food additives

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More Food Additives May Harm Your Gut

We warned you recently about a gut bacteria connection to nitrites, a common food additive that may be a trigger for migraines. However, nitrites aren’t the only potential problem harming your gut health.

Your gut health may undergo changes or be compromised by chemical preservatives added to an array of foods, based on the results of two new studies.

Are antimicrobials benign?

As we’ve seen time and again, the use of antibacterial soaps and antibiotics has created unintended problems that have often made us too clean for our good.

Antimicrobial compounds work like antibacterials, with one key exception: Antibacterials prevent the spread of bacteria alone, while antimicrobials eliminate a wider range of critters, including viruses, yeasts, fungi and bacteria.

In a surprise to scientists at the University of Massachusetts, one specific antimicrobial compound – the food-grade polymer, polylysine — was responsible for the temporary disruption of gut bacteria in mice, according to a study appearing in Science of Food.

Polylysine is used as a food preservative in Korea and Japan as well as foods imported to America. (It’s commonly used in boiled rice, noodles, cooked rice and sushi.)

Over 15 weeks, researchers studied fecal samples taken from male and female mice that were fed polylysine at three different times (the beginning then at five and nine weeks).

“The concentrations of gut microbes changed in response to polylysine as we fed the mice throughout the study,” said Dr. David Sela, a nutritional biologist and lead study author, according to a press release.

“Surprisingly, the microbiome snapped back to the original concentrations despite continuous feeding of the polylysine, but we don’t understand how or the potential relevance to health.”

By week 5 of their study, the microbiomes of mice given polylysine had changed, but shifted back to normal at week 9.

It’s obvious that the microbiomes of mice adapted to this antimicrobial compound for reasons scientists can’t explain. Is that a good thing? And, how does this affect gut health over a longer time?

Is wine harming your gut?

Researchers at the University of Hawai’i Maui were far more definitive about the effect sulfites – a food preservative used in baked goods, beer and wine and canned vegetables just to name a few — have on the beneficial bacteria in your body, and it’s not good.

FDA regulations limit sulfites in processed foods to 5,000 parts per million, not a great amount. Nevertheless, some people are very sensitive to sulfites and must avoid them.

Researchers exposed four bacterial species in the human microbiome (from the Lactobacillus and Streptococcus families) to concentrations of two common kinds of sulfites (sodium bisulfite and sodium sulfite) in smaller concentrations (10-3,780 ppm) for up to six hours for a study appearing in PLOS One.

Unfortunately, these sulfites were responsible for killing or inhibiting the growth of beneficial bacteria, results that lead researcher Dr. Sally Irwin says could be a direct link between diseases and changes in the human microbiome.

Yes, food additives are a problem for people who are sensitive to them, but these results certainly shed a new light on what’s considered “safe” and “healthy.”All the more reason to protect and fortify your health with a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic with 10 essential species of beneficial bacteria plus a prebiotic that feeds the good guys in your gut.

The creamy chemicals in ice cream harm your gut health

It’s no secret that chemicals contained in the processed food products we consume can do harm to our bodies, particularly our gut microbiome.

A recent Israeli study found common artificial sweeteners, used in everything from diet soft drinks to low-calorie foods, may have a harmful effect on our gut health.

The presence of artificial sweeteners in American diets promotes glucose intolerance that leaves our bodies vulnerable to conditions like adult-onset diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

According to a recent study in Nature, you can add FDA-approved food chemicals called emulsifiers to the growing list of substances that can harm your gut health and trigger metabolic syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Are there detergents in your processed foods?

Food emulsifiers, like polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose, are commonly used to add texture (think ice cream), prevent oils and other ingredients from separating (think mayonnaise) and extend the shelf life of processed foods.

What’s more, these chemicals are similar to detergents and have been found to affect the mucus barrier and microbes associated with it, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers at Georgia State University studied mice that were fed these chemicals for 12 weeks, to determine how their presence would change the healthy balance of bacteria in their guts and promote disease.

Overall, consumption of these common emulsifiers caused alterations in the composition of gut bacteria in mice, activating the expression of more pro-inflammatory genes by their immune systems. Plus, these altered bacteria were able to permeate the dense mucus layer that lines the gut, normally an area mostly free from bacteria.

Despite no changes in diet, healthy mice fed these food emulsifiers developed mild intestinal inflammation or metabolic health problems, including hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, obesity and increased appetites.

The results were worse among mice genetically engineered to be predisposed to inflammatory gut health problems. The presence of emulsifiers boosted the frequency and severity in which these animals developed chronic colitis.

When gut bacteria from the normal mice who had been fed food emulsifiers were transplanted into germ-free mice, these animals gained fat, became glucose-intolerant and developed low-grade inflammation.

Small amounts of food emulsifiers make a difference

Food emulsifiers only account for a portion of the 17 pounds of food chemicals — flavorings, colorings and preservatives to name a few — the average American consumes every year, according to clinical nutritionist Dr. Elizabeth Lipski to Rodale News.

Going organic may not help you bypass those health problems either. Georgia State University researchers are currently testing many more food emulsifiers, including chemicals like soy lecithin which are considered “natural,” to determine if they cause similar gut health problems.

Fortunately, you can protect your gut from a host of health problems like obesity by promoting greater microbial diversity in the gut. This can be as easy as taking a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.

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