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This Diabetes Drug may Benefit your Gut

In the past, we’ve discussed how some drugs — heartburn meds and antibiotics — harm the delicate balance of gut bacteria, making your body more vulnerable to serious health problems.

However, at least one very common drug used by type 2 diabetes patients to control their blood sugar — metformin (Fortamet and Glumetza are brand names) — may work primarily in the gut and be beneficial for gut health, based on findings of recent studies.

In the gut, not the bloodstream

Scientists at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine discovered the connection between metformin and gut health, erasing some 60 years of assumptions that the type 2 diabetes drug worked primarily in the bloodstream, according to a Diabetes Care study.

This discovery was critical because some type 2 diabetes patients with kidney issues accumulate too much metformin in their blood, which may leave them vulnerable to other serious problems so they can’t take it.

“These findings create an opportunity to develop a new metformin treatment option for the 40 percent of patients that currently can’t take this first-line drug of choice,” says Dr. John Buse, lead author of the study and director of the Diabetes Care Center at the UNC’s School of Medicine, according to a press release.

Scientists compared the effect of three kinds of metformin — delayed-release (DR), extended-release (XR) and immediate-release (IR) — on healthy patients and those with type 2 diabetes in this two-phase study.

In phase 1 testing on 20 healthy patients, scientists found roughly half as much of the DR version of metformin in their blood compared to IR and XR forms.

Various doses of Metformin DR also performed well in phase 2 testing (comparing it to Metformin XR or a placebo in type 2 diabetes patients), as the potency of the delayed-release version increased by 40 percent.

Improved fatty acid production

A separate study conducted by European and Chinese researchers also observed the positive effects of metformin on the gut health of type 2 diabetics, even over healthy patients, featured in the journal Nature.

The gut microbiomes of type 2 diabetics from Europe and China who took metformin generated more specific kinds of beneficial short-chain fatty acids (butyric acid and propionic acid) that lowered blood sugar levels.

“We weren’t able to show that other types of anti-diabetic drugs had any actual impact on the gut microbiota,” says senior study author Dr. Olaf Borbye Petersen of the University of Copenhagen, according to a press release.

“When studying type 2 diabetes patients not being treated with metformin, we did, however, discover that they — irrespective of whether they were from Denmark, China or Sweden — had fewer of the bacteria which produce the health-promoting short-chain fatty acids.”

But, does this discovery mean the lack of fatty acid-producing bacterial species in the gut contributes to type 2 diabetes? Stay tuned for more research, says Dr. Petersen.

These findings may also explain why metformin patients experience increased flatulence and bloating, as those treated with the drug have more coliform bacteria in their gut.

Could taking a daily probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic that contains multiple strains of beneficial bacteria also make a difference in the treatment of type 2 diabetes?

Only time will tell…

Heartburn meds can harm your heart

According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death among American men and women, claiming more than 600,000 lives every year.

Of the 735,000 Americans who have a heart attack every year, more than 70 percent (525,000) are experiencing one for the first time. Nearly half of Americans have at least one of these risk factors for heart disease:

  • High LDL cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure

A new risk factor for heart attacks is Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), which are drugs that work by decreasing the amount of acid in the lining of the stomach, based on a recent study appearing in PLOS One.

Accounting for an estimated $13 billion in annual sales, PPIs are one of the most popular classes of drugs that Americans take. (One out of 14 Americans have taken PPIs, according to the FDA.)

Although patients use PPIs to treat heartburn, these drugs are prescribed to treat other health problems too, including Barrett’s esophagus, ulcer-inducing H. pylori infections and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.

The most popular PPIs are available over-the-counter, including Zegerid (a combination of omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate), Nexium (esomeprazole magnesium), Prilosec (omeprazole magnesium) and Prevacid (lansoprazole).

A recent review of some 2.9 million patient records by researchers at Houston Methodist and Stanford University concluded that those with no prior history of heart disease, who took PPIs increased their risk of heart attack by as much as 21 percent.

On the other hand, patients who took another type of over-the-counter drug used to reduce stomach acid — Histamine antagonists (H2 antagonists or H2 blockers) — experienced no extra risk of heart attack. (Zantac, Pepcid and Tagamet are popular H2 blockers sold over-the-counter.)

What made the difference between these sets of drugs? A 2013 study that examined the ability of PPIs to damage the endothelium led to some answers, says Dr. John Cooke of Houston Methodist and senior author of the PLOS One study, according to a press release.

“Our earlier work identified that the PPIs can adversely affect the endothelium, the Teflon-like lining of the blood vessels. That observation led us to hypothesize that anyone taking PPIs may be at greater risk for heart attack.”

The risk of heart attack isn’t the only reason why you should think twice before taking a PPI drug. Another recent study found omeprazole disrupted the gut health of every patient so severely, that they were vulnerable to Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections.

Before taking a PPI, you may want to consider these non-drug solutions first:

  • Delay your bedtime about two hours after eating a nighttime meal.
  • Avoid heartburn triggers like high-acidic foods, alcohol and smoking.
  • Consume smaller meals with less fat.
  • Consider losing a few pounds.
  • Take a probiotic with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic or EndoMune Advanced Junior (for kids) that protects your gut health too.

How Probiotics Protect Your Heart Health

You may already read studies showing that probiotics can provide beneficial treatment for common health conditions like acne, hay fever and even your emotions.

Did you know that maintaining a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut also protects your heart?

A pair of recent studies demonstrates how the health of your gut may provide easy-to-spot clues that can identify cardiovascular problems like heart disease, diabetes and chronic inflammation.

Probiotics vs. obesity

The bacterial diversity of your gut may be linked to your risks of obesity-related disorders, according to a Danish study that compared the health of 123 non-obese patients to 169 obese patients.

No surprise, researchers concluded the greater the amount of beneficial bacteria and the diversity of those species, the greater the protection to cardiovascular diseases, including diabetes and chronic inflammation.

On the other hand, patients with lower bacterial richness had more adipose tissue (fat), and were more vulnerable to diabetes, chronic inflammation and cardiovascular diseases.

Approximately 25 percent of the patients tested had a lower richness of gut bacteria and about 40 percent less gut bacteria genes and bacteria overall than the average patient.

These smaller amounts of bacteria found in this Danish patient group were also indicative of low-level but chronic inflammation present in the digestive tract as well as the entire body.

This low-level but persistent inflammation can also contribute to metabolic changes and boost a patient’s risks cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, according to the study.

Too much TMAO hurts your heart!

The lack of diversity of gut bacteria isn’t the only factor that affects your heart health. What foods you eat are also connected to how your gut creates chemicals that can harm your heart.

A Cleveland Clinic study uncovered a link between eating too many choline-rich foods (egg yolks and fatty meats) and the production of TMAO (trimethylene n-oxide), an organic gut byproduct and heart disease trigger that promotes the accumulation of plaque in the arteries, by gut flora.

For the first phase of the study, patients were instructed to eat two hard-boiled eggs, then take a choline capsule to show how gut flora raise TMAO levels in the blood. When the same patients were given a broad-spectrum antibiotic to suppress gut flora, TMAO levels dropped, even after taking a dose of choline pill.

During the final phase encompassing more than 4,000 patients and three years, higher TMAO levels in the blood were responsible with greater risks of death and non-fatal incidents of stroke or heart attack in patients.

Choline isn’t the substance that triggers gut flora problems. Carnitine, a similar nutrient contained in red meat, dairy products, fish, avocados and peanut butter, has also been linked to elevated TMAO production and heart attack risks.

With more health data accumulating about the ways your gut plays a bigger role in your heart health, there’s one proven and completely safe way to protect your microbiome: Take a probiotic made from multiple strains of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic every day.

If you want to safeguard the gut health of your kids too, EndoMune Advanced Junior will help their gut health and immune systems.

Protect your heart and gut health for those you care about the most this Valentine’s Day weekend.

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