Alopecia areata is a form of baldness that affects approximately 2% of people in the United States. In this condition, hair is lost from various parts of the body, typically the scalp. The actual cause of this condition is unknown, but new research clearly supports the idea that this disease is an autoimmune condition, meaning it is a manifestation of a disruption of the regulation of the immune system. There is certainly thought to be a genetic component as well.
Treatment for this condition is often unsuccessful, but includes medications designed to treat immune imbalance. This may include the use of steroids. Continue reading
We are now learning that differences in the various species of bacteria that live within the intestines actually have a profound role in regulating metabolism. For example, researchers have demonstrated that when fecal material (rich in intestinal bacteria) from an obese human is transplanted into the colon of a normal laboratory rat, the animal will gain significant amounts of weight even though it’s diet remains unchanged.
One explanation for this phenomenon has to do with the idea that certain species of bacteria are actually able to extract more calories from food that is consumed. So transplanting these thrifty bacteria allows the animal to actually obtain a higher calorie delivery to its system, even though the diet wasn’t changed.
In fact, researchers have now characterized the complexion of the gut bacteria in humans associated with obesity in contrast to the gut bacteria found in lean individuals. Obese individuals have higher levels of one large class of bacteria called Firmicutes and lesser amounts of another large group, the Bacteroidetes bacteria. The reverse is true, by and large, in those who are lean.