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Microbiome

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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,…

Could your medication be the cause of your weight gain or inability to lose weight? A recent study presented at the United European Gastroenterology week this year found that commonly prescribed medications significantly alter the gut microbiome, increasing the risk of infection, weight gain, obesity, and a host of other diseases and conditions related to gut bacteria imbalance (or dysbiosis). The study looked at stool samples from 1,883 individuals, some healthy and some with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and assessed the impact of single drug use as well as multiple drug use on the gut microbiome. Out of 41 drug categories analyzed, 18 were associated with significant alterations in the microbiome. These alterations varied depending on the medication, and included microbial changes such as bacterial overgrowth in the upper GI tract, alterations in fatty acid production, increased levels of E. coli and Eubacterium ramulus, and heightened antibiotic resistance within the…

Tabatha: I have spent years rebuilding my gut after reading your book, The Microbiome Solution. After 4 years of amazing health, I’m afraid of the damage that my next colonoscopy might do to my rebuilt gut microbiome. Should I be concerned and how can I still do my scheduled colonoscopies with the least amount of damage to my gut? Are there other options than a colonoscopy?  Dr. Chutkan: Tabatha, many of my patients, like you, have spent years working on rehabbing their gut microbiome, so your question is a really valid one. Preparing for a colonoscopy requires fasting and cleansing the colon using strong laxatives 24 hours before the procedure. This process can remove many of the microbes that live inside your gut. Let’s take a look at the science: a 2013 study assessed the effect of traditional colonoscopy prep on the gut microbiota in 10 men and 10 women,…

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.

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…

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…

In an attempt to catalog all bacteria strains that reside in the human gut, scientists have identified, isolated, and preserved 7,758 bacteria strains from 90 study participants over a two-year period. The metabolic and genetic functions for each strain have also been identified. The strains were pulled from the 6 main bacteria families, or phyla, that reside in the gut, including Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, Euryarchaeota, and Verrucomicrobia. A dozen study participants provided samples over a prolonged period of time (up to 2 years), which allowed researchers to observe the dynamic interactions among strains over time. Furthering the research, scientists will look at the gut microbiomes of more diverse populations worldwide, including those who live in non-industrialized environments. Scientists believe that cataloging the bacteria strains that live in the gut will allow for a better understanding of how bacteria interact metabolically and genetically, and could lead to harnessing the microbiome…

Did you know that your gut bugs play a key role in determining your likes and dislikes? And we’re not just talking about food here! Your gut bacteria – along with your genes and your environment – determine your preferences in some of the most important aspects of your life, including your romantic partners and political beliefs! In the latest issue of National Geographic magazine, Dr. Bill Sullivan dives into this concept of human choice and behavior being more a product of biology and less a result of well thought out decision making. For instance, in the case of food, those who despise bitter vegetables such as broccoli or kale can be more genetically susceptible to picking up the bitter taste in these veggies due to a variation in the gene TAS2R38. In the case of romance, we are less attracted to those who have more similar immune systems to…