9 July 2016

Summer break giveaway!!!

Summer is finally here!!!

We can enjoy those gardens, pimm's, flip flops and dresses we bought at the last sale...

There's so much to do during July and August, between summer camps for big kids and playgrounds for the little ones, juggling with work and nursery drop offs and pick ups, organising summer BBQs and parties, celebrating weddings and birthday parties, I admit blogging is a bit far down the list of priorities... And I haven't even mentioned the two weeks away for a beach holiday with the preparations beforehand and the tidying up afterwards!!!

So, what I'm trying to say is that I've had to make the difficult decision to take a summer blogging break! Sniff... I know...

But while this is happening, let's have a GIVEAWAY!!! And I'm feeling generous...

You know the rules...

The giveaway will run from 10th July until 31st August 2016
- One winner will receive Ella Woodward's book 'Deliciously Ella every day' and 2 Giffgaff sim cards
- One winner will receive Rachel Kelly's 'Walking on sunshine: 52 small steps to happiness' and 2 Giffgaff sim cards
- One winner will receive 2 Giffgaff sim cards
- You need to be 18 or over
- UK residents only
- No automated entries

Get a free giffgaff Sim

If you'd like to participate, don't forget to follow your email subscription through!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck everyone and Happy Summer!!!

PS: Let me know in the comments which book you would prefer, should you be one of the winners! Good luck!

The prizes' images are affiliate links.

4 July 2016

Distinct microbes in breast cancer tissues

Breasts cancer tissues contain different bacterial species than those existing in healthy breasts, concluded a very recent study published online last week.

When I started this blog about bugs and poo, I knew it would take me a bit further than our colon and I would be writing about all sorts of diseases. However, the big surprise is how essential a healthy microbiota to lower the risk of developing cancer!

Cancer is such a bad word, isn't it? We know it's around us, we know it might strike us at any moment, we know and lost people who suffered because of it. Cancer is like a sword above our head, we don't know when it will fall.

I've already talked briefly about the link between cancer and our microbiota. And as research will get published, I will try to make sense of it all. And I'm glad to report I'm not the only one thinking that this may be (one of) the missing link(s) to treat cancer effectively. Recently, the biggest pharma companies have declared that microbiota research will now be an integral part of their cancer research programme, and that is GOOD news - they wouldn't spend millions on something they don't believe in, right?

The present study, an academic non-pharma-funded one, looked at tissues in breasts of healthy women, women with breast cancer, and women with benign tumours.

It's important to note that the tissues collected from malignant or benign breast tumours were not only the tumours themselves but also taken in a region of the breast that would, in all other circumstances, be considered as healthy tissue.

What the scientists realised is that the microbial species found in the different samples were different despite all being healthy tissues. The main results are the following (see figure for summary):
  • The microbial profile of malignant tumours was identical to the microbial profile of benign tumours' and their adjacent tissues
  • The microbial profiles of malignant and benign tumours were different from healthy breast's
  • The microbial profiles of malignant and benign tumours contained less beneficial species such as lactic acid bacteria, which are known for their anti-cancer properties
  • The microbes found in malignant and benign tissues have been shown to have the ability to cause DNA damage (in the lab)

The results
It may be scary to know that even though your tumour is benign, the bacteria around it have the ability to cause cancer by breaking DNA, but the authors of the study do specify that this may not be sufficient in itself to promote breast cancer development unless it occurs in someone who is genetically susceptible to develop cancer and already contains mutations in DNA repair.

I don't know about you, but I find these results almighty important! As I aways say when reading about amazing research like this: 'We're getting there'

Would you like to know more about the link betwen our microbiota and diseases such as cancer?  Do you believe it or do you think it's a fad?
See you next Monday,

27 June 2016

The importance of a diverse gut flora

Over the past few weeks, the key message from my latest posts has been that it's become absolutely essential to look after our gut microbiota to feed our most beneficial species!
My essential guide to a healthy microbiota pointed to a few things we could all easily do such as eat more fibres, sleep well, exercise, cut down on alcohol, and give up smoking!
Oh yeah, oh well, I hear you think, another miracle and fashionable diet!
And in part I guess it is true that it has become popular, but - in my honest, scientific opinion - for good reason! Scientists have only realised these past 10 years or so how influential our inhabitants are on our health, and certainly since the Human Microbiome Project started in 2008 (follow me here to read about this).

On thing that has become apparent is how important our microbial diversity is.
Broadly speaking:
  • High count of different species = healthy microbiota
  • Low count of different species = increased risk of diseases such as obesity, diabetes, allergies, cancers, asthma, gastronintestinal diseases to name but a few (More on the risk of developing these diseases)
Two topics I would like to address very soon are the difference in species count between countries, and the correlation of a low count with consumption of soda (coming soon on MBAI, further reading here and here).
While we may think it's our personal problem if we are not looking after your microbiota, recent research has shown that our worsening low count of species is being passed down to younger generations with irreversible consequences (check it out over here).
Looking after our microbiota truly is for the greater good because what we are doing right now will impact on future generations.
My last note will be about the big C. That's what we are more scared of developing, right? Well, now it's pretty clear that a diverse microbiota helps our body escape cancer, helps treatment work, and helps us bear the side effects of heavy treatments (more on this here).

I've definitely upped my fibre intake, and been taking my probiotics, have you?
Let me know in the comment section,
See you next Monday!

20 June 2016

Healthy poo therapy for a whole range of diseases

Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is a technique used to treat c.difficile infection by invading the gut with healthy microorganisms and kicking the nasty ones out.
Even though it's not a really well known method, it has been used for centuries all over the world. Animals do it, humans do it, doctors have been doing it for their patients, so why don't we know more about it? Of course we know why, because it sounds gross... and smelly... And quite frankly no one wants to know about it (see comments on my latest post).

Clostridium difficile (C.diff) are gram-positive spore-forming bacteria
What I've been wondering is whether this technique is being tested properly in clinical trials, and for what disease or condition?
To check this, I searched my favourite site Clinicaltrials.gov and typed a few key words including 'FMT', 'fecal microbiota transplantation'.

I was expecting a couple of hits with C.diff and obesity topping the list, but I ended up with more than 164hits.
This is the variety of conditions that are being treated with FMT:
Developmental coordination disorder
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in obese or non-obese people
Metabolic syndrome
Ulcerative colitis in children, active or prevention of recurrence
Crohn's disease, children or adults, active or prevention of recurrence
Inflammatory bowel diseases in children
Irritable bowel syndrome with bloating or diarrhoea
Slow transit constipation 
Chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction
Sclerosis chelangitis
Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis with or without metabolic syndrome
Severe alcoholic hepatitis Clostridium difficile infection, initial, recurrent, or refractory
Pancreatitis with or without infectious complications
Antibiotic-dependent pouchitis 
Treatment after bone marrow transplantation
Multidrug resistant organism reversal
MRSA enterocolitis
HIV complications

I was happily surprised to find in there 'Multidrug resistant organism reversal'.
Multi-drug resistant organisms (MDRO) are common bacteria that have developed resistance to multiple types of antibiotics (aka superbugs). These bacteria are present on the body of many people, including on the skin, in the nose or other moist areas of the body and in secretions.
Hospital MRSA
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) have declared a state of emergency as MDRO, such as deadly MRSA in hospitals, are still unbeatable. Blame the overuse of antibiotics and the lack of funding or interest to find new ones!

Are you/Do you know someone affected by one of the conditions listed above? Do you think you/they would like to participate to one of these clinical trials?
Let me know in the comment section , I'd love to read your thoughts.

See you next Monday,

Previous poo-related posts:
Donate your poo to help people live a healthier life
Testing poop pill to cure obesity

13 June 2016

Testing poop pill to cure obesity

In one of my first posts, I was wondering whether we could lose weight if we replaced our gut's micro-inhabitants with the best species:

'Interestingly, if you transfer the gut microbes from an obese mouse into a special, lean, and germ-free mouse, the latter becomes obese.' Extract from 'A cure for Obesity?'
How can that happen? Our colon is home to so many different species, they are bound to have different pros and cons: I also addressed this in a previous post (follow HERE if you'd like to know more).
Funnily, I had finished my post by saying:
'Now, I know what you would like to know, and I would like to know it too:
  • Does the opposite experiment work i.e. would transferring lean mice microbiota into obese mice make obese mice lean?
  • Would it work in humans too?'                        Extract from 'A Cure for obesity'?
Well, well, well, a few months later, started a new American study that looked at whether or not having a fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) would help people who suffer from obesity.
FMT is a new technique that could help a lot of people and has proven very effective in curing C.diff infections.

The way they will assess the efficacy is by comparing poop content, body weight, and insulin sensitivity (a marker of metabolic syndrome such as diabetes) between people who received either placebo or FMT poop pills. Neither patients,  or their doctor, will have any idea whether they received the placebo or the poop pill, their pills are marked and only the central lab analysing the results knows the secret.

The major difference though is that most clinical trials use a sludge of poo inserted via a tube into patients' guts, but this clinical trial is using freeze-dried poop pills!

You might wonder where this poo comes from, but, believe it or not, you can donate your poo! It will be assessed for its quality and abundance of beneficial micro-organisms and other markers that show that you are a lean and metabolically healthy donor.

When they will look at patients' poos before and after FMT treatment, they will compare them with the donor's poo signature and see whether or not they look more similar after FMT.

This is the first trial to address obesity and metabolic syndrome with FMT and will complete in September 2016. If this study is successful, seeing poop pills at your chemist might not be too far away...
I can't wait to read the results!!

Would you swallow a poo pill if it helped you with that weight that no amount of healthy eating and exercise has been able to shift? 
I'd love to read your opinion in the comments section, but please do refrain from suggesting that all overweight people are lazy as it's simply not true. Thank you.

6 June 2016

So that's why we have an appendix!

When I was a child, almost everyone was having their appendix removed. My friends were staying in hospital for like a week and got loads of toys and stuff from people visiting! No wonder that having appendicitis was like a rite of passage, and it was considered a good thing!

For many years, people thought that  the appendix was an obsolete organ that can become infected and be dangerous. But like everything else it seems, appendicitis is actually a modern phenomenon that only became common from the late 19th century. Suggested reasons for this include sanitation and hygienic conditions, lower consumption of fibers, our sugary and fatty diet, etc.

But what is this appendix anyway? And how come we are seemingly OK without it?

The appendix is this little tube of about 8cm that protrudes from the caecum, which is the pouch that connects the small to the large intestine. The real function of the appendix is largely unknown but hypotheses have emerged these past few years including a critical role in the education, development, and maturation of the immune system.

Now, that reminds me of something, I thought our microbiota was doing just that - I hear you say, if you have followed this blog and received your weekly update.

Well, apart from being full of immune cells, our appendix is also a reservoir of the most amazing varieties of micro-organisms. A lot of people even call the appendix a safe-house for those millions of microbial inhabitants.

What those microbes do is being there on standby for when we need them, for example, after an epidose of food poisoning or a gastrointestinal infection, which may involve bouts of diarrhoea. This way, our gut can be quickly re-populated with its normal inhabitants.

It is now believed that our appendix was most useful when, 'in the old days', people were suffering from cholera and other diseases involving serious diarrhoea; those days, people rarely suffered from appendicitis. This made scientists hypothesize that one of the reasons for increased appendicitis incidence is sanitation thanks to water-treatment plants and sewage systems. This means that our appendix doesn't get to help out as much anymore (and the reason why people thought that we don't need it!). [The safest way to cure appendicitis is simply to remove the appendix. The alternative is antibiotics but it's not as fail-safe as surgery.]

My story

When I read this the first time, it downed on me that when I was young, I was never ill - if I had something, it was always minor. But since having my appendix removed at 22, I've been increasingly suffering from stomach bugs that pin me down in bed for, typically, 3 days. At some point, I even thought I might be suffering from IBS and my 'viral' episodes might be stress-related IBS flares. Now, I believe that my immune system is not as efficient as it used to be and my gut under attack by naughty bacterial species simply doesn't get replenished by the most beneficial microbiota that used to live there.

As I shared in my last post, I've been taking my Bio-Kult probiotics every day for the past 6 months. Apart from curing cold sores, I'm also happy to report I've had ZERO episodes of stomach bugs or upset (last year I was ill betwen Dec 2014 and April 2015 with 3 viruses, 2 stomach bugs, a 2-month nasty cough, and had 2 courses of useless antibiotics). And although there are a lot of variables entering this equation such as my son not bringing so many bugs home from nursery as last year, he still has AND I have managed to escape all the nasty ones from my colleagues! 2016 is definitely [FLU 1 - 0 HUMANS] so I'm tempted to think that my probiotics are helping me big time to restore my gut flora and fight various pathogens the way my appendix used to when I still had it!

Although it is essential for an infected appendix to be removed because if left untreated, it can cause serious complications and even lead to death, in my case it wasn't infected: I was misdiagnosed. The surgeon later gave me my diagnosis and added as a side note 'Oh BTW, we removed your appendix as well'. At the time, I thought 'Oh well, good riddance'... Little did I know, I was talking about my perfect health!!

R.I.P. my appendix, June 2002.

Have you had your appendix removed? Have you noticed any change in your health or immunity afterwards?
See you next Monday,

30 May 2016

Miracle cure for cold sores - there, I said it!

I know, I know, as a scientist, I should never think/say/write about miracles, but... After suffering from cold sores for 35+ years, this solution is nothing short of a miracle!
OK, rewind, let me tell you my own story!

When I started this blog, I also started a probiotics cure. My reasons for this were multiple:
  • I'm on a healthy diet path and the right microbial strains in your gut can help you digest your food nicely, whereas the wrong ones can extract more energy than necessary and store all in fat (if you'd like to read about this, follow here
  • I'm lucky to be gut-healthy but a few of my family members are suffering from either IBS or IBD (the differences between these two diseases will be covered soon), I therefore may be carrying genetic predispositions to developing an auto-immune disease. Auto-immune diseases can strike a person with genetic susceptibilities at any age, anytime, following environmental random events (stress, medication, alcohol, ...); and a healthy gut may delay such impact (if you are interested in knowing more about this, please come back soon)
  • Last year, I was ill for 4 months non-stop as I was picking up bugs from my son's nursery; the right gut strains can help you modulate your immune system to fight illnesses (here
  • If ever I should fall ill with cancer, a healthy microbiota would help me fight the cancer through helpful modulation of my immune system, help me with side effects, and help my chemo or else medicines achieve optimal efficacy (here)
I had no idea, however, what impact it would have - if any - on my weight, wellbeing, or health. This is the reason why I haven't mentioned probiotics yet as I was doing my own experiment.

The first time I realised a difference
A few months ago, I felt the usual tingle on my lip that is so typical of cold sores. As every cold sore sufferer, I carry my Zovirax everywhere so I was able to quickly dab a little bit on where I felt 'the dreaded' was going to appear.
Then, what happened? NOTHING... Nothing happened, no cold sore appeared!
I know that this happens to some lucky cold sore sufferers, but for me, never in my 35+ years of cold sores experience, have I ever managed to stop  the growth of the virus. Zovirax helps the process go quicker but the pain, the vesicles, the scabbing, and the scar steps would always occur.
That's when I started to wonder if it had anything to do with my probiotics as I hadn't changed anything else in my life. Because life happens, I forgot about my miracle cure.

The second time confirmed my hopes
Last week, as I waking up, I felt the tingle again. Unfortunately, a few vesicles had already appeared and I had little hope I could stop the process. How wrong was I! After massaging a bit of Zovirax on them, the vesicles 'expired' after about 4 hours the way they usually do after 4 days. All I was left with was damaged skin that was going to scab and heal, so i used Compeed to speed up the process.

How I think it worked
Probiotics, Bio-Kult
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
What I didn't know though is that a certain strain present in Bio-Kult (Lactobacillus rhamnosus) has been shown to help activate macrophages to eliminate the herpes simplex virus type-1 (responsible for cold sore) (here). Macrophages are the weapons of our innate immune system and they have been shown to orchestrate a multitude of anti-herpetic actions during the first hours of the attack (here). This specific strain contained in my Bio-Kult is therefore boosting my immune system to produce natural anti-cold sore actions right from the start.
- Lactobacillus plantarum
Another strain contained in my Bio-Kult, Lactobacillus plantarum, has also been shown to stop the spread of the virus (here).

The way Zovirax works is well known: the active ingredient is 5% aciclovir. Aciclovir is a drug that transforms into a form that inhibits and inactivates the spread and growth of the herpes virus. The way different people respond to it is variable. In my case, I usually don't see much difference; with probiotics as part of my diet, I saw a massive difference as I think both actions of probiotics and Zovirax combined to completely stop the growth of the virus.

Compeed contains a hydrocolloidal gel  and is well known to accelerate skin repair.

My Miracle Cure recipe
  1. Two Bio-Kult probiotics pills every day with water and food. If you are under antibiotics, it is advised to take four tablets of Bio-Kult per day but at different times than when you take your antibiotic (as your probiotics will be killed by the antibiotic if you take them at the same time!).
  2. As soon as you feel 'The' tingle, massage some Zovirax. Repeat as advised on the notice. If you caught the tingle when the vesicles are already present, massage the cream until vesicles are flatten and 'dead'.
  3. Dry the surface and apply a Compeed patch. Replace your patch as advised on the notice.

What have you tried for you cold sores? 
Do you have any miracle cures you would like to share?
Feel free to share your stories in the comments here below, I'd love to read your tips.

See you next Monday,

PS: Please note the Amazon images are affiliate links.

My bugs and I Published @ 2014 by Ipietoon