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“As researchers continue to study the microbiome, it’s clear that our gut is a powerful tool in disease prevention and treatment. How can understanding the microbiome influence the way we eat and nourish our bodies? Is our gut the missing link to using food as medicine? This panel features preeminent researchers, scientists, and entrepreneurs who are leading this breakthrough area of science.” (Milken Institute: Future of Health Summit) Watch Dr. Chutkan, as she acts as moderator for the panel, Gut Feeling: Food, Microbiome, & Disease Prevention, that took place at this year’s Milken Institute: Future of Health Summit. Speakers include: Mark Hyman Head of Strategy and Innovation, Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine Rob Knight Professor, Departments of Pediatrics, Bioengineering, and Computer Science & Engineering, University of California, San Diego David Perlmutter Executive Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs and Dean, Washington University School of Medicine Karen Sandell Sfanos Associate Professor,…

A fungus found on the skin and scalp of humans and animals may drive pancreatic cancer. A study published in Nature last month found that the fungus, a yeast known as Malassezia (which has also been linked to inflammatory bowel disease), can settle in the pancreas (an organ that was thought to be sterile until this decade), where fungus can proliferate 3,000 times faster than healthy tissue found in the organ. The rapid proliferation of Malassezia appears to fuel the growth of cancer tumors in the pancreas based on the study’s findings. To confirm the migration of fungi to the pancreas and its role in cancer tumor growth, scientists injected mice with fungi illuminated with a green fluorescent protein. In just minutes, the fungi travelled from the digestive tract to the pancreas. Scientists also observed that Malassezia was abundant in both mice and humans who developed pancreatic cancer. In mice,…

Antibiotics disrupt flu vaccine success. A study published this fall found that in those who hadn’t had the flu shot or the flu in the last three years, receiving antibiotics just before the flu shot made it less effective. Cell Takeaway: This is the first human study of its kind, and illustrates the key role our gut bugs play in determining our immune response, as well as how our microbiome can impact the success – or failure – of medication. If you plan to receive the flu vaccine (and even if you don’t!), avoiding antibiotics is an important step in cultivating a strong, responsive immune system.

Some populations have a heightened risk of celiac disease based on the amount of gluten they eat before the age of 5. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed gluten intake in 6,600 children who possessed celiac disease-related genes (deeming these children genetically “at-risk” for celiac disease). Gluten intake was measured using parent-recorded food diaries. Researchers found that children who ate more than 2 grams of gluten per day around the age of 2 had a significant increase in their risk of developing celiac disease. In addition, for every 1 gram of gluten consumed (equivalent to a ½ slice of bread or a ½ cup of cooked pasta) daily beyond the 2 grams, the chance of developing celiac disease increased by 7%. Takeaway: Researchers who conducted the study concluded that those children who have a first-degree relative with celiac disease should limit the amount…

Proton pump inhibitor (PPI) use in infants increases risk of infection in certain populations. PPI’s (as well as other acid blocking drugs) are commonly prescribed to infants who suffer from gastrointestinal upset and reflux. A recent study found a significantly increased rate of infection in infants who take PPIs and have regular CYP2C19 gene function – a gene that plays a role in processing and metabolizing some commonly prescribed drugs. The rate of infection was significantly increased in those infants compared to ones who have heightened CYP2C19 function. Pediatrics Takeaway: Researchers who conducted the study concluded that CYP2C19 function should be assessed when considering PPI therapy in infants. PPI and acid blocking drugs are commonly prescribed in infant populations, yet studies show they are both ineffective and unsafe – and this study proves more of the same. Unfortunately, parents are often given prescriptions for acid suppression medications – a particularly…

The link between diet and depression is meaningful in an at-risk population. In only the second study ever conducted in young adults looking at the therapeutic impact of diet on depression, researchers found that a short 3-week dietary intervention, utilizing a diet comprised of vegetables, fruits, other whole plant foods, fish and lean meats, resulted in significantly lower self-reported depression symptoms. The randomized controlled trial consisted of 38 study participants in each group – the diet and the control groups – and reduced depression scores remained significantly lower in follow-up calls three months post study. PLoS One Takeaway: Approximately one fifth of the adult population suffers from depression symptoms with only a little over one third of these individuals seeking treatment. The findings from this study, and the fact that participants in the diet group had high rates of compliance, show that diet can be a viable and effective treatment…

Green smoothies are Dr. Chutkan’s number one prescribed “medication” in her practice… and there’s lots of reasons why. Watch Dr. Chutkan as she explains the benefits of leafy greens and the importance of consuming them daily for optimal gut health. Be sure to write down the green smoothie recipe at the end and begin incorporating it into your daily life for Gutbliss!

Oral antibiotics are tied to colorectal cancer (CRC). Researchers matched over 28,000 patients with CRC found in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink database with controls. Results showed that CRC risk depends on antibiotic type and location in the colon, but overall, CRC risk was dose dependent with any antibiotic use. Antibiotics with anti-anaerobic activity, which disrupts the gut microbiome in a way that allows carcinogenic microbes to develop, posed the greatest risk, especially in the proximal colon. These antibiotics include penicillin (ampicillin and amoxicillin). Interestingly, antibiotics showed a protective effect against rectal cancers, specifically in doses of more than 60 days of antibiotic exposure when compared to no antibiotic exposure. While the study was funded by Johns Hopkins Fisher Center Discovery Center and Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, the study reported indirect competing interests, including receiving financial support from pharmaceutical companies. Gut Takeaway: While these results do not prove a…

Clinical implications and future possibilities of fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) are identified. FMT is an innovative therapy with incredible potential for treating gastrointestinal and other microbially-driven conditions. While more research and fine tuning is needed before it becomes a mainstream therapy, its clinical implications are growing. This latest review study identifies FMT as a treatment for ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and hepatic encephalopathy. The study predicts that FMT will be an accepted treatment for many other conditions in the future. Annual Review of Medicine Takeaway: While researchers are excited about the potential benefits, other studies show underwhelming results from FMT. Additional research, especially in the area of super donors is needed, as well as other environmental factors that could negatively impact fecal transplant therapy. Coupling FMT with nutrition interventions that focus on high fiber, whole foods and plant-based diets is imperative for success, as is minimizing/eliminating medication use (especially…