to a placebo.

What’s more, eight of those trials evaluated how IBS patients benefitted from taking a multi-strain probiotic. When IBS patients took a multi-strain probiotic for at least eight weeks, the results were more dramatic and beneficial.

A similar review of studies appearing in Complementary Therapies in Medicine came to the same conclusions about probiotics as a safe and effective treatment for IBS symptoms and abdominal pain too.

The take-home message

Have you been thinking about treating your IBS with a probiotic but don’t know where to begin?

You can start by reading about many more reasons why you need to take a probiotic, not only to relieve your IBS symptoms, but to protect the health of your gut every day.

Populated by more than 1,000 diverse species of bacteria (10 times more than the cells in your body), your gut performs a wide range of duties 24/7 to protect your health.

Taking a multi-strain probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic with 10 strains of beneficial bacteria, is a smart and proven way, not only to make a daily difference in your gut health but do a world of good in treating your IBS symptoms too.

Resources

Nutrients

Complementary Therapies in Medicine

American College of Gastroenterology

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

Medline Plus

Medical News Now

MedPage Today

News Medical Life Sciences

Mayo Clinic

WebMD

Graphic with lists of good bacteria and bad bacteria in your gut.

The IBS/Traveler’s Diarrhea Connection

The holiday travel season may be long over, but the memories of that special trip, maybe to a warmer destination many time zones and thousands of miles away, still resonates.

Your only sour memory of that trip is a bad case of traveler’s diarrhea, the most common ailment vacationers face when they journey long distances, particularly to international destinations like South America, Africa, Mexico and Asia.

That run-in with traveler’s diarrhea could leave you vulnerable to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the most common gut health problem that affects up to 15 percent of all Americans, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.

A weakened immune system

Although researchers are still trying to figure out all of the answers, a recent study may have found an important connection between IBS and traveler’s diarrhea, according to a recent study appearing in the journal Cell.

To support a healthy gut, our body’s immune system must be equipped to maintain a balanced response to problems as they come without overdoing it.

For example, inflammation can help the gut fight an infection, but too much of a response “can cause lasting harm,” says Dr. Daniel Mucida, head of The Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Mucosal Immunology.

After Dr. Mucida and his team treated mice with a weak form of Salmonella (a very common bacterium that causes food poisoning), they discovered a lingering drop of neurons in the gut that could create an inflammatory response.

Previous work by Dr. Mucida determined these neurons could also be triggering the death of a specialized set of gut immune cells that can lead to constipation, a key IBS symptom.

A gut bacteria imbalance

Not surprisingly, this research team also discovered treating mice with Salmonella tipped the balance of beneficial gut bacteria in their tiny bodies in a bad way.

However, those neurons recovered when scientists restored the healthy balance of bacteria in those very same mice.

Fortunately, one of critical steps you should take to prevent traveler’s diarrhea — taking a probiotic — works very well when treating IBS too.

That being said, not just any kind of probiotic will do the trick.

Many probiotics are formulated with a single strain of bacteria to treat a specific problem, but not the kinds that patients encounter with IBS.

Based on a very recent review in the journal Nutrients, patients experienced greater benefits when taking probiotics with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria for at least eight weeks.

The human gut is populated by more than 1,000 species of bacteria. A probiotic made with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria is formulated to boost your immune system and treat IBS more effectively.

Taking a product like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic made from 10 strains of beneficial bacteria from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families plus a prebiotic (FOS) that feeds the good bugs in your gut may be the safer and more effective choice for treating IBS and traveler’s diarrhea too.

References

CDC.gov

Cell, Vol. 180, Issue 1

The Rockefeller University

Nutrients, Volume 11, Issue 9

Gut Microbiota For Health

sterile white couch in an all white room

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.

Woman by her fridge eating a late night snack of crackers

Your Circadian Clock and Gut Health Are Linked

Your circadian clock — the biological triggers related to night and day that govern how your body operates physically and mentally on a 24/7 schedule — is so very critical to all parts of your health.

Apart from the obvious things like sleep/wake cycles, those rhythms from your circadian clock regulate an array of functions behind the scenes, including the release of hormones, your body temperature and the ways you digest food.

Think about what happens to your body when you throw your circadian clock off a little bit. Maybe, it’s the jet lag you experienced when traveling across one or more time zones on a plane ride or the biannual changes from standard to daylight savings time.

Then, imagine those shifts in your circadian clock persisting for an extended time in longer work schedules, changes in meal times or shift work.

Over time, your body may become more vulnerable to serious health problems like metabolic syndrome, the cluster of symptoms leading to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Your shifting circadian clock

The health of the human gut is also affected by these shifts in the body’s circadian clock, particularly when we eat and sleep, according to a review of studies appearing in the journal, Microorganisms.

The human gut has basic rhythms of its own that release specific bacteria based on eating/fasting cycles throughout the 24-hour day.

Researchers from New Zealand and the Netherlands were focused on how those specific eating/fasting cycles modulate our gut health.

For example, fasting at night helps your gut process soluble fiber, producing short-chain fatty acids, specifically butyrate, that protect your body from Salmonella, E. coli and other harmful bacteria.

Also, eating protein-rich foods like eggs, turkey or chicken that are loaded with tryptophan are converted by the gut into serotonin. This popular chemical not only regulates motility in the gut but has more recently been connected to the creation of the sleep hormone, melatonin.

The big concern from researchers here is how these disruptions in sleep/wake cycles affect our eating patterns and the kinds of foods we consume, leading to harmful bacterial imbalances in our gut.

For example, working late at the office could lead to a steady Western diet of high-fat fast food, and a drop in the good bugs in your gut that protect your body from a greater risk of colon cancer or intestinal inflammation.

However, there are three things you can do to protect your gut health and keep your circadian rhythms on schedule.

  • Eating foods rich in dietary fiber is simple, especially if you like beans, apples, strawberries and whole grains.
  • Are you following good sleep hygiene? These tips from the Mayo Clinic encompass a variety of ways you can get more restorative rest.
  • Take a daily probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic that contains multiple strains of beneficial bacteria and a sleep-friendly prebiotic that feeds the good bugs in your gut.
Woman in white shirt and jeans holding her upset stomach

How Gut Diversity Affects PCOS

For women experiencing hormonal issues or having trouble conceiving a child, a possible culprit could be polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

This condition, affecting as many as 10 percent of all women from ages 15-44, is defined by a number of tell-tale signs:

  • Increased levels of male hormones that create more body or facial hair.
  • Excess weight or having a harder time losing it.
  • Menstrual cycles that last longer and are more infrequent or irregular.
  • Enlarged ovaries.
  • Skin changes including darkening around creases and the appearance of more skin tags.
  • Problems with rest due to sleep apnea.

The presence of PCOS may also mean a greater risk of metabolic health problems, including elevated levels of insulin which could lead to type 2 diabetes. In fact, many women who are diagnosed with PCOS eventually become diabetic.

There’s a growing amount of evidence a woman’s gut health — specifically its diversity — could play a larger role in PCOS.

Could a probiotic advantage make a healthy difference? Let’s take a look…

Gut diversity issues

Some of the more recent studies from research teams in Poland, San Diego State University and the University of San Diego have discovered a gut health connection in their work with human and animal subjects.

For example, one study appearing in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism compared fecal samples from 73 PCOS patients with 43 women who had polycystic ovaries but no other signs of PCOS and 48 healthy women without this condition.

The comparisons fell the way you’d probably expect. Out of the three groups, PCOS patients had the least diverse gut health, while those with polycystic ovaries but no PCOS had better gut diversity, but less compared to healthy test subjects.

One of the previous studies involving mice from 2016 published in PLOS ONE suggested the possibility of probiotics being a treatment, and it’s certainly a more direct and less problematic one compared with insulin sensitizers and estrogens.

You don’t have look very hard to find evidence that a good probiotic can make a difference in treating PCOS, based on evidence in a double-blind clinical trial on 60 patients reported in the Journal of Ovarian Research.

During a 12-week trial, patients took a placebo or probiotics containing multiple strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria and a 200-mg selenium supplement.

The use of probiotics and selenium by PCOS patients lowered testosterone levels, and made significant improvements in mental health problems including depression and reduced extra body hair.

Among the bacteria used in this study — Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum — are two of the 10 beneficial strains contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.

Taking a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic may be a safer, better approach for women wanting to ease the symptoms of PCOS.

man holding his upset stomach

The TMI Zone: Can Gas Hurt You?

Gas is one of those “TMI zone” issues people deal with every day.

It’s just part of the human condition. Everyone “emits” gas anywhere from 14-20 times a day. For the most part, it’s no big deal…

Recently, I had a reader ask me what would happen if he tried to hold onto his gas for an extended time at work when he couldn’t take a break, especially if his excessive gas was typically smelly. (You were warned this was a “TMI zone!”)

It’s not an unusual question!

Not surprisingly, this is a very common and stinky problem people search on Google for guidance, especially in the workplace.

In fact, a federal employee working for the Social Security Administration was reprimanded by his manager for excessive gas emissions that created a “hostile work environment” in his office.

Hostile sounds pretty appropriate, given 60 episodes were documented over 17 days in a story that made national headlines several years ago.

The real health issues

Some believe holding back on gas could create its own set of health issues. Fact is, excessive gas, as experienced by this federal employee, could be a sign that diverticulitis could be a problem too.

That extra gas may be creating other issues, like problems with your stools (a lack of consistency or the presence of blood), a change in the frequency of your bowel movements and even nausea and vomiting.

And, it could also be a warning sign that gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux are real problems that must be dealt with right away.

What can you do?

So, if holding back isn’t a great solution, how do you reduce intestinal gas?

For starters, you may have heard about FODMAPs, the kinds of carbohydrates contained in some dairy products, fruits and vegetables, sweeteners, legumes and wheat.

Some people have a harder time tolerating these kinds of carbs which creates the opportunity for more gas, so you’ll want to work with your doctor on a healthier, less gassy diet that’s better for you.

SLOW DOWN when you’re drinking fluids and eating meals, especially big ones.

That may also mean cutting back on consuming so many sugary sweet carbonated drinks, including diet beverages made with artificial sweeteners that harm your gut health in many other ways.

Are you having a hard time tracking what you’re eating in your head on a daily basis? Maintaining a food diary on paper (here’s a free worksheet from the National Institutes of Health) or on your cell phone is an easy way to stay on the right side of good health.

A simple solution for this “TMI Zone” issue of extra stomach gas: Take a probiotic made with 10 species and 20 billion CFUs of beneficial bacteria and a prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria in your gut like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.

Real Sugar Disrupts Your Gut Health

We’ve warned you in the past about the growing number of ways too-sweet-for-their-own-good artificial sweeteners can harm your gut health.

These outcomes may have been surprising to some in the scientific community not so long ago based on an incorrect belief that sugar was absorbed into the intestine and never made it the gut.

Considering the amount of artificial and refined sugars many people eat in the typical Western diet full of processed foods, however, it’s hard to imagine human health, not to mention the gut, not being harmed in some way.

Now, we’re learning consuming refined sugar can be a problem for your gut too, especially if your goal is to stay lean and fit, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Based on their research with mice, scientists at the Yale School of Medicine discovered how large amounts of fructose and glucose (the main components of table sugar) immediately blocked the production of an important protein (Roc).

This protein allows a specific species of gut bacteria — Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron — to process vegetables and other fiber-rich foods efficiently and help your body maintain a healthy weight.

Maintaining and protecting the various species of Bacteroides in your gut is critical to good health and keeping those extra pounds off, as this bacteria can be pretty scarce in people who are obese or overweight.

“The role of diet in the gut microbiome goes farther than just providing nutrients. It appears that carbohydrates like sugar can act as signaling molecules as well,” says Dr. Eduardo Groisman, senior author of the study and professor of microbial pathogenesis, according to Yale News.

For this study, scientists tested several sugars, both simple and complex ones, but only mixtures with fructose or glucose triggered the blockage of proteins in the gut.

The good news here is that you have plenty of reliable resources at hand to help you lose weight, starting with eating a better diet focused on fewer carbs and more whole foods.

You can also give your weight-loss journey a gut-healthy boost with EndoMune Metabolic Rescue’s unique blend of Bifidobacteria lactis and the prebiotic XOS that protects your gut health and promotes natural, effective weight loss.

Could Crickets Improve Your Gut Health?

Do you like bugs in your food… literally?

You’ve probably seen news reports about the edible insect industry and its attempts to make an eco-friendly impact on the foods we eat in America.

An increasing number of companies are using insects — crickets are the most popular but locusts and mealworms are also on the menu — as substitutes for the proteins and fiber farmers typically grow for food for eco-friendly reasons (reduced water, space and greenhouse gases).

Everything from cookies and protein bars to chips and pet foods are being formulated and sold with insects in mind. There’s even a registry for restaurants and food products called BUGSfeed that can help you locate restaurants and stores specializing in edible insects.

We know insects may be something you actively avoid, especially in your foods, but they are a staple in the diets of some 2 billion people worldwide, according to the United Nations.

A group of scientists from the University of Wisconsin, Colorado State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently investigated the benefits of eating foods made with cricket-based flour on human gut health.

The controlled study, which appeared in Scientific Reports, measured the effects of feeding breakfast foods (muffins and smoothies) prepared with cricket flour on 20 health adults over a four-week period.

Although there were no side effects reported, scientists discovered some benefits to human gut health, namely reductions in a key inflammatory protein linked to cancer and depression, as well as increases in a strain of Bifidobacteria.

Still not convinced? The study’s lead author, Valerie Stull, who has eaten a lot of insects in her travels around the world, makes a good point about how American cuisine has shifted more recently to embrace a greater variety of foods.

“Food is very tied to culture, and 20 or 30 years ago, no one in the U.S. was eating sushi because we thought it was disgusting. But now you can get it at a gas station in Nebraska.”

So, eating foods made with insects may become mainstream as well as OK for your gut. But it’s important to pay attention to how they are prepared.

In this study, cricket flour was used in muffins and smoothies made with milk or sugar, ingredients that could negate its gut health benefits.

Yes, insects may be trendy food picks, just like fermented foods, on grocery store shelves. However, taking a probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic that contains multiple strains of beneficial bacteria plus a natural prebiotic may be a better, more effective way to help your gut and your overall health too.

heart and stethoscope being held by mother and daughter

How Eating Dietary Fiber Promotes Heart Health

One of the easiest and best things you can do to give your health a much needed boost is to eat more foods rich in dietary fiber.

When you hear people talking about eating more dietary fiber (found in whole grains, fruits, legumes and vegetables), it’s mostly associated with treating.

However, eating more dietary fiber — the indigestible parts of plant foods that pass through your lower gastrointestinal tract relatively intact  — does a lot to promote good heart health too.

Based on previous research, it doesn’t take eating a whole lot more dietary fiber to make a heart-healthy difference. But the hows and whys have been a mystery to scientists…

A recent study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, UCLA and the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) may go a long way toward explaining the reasons behind this gut-healthy benefit that gets far less attention than it should.

The fatty acid connection

Wisconsin scientists identified one species of gut bacteria — Roseburia — linked to the production of the beneficial fatty acid butyrate in the guts of germ-free mice. Conclusions from the study appearing in Nature Microbiology showed reduced inflammation and atherosclerosis.

But there’s one catch: The presence of Roseburia alone wasn’t enough.

Feeding mice a high-fiber diet was the catalyst that provided extra protection. Even test animals who had Roseburia in their gut microbiomes but not enough fiber in their diets just didn’t produce enough butyrate to make a heart-healthy difference.

To ensure their high-fiber results were valid, researchers fed germ-free mice that lacked butyrate-producing bacteria a slow-release version of butyrate that would survive intact through their gastrointestinal tract.

No surprise, the presence of butyrate alone reduced signs of atherosclerosis and inflammation along with the amount of fatty plaques.

Leaky gut issues

This study really underscores the important link between dietary fiber and gut health, given previous research that found human patients with cardiovascular disease had diminished levels of gut bacteria and butyrate-producing Roseburia.

Not to mention, the presence of leaky gut, a condition in which unintended substances penetrate the vulnerable intestinal lining of the gut and into the bloodstream, is linked in a huge way to inflammation.

The good news: It doesn’t take much dietary fiber to make a big difference in your health. Increasing your intake of dietary fiber by 1 ounce (30 grams) can lower your cardiovascular risks and help you lose weight too.

In addition to eating a bit more dietary fiber every day, taking a probiotic with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria and a prebiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic can do a lot of good by promoting the natural fermentation process that feeds and protects your gut.

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