bacteria

a woman holding a salad and measuring her waist

How to Optimize the Benefits of Ketosis

With many struggling to lose weight, people are searching to find ways to do it safely and easily. One diet that has re-emerged as a popular choice is the keto (ketogenic) diet.

Those who follow the keto diet eat foods containing low amounts of carbs, high quantities of fats and medium amounts of protein.

Replacing those carbs with fats triggers a metabolic change in your body called ketosis. Ketosis burns fats more efficiently and lowers your insulin and blood sugar levels.

The origins of the keto diet date back nearly a century ago as a solution to treat epilepsy safely when drugs weren’t effective. Over the past 25 years, this diet-based alternative has gained popularity as seizure rates have fallen 50 percent or more among approximately more than half of adults, according to recent reports.

The health of the human gut may play an important part in supporting the anti-seizure benefits people receive from following the keto diet too, according to a study appearing in Cell.

Boo to antibiotics!

Researchers at UCLA discovered the connection between gut health and the keto diet when they compared the health of normal mice to those raised in a germ-free environment and others treated with antibiotics, a well-known, drug-based enemy that depletes gut bacteria.

In initial tests, the microbiomes of healthy mice with normal microbiomes changed in just four days and they experienced far fewer seizures while eating a keto diet.

On the other hand, mice with depleted or non-existent microbiomes didn’t receive the same protective benefits from seizures when they were fed a keto diet. Why? Germ-free mice were missing two specific species of gut bacteria (Akkermansia muciniphila and Parabacteroides).

“We found we could restore seizure protection if we gave these particular types of bacteria together,” said researcher Christine Olson, according to a press release. “This suggests that these different bacteria perform a unique function when they are together.”

The gut-brain connection

UCLA researchers also learned how those species of gut bacteria, elevated by the keto diet, were also responsible for changing the level of biochemicals in the gut and bloodstream that affect neurotransmitters in the brain’s hippocampus.

(In the human brain, the hippocampus has many functions, including processing memory and regulating the “fight or flight” response.)

That pair of gut bacteria works together to increase levels of GABA (a neurotransmitter that quiets neurons), a connection that shows how the gut-brain connection may affect other conditions like epilepsy.

It’s also important to reiterate that multiple strains of bacteria working together made all the difference in protecting mice from seizures. Treating mice with just one strain of bacteria offered no protection at all.

However, probiotics, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior Probiotic for kids, contain multiple strains of bacteria that provide a wide range of health benefits for your unique and diverse microbiome.

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.

Beat The Flu With Probiotics

If you and your family have stayed healthy throughout this latest flu season — one that many experts say may be one of the worst ever — consider yourselves lucky.

The huge majority of this year’s flu cases in America originates from the H3N2 strain, one that hit Australia hard last year, sending countless patients to hospitals and killing four times more people than the most recent five-year average for a flu season.

Also, treating the flu is very expensive for all of us, accounting for more than $27 billion annually in direct medical expenses and lost wages.

A very timely study appearing in Scientific Reports demonstrates how a single strain of beneficial bacteria may protect you from some of the worst symptoms of the influenza A virus and its many variations.

Scientists at Georgia State University treated mice with a proprietary strain of Lactobacillus casei (one of the 10 strains of beneficial bacteria used in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic) before infecting them with a lethal dose of the influenza A virus.

Surviving the flu

All of the mice that were treated with Lactobacillus casei survived their run-ins with influenza A, according to Dr. Sang-Moo Kang, lead study author and a professor at Georgia State’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences.

Among the survivors, their immune systems were strong enough to resist deadly primary and secondary strains of the flu and protect them from losing weight.

By comparison, the control mice that weren’t treated with Lactobacillus casei experienced severe weight loss within nine days after being infected with the flu, had 18 times more influenza virus in their tiny lungs and eventually died.

These results aren’t surprising, considering the findings of an older study that found treating patients with another proprietary strain of Lactobacillus after giving them a flu shot held onto a protective amount of the vaccine for at least four weeks.

Even if you hate getting a flu shot in the first place, there’s many simple steps you can take to boost your immune system, from washing your hands early and often with plain soap and water (no antibacterial soaps) to getting the right amount of sleep and staying hydrated.

Taking a multi-species probiotic with important strains of beneficial bacteria, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior Probiotic (for kids), can also be a safe and effective non-drug way to protect your family’s health from the flu too.

Treating IBS-Related Depression With Probiotics

Most symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — gas, cramping, diarrhea and constipation — are very uncomfortable, very embarrassing and very painfully obvious.

Considering the pain and discomfort you may be feeling, however, you may not be paying as much attention to one specific symptom — depression — as it really deserves.

Plus, taking drugs like mesalazine may be good for treating some IBS symptoms, but they don’t address the real problem: Restoring a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut.

Not only can taking a probiotic be a safer way to restore and protect that gut bacteria balance, it may also treat the symptoms of depression associated with IBS too, according to a recent study published in Gastroenterology.

Researchers at McMaster University in Canada studied the effect that prescribing a probiotic formulated with a proprietary blend of Bifidobacterium longum (one of the 10 species of beneficial bacteria found in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic) has on treating depression.

Over the course of 10 weeks, scientists monitored the health of 44 patients, half of whom took a probiotic while the rest were given a placebo.

After just six weeks, nearly two-thirds of patients in the probiotic group felt greater relief from their depression based on falling scores based on the standard Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), versus just seven in the placebo group.

More evidence that those falling HADS scores were real: Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging tests that showed changes in various sectors of the brain related to mood control.

Other good things could be taking place behind-the- scenes that moderate your mood levels, thanks to probiotics. For example, as much as 90 percent of your body’s serotonin, a chemical that works as a neurotransmitter in the brain, is produced in the gut.

Taking a probiotic is one important and safe way to protect and enhance the diversity of beneficial bacteria in your gut naturally, without a drug.

Multi-species probiotics conquer constipation

All by itself, constipation is a serious health problem accounting for some 2.5 million visits to American doctors, not to mention a growing number of trips to the ER. Constipation is also one of the telltale symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a chronic condition that affects the colon.

In the past, people have attempted to treat their IBS symptoms with drugs like mesalazine and mexiletine with only mixed results and a lot of unwanted side effects.

The real problem with taking these kinds of drugs is that they don’t get to the root cause of the problem: Rebuilding the healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Taking a multi-species probiotic can do a great deal of good, not only in restoring that gut healthy balance, but treating IBS symptoms associated with constipation too, according to a recent Italian study appearing in BioMed Research International.

For their randomized, double-blind study, scientists divided 150 IBS patients (all adults between age 18-65) with constipation issues into three groups, including one who received a placebo, for 60 days.

Interestingly, three of the five strains of beneficial bacteria in the multi-species probiotic given to patients — blends of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus acidophilus — are contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.

Compared to the placebo group, the major symptoms of IBS patients taking a multi-species probiotic improved from 74-82 percent compared to just 40 percent for the placebo group.

Even better, patients in both probiotic groups enjoyed relief from symptoms 30 days after the end of supplementation. In fact, signs of some beneficial bacteria were present in stool samples taken from patients too.

This study provides more evidence that taking a probiotic can be a much safer, healthier solution for treating constipation, especially the variety connected with IBS and a lot of other gut-related problems.

Again, the real trick is taking a probiotic made with multiple strains of bacteria from three key “families” (plus a prebiotic) like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic that supports the diversity of bacteria that inhabit your gut.

Yogurt and your gut health

When people talk to me at seminars about improving their gut health, some say they’re already eating yogurt every day… So why should they take probiotics?

Their confusion is understandable. Big food companies spend a lot of money on studies to show off the healthy value of foods they produce, like this 2013 study published in the journal Gastroenterology funded by Danone Research.

For this small study, scientists tested the effect of a non-fermented yogurt containing four different strains of probiotic bacteria on 36 women (ages 18-55) for four weeks on brain functionality.

Patients were divided into three groups: Women who ate the yogurt with beneficial bacteria twice a day, a plain mixture with no bacteria or nothing at all.

Based on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) done before and after the four-week period, women who ate the yogurt containing probiotic bacteria experienced a decrease in engagement in parts of their brains when shown a series of frightened or angry faces, then matching these with other faces showing the same emotions.

Also, women who ate the probiotic-laced yogurt experienced greater connectivity with the prefrontal cortex during a resting fMRI. In fact, scientists were surprised to see these effects in many areas of the brain, including sensory processing.

The real benefit of this study was to demonstrate one more time how consuming beneficial probiotic bacteria affects the gut-brain axis — the biological connection linking the gut, emotions and brain as one — in very positive ways.

Why not yogurt?

Still, the looming question — Why isn’t the yogurt you’re eating having the same effect on your gut health and emotions? — remains.

It’s very possible scientists tested a mixture of live bacteria in that non-fermented yogurt. Unfortunately, most brands of yogurt you’ll find at your neighborhood grocery store are made with high-heat pasteurization.

This processing kills harmful bacteria at the expense of introducing new bacteria that may not benefit your health.

Plus, most yogurt brands are made with a problematic list of ingredients (artificial sweeteners, dairy fat or sugar) that can drive obesity.

To derive any gut health benefits from yogurt or other probiotic/fermented foods we reviewed in a recent blog post, you’ll probably need to prepare them, a time-consuming task that requires a lot of time and follow strict food safety guidelines to protect yourself from illness.

The major difference between eating yogurt or fermented foods and taking a daily probiotic is a pretty simple one. With foods, you’re not sure how much beneficial bacteria you’re eating from serving to serving, if any at all.

Taking probiotics, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior, ensures you’re receiving multiple strains of beneficial bacteria plus prebiotics that feed the good bacteria already living in your gut.

Boost Your Serotonin without Medication

Protecting your body’s gut-brain axis—the connection linking your brain, emotions and intestines—is very important to your good physical and emotional well-being.

Taking a multi-strain probiotic can serve as a vital step to enhance the diversity of beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Guarding that diversity and your gut-brain axis is critical for your body’s production of serotonin, a chemical that works as a neurotransmitter to send messages from one part of the brain to another. In fact, scientists estimate that 80-90 percent of the body’s serotonin may be produced in the gut.

Important research by Caltech scientists, published in the medical journal Cell, has linked the production of peripheral serotonin in the gut by enterochromaffin (EC) cells to specific bacteria.

Specific gut bacteria connected to serotonin production

First, researchers investigated whether gut bacteria affected serotonin by comparing its production in normal and germ-free mice. No surprise, EC cells from germ-free animals produced some 60 percent less serotonin versus normal mice.

When gut bacteria was taken from normal mice and transplanted into germ-free mice, serotonin levels of germ-free animals rebounded.

Then, scientists tested gut bacteria (single species and groups) to determine which species work with EC cells to produce serotonin. They identified some 20 species of spore-forming bacteria that boosted levels of serotonin in germ-free mice.

Also, normal mice treated with these species experienced improved gastrointestinal motility and alterations in the activation of blood platelets (they use serotonin to promote clotting too).

“EC cells are rich sources of serotonin in the gut. What we saw in this experiment is that they appear to depend on microbes to make serotonin, or at least a large portion of it,” said Jessica Yano, one of the study’s authors in a press release.

Previously, research has concluded some strains of bacteria were solely responsible for producing serotonin, but this study saw things differently. Instead, specific bacteria normally present in the gut interact with intestinal cells to generate serotonin, said Yano.

These interactions between gut bacteria and intestinal cells may not be limited to producing serotonin, said Dr. Elaine Hsiao, research assistant professor of biology and biological engineering and senior author of the study.

“We identified a group of bacteria that, aside from increasing serotonin, likely has other effects yet to be explored. Also, there are conditions where an excess of peripheral serotonin appears to be detrimental.”

More natural serotonin boosters

Boost your levels of serotonin without depression medication, here’s four steps that can help without taking a drug:

  1. Exposing your body to bright light every day, a treatment for seasonal affective disorder in the winter, may be a worthwhile alternative to treat depression year-round.
  2. Get your body moving with daily exercise.
  3. Modify your diet by cutting back on caffeine and foods made of simple carbs (white bread, white rice and sweets), and eating more protein and brightly colored veggies every day.
  4. A recent University of Michigan study cited probiotics as a way to reduce stress by reversing intestinal inflammation.

Is kombucha tea really the “Champagne of Life” or an imposter?

A diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables and protein sources that aren’t red meat, along with cutting back on your daily caloric intake, can do wonders for your overall health, waistline and, particularly, your gut health (promoting the presence of beneficial bacteria, including Lactobacillus).

So, you may be thinking eating probiotic-rich foods in addition to taking a good probiotic is a good thing for your health. However, the jury is very much on the fence about the true benefits of eating probiotic-rich foods.

These mixed messages haven’t slowed down the meteoric popularity of kombucha tea—affectionately called the Champagne of Life, Fungus Japonicus and Mushroom Infusion—on grocery and book store shelves as a complete cure-all nor has it changed the minds of foodies about its perceived value as an energy booster or “fountain of youth.”

Looking for the cultures

Tart and bubbly, kombucha tea is made when brewed black tea is steeped with sugar, then fermented with cultures of bacteria and yeasts in a glass container. After at least a week’s time, billions of microorganisms ferment, soon forming a kombucha mushroom or SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) on top of the tea.

The bacteria cultures contained in kombucha tea can vary greatly, from Saccharomycodes ludwigii to Candida stellate and Pichia fermentans. (Depending on how and where kombucha tea is made, it may also contain molds and fungi.

Despite the questions, people are buying millions of bottles of kombucha tea from companies like GT’s, Tonica and Celestial Seasonings at $4 per bottle. Last month, a new book by Steve Lee, the Portland-based entrepreneur behind Kombucha Wonder Drink, entitled Kombucha Revolution: 75 Recipes for Homemade Brews, Elixirs and Mixers, shows people how to incorporate the popular drink into daily diets.

The reality versus the hype

Unfortunately, the perceptions don’t match the debatable health benefits of kombucha tea. Surprisingly, the verdict from most conventional health sources (WebMD, Mayo Clinic, American Cancer Society) matches some of the same concerns voiced by alternative health expert Dr. Andrew Weil.

For one, it’s tough for consumers to make kombucha tea in germ-free home environments and at room temperatures for as long as 12 days where it can become contaminated with harmful bacteria. In an op-ed, Dr. Weil expressed grave concerns about the contamination of home-brewed kombucha teas, as some have contained aspergillus, a toxin-producing fungus.

The high amount of alcohol in home-brewed kombucha teas is another concern, according to Dr. Melissa Wdowik of Colorado State University. In fact, the Whole Foods grocery chain pulled all brands of kombucha teas four years ago due to fluctuations in alcoholic content above the legal 0.5 percent limit, until those amounts dropped.

Also, the “real” health benefits of kombucha teas from the scientific realm are almost non-existent. Although some research has been done with animals, no clinical studies related to kombucha tea have been conducted on humans.

Finally, never assume you’re getting the beneficial strains good bacteria you’d normally receive from taking a probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic in kombucha tea.

Taking a daily probiotic made from multiple strains of beneficial bacteria is far more effective in treating a wide range of problems, from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to traveler’s diarrhea, than drinking kombucha tea with no measurable benefits.

Taking a multi-species probiotic is healthier than a placebo

Despite the 10 reasons we cited in a recent blog post, you may still be questioning why you should take a probiotic for your good health.

Unfortunately, a recent study published in the medical journal BMC Gastroenterology that compared the benefits of a probiotic to a placebo (a substance that may look like a drug but contains no medication and is taken merely to reinforce a patient’s belief he or she will get well) may have you doubting the effectiveness.

For the record, British researchers conducted a double-blind trial that compared the benefits 179 irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) patients felt after taking a functional probiotic yogurt or a placebo (non-probiotic yogurt) twice daily.

After four weeks, there was very little difference in the amount of relief felt by patients taking a probiotic (57 percent) versus a placebo (53 percent). By weeks eight and 12, however, patients taking the placebo experienced greater benefits compared to those taking a probiotic.

However, probiotic users shouldn’t be alarmed. The product tested in the study, like many food supplements of its kind, contained just a single strain of beneficial bacteria. It’s difficult to determine just how much beneficial bacteria are contained in yogurt, especially since most contain dead microbiota.

Shortly after BMC Gastroenterology published its study, the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology released one of its own that found probiotics containing multiple strains of beneficial bacteria reduced IBS symptoms in 68 percent of participants compared to just 37.5 percent of those given a placebo.

In fact, studies have shown beyond a doubt that probiotics containing multiple strains of beneficial bacteria are more effective in treating a host of health problems in addition to IBS, including diarrhea, immune functioning and respiratory tract infections.

Taking a health-boosting probiotic like EndoMune Advanced, which contains at least 10 different varieties of bacteria, some 16 billion beneficial bacteria and prebiotics every day, can do wonders for your continued good health.

Soothe Your Baby’s Colic with Probiotics

Babies cry for a variety of reasons: they’re hungry, they’re thirsty, they need changing or they’re sick.  Sometimes they cry for no apparent reason at all.  This is called infantile colic.  A colicky baby cries or shows symptoms of discomfort, such as moaning or fussing, for up to several hours.

Three recent studies published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that many babies with infantile colic had an inflamed intestine caused by certain bacteria.  Based on the results, scientists concluded that higher levels of beneficial bacteria, like those found in probiotics, lessened intestinal inflammation in babies.

Like adults, babies benefit from a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria that are found in probiotics.  EndoMune Junior contains billions of bacteria that improves intestinal digestion, helping relieve colic and ease babies’ distress.

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