Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

Leave a comment

Gut Bacteria ‘Boost’ Cancer Therapy

Bacteria living in the murky depths of the digestive system seem to influence whether tumours shrink during cancer therapy, say French and US researchers.

They tested the microbiome – the collection of microscopic species that live in us – in cancer patients.
Two studies, in the journal Science, linked specific species and the overall diversity of the microbiome to the effectiveness of immunotherapy drugs.

Experts said the results were fascinating and held a lot of promise.

Our bodies are home to trillions of micro-organisms and the relationship between “us” and “them” goes far beyond infectious diseases.

The microbiome is involved in digestion, protection from infection and regulating the immune system.

  • Gut bugs ‘help prevent allergies’
  • Parkinson’s disease ‘may start in gut’

Both studies were on patients receiving immunotherapy, which boosts the body’s own defences to fight tumours.

It does not work in every patient, but in some cases it can clear even terminal cancer.


One study, at the Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus in Paris, looked at 249 patients with lung or kidney cancer.

They showed those who had taken antibiotics, such as for dental infection, damaged their microbiome and were more likely to see tumours grow while on immunotherapy.

One species of bacteria in particular, Akkermansia muciniphila, was in 69% of patients that did respond compared with just a third of those who did not.

Boosting levels of A. muciniphila in mice seemed to also boost their response to immunotherapy.
Meanwhile, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 112 patients with advanced melanoma had their microbiome analysed.

Those that responded to therapy tended to have a richer, more diverse microbiome than those that did not.

And they had different bacteria too. High levels of Faecalibacterium and Clostridiales appeared to be beneficial, while Bacteroidales species were bad news in the study.


Tissues samples showed there were more cancer-killing immune cells in the tumour of people with the beneficial bacteria.

The team then performed a trans-poo-sion, a transplant of faecal matter, from people to mice with melanoma.

Mice given bacteria from patients with the “good” mix of bacteria had slower-growing tumours than mice given “bad” bacteria.

Dr Jennifer Wargo, from Texas, told the BBC: “If you disrupt a patient’s microbiome you may impair their ability to respond to cancer treatment.”
She is planning clinical trials aimed at altering the microbiome in tandem with cancer treatment.
She said: “Our hypothesis is if we change to a more favourable microbiome, you just may be able to make patients respond better.
“The microbiome is game-changing, not just cancer but for overall health, it’s definitely going to be a major player.”


Mark Fielder, president of the Society for Applied Microbiology and professor of medical biology at Kingston University, said the study showed the importance of understanding the micro-organisms that call our bodies home.

He told the BBC: “It’s really interesting and holds a lot of promise, we need to do more work but there are exciting glimmers here in treating some difficult diseases.
“Some claim the microbiome is the answer to everything, I don’t think that’s the case.
“But once we understand more, it could be that microbiome manipulation is important in changing people’s health.”

Dr Emma Smith from Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s fascinating.

“One of the big challenges for using immunotherapies to treat cancer is understanding which patients will respond, and this research is a step towards helping doctors to identify these people.”

By James Gallagher    Health and science correspondent, BBC News    3 November 2017 
source: www.bbc.com

Leave a comment

Migraines linked to bacteria in mouth

People who suffer from migraines have more of certain bacteria in their mouths

People who suffer from migraines have long complained that certain foods trigger the severe headaches. New research suggests the culprit might be the amount of bacteria in the mouth.

Researchers found that the mouths of people who suffer from migraines harboured significantly more of the microbes that break down nitrates found in certain foods.

These bacteria play an important role in processing nitrates so they can then be converted into nitric oxide in the bloodstream, which widens blood vessels and improves circulation.

While this process is helpful for cardiovascular health, the findings suggest an abundance of these bacteria may break down nitrates more quickly, causing blood vessels in the brain and scalp to dilate, triggering migraines.

Nitrates are naturally found in a variety of leafy green vegetables, and they are added to processed meat as a preservative and to improve flavour and colour.

Doctors have been telling people who suffer from migraines to avoid processed foods for years. Dr. Michael Zitney, who leads the Headache & Pain Relief Centre in Toronto, says this research strengthens their case.

“We have long since known that these kinds of foods can trigger migraines, but we haven’t really known how,” he says.

Link to cardiovascular research

The process of how nitrates break down into nitric oxide is well-studied in cardiovascular health.

Nitrate-containing drugs are prescribed to treat chest pain or congestive heart failure. But roughly four out of five cardiac patients who take the drugs report severe headaches as a side-effect.

The study’s authors hope these findings will help link existing cardiovascular research with migraines.



“It opens a full area of research and connects two areas of research that have not been connected before,” says the study’s lead author, Antonio Gonzalez, from the University of California San Diego.

Data collected from ‘citizen scientists’

This study was based on data from the American Gut Project, which crowd sources oral and fecal samples from so-called “citizen scientists.”

Researchers sequenced bacteria found in 172 oral samples and 1,996 fecal samples. They found that the nitrate-reducing microbes were slightly more abundant in the fecal samples of people who suffer from migraines, but significantly more abundant in their oral samples.

Chronic migraines are frequent, severe, pulsating headaches accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. They last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

It’s estimated that eight per cent of Canadians have been diagnosed with migraines, although this likely underestimates their prevalence, as some people who suffer from migraines don’t seek professional help.

The study’s authors say they still need to determine whether the bacteria are a cause or a result of migraines, or are indirectly linked in some other way.

For now, Zitney says, the research suggests that some migraines could one day be treated by controlling the bacteria in our mouths.

“This may be just a glimmer of hope in terms of pursuing possible treatments,” he says.

The study was published earlier this week in mSystems, the online journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

By Darryl Hol, CBC News     Oct 19, 2016
With files from Christine Birak and Melanie Glanz
source: www.cbc.ca

Leave a comment

The Best Way to Wash Fruits and Vegetables

You’ve probably been washing your produce all wrong. Here’s the right way to do it so you can minimize the opportunity of some nasty illnesses

BY PAIGE FOWLER   Friday, October 16, 2015

Your vegetable drawer is the filthiest part of your refrigerator.

“Even if you washed every piece of produce before storing it, bacteria can still grow as foods spoil or things leak down in there,” says Sandria Godwin, Ph.D., professor in the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences at Tennessee State University. “Some bacteria can survive in the drawer for weeks.”

So how do you get your produce clean enough to eat? Running them under the tap for a few seconds isn’t enough. Follow these steps to completely wash away the filth, dirt, and pesticides before you take a bite.

How to store: Keep your fruit and vegetables in the grocery-store plastic bags instead of placing them directly in the bin—just be sure to loosen the bag to allow moisture to escape and prevent mold growth, Godwin says.

How to rinse: Godwin and a team of researchers at TSU found that properly cleaning produce can remove most bacteria—as long as you do it right.

You should hold your produce under cold running water for 30 to 60 seconds. Sure, that seems like a ridiculously long time to wash, say, one tomato, but putting in the effort will lower your risk of ingesting bacteria or germs that can lead to illness or—in some extreme cases—death.

fruits veggies

And don’t get suckered into buying an expensive vegetable wash or making a homemade solution. “Plain old water works,” says Godwin.

How to scrub: “While rinsing, use your hands to scrub the skin, which helps release bacteria so it washes away more easily,” she says.

Gently rub soft fruits or vegetables with the palms of your hands. Don’t rub so hard you cause bruising. For firm produce, you can use a vegetable brush.

A clean toothbrush can also come in handy tackling tight crevices of broccoli and cauliflower, and for cleaning the core or the bottom of an apple where most microbes hang out. Let it air dry between uses, and toss it in the dishwasher to clean.

And scrub the outside of pineapples, oranges, and melons even if you plan to peel them. “When you cut into these foods with a knife, bacteria on the outside gets transferred to the inside, which can make you sick,” Godwin explains.

How to soak: “Most fruits and vegetables don’t need to soak,” she says. Those that do: leafy greens such as kale, chard, and spinach because dirt can firmly cling to the leaves.

“Soak the bunch in a bowl of clean water for several minutes and then dry it with a salad spinner,” she says. In her research, rinsing and soaking produce removed up to 98 percent of bacteria.

Leave a comment

The 60-Second Morning Habit That Fights Colds and Infections

Shubhra Krishan     June 2, 2015

As a kid, I was taught to gargle after brushing, using lightly salted water. My mother added an element of fun to it by asking me to think of the germs in the mouth as enemies out to destroy teeth. The act of gargling, she said, would flush out any remaining villains.

Some four decades later there came a Japanese study that tossed up the health benefits of gargling. During this study, 400 volunteers were studied for 60 days during cold and flu season. Some of them were asked to gargle thrice a day, while the rest followed their usual oral routine.

At the end of the study, researchers noted a 40 percent decrease in upper respiratory tract infections among those who had gargled regularly.

Although the exact reason why gargling helps oral health is not clear, scientists do know that a lot of the bacteria that causes bad breath and infection reside in the back of the throat. The New York Times quotes Dr. Philip T. Hagen, editor in chief of the “Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies,” pointing out that the saline solution loosens thick mucus and draws excess fluid from inflamed tissues in the throat.

gargling kids

How to Gargle Correctly:

Use warm water. Plain tap water is fine.

Use just a little salt. About 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon in 8 ounces of water, suggests Mayo Clinic.

Make sure you don’t swallow the salt. Keep the salted water burbling in the back of your throat for 25 to 30 seconds at a time, then spit out.

If you find salt unpleasant, try gargling with mint or lemon flavored water, or just plain water.

New to gargling? It helps to tip your head as far back as you can, and open your mouth wide.

Leave a comment

Dr. Bill Sears weighs in on the benefits of probiotics

By Anna Lazowski, CBC News Posted: Dec 11, 2013

A Canadian-trained pediatrician says all doctors should be prescribing probiotics alongside antibiotics.

Dr. Bill Sears has been a pediatrician in private practice for 42 years and did most of his medical training at the University of Toronto. He’s also the father of eight kids, has written 42 books, and runs a popular website full of tips for parents. He says probiotics are a valuable asset to his medical practice.

“I particularly prescribe them when I prescribe an antibiotic because antibiotics kill the germs, say, of an ear infection or throat infection, but they also kill the good bacteria in the gut,” he explains. “So probiotics help to replenish the good bacteria.”

Dr. Sears feels so strongly about the role of probiotics, he says all doctors should be prescribing them alongside antibiotics.

“Probiotics should absolutely, positively, 100 per cent be taken when you take an antibiotic. And I think all doctors will agree,” he says.

Dr. Sears typically suggests probiotics be taken during the course of antibiotics and then a week or so after to replenish that good bacteria in the system. With trillions of bacteria living in our gut, Dr. Sears says they help the body produce natural medicines and give the immune system a boost.


He also recommends people with gut pain or intestinal problems like colitis or irritable bowel add natural bacteria into the diet to improve intestinal health.

But he’ll be the first to tell you, he doesn’t jump on the bandwagon every time a new health product hits the shelves.

 “Anytime you take a nutritional supplement you ask two questions: Is there science supporting that it gets into the blood and does good things for the body? And does it make good sense? And probiotics fulfill both of those.”

Probiotics are commonly sold in powders, capsules and tablets but can also be supplemented by including fermented foods in the diet. Some options include: yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, fermented soy foods like miso or tempeh, kombucha, sourdough bread or naturally fermented pickles.

A recently published study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has also indicated colorectal cancer may be linked to an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut.


Leave a comment

Gut Bacteria Shift Quickly After Changes in Diet, Study Shows

December 11, 2013    By Brenda Goodman   HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 11, 2013 (HealthDay News) — If you were to switch from vegetarianism to meat-eating, or vice-versa, chances are the composition of your gut bacteria would also undergo a big change, a new study suggests.

The research, published Dec. 11 in the journal Nature, showed that the number and kinds of bacteria — and even the way the bacteria behaved — changed within a day of switching from a normal diet to eating either animal- or plant-based foods exclusively.

“Not only were there changes in the abundance of different bacteria, but there were changes in the kinds of genes that they were expressing and their activity,” said study author Lawrence David, an assistant professor at the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy at Duke University.

Trillions of bacteria live in each person’s gut. They’re thought to play a role in digestion, immunity and possibly even body weight.

The study suggests that this bacterial community and its genes — called the microbiome — are extraordinarily flexible and capable of responding swiftly to whatever is coming its way.

“The gut microbiome is potentially quite sensitive to what we eat,” David said. “And it is sensitive on time scales shorter than had previously been thought.”

David said, however, that it’s hard to tease out exactly what that might mean for human health.

Another expert agreed.

“It’s nice to have some solid evidence now that these types of significant changes in diet can impact the gut microflora in a significant way,” said Jeffrey Cirillo, a professor of microbial and molecular pathogenesis at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Bryan, Texas. “That’s very nice to see, and it’s very rapid. It’s surprising how quick the changes can occur.”

Cirillo said it was also intriguing how fast the microbiome seemed to recover. The study found that gut bacteria were back to business as usual about a day after people stopped eating the experimental diet.

For the study, researchers recruited six men and four women between the ages of 21 and 33. For the first four days of the study, they ate their usual diets. For the next five days, they switched to eating either all plant-based or all animal-based foods. They then went back to their normal eating habits before switching to the other diet pattern.

The animal-based diet resulted in the biggest changes to gut bacteria. It spurred the growth of 22 species of bacteria, while only three bacterial species became more prominent in the plant-based diet.

The researchers don’t fully understand what the shifts mean, but, they said, some made sense. For example, several types of bacteria that became more prevalent with the animal-based diet are good at resisting bile acids. The liver makes bile to help break down fat.

Another type of bacteria, which became more common in the plant-based diet, is thought to be sensitive to fiber intake.

The researchers speculated that the bacterial shifts might explain why fatty diets have been linked to diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. More studies are needed, however, before they can say for sure.

source: news.health.com


Leave a comment

It’s Not Just the Fat: There’s Another Way Red Meat May Harm the Heart

By Alexandra Sifferlin   April 08, 2013

Eating Red, Processed Meat Raises Your Risk of Early Death

Saturated fat? Cholesterol? Sure, red meat has plenty of those, but it also contains a compound that toys with gut bacteria and can lead to clogged arteries.

When it comes to explaining exactly why steaks and hamburgers and other red meats can be so harmful to the heart, the saturated fat that the body breaks down and sequesters in blood vessel walls where they can form dangerous plaques is an easy and obvious culprit. But the high rates of heart disease in the developed world suggest that these fats may not be working alone, say a group of researchers from the Cleveland Clinic who study how microbes and bacteria in our gut influence heart disease.

Our gut is full of bacteria — good strains that don’t cause disease — and recent studies show that these microbes can have a significant impact on our health, affecting our propensity for obesity, asthma, inflammatory diseases and even cancer. Not surprisingly, what we eat can influence which populations of bacteria are more common at any given time, so the researchers of the new study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, focused on how these gut microbes responded to a diet that included meat. Specifically, they looked at a compound called carnitine, which is abundant in meats like beef, lamb, duck and pork, but is also a popular dietary supplement in energy drinks.

In previous work on mice, the scientists found that gut bacteria can transform choline, a vitamin-B-group nutrient, from the diet into a compound called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) that transports cholesterol to arteries where it forms potentially heart-stopping plaques. Carnitine, it turns out, is structurally similar to choline, so the researchers set out to document whether carnitine is metabolized by human gut bacteria in a similar way to gum up heart vessels and cause atherosclerosis.

To better understand the relationship between carnitine and TMAO, the researchers conducted a series of experiments with meat eaters and a vegan willing to consume meat for the sake of the study. In the first phase, they documented the boost in TMAO produced after the meat-eating volunteers ate an 8-oz. steak and downed a capsule that would attach to and label the carnitine for easy detection. Consuming high amounts of carnitine from the steak was only associated with a higher level of TMAO in the blood of the five meat eaters, however, and not in the vegan who hadn’t consumed meat in at least a year. That suggests that eating meat can promote larger numbers of bacteria that break down carnitine into TMAO, thus generating more heart-harming cholesterol and establishing a cycle of damage to the heart.

This was confirmed when the researchers then looked at the levels of TMAO and carnitine in the blood of 2,595 patients undergoing heart-disease evaluations who were either omnivores, vegans or vegetarians. Meat eaters tended to harbor higher levels of carnitine and had a higher risk of heart disease, stroke or heart attack compared with the vegans or vegetarians. The bacteria in the gut, then, are heavily influenced by long-term-diet patterns, adding another layer to the understanding of how food can affect our risk for developing certain diseases. “A diet high in carnitine actually shifts our gut microbe composition to those that like carnitine, making meat eaters even more susceptible to forming TMAO and its artery-clogging effects. Meanwhile, vegans and vegetarians have a significantly reduced capacity to synthesize TMAO from carnitine, which may explain the cardiovascular health benefits of these diets,” said study leader Dr. Stanley Hazen, of the Cleveland Clinic, in a statement.

In fact, when the meat eaters were given antibiotics for a week to cull some of the intestinal bacteria, levels of TMAO dropped significantly. That finding hints that it may be possible to control some of the heart-harming effects of red meat by suppressing certain populations of bacteria in the gut, although more studies need to be done to confirm exactly which bacterial populations are responsible for breaking down carnitine, and how direct the association between carnitine and TMAO is.

And then there are questions about carnitine supplements. Some energy drinks contain the compound, which is often added to rev up metabolism and increase energy, but if it also promotes the growth of bacteria that contribute to atherosclerosis, then people consuming energy drinks may not be aware that these products may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

The findings certainly set the stage for more detailed studies on how red meat may contribute to heart disease, but in the meantime, it’s probably not necessary to entirely cut out red meat from your diet. Hazen’s own strategy should serve as a model: once a meat eater who enjoyed about 12 oz. several times a week, he told the New York Times that he now limits himself to eating 4 to 6 oz. once every two weeks. Moderation, it seems, is the best approach until more information becomes available.

source: Time