leaky gut

heart and stethoscope

Eating More Dietary Fiber Promotes Good 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.

a leaky pipe being fixed with several wrenches

Could Marital Problems Lead to Leaky Gut?

Strong emotions can have a negative effect on your body. Add a diet full of high-fat foods to the mix and your gut becomes vulnerable too.

Emotional fights between married couples have been linked to symptoms of leaky gut, according to a report from Ohio State University that appeared in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Leaky gut is a condition created by breakdowns in the intestinal wall that allow undigested food, toxic waste products and other nasties to seep through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream to create a number of different health problems.

“We think every day marital distress, at least for some people, is causing changes in the gut that lead to inflammation and, potentially, illness,” says lead author Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the OSU’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

Forty-three married and healthy couples ranging in age from 24-61 participated in the study that involved talking to researchers about their relationships, then alone with each other for 20 minutes to resolve conflicts that were likely to provoke disagreements.

To give necessary context to this study, blood samples were taken from couples before and after their conversations without a researcher and those talks were filmed for later review.

Not surprisingly, patients who displayed more hostility during their one-on-one talks with their marital partners had greater levels of LPS-binding protein, a biomarker for leaky gut.

Signs of leaky gut was even more pronounced among spouses with histories of emotional problems and depression whose interactions were hostile.

What’s more, researchers identified specific biomarkers in blood samples (LBP and CD14) linked to signs of inflammation. Patients whose blood contained the highest levels of LBP had dramatically higher amounts of the primary inflammatory biomarker, C-reactive protein.

These biomarkers were far more prevalent among those whose medical histories included depression too.

In fact, scientists believe the presence of these inflammatory biomarkers that drive leaky gut may also be responsible for mental health problems, creating a “troubling loop.”

“With leaky gut, the structures that are usually really good at keeping the gunk in our gut — the partially digested food, bacteria and other products — degrade and that barrier becomes less effective,” says study co-author Dr. Michael Bailey.

To reduce the amount of inflammation from leaky gut, Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser suggests eating a more gut-friendly Mediterranean diet along with taking a probiotic.

Fortunately, protecting the health of your gut is so much easier when you take a probiotic that contains multiple species of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.

two men running in the sunset

Prebiotics May Protect Your Knees From Osteoarthritis

If your joints begin to stiffen and feel painful — especially when you wake up in the morning or as swelling becomes more common — your body could be telling you that osteoarthritis may be just around the corner.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common chronic conditions that harms the joints, often affecting the lower backs, necks, small joints of fingers and the knees of nearly 10 percent of all Americans.

A deterioration of cartilage is the common culprit in osteoarthritis, leading to breakdowns that spur inflammation, pain and joint damage. Because this discomfort makes it harder to move around, you may be dealing with other health problems related to a sedentary lifestyle that lead to obesity and cardiovascular problems like heart disease or diabetes.

Osteoarthritis also increases your chances of experiencing more falls (30 percent) and debilitating fractures (20 percent) than someone in good health.

You may be very surprised to learn the health of your gut could be a driving force behind osteoarthritis and that prebiotics — non-digestible carbohydrates/plant fiber that feeds the good bacteria living in your gut — may play an important role in treating this condition, according to a study appearing in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Prebiotics to the rescue!

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered how prebiotics could help in treating osteoarthritis while studying mice fed high-fat foods, not unlike the cheeseburgers and shakes humans eat in a Western diet.

After 12 weeks on a high-fat diet, mice experienced all of the telltale signs of eating a poor diet (obesity, diabetes) and their gut health showed it.

Not only were their microbiomes dominated by bacteria that triggered inflammation, they were nearly depleted of beneficial bacteria, including Bifidobacteria.

(These symptoms are also linked very strongly with leaky gut, a serious health condition that occurs when unintended substances seep through the intestinal barrier to the bloodstream.)

These internal changes were evident with signs of inflammation prevalent all over the tiny bodies of obese mice, along with a faster progression of osteoarthritis (nearly a total loss of knee cartilage within 12 weeks after a meniscal tear) compared to leaner mice.

However, the damage done by obesity was prevented almost completely when obese mice were fed a prebiotic (oligofructose). Although their body weight remained the same, the effects of osteoarthritis lessened greatly.

In fact, obese mice that were fed prebiotics had healthy knee cartilage indistinguishable to those of leaner mice and signs of diabetes diminished too.

“This reinforces the idea that osteoarthritis is another second complication of obesity, just like diabetes, heart disease and stroke, which all have inflammation as part of their root cause,” says Dr. Robert Mooney, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, according to the URMC Newsroom.

These positive results of the mice study have set the stage for a follow-up study with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs using probiotics and prebiotics to help vets suffering from obesity-related osteoarthritis.

Just a reminder that EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Jr. (Chewable and Powder) contain multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, and the prebiotic FOS (fructooligosaccharides). Both are proven weapons for fighting obesity that could also protect your body from the damage done by osteoarthritis.

two woman standing at yoga class

Exercise Changes Your Gut

Exercise is one of the best things you can do, not only for improving your physical and mental health. Fact is, exercise can help your body work and sleep better and may even help you live longer too.

In some cases, exercise may promote a stronger immune system, based on findings from a pair of related studies on mice and human subjects appearing in Gut Microbes and Medicine & Science in Sports & Science.

Running mice beat colitis

The animal study, conducted by scientists at the University of Illinois and the Mayo Clinic, started by letting a group of mice either run around or be sedentary for most of their lives.

Then, researchers transplanted gut bacteria from those two groups of mice into rodents that were bred to be germ free, so their microbiomes would more easily adapt to the new bugs.

Several weeks later, those younger mice were exposed to chemicals that induced ulcerative colitis to test the health of their microbiomes.

No surprise, those germ-free mice conformed to the bacteria they received, and the changes in their gut health were plain to see. But how?

Mice receiving transplants from active animals experienced less inflammation and healed damaged tissues better and faster than those receiving bacteria from sedentary animals. The tell-tale sign: Higher amounts of gut bugs producing butyrate.

In humans, the presence of butyrate (a short-chain fatty acid) protects your gut from harmful bacteria like E. coli and keeps gut inflammation in check.

The human touch

Researchers took a different approach with their follow-up work on human subjects (18 lean and 14 obese patients). First, patients were assigned to an ongoing cardiovascular exercise program (30-60 minutes, three times per week) for six weeks.

After completing the exercise cycle, microbiome samples were taken, and then a final one after six weeks of no exercise.

Just like their animal counterparts, the guts of humans produced more butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids during the exercise cycle, then declined during the sedentary period of rest.

Also, levels of butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids rose dramatically in the guts of leaner patients, compared to that of obese patients. Moreover, there were very consistent differences in the ratios of gut microbes between obese and leaner patients at every point in the study.

“The bottom line is that there are clear differences in how the microbiome of somebody who is obese versus somebody who is lean responds to exercise,” says Dr. Jeffrey Woods, a University of Illinois professor of kinesiology and community health. “We have more work to do to determine why that is.”

An additional factor that may have been a difference maker on the human side of this study: Patients ate what they wanted and weren’t assigned special diets.

A lot more to learn

There’s more work being done at other research venues to determine how much exercise benefits the human gut and how frequently one needs to be active in order to maintain those healthy rewards.

As is the case with many healthy things, however, the benefits of exercise have their limits, especially when you overwork your body. Pushing it with excessive exercise can become a big problem to the point that it can reverse the physical benefits you hoped to achieve.

Exercising to an extreme can take a huge toll on the health of your gut too, promoting leaky gut in as little as two hours.

However, one of the chemical triggers of leaky gut – the production of zonulin – was eased in a human study by taking a probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, containing multiple strains of beneficial bacteria.

Can excessive exercise promote leaky gut?

The benefits from regular exercise — from reducing your risks to catastrophic conditions like cancer, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease to improving your brain — are many and varied. In fact, a very popular Lancet study argued the lack of regular exercise could be as deadly to your health as smoking.

But, what happens when you take exercise to the opposite extreme? Overdoing anything often reverses much of the benefits you might’ve achieved in moderation, and exercise is no exception.

Based on a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, people who exercised more than four hours a week had virtually the same risk of dying as sedentary folks who rarely exercised.

A pair of very recent scientific reports have also tied excessive exercise to serious health problems that may promote leaky gut, a disorder in which a breakdown in the intestinal wall allows unintended substances — undigested food, toxic waste products, bacteria and viruses — to seep through the intestinal barrier and into the bloodstream.

Extreme exercise may harm your gut after 2 hours

Exercising for two hours at 60 percent of the maximum volume of oxygen an athlete can use (VO2 max) along with stress felt from excess heat pushed patients into an unhealthy state, based on a review of studies featured in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

How does that happen? If a patient’s gut loses a lot of blood during exercise, medical experts speculate the resulting inflammation can leave its protective lining damaged. In this vulnerable state, an ideal environment is created for leaky gut.

This review also determined that low to moderate exercise may be beneficial for patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Lengthy military training may harm the gut too

Prolonged exercise was a trigger for leaky gut in a second study appearing in the American Journal of Physiology — Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.

In this study, military scientists from Norway, the U.S. Army and the Geneva Foundation as well as the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research tracked the health of 73 Norwegian Army soldiers training in cross country skiing for four days. During that time, soldiers skied 31 miles while carrying 99-pound backpacks.

Researchers collected blood and fecal samples before and after the exercise. Before giving urine samples on the first and third days of training, soldiers drank a mix of water and sucralose and mannitol (an artificial sugar and a sugar alcohol, respectively) to detect signs of leaky gut.

By the end of the training period, the collective gut health of these soldiers as well as the composition of substances in blood and stool samples taken from them changed significantly and for worse. The excretion of sucralose rose greatly too, indicating an increase in leaky gut.

Multi-species probiotics do make an impact

Despite the good probiotics do, some scientists believe they may not do much to protect gut permeability. However, a 2012 report from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition that tracked the health of 22 trained athletes taking multi-species probiotics proved otherwise.

The key takeaway: The production of zonulin — an inflammatory protein that regulates leakiness in the gut — decreased slightly from levels slightly above normal to normal ranges, then dropped significantly after 14 weeks of supplementation with multi-species probiotics.

There are times when the leakiness triggered by zonulin protects your body in healthy ways, experts say, when you eat foods contaminated with harmful bacteria. When that happens, zonulin reacts by triggering diarrhea to get rid of the bad bugs.

Not only is taking a probiotic with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic an ideal way to shorten the duration of diarrhea, this non-drug treatment gives your body a much needed boost to its natural defenses and may offer some protection from leaky gut too.

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.

Probiotics, Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Diseases

I am hopeful you all had a wonderful holiday season and will enjoy a healthy and successful New Year.

January is the month in which we make resolutions to exercise, eat healthy and maybe lose a few of those unwanted pounds.

This month’s newsletter discusses another reason why you should consider adding EndoMune to your list of healthy things to do.

Leaky Gut Makes Way for Harmful Toxins

I want to begin 2012 by sharing with you an important probiotic benefit that I haven’t previously mentioned. The term “leaky gut” has been around for a long time. It has been used more in the alternative medicine sector to explain a variety of health issues(2).

Conventional medicine now recognizes the importance of a healthy intestinal barrier against toxins and harmful intestinal organisms. When there is a breakdown in this barrier, the disorder is decsribed as “increased intestinal permeability”(3) – or, in other words, leaky gut.

In the November issue of the medical journal, Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology, Dr. Alessio Fasano (Director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research) published an article on “Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Diseases”(4).

As a pediatric gastroenterologist and research scientist, he has developed a theory on how a leaky gut can contribute to autoimmune disorders such as:

  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Evolution of a Healthy Intestinal Barrier

As man evolved, it was critical to develop a mechanism that would allow humans to coexist with intestinal organisms like bacteria and parasites. Some of the organisms were beneficial but others could invade and cause serious infections and death.

Fortunately, the intestinal lining cells acts as an effective barrier between the internal and external environment. From a physical standpoint, the lining is similar to a brick wall. The bricks are the intestinal cells and the mortar is the “tight junction” between the cells. The tight junction is made up of secreted proteins that make the lining impermeable to some of the gut contents. The healthy intestinal bacteria – like those in probiotics – help maintain the intestinal barrier by stimulating the production of tight junction proteins.

One of the major proteins in the tight junction is called zonulin. “Zonulin works like the traffic conductor or the gatekeeper of our body’s tissues. Zonulin opens the spaces between cells allowing some substances to pass through while keeping harmful bacteria and toxins out(5),” explains Dr. Fasano. “It has a major effect on intestinal permeability.

Zonulin: A Contributor to Autoimmune Diseases

Studies suggest that increased levels of zonulin are a contributing factor to the development of autoimmune diseases. Zonulin weakens the other proteins making up the tight junction resulting in increased intestinal permeability.

In individuals with a genetic predisposition to autoimmune disorders, a leaky gut exposes their immune cells to proteins in bacteria, viruses and other environmental agents. They then develop antibodies which cross react to their own cells resulting in a variety of autoimmune diseases.

Dr. Fasano performed a clinical trial in patients with celiac disease. This disorder is due to an immune reaction against gluten proteins in grains. The studies found that when individuals with a genetic predisposition to celiac disease were challenged with gluten, there was a 70% increase in intestinal permeability and an increase in zonulin. By giving a drug that blocks the activity of zonulin, however, there was no increase in permeability when exposed to gluten. Additionally, the patients didn’t develop diarrhea or symptoms associated with celiac disease.

When the healthy intestinal balance is disturbed by such diverse things as repeated antibiotic exposure, stress or alcohol misuse, the harmful bacteria are then able to penetrate the tight junctions and invade the wall of the intestines. The result is increased permeability and immune inflammation.

There are a number of studies on how probiotic bacteria stimulate the production of tight junction proteins and prevent increased intestinal permeability(6,7,8).

This is a very exciting time in intestinal permeability research and understanding how to lessen the risk of developing an autoimmune disease.

I am amazed how intestinal bacteria and specifically probiotic bacteria have such an impact on our overall health!

Take Home Message

If you or any of your family members suffer with an autoimmune disorder, check with your doctor about the benefits of taking a probiotic like EndoMune.

Eat healthy, exercise, take EndoMune and live well!

Best Wishes,
Dr. Hoberman

References

(1) Developmental biology of gut-probiotic interaction Ravi Mangal Patel, Patricia W Lin Gut Microbes. 2010 May-Jun; 1(3): 186–195. Published online 2010 May 26. doi:

(2) A brief evidence-based review of two gastrointestinal illnesses: irritable bowel and leaky gut syndromes. Kiefer D, Ali-Akbarian L. Altern Ther Health Med. 2004 May-Jun; 10(3):22-30; quiz 31, 92.

(3) Intestinal permeability, leaky gut, and intestinal disorders. Hollander D. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 1999 Oct; 1(5):410-6.

(4) Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Diseases. Fasano A.Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2011 Nov 23.

(5) Physiological, Pathological, and Therapeutic Implications of Zonulin-Mediated Intestinal Barrier Modulation : Living Life on the Edge of the WallAlessio Fasano Am J Pathol. 2008 November; 173(5): 1243–1252

(6) Therapeutic manipulation of the enteric microflora in inflammatory bowel diseases: antibiotics, probiotics, and prebiotics.Sartor RB Gastroenterology. 2004 May ;126(6):1620

(7) VSL#3 probiotics regulate the intestinal epithelial barrier in vivo and in vitro via the p38 and ERK signaling pathways.Dai C, Zhao DH, Jiang M.Int J Mol Med. 2012 Feb;29(2):202-8. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2011.839. Epub 2011 Nov 15.

(8) Molecular regulation of the intestinal epithelial barrier: implication in human diseases.Liu Z, Shi C, Yang J, Zhang P, Ma Y, Wang F, Qin H.Front Biosci. 2011 Jun 1;17:2903-9. Review.

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