Anti-Inflammatory Diet

All health care starts with diet. My recommendations for a healthy diet are here:
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle.
There are over 190 articles on diet, inflammation and disease on this blog
(find topics using search [upper left] or index [lower right]), and
more articles by Prof. Ayers on Suite101 .

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Making Monsters, Renegade C. butyricum and E. coli

Clostridium
It is common knowledge that our gut is teeming with good bacteria that we feed with prebiotic fiber to keep us healthy.  But a sick gut, caused by antibiotics or fiber deficient processed food, can make us susceptible to infection with pathogens, such as the notorious, toxin-producing strains of E. coli that cause food poisoning or Clostridium difficile, a.k.a. C. diff. of hospital infections.  What prompted me to write this post, was reading that premature babies in neonatal intensive care units are dying from gut infections caused by a pathogenic strain of C. butyricum, known as a probiotic that provides protection from C. diff.

New Toxin-Producing, Antibiotic Superbugs are Manmade
Closer examination of the report revealed that the new strain of C. butyricum is a toxin producer.  This made a lot of sense to me.  When I started working with E. coli in the early 70’s, it was known as the safe ubiquitous lab bacterium that everyone cultivated in their colons.  Similarly, C. butyricum is present in commercial probiotics and is a hero for producing butyric acid from resistant starch, promoting immune system development and reducing inflammation.  How did these beneficial gut bacteria become converted into pathogens?

Antibiotic and Drug Use in Hospitals and Farms Select for Antibiotic Resistance
C. butyricum and E. coli have been converted into toxin-producing, antibiotic resistant pathogens by common procedures of meat production and hospital treatments.  These bacteria do not normally produce toxins nor are they resistant to antibiotics.  They have been systematically selected for those pathogenic properties.

Common Practices in Neonatal Intensive Care Units Lead to NEC
Chronic inflammation is one of the common contributing factors to premature births, because labor is stimulated by a spike of inflammation, normally occurring at 40 weeks of gestation.  Chronic inflammation from autoimmune disease, infection, or obesity, can cause labor to be early and a newborn to be unprepared for life without some special care.  Unfortunately, there is not uniform enlightenment about the development of newborn gut flora, and immature newborns are exposed to antibiotics and formula, which prevent normal gut flora development.  C. butyricum is not present in low birth weight babies exclusively fed breast milk, but the combination of antibiotics and formula select for colonization by antibiotic resistant hospital strains of C. butyricum.  This sets the stage for necrotizing enterocolitis, NEC, which is as nasty and lethal as the name suggests.

Antibiotics Used to Make Fat Cattle Select for Toxin Production
The development of toxin producing E. coli in cattle suggests how pathogenic C. butyricum was produced in the hospital environment.  E. coli was a healthy component of the digestive system of cattle, until the gut flora community was reengineered by antibiotics, so that short chain fatty acids that were normally converted into more gut bacteria and more steer manure, were instead absorbed by the gut to produce a fatter steak.  Unfortunately, this newly designed gut flora community left no place for E. coli.  Some of the E. coli spontaneously mutated to antibiotic resistance and/or picked up multi-drug resistant plasmids from other bacteria, but that still didn’t provide a niche in the new community.  Picking up a toxin-producing gene solved that problem, because the toxin releases needed nutrients from host cells.  Thus, antibiotic use in cattle directly selected for the evolution of toxin-producing, antibiotic resistant E. coli.


Antibiotics and Formula Use Lead to NEC Bacteria
Toxin-producing C. butyricum would be expected to develop in the hospital environment, because high antibiotic use will select for multiple drug resistant C. butyricum, and the disrupted gut flora produced in the presence of antibiotics will also favor toxin producing strains.  Thus, the hospital environment selects for toxin-producing, multiple drug resistant C. butyricum.  The gut flora of newborns in a neonatal intensive care unit are acquired from the staff and relatives that handle the babies.  Since the babies are routinely treated with antibiotics and drugs, multiple drug resistant bacteria, including C. butyricum, are common in fecal samples of neonates and persist for at least two years. 
Breastfeeding or Donor Bank Milk Avoids NEC Caused by Formula
Exclusive use of breastmilk from mothers, donor banks or breastmilk products, eliminates NEC.   Some hospitals respond to the scientific evidence and use only breastmilk for newborns.  Other hospitals simply stick to old practices until law suits force them to change.  They continue to use formula and cow’s milk products,  even though breastmilk is available, and as a consequence NEC is still a problem. Prejudice against breastmilk persists and there is intense promotion of commercial alternatives that contribute to NEC.  None of the alternatives containing probiotics and prebiotics have been found to be adequate.   Hospitals are slow to change, because patients are uninformed and low birthweight babies continue to die.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Disease Genes in the Gut Microbiota

--- the other 200 posts ---
Species of Gut Microbiota
 
Summary:  Doctors take medical histories and enquire about family diseases.  It seems like they think there are human genes behind human diseases, but when we say, “It runs in the family,” what we actually mean is our gut bacteria, microbiota, are shared with relatives along with our eating habits.  Diseases result from problems with gut bacteria and not from problems with our genes.

Genetic Diseases are Rare
Not too many years ago, the technology for massive projects to thoroughly identify the genes behind the most prevalent human diseases became available.  The results were clear and shocking.  Genes were not a major contributor (less than 10%) to disease.  And yet, the families studied clearly had a major predisposition to each of the diseases studied.  Something was causing the disease in those families, but it just wasn’t any of the 23,000 genes identified in the human genome project.  People all have essentially the same physiology determined by very similar genes.  Health differences are predominantly due to gut bacteria.

Genes are not Destiny
Commercial analysis of personal gene sequences was recently prohibited as a method of determining risk of disease, because the link between gene sequences and risk could not be substantiated.  The reality is that, aside from a few obvious molecular diseases, most genetic variations in gene sequences do not matter in an otherwise healthy person.  There aren’t  Alzheimer’s or obesity or heart disease genes.  Diet, gut microbiota, sleep and exercise are far more (>90%) important.  Most genetic risk factors can be overcome by an Anti-Inflammatory Diet with fermented vegetables, and a robust gut microbiota protected from medicine/antibiotics.

Gut Bacteria are Family
So if it is not human genes that run in families to make relatives share similar diseases, what is making them sick?  Relatives share their eating habits and gut bacteria.  This makes sense.  Diet and gut microbiota are the major determinants of disease and relatives pass their bacteria around the table with their food.  There are eating habits and particular patterns of gut microbiota that lead to common diseases.  Unbeknownst to us, most of the diseases of modern life, e.g. heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disease, mental illness, are transmissible by gut bacteria.

The Hygiene Hypothesis is Right and Wrong
For decades it has been obvious that early exposure to a farm environment, meaning an abundance of microbes, a diverse microbiota, eliminates allergies and many autoimmunities.  The Hygiene Hypothesis explained how early exposure to abundant microorganisms could eliminate allergies, as an early exposure to antigens that trained the immune system.  Early training of the immune system was later discounted, but the Hygiene Hypothesis then morphed into the current explanation, that early development of a diverse gut microbiota is needed to produce a healthy immune system.


Fix Your Diet, Fix Your Gut Microbiota and Fix Your Diseases
The good news is that all of the chronic diseases that threaten your future can be cured by just fixing your diet and repairing the complex bacterial communities in your gut.  Your immune system is critical to your health and damage to your immune system is the typical beginning to most diseases.  Damage to the immune system starts in the gut, where the aggressive and suppressive halves of the immune system develop in response to particular species of bacteria.  Those essential bacteria grow on the food in your diet that is not digested in the stomach and absorbed as nutrients in the small intestines, i.e. prebiotic fiber.  Thus, you eat to feed yourself and your gut bacteria.  Without the gut bacteria, you would be deficient in vitamins, your immune system would cease to function and you would be constipated.  Fixing your diet and gut microbiota will cure your diseases.




Thursday, January 29, 2015

Healthy Gut Microbiota Means: No Supplements, No Cleanses, No Drugs, No Processed Foods

A healthy, functional gut microbiota (bacteria and fungi) supplies all of the vitamins needed, stimulates the development of a balanced immune system and promotes vitality.  If you feed and maintain the diversity of the pounds of bacteria in your gut, you will be healthy.  If you listen to the medical and food industries, you will be sick, i.e. a good patient/consumer.

Supplements Compensate for Deficiencies/Sickness
The key to this discussion is the functions of the healthy communities of bacteria and fungi called the gut microbiota.  These pounds of bacteria produce all of the vitamins that your body needs, and spiking your diet with multivitamins may disrupt your microbiota, because vitamins are actually the chemical signals used for communications between bacteria in biofilms.  Numerous studies have shown that daily multivitamins are not beneficial, so if you see extra vitamins on the ingredients label, try some whole foods instead.  If, however, you have been exposed to antibiotics or other medications, since most have potent antibiotic activities, then your gut bacteria may not be producing vitamins normally, and you may need to supplement.  Vitamin deficiencies are a symptom of gut dysbiosis, damaged gut microbiota.

Vitamin D is a Steroid Hormone Produced from Cholesterol in Skin by Sunlight
Most people know that sunlight striking skin produces vitamin D, but they still think that they can get a significant amount of vitamin D from their diet.  The confusion comes from the fact that vitamin D is a major hormone that influences many body systems including bone production and immunity.  So in the absence of skin production of vitamin D, the low amounts added to milk are sufficient to prevent deficiency/rickets.  However, chronic inflammation can block solar production of vitamin D, so that even individuals near the equator and basking daily still remain deficient.  Vitamin D deficiency may also, insidiously, be a major source of chronic inflammation.  Thus, most individuals treated for deficiency with supplemental vitamin D3, do not reach high enough levels to suppress chronic inflammation and restart solar production, so they remain deficient.  Chronic inflammation is a symptom of vitamin D deficiency.

Bowel Cleanses Damage Gut Microbiota
The bowels are a long tubelike conveyance and it takes food about a day to travel from table to toilet.  In the colon, all of the plant polysaccharide fibers remaining after removal of sugar, starch, fat and protein, are digested by enzymes of the microbiota and converted into more bacteria and short chain fatty acids that feed the colon tissue. There is nothing toxic left behind in the colon. Protein from meat is readily digested in the stomach and the first part of the small intestines.  Plant materials cannot be digested without the help of a complex array of hundreds of enzymes produced by gut bacteria.  Food intolerances are caused by the loss of particular bacterial species needed for complete digestion of one type of plant fiber.  The bacteria form the stools, and insufficient healthy bowel bacteria, normally fed by the fiber, is the cause of constipation.  Clearly, flushing out bacteria with a "cleanse" is unhealthy and counterproductive.  There is nothing in the colon but gut bacteria and fiber to feed the bacteria. Those bacteria are needed for vitamin production, normal development of the immune system and normal stools.  A cleanse merely removes healthy gut bacteria and leads to constipation or replacement by pathogens. 

Processing Removes Prebiotic Fiber from Food and Starves Gut Microbiota
Diverse and complex plant polysaccharides, e.g. pectin, arabinogalactan, various glucans and fructans, are systematically digested by hundreds of different bacterial enzymes of the healthy gut microbiota.  The sugars that result are eventually converted into short chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, that feed the cells lining the colon.  The plant polysaccharides that feed gut bacteria are called prebiotics.  Unfortunately, prebiotics are removed during food processing to enhance ease of preparation and palatability.  The result of decreased dietary prebiotics is selective starvation and removal of bacterial species needed for the development of the immune system, and autoimmune diseases.

Most Medicines Have Substantial Antibiotic Activity and Damage Gut Microbiota
It is not surprising that antibiotics damage the bacteria in the gut.  What most people don’t realize is that most pharmaceuticals/medicines are developed from the natural antibiotics of plants, phytoalexins.  Numerous recent studies have demonstrated most common medicines, e.g. statins, NSAID, antidepressants, etc. have substantial antibiotic activity and damage gut bacteria.  Surgeons commonly suggest that patients eat yogurt to help repair their gut micro biomes after operations and antibiotics, but they don’t tell them how to fix their gut and immune system as they take medications for the rest of their lives.  The permanently damaged gut just causes further deterioration of the immune system and health.

Damaged Gut Microbiotas/Immune Systems Can Be Fixed
I have several other posts on repair of gut microbiota.


Examination of antimicrobial activity of selected non-antibiotic medicinal preparations.
Kruszewska H1, Zareba T, Tyski S.   Acta Pol Pharm. 2012.  69(6):1368-71.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Essential Oils, Phytoalexins, Drugs Are All Antibiotics

---  the other 200 posts  ---
Superbug multidrug resistant plasmid
A recent, informative article by Tori Rodriguez for The Atlantic suggests that,


I want to discuss other ramifications of using essential oils as antibiotics to avoid multiple antibiotic resistant superbugs.

The logic for using essential oils in place of medical antibiotics is compelling: 
  • Essential oils are extracts of plants, which have myriad traditional uses, including food.
  • Most antibiotic use is to increase livestock production. 
  • Antibiotics selectively kill gut bacteria in livestock and make them obese.
  • Antibiotic resistance occurs within a week of use in livestock (or people.)
  • Medical antibiotics are quickly losing efficacy.
  • Antibiotic resistance genes quickly move from agriculture to superbugs to people.
  • Plants/essential oils contain natural antibiotics that kill gut flora and increase livestock productivity.
  • Resistance to essential oil antibiotic activity is slower, because of simultaneous use of multiple antibiotics.

Obesity is a Symptom of Antibiotic Damage to Gut Microbiome
Antibiotics make meat fatter
We may enjoy a fat marbled steak, but the corn and antibiotics used to produce that mouth-watering plate of satiety, is not so healthy.  Corn and antibiotics make that meat on the hoof fit for human consumption, but the cattle are quickly dying and the fat marbling is a symptom of cattle metabolic syndrome.  The corn and antibiotics disrupt the bovine gut microbiota and alter energy flow.  The result is prime beef. 

As It Is with Cattle, so It Is with Middle Americans
General descriptions of Americans with metabolic syndrome and steers ready for the abattoir are similar.  That should not be surprising, because both are caused by damaged gut microbiota and consequences of metabolic syndrome.  Americans routinely damage their gut microbiota with antibiotics (processed food, etc.) and the major symptoms of the resulting gut dysbiosis are chronic inflammation, depression, autoimmune diseases, obesity and metabolic syndrome.  Repairing gut microbiota reverses all of these symptoms. 

But Essential Oils Are Just Natural Antibiotics
Essential oils are natural antibiotics
Is it better to use essential oils than medical antibiotics to fatten cattle or treat Lyme disease or hospital infections such as C. diff.?  Most pharmaceuticals were derived from plants or fungi and were originally used to kill microorganisms, i.e. they were natural antibiotics.  We call these phytochemicals by a variety of names, e.g. antioxidants or essential oils, but they are more appropriately called phytoalexins, all natural, all plant, all toxic antibiotics.  It is entertaining that essential oils have had so many different traditional and pharmaceutical uses, and yet they have always been experienced by microorganisms (and our livers) as simply toxic.  Essential oils do have the significant advantage of being a mixture of antibiotics and might be very useful where pharmaceutical antibiotics have problems.  The toxicity of essential oils, especially toward gut bacteria, should not be ignored.

Resistance to Essential Oils as Antibiotics
Antibiotic resistance develops in sewage
I previously kept track of laboratory strains of bacteria by simply exposing large numbers of the bacteria to an antibiotic and selecting for the rare individual that had already spontaneous mutated (DNA replication error of one in a million).  We could then use the new drug resistant strain in experiments and identify it by its resistance.  The same thing happens to your gut bacteria with an overnight exposure to an antibiotic.  And of course it also occurs immediately in livestock exposed to antibiotics or in sewage plants where tons of antibiotics and gut bacteria are mixed.  Resistance to each of the chemicals in an essential oil also would rapidly occur, if bacteria were exposed to each alone and in a  toxic concentration.  This is repeatedly observed, since commonly used drugs are just individual components of essential oils that have been produced in large amounts in pills and marketed based on their predominant physiological activity, rather than just another antibiotic.  Thus, resistance to a statin or Metformin, as antibiotics, could be easily observed (even on multiple drug resistance plasmids), but is just ignored.

Essential Oils Are just Mixtures of Natural Antibiotics
Statins from fungal antibiotics
The impact of essential oils on gut microbiota is unpredictable, because the composition of essential oils is highly dynamic and so are gut microbiota.  Each component of an essential oil has a different spectrum of toxicities to hundreds of different target proteins to each of the hundreds of different species of bacteria in the human gut.  Ingested essential oils are modified by the detox enzymes of the intestine and liver.  The modified phytochemicals have different toxicities and act as additional antibiotics.  Mixtures of antibiotics, as in essential oils, less likely to select for resistance than individual antibiotics, but an antibiotic is still just an antibiotic, regardless of whether it is straight from the plant or via a pharmaceutical salesman. 

Common Medicines Are the Source of Superbugs

Common meds are antibiotics
Doctors with prescription pads and steers eating antibiotics are blamed, I think unjustly, for the crisis of antibiotic resistance.  The real culprit is you taking NSAIDs, statins, proton pump inhibitors, antidepressants and other common medicines.  Since they are all developed from plant antibiotics, they are still antibiotics, and they still select for antibiotic resistance.  It is important to remember that pharmaceuticals are repurposed natural antibiotics from plants.  The answer to the superbugs that are resistant to all of the common antibiotics is to dramatically reduce the use of all pharmaceuticals.  The initial goal should be a 90% reduction.  Costly pharmaceutical chemicals could be replaced with preventive diets and less disruptive manipulations of gut microbiota, e.g. ingestion of capsules containing freeze-dried gut flora.  This more gentle approach to health care would also provide huge cost savings, as well as vastly improving health.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Gut Microbiome 2014: Diet, Inflammation, Disease, and Repair

The year 2014 began with my posts on damage to the gut microbiota caused by antibiotics, processed foods and excess hygiene.  I lamented the inadequacy of information from the media on damage/repair of the gut bacteria and highlighted medical myths with a post on some of Dr. Oz’s own ills that are self-inflicted by his diet and hygiene recommendations.  I also started to discuss how to cure autoimmune diseases by repairing damaged gut flora and by avoiding the antibiotic activity present in many common drugs.

With my 200th post in March, I summarized my thoughts on the causes and cures of common diseases in a series of diagrams on:


Health Diagram II   — Curing Autoimmunity and Allergies,



I illustrated the relationships among diet, inflammation and diseases mediated by gut flora that I have discussed, since I started my blog in 2008.  Now after a couple of hundred articles and more than two million visits to my blog, I think that I am starting to grasp some of the major issues that cause inflammatory diseases.  The cures also now seem obvious.

Antibiotics Contribute to Autoimmune Diseases
Some species of gut bacteria are needed for the development of the aggressive half of the immune system and other species are needed for the suppressive half.  Thus, starving or poisoning gut flora leads to immune system problems and diseases.  Antibiotics are a quick way of crippling the immune system.  It seems that the aggressive part of the immune system is less fragile, because in most cases antibiotic treatments produce autoimmune disease due to loss of bacteria that are needed for development of immune cells that block the aggressive half of the immune system from attacking innocuous cells of the body or environment, i.e. antibiotics usually trigger deficient tolerance, and autoimmunity.

Feed the Gut Microbiome for a Healthy Immune System
Diet provides food for the body and flora.  Protein and fat are the macronutrients needed for the body, while the gut microbiota lives off of plant polysaccharides (except starch) that pass through the small intestines undigested into the colon.  The hundreds of plant polysaccharides are hydrolyzed by hundreds of enzymes made by gut flora and produce short chain fatty acids, e.g. acetate and butyrate, that feed colon cells.  Food processing systematically removes polysaccharides that feed gut flora and compromises the components of the immune system dependent on those bacteria.

Repairing the Gut Microbiome by Eating the Missing Bacteria
It is easier to see that eating a diet that lacks food for the gut microbiota will be a problem, than it is to figure out where to find replacements for lost species of gut bacteria.  The only way that bacteria get into the gut is down the throat.  To repair a damaged gut microbiota requires both changing diet and introducing the missing types of bacteria by eating them.  Eating dairy probiotics and fermented vegetables can provide a quick, but only temporary fix.  Most of the needed bacteria are more common in soil than in food.

Phytochemicals Are First and Foremost Antibiotics
I was shocked that my background in phytochemicals didn’t lead more directly to a major culprit causing modern diseases.  The gut microbiota is clearly a major factor in health and sickness.  Antibiotics that kill bacteria, damage the gut microbiota.  It is also unsurprising that processing food to reduce soluble fiber, damages gut flora, by systematically depriving gut bacteria of their major source of food.  The proliferation of antimicrobial products also damages the gut flora.  What I missed in this onslaught of modern lifestyles on the gut microbiota, was the major player in antibiotic resistance — phytochemicals are natural antibiotics. 

I Missed the Antibiotic Activity of Common Medicines
I studied phytochemicals and wrote research articles on their toxic, antibiotic activities, but everyone else was merchandizing phytochemicals as antioxidants, essential oils and superfoods.  This is a major conceptual problem.  Our bodies expend a significant fraction of our energy resources to detoxicify phytochemicals and human cultures have elaborate rituals to avoid phytochemicals and domesticate plants by breeding for the least toxic.  What I missed was the implication that the pharmaceutical industry was repurposing toxic, antibiotic phytochemicals as medicines and then skipping the "antibiotic" label.

Unlabelled Antibiotic Drugs Cause the Rise of Superbugs

Overuse of antibiotics is a problem, because it damages the gut microbiome and contributes to the modern increase in autoimmunity.  Food processing is another culprit and so is the mania for hyperhygiene and the demonization of bacteria.  Unfortunately, the major culprit in the development of multiple antibiotic resistant superbugs is the tons of commonly used pharmaceuticals that systematically attack gut bacteria, but are not labelled as antibiotics.  Most modern drugs were developed from phytochemicals and were initially used in plants to kill bacteria and fungi, i.e. phytoalexins.  Pharmaceutical companies acknowledge the antibiotic activities of common drugs, by sponsoring research conferences to develop existing drugs as new classes of antibiotics for treatment of superbugs.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Frankincense and Myrrh, Terpenoids

 --- the other 200 posts ---
Frankencense Resin
 'Tis the season to discuss phytochemicals.  Plants produce a vast array of organic chemicals starting from molecules produced by all organisms, including humans.  Essentially all of these phytochemicals are potent adaptations to kill.  Phytochemicals kill plant pathogens, bacteria and fungi, as well as insects.  Thus, the natural, plant extracts that humans use for flavor enhancers (herbs, spices, and teas), fragrances, recreational/medicinal mind and attitude modifiers (alkaloids, psychopharmaceuticals, etc.), herbal medicines, etc. are present in plants, first and foremost, as antibiotics and insecticides.  Humans have evolved to taste (bitter) and smell phytochemicals to avoid their toxicity, and have adapted culturally to exploit the impact of phytochemicals on body and mind.  In this seasonal post, I focus on the terpenoids in Frankincense and Myrrh, to explore how plant biochemistry contributed to the gifts of the Magi.

It All Starts with Central Metabolism
Phytochemicals are complicated plant chemicals that are produced by a series of enzyme-controlled reactions (Central Metabolism) from the array of chemicals used by plants to convert photosynthetic carbohydrates (fructose and glucose) into the molecules (sugars, amino acids, fatty acids, nucleic acids) used to make the macromolecules of cells (polysaccharides, proteins, fats, DNA/RNA).  Alkaloids and phenolics, e.g. phytoalexins, are made from amino acids (phenylalanine) and terpenoids are made from fatty acids (acetyl CoA/Mevalonate) or other intermediates in glycolysis.  Thus, central metabolism that converts glucose/fructose into pyruvate and the acetyl CoA (see mevalonate pathway left) of mitochondrial fatty acid metabolism, is further converted into amino acids and plant secondary compounds, phytochemicals.  I am going to talk mainly about terpenoids in Frankincense (triterpenoid Boswellic acids) and Myrrh, and many related molecules (steroids) also produced by humans.  

The major thesis here is that carbon dioxide is converted by photosynthesis into either sugars used to build the cell wall polysaccharides (soluble fiber) or larger toxic defensive chemicals, e.g. phytoalexins, resins, essential oils or lignin.  Phytoalexins, e.g. the natural antibiotic resveratrol in wine, are made from phenylalanine along the same biochemical pathway used to produce lignin.  Glyphosate, the herbicide, kills by blocking this unique plant pathway.  Essential oils and resins are another group of natural antibiotics produced by converting acetyl CoA into a five carbon unit, IPP, which is then linked into larger and larger (10, 15, 20 carbons) molecules, terpenoids, that can rearrange into multiple ring structures.  Only the smallest chemicals in the series evaporate to provide identifiable smells, e.g. Frankincense and Myrrh, while larger forms, e.g. cholesterol or testosterone in animals, are odorless solids.

Acetyl CoA to IPP
IPP
For those who enjoy the beauty of biochemistry:  The most abundant enzyme on earth is RibisCo (ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase), the plant enzyme that combines carbon dioxide from air with a five-carbon phosphorylated sugar, ribulose bisphosphate, to produce two, three-carbon intermediates of glycolysis that can be converted into glucose or into acetyl CoA, the starting chemical for fatty acids, the mitochondrial TCA cycle, or via mevalonic acid to isopentanyl pyrophosphate (IPP), the building block for terpenoid synthesis.

In brief:  Photosynthesis uses the energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into sugars (glucose and fructose).  Those sugars can be converted into a five-carbon, molecular building block for terpenoids, IPP.  IPP molecules can then be linked together to make increasingly longer chains and those chains can be ultimately twisted into rings to make resins in plants and steroids in humans.

Five, Ten, Fifteen, Thirty; IPP (5), GPP (10), Sesquiterpenoids (15), Triterpenoids (30)
Terpenoid Polymerization
Terpenoid synthesis begins with IPP, which has five carbons in a branched chain and has a pair of phosphates, pyrophosphate that provide the energy to form chains of 5, 10, 15, etc.  In plants, molecules of each of the incremental lengths are produced together and additional enzymes in different species of plants result in mixtures of molecules with different rings and functional groups.  The smaller molecules evaporate more readily, so that mixtures are extruded from damaged trees as oils and gradually form resins as the remaining larger molecules predominate and solidify.

Shark Livers and the Horn of Africa
IPP with five carbons, an isoprene, is used to make GPP with ten, a monoterpene.  Common monoterpenes are geranol and limonene that make the characteristic odors of geraniums and lemons. Sesquiterpenoids (15 carbons made from three IPPs) include the fragrance of patchouli. Diterpenes, such as sweet steviol, have twenty carbons, which can be chemically twisted into the chemicals that predominate in Myrrh resin, the Balm of Gileade.  The triterpenes with 30 carbons can be rearranged with five rings to form steroids, such as cholesterol in animals or Frankincense.  Linear squalene, is the major component in shark liver oil and provides the same function as a swim bladder in a boney fish.

Essential Oils Are Mixtures of Distilled Terpenoid and Phenylpropanoid Phytoalexins
Boswellic Acid
Phytoalexins and terpenoids have evolved as plant defenses against bacteria, fungi and insects, and they are toxic, because they interact aggressively with proteins through their chemical ring structures that are hydrophobic.  These ring structures make the smaller versions volatile and soluble in organic solvents.  Many of these chemicals have properties similar to petroleum products and may be used as solvents themselves, e.g. paint strippers or thinner.  Steam distillation of plants produces mixtures of phytoalexins and terpenoids commonly called essential oils, which contain the volatile components “essential” for the odor identity of a plant.


Statins Block Cholesterol Synthesis

Statins were identified among a group of fungal antibiotics for their ability to block an early enzyme (marked in the mevalonate pathway above) in the production of cholesterol.  The toxic side effects of statins derive from wholesale disruption of all of the essential pathways (everything below the inhibited enzyme) that are related to cholesterol, such as blood heme A found in hemoglobin, and ubiquinone (CoQ) found in mitochondrial electron transport and needed to reduce oxidative stress and glucose intolerance.  Thus, for these examples, statins would contribute to anemia and type II diabetes/metabolic syndrome.  The side effects are not surprising, since statins are fungal antibiotics that target pathways common to bacteria and human mitochondria.  It is also not surprising that statins have unpredictable impacts on gut flora and the immune system.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fermented Vegetables Repair Gut Flora

Fermented Vegetables is your most valuable investment in health.  Kirsten and Christopher Shockey (The Fermentista's Kitchen) have assembled a do-it-yourself guide that makes fermenting your own vegetables fast, simple, fool proof and delicious.  Importantly, their crock ferments provide a rich source of probiotics and prebiotics (soluble fiber) that can go a long way toward repairing the epidemic of damaged gut flora (microbiome) and inflammatory diseases.  Yes, you can cure autoimmune diseases and allergies.

Old Friends Become Fermentista
I have known the Shockeys, since we homeschooled our kids together, they started their homestead farm in Oregon and  they began to ferment.  I got interested in diet, inflammation and disease mediated by gut flora, and they got interested in growing food for their family and feeding their gut flora.  I was trying to figure out how to repair gut flora and they were figuring out how to make gut flora food.

Fermented Vegetables are a Source of Gut Flora
It took me a while to realize that my crock-crazed friends had provided the answer to my gut flora repair problem.  It was a modern approach to a traditional answer.  Fermentation is a natural solution to the problem of food spoilage.  Crushing vegetables in just the right amount of salt provides the sugars needed for lactic acid fermentation and inhibits spoilage microbes.  The lactic acid bacteria convert the sugars to lactic acid and the mild acid and salt stop other bacteria and fungi from growing.  The result is tasty, crunchy vegetables with the pleasant sour and mouth feel of lactic acid.  The removal of the vegetable sugars leaves the low-glycemic, complex polysaccharides, a.k.a. soluble fiber or prebiotics, that are the major food for gut flora.

The Guide to Fermentation
I was so excited when the Shockeys were starting a fermented veggies business and began writing Fermented Vegetables.  As my readers may have noticed, I tend toward the terse and scientifically esoteric.  They just cut to the taste and tell you how to make your crocks work miracles.  I struggle with the BIG picture and they just make the next meal delicious, so their kids (now adults) want more kraut and kimchi.

Fermented Vegetables is Available Now (bottom)

All of the Answers to Fermenting Vegetables
Fermented Vegetables is divided into four parts that simply, but thoroughly explain 1) what happens in a fermenting crock, 2) how krauts, brines and kimchi works, 3) how to make every kind of fermented veggie, and 4) how to cook with them.  It is all in the book.  Approachable.  Safe.  Delicious.  For beginners, cooks, chefs, kraut connoisseurs.  I have made a quick, tasty  cabbage kraut starting with knife, salt and Ball jar in 15 minutes, plus three days of waiting in a cool, dark place.  They tell you how to get great results with what is already in your kitchen, or how to use specialty water-seal crocks, onggi pots, tampers, followers, mandolines, etc., etc.  From pint jars to multi-gallon crocks, the how-to is there.  All of the details to slice, shred, salt, submerge, seal and sample are in the book, along with lots of food porn pictures to tempt you into making your first crockful of kraut or rhubarb infused with ginger and cardamom.  Just to make you feel comfortable, they also have an appendix on scum, the yucky, but harmless, fungal mat that can form where air meets the brine.

The Cure for Damaged Gut Flora and Inflammatory Diseases
I have written hundreds of posts that link modern inflammatory diseases to diet and damaged gut flora.  The immune system develops in the intestines in response to gut flora and without those bacteria and fungi, the regulatory function of the immune system is lost and disease begins.  Autoimmune diseases and allergies are caused by damaged gut flora.  Repair of that damage will cure the diseases, but repair requires adding back the missing bacteria.  [Drugs to treat symptoms have antibiotic activity that further damage the gut flora.]  Some of the missing bacteria are present in each batch of homemade fermented vegetables and eating krauts and kimchi can fix gut flora.  Homemade is better than commercial, because batches made from the bacteria clinging to vegetables have more diverse bacteria than commercial krauts made with starter cultures of just a few species of bacteria.  It should also be obvious that cooking, heating or canning fermented vegetables eliminates the desired, live fermenting bacteria.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Celiac, Gluten and Trypsin Inhibitor

Wheat

Summary
Forget the gluten.  Celiac is caused by trypsin inhibitors (ATI) that were increased in wheat fifty years ago to combat pests.  Immune response to ATI spreads to include gluten and transglutaminase that perpetuates the disease.  Celiac is an unexpected consequence of traditional plant breeding that could be fixed with GMO approaches.

Plants Protect Themselves with Antibiotics, Pesticides and Trypsin Inhibitors.
Plants respond to pathogens and pests by making themselves toxic.  Thus, plants produce natural antibiotics, phytoalexins, a.k.a. phytochemicals, polyphenolics or antioxidants, to kill bacteria and fungi.  They also produce chemical pesticides and proteins, e.g. trypsin inhibitor, that block the digestion and utilization of plant proteins by insects.  One of these trypsin inhibitors makes ground soybeans inedible until it is removed in water rinses during the production of tofu.  Another of these trypsin inhibitors, in wheat, is the cause of celiac.

Plants Target the Nerves, Immune Cells and Intestines
Plants have evolved chemicals and proteins that attack and punish plant-eating animals.  A single molecule of caster bean toxin protein, for example, can kill a human cell.  Plants produce some of the most toxic molecules on earth.  The nervous system of insects and other herbivores is typically targeted by plants.  Many recreational drugs, e.g. opioids, THC, nicotine, caffeine, etc., for example, are made by plants in self defense.  Human nerves respond to these natural pesticides and the bitter taste and the vomit reflex help us to detect and avoid toxic phytochemicals.  Gluten proteins contain polyglutamine stretches of amino acids that resist digestion and bind to intestinal cells.  Seed lectins bind to the glycoproteins on the surface of the intestines and inhibit digestion.  Wheat seeds also contain an inhibitor of starch and protein digestion, the amylase/trypsin inhibitor, ATI.  ATI binds to the receptors on immune cells that trigger general inflammatory responses to pathogens, e.g. TLR4.  It is the ATI in wheat that starts an immune response to gluten and celiac.
Wheat trypsin inhibitor causes celiac and autoimmunity

ATI Increased to Make Wheat Resistant to Pests
More than fifty years ago, plant breeders began to screen wheat varieties for resistance to pests.  Breeding ultimately resulted in enhanced pest resistance that resulted from increased production of ATI in wheat kernels.  Modern wheat flour contains modest changes in gluten and other components over the last century with the singular exception of ATI, which has increased about 50 fold.  It is also interesting that ATI is a major wheat allergen.  This suggests that celiac starts as an allergy to ATI present in wheat flour.

Celiac Results from Superfine Milling of High-ATI Wheat
Wheat has been milled more and more finely to improve the shelf-life of bread flour.  The inedible bran and the germ are first removed from the wheat kernels and then the endosperm is ground so finely that the starch granules are broken.  Even "whole wheat flour" is ground in the same way and the bran and germ are simply added back to make it “whole.”  The important point here is that superfine milling results in starch that is readily digested by amylase in the small intestines, instead of acting as soluble fiber to feed gut flora.  The result of eating bread from superfine flour is that gut flora are starved for soluble fiber and the immune system is depleted of Tregs that would otherwise suppress allergy and autoimmunity.  Superfine milling of high-ATI wheat presents ATI to an immune system that is primed for allergy.

ATI is a Good Immunogen
Allergy development requires 1) inflammation, 2) an appropriate immunogen and 3) lack of Tregs (immune system cells that develop in the lining of the intestines and block allergies and autoimmunity.)  The modern milling of wheat flour eliminates a major source of soluble fiber, starves gut flora and reduces Tregs, but allergy development still requires inflammation and an appropriate immunogen.  An immunogen is a protein that will interact with cells of the immune system to produce antibodies and activate aggressive attacks.  I have found that all proteins of food or the environment, i.e. allergens, or of the body, i.e. autoantigens, that act as immunogens to initiate allergies or autoimmunity have the same sequence of three amino acids, a "basic triplet."  ATI has a characteristic basic triplet in its protein amino acid sequence and that is why it is a good immunogen to initiate allergies.

Allergy to ATI is Aggrevated by TLR Recognition of ATI
ATI enriched, superfine flour Is a powerful initiator of allergies, because it starves gut flora to block Treg production and is a good immunogen, but the immune system will still ignore ATI in the gut, unless inflammation is also activated.  Unfortunately, ATI actively stimulates inflammation of the intestines by specifically binding to TLR4, which is the receptor that also binds/recognizes the LPS of bacteria.  Thus, ATI is a way for the wheat plant to defend its seeds by triggering excessive Intestinal inflammation.  Inflammation, immunogen and Treg insufficiency is the ATI allergy trifecta.

Wheat ATI Allergy Leads to Celiac
First exposure to ATI and development of an allergy will make subsequent expose to wheat proteins more immunologically intense.  I discussed the response of the intestinal lining to gluten in previous posts.  Wheat gluten proteins are adapted to provide nutrients for growing wheat embryos and to provide defense against pathogens and herbivores.  Gluten proteins contain long stretches of amino acid glutamine, which is poorly digested by gut enzymes.  The glutamine is also converted into glutamate by the gut enzyme, transglutaminase, tTG.  Unfortunately, during the process, the enzyme is covalently connected to the undigested gluten fragments.  The allergic ATI reaction combined with gluten/tTG conjugates, leads to presentation of the gluten/tTG to the immune system and antibody production agains both gluten and tTG.  Subsequent exposure to gluten results in the autoimmune disease of celiac.

Celiac is Self-Perpetuating
The aggressive immune attack on the intestines in response to eating gluten-containing grains, is bad in itself, but it also causes a series of related autoimmune diseases.  Attack on the intestines also disrupts the development of the lining of the intestines, which in turn disrupts the community of bacteria and fungi, gut flora, that are essential for digestion of plant polysaccharides, soluble fiber, and the development of the immune system.  Gut flora dysfunction results in vitamin deficiencies, food intolerances and autoimmunity.  Thus, celiac is self-perpetuating, because it causes inflammation, immunogen presentation and Treg deficiency.

Celiac Causes Numerous Autoimmune Diseases
Celiac is often associated with other autoimmune diseases, because it causes them.  Antibodies to tTG are diagnostic for celiac and the autoimmune attack on the intestines is mediated by anti-tTG antibodies.  But anti-tTG antibodies of celiac don’t just attack the intestines, they attack any other tissues that have tTG, such as the thyroid gland and hair follicles.  Thus, it should not be a surprise that celiacs are at high risk for autoimmune disease, e.g. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, of the thyroid gland, including both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid diseases, depending on which region of the thyroid is attacked.  Some forms of hair loss, alopecia, are also initiated by autoimmune attack on the tTG in hair follicles.  Persistent exposure of celiacs to gluten will result in a cascade of autoimmune diseases as other body antigens are presented to the immune system and tissues with those antigens are targeted and attacked to produce arthritis, vitiligo, etc.

Pest Resistance, Plant Breeding and GMO Solutions
Genetic modification of plants occurs every time seeds are planted.  Traditional plant breeding by selecting desirable individual plants grown from crosses of selected parents is one form of genetic modification.  Specifically introducing desired genes using recombinant DNA techniques is another, more controlled method.  Traditional plant breeding has systematically destroyed the diversity of crop plants by loss of genes that are not selected, but even the traits, such as pest resistance, that provide benefit, have also brought unintended consequences.  We now have grains with many desirable features of high yield and disease resistance, but they also provide increased risk of celiac, gluten intolerance and associated autoimmune diseases.  Maybe it is time to consider GM techniques as a safer alternative to fix modern wheat and to examine milling approaches to save our gut flora.

Cure for Celiac and Autoimmunity

Celiac and other autoimmune diseases are perpetuated by the presence of the corresponding autoantigen/allergen, in this case tTG and gluten proteins, and a deficiency of Tregs.  Oddly enough, some pathogens (Helicobacter pylori) and parasites (Helminth worms) stimulate Treg development in the lining of the intestines, in addition to normal gut flora, Clostridium spp.  It may be the relative absence of pathogens and parasites in affluent societies that reduces Tregs and enhances the incidence of allergies and autoimmunity.  Antibiotics and the antibiotic activity of pharmaceuticals in general may also contribute to Treg deficiencies by damage to gut flora.  Clearly, the repair of gut flora and reestablishment of the associated immune system will go a long way toward curing autoimmune diseases such as celiac.  Celiac, however, provides the added complexity that it damages the ability of the intestines to maintain a functional gut flora.  Thus, the cure for celiac would require simultaneous repair of both the gut and its flora, e.g. by a  fecal transplant and supportive diet containing numerous soluble fibers to which the donor flora have been previously adapted, i.e. lacking antigenic triggers.