microbiome

sterile white couch

Your House Paint May Contain Gut-Harming Antimicrobials

I’ve talked about all of the trouble associated antibacterial products (preventing the development of bacteria) and antimicrobial products (preventing the spread of fungi, viruses and bacteria) too many times to count on my blog.

Over-sterilizing your life creates lots of problems for your gut microbiome. And, this doesn’t include exposures to all sorts of things under our very noses — from yoga mats to common personal care products like toothpaste — that contain gut bacteria-robbing chemicals.

Could the latex paint that lines the walls of your home be another problem hiding in plain sight?

Antimicrobial latex paints put to the test

Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago tested the effect of three kinds of antimicrobial, synthetic latex paints (formulated to improve indoor air quality) on bacteria in a study featured in the journal, Indoor Air.

To reproduce the typical home environment, scientists painted a group of 2×2-inch squares of drywall twice (with a day in between applications for drying), added tiny drops of water and placed them in sealed glass jars.

Then, some of the samples were exposed to five forms of bacteria taken from gym facilities that are commonly found in homes.

Within a day, all but one of the bacterial species — the spore-forming Bacillus timonensis — had died. The concern: Most bacteria die on dry, cold surfaces, but why not this one?

Spreading bacteria where it shouldn’t be

When bacteria are attacked with antimicrobial chemicals, they will mount a defense, says lead researcher Erica Hartmann. “Bacillus is typically innocuous, but by attacking it, you might prompt it to develop more antibiotic resistance.”

Spore-forming bacteria like Bacillus timonensis protect themselves on painted surfaces by lying dormant for a time, and resisting harsh conditions until they reactivate.

By now, you’re probably wondering why paint companies don’t test their antimicrobial products on common forms of bacteria. That was the gist of the test, Hartman says.

All too often, companies test their products on how E. coli — considered by some to be the “lab rat” of the microbial world — and Staphylococcus survive, yet ignore other microbes people encounter every day.

“We should be judicious in our use of antimicrobial products to make sure that we’re not exposing the more harmless bacteria to something that could make them harmful,” Hartmann says.

Protecting your immune health

The presence of antimicrobial cleaners and paints in our lives can create a “too clean for our own good” environment that hurts our health in many ways.

Exposure to antibacterial and antimicrobial products, even those seemingly as benign as paint, can harm us by eroding the delicate balance of bacteria in our gut.

Maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria helps our body do critical things like fortifying our immune systems and creating nearly all of the serotonin our bodies need.

Taking a good probiotic, ideally with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, is an easy way to protect your overall health and your gut from antibacterial products that may hiding on your walls, countertops and elsewhere.

little girl playing with a puppy

A Dog’s Gut Health May Look Like Yours

How many of you think of your pets as if they were members of your own family? You’d probably have a hard time finding anyone who doesn’t feel that way about their four-legged family members, especially dogs.

Did you know a dog’s gut health has developed very similarly to ours, and good gut health may be beneficial to dogs and their human masters?

Not only did researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory discover great parallels in the gut health and microbial composition of 64 retrievers and beagles, they concluded our gut health could be more similar to dogs, according to their study published in the open access journal Microbiome.

The latter finding is an interesting one, given that pigs and mice are used commonly in gut health research, which led scientists to study how the gut health and diversity of lean and overweight dogs changed when fed low carb/high protein diets.

Just like their overweight masters, the microbiomes of heavier dogs changed significantly when fed high protein/low carb food, but not those of leaner dogs (a sign that thinner canines had healthier, more resilient gut microbiomes).

“These findings suggest that dogs could be a better model for nutrition studies than pigs or mice and we could potentially use data from dogs to study the impact of diet on gut microbiota on humans, and humans could be a good model to study the nutrition of dogs,” says Dr. Luis Pedro Coehlo, as told to BioMed Central.

The hygiene hypothesis connection

You may be wondering how the microbiomes of dogs and their masters became so interconnected. That’s where the hygiene hypothesis may come into play due to Western cultures living in more sterile environments that are too clean for our good.

On the other paw, dogs only get soapy when they’ve been dirty (and probably bad) and they tend to scratch, sniff and lick spots on their bodies and those of fellow canines that most of us would never do.

Dogs may not be the only animals that provide microbial protection to humans either. Based on a 2016 study from the New England Journal of Medicine, Amish children raised around farm animals were up to six times less likely to experience asthma.

What can you do to protect the microbiomes of your family if you don’t live on or near a farm and caring for a pet just isn’t realistic?

Taking a probiotic, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior Probiotic for kids, containing multiple strains of beneficial bacteria can make a healthy difference in your gut health profile even if Fido isn’t available to help.

(Anecdotally, my wife and I have given our dogs EndoMune for seven years with no problems. All of them have a healthy GI tract and have experienced no gas, bloating or diarrhea during that time.)

a plane in the sky flying over a small town

How to Stay Healthy While Flying

Right now, we’re in the midst of a blazing hot summer when many of us are traveling in airplanes to cooler vacation destinations for some well-deserved R&R.

Along the way to that relaxing vacation hideaway, most of us have to put up with a lot of inconveniences — TSA security checks, overpriced foods in airport lounges and sitting next to or behind screaming kids and seat kickers — for hours surrounded by a lot of strangers.

Sounds like a lot of fun doesn’t it?

While your body is feeling out of sync due to traveling, your gut is experiencing something familiar. That’s because the typical commercial airplane has a “microbiome” too, and it’s very similar to the ones that occupy our homes and offices, according to a recent study that appeared in Microbial Ecology.

Scientists at Georgia Tech and Emory University studied 230 bacterial samples taken from commonly-touched areas in the typical airplane cabin — seat belt buckles, lavatory door handles and tray tables — and sampled cabin air before and after 10 transcontinental flights.

Although the microbiomes that inhabited airplane flights varied from flight to flight, the bacterial strains scientists detected were pretty ordinary.

“What we found was bacterial communities that were mostly derived from human skin, the human mouth and some environmental bacteria,” says Dr. Howard Weiss, a professor at the Georgia Tech School of Mathematics who worked on the study (according to a press release).

The bacterial communities that were found seemed benign and not unexpected. But, what about fellow travelers who may have the flu or a respiratory infection? In this case, closeness counts a great deal…

In a companion study featured earlier this year in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, passengers who may be fighting the flu or another virus probably won’t spread their sickness much farther than two seats laterally or one row in back or front of you on a plane.

That distance sounds pretty safe, unless you’re traveling out of the country to an international destination or flying long distances. Plus, can you count on the person sitting next to you to admit they’re sick while traveling?

Some simple tips to keep in mind when you’re traveling:

  • Keep your hands as clean as possible with plain soap and water and limit your use of antibacterial soaps. Antibacterial soaps can make your body more vulnerable to superbugs, a growing worldwide health problem, due to the overuse of antibiotics and disinfectants.
  • Keep up with your sleep, especially when traveling across multiple time zones. Jet lag will disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythms just like shift work does.
  • Give your natural immunities an extra boost by taking a probiotic, ideally with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.
a person holding a jar of coconut

Power Packed Probiotic Smoothie

Summer holidays are opportunities to enjoy a cold drink, sun bathe by the pool, and spend time with friends and family! Good times in the sun often include sugary drinks, alcoholic beverages, and processed food – all of which may upset your gut. Now, you can make the next day just as good as the day before. Try our 5th of July Coconut Açaí Smoothie and add EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, which can help repair your gut from the damage done by the alcohol and processed or fried food. In this delicious drink, the coconut water and Himalayan sea salt help replenish electrolytes lost during the festivities, and the açaí and blueberries provide high amounts of polyphenols to fight the free radicals in processed food and alcohol. Make this concoction to make your 5th even happier than your 4th!

5th of July Coconut Açaí Smoothie

  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 100 grams frozen organic açaí puree (Sambazon brand is sold at many local grocery stores)
  • ½ cup organic frozen blueberries
  • 1 scoop vanilla-flavored whey protein isolate (or vegan protein of choice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt*
  • 1 capsule EndoMune Advanced Probiotic

*Feel free to add a scoop of your favorite electrolyte powder to this drink!

Blend on high for 30 seconds, or until desired consistency is reached. Drink it now or freeze in popsicle molds for a cold treat!

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.

Smarter Babies, Better Gut Health

For the longest time, we’ve discussed the connection between the brain and gut, better known as the gut-brain axis, and how it affects an array of human health variables from emotions to protecting your baby’s brain.

That connection may also be responsible for higher levels of cognitive development in young babies, depending on the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, according to research featured recently in Biological Psychiatry.

Smelly diapers

To assess the relationship between the gut and brain development, researchers at the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) School of Medicine studied fecal samples from 1-year-old babies. Those samples were analyzed then separated into one of three microbial communities.

A year later, that same group of infants was given a series of cognitive tests that measured their language, perception and motor skills.

Overall, babies with higher concentrations of the Bacteroides bacterial genus did the best on cognitive tests. Interestingly, babies with more diverse gut microbiomes didn’t perform as well, a big surprise to UNC scientists.

“We had originally predicted that children with highly diverse microbiomes would perform better – since other studies have shown that low diversity in infancy is associated with negative health outcomes, including type 1 diabetes and asthma,” says Dr. Rebecca Knickmeyer, a member of UNC’s Department of Psychiatry, according to a press release.

“Our work suggests that an ‘optimal’ microbiome for cognitive and psychiatric outcomes may be different than an ‘optimal’ microbiome for other outcomes.”

Gut-brain communication

Another interesting aspect of this study is the realization that the guts and the developing brains of babies may be communicating in very unique ways we’re just learning about every day, Dr. Knickmeyer says.

“That’s something that we are working on now, so we’re looking at some signaling pathways that might be involved. Another possibility is that the bacterial community is acting as a proxy for some other process that influences brain development – for example, variation in certain dietary nutrients.”

Another huge takeaway from this study in measuring the microbiomes of infants: Adult-like gut microbiome communities emerging at such an early age, implying that the ideal age in which to intervene would happen before age 1, says UNC grad student Alexander Carlson.

“Big picture: these results suggest you may be able to guide the development of the microbiome to optimize cognitive development or reduce the risk for disorders like autism which can include problems with cognition and language,” says Dr. Knickmeyer.

Although researchers were hesitant to speculate how probiotics may play a role, a severe imbalance of gut bacteria — specifically Lactobacillus reuteri — may be a trigger for autism, based on a recent study conducted at the Baylor College of Medicine.

These deficits, along with the exploding growth of babies being delivered via Cesarean section in America, puts the health of our most vulnerable at risk from the very beginning of their lives.

A targeted, non-drug solution like a probiotic, like EndoMune Junior Probiotic, may be a safe way to promote better gut health and smarter brains.

 

Probiotics: A drug-free way to treat Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most devastating health problems facing America today. Not only does this mind-robbing condition affect more than 5 million Americans today, with the Baby Boomer generation heading to retirement, that number is expected to triple by 2050.

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, just a handful of FDA-approved drugs relieve symptoms, but only for the short-term. What’s more, they come with an array of side effects, including headaches, nausea, weight loss, diarrhea and constipation.

Fortunately, modern medicine has begun to embrace the gut-brain axis — the connection that links your brain to your intestines and emotions. Over time, probiotics have proven their value as a non-drug tool ideally equipped to maintain that important balance, and treat problems like depression.

One day very soon, neurologists may be using probiotics to treat Alzheimer’s, based on a recent clinical trial featured in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

 

Neurological testing

Over the course of the 12-week, double-blind clinical trial, Iranian researchers split 52 Alzheimer’s patients (between ages 60-95) into two groups. One received 200 milliliters of milk enriched with three strains of Lactobacillus (acidophilus, casei and fermentum) and Bifidobacterium bifidum, while a control group was given milk without beneficial bacteria.

(Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium bifidum are three important ingredients of EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.)

At the beginning and end of the trial, blood samples were taken and all patients were given Mini-Mental State Exams (MMSEs) that measured their cognitive ability on specific tasks like remembering dates, copying pictures, counting backwards and naming objects.

No surprise, patients who received the probiotic mixture improved on their previous MMSE results after 12 weeks, while those in the control group had lower scores.

Patients in the probiotic group also benefitted in other measurable ways, with lower levels of trigylcerides, high-sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP) and Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL) as well as drops in two common measures used to gauge insulin resistance and the production of insulin in the pancreas.

“These findings indicate that change in the metabolic adjustments might be a mechanism by which probiotics affect Alzheimer’s and possibly other neurological disorders,” said senior study author Dr. Mahmoud Salami, according to a press release.

 

Multi-species power

Arguably, the real benefits Alzheimer’s patients received in improved cognitive skills and healthier blood levels may stem from the multiple species of bacteria, not just one.

In fact, it’s possible giving Alzheimer’s patients a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic with 10 proven strains of bacteria every day may have yielded even greater results.

A balanced gut may tame autism

Is medicine better able to spot signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or is the incidence of this challenging developmental disability actually growing?

It’s a question without a concrete answer…

Although the numbers remained stable from 2010 to 2012 according to the most recent CDC stats (2012), autism affects 1 in 68 children, and it’s some 450 percent more common among boys than girls.

Despite this lack of clarity, fortunately, researchers have identified a pretty common problem kids across the spectrum share: Gastrointestinal challenges that could be related to taking too many antibiotics, thus reducing their microbial diversity too early in their young lives.

A pair of recent studies highlighted the range of gut-based treatments that may soon tame the effects of autism.

 

Going the fecal transplant route

A research team from Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and Ohio State University experienced success treating a small group of 18 kids using fecal transplants, according to a study appearing in Microbiome.

Over 10 weeks, this young group of patients, ranging in age from 7-16, were treated with a bowel cleanse and two weeks of antibiotics, followed by daily fecal transplants for eight weeks.

The treatment regimen was effective, as it improved gastrointestinal symptoms by some 80 percent along with gut microbial diversity and calmed autistic behaviors by around 25 percent. And, that gut diversity held after treatments ended too.

But, there’s a couple of caveats to consider about this study too. For starters, there was no side-by-side placebo trial that would demonstrate if doing nothing made a difference too. That’s not a big deal.

The larger concerns, however, are the unintended consequences of having a fecal transplant in the first place, like receiving gut bacteria from someone who may be reasonably healthy but overweight then acquiring that same health problem.

Also, these risks can be especially tricky when patients attempt to take matters into their own hands by trying to replicate these treatments, a real problem researchers have acknowledged.

 

A dietary/probiotic solution?

The lack of diversity in the gut was important to another study, this time with mice bred to exhibit autism-like behaviors, according to a 2016 report by Baylor College of Medicine researchers appearing Cell.

Based on sequencing long strands of DNA, the offspring of mice moms fed high-fat diets were severely lacking in Lactobacillus reuteri in their guts by a factor of nine.

Restoring that balance lessened some autistic behaviors and boosted the production of oxytocin, a hormone that acts like a neurotransmitter in the brain and a facilitator of bonding

Researchers speculate this genus of Lactobacillus may provide a basis for treating human neurodevelopmental issues in the form of a probiotic.

Treating neurodevelopmental issues with a probiotic, ideally a product made of multiple strains of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, certainly seems more ideal and much safer than taking drugs or undergoing treatments that may not yield the best results.

Probiotics: Can they replace migraine medication?

Anyone who experiences migraines on a regular basis knows how painful they can be, not to mention the harrowing side effects — vomiting, nausea, blurred vision and sensitivity to light and sound — that come with them.

Some 12 percent of all Americans suffer from migraines, conditions that can last for several days and are three times more common among women than men.

As our understanding of the human microbiome expands, science is discovering new connections that link the microbes in our bodies to all sorts of health conditions, even migraines, according to a recent study in MSystems (an open access journal published by the American Society For Microbiology).

The nitrate trigger

To understand the relation between migraines and the microbiome, researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine discovered a link in nitrates, common food additives used to preserve cured meats — think hot dogs — that are also found naturally in vegetables and in some medicines (heart drugs) and wines.

First, bacterial gene sequencing was used to uncover differences in 172 oral samples and some 2,000 fecal samples from healthy donors supplied by the American Gut Project.

This initial sequencing process found differing amounts of bacterial species based on whether donors suffered from migraines or not, yet the bacterial composition of both groups varied little.

The real breakthrough came when scientists used PICRUSt, a bioinformatics software tool, to analyze which genes were more likely to appear in migraines sufferers versus healthy folks.

That was where they discovered an increase in the number of genes that encode nitrate, nitrite and nitric oxide-related enzymes in patients who struggle with migraines. Plus, those genes associated with migraines were far more prevalent in oral samples.

A probiotic solution?

Interestingly, this discovery may lead to more targeted migraine treatments like a mouthwash or probiotic to restore the proper balance, according to Dr. Embriette Hyde, a co-author of the study as told to CNN. Could it be possible that probiotics could become a go-to treatment instead of migraine medication? Maybe some day…

This suggestion makes good sense, based on previous research that found probiotic strains of beneficial bacteria from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families were powerful enough to reduce tooth decay and thrush.

Protecting your microbiome and overall health is as simple as taking a probiotic, ideally with multiple strains of bacteria, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior.

Antibiotics and the C. Diff Superbug

American doctors wrote some 266 MILLION prescriptions for antibiotics in 2014, according to the most recent numbers reported by the CDC. Simply put, for every 1,000 Americans, 835 prescriptions for antibiotics were written.

Those are amazing and frightening numbers…

Hovering near the top of the list of most prescribed antibiotics is Ciprofloxacin (better known as Cipro), part of the fluoroquinolone class of synthetic broad-spectrum drugs.

If Cipro sounds familiar, your doctor may have prescribed it (or Levaquin) at some point to treat a urinary tract infection, bronchitis or sinus infection.

(You may have also missed a recent FDA advisory urging doctors to dial back prescribing fluoroquinolones due to reports of disabling and permanent side effects to the central nervous system as well as joints, tendons and muscles.)

Superbugs = super-damage to human health

This deluge of antibiotics has done unintentional but very serious damage to the collective health of Americans, contributing to the epidemic of superbugs like Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections in hospitals.

Fighting C. diff has been a real headache for health care facilities that have already scrambled to update their cleaning protocols to eliminate the use of chemicals containing antibacterial compounds like triclosan to prevent healthcare associated infections (HAIs) from doing harm to patients who just want to get well and go home.

For a long time, hospitals and medical professionals assumed dirt and germs were at the root of the superbug epidemic.

So, how much of an impact do antibiotics really have in a hospital setting? Based on a recent study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, it’s much more than you’d expect given all of the attention to superbugs.

  1. diff rates dropped by a dramatic 80 percent only when the use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics like Cipro was restricted and used in targeted ways, according to the study of hospitals in the UK.

“These findings are of international importance because other regions such as North America, where fluoroquinolone prescribing remains unrestricted, still suffer from epidemic numbers of C. difficile infections,” said Dr. Derrick Crook, co-study author and professor of microbiology at the University of Oxford in a press release.

“Similar C. diff bugs that affected the UK have spread around the world, and so it is plausible that targeted antibiotic control could help achieve large reductions in C. diff infections in other countries,” says co-author Dr. Mark Wilcox.

Protect your health from antibiotic-associated infections

Apart from dispensing too many antibiotics, physicians and hospitals have another tool upon which they can rely to reduce the rate of antibiotic-associated infections like C. diff., according to a 2016 survey of studies published in the International Journal of General Medicine.

Giving adults and children probiotics reduced the risks of developing a C. diff infection by some 60 percent, particularly among patients recovering in a hospital.

Among the beneficial bacteria cited as beneficial in halting the spread of C. diff: Lactobacillus, among the active strains contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior.

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