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,

My bugs and I Published @ 2014 by Ipietoon