Dr Dingle's Blog / wellness

The health benefits of our life purpose

The health benefits of our life purpose

Many studies have been done on psychosocial factors and their impact on our health and even how long we live. More recently some of these have been able to show that having a sense of purpose can have many health benefits from lowering stress to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease cancer and even living longer and it doesn’t matter how old you are. The benefits of perceiving and living a life directed toward a broader purpose are widespread and feeling that you have a sense of purpose in life may help you live longer, no matter what your age.

At a biological level having a sense of purpose has been shown to be associated with more positive body biochemistry and lower cortisol (stress) levels and lower levels of proinflammatory cytokines 1, the chemicals linked to cancer, heart attacks and chronic disease which represents one possible mechanism through which purpose in life influences mortality.

Having a purpose in life provides individuals with a sense of direction and goals for the future, as well as a marker of flourishing and a life well-lived. A strong sense of purpose buffers us from the storms of life. It like the roots of a tree, keeping us steady and grounded even in stormy weather. It provides us with a greater sense of controlling our direction in life, are more motivated and may even feel inspired. However, our sense of purpose is not to make money it has to be directed at something greater than yourself.

In research among teens and young adults having a sense of purpose enabled them to look beyond themselves to appreciate their role in the world and to build the psychological resilience necessary to overcome adversity. There is evidence that focusing on personally meaningful and valued goals can buffer the negative effects of stress by allowing individuals to reinforce a sense of who they are and that creating opportunities for individuals to cultivate a sense of purpose is important as we move forward as a society2.

Having a high sense of purpose in life has also been associated with lower risk of heart disease and stroke. In a review of 10 relevant studies with the data of more than 137,000 people they defined purpose in life as a sense of meaning and direction, and a feeling that life is worth living. Previous research has linked purpose to psychological health and well-being and this study found that a high sense of purpose is associated with a 23 percent reduction in death from all causes and a 19 percent reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, or the need for coronary artery bypass surgery or a cardiac stenting procedure. This is better than any drug and has multiple other benefits.

Previous studies have suggested that finding a purpose in life lowers risk of mortality above and beyond other factors that are known to predict longevity. Purposeful adults tend to outlive their peers and experience a diminished risk for both cognitive decline and disability in older adulthood. Moreover, having a purpose in life appears to lead to unique health benefits relative to other aspects of psychological well-being, such as having positive relations with others. In this study of 749 people with an average age of 60 found that the participants’ sense of purpose was positively associated with multiple positive health qualities including vigorous and moderate activity, vegetable intake, flossing, and sleep quality 3.

In another study of 6985 adults between the ages of 51 to 61 and a follow up for 14 years life purpose was significantly associated with all-cause mortality. Those with the strongest sense of purpose almost 2 and a half times more likely to be alive comparing those in the lowest life purpose category. Particularly compelling was the reduction in deaths from heart, circulatory, and blood conditions. Purpose had similar benefits for adults regardless of retirement status, a known mortality risk factor. And the longevity benefits of purpose in life held even after other indicators of psychological well-being, such as positive relations and positive emotions, were taken into account. These findings suggest that there's something unique about finding a purpose that seems to be leading to greater longevity 4.  

These findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose. So the earlier someone comes to a direction for life, the earlier these protective effects may be able to occur.

So what is your sense of purpose?

Write it down

References

1          Ryff  CD, Singer  BH, Dienberg Love  G.  Positive health: connecting well-being with biology.  Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004;359(1449):1383-1394.

 

2          A. L. Burrow, P. L. Hill. Derailed by Diversity? Purpose Buffers the Relationship Between Ethnic Composition on Trains and Passenger Negative Mood. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0146167213499377

 

3          Patrick L Hill, Grant W Edmonds, Sarah E Hampson. A purposeful lifestyle is a healthful lifestyle: Linking sense of purpose to self-rated health through multiple health behaviors.

 

4          . P. L. Hill, N. A. Turiano. Purpose in Life as a Predictor of Mortality Across Adulthood. Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0956797614531799

 

 

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Glucosamine is good for the heart not just arthritis

Glucosamine is good for the heart not just arthritis

Glucosamine supplements for arthritis also lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Joint pain is reported by 32% of U.S. adults, and increases with age reaching 50% prevalence among the elderly. Joint pain is slightly more prevalent among women (33%) than men (31%). The knee is the most common site of joint pain regardless of age or gender. Joint pain is associated with substantial activity limitation, work disability, and reduced quality of life. Adults with joint pain are more likely to report arthritis-attributable activity limitations, fair or poor health, inability to work, low sleep duration and psychological distress. Predictors of knee pain include older age, weight gain and obesity, and previous knee injury, with the combination of weight loss with exercise a well-recognized intervention to alleviate symptoms and improve function.
 
Glucosamine is a non-vitamin, non-mineral supplement widely used to relieve osteoarthritis and joint pain. In countries like the United States and Australia, it is a popular dietary supplement and approximately 20% of adults consume it daily.
In addition to its benefits for osteoarthritis and joint pain emerging evidence from epidemiological studies suggests that glucosamine could have a role in preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and reducing mortality. A previous animal study reported that glucosamine extended life span by mimicking a low carbohydrate diet,
Other animal studies have reported that the anti-inflammatory properties of glucosamine might have a preventive role in atherosclerosis development.
The latest findings suggest that glucosamine could help prevent coronary heart disease and stroke. The study found a 15% decrease in total CVD events, 22% reduction in CVD death, 18% decrease in coronary heart disease, and a 9% reduction in stroke.
Interestingly people with osteoarthritis (inflammation) are at increased rick of CVD.. While clearly more research needs to be done on this it outperforms most drugs and has only positive side effects.
 
Glucosamine compounds have also been reported to have several other beneficial effects on the skin or skin cells. Because of its stimulation of hyaluronic acid synthesis, glucosamine has been shown to accelerate wound healing, improve skin hydration, and decrease wrinkles. In addition, as an inhibitor of tyrosinase activation, it inhibits melanin production and is useful in treatment of disorders of hyperpigmentation. Glucosamine also has both anti-inflammatory
Based on other observations, glucosamine has been suggested for additional clinical uses, including treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, migraine headaches, and viral infections.
 
https://www.bmj.com/content/365/bmj.l1628
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Is your medicine killing you. Understanding the facts may save your life. The NNT

Is your medicine killing you. Understanding the facts may save your life. The NNT

Medical statistics are often used to justify the overuse of pharmaceuticals because they use different types and they are hard to understand then there is even a simpler number which is used in medicine, the Number Needed to Treat (NNT). This is how many people you need to treat to stop one negative outcome occurring. The negative outcome might be heart attack, stroke, cancer or even recurring ear infection. The NNT offers a measurement of the impact of a medicine or therapy by estimating the number of patients that need to be treated in order to have an impact on one person. In this case the higher the number the worse it is and the lower the number the more effective the medication. So an NNT of 1 is fantastic and an NNT of 100 is absolutely useless.

If a new drug reduced the death from heart attacks by say 50% (absolute statistics) then the number needed to treat is around 2 (NNT =2). So you only need to treat two people to have a benefit and save one life. This is great. If the new drug cuts the heart attack rate by only 25%, that is 1 in 4 then the NNT is 4. If the drug is only one percent effective which means of the 100 people given the drug it will only potentially (remember we are not even considering the side effects here) save one life, like the statin drugs, then the NNT is 100.

Fortunately the NNT is well established in medicine but not widely promoted. One website however TheNNT.com puts all this information in one place. Even for the most skeptical GP’s and specialists and it is available free to everyone. Just as important it is a group of physicians, medical doctors, that have collected the information. They only use the highest quality, evidence-based studies (frequently, but not always Cochrane Reviews), and they accept no outside funding or advertisements so they are independent of pharmaceutical companies.

In addition, for every therapy they review, they provide a color-coded summary for you to use (borrowed from the traditional stoplight). Unlike most sites this group also report harm that may be caused by the drug or the procedure and then they rate them into a stoplight colour coded. They have developed a framework and rating system to evaluate therapies based on their patient-important benefits and harms. The therapies rated green are the best you can get – there is clear evidence of benefits which clearly outweigh any associated harms. For example: Steroids for Asthma Attack: if you give steroids to 8 patients with asthma attack in the emergency department, you prevent one from having to be admitted to the hospital. There are definitely side effects to steroids – high blood sugar, hyperactivity – but are considered minor in comparison. The NNT for this treatment is 8. Remember the lower the number the better. Therapies rated yellow require more study because they don't think the data is conclusive or substantial enough to be able to give a clear rating yet. So they are not recommended but if you do use them go with caution. Red suggests that while there may be some benefits, they are far outweighed by the harms. One extreme example: if a medicine were to save 2% of people's lives, but cause strokes in 10% of people, it's hard to say that this medicine clearly is overall helpful. Black is the "worst" or "lowest" rating. Therapies rated black have very clear associated harms to patients without any recognizable benefit. What is frightening is that most of the major medications and procedure used for cardio vascular disease fit into the black.

While there are many drugs and procedures listed I will start with some of the common procedure for cardio vascular disease as this is the biggest killer and there is just not enough space here to cover all the listings on TheNNT.com web site. For statin drugs for acute coronary syndrome the NNT is  0% in other words no person who took the drug were helped (life saved; heart attack, stroke, or heart failure prevented) however,  an unknown number were harmed (medication side effects/adverse reactions). This was put on the black list. Statins Given for 5 Years for Heart Disease Prevention (With Known Heart Disease) NNT was 83. In fact they reported 96% saw no benefit however 1% were harmed by developing diabetes and 10% were harmed by muscle damage, just two of the side effects. This is also put on the black list as the harm outweighs any insignificant benefit of the drugs. Statin Drugs Given for 5 Years for Heart Disease Prevention (Without Known Heart Disease) also put on the black list and has a NNT of 104 for non-fatal heart attack but they reported 0% life saved and 1 in 100 were harmed, they develop diabetes and 1 in 10 had severe muscle damage. In contrast, they reported the Mediterranean Diet for Secondary Prevention After Heart Attack got the green light and a NNT of 30 for mortality and no negative side effects and as low as 1 in 18 were helped. Not to mention the other benefits in other conditions such as cancer and diabetes.

Beta Blockers for Acute Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction) are also commonly prescribed by specialists are put on the black list and listed with no benefit, but 1 in 91 were harmed by cardiogenic shock. Hormone Replacement Therapy for Cardiovascular Prevention of a First Heart Attack or Stroke, black list and no benefit found but 1 in 250 were harmed (heart attack due to HRT oops, exactly what they were supposed to prevent), 1 in 200 were harmed (stroke due to HRT)  and 1 in 100 were harmed (blood clot in the leg/lung). To support this a recent study which investigated 27 trials found only one trial showing a 0.7% benefit and 26 trials that suggest no aggregate mortality benefit to beta-blockers. All the more recent, and larger, trial that utilized double-blind techniques (COMMIT, 2004) found no benefit.

Even putting a stent (a little piece of artificial artery) in an artery got on the black list. In the case of Coronary Stenting for Non-Acute Coronary Disease Compared to Medical Therapy none were helped, that is no life saved, no heart attack prevented, and no symptoms reduced, however, 1 in 50 were harmed including complications such as bleeding, stroke, kidney damage. Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery (Heart Bypass) for Preventing Death over Ten Years was marginally better. The NNT was 25 to prevent death however, 1 in 83 died, 1 in 100 had stroke, 1 in 43 had kidney failure, 1 in 28 in the operation, 1 in 14 required extended life support and get this, 1 in 3-5  had cognitive decline. Not such a good outcome if you look at the whole picture and any wonder it was put on the black list

 Aspirin Given Immediately for a Major Heart Attack (STEMI). Got the green light. So if you have a heart attack taking an aspirin straight away has some benefit. The NNT was 42 for mortality as 1 in 42 were helped (life saved) but 1 in 167 were harmed (non-dangerous bleeding). However, with Aspirin to Prevent a First Heart Attack or Stroke the NNT was 1667 for cardiac benefit, that is 1 in 1667 were helped (cardiovascular problem prevented), 1 in 2000 were helped (prevented non-fatal heart attack) and 1 in 3000 were helped (prevented non-fatal stroke). But no deaths prevented and 1 in 3333 had a major bleeding event.

The NNT for Blood Pressure Medicines for Five Years to Prevent Death, Heart Attacks, and Strokes were 125, 1 in 67 prevented stroke, and 1 in 100 prevented heart attack. However, 1 in 10 had side effects and stopped taking the drug. Treatment of Mild Hypertension for the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Events was given the yellow light and the there was no NNT as no benefit was found. However, 1 in 12 experienced medication side effects.

On a positive note oral anticoagulants (warfarin) for primary stroke prevention (no prior stroke) got the green light and the NNT was 25 for prevented stroke and 1 in 42 were helped (preventing death from any cause). However, 1 in 25 were harmed (having bleeding), 1 in 384 were harmed (intracranial hemorrhage).

It seems we spend billions of dollars, even trillions of dollars on drugs and procedures that don’t work and and are likely to be doing more harm than anything just because of trust and a lack of knowledge on statistics. While I am likely to criticized for presenting this information and you might question your doctor or specialist, remember I am just the messenger presenting factual numbers. See for yourself www.TheNNT.com.

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Acid and your gut

Acid and your gut

After initial breakdown by chewing, food is churned by the smooth muscles of the stomach and is broken down by hyrdochlooric acid and stomach juices (enzymes). The pH of the stomach is highly acidic, around 1.5 (1.0-2.5) due to the hydrochloric acid which helps to kill harmful microorganisms, denature protein for digestion, and help create favorable conditions for the enzymes in the stomach juices such as pepsinogen (Adbi. 1976, Martinsen et al 2005). Not to mention sending messages along the GI tract that everything is working well in the stomach. If the pH is too high, say 3 or 4 (more alkaline) then the system does not work and you end up with digestive and health complications.

The small intestine is more alkaline as the acid contents from the stomach are neutralised so that digestion and adsorption of carbohydrates, proteins and fats can occur. As the mixed juices (chime) from the stomach moves into the small intestine, the pancreas secretes sodium bi carbonate and the gallbladder releases bile which is produced in the liver, to make it slightly alkali to a pH of 7 to 8. Bile salts play an important role in the balance of the gut microbiota and like the pH in the stomach are important in controlling disease microorganisms entry into our system.

Further breakdown of protein and fat takes place, and absorption of nutrients through the use of enzymes which break down complex molecules into simpler ones. However, all enzymes need certain conditions, including pH to work. At pH's that are not optimum, the enzyme becomes less efficient until it cannot work at all. In the small intestine, the enzymes that "work" there need an alkaline pH in order to have optimum working conditions. Inadequate acid neutralization in the small intestine likely interferes with nutrient absorption by diminishing further digestive enzyme activity (Borowitz et al 2015).

The more alkaline pH also favours the non-acid loving bifidobactria which produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA) such as acetic, propionic, and butyric acid, and hydrogen ions (Vernia et al 1988) which lower the pH of the food as it moves through to make it more acid, again for the more acid loving bacteria including lactobacilis species further down the large intestine. The large intestine absorbs water and salts, and stores the leftover material ready for excretion out of the anus is a little more acidic and favours the acidopholus species. The pH of the large intestine might go as low as 3.

The pH of the gut, right from the mouth to the anus is incredible important in determining the type of gut microbiota, gut health and your own health. In the stomach if it is not acid enough (no not too much acid) it sets of a chain of events that favours the wrong type of microbiota including helicobacteror and candida species known for causing stomach ulcers and other gut health problems as well as an overgrowth of lactobacillus which should not be there and lead to Stomach Bacterial Overgrowth (SBO). So optimal functioning of the gut relies on the optimal pH for that part of the GI tract. Even in the mouth if it is too acidic it favours lactobacteria, acid loving bacteria, which in the large intestine are really beneficial, but in the mouth contribute to tooth decay and periodontal disease. Similarly, if the pH in the small intestine is out of balance it contributes to an overgrowth of lactobacillus and a condition called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). It all comes down to the pH and getting it right from the start.

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Do plants really clean the office air?

Do plants really clean the office air?

Here is a little paper I wrote many years ago showing that plants are not effective at cleaning the indoor air.
Formaldehyde is a toxic substance with adverse health effects detectable at low concentrations. Formaldehyde causes irritation of the eyes, skin and respiratory tract, wheezing, nausea, coughing, diarrhoea, vomiting, dizziness and lethargy at levels as low as 50 parts per billion (ppb) (0.05 ppm). Formaldehyde has also been associated with aggravation of asthma, emphysema, hayfever and allergy problems at low levels (EPA, 1987). Formaldehyde is currently considered a potential carcinogen to humans (EPA, 1987). Formaldehyde is a ubiquitous gas found in elevated concentrations in indoor environments. Concentrations of formaldehyde are typically an order of magnitude greater inside buildings compared to outdoor air. Formaldehyde concentrations are particularly high in portable buildings due to the presence of more formaldehyde emitting materials and the relatively smaller interior volumes of air. Major sources of formaldehyde indoors are pressed wood products, such as particle board and plywood, and urea formaldehyde foam insulation. Other sources include carpets, curtains, floor linings, paper products, cosmetics and soaps, tobacco smoke and gas combustion. Methods to reduce indoor formaldehyde include source removal or use of non- polluting materials, emission reduction through physical or chemical treatments and dilution through ventilation and air purification. While most solutions involve dilution through ventilation, increased interest in the scientific literature as well as in the popular media has been given to the use of plants to purify air in buildings . Most studies however, have been conducted in the laboratory and are difficult to extrapolate to real life situations.
Reducing Formaldehyde Exposure in Office Environments Using Plants
  • March 2000
  • Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 64(2):302-8
  • DOI:
  • 10.1007/s001289910044
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Probiotics can reduce pain

Probiotics can reduce pain

Treatments for obesity have been shown to reduce pain secondary to weight loss. Intestinal microbiota has been shown to influence obesity and pain sensitivity.
Physiological pain plays a life-essential protective role, while acute or chronic pathological pain indicates a medical problem that needs treatment and imposes a medical challenge. Neurotransmitters, immune cells, and hormones have been demonstrated to contribute in pathogenesis of chronic pain.
Pain threshold is influenced by several factors, including obesity, which alters adipose tissue metabolic and endocrine functions leading to alterations in systemic physiology including an increased release of fatty acids, hormones, and proinflammatory molecules that contribute to obesity associated complications. Studies have demonstrated that obese humans and rats are more sensitive to pain stimuli than normal weighted ones.
Previous studies have demonstrated a relationship between intestinal microbiota and diseases including pain disorders with probiotics having a positive effect.
In this study the mice taking probiotics had a significantly lower sensitivity to mechanical stimulation compared to their corresponding control. The results of this study suggest a protective effect of probiotics on nociception circuits, which propose a direct result of the weight reduction or an indirect result of anti-inflammatory properties of the probiotics.

source

Potential Nociceptive Regulatory Effect of Probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus PB01 (DSM 14870) on Mechanical Sensitivity in Diet-Induced Obesity Model

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/prm/2016/5080438/

 

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Mothers milk mycobiome (fungi) - not microbiome

Mothers milk mycobiome (fungi) - not microbiome

Compared to bacterial communities, the human gut mycobiome (fungi) is low in diversity and dominated by yeast including Saccharomyces, Malassezia, and Candida.Studies show they also vary substantially over time and even mice in the same or different cages in the same facility receiving the same feed and treatment also varied in their dominant fungal lineage. Similar results have been shown with humans.

During the last years, human breast milk has been documented as a potential source of bacteria for the newborn. Recently, we have reported the presence of fungi in breast milk from healthy mothers. It is well-known that environmental and perinatal factors could affect milk bacteria; however, the impact on milk fungi is still unknown.

Recent studies report the presence of fungal species in breast milk of healthy mothers, suggesting a potential role on infant mycobiome development. In the present work, we aimed to determine whether the healthy human breast milk mycobiota is influenced by geographical location and mode of delivery, as well as investigate its interaction with bacterial profiles in the same samples. A total of 80 mature breast milk samples from 4 different countries

This study found fungal communities (mycobiota) in breast milk samples across different geographic locations and the influence of mode of delivery. They identified a core of four genera shared across locations, constituted by Malassezia, Davidiella, Sistotrema and Penicillium which have been reported to be present in the infant gut. Our data confirm the presence of fungi in breastmilk across continents and support the potential role of breast milk on the initial seeding of fungal species to the infant gut.

Analysis of bacteria and fungi showed complex interactions that were influenced by geographical location, mode of delivery, maternal age and pre-gestational Body Mass Index. The presence of a breast milk mycobiome was confirmed in all the samples analysed, regardless of the geographic origin.

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Mothers milk mycobiome (fungi) - not microbiome

Mothers milk mycobiome (fungi) - not microbiome

Compared to bacterial communities, the human gut mycobiome (fungi) is low in diversity and dominated by yeast including Saccharomyces, Malassezia, and Candida.Studies show they also vary substantially over time and even mice in the same or different cages in the same facility receiving the same feed and treatment also varied in their dominant fungal lineage. Similar results have been shown with humans.

During the last years, human breast milk has been documented as a potential source of bacteria for the newborn. Recently, we have reported the presence of fungi in breast milk from healthy mothers. It is well-known that environmental and perinatal factors could affect milk bacteria; however, the impact on milk fungi is still unknown.

Recent studies report the presence of fungal species in breast milk of healthy mothers, suggesting a potential role on infant mycobiome development. In the present work, we aimed to determine whether the healthy human breast milk mycobiota is influenced by geographical location and mode of delivery, as well as investigate its interaction with bacterial profiles in the same samples. A total of 80 mature breast milk samples from 4 different countries

This study found fungal communities (mycobiota) in breast milk samples across different geographic locations and the influence of mode of delivery. They identified a core of four genera shared across locations, constituted by Malassezia, Davidiella, Sistotrema and Penicillium which have been reported to be present in the infant gut. Our data confirm the presence of fungi in breastmilk across continents and support the potential role of breast milk on the initial seeding of fungal species to the infant gut.

Analysis of bacteria and fungi showed complex interactions that were influenced by geographical location, mode of delivery, maternal age and pre-gestational Body Mass Index. The presence of a breast milk mycobiome was confirmed in all the samples analysed, regardless of the geographic origin.

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Our Acid Stomach

Our Acid Stomach

The intestinal microbiome is a plastic ecosystem that is shaped by environmental and genetic factors, interacting with virtually all of our organs, tissues and cells. One of the most important factors in regulating and controlling our microbiome is the pH or acid level.

While often mentioned in terms of the stomach the pH has a controlling role to play in the health of the whole GI tract from the mouth to the anus and changes in the normalpH anywhere in the gut can have large implications on the rest of the GI tract. The pH scale goes from 1 being very acidic to 14 being very alkaline. The level in our blood and tissues should be constantly around 7.36, neutral and the level in our GI trace varies from 1 to 8. We cover this a lot more in our book Overcoming Illnesswhich focuses on the role of inflammation, oxidation and acidosis in illness.

After initial breakdown by chewing, food is churned by the smooth muscles of the stomach and is broken down by hydrochloric acid and stomach juices (enzymes). The pH of the stomach is highly acidic, around 1.5 (1.0-2.5) due to the hydrochloric acid which helps to kill harmful microorganisms, denature protein for digestion, and help create favorable conditions for the enzymes in the stomach juices such as pepsinogen.[1] Not to mention sending messages along the GI tract that everything is working well in the stomach. If the pH is too high, say 3 or 4 (more alkaline) then the system does not work and you end up with digestive and health complications. For example, premature infants have less acidic stomachs (pH more than 4) and as a result are susceptible to increased gut infections.[2] Similarly, the elderly show relatively low stomach acidity and a large number of people, more than 30%, over the age of 60 have very little or no Hydrochloric Acid in their stomachs.[3]

Similarly, in gastric bypass weight loss surgery, roughly 60 percent of the stomach is removed. A consequence of this procedure is an increase in gastric pH levels that range from 5.7 to 6.8 (not 1.5) to making it more alkaline and as a result are more likely to experience microbial overgrowth.[4] We see similar patterns in other clinical cases such as acid reflux in which treatment involves the use of proton-pump inhibitors[5] and celiac disease[6] where delayed gastric emptying is associated with reduced acidity and increased disease.

Unfortunately, acid reflux is often wrongly treated as a condition which involves the production of too much acid. It is in fact, the stomach finding it difficult to digest the foods, most commonly as a result not having enough acid to complete digestion and why medications (see later) which further reduce stomach acid have serious and deadly side effects on health, the digestive process and the gut microbiota. Acid reflux affects about 20% of the adult population and is much higher in older people which is consistent with the studies showing lower stomach acid as we age.

[1] Adbi. 1976; Martinsen et al., 2005.

[2] Carrion and Egan, 1990.

[3] Husebye et al., 1992.

[4] Machado et al., 2008.

[5] Amir et al., 2013.

[6] Usai et al., 1995.

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A brief history of Gut Health

A brief history of Gut Health

Research into the gut microbiome has ramped up over the past decade thanks to high investments over 100 million dollars by the US Governments in the Human Microbiome Project in 2007 as well as large sums from companies and private sources not wanting to be left behind as its importance for our health has become more widely recognised and understood by the mainstream. There is now a tsunami wave of information coming through on the gut microbiome, literally thousands of new studies and increasing each year.

Until recently the positive effects of the gut microbiome on our digestive system and health has been severely under rated. Wisdom of Chinese doctors from centuries ago, who somehow knew that the intestines were not merely a digestive organ, but the centre of health and well being. Hippocrates was recoded as saying that all illness begins in the gut. Throughout history from the Egyptians till around 80 years ago medicine and the bowels were frequently mentioned in the same sentence.

Even today the nomadic Maasai tribes in Africa attribute most illnesses to the effect of “pollutants” that block or inhibit digestion. In these communities the plants are used to cure diseases served mainly as strong purgatives and emetics; they "cleanse" the body and digestive system from polluting substances.[1] While studies of the great apes show they self-medication to control intestinal parasite infections and gut problems across Africa.[2] Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) for example, swallow the leaves of certain plant species whole, without chewing to aid expulsion of certain parasites. Swallowing rough or bristly leaves increases gut motility causing expulsion of adult worms, which disrupts the nematodes life cycle and likely reduces worm burdens.[3] Even carnivores first eat the guts of their kill and get all the intestinal bacteria. We seem to be the only ones who have forgotten the importance of the gut.

We now know the gut is the cornerstone of health and inflammation in the body. The first theory to explain the link between the gut and inflammation, which underlies all the chronic diseases we suffer from, was put forward in 1907, when Elie Metchnikoff proposed that tissue destruction (disease) and senescence (ageing) throughout the body were consequences of chronic systemic inflammation, which occurred as a result of increased permeability in the colon and the escape of bacteria and their products into the blood. He believed that these bacterial products activated our immune response (macrophages) and that the resulting inflammatory response caused deterioration of surrounding tissues and that this macrophage “intoxification” had systemic effects and led to deterioration of even distant tissues. And he was right.

[1] Bussmann et al., 2006.

[2] MCLennan and Huffman, 2012.

[3] Huffman and Caton, 2001.

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