Recently, I was interviewed by the magazine Men’s Health to discuss the positive benefits of probiotics and their potential applications for improving mental health and conditions like depression. I wanted to dive a bit deeper into the thoughts I shared in the article, and go over some key takeaways. Read the article and let me know what you think!
I am hopeful that, at this stage of the game, it will not come as a total surprise that even the health and appearance of our skin is affected by microbes and the microbiome.
Many of us grew up at a time when bacteria were universally considered to be detrimental and and therefore were the targets of therapies to treat specific conditions. Acne, for example, was considered to be a disease caused by the action of a bad bacterium which was then targeted with topical and oral antibiotics, as well as various other skin sanitizing techniques. Unfortunately, to a significant degree, this mentality remains pervasive. Continue reading
Food allergies, and a specific skin condition called eczema, are rapidly increasing in the youth population. Now, in what may be the largest study of its kind ever performed, researchers are studying a woman’s diet during pregnancy, as well as duration of breast-feeding post-birth, to assess a child’s susceptibility to allergies, as well as risk for conditions like eczema and autoimmune disorders. British investigators, evaluating over 1.5 million people, have come up with some very compelling information.
The research is what’s called a meta-analysis, meaning that it is review of previous studies (over 400 in this case) involving over 1.5 million people, and dating as far back as 1946. The researchers discovered that there was a weak, but nonetheless demonstrable, relationship between breast-feeding and reduced risk of eczema during infancy, as well as reduced risk for type I diabetes. In addition, probiotics seemed to reduce the risk of allergic reactions to cow’s milk.
The data, however, was much more supportive of the relationship between taking a probiotic supplement while 36 – 38 weeks pregnant, and during the first 3 to 6 months of breast-feeding, and risk for childhood eczema. In fact, in those women taking probiotics, risk for eczema in their child was reduced by 22%. The scientist noted that most of the probiotics contained a bacterium called Lactobacillus rhamnosus. Continue reading
In Brain Maker, we looked at the relationship between the health of the gut and that of the brain, particularly as it relates to how the gut is the origin of inflammation, a cause of Alzheimer’s disease, an inflammatory disorder. With that in mind, shouldn’t we be able to improve our gut health as a way to treat Alzheimer’s? Well, the latest science has something to say about that. Continue reading
While there has been so much attention given in recent years to the importance of probiotics across a wide spectrum of important aspects of human physiology, we are just beginning to see an expansion of the medical literature clarifying the importance of prebiotic fiber as it relates to health.
Prebiotic fiber is a type of carbohydrate that we as humans do not digest. That said, our gut bacteria thrive on prebiotic fiber, as it allows them to reproduce, and enhances their ability to make various products that are so important for our health.
Much of the work on prebiotic fiber has been done using the animal model, typically mice, in which administration of prebiotic fiber has been shown to have dramatic and positive effects, upon the gut bacteria. Beyond that, positive metabolic effects are seen as well. Continue reading
For the past several years I have been writing and lecturing about the relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and changes in the gut bacteria. We know, for example, that Alzheimer’s is an inflammatory condition. As well, we know that changes in gut bacteria enhance inflammation. So it seemed quite reasonable to assume that damage to, and loss of diversity in, gut bacteria could hasten brain degeneration so characteristic of Alzheimer’s. We know, for example, that loss of diversity in the gut organisms as measured in populations in various countries correlates to increased prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in those countries, as was so eloquently described in my Empowering Neurologist interview with Dr. Molly Fox.
But now it’s time to look at this issue in another way. Let’s ask this question: if damage to the gut bacteria relates to worsening of the brain in Alzheimer’s disease, could restoration of good bacteria using probiotics help the situation? This is quite a question when you think about the implications of what this might mean for the more than 40 million individuals around the world suffering from a disease for which there is no treatment.
Eczema is becoming a fairly common problem in young children. This condition is characterized by frequent outbreaks of reddened, inflamed skin with significant itching. But beyond the discomfort, it is now recognized that when children are diagnosed with eczema, they have a much greater risk of other immune issues, like persistent inflammation of the nose and eyes, as well as full-blown asthma.
It’s now become clear that the level of inflammation in the human body is determined, to a significant degree, but the health and diversity of the bacteria living in the gut. In fact, an astounding 70% of the immune cells in our bodies are clustered around the intestines!
So it’s no surprise that researchers have begun looking at ways to modify the gut bacteria in children in hopes of balancing inflammation and the immune system, specifically as this relates to eczema. Continue reading