Anti-Inflammatory Diet

All health care starts with diet. My recommendations for a healthy diet are here:
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle.
There are over 190 articles on diet, inflammation and disease on this blog
(find topics using search [upper left] or index [lower right]), and
more articles by Prof. Ayers on Suite101 .

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Common Medicines Make Superbugs, Not Prescription Antibiotics

Careless prescriptions and cattle fattening antibiotics are blamed for the rise of superbugs resistant to everything in the hospital arsenal, but that’s all wrong.  Antibiotics fail, because we are all abusing common medicines that also have powerful antibiotic activity.  All painkillers, anti-inflammatories, statins, antidepressants, and the whole list of common pharmaceuticals are the problem.  We simply use too many drugs.

Common drugs should also be labeled as antibiotics, because they kill the sensitive bacteria in your gut and leave behind just the resistant bacteria.  Unfortunately, the genetic mutations that make your gut bacteria resistant to drugs, also provide resistance to antibiotics needed to stop infections and that broad resistance to antibiotics can spread to pathogens that then become the dreaded superbugs.

Here are the simple facts that I have discussed at length in another post:
  • Statins were antibiotics that were repurposed to lower LDL, “bad cholesterol.”
  • Aspirin was an antibiotic that was shown to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Metformin was an antibiotic that later proved useful for treatment of diabetes.
  • Many chemotherapy drugs are antibiotics developed for cancer treatment.
  • Diuretics were antibiotics that indirectly reduce blood pressure.
  • Antidepressants, such as Prozac, Zoloft, etc. are antibiotics.

Common Drugs Are Actually Antibiotics
Most pharmaceuticals are derived from phytochemicals, a.k.a antioxidants, adapted in plants to kill microorganisms, i.e. as natural antibiotics.  It is not surprising that drugs = antibiotics.  What is surprising is that people assume that if antibiotics are labeled with some other activity, that they cease to be antibiotics.  All drugs are also antibiotics and that is why a major side effect of most medicines is upset gut bacteria.

Overuse of Common Drugs Produces Superbugs
Simply put, common medicines you swallow, kill bacteria in your bowels.  Some bacteria survive and are called “drug resistant.”  Bacteria accumulate resistances to several different kinds of drugs and are called “multidrug resistant.”  As might be expected, hospitals are the breeding grounds for multidrug resistant, mutant bacteria of all different types.  Unfortunately, anyone who takes several types of medications is also a source for multidrug resistant bacteria, so nursing homes are the most frequent sources of superbugs that cause outbreaks of hospital infections.

The Only Way to Stop Superbugs is to Use Less Drugs
The bottom line is that even if doctors start to use antibiotics more rationally and antibiotic use in agriculture is eliminated, superbugs will still be a big problem, because they will be produced by excessive use of common drugs, i.e. those found on the shelves of drug stores and supermarkets, as well as prescribed by doctors.  

The only solution to the superbug problem is to reduce pharmaceutical use by 99%.

Monday, July 20, 2015

HELLP, Preeclampsia, Antiphospholipid Antibodies and Basic Triplets

—-the other 200 posts —-
Clotted RBCs in Capillary
Some of my research involves the unique properties of milk and the development of the immune system, so I talk to medical people, lactation researchers and occasionally discuss the control of inflammation involved in ovulation, fertilization, implantation, gestation, labor and lactation.  It is clear to me that there are a few trends in disruption of these pregnancy processes resulting from the modern increase in inflammation and gut-related problems linked with immune tolerance.  Infertility is increasing, because women are becoming more chronically inflamed.  Miscarriages and premature births/low birth weight are increasing, because chronic inflammation enhances labor.  Pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure and protein leaking into the urine) results from chronic inflammation and omega-3 fatty acid depletion.  Now an even scarier form of pre-eclampsia, HELLP (Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes, Low Platelets) is on the rise.  I want to discuss HELLP to put all of these pregnancy-related problems into perspective.

HELLP, Cause and Cure Unknown?
HELLP is an autoimmune disease and I have repeatedly discussed the cause of autoimmune diseases:  1) inflammation, 2) deficiency of Tregs (immune tolerance) and 3) antigen basic triplets (antigen presentation).  When HELLP was recently brought to my attention with a sudden rise in local hospitals, I decided to see if it could be easily explained and cured, just by examining the available medical literature.  Wikipedia indicated that the cause and cure was not known and that was confirmed by local doctors, who just treat the symptoms by early deliveries and long stays for the babies in neonatal intensive care units.  My work was cut out for me.

Autoimmune Disease with Unknown Autoantigen 
An examination of the symptoms, rupture of blood cells (fibrin production), liver damage, clotting (low serum heparin), high blood pressure (capillary apoptosis), proteinuria (low heparan sulfate (HS) to prevent protein loss), pointed to some obvious treatments and the causes.  Infertility is often treated by in vitro fertilization/insemination, supported with aspirin and heparin injections to maintain gestation.  These treatments are consistent with high levels of chronic inflammation that block implantation and stimulate labor.  Infertility is also associated with antiphospholipid antibodies.  A closer look at the antiphospholipid antibodies showed that they were directed against β2-glycoprotein-I.  So, I expected the β2-glycoprotein-I protein to be the original target for the antibodies, the initiating antigen, but when I looked up the sequence of that protein, it lacked the expected basic triplet I have found in all  other autoantigens and allergens.  This meant to me that there was a different protein with a related sequence that started the HELLP autoimmune disease.

Attack on P-Selectin Starts Immune Autoimmunity
I checked for other proteins with related sequences and basic triplets (RKR in the carboxy terminal sequence below), and found P-selectin that is produced most abundantly in liver and on the surface of blood cells.  A quick search of the literature showed that P-selectin reacts with anti-phospholipid antibodies and has a pair of basic triplets that enhance immune presentation and make this protein a strong candidate for becoming an autoantigen.  Antibodies against P-selectin will cause clotting as seen in HELLP.

ref|NP_002996.2| P-selectin precursor [Homo sapiens]:

Antibiotics and Liver Damage
I suspect that HELLP is caused by a combination of liver damage and prior exposure to antibiotics (or common drugs that have antibiotic activity) that cause gut dysbiosis, i.e. loss of gut bacteria that stimulate development of the suppressive part of the immune system, e.g. deficiency in regulatory T cells, Tregs.  Examples of the type of liver damage that may lead to HELLP are excessive consumption of alcohol (alcoholic fatty liver) or high fructose corn syrup (non-alcoholic fatty liver).

HELLP from Cause to Cure

  • Diet and/or infection causes liver inflammation.
  • Antibiotics/drugs and/or processed foods lacking prebiotic fiber produce gut dysbiosis.
  • Lack of gut bacteria needed for development of the immune system in the gut produces a deficiency of Tregs and dysfunction of immune tolerance.
  • Liver inflammation, deficiency of Tregs and availability of antigens with basic triplets leads to antibodies against liver proteins.
  • Chronic inflammation leads to decrease in HS production and leaky kidneys/proteinuria.
  • Chronic inflammation/liver damage produces fibrin production.
  • Fibrin production and low HS enhances clotting and leads to apoptosis/cell death in capillaries.
  • Loss of capillaries leads to high blood pressure.
  • Cure of HELLP, anti-phospholipid antibodies and pre-ecampsia, involves lowering chronic inflammation (aspirin and heparin treatment) with an Anti-Inflammatory Diet, fixing vitamin D deficiency, increasing omega 3/6 ratio,  and repairing gut dysbiosis to fix immune tolerance.
  • Without these interventions, HELLP symptoms will become more severe, especially in subsequent pregnancies and additional autoimmune diseases will develop.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Making Monsters, Renegade C. butyricum and E. coli

It is common knowledge that our gut is teeming with good bacteria that we feed with prebiotic fiber to keep us healthy.  But a sick gut, caused by antibiotics or fiber deficient processed food, can make us susceptible to infection with pathogens, such as the notorious, toxin-producing strains of E. coli that cause food poisoning or Clostridium difficile, a.k.a. C. diff. of hospital infections.  What prompted me to write this post, was reading that premature babies in neonatal intensive care units are dying from gut infections caused by a pathogenic strain of C. butyricum, known as a probiotic that provides protection from C. diff.

New Toxin-Producing, Antibiotic Superbugs are Manmade
Closer examination of the report revealed that the new strain of C. butyricum is a toxin producer.  This made a lot of sense to me.  When I started working with E. coli in the early 70’s, it was known as the safe ubiquitous lab bacterium that everyone cultivated in their colons.  Similarly, C. butyricum is present in commercial probiotics and is a hero for producing butyric acid from resistant starch, promoting immune system development and reducing inflammation.  How did these beneficial gut bacteria become converted into pathogens?

Antibiotic and Drug Use in Hospitals and Farms Select for Antibiotic Resistance
C. butyricum and E. coli have been converted into toxin-producing, antibiotic resistant pathogens by common procedures of meat production and hospital treatments.  These bacteria do not normally produce toxins nor are they resistant to antibiotics.  They have been systematically selected for those pathogenic properties.

Common Practices in Neonatal Intensive Care Units Lead to NEC
Chronic inflammation is one of the common contributing factors to premature births, because labor is stimulated by a spike of inflammation, normally occurring at 40 weeks of gestation.  Chronic inflammation from autoimmune disease, infection, or obesity, can cause labor to be early and a newborn to be unprepared for life without some special care.  Unfortunately, there is not uniform enlightenment about the development of newborn gut flora, and immature newborns are exposed to antibiotics and formula, which prevent normal gut flora development.  C. butyricum is not present in low birth weight babies exclusively fed breast milk, but the combination of antibiotics and formula select for colonization by antibiotic resistant hospital strains of C. butyricum.  This sets the stage for necrotizing enterocolitis, NEC, which is as nasty and lethal as the name suggests.

Antibiotics Used to Make Fat Cattle Select for Toxin Production
The development of toxin producing E. coli in cattle suggests how pathogenic C. butyricum was produced in the hospital environment.  E. coli was a healthy component of the digestive system of cattle, until the gut flora community was reengineered by antibiotics, so that short chain fatty acids that were normally converted into more gut bacteria and more steer manure, were instead absorbed by the gut to produce a fatter steak.  Unfortunately, this newly designed gut flora community left no place for E. coli.  Some of the E. coli spontaneously mutated to antibiotic resistance and/or picked up multi-drug resistant plasmids from other bacteria, but that still didn’t provide a niche in the new community.  Picking up a toxin-producing gene solved that problem, because the toxin releases needed nutrients from host cells.  Thus, antibiotic use in cattle directly selected for the evolution of toxin-producing, antibiotic resistant E. coli.

Antibiotics and Formula Use Lead to NEC Bacteria
Toxin-producing C. butyricum would be expected to develop in the hospital environment, because high antibiotic use will select for multiple drug resistant C. butyricum, and the disrupted gut flora produced in the presence of antibiotics will also favor toxin producing strains.  Thus, the hospital environment selects for toxin-producing, multiple drug resistant C. butyricum.  The gut flora of newborns in a neonatal intensive care unit are acquired from the staff and relatives that handle the babies.  Since the babies are routinely treated with antibiotics and drugs, multiple drug resistant bacteria, including C. butyricum, are common in fecal samples of neonates and persist for at least two years. 
Breastfeeding or Donor Bank Milk Avoids NEC Caused by Formula
Exclusive use of breastmilk from mothers, donor banks or breastmilk products, eliminates NEC.   Some hospitals respond to the scientific evidence and use only breastmilk for newborns.  Other hospitals simply stick to old practices until law suits force them to change.  They continue to use formula and cow’s milk products,  even though breastmilk is available, and as a consequence NEC is still a problem. Prejudice against breastmilk persists and there is intense promotion of commercial alternatives that contribute to NEC.  None of the alternatives containing probiotics and prebiotics have been found to be adequate.   Hospitals are slow to change, because patients are uninformed and low birthweight babies continue to die.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Disease Genes in the Gut Microbiota

--- the other 200 posts ---
Species of Gut Microbiota
Summary:  Doctors take medical histories and enquire about family diseases.  It seems like they think there are human genes behind human diseases, but when we say, “It runs in the family,” what we actually mean is our gut bacteria, microbiota, are shared with relatives along with our eating habits.  Diseases result from problems with gut bacteria and not from problems with our genes.

Genetic Diseases are Rare
Not too many years ago, the technology for massive projects to thoroughly identify the genes behind the most prevalent human diseases became available.  The results were clear and shocking.  Genes were not a major contributor (less than 10%) to disease.  And yet, the families studied clearly had a major predisposition to each of the diseases studied.  Something was causing the disease in those families, but it just wasn’t any of the 23,000 genes identified in the human genome project.  People all have essentially the same physiology determined by very similar genes.  Health differences are predominantly due to gut bacteria.

Genes are not Destiny
Commercial analysis of personal gene sequences was recently prohibited as a method of determining risk of disease, because the link between gene sequences and risk could not be substantiated.  The reality is that, aside from a few obvious molecular diseases, most genetic variations in gene sequences do not matter in an otherwise healthy person.  There aren’t  Alzheimer’s or obesity or heart disease genes.  Diet, gut microbiota, sleep and exercise are far more (>90%) important.  Most genetic risk factors can be overcome by an Anti-Inflammatory Diet with fermented vegetables, and a robust gut microbiota protected from medicine/antibiotics.

Gut Bacteria are Family
So if it is not human genes that run in families to make relatives share similar diseases, what is making them sick?  Relatives share their eating habits and gut bacteria.  This makes sense.  Diet and gut microbiota are the major determinants of disease and relatives pass their bacteria around the table with their food.  There are eating habits and particular patterns of gut microbiota that lead to common diseases.  Unbeknownst to us, most of the diseases of modern life, e.g. heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disease, mental illness, are transmissible by gut bacteria.

The Hygiene Hypothesis is Right and Wrong
For decades it has been obvious that early exposure to a farm environment, meaning an abundance of microbes, a diverse microbiota, eliminates allergies and many autoimmunities.  The Hygiene Hypothesis explained how early exposure to abundant microorganisms could eliminate allergies, as an early exposure to antigens that trained the immune system.  Early training of the immune system was later discounted, but the Hygiene Hypothesis then morphed into the current explanation, that early development of a diverse gut microbiota is needed to produce a healthy immune system.

Fix Your Diet, Fix Your Gut Microbiota and Fix Your Diseases
The good news is that all of the chronic diseases that threaten your future can be cured by just fixing your diet and repairing the complex bacterial communities in your gut.  Your immune system is critical to your health and damage to your immune system is the typical beginning to most diseases.  Damage to the immune system starts in the gut, where the aggressive and suppressive halves of the immune system develop in response to particular species of bacteria.  Those essential bacteria grow on the food in your diet that is not digested in the stomach and absorbed as nutrients in the small intestines, i.e. prebiotic fiber.  Thus, you eat to feed yourself and your gut bacteria.  Without the gut bacteria, you would be deficient in vitamins, your immune system would cease to function and you would be constipated.  Fixing your diet and gut microbiota will cure your diseases.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Healthy Gut Microbiota Means: No Supplements, No Cleanses, No Drugs, No Processed Foods

A healthy, functional gut microbiota (bacteria and fungi) supplies all of the vitamins needed, stimulates the development of a balanced immune system and promotes vitality.  If you feed and maintain the diversity of the pounds of bacteria in your gut, you will be healthy.  If you listen to the medical and food industries, you will be sick, i.e. a good patient/consumer.

Supplements Compensate for Deficiencies/Sickness
The key to this discussion is the functions of the healthy communities of bacteria and fungi called the gut microbiota.  These pounds of bacteria produce all of the vitamins that your body needs, and spiking your diet with multivitamins may disrupt your microbiota, because vitamins are actually the chemical signals used for communications between bacteria in biofilms.  Numerous studies have shown that daily multivitamins are not beneficial, so if you see extra vitamins on the ingredients label, try some whole foods instead.  If, however, you have been exposed to antibiotics or other medications, since most have potent antibiotic activities, then your gut bacteria may not be producing vitamins normally, and you may need to supplement.  Vitamin deficiencies are a symptom of gut dysbiosis, damaged gut microbiota.

Vitamin D is a Steroid Hormone Produced from Cholesterol in Skin by Sunlight
Most people know that sunlight striking skin produces vitamin D, but they still think that they can get a significant amount of vitamin D from their diet.  The confusion comes from the fact that vitamin D is a major hormone that influences many body systems including bone production and immunity.  So in the absence of skin production of vitamin D, the low amounts added to milk are sufficient to prevent deficiency/rickets.  However, chronic inflammation can block solar production of vitamin D, so that even individuals near the equator and basking daily still remain deficient.  Vitamin D deficiency may also, insidiously, be a major source of chronic inflammation.  Thus, most individuals treated for deficiency with supplemental vitamin D3, do not reach high enough levels to suppress chronic inflammation and restart solar production, so they remain deficient.  Chronic inflammation is a symptom of vitamin D deficiency.

Bowel Cleanses Damage Gut Microbiota
The bowels are a long tubelike conveyance and it takes food about a day to travel from table to toilet.  In the colon, all of the plant polysaccharide fibers remaining after removal of sugar, starch, fat and protein, are digested by enzymes of the microbiota and converted into more bacteria and short chain fatty acids that feed the colon tissue. There is nothing toxic left behind in the colon. Protein from meat is readily digested in the stomach and the first part of the small intestines.  Plant materials cannot be digested without the help of a complex array of hundreds of enzymes produced by gut bacteria.  Food intolerances are caused by the loss of particular bacterial species needed for complete digestion of one type of plant fiber.  The bacteria form the stools, and insufficient healthy bowel bacteria, normally fed by the fiber, is the cause of constipation.  Clearly, flushing out bacteria with a "cleanse" is unhealthy and counterproductive.  There is nothing in the colon but gut bacteria and fiber to feed the bacteria. Those bacteria are needed for vitamin production, normal development of the immune system and normal stools.  A cleanse merely removes healthy gut bacteria and leads to constipation or replacement by pathogens. 

Processing Removes Prebiotic Fiber from Food and Starves Gut Microbiota
Diverse and complex plant polysaccharides, e.g. pectin, arabinogalactan, various glucans and fructans, are systematically digested by hundreds of different bacterial enzymes of the healthy gut microbiota.  The sugars that result are eventually converted into short chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, that feed the cells lining the colon.  The plant polysaccharides that feed gut bacteria are called prebiotics.  Unfortunately, prebiotics are removed during food processing to enhance ease of preparation and palatability.  The result of decreased dietary prebiotics is selective starvation and removal of bacterial species needed for the development of the immune system, and autoimmune diseases.

Most Medicines Have Substantial Antibiotic Activity and Damage Gut Microbiota
It is not surprising that antibiotics damage the bacteria in the gut.  What most people don’t realize is that most pharmaceuticals/medicines are developed from the natural antibiotics of plants, phytoalexins.  Numerous recent studies have demonstrated most common medicines, e.g. statins, NSAID, antidepressants, etc. have substantial antibiotic activity and damage gut bacteria.  Surgeons commonly suggest that patients eat yogurt to help repair their gut micro biomes after operations and antibiotics, but they don’t tell them how to fix their gut and immune system as they take medications for the rest of their lives.  The permanently damaged gut just causes further deterioration of the immune system and health.

Damaged Gut Microbiotas/Immune Systems Can Be Fixed
I have several other posts on repair of gut microbiota.

Examination of antimicrobial activity of selected non-antibiotic medicinal preparations.
Kruszewska H1, Zareba T, Tyski S.   Acta Pol Pharm. 2012.  69(6):1368-71.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Essential Oils, Phytoalexins, Drugs Are All Antibiotics

---  the other 200 posts  ---
Superbug multidrug resistant plasmid
A recent, informative article by Tori Rodriguez for The Atlantic suggests that,

I want to discuss other ramifications of using essential oils as antibiotics to avoid multiple antibiotic resistant superbugs.

The logic for using essential oils in place of medical antibiotics is compelling: 
  • Essential oils are extracts of plants, which have myriad traditional uses, including food.
  • Most antibiotic use is to increase livestock production. 
  • Antibiotics selectively kill gut bacteria in livestock and make them obese.
  • Antibiotic resistance occurs within a week of use in livestock (or people.)
  • Medical antibiotics are quickly losing efficacy.
  • Antibiotic resistance genes quickly move from agriculture to superbugs to people.
  • Plants/essential oils contain natural antibiotics that kill gut flora and increase livestock productivity.
  • Resistance to essential oil antibiotic activity is slower, because of simultaneous use of multiple antibiotics.

Obesity is a Symptom of Antibiotic Damage to Gut Microbiome
Antibiotics make meat fatter
We may enjoy a fat marbled steak, but the corn and antibiotics used to produce that mouth-watering plate of satiety, is not so healthy.  Corn and antibiotics make that meat on the hoof fit for human consumption, but the cattle are quickly dying and the fat marbling is a symptom of cattle metabolic syndrome.  The corn and antibiotics disrupt the bovine gut microbiota and alter energy flow.  The result is prime beef. 

As It Is with Cattle, so It Is with Middle Americans
General descriptions of Americans with metabolic syndrome and steers ready for the abattoir are similar.  That should not be surprising, because both are caused by damaged gut microbiota and consequences of metabolic syndrome.  Americans routinely damage their gut microbiota with antibiotics (processed food, etc.) and the major symptoms of the resulting gut dysbiosis are chronic inflammation, depression, autoimmune diseases, obesity and metabolic syndrome.  Repairing gut microbiota reverses all of these symptoms. 

But Essential Oils Are Just Natural Antibiotics
Essential oils are natural antibiotics
Is it better to use essential oils than medical antibiotics to fatten cattle or treat Lyme disease or hospital infections such as C. diff.?  Most pharmaceuticals were derived from plants or fungi and were originally used to kill microorganisms, i.e. they were natural antibiotics.  We call these phytochemicals by a variety of names, e.g. antioxidants or essential oils, but they are more appropriately called phytoalexins, all natural, all plant, all toxic antibiotics.  It is entertaining that essential oils have had so many different traditional and pharmaceutical uses, and yet they have always been experienced by microorganisms (and our livers) as simply toxic.  Essential oils do have the significant advantage of being a mixture of antibiotics and might be very useful where pharmaceutical antibiotics have problems.  The toxicity of essential oils, especially toward gut bacteria, should not be ignored.

Resistance to Essential Oils as Antibiotics
Antibiotic resistance develops in sewage
I previously kept track of laboratory strains of bacteria by simply exposing large numbers of the bacteria to an antibiotic and selecting for the rare individual that had already spontaneous mutated (DNA replication error of one in a million).  We could then use the new drug resistant strain in experiments and identify it by its resistance.  The same thing happens to your gut bacteria with an overnight exposure to an antibiotic.  And of course it also occurs immediately in livestock exposed to antibiotics or in sewage plants where tons of antibiotics and gut bacteria are mixed.  Resistance to each of the chemicals in an essential oil also would rapidly occur, if bacteria were exposed to each alone and in a  toxic concentration.  This is repeatedly observed, since commonly used drugs are just individual components of essential oils that have been produced in large amounts in pills and marketed based on their predominant physiological activity, rather than just another antibiotic.  Thus, resistance to a statin or Metformin, as antibiotics, could be easily observed (even on multiple drug resistance plasmids), but is just ignored.

Essential Oils Are just Mixtures of Natural Antibiotics
Statins from fungal antibiotics
The impact of essential oils on gut microbiota is unpredictable, because the composition of essential oils is highly dynamic and so are gut microbiota.  Each component of an essential oil has a different spectrum of toxicities to hundreds of different target proteins to each of the hundreds of different species of bacteria in the human gut.  Ingested essential oils are modified by the detox enzymes of the intestine and liver.  The modified phytochemicals have different toxicities and act as additional antibiotics.  Mixtures of antibiotics, as in essential oils, less likely to select for resistance than individual antibiotics, but an antibiotic is still just an antibiotic, regardless of whether it is straight from the plant or via a pharmaceutical salesman. 

Common Medicines Are the Source of Superbugs

Common meds are antibiotics
Doctors with prescription pads and steers eating antibiotics are blamed, I think unjustly, for the crisis of antibiotic resistance.  The real culprit is you taking NSAIDs, statins, proton pump inhibitors, antidepressants and other common medicines.  Since they are all developed from plant antibiotics, they are still antibiotics, and they still select for antibiotic resistance.  It is important to remember that pharmaceuticals are repurposed natural antibiotics from plants.  The answer to the superbugs that are resistant to all of the common antibiotics is to dramatically reduce the use of all pharmaceuticals.  The initial goal should be a 90% reduction.  Costly pharmaceutical chemicals could be replaced with preventive diets and less disruptive manipulations of gut microbiota, e.g. ingestion of capsules containing freeze-dried gut flora.  This more gentle approach to health care would also provide huge cost savings, as well as vastly improving health.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Gut Microbiome 2014: Diet, Inflammation, Disease, and Repair

The year 2014 began with my posts on damage to the gut microbiota caused by antibiotics, processed foods and excess hygiene.  I lamented the inadequacy of information from the media on damage/repair of the gut bacteria and highlighted medical myths with a post on some of Dr. Oz’s own ills that are self-inflicted by his diet and hygiene recommendations.  I also started to discuss how to cure autoimmune diseases by repairing damaged gut flora and by avoiding the antibiotic activity present in many common drugs.

With my 200th post in March, I summarized my thoughts on the causes and cures of common diseases in a series of diagrams on:

Health Diagram II   — Curing Autoimmunity and Allergies,

I illustrated the relationships among diet, inflammation and diseases mediated by gut flora that I have discussed, since I started my blog in 2008.  Now after a couple of hundred articles and more than two million visits to my blog, I think that I am starting to grasp some of the major issues that cause inflammatory diseases.  The cures also now seem obvious.

Antibiotics Contribute to Autoimmune Diseases
Some species of gut bacteria are needed for the development of the aggressive half of the immune system and other species are needed for the suppressive half.  Thus, starving or poisoning gut flora leads to immune system problems and diseases.  Antibiotics are a quick way of crippling the immune system.  It seems that the aggressive part of the immune system is less fragile, because in most cases antibiotic treatments produce autoimmune disease due to loss of bacteria that are needed for development of immune cells that block the aggressive half of the immune system from attacking innocuous cells of the body or environment, i.e. antibiotics usually trigger deficient tolerance, and autoimmunity.

Feed the Gut Microbiome for a Healthy Immune System
Diet provides food for the body and flora.  Protein and fat are the macronutrients needed for the body, while the gut microbiota lives off of plant polysaccharides (except starch) that pass through the small intestines undigested into the colon.  The hundreds of plant polysaccharides are hydrolyzed by hundreds of enzymes made by gut flora and produce short chain fatty acids, e.g. acetate and butyrate, that feed colon cells.  Food processing systematically removes polysaccharides that feed gut flora and compromises the components of the immune system dependent on those bacteria.

Repairing the Gut Microbiome by Eating the Missing Bacteria
It is easier to see that eating a diet that lacks food for the gut microbiota will be a problem, than it is to figure out where to find replacements for lost species of gut bacteria.  The only way that bacteria get into the gut is down the throat.  To repair a damaged gut microbiota requires both changing diet and introducing the missing types of bacteria by eating them.  Eating dairy probiotics and fermented vegetables can provide a quick, but only temporary fix.  Most of the needed bacteria are more common in soil than in food.

Phytochemicals Are First and Foremost Antibiotics
I was shocked that my background in phytochemicals didn’t lead more directly to a major culprit causing modern diseases.  The gut microbiota is clearly a major factor in health and sickness.  Antibiotics that kill bacteria, damage the gut microbiota.  It is also unsurprising that processing food to reduce soluble fiber, damages gut flora, by systematically depriving gut bacteria of their major source of food.  The proliferation of antimicrobial products also damages the gut flora.  What I missed in this onslaught of modern lifestyles on the gut microbiota, was the major player in antibiotic resistance — phytochemicals are natural antibiotics. 

I Missed the Antibiotic Activity of Common Medicines
I studied phytochemicals and wrote research articles on their toxic, antibiotic activities, but everyone else was merchandizing phytochemicals as antioxidants, essential oils and superfoods.  This is a major conceptual problem.  Our bodies expend a significant fraction of our energy resources to detoxicify phytochemicals and human cultures have elaborate rituals to avoid phytochemicals and domesticate plants by breeding for the least toxic.  What I missed was the implication that the pharmaceutical industry was repurposing toxic, antibiotic phytochemicals as medicines and then skipping the "antibiotic" label.

Unlabelled Antibiotic Drugs Cause the Rise of Superbugs

Overuse of antibiotics is a problem, because it damages the gut microbiome and contributes to the modern increase in autoimmunity.  Food processing is another culprit and so is the mania for hyperhygiene and the demonization of bacteria.  Unfortunately, the major culprit in the development of multiple antibiotic resistant superbugs is the tons of commonly used pharmaceuticals that systematically attack gut bacteria, but are not labelled as antibiotics.  Most modern drugs were developed from phytochemicals and were initially used in plants to kill bacteria and fungi, i.e. phytoalexins.  Pharmaceutical companies acknowledge the antibiotic activities of common drugs, by sponsoring research conferences to develop existing drugs as new classes of antibiotics for treatment of superbugs.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Frankincense and Myrrh, Terpenoids

 --- the other 200 posts ---
Frankencense Resin
 'Tis the season to discuss phytochemicals.  Plants produce a vast array of organic chemicals starting from molecules produced by all organisms, including humans.  Essentially all of these phytochemicals are potent adaptations to kill.  Phytochemicals kill plant pathogens, bacteria and fungi, as well as insects.  Thus, the natural, plant extracts that humans use for flavor enhancers (herbs, spices, and teas), fragrances, recreational/medicinal mind and attitude modifiers (alkaloids, psychopharmaceuticals, etc.), herbal medicines, etc. are present in plants, first and foremost, as antibiotics and insecticides.  Humans have evolved to taste (bitter) and smell phytochemicals to avoid their toxicity, and have adapted culturally to exploit the impact of phytochemicals on body and mind.  In this seasonal post, I focus on the terpenoids in Frankincense and Myrrh, to explore how plant biochemistry contributed to the gifts of the Magi.

It All Starts with Central Metabolism
Phytochemicals are complicated plant chemicals that are produced by a series of enzyme-controlled reactions (Central Metabolism) from the array of chemicals used by plants to convert photosynthetic carbohydrates (fructose and glucose) into the molecules (sugars, amino acids, fatty acids, nucleic acids) used to make the macromolecules of cells (polysaccharides, proteins, fats, DNA/RNA).  Alkaloids and phenolics, e.g. phytoalexins, are made from amino acids (phenylalanine) and terpenoids are made from fatty acids (acetyl CoA/Mevalonate) or other intermediates in glycolysis.  Thus, central metabolism that converts glucose/fructose into pyruvate and the acetyl CoA (see mevalonate pathway left) of mitochondrial fatty acid metabolism, is further converted into amino acids and plant secondary compounds, phytochemicals.  I am going to talk mainly about terpenoids in Frankincense (triterpenoid Boswellic acids) and Myrrh, and many related molecules (steroids) also produced by humans.  

The major thesis here is that carbon dioxide is converted by photosynthesis into either sugars used to build the cell wall polysaccharides (soluble fiber) or larger toxic defensive chemicals, e.g. phytoalexins, resins, essential oils or lignin.  Phytoalexins, e.g. the natural antibiotic resveratrol in wine, are made from phenylalanine along the same biochemical pathway used to produce lignin.  Glyphosate, the herbicide, kills by blocking this unique plant pathway.  Essential oils and resins are another group of natural antibiotics produced by converting acetyl CoA into a five carbon unit, IPP, which is then linked into larger and larger (10, 15, 20 carbons) molecules, terpenoids, that can rearrange into multiple ring structures.  Only the smallest chemicals in the series evaporate to provide identifiable smells, e.g. Frankincense and Myrrh, while larger forms, e.g. cholesterol or testosterone in animals, are odorless solids.

Acetyl CoA to IPP
For those who enjoy the beauty of biochemistry:  The most abundant enzyme on earth is RibisCo (ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase), the plant enzyme that combines carbon dioxide from air with a five-carbon phosphorylated sugar, ribulose bisphosphate, to produce two, three-carbon intermediates of glycolysis that can be converted into glucose or into acetyl CoA, the starting chemical for fatty acids, the mitochondrial TCA cycle, or via mevalonic acid to isopentanyl pyrophosphate (IPP), the building block for terpenoid synthesis.

In brief:  Photosynthesis uses the energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into sugars (glucose and fructose).  Those sugars can be converted into a five-carbon, molecular building block for terpenoids, IPP.  IPP molecules can then be linked together to make increasingly longer chains and those chains can be ultimately twisted into rings to make resins in plants and steroids in humans.

Five, Ten, Fifteen, Thirty; IPP (5), GPP (10), Sesquiterpenoids (15), Triterpenoids (30)
Terpenoid Polymerization
Terpenoid synthesis begins with IPP, which has five carbons in a branched chain and has a pair of phosphates, pyrophosphate that provide the energy to form chains of 5, 10, 15, etc.  In plants, molecules of each of the incremental lengths are produced together and additional enzymes in different species of plants result in mixtures of molecules with different rings and functional groups.  The smaller molecules evaporate more readily, so that mixtures are extruded from damaged trees as oils and gradually form resins as the remaining larger molecules predominate and solidify.

Shark Livers and the Horn of Africa
IPP with five carbons, an isoprene, is used to make GPP with ten, a monoterpene.  Common monoterpenes are geranol and limonene that make the characteristic odors of geraniums and lemons. Sesquiterpenoids (15 carbons made from three IPPs) include the fragrance of patchouli. Diterpenes, such as sweet steviol, have twenty carbons, which can be chemically twisted into the chemicals that predominate in Myrrh resin, the Balm of Gileade.  The triterpenes with 30 carbons can be rearranged with five rings to form steroids, such as cholesterol in animals or Frankincense.  Linear squalene, is the major component in shark liver oil and provides the same function as a swim bladder in a boney fish.

Essential Oils Are Mixtures of Distilled Terpenoid and Phenylpropanoid Phytoalexins
Boswellic Acid
Phytoalexins and terpenoids have evolved as plant defenses against bacteria, fungi and insects, and they are toxic, because they interact aggressively with proteins through their chemical ring structures that are hydrophobic.  These ring structures make the smaller versions volatile and soluble in organic solvents.  Many of these chemicals have properties similar to petroleum products and may be used as solvents themselves, e.g. paint strippers or thinner.  Steam distillation of plants produces mixtures of phytoalexins and terpenoids commonly called essential oils, which contain the volatile components “essential” for the odor identity of a plant.

Statins Block Cholesterol Synthesis

Statins were identified among a group of fungal antibiotics for their ability to block an early enzyme (marked in the mevalonate pathway above) in the production of cholesterol.  The toxic side effects of statins derive from wholesale disruption of all of the essential pathways (everything below the inhibited enzyme) that are related to cholesterol, such as blood heme A found in hemoglobin, and ubiquinone (CoQ) found in mitochondrial electron transport and needed to reduce oxidative stress and glucose intolerance.  Thus, for these examples, statins would contribute to anemia and type II diabetes/metabolic syndrome.  The side effects are not surprising, since statins are fungal antibiotics that target pathways common to bacteria and human mitochondria.  It is also not surprising that statins have unpredictable impacts on gut flora and the immune system.