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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.

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…

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…

Scientists are studying how a plant-based diet affects gastroparesis, an underdiagnosed condition in which emptying of the stomach is delayed. Symptoms include bloating, nausea, feeling abnormally full after eating, and in severe cases, vomiting and weight loss. The most common treatment for severe gastroparesis is administering food through a feeding tube using a liquid formula high in sugar and processed nutrients. Although patients are not consuming actual food, they can still experience symptoms, including bloating, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea. The plant-based pilot study, currently underway, includes a plant-based formula lower in sugar and processed components. Researchers will look at how going plant-based affects microbial and inflammatory markers, with the hope that patients will experience less symptoms. Stanford University Takeaway: While some severe cases of gastroparesis require more aggressive treatments as described above, there are lots of lifestyle changes that can help treat gastroparesis-related symptoms. These modifications include: Shift most of…

For the first time ever, researchers discover a strong association between chronic pain and gut bacteria. Fibromyalgia, a disease affecting approximately 4% of the population and growing, is characterized as full-body, chronic pain along with fatigue and cognitive impairment. Compared to a control group, a cohort of patients with fibromyalgia possessed a remarkably different microbiome, including 20 different gut bacteria species in either greater or lesser quantities. Scientists utilized techniques to ensure these microbial differences weren’t due to other factors, such as diet, age, medications, physical activity, etc. Greater microbial alterations were associated with more severe disease symptoms. PAIN Takeaway: While this groundbreaking study shows a strong link between the microbiome and chronic, widespread pain, like with most diseases, scientists are uncertain whether the microbial alterations are the cause of the disease or a result. Further research will hopefully uncover this distinction, as well as help identify possible microbial diagnostic…

A review study finds that fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) is not an effective treatment for “global” IBS symptoms. The study looked at 4 investigations of FMT as a viable treatment for IBS and included 254 participants. In looking at the results of all 4 studies, no significant improvements in IBS symptoms was observed when administering FMT over a 12-week period when compared to placebo. American Journal of Gastroenterology Takeaway: When you slice up the IBS pie, you see multiple different conditions that are causing symptoms – from stress and food allergies to undiagnosed colitis and microbial discord. But there is a clear subset within IBS called post-infectious IBS – this group includes people who have received lots of antibiotics and subsequently suffer from dysbiosis (gut bacteria imbalance). To find appropriate IBS candidates for FMT, the key is to look not just at the determining criteria for having IBS, but to…

Cultivating a healthy microbiome plays a key role in preventing eczema. A review study looks at the effects of manipulating microbial health to prevent and treat eczema, specifically in infants. The study conducted analyses of probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics (probiotics and prebiotics together) for eczema prevention. Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology  Results of the study show that scientific evidence supports supplementation with Lactobacillus strains prenatally, followed by long-term (greater than 6 months) postnatal supplementation in infants for eczema prevention. Long-term (greater than 6 months) postnatal prebiotic supplementation has also been successful for eczema prevention in formula-fed infants. Takeaway: Those infants at high risk for developing eczema react most readily to these preventative measures. It’s important to keep in mind that in order to reap the benefits from prebiotic and probiotic supplementation, both in the womb and post-delivery, maternal and infant nutrition is key. Microbiome-focused supplements are only as powerful…

Urinary tract infections (UTIs), once easily curable, now affect millions and are much more challenging to treat, posing serious health risks. A July 13th New York Times article highlights the UTI treatment challenges, which spawn primarily from drug-resistant antibiotics. E. coli bacteria is the most common cause of UTIs, and it’s estimated that approximately one third of E. coli strains are resistant to Bactrim, the most common antibiotic treatment, and one fifth are resistant to the other 5 most common treatment drugs. Women, who during reproductive years are 50 times more likely to contract a UTI than men due to the anatomical proximity of the urethra to the rectum, are commonly going back for 2 and 3 rounds of antibiotic treatments, and are even being admitted into the hospital for intravenous antibiotics. UTIs that go untreated have the ability to travel into the kidneys and even the blood, which can…