Our gut microbiome is our most important human organ. This complex ecosystem of bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea, and bacteriophages has been called the conductor of the immune-neuroendocrine system, home of the immune system, and even the second brain. In fact, the gut microbiome’s role in human biology is so widespread that scientists from nearly every specialty are checking for potential health solutions within the gut. With chronic diseases on the rise across the world, the gut microbiome is now front and center in this epidemic.
It’s Time To Redefine Our Relationship With Bacteria. Our relationship with bacteria is a complicated one. While most bacteria that live in and on us work in harmony, we only ever seem to hear about bacteria when they cause a devastating outbreak.
From the bubonic plague, which is caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria, to food recalls caused by various Salmonella strains, history is full of occurrences where bacteria have wreaked havoc and caused widespread fear. Even today, antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains like MRSA and CRE (ominously known as “nightmare bacteria”), continue to perplex doctors and researchers.
These terrifying scenarios have contributed to the widespread belief that all bacteria are harmful, and fueled our all-out war against microorganisms ever since the discovery of penicillin in 1929. However, mounting research suggests that more often than not, bacteria contribute to our health in positive ways.
Scientists now sound the alarm to reexamine our conventional views on bacteria. Not only are these microbes critical to our survival, but they also influence everything from shaping our body to affecting our mood.
As Martin J. Blaser, professor of microbiology and director of the Human Microbiome Program at the New York University School of Medicine, put it, “The composition of the microbiome and its activities are involved in most, if not all, of the biological processes that constitute human health and disease.”
Why Your Gut Microbiome Matters? Every one of us is covered in microbes with the gut being the richest source. The microorganisms in and on our bodies weigh between two to six pounds, making them heavier than the brain. We each have multiple microbiomes in our eyes, mouth, nose, skin, and if you are a female, also in the vagina.
Starting at birth, you are bathed in your mother’s microbiome as you exit her birth canal, which is where you begin building your microbiome. During the first seven years of your life, what you eat and what you come in contact with continues to develop your microbiome. Though your microbiome continues to shift throughout your life, scientists believe that you maintain a microbial signature, or a “fingerprint,” which is most similar to your mother’s.
How Your Gut Microbiome Affects Your Digestion? The microorganisms living in your gut help you extract and synthesize many nutrients and byproducts that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to obtain from your food. These microbes:
· Digest your food
· Create important neurotransmitters
· Synthesize vitamins
· Produce essential nutrients
· Use food to create health-boosting byproducts like short-chain fatty acids
We once thought these polysaccharides, oligosaccharides, and other carbohydrates were completely indigestible. But it turns out our microbes break these down and ferment them into beneficial short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate, propionate, and acetate.
Short-chain fatty acids help protect against obesity, insulin resistance, and are anti-inflammatory. Due to the disease-fighting power of these fatty acids, Viome’s personalized recommendations aim to support bacteria known to be the highest producers.
Our microbes also heavily regulate how much energy we can extract, store, and use from our food. So much so, that scientists believe our weight may have much more to do with what microorganisms are in our guts than how much we eat.
How Your Gut Microbiome Affects Your Immune System? The gut microbiome teaches the immune system the difference between friend and foe, making it an integral part of how well immunity functions. In fact, the gut is the home of 70- 80% of our immune system.
This interwoven relationship and constant communication between the gut microbiome and the immune system is the primary reason researchers search for cures to all sorts of illnesses by focusing on the gut.
An imbalance of gut microbiota, known as dysbiosis, can contribute to an increased weakness of the gut lining, which is more commonly called ‘leaky gut.’ When there are gaps in the gut lining, toxins, bacteria, and food particles can leak into the bloodstream and cause widespread inflammation throughout the body. This process has been implicated in:
· Autoimmune conditions
· Heart disease
· Type 2 diabetes
How Your Microbiome Affects Your Hormones? The gut microbiome is so essential in hormonal regulation and balance, it’s now considered part of the endocrine system. Similar to an orchestra playing a harmonious symphony, hormones circulate throughout the body in delicate rhythms, keeping numerous body systems in order.
The gut microbiome acts as a conductor for the symphony, making sure everything plays in tune and on time. When your gut microbiome is out of harmony, it can throw off your hormones and cause a variety of health issues ranging from weight gain to thyroid dysfunction.
How Your Gut Microbiome Affects Your Mental Health/ Everyone has experienced the feeling of ‘butterflies” in their stomach at some point in their lives. That feeling isn’t merely a sensation, it’s your gut communicating with your brain.
The gut-brain connection is constant and even has its designated line of communication, the vagus nerve. In fact, the biggest producer of your happy neurotransmitter, serotonin, isn’t the brain—it’s your gut microbiome, which produces over 90 percent.
Changes in the gut microbiome are linked to the mind on many levels including:
· Your mood
· Your happiness
· Your pain tolerance
· Your cognitive performance
· Your behavior
· Your mental health
The gut-brain connection is so strong that one of the fastest growing areas of neuroscience looks at the gut first.
How Your Gut Microbiome Affects Your Skin? Beauty truly comes from the inside out. The gut microbiome plays a direct role in the appearance of your skin through influencing:
· Inflammation—the underlying cause of most diseases
· Oxidative stress—a significant cause of inflammation
· Tissue lipid levels—an essential factor for a healthy metabolism
· Glycemic control—your ability to balance blood sugar
· Neuropeptide levels—a factor linked to your mood, pain tolerance, and body’s homeostasis·
· Opportunistic bacteria, harmful bacteria that can cause conditions when it overgrows
When it comes to autoimmune skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis, the gut is known to be a major driver behind the worsening of these conditions. The gut’s fundamental role in skin health is why so many creams and lotions are a waste of money.
How Your Microbiome Affects Your Heart? Could the gut microbiome be a predictor of heart disease? Researchers from the University of Cambridge seem to think so.
They found that specific metabolites, such as trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), could be a good indicator of heart disease risk. High levels of TMAO in the body occur when bacteria convert choline into trimethylamine (TMA), which is then absorbed by the body and converted to the harmful version, TMAO.
Choline (one of the B-complex vitamins) is found in many animal products and legumes, which might make you want to cut back on these foods. However, the initial part of this conversion from choline to TMA, only occurs when you have certain bacteria in your microbiome. For example, if you have high levels of gammaproteobacteria, which are known for this conversion, it’s more likely that high choline foods are contributing to your heart problems.
Everyone knows someone diagnosed with a chronic illness, diabetes, or an autoimmune disease. Moreover, we know that once treatment begins, it can often be too late.
Don’t feel bad if you’re confused about nitrates and nitrites in food. Are they good, bad, or something else? Unless you majored in chemistry, some uncertainty is understandable. They certainly sound similar. But rest assured there are differences between these compounds.
Nitrates are fairly simple molecules consisting of one nitrogen atom bound to three oxygen atoms. The chemical formula for nitrate is NO3. Nitrite is a molecule that consists of one nitrogen atom bonded with two oxygen atoms: NO2. To further confuse the issue, nitric oxide, which occurs naturally in the body, consists of one nitrogen bonded with one oxygen. This simple gaseous molecule is represented as: NO.
To be clear, NO is good for you. Indeed, it’s crucial. The body uses NO to signal your blood vessels to relax. This helps promote lower blood pressure, and even plays an important role in healthy sexual function.
The Good and The Bad Nitric Oxide (NO)NO is a key signaling molecule. When released by the blood vessels themselves, it signals blood vessel muscle cells to relax. This, in turn, lowers blood pressure. That’s important, because high blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most common and dangerous risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Hypertension is often linked to atherosclerosis, the underlying process of inflammation and plaque buildup that accompanies the stiffening and narrowing of blood vessels. Atherosclerosis tends to be a long-term, progressive process.
Some people with atherosclerosis may eventually experience heart attack or stroke. In most cases, they will have experienced hypertension, often for years, as the heart struggles to compensate for partially clogged blood vessels, dysfunction in the endothelium (the tissue lining the interior of blood vessels), and restricted blood flow. Having adequate supplies of NO on hand helps the blood vessels function properly, and may significantly reduce blood pressure.
Nitrates: (NO3) And that’s where nitrates (NO3) come in. Dietary nitrates are compounds primarily found in whole plant foods, such as beets and dark green leafy vegetables which supply the raw material the body needs to produce NO. Research shows that people who consume greater amounts of these foods tend to have higher levels of NO,and lower blood pressure.
They also enjoy a certain amount of protection against cardiovascular disease. For example, some intriguing small studies have shown that drinking raw beet juice every day may be linked to significant reductions in blood pressure among people with mild hypertension.
The evidence is clear: consuming dietary nitrates through the diet is good for cardiovascular health. Thus both NO and NO3 are good for you.
Nitrites: (NO2) Nitrites (NO2) have gained a bad rap because they are routinely used to cure deli meats. They are added to products such as bacon, for instance, to preserve the meat’s “healthy” red or pink color. Left untreated, bacon and other cured meats tend to oxidize and turn an unappetizing shade of gray.
Sodium nitrite is a salt of nitrite that has been used for this purpose for centuries. Although sodium nitrite is not inherently toxic, problems can arise when this chemical reacts with amino acids in the meat itself,especially during cooking. This reaction can form chemicals called nitrosamines.
Nitrosamines are carcinogenic, meaning they have been linked to the promotion of cancer. Research has repeatedly shown that people who eat more processed, cured, and deli-type meats are at greater risk for cancer. Although it is not entirely clear how much of this additional risk may be attributed to nitrite preservatives in processed meats, it is certain that nitrosamines are occasionally formed during cooking. And they are not healthful. Nitrosamines occur in tobacco smoke, for example, and are considered a chief carcinogen associated with exposure to smoke.
Summary: Nitrate containing compounds are necessary for survival. Dietary nitrates, primarily from plant foods, are linked to better cardiovascular health, because they provide the body with the material it needs to produce a steady supply of nitric oxide (NO). NO signals blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure.
Recently the sister of a friend of mine suffered from a pulmonary embolism (PE) which reminded me that two of my siblings had pulmonary embolisms as well. The lack of knowledge of just what pulmonary embolisms (PEs) are is astonishing. I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion.
What is a Pulmonary embolism? Pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs. In most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from deep veins in the legs or, rarely, from veins in other parts of the body (deep vein thrombosis). Because the clots block blood flow to the lungs, pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening. However, prompt treatment greatly reduces the risk of death. Taking measures to prevent blood clots in your legs will help protect you against pulmonary embolism.
Symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism; symptoms can vary greatly, depending on how much of your lung is involved, the size of the clots, and whether you have underlying lung or heart disease.
Common signs and symptoms include:
In many cases, multiple clots are involved in pulmonary embolism. The portions of the lung served by each blocked artery are robbed of blood and may die. This is known as pulmonary infarction. This makes it more difficult for your lungs to provide oxygen to the rest of your body.
Occasionally, blockages in the blood vessels are caused by substances other than blood clots, such as:
In addition, some medical conditions and treatments put you at risk, such as:
In rare cases, small emboli occur frequently and develop over time, resulting in chronic pulmonary hypertension, also known as chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension.
Prevention: Preventing clots in the deep veins in your legs (deep vein thrombosis) will help prevent pulmonary embolism. For this reason, most hospitals are aggressive about taking measures to prevent blood clots, including:
Your doctor might suggest the following to help prevent blood clots during travel:
What is influenza, aka the flu?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can range from mild to severe. When ill with the flu, people often feel some (or even all) of these flu symptoms:
The first few days of flu (Influenza)
While flu shares many of the symptoms of the common cold, the early signs of flu are often a sudden fever, aches or pains, weakness or a loss of appetite. In particular, having a cough and a fever together can be a good indication that you have flu.
How Long Does It Take To Get Over The Flu?
In general, healthy people usually get over a cold in 7 to 10 days. Flu symptoms, including fever, should go away after about 5 days, but you may still have a cough and feel weak a few days longer. All your symptoms should be gone within 1 to 2 weeks.
Is Influenza Dangerous?
Influenza, aka the flu, can cause painful headaches, body aches and lack of energy, but for some, the virus can be more dangerous, even life-threatening. The flu and related complications claimed an estimated 80,000 lives during the 2017-2018 season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
How Do I Know I Have The Flu?
Flu symptoms are usually more severe than cold symptoms and come on quickly. Symptoms of fluinclude sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches and soreness, congestion, and cough.
How Did I Get The Flu?
The flu is contagious—that means it spreads from person to person, often through the air. ... You can catch the flu when someone near you coughs or sneezes. Or, if you touch something the virus is on, like Ellen and Jack's phone or doorknob, and then touch your nose or mouth, you could catch the flu.
How Long Does The Flu Last?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , an uncomplicated influenza infection will last from three to seven days in most people, including children. However, a cough and feelings of weakness or fatigue can last for two weeks or longer.
What Are The Stages Of The Flu?
As the illness progresses, a person may have warm, flushed skin, watery or bloodshot eyes, a severe cough that produces phlegm, and nasal congestion. Nausea and vomiting may also occur, especially among children. A bout of the flu typically lasts one to two weeks, with severe symptoms subsiding in two to three days.
What Do I Eat When I Have The Flu?
Broth. Whether you prefer chicken, beef, or vegetable, broth is one of the best things you can eat when you have the flu. ...
Vitamin C–containing fruits
Can I Get The Flu Twice?
Experts say it is possible to catch the flu twice in one season. ... But a smaller portion of people (around 10 to 15 percent) are getting the H1N1 strain or the influenza B virus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (H3N2 and H1N1 are both strains of influenza A.)
Can I Get The Flu From A Flu Shot?
The viruses in the flu shot are killed, so people cannot get the flu from a flu vaccine. However, because it takes about two weeks for people to build up immunity after they get the flu vaccine, some people may catch the flu shortly after they're vaccinated, if they are exposed to the flu during this time period.
How Long Is The Virus Contagious?
For colds, most individuals become contagious about a day before cold symptoms develop and remain contagious for about five to seven days. Some children may pass the flu viruses for longer than seven days (occasionally for two weeks). Colds are considered upper respiratory infections.
Pets help you brush off rejection
One of the benefits of owning a pet? Thinking of your pet as part of the family could help you get over social rejection. A study in the journal Anthrozoös asked volunteers to think about a past experience when they’d felt rejected, then to name a photo of a cat, dog, person, or toy. When asked about their feelings again, those who named an animal or a toy with humanlike qualities felt less negatively than those who’d given names to people. The researchers say people inclined to treat animals or objects like people (like when you talk to your pet) are also more prone to having traits like empathy and unconventional thinking to guard them against that negativity.
Pets make you less lonely
Loneliness has been associated with heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other negative outcomes, but older adults who owned pets were 36 percent less likely to say they were lonely than those who didn’t have a furry friend, according to a study published in Aging & Mental Health. Especially among those who live alone, a pet could offer social interaction when other people aren’t around, the authors report.
Pets provide major buffer against stress
A small Swedish study found that female volunteers had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol 15 to 30 minutes after petting a pooch. Having your own dog could give you even more benefits. Participants who owned dogs had increased levels of the happy hormone oxytocin between one and five minutes later, and their heart rates were lower up to an hour later—but those without canines of their own didn’t get those same benefits.
Pets protect your heart
Owning a cat could lower your risk of dying from heart disease, a study in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology reports. The researchers found that those who said they’d owned a cat at some point in their lives had a lower risk of dying of a heart attack during the 20-year study than those who’d never owned one. Cats might help relax people during stress, or cat owners might tend to have traits that make them less at-risk, the study authors say.
Pets help keep your brain sharp
Research published in Anthrozoös found that older homebound adults who owned cats or dogs had better executive function (the skills you need to pay attention, remember details, and use past experience to decide how to act) than those who didn’t own a pet.
Pets encourage you to get more exercise
Of course your pup needs walks, but that stroll is good for your health too—and dog owners don’t just use those jaunts to replace the exercise they’d do otherwise. A Michigan State University study found that one of the benefits of owning a pet are that people who own dogs exercise about half an hour more per week than those who don’t live with a dog.
Pets ease your pain
The benefits of having a dog don’t stop with walking. Spending time with your pet might help keep you off pain meds. A study in Anthrozoös found that adults who spent five to 15 minutes with a dog after joint replacement surgery used less pain medication than those who didn’t have animal-assisted therapy.
Pets make your kid less likely to have allergies
Babies with pets in the house are less likely to develop allergies later in life, according to a study in Clinical & Experimental Allergy. The study found that 18-year-olds who’d had a cat or dog in the family when they were less than a year old were about half as likely to be allergic to that animal as those who didn’t have an animal in the house. But early-life exposure is key—adopting a pet later as an adult won’t help your immune system in the same way.
Pets might help your child take better care of her blood sugar
Nine- to 19-year-olds who help take care of a pet are better at managing type 1 diabetes than those who aren’t responsible for a pet, according to a small study in the journal PLoS ONE. Kids who actively cared for a pet—not just saying they loved the family’s cat or dog—were 2.5 times more likely to keep up healthy blood sugar levels, the study found. The authors say kids who are in charge of pets might feel more responsible and be more used to routines.
Pets can help fight cancer
One of the incredible benefits of owning a pet might be in their ability to help detect cancer. According to a study published in British Medical Journal, dogs can accurately sniff out early stage bowel cancer with a surprisingly high degree of accuracy. A specifically trained Labrador completed 74 sniff tests, comprised of breath and stool samples. With these tests, the dog was able to correctly identify which samples were cancerous in 33 of 36 breath tests and 37 of 38 stool tests. Scientists indicate that there is also additional research and anecdotal evidence of dogs being able to accurately sniff out other forms of cancer as well, such as bladder, skin, lung, breast, and ovarian cancer