Food Poisoning? Probiotics to the Rescue.

How many of you heard recently about the amazing Woodrat, who can devour a wide variety of toxic plants? That’s interesting on its own, but then consider this: if you transplant Woodrat poop to other rodents, even its unrelated brethren can suddenly eat the same toxic stuff.

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So it seems clear enough: the healthy bacteria found in Woodrat guts are the reason for this animal’s uncanny ability.

That brings to mind an analogy: all those toxic things I used to be able to gobble up — restaurant food, ancient leftovers, just about any foodtruck fare — before I was prescribed a bunch of nasty antibiotics, including Cipro and Levaquin, a class of drugs the FDA has since slapped with “black-box” warnings.

Indeed, ever since my gut flora was blasted to smithereens, I’ve had trouble eating anything but the most well-prepared food. Since it’s impossible to always be careful and cook our own meals, a helpful remedy I learned was to start shoveling down probiotics at the first sign of a problem.

VSL#3 is suitable, due to a wider range of flora. It’s also effective for ulcerative colitis. Another popular brand is a mix of soil-based organisms, Prescript Assist. A third option: Miyarisan Tablets, a Japanese probiotic that contains c. butyricum, which generates its own antifungal, anti-inflammatory butyrate, a short chain fatty acid (SCFA) helpful in IBD. Given the lack of butyrate in guts of people with metaboilc issues, c. butyricum may be able to do even more for us.

Back to our restaurant experience gone-awry, or those leftovers that should have been tossed, the theory behind high dose probiotics is they can often overwhelm pathogenic microbes. True enough, I’ve had it work wonders, but in an acute situation of tainted food, it’s not uncommon for me to gulp down 5X the normal dose of VSL#3 and maybe even re-dose a few hours later.

Since it’s not clear how the body will deal with large doses of soil-based bacteria, I am sparing with Prescript Assist and only take VSL #3, or other brands such as Life Start, which is a single strain (bifido infantis) probiotic, and another multi-strain product, Renew Life Ultimate Flora Critical Care, in larger quantities. Keep in mind Renew Life is enteric coated, which means it’s designed to dissolve in the lower GI tract. Therefore, it’s best to open the capsule before dosing, if you need it to work right away.

I’ve also taken peppermint oil (which i just read is a powerful antifungal), oregano oil, and colloidal silver, when I needed quick relief. These can certainly work well against bad bacteria, but they also degrade the good bugs, so whenever possible I try to avoid herbals and antimicrobials. In the case of SIBO, some upper gut sterilization can be helpful. This is one reason peppermint is recommended for IBS.

An additional approach that may help with a toxic gut is activated charcoal. People who have overdosed on medications are often given this in hospitals, and it can work to mop up a lot of organic toxins quickly. Just be aware it will bind with everything, including whatever medicinal supplements you take with it.

So this is the strategy that’s worked for me. What about your own gut? If you find you’re getting GI issues after eating pretty often, and you never used to have that problem, think back to how many courses of antibiotics you may have had in your lifetime, or — since we get our gut flora from our mothers — how many your Mom may have had, too. You may be developing a condition called dysbiosis, which simply means damaged gut flora. Problems often arise from too few bacteria rather than too many.

What are the potential consequences? About 10 years ago I got sick from restaurant food and landed in the ER several hours later with a 104F temp. They gave me (very ironically) IV Levaquin antibiotics to stop the infection. Take that, Woodrat.

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Major problems followed, including POTS (a type of neuropathy), food intolerances, SIBO, plus major brain fog, anxiety, tinnitus and insomnia. For those unfamiliar with the term, I’d been “Floxed” by fluoroquinolones, which I later learned are actually chemotherapy agents, not just antibiotics. Anyone who pops Cipro or Levaquin for minor infections, be very careful.

Had I known of this “probiotic rescue” at the time, I could have been overwhelming the bacteria in my upper gut right away, long before I began to develop a fever. Alternatively, I could have been drinking colloidal silver and taking oregano oil, or peppermint oil. Even turmeric and raw garlic have fairly potent antibacterial qualities.

NOTE: food poisoning can be serious, so by all means seek medical attention if you feel really sick after a meal. All the measures I’ve mentioned can be tried while you’re preparing for a trip to urgent care, so I hope you’ll be waltzing out of the waiting room early, rather than spending the night. 😉

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What about longer term solutions for GI health? Probiotics are expensive, which makes sustained use impractical for many of us, and how effective are they at colonizing the gut? Results vary, but many probiotics are barely “waking up” by the time they leave our bodies. How about asking our easy-going friend with the iron-stomach to do a poop-swap? Yes, FMT, as it’s called, is the ultimate flora fix, but restrictions on its use have created quite a few hurdles.

For most of us, the best answer may be simple, age-old wisdom: eat more cultured foods. They have trillions of healthy bacteria, compared to the billions in expensive probiotics, and that flora is awake and ready to go to work the moment you consume it!

You can learn how to make your own Kefir and Sauerkraut HERE.

 

If you enjoy this blog, you can support my work by buying things you need via this Amazon portal HERE, or by purchasing any product linked in articles. It costs you nothing extra, and helps me continue writing. Thanks very much!

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Heal Type 2 Diabetes with a Probiotic?

Recently, I’ve discovered the joys of butyrate for gut inflammation, when it stopped my last ulcerative colitis flare faster than steroids or Imuran, but it’s clear this short chain fatty acid (SCFA), which is created by gut bacteria as they ferment mostly vegetable fibers, is critical to protecting against colon cancer, leaky gut, and a variety of other conditions. What if anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory butyrate is also the key to healing diabetes, or rather, what if an absence of butyrate-generating gut flora may lead to dysregulation of blood glucose, and what if we could fix this?

Enter Clostridium Butyricum, a Japanese probiotic by the name Miyarisan Tablets, that actually generates butyrate! Of course it makes sense this soil-based bacteria might also heal ulcerative colitis, but it has another wonderful feature: its ability to guard against deadly c. diff infections. In Japan, many people are given c. butyricum upon entry to a hospital, as a preventative for these dangerous and highly-contagious acquired infections. Yes, this probiotic is a true powerhouse.

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Back to metabolic issues, I read an article on Chris Kresser’s site where he noted low carb dieters tend to have higher blood glucose levels, because of induced insulin resistance. Here’s an additional hypothesis: I wonder if people with damaged flora seek out a paleo diet, since it’s less likely to aggravate their GI symptoms of carbohydrate intolerance. Furthermore, ancestral diets (in practice) tend to be higher in fats and animal protein and lower in vegetable fibers, so it makes sense these people would start out deficient in butyrate-generating flora, pre-paleo (perhaps due to antibiotics use or inherited altered flora), and continue to limit their butyrate generation through lower consumption of vegetable fibers. A growing interest in resistant starches seeks to address this, with dietary hacks that increase butyrate.

Are higher than normal fasting glucose levels static, or over a longer time frame are these people at risk for developing diabetes? And what if someone is already diabetic? Generally, low carb diets work for managing type 2, and resistant starch gets high marks for improving metabolic profiles, bifido strains or not. We’ve known for quite a while that cultured foods improve diabetes by limiting carbohydrate metabolism. Leading edge research is now figuring out gut flora transplants might even heal diabetes. But what if simply establishing a colon full of c. butyricum could provide some of these same benefits?

Another approach would be to use a probiotic developed for IBD, VSL #3, to brew a yogurt, which would boost the ranks of bacteria substantially and also make it totally active. Here’s a study that shows VSL #3 was both effective in increasing glucose tolerance and generating more butyrate. VSL is more complex than Miyarisan. It lists streptococcus thermophilus, bifidobacterium breve, bifidobacterium longum, bifidobacterium infantis, lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus plantarum (abundant in sauerkraut), lactobacillus paracasei, and lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus. When making a yogurt from this, it’s assumed these ratios would change, as not all bacteria would have the same growth rate in milk.

While it’s not likely to be a cure, could therapeutic doses of c. buytyricum,  or the blend of strains in VSL #3, halt rising glucose levels, or even improve numbers?

I aim to find out. My fasting glucose used to be perfect, but have been creeping higher since taking courses of fluoroquinolone antibiotics, like Cipro and Levaquin. Anyone can monitor their levels, using a glucose meter, so it should be easy to track results. I’ll try the Miyarisan Tablets in combination with VSL#3 in a ferment, for increased viability, and will be eating my tried and true resistant starches, which should boost good ole butyrate. Along the way, I predict ulcerative colitis will be banished from my gut, since I’ll be a prolific butyrate auto-generator for the first time in many years. Stay tuned!

Are you pre-diabetic or diabetic, and experimenting with probiotic foods and resistant starch? Do you use butyrate supplements for ulcerative colitis or crohn’s? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section, or at GHN on Facebook. We also have a dedicated group on Facebook for Healing or Avoiding Diabetes by Fixing the Gut. Thanks! 🙂

Chronic Fatigue/POTS/IBD & the Gut-Neck Axis

“I worked with a chiropractor prior to my orthopedic neck surgery. As I described my FM/CFS symptoms, he said, “What did you do to your neck?” I mentioned I’d been in a serious car accident 10 years earlier, sustaining a whiplash injury. He said he had yet to meet a patient with CFS who didn’t have a history of neck trauma. He said there was a theory that any sort of injury to the cervical spinal column either released a component that led to the disease, or allowed one to enter the spinal fluid.”

 

The quote above was lifted from the comments section in a 2007 article on chronic fatigue, which is interesting in its own light, as it discusses a viral hypothesis for CFS/ME. Rather than going into this now, which is plausible to me based on the positive impact of FMT on CFS, considering a healthy microbiota is likely to be inherently anti-viral, I’d rather stick with a discussion of the biomechanical overlap between IBD/CFS-ME/POTS, and then relate that to gut ecology.

I suffer from CFS/ME in addition to ulcerative colitis, asthma, and other inflammatory conditions. I also, as many of you know, have a history of neck trauma, caused in a traffic accident years ago. For me, the neck injury acted as a trigger for most of my health issues, so I have recently suspected vagal nerve damage as a possible root problem. The VN mediates inflammation and immunity in the body, to a large extent, and controls heart rate/BP, hormonal output (adrenals, chief among them), organ function, including gut transport (suggesting constipation, GERD may be related to VN damage), so it’s easy to see where a wide range of symptoms could have this common thread.

I’ve dubbed it the “Gut-Neck Axis” because I’ve found healthy alterations to my gut flora are just as curative (or at the least, beneficial) as achieving proper alignment of my neck! Either will provide relief, whether it’s a glass of home-brewed kefir, a chiropractic adjustment, or a manipulation I can do on my own.

Why would this be? Does an adjustment of my neck release electrical “noise” in my central nervous system, a bottled up energy produced by pathogenic or translocated gut flora (SIBO), or is it simply taking pressure off my vagal nerve, which could allow it to engage more bandwidth in performing its tasks?

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My guess is both are true, because the neck is the physical fuse box between the brain and the enteric nervous system, the “gut brain”.

When hyperadrenergic POTS kicks in for me, my blood pressure and heart rate accelerate, I get obvious tinnitus, a stuffy nose, my gut stops moving, and I get very heat-intolerant. Much to my amazement, in recent days the use of a posture pump will stop all these symptoms, and quickly. Right away, I can feel peristalsis occurring, my nose opens up and I can feel my blood pressure dropping.

If I’m in the car and don’t have access to the device, often times just relaxing my neck, jutting my lower jaw forward a bit, and tilting my head back slightly will do the same. I’ve found it’s important to also try to elongate my neck as much as I can, by using muscles that extend it, whilst I simultaneously try to keep it limber, not stiff. At other times I get relief from just gently pushing in on my lower jaw (while it’s very relaxed), which seems to realign upper cervical vertebrae. There’s a zen to achieving this posture. It has taken practice, but luckily I get instant feedback when I’m doing it right, so I’ve made good progress.

By the way, it should be noted since we’re all different, I’m not recommending anyone try what works for me. This is not medical advice, and anyone reading along should consult their physician before attempting anything described herein.

The third leg of the stool, in this Axis, is active stress reduction. In any situation where I feel a high sympathetic state coming on, calming my mind, paying attention to breathing ( in for a count of 3, out for a count of 4) will act as a brake, and slow things down. For me, CFS/ME feels like a cardiovascular issue. I notice when hyperadrenergic POTS symptoms are flaring, I find it exhausting to stand; with my neck aligned properly I have much more energy.

One theory regarding a trigger for CFS is a vagal nerve infection, and I am not discounting this, but what if it’s also an impinged nerve, a transient impairment, that can be corrected with a spinal adjustment? It’s pretty clear to me my health issues have multiple avenues for healing, and there’s likely to be more than one root cause.

So to my broader point: in an attempt to simply feel as good as possible, I’ll continue to do each and every thing I’ve learned is having a positive impact on symptoms, whether it’s biomechanical or more related to gut flora. Since we know it’s a feedback loop, my theory is a neck injury can create a pro-inflammatory state in the gut that discourages the growth of vital gut flora. Stress can, too. Each of these, in turn, creates an inflamed gut that further discourages a healthy microbiome. It’s a vicious cycle. But by adding in cultured foods, probiotics, FMT, perhaps this reduces the electrical “noise” in the CNS, which makes mechanical manipulations less important.

I do know when I’ve done FMT a few times, it’s as if I’ve been seeing a chiropractor regularly. It’s all about relaxation, tilting over into a more parasympathetic-dominant mode, and a happy neck creates a happy gut, creates a happy brain. Furthermore, getting back to CFS, I notice FMT gives me a lot more energy. I can see where in the study cited above they may have had a much higher response rate with CFS/ME if the participants had simply done FMT for a longer period of time, say 6 to 8 weeks, rather than merely two to three days. I’d love to see another FMT study where participants were also given gentle chiropractic adjustments with an activator tool, massage therapy, and participated in guided meditation.

In the comments section I’d appreciate hearing from you. What are your own coping methods for cooling off the gut brain, staying in a more parasympathetic (restful/restorative/digesting) state? Also, if you have identified a neck-related trigger for IBD or CFS, which biomechanical approaches help the most? Have any of you had cervical spinal (neck) surgery? If so, what results have you had? I figure someone out there with IBD (ulcerative colitis or crohn’s) has had cervical spinal surgery and I’m very curious if this may have alleviated or improved the IBD.

 

If you enjoy this blog, you can support my work by buying things you need via this Amazon portal HERE, or by purchasing any product linked in articles. It costs you nothing extra, and helps me continue writing. Thanks!

 

Fecal Transplant, The Return of Joy

For quite a while now I’ve battled with fatigue, insomnia, POTS (blood pressure spikes), racing heart, and anxiety/depression when my gut flora is particularly out of balance. Last January things worsened, especially weight loss, pain in my left descending colon, and extreme fatigue, so much so that I didn’t recognize the symptoms anymore as “my usual”. By early April, I was concerned I might be developing colon cancer, and thought maybe I’d mistaken its insidious symptoms for gut dysbiosis. I was frightened enough, and sick enough, to start making out my will.

Well, thankfully, it turns out I was wrong. Biopsy results from a colonscopy I had a few days ago came back and the preliminary results show no signs of malignancy. I do have inflammation in my colon consistent with colitis, but I’m not bleeding. Perhaps this is due to the anti-inflamatory capabilities of my Necator Americanus hookworm.

Getting the “all clear” was wonderful, but it has not made my health issues any better. I’ve been waking up in a sweat, feeling hot around my abdomen and lower back. It’s like a fever, localized to my gut. My nose is also stuffy, my ears are ringing, my mood is off, and I am quite tired. Too tired, in fact, to get out of bed much of the day.

Since I had some lead time while I waited for the colonoscopy, this gave me the opportunity to call my fecal transplant donor, who I worked with last October, and ask if we could do a round 2. He could tell right away how sick I was, and said “yes”. So we got started two days ago, on Wednesday the 18th of April.

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Immediately following the treatment, which I self-administered with an enema kit at home, I felt better. In mere minutes I was able to breathe freely, an hour later my mind was brighter, and I was laughing and smiling in a spontaneous way. Four hours later my entire body was more relaxed, the stuffiness in my ears was receding, my balance was better.

By the evening I was playing my guitar again, able to smell the distinct odor of wood and glue through the sound hole, and playing with a nuance I hadn’t felt in a few years. I was reconnecting with “joy”, and it’s incredible how essential healthy flora is to our vitality and to what extent it shapes our personalities, our skills.

At 9:30PM that evening I was yawning, and ready for bed. I hadn’t felt normal drowsiness since taking Levaquin in August of 2011, which is many months ago. I am waking now feeling refreshed and restored. Insomnia is a thing of the past.

Fecal transplant has affected my labs, also. Testosterone and leutinizing hormone levels have been low for a few years now (consistent with chronic infections), and after one FT treatment I’ve no doubt my T is higher. Let’s put it this way — every middle aged man seeing his doctor for Viagra might do a lot better with a fecal transplant. Seriously.

My donor left town for a few days and will be back late this weekend. In the time since, I’ve tried stool stored in the refrigerator, but it isn’t as good as fresh. I am relapsing some, with fatigue, stuffy nose, and tinnitus. I’m not sure if the ringing in my ears is from my colon, or somewhere else. I am hoping we can continue on for another 7 to 10 days, so I can regain my progress and lock in these benefits.

 

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If you or anyone you know have done FMT, I’d really appreciate hearing from you in the comments section below. This is life-saving medicine for so many. so please spread the word about fecal transplant, on twitter and Facebook, anywhere you can.

 

Feel like supporting my blog? You can buy things you need via this Amazon portal HERE, or purchase any product linked in articles. It costs you nothing extra, and helps me continue writing. Thanks!

Hookworm Only — Starting Over.

It’s been ages since I updated this blog. Basically, I was doing very well on the first round of helminthic therapy, then wounded my finger tip when I was cooking dinner one night. A one week course of Levaquin antibiotics (early August, 2011) sterilized my gut, and what grew back was a horrible mix of bacteria. This triggered a flare of ulcerative colitis. I probably already had SIBO, too, from years of antibiotics from childhood to young adult years, but the constipation from this last round of antibiotic “therapy” made it all much worse. I then decided to add a 1500 whipworm top off dose, to stop the bleeding in my colon, but this just made my bowels more sluggish and I started to feel allergic to just about everything.

Eventually, enough was indeed enough. Due to a growing intolerance to foods, I had to kill off my 2000 whipworm and 55 hookworm combination with a three day course of Mebendazole (late October, 2011) and start over. On November 22nd I reinoculated with 50 Necator Americanus hookworm and decided to avoid the whipworm this time, since they appeared to contribute to an increased allergic response and most likely compounded the constipation from antibiotics. I feel I can now control my ulcerative colitis with probiotic implants and as long as hookworm reduce my allergies, this will also help my IBD improve.

So far, so good. I’m really feeling better this time around. Tomorrow (Tuesday) will be 6 weeks since I inoculated with 50 Necator Americanus hookworm. Last time, when I did the 55 hookworm/500 whipworm combination, by week 7 my asthma disappeared, so that’s a potential benchmark. If anything, I feel like I’m having earlier symptom relief on round two, and am reacting less allergically in general.

My nose started clearing around Thanksgiving, due to the “bounce”, which is an early symptom relief some of us get from hookworm, then this upper respiratory relief became a longer term benefit about a week or so ago. I hardly ever react to things like house dust anymore, and if I do it’s a more typical reaction like a sneeze, something I never could manage when my immune system was a deer in the headlights.

In October I was experiencing incredible food intolerance — reacting to nearly every protein I tried to eat — with a stuffy nose, tinnitus, and throat tightening sensation. The last week or so I’ve noticed my appetite increasing, and seeing that as a signal, I’ve since been testing and enjoying normal portions of pork and lamb, plus smaller amounts of beef. I’ll try things like chicken and fish at a later date when it’s more obvious the hookworm are providing benefits. Vegetable fats and proteins, like avocado and coconut, have also been fairly problematic in the past, so I’ll wait a while to test those, too.

Should anyone ever wonder if hookworm can help with salicylate sensitivity, in my case I think it’s doing exactly that. In early October I reacted to an over the counter product with salicylates (acne cream and a skin wash) when I used it on my face, and since then foods higher in salicylates would trigger a similar reaction — nasal congestion, tinnitus, increased heart rate and anxiety, asthma and throat tightening. It was no fun at all! Last night I tried eating a boiled carrot, since they are high in salicylates, and barely reacted. This morning I’m sipping a cup of organic coffee (also pretty high on the scale) and enjoying it. None of this would have been possible a month ago!

One of the best benefits now is relief from anxiety and muscular tension. I’m waking up feeling rested, with a very relaxed back and legs, and am drowsy enough to take naps, which creates a virtuous cycle.

Another thing I’m noticing — my face is clearing up. When my gut flora is out of balance, I often get acne to each side of my nose.

By the way, I have a new GI doctor who knows Joel Weinstock at Tufts University, is a major proponent of helminthic therapy, and (as I understand it) has sat on panel discussions with Weinstock. This doctor of mine also does fecal transplants for quite a few of their patients and has told me FT can be really helpful in the right applications, including my own condition. Right now the course of treatment we’re following is to keep things simple and allow the hookworm to get established.

Regarding acne relief, my GI says hookworm appear to literally change the human biome for the better, influencing which of the good bacteria survive and which of the more pathogenic ones don’t, and how large or small each population is allowed to grow. New (and old) research suggests a strong link between SIBO, acne and neuropsychological issues. Note the Stokes and Pillsbury study here, done 70 years ago, and leading edge research is just now catching on to their same hypothesis today.

The possibility of SIBO for me is very real, but I haven’t been tested to confirm it. Diagnosis can involve drinking sugar water to create gases that are then measured in the upper GI tract, but too much carbohydrate can cause flare ups of ulcerative colitis, and I don’t want to take the risk. The best approach in my opinion was to act as if I have SIBO and treat it with diet and probiotics, not antibiotics (which is a more conventional approach). For now, this has meant adding even more soft-cooked vegetables to an already high fiber diet. I’m literally sweeping the bacteria out of my small bowel and into the colon with a “broom” of large plates of veggies, mixed with modest amounts of animal protein. Too much fiber can create problems of its own, like undigested material that continues to feed bacteria, but this mechanical approach to addressing SIBO is short term and focused. As soon as possible I’ll want to eat a lower residue diet.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling well enough to go back into the world and work again, which is great, but in the interest of stabilizing as soon as possible, and cementing my progress, I would like to get up to a full dose of hookworm at the 3 month mark. I’m anticipating doing another 50 hookworm 6 weeks from now, or perhaps even 70, to get up to a 120 hookworm population. Given how minimal the side effects have been for me, I do think I can now handle 70 at once, especially with the 50 in me already, which should ease the immune response.

I’ve also ordered a microscope so I can keep track of my hookworm egg count. I don’t plan on being too precise about this. I don’t care how many eggs per gram of stool they are laying. I just want to make sure they are alive and well, so the plan is to check for ova every few months, and base most of my population maintenance on inoculation timing and overall symptom relief. If things are going well, my instinct is to just let things be and enjoy the ride!