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Healthy Aging

Healthy Aging depends on maintaining a healthy digestive system aided by probiotics.

Heartburn Drugs Harm Your Health

Once upon a time, treating chronic heartburn problems often required a visit and a healthy amount of monitoring by your family doctor.

That was certainly true until a few years ago when the FDA deregulated specific classes of heartburn drugs to over-the-counter (OTC) status: Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like esomeprazole (Nexium) omeprazole magnesium (Prilosec) and H2 blockers like famotidine (Pepcid).

As their prices have fallen, heartburn drugs have become some of the most overused and over-prescribed products on the U.S. pharmaceutical market.

With this overreliance on heartburn meds – Americans spend about $11 billion annually on PPIs alone — reports of related health problems have risen too, especially for people have taken these drugs in large doses for more than year.

Some of the more widely reported problems with taking PPI heartburn meds have been related to unhealthy disruptions of gut bacteria that leave patients vulnerable to serious C. diff superbug infections.

A pair of recent studies have raised new and possibly deadly concerns about the health risks of taking PPIs.

Altering gut bacteria worsens liver disease risks

In previous research conducted at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, scientists observed changes in the composition of gut bacteria that affected a patient’s risks of chronic liver disease.

Their latest study on mice featured in Nature Communications took it one step further, adding gut-disrupting PPIs that suppress gastric acid in the stomach to the mix.

UCSD researchers discovered suppressing gastric acid that triggered an overproduction of Enterococcus in the guts of mice. (Health problems related to Enterococcus include urinary tract infections, diverticulitis and meningitis.)

This increase of Enterococcus promoted a worsening of three types of chronic liver disease: Alcohol-induced liver disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

In a second phase of their study, scientists confirmed a connection between PPIs use and alcohol-related liver disease in a review of more than 4,800 human patients who abuse alcohol. Of that total, about 1,000 took PPIs actively and nearly two-thirds didn’t.

Not only did PPIs increase the amount of Enterococcus in stool samples, the risk of alcoholic liver disease soared by more than 20 percent among patients who used them regularly. Plus, for people who had used PPIs but stopped taking them, the risk for alcoholic liver disease was still elevated at about 16 percent.

Can PPIs kill you?

The health outcomes collected from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs database of nearly 350,000 American vets who used PPI or H2 blocker heartburn drugs, then reviewed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine revealed even more sobering results.

Compared to an H2 blocker, using PPIs for at least a year increased the risk of death among vets by 25 percent. In very simple terms, that’s one extra death for every 500 patients taking a PPI, according to the study appearing in BMJ Open.

In addition, that risk of death was nearly as high among patients who took a PPI drug versus an H2 blocker at 24 percent even though they didn’t have the proper symptoms.

Also, the longer patients took a PPI, the greater their mortality risks. For people taking them for 1-2 years, the risk of death spiked by 50 percent.

Unfortunately, too many patients just keep taking PPIs even though the recommendation duration of treatment shouldn’t exceed 8 weeks. “A lot of times people get prescribed PPIs for a good medical reason, but then doctors don’t stop it and patients just keep getting refill after refill after refill,” says senior study author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, according to a press release.

The good news is that you can take safe steps to reduce your need for heartburn drugs by taking some simple healthy steps:

  • Eat smaller meals with reduced amounts of fat.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco and rich foods that trigger heartburn.
  • Work on keeping your weight down.
  • Make sure you leave a two-hour gap between eating an evening meal and bedtime.
  • Take a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic that maintains the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

For Gut-friendly Holidays, Eat Cranberries

Apart from being a staple in foods for the holiday season (desserts, stuffing, sauces and drinks) and a first-line treatment for urinary tract infections, cranberries receive little notice in the wide world of whole foods, an undeserved sign of disrespect.

Many health experts consider cranberries a superfood due to their low-calorie/high-fiber content and being fill to the brim with important antioxidants and nutrients (resveratrol, vitamins C, E and A and copper).

A study featured recently in Applied and Environmental Microbiology found another important use for cranberries as a natural prebiotic, non-digestible fiber or carbs that feed the bacteria living in your gut.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amhurst made this discovery when feeding cranberry-derived carbohydrates called xyloglucans to gut bacteria in the lab.

The real benefit from eating cranberries, says lead researcher Dr. David Sela, is the ability to eat for two, as it supports our own nutrition as well as the beneficial bacteria that lives in our gut.

“When we eat cranberries, the xyloglucans make their way into our intestines where beneficial bacteria can break them down into useful molecules and compounds,” says Dr. Sela, according to a press release.

Under the microscope, Dr. Sela and his research team observed these prebiotic compounds from cranberries feeding bifidobacteria under the microscope, an important process in protecting the healthy balance of bacteria in your gut.

Cranberries aren’t the only natural sources for prebiotics. They’re also a healthy component in many whole foods, from bananas, jicama and apples to artichokes, onions, leeks and almonds.

Just like almonds that contain a lot of fat, you have to be careful about eating a lot of cranberries too. Many commercial brands of juices and dried fruits add a lot of unnecessary sugar — 25-30 grams for juices and 8 grams for dried fruits — per 8-ounce serving, so eating them in moderation is a healthy choice.

If you want to add some prebiotic protection for your gut and cranberries aren’t your favorite food, look for a probiotic that contains fructooligosaccarides (FOS).

FOS is a natural substance derived from plant sugars and a proven prebiotic used in products like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Advanced Junior (for kids).

Could Constipation Shut Down Your Kidneys?

As our understanding of the human gut grows, modern medicine has come to realize that constipation is a much more prevalent and serious health problem and far less benign that we ever realized.

In fact, constipation may be a symptom of greater health problems, from hormonal issues to diabetes, colon cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Add chronic kidney disease to that list of serious diseases, based on a recent study appearing in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee’s Health Science Center and Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center discovered the link as they studied and monitored the health of some 3.5 million veterans for nearly a decade.

Compared to healthy patients, those suffering from constipation were 13 percent more susceptible to chronic kidney disease, and 9 percent were more likely to develop kidney failure, necessitating dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant.

The link between constipation and chronic kidney disease may be an uncomfortable blessing in disguise, because there are few signs or symptoms in the early stages.

What’s more, a cluster of health problems ranging from diabetes and high blood pressure to obesity and heart disease can increase your risks of chronic kidney disease too, blurring that simple connection to constipation.

“Our results suggest the need for careful observation of kidney function trajectory in patients with constipation, particularly among those with more severe constipation,” says Dr. Csaba Kovesdy, chief of nephrology at the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center, according to a press release.

Right now, constipation is nothing more than a warning sign of chronic kidney disease. However, if constipation is found to play a more active role in this disease based on future research, Dr. Kovesky believes simple lifestyle adjustments and taking a probiotic may be enough to protect a patient’s kidney health.

Taking a probiotic with multiple species of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic is a safe, proven way to boost the healthy diversity of your gut microbiome to treat constipation safely, effectively and without a drug.

Your Gut Health Connection to Parkinson’s

Now that modern science has finally embraced the gut-brain axis, it was only a matter of time before researchers began to find other pathways that connect the two.

Recent studies have linked both to Parkinson’s disease, one of the most common neurological brain disorders Americans face. Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder related to the brain’s shrinking production of dopamine, which leads to problems with tremors, stiffness and balance.

Interestingly, your gut health connection to Parkinson’s disease may be tied to some common problems, like constipation and imbalances in gut bacteria.

Does Parkinson’s start in the gut?

One study, appearing in Neurology, examined the health of patients receiving resection surgery or a vagotomy, a procedure that removes the main portion or branches of the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve in the human body extending from the neck to the abdomen, to treat ulcers.

Researchers discovered the gut health connection to Parkinson’s when comparing two types of vagotomy surgeries that fully or selectively (partially) resected the vagus nerve.

Over the scope of the 40-year study, three times as many patients who had a selective vagotomy eventually developed Parkinson’s versus a full resection. Plus, patients who had a full resection were 40 percent less likely to experience Parkinson’s.

The “bread crumbs” left behind by a partial resection led researchers to conclude that Parkinson’s origins may start in the gut, says study author Dr. Bojing Liu, MSc, of the Karolinska Instituet in Stockholm, Sweden, according to a press release.

In fact, gut health problems like constipation that manifest decades sooner may be a sign that Parkinson’s could emerge later on in a patient’s life, says Dr. Liu.

Can a gut bacteria imbalance lead to Parkinson’s?

A lot closer to home, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) may have found another telltale sign of Parkinson’s disease via the composition of bacteria that inhabit the human gut.

Scientists discovered the connection while comparing the health of some 200 patients from three distinct regions of America (Northwest, Northeast and Southeast) with Parkinson’s to 130 healthy controls, according to the study appearing in Movement Disorders.

Unfortunately, health experts couldn’t figure out what came first:

  • Are changes in a patient’s gut bacteria balance a red flag that Parkinson’s is a possibility?
  • Does this disease play an active part in the disruption of gut health?
  • Could a Parkinson’s drug be causing problems?

One clue that may determine which way this gut bacteria imbalance goes is the method in which the microbiome helps the body get rid of environmental pollutants not typically found in the human body.

The balance of bacteria tasked with eliminating these chemicals was different in Parkinson’s patients, a critical finding since exposure to herbicides and pesticides in farm settings increases one’s risk of this debilitating disease.

These discoveries may lead to new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, says Dr. Haydeh Payami, a professor in the Department of Neurology at the UAB School of Medicine, according to UAB News.

Therapies that regulate the imbalance in the microbiome may prove to be helpful in treating or preventing the disease before it affects neurologic function.”

Could taking a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic be a possible solution?

While scientists were quick to discourage any quick fixes, taking a probiotic does boost the body’s natural immunities and is a healthy and effective way to treat constipation without a drug.

Could poor gut health trigger Alzheimer’s?

Recently, we discussed how the brain health of Alzheimer’s patients may benefit by taking a probiotic blend of beneficial bacteria without explaining “the why.”

A recent study targeting the balance of the human gut microbiome may be at the heart of accelerating the development of Alzheimer’s, according to Scientific Reports.

Researchers discovered the link between poor gut health and Alzheimer’s while comparing the composition of gut microbiota taken from diseased and healthy mice.

Overall, at least two major kinds of gut bacteria (Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes) were found in much greater quantities in animals suffering from Alzheimer’s versus healthy mice.

The germ-free discovery

The link solidified when scientists studied the brain health of germ-free mice born without gut bacteria that received transplants of gut bacteria from animals with Alzheimer’s.

Before those transplants, germ-free mice had significantly smaller amounts of beta-amyloid plaque, protein fragments that build up between neurons in the brain. After the transplants, even those “clean” animals were vulnerable to the growth of brain-killing beta-amyloid plaque.

Typically, the healthy brain breaks down those fragments and sheds them. As beta-amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles accumulate in the brain, however, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s begin to present themselves.

“Our study is unique as it shows a direct causal link between gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Frida Fåk Hållenius, according to a press release. “The results mean that we can now begin researchers ways to prevent the disease and delay the onset.”

Take these steps to avoid Alzheimer’s disease

Although you can’t prevent Alzheimer’s disease at this juncture, there’s lots of things you do to reduce your risks just by taking better charge of your health.

The results of this study could drive attention away from antiretroviral drugs that merely treat symptoms to a wider scope of weapons related to preserving a balance of gut bacteria that could do more good, including probiotics.

Since as much as 90 percent of your body’s serotonin (the chemical that transmits messages from one side of your brain to another) is produced in your gut, it’s no surprise that scientists would target more therapies there.

All the more reason, you should include taking a multi-species probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic with 10 proven strains of bacteria, every day to that list of steps you take to avoid Alzheimer’s disease.

Probiotics may treat spinal cord injuries

The results of recent studies of the human gut and how it touches so many different health conditions is just amazing. So much so, scientists have discovered all sorts of new uses for probiotics that few would’ve considered previously.

Innovations ranging from protecting your teeth from thrush to treating burns and other kinds of physical trauma all hinge on the incredible ability of probiotics to provide incredible benefits when the health of the gut is compromised.

One day, probiotics may become a key component in treating spinal cord injuries, based on the findings of research conducted on mice at Ohio State University and featured in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Researchers came to this conclusion after studying the health of mice whose guts suffered from dysbiosis (an imbalance between harmful and beneficial bacteria).

Overall, mice that recovered poorly from spinal injuries experienced the most changes in the makeup of their gut microbiomes. What’s more, mice that were pretreated with antibiotics prior to their injuries experienced higher levels of spinal inflammation and reduced functional recovery, according to the study.

To the good, mice that received daily doses of probiotics containing large amounts of lactic acid-producing bacteria experienced less spinal damage, regained more movement in their hind limbs and had healthier gut microbiomes too.

Scientists believe the probiotic mix they fed injured mice triggered regulatory T cells (gut-related immune cells) that may have slowed down inflammation and could have prevented extra damage to the spinal cord after their injuries.

Another possible explanation could be a kind of gut-brain axis link as the bacteria contained in the probiotic may be secreting beneficial chemicals that enhance the growth and functioning of neurons.

“Either or both of these mechanisms could explain how post-injury disruption of the gut microbiome contributes to the pathology of spinal cord injuries and how probiotics block or reverse these effects,” says Dr. Philip Popovich, principle investigator and director of The Center for Brain and Spinal Cord Repair at Ohio State’s Neurological Institute in a press release.

So, what’s next for researchers measuring the value of a healthy gut in treating all kinds of health problems? The sky’s the limit!

You can do your part to protect your health from all kinds of ailments naturally, even those yet to be discovered, by taking a probiotic featuring multiple strains of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.

 

 

 

Take care of your aging gut health

Nearly 45 million Americans — slightly more than 14 percent of our nation’s population — are 65 years or older, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging (AOA). Over the next 45 years, the AOA estimates the number of American seniors will explode, more than doubling to 98 million by 2060.

With so many heading to retirement now and in record numbers over the long term, it will become more important than ever for seniors to take steps to safeguard their gut health.

Changes in gut health among the elderly, spurred by taking many more medications (think antibiotics), eating poorly and moving a lot less frequently than before, can create more serious problems, like inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and diabetes.

A pair of recent studies — both substituting fruit flies for humans — tracked the progress of the aging gut and came up with mixed results on how to protect the gut.

Free radicals

In one study conducted by the Buck Institute For Research on Aging, scientists took factors like inflammation, impaired immune response, oxidative stress and the overgrowth of stem cells into account.

When a stress response gene (FOXO) is activated, this suppresses the action of a single class of molecules (PGRP-SCs) that regulate the immune response to bacteria, promoting an imbalance.

In turn, this imbalance triggers inflammation, including the production of free radicals that causes stem cells in the gut to over-proliferate in the gut, setting the stage for a possible pre-cancerous condition.

The good news: Increasing the expression of PGRP-SC limits the growth of stem cells and restores a good gut health balance.

Treating gut health with antibiotics?

In previous research conducted by UCLA scientists, fruit flies developed signs of leaky gut, a serious health condition that occurs when unintended substances seep through the vulnerable intestinal barrier and into the bloodstream, about six days before dying.

When fruit flies experience leaky gut, their immune response revs up strongly and chronically, causing health problems just like it does in humans.

In their latest research, however, UCLA scientists detected bacterial changes before leaky gut occurred, and gave some fruit flies antibiotics that prevented the age-related increases of gut bacteria and improved their gut health.

Seniors don’t need antibiotics!

While it’s not surprising antibiotics would reduce the amount of gut bacteria in fruit flies, we live in a world where we’re over-exposed to antibiotics, from the flesh foods we eat to the antibacterial soaps we use to wash our hands.

The deadly result of this over-exposure: Creating superbugs that resist all drugs, causing serious and untreatable diseases that kill a growing amount of Americans every year.

For many reasons, the best and safest way to protect your gut health, old or young, from harm is to take a probiotic, ideally a multi-strain product like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic that contains 10 strains of beneficial bacteria.

Treat burn, trauma patients with probiotics

Inflammation, an over-reaction of the immune system when your body is injured or harmed by disease, has become a popular topic on this blog, as studies are showing how tightly it is linked to your gut health.

Low levels of chronic inflammation are signaled by reduced amounts and richness of gut bacteria, tying gut diversity to a boost in a patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, according to a recent Danish study.

A dramatic shift in gut bacteria is the subject of a new PLOS One study related to patients whose bodies produced large increases of Enterobacteriaceae, a “family” of bacteria which include harmful Salmonella and E. coli, after being severely burned.

Scientists from Loyola University Medical Center’s Burn Center compared fecal samples from four severely burned trauma patients, five to 17 days after their injuries occurred, with fecal samples from a control group of eight patients whose bodies experienced only minor burns.

Amounts of Enterobacteriaceae were miniscule (0.5 percent) among patients with only light burns. However, among patients with serious burns, Enterobacteriaceae accounted for 32 percent of their gut bacteria.

These imbalances in the gut microbiome may contribute to complications from infections like sepsis, that are linked to 75 percent of patient deaths caused by severe burns, says Dr. Mashkoor Choundry, senior author of the study.

In fact, Dr. Choundry is planning future studies to investigate the possibility that this over-production of harmful bacteria could lead to leaky gut.

Leaky gut is a serious health condition that occurs when unintended substances, ranging from undigested food and toxic waste products to bacteria and viruses, seep through the vulnerable intestinal barrier and into the bloodstream.

Injuries to the body like burn trauma can jumpstart a harmful cycle, according to study co-author Dr. Richard Kennedy. Your body’s immune system responds to trauma with inflammation, triggering an imbalance of gut bacteria, which spirals into a more powerful inflammatory response and greater disparities in the gut microbiome.

Burn victims may also benefit from taking probiotics, a safe, drug-free treatment that can help an injured gut microbiome recover. Future studies will determine if probiotics can reduce the possibility of infectious problems like sepsis, says Dr. Choundry in a press release.

One day, doctors could use probiotics to treat patients suffering other kinds of trauma (injuries to brain) too.

Garlic works with your gut to protect your cardio health

Allium sativum, better known as garlic, is a versatile and flavorful member of the onion family.

Not only has garlic been used to bring flavor to foods for thousands of years, this vegetable has a long history in natural medicine. The Greek physician, Hippocrates was known to prescribe it for fatigue, respiratory problems and poor digestion, according to the Journal of Nutrition.

Hippocrates’ counterparts in the Middle East and Asia used garlic to treat serious ailments, such as bronchitis and hypertension, as well as less troublesome problems like flatulence and colic.

Today, garlic has garnered even more interest, based on an array of medical studies over the past 15 years, naming it as a therapeutic treatment for fighting colds, improving bone health and reducing hypertension.

New research in the Journal of Functional Foods has discovered a new way for garlic to improve your cardiovascular health, with the indirect help of your healthy gut and a good diet.

The problem is the production of Trimethylamine N-oxide, TMAO, a metabolite produced by the liver after gut bacteria digests animal protein. This metabolite contributes to heart disease.

In a study conducted on four groups of mice, researchers discovered that test animals that were fed carnitine (a nutrient contained in red meat, dairy products, avocados and peanut butter) for six weeks produced “a remarkable increase” in plasma TMAO levels, compared to a control group that was given no carnitine.

When garlic is crushed or chopped, the enzyme allinase is released which speeds up the formation of allicin, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. The average garlic clove weighs up to 4 grams and can produce as much as 4,500 micrograms of allicin.

However, when the test subjects were given allicin, a sulfur-based compound in garlic, along with the carnitine, their TMAO levels dropped significantly.

Moreover, the TMAO levels of the group that consumed allicin were as low as those found in the control group who were given no carnitine at all.

This discovery gives medicine a natural and less harmful weapon to fight TMAO. In the past, physicians have treated this condition with antibiotics, which are known to disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut.

Another way to improve your cardiovascular health from a gut perspective: boost your intake of dietary fiber along with taking a probiotic, ideally a product containing multiple strains of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.

Consuming beneficial foods like garlic, along with a probiotic like EndoMune, are simple ways to improve your cardio health.

Testing your gut bacteria: A new way to screen for colon cancer

Despite our growing awareness of colon cancer, a recent report about the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in America has predicted a dramatic jump in this disease over the next 15 years. Unfortunately, this worrisome rise is among millennials and Gen Xers, not the typical age groups linked to colon cancer (those over age 50).

Currently, colon cancer screening methods (usually for patients over age 50) include uncomfortable tests like a colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy and double-contrast barium enema.

A pair of recent studies may have found new, non-invasive methods to effectively screen for colon cancer via a patient’s gut bacteria, which can complement existing tests.

Studying the human microbiome for clues to colon cancer

European researchers looking for signs of early stage tumors compared stool samples taken from 42 patients with precancerous intestinal polyps, 53 patients with advanced rectal or colon cancer and 61 healthy patients prior to the typical colon cleanse before a colonoscopy, according to the study published in Molecular Systems Biology.

Many factors were taken into consideration, from examining DNA sequencing and cataloging the genetic makeup of gut bacteria to collecting information about key factors that influence colon cancer (ethnicity, body mass index and age).

Scientists discovered that a subspecies of Fusobacterium nucleatum was present in colon cancer patients, and validated later in an independent cohort study of 335 patients from various countries. (This newer study mirrored the findings of a 2013 report that identified Fusobacterium nucleatum as a factor in increasing the likelihood of tumors.)

Testing gut bacteria using genetic analysis in tandem with existing procedures like the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) increased the accuracy of testing by 45 percent compared to the blood test alone.

Moreover, using genetic testing may be more effective in detecting early stages of colon cancer compared to the FOBT, said study co-author Dr. Julian Tap to Gut Microbiota Worldwatch.

Could gut microbiome testing be more accurate?

Examining the gut microbiome for signs of colon cancer yielded similar results in another study published in Cancer Prevention Research that compared stool samples from 30 healthy patients to equal numbers of patients with precancerous polyps and invasive colon cancer.

After identifying gut bacteria signatures for each group and including age and racial information in the mix, scientists were able to improve their ability to predict the presence of precancerous polyps by more than 400 percent. Adding body mass index with the rest of those factors increased the ability to predict invasive colon cancer by more than a factor of 5.

Also, analyzing gut microbiomes was more accurate than using the FOBT in determining which patients had precancerous polyps compared to invasive colon cancer.

“We found that the composition of the gut microbiome allowed us to identify who in our study had precancerous adenomatous polyps and who had invasive colorectal cancer,” said study co-author Dr. Patrick Schloss, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in a press release.

“If our results are confirmed in larger groups of people, adding gut microbiome analysis to other fecal tests may provide an improved, noninvasive way to screen for colorectal cancer,” Schloss continued.

These studies provide another opportunity to remind you that microbial imbalances in your gut—greater amounts of bad bacteria versus beneficial bacteria—are a serious indicator of colon cancer.

However, taking a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic offers many benefits, including increasing the diversity of beneficial gut bacteria that can protect your health from colon cancer.

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