Microbiome – A Broader Perspective

Microbiome – A Broader Perspective

So much attention is focused, and rightfully so, on the emerging role of the human microbiome as it relates to our health as well as our risk for disease. But keep in mind that microorganisms permeate the entire biosphere. Bacteria are found in the highest reaches of our atmosphere all the way down to the depths of the ocean. And as we are now learning, just as they do in humans, they play an important role in the health and functionality of these ecosystems as well.

In today’s video, I explore a broad view of the idea of the microbiome well beyond the anthropocentric.

Why You Should Pick Dandelion Greens

Why You Should Pick Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens are a member of one of the largest planet families, one that also includes daisies, sunflowers, and thistles. The health benefits of this plant have been documented as far back as the 10th and 11th centuries. Even today there are folk medicine claims about dandelion in terms of its ability to aid indigestion, purify the blood, and even help prevent gallstones. But dandelion greens are actually a really helpful food to add to your diet for a number of reasons. First, they are low in calories. One cup of chopped dandelion greens has only 25 calories. Additionally, they’re loaded with antioxidants including vitamin C and vitamin A (beta-carotene).

Animal studies have demonstrated significant improvement in various parameters of blood lipids, and even atherosclerosis, as a consequence of receiving dandelion greens in their diet. Dandelion greens are also rich in minerals. Perhaps, most importantly, they are a very rich source of prebiotic fiber. It is, for me, this last characteristic, being high in prebiotic fiber, that makes dandelion greens such a compelling food. Continue reading

Antibiotics: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Antibiotics: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Antibiotics are an incredible, life-saving tool that we have in medicine. In fact, they are arguably one of the greatest medical discoveries of our time.

However, in America, we see injudicious use of antibiotics, not only in our own bodies, but in the animals that give us the food we eat. In fact, 70% of the antibiotics we use in America today are fed to livestock! Why is this something we should be worried about? Learn more in today’s video.

Could Gut Bacterial Imbalance Cause Brain Illness?

Could Gut Bacterial Imbalance Cause Brain Illness?

We Americans seem to be obsessed with hygiene and cleanliness. Whether it’s the hand sanitizer dispenser at the end of virtually every aisle in the grocery store, the plethora of antimicrobial cleaning products, or our insistence on taking powerful antibiotics for every cough or cold, somehow or another we have bought into the mentality that bugs are bad and are waging a war against us at every turn.

As it turns out, in many ways the multitude of bacteria that exist in our world and within our bodies may actually be doing more good than harm. Within our intestines, for example, there exists a vast and expensive colony of living organisms upon which we are completely dependent for our wellbeing. Most of these organisms reside within the intestine and are called our microbiota. In fact, the number of organisms living within each of us outnumber the cells of our body by a factor of 10 to 1.

And it is these bacteria and other organisms including fungi and viruses that control any number of aspects of our physiology that determine health versus illness. Our immune function, levels of inflammation, ability to fight cancer cells, detoxification, and even absorption of various nutrients, are all intimately dependent upon the various species of organisms that live within the gut. Continue reading

Gut Feelings

Gut Feelings

Our emotional responses to everyday events are governed and influenced by many factors, including our past experiences, upbringing, and medications. But can the foods we eat play a role in our emotions?

In a recent study published in the journal Gastroenterology, researchers at UCLA demonstrated that daily consumption of a fermented milk product containing five different strains of probiotic bacteria actually changed the brain’s emotional response to various stimuli, as measured on an advanced brain imaging technique called functional MRI.

Think of it. Changing the composition of the bacteria living in the gut caused a profound change in how the brain responded to its environment!

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Gluten and the Microbiome

Gluten and the Microbiome

In humans, the relationship between type 1 diabetes and celiac disease is clear: having celiac disease dramatically increases risk for becoming a type 1 diabetic. But even beyond those with celiac disease, it has now been shown that early introduction of gluten-containing cereals in infancy is directly related to increased risk for type 1 diabetes.

The why and how of this relationship are still not perfectly clear. However, new research is focused on the role of dietary gluten in challenging the microbiome – the 100 trillion bacteria living within each of us – and how this paves the way for increased inflammation and autoimmunity, fundamental mechanisms in type 1 diabetes.

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