Friday, September 25, 2015

Seritonion, Bacteria and the little Brain in Your Gut

Serotonin, Bacteria, and the Little Brain in Your Gut

Did you know researchers believe that 90% of serotonin is made in the gut? Did you also know that you have a whole garden of essential bacteria growing inside of you? Can you guess how much bacteria you have helping you digest food and produce hormones? Three to four pounds according to the National Institute of Health’s Human Microbiome Project.

Having a deeper understanding the digestive system is new, requiring cutting-edge knowledge and technology. We have remained unaware of the full impact and function of the gut because there are so tens of thousands of factors and variables at play, and the scale is microscopic. We will discuss here how recent research is revolutionizing our view of health and the role of the gut.

The Gut
We know that digestion takes a lot of energy, about 10-20% of caloric consumption is expended to digest food. It is also a major system in the body. From mouth to bum it measures approximately 30 feet long. Equally surprising, the small intestine has millions of tiny folds, down to the microscopic level. So much so, that its surface area is about 2,700 thousand square feet. According to Discover Magazine, your small intestine could cover the floor of a tennis court. This helps explain why total digestion time can take up to 55 hours

Our Internal Garden

In the last decade, there has been an abundance of research on the digestive system. This new knowledge is changing how we view the scope and role of our intestines and mental health.  

First off, we are learning that our intestines are a garden of bacteria and microorganisms Within us lives a whole army of organisms that help us have a healthy and functioning bodies.The intestines are host to a complex city with 100 trillion microorganisms. For every cell in your body, you have ten microorganisms! According to the NIH Human Microbiome Project, there are 10,000 microbial species that occupy the human ecosystem.  

Microorganisms are welcomed by the body’s immune system because they are of benefit. Lita Proctor says, “Humans don't have all the enzymes we need to digest our own diet. Microbes in the gut break down many of the proteins, lipids and carbohydrates in our diet into nutrients that we can then absorb. Moreover, the microbes produce beneficial compounds, like vitamins and anti-inflammatories that our genome cannot produce.”

Our gut flora helps us digest food and create essential vitamins and anti-inflammatories. Additionally, gut microbes regulate the amount of serotonin produced.The vast majority of the neurotransmitters are created in the gut. Just how much is made depends on what microorganisms are in your gut and how they are communicating.

Equally essential,  we are learning that disturbances to your gut flora from your diet, antibiotics and parasites, can cause autoimmune disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies, and even chronic fatigue. Having a healthy gut is critical to overall health and wellbeing.

Our Second Brain
Fifteen years ago, researchers started calling the gut a neurological organ.  An article published in 2001 stated the gut has its own enteric nervous system, “the [enteric nervous system] ENS acts like a brain in the gut that functions independently of the central nervous system, contains programmes for a variety of gastrointestinal behaviours and governs the activity of all gastrointestinal effector systems according to need. Intrinsic sensory neurons supply the ENS with the kind of information that this system requires for its autonomic control of digestion.” The enter digestive track is embedded with neurons to collect information and send information to the central nervous system.

Jay Pasricha is the director at Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology and has gained international attention for his research on ENS, our second brain. He says,  “The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brain—with profound results.”

It was once believed that individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) developed the disorder because they were depressed or anxious. Pasricha’s research may indicated that it’s the reverse. Researchers are finding that there is evidence to suggest that irritation and pain in the gut may send signals to the brain that set off powerful mood changes.

Understanding that the gut can influence mood is important considering individuals with IBS and functional bowel syndrome have higher-than-normal percentages of depression and anxiety. Moreover, IBS has become a common disease. Thirty to forty percent of the population will have functional bowel problems at some point-in-time have. The gut-brain connection has far reaching implications on how we may potentially treat and prevent IBS and bowel-disorders in the future.

Growing data about the ability of the gut to communicate information to the brain highlights the ability of the gut to influence brain functions and behaviour. The article Mind-altering Microorganisms states, “Studies in germ-free animals and in animals exposed to pathogenic bacterial infections, probiotic bacteria or antibiotic drugs suggest a role for the gut microbiota in the regulation of anxiety, mood, cognition and pain.”

Collectively, the research demonstrates that our digestive track has the power to prevent or cause chronic disease and disorders; as well as affect our mood and behavior. To say that keeping our gut healthy is important would a huge understatement. It is essential to health.

Healing the Gut
Knowing that the two brains are having a conversation and influencing each other helps explain why antidepressant and cognitive behavior therapy help alleviate IBS symptoms. It is possible that when research is more definitive, instead of antidepressants to cure depression or anxiety, doctors will prescribe a probiotic. Or, instead of pain relievers, IBS patients will be received cognitive behavior therapy to heal their gut and anxiety.

At the present moment, we know that regular consumption of natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidative substances significantly improved patients symptoms of  Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in a clinical setting. We also now that a diets high in fat and cholesterol change gut microbe communities, as does antibiotics; suggesting that both have an effect on the development of disorders, diseases, and emotions. We know that gut flora changes and can certain actions can re-establish healthy amounts. Probiotics help restore a healthy gut, as can a healthy diet.

There is much still to be learned in how the gut and its’ hormones, neurons and the microbiome affect the body and mind. It is excited to see how forthcoming research will allow us to overcome numerous disorders and diseases. Allergies and autoimmune diseases are increasing at unprecedented rates; we hope that understanding how changes in our diet, lifestyle, and gut, can help cure and prevent them.

At Kay’s Naturals, we believe that a healthy life starts with healthy eating. We have created an entire line of snacks and cereals to make eating well easier.   

Friday, September 18, 2015

What causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Could it be a Bacterial Overgrowth in the Gut?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common condition affecting the GI tract of up to 14% of the American population. In this blog, we will convey the findings of an important article published in The Journal of American Medical Association in 2004. This article gives evidence to explain a unifying cause for IBS. A unifying framework to understand the cause of IBS has not been discovered. IBS is a “puzzling condition with multiple models of pathophysiology including altered motility, visceral hypersensitivity, abnormal brain-gut interaction, autonomic dysfunction, and immune activation.” Given the multitude and diversity of symptoms and observations of IBS, finding a single explanation has mystified researchers and health practitioners alike. As a consequence, there is exists no testing or consistent treatment for IBS to date.

According to the article, there's a possibility that intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can explain IBS and most of symptoms. Understanding a potential cause is critical for the millions of Americans suffering from IBS, because if you know the cause you delineate an effective treatment. There are dozens of symptoms of IBS, and few of them affect everyone with IBS. The article’s researchers used the symptom of bloating to provide clues towards a unifying explanation, because 92% of IBS patients experience bloating. They found that SIBO provides an explain for bloating, along with most other IBS symptoms.

According to the article, SIBO is likely to be an underlying cause of IBS. Studies show that there is "a 75% improvement of IBS symptoms after eradication of SIBO.” Because removing SIBO can provide such a massive improvement of symptoms is highly suggestive that SIBO is a major cause of IBS. Other symptoms, such as the change in intestinal movement and sensations, an alteration of central nervous system activity, and “an increased sympathetic drive and immune activation may be understood as consequences of the host response to SIBO” as well.

IBS and Sugar Intolerance
The eradication of SIBO was able to remove the malabsorption of “lactose (86.6%), fructose (97.5%), and sorbitol (90.9%).” SIBO can also explain how a sugar intolerance is developed in IBS patients. It is not that IBS patients have a true sugar intolerance, but rather sugar can not be absorbed in the intestine due to bacterial overgrowth.

Bacterial overgrowth weakens food absorption and harms the gut.
There is no specific food intolerance that can explain IBS, but SIBO can.  According to the article, “if food is not moving down to the bacteria, the bacteria may be moving to the site of food assimilation for fermentation and gas production to take place.” Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine can cause fermentation and the production of gas for both easily digestible and poorly digestible starches in areas of the small intestine where there is not normally any bacteria. This is an explanation for the bloating experienced by IBS patients.

In addition to bloating, many patients with IBS experience abnormalities of their nervous system; including disturbed sleep, and  “flu-like symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, depression, and impaired cognition.” Bacterial antigens are known to cause all of the symptoms when our immune responds to them. This is another indication that SIBO could be the cause.

The article provides numerous additional explanations for why SIBO might by a universal and underlying cause of IBS. One of the most distinctive arguments is the “dramatic reduction in symptoms when antibiotic therapy is given” and SIBO is eradicated from the intestines. If removing bacteria overgrowth in the small intestine heals IBS patients, that is a likely cause.

The article states that it is, “biologically plausible that the gastrointestinal and extraintestinal symptoms and findings of IBS have a single, unifying explanation.” This explanation is SIBO. They documented that nearly all symptoms of IBS can be explained through the framework of SIBO. With a better understanding of the cause of IBS, we can discover better treatment and diagnostic approaches to IBS. Treatment and testing will be a much-welcomed progress for anyone suffering from IBS. Even though antibiotics can eliminate SIBO, their continual use is not a feasible option. Therefore; the article suggests that future research around IBS be focused on understanding bacterial growth and its control in the gut.

Kay’s Naturals is a whole food company dedicated to providing convenient and affordable snacks and cereals that meet many dietary restriction. We provide high crunch and great taste while being all-natural, low-sugar, fiber-rich and loaded with protein. To learn more about us, visit our website.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Adrenal Fatigue versus Adrenal Insufficiency. Do you know the difference?

Girl with Kay's Naturals

The difference between Adrenal Fatigue and Adrenal Insufficiency

Adrenal fatigue is not a proven medical condition, and as such, goes unrecognized by most doctors. Does that make it a fake disease? To understand the adrenals and fatigue, we will investigate the potential validity of adrenal fatigue, as well as cover the main points of adrenal insufficiency and the causes of fatigue.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a relatively new terminology, used by some health practitioners to explain excess fatigue and other symptoms. It is claimed that adrenal fatigue occurs when the body is under chronic emotional or physical stress, requiring the adrenals to produce large amounts of hormones to help the body cope. According to proponents of adrenal fatigue, the overly used adrenals become depleted from chronic stress and a constant state of fight-or-flight. The adrenals become unable to produce the hormones essential for a body to function normally and feel good. 

The primary symptom is fatigue, but
there are others. Waking up groggy, craving sugar and salt, difficulty with stress, fatigue during the day, excess energy at night, and ‘brain fog’ are all considered symptoms of adrenal fatigue.

Fatigue has become increasingly common. According to Harvard Health Publications, fatigue is one of the most common complaints people report to their doctors. We often do not understand the source of our fatigue and are looking for an explanation. Adrenal fatigue is an emergent theory that helps explain the increase of fatigue. A Google search of ‘adrenal fatigue’ produces 1.35 million search results. For some doctors and health professional, adrenal fatigue is a valid condition that can be tested. Yet, authoritative figures within the medical community do not recognize adrenal fatigue as a valid condition. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “the term [adrenal fatigue] often shows up in popular health books and on alternative medicine websites, but it isn't an accepted medical diagnosis.” Scientific research has yet to provide conclusive evidence that adrenal fatigue is real. 

What is Adrenal Insufficiency?

The initial description of adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency is similar, but they are distinctively different. According to this article, published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, adrenal glands create essential hormones.  Adrenal insufficiency (also called Addison’s disease) occurs when the production of essential hormones is insufficient as a result of an underlying disease or condition. Adrenal insufficiency is rare and sometimes life-threatening. The same article states: "the prevalence of Addison disease is between 40 and 90 per 1 million persons. Patients with Addison disease often have nonspecific complaints that can easily be attributed to other causes. Nearly all patients with Addison disease have fatigue, and many have it as their primary complaint."

According another article, ‘Predictive factors of adrenal insufficiency in patients admitted to acute medical wards: a case control study,’ published in the journal BMC Endocrine Disorders, common symptoms are “fatigue” (lack of energy or stamina), abdominal pain, nausea, and dizziness (hypotension symptoms)”. Additional signs include, “low blood pressure, vitiligo and/or skin changes.” Adrenal insufficiency is diagnosed through blood and stimulation tests, that are conducted to assess hormone levels. Insufficient hormones in relation to the stimulation tests are indicative of adrenal insufficiency. Commonly, diagnosis is lengthy and difficult.
The symptoms of both conditions are common.  However, the causes of adrenal insufficiency are rare and the consequences more severe. There are two categories of adrenal insufficiency: primary and secondary. The most common cause (70%) of primary adrenal insufficiency in the developed world is autoimmune adrenalitis, when the autoimmune system starts to attack its own organs. In regions of the world less developed, HIV and tuberculosis are significant causes of primary adrenal insufficiency, according to the article, 'The causes of Addison's and related autoimmune diseases.’ The most frequent cause of secondary adrenal insufficiency is due to a tumor of the hypothalamic-pituitary region. Adrenal insufficiency is a severe and rare disorder.

Is Adrenal Fatigue Real?

We have learned that it is possible for the adrenals to fail to produce enough hormones, though this occurs only in extreme circumstances. Moreover, “[addisons'] disease is not usually apparent until over 90% of the adrenal cortex has been destroyed (1).” With research unable to produce conclusive evidence and the extremes required to cause fatigue in Adrenal Insufficiency, it appears highly unlikely that daily stress could cause adrenal failure or adrenal fatigue. It is more probable that something else is causing the fatigue.

What to do when experiencing fatique

It is easy to become frustrated when you have real symptoms, such as fatigue, but doctors are unable to give you an explanation. WebMD  agrees that it is frustrating and gives sound advice, “accepting a medically unrecognized diagnosis from an unqualified practitioner could be worse. Unproven remedies for so-called adrenal fatigue may leave you feeling sicker, while the real cause — such as depression or fibromyalgia — continues to take its toll.” If you suffer from fatigue, lifestyle maybe an explanation. 

Four common circumstances that can cause fatigue:
  • Poor eating habits
  • Insufficient rest or sleep
  • Emotional stress
  • Family or work stress

There are many health conditions that cause fatigue. Harvard Health lists the following:

  • Anemia
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Infection
  • Kidney disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Thyroid disorder
  • Arthritis

This list is far from complete. It is easy to believe that there is something ‘broken’ or ‘wrong’ when you frequently feel tired without a known cause. Make sure you are receiving enough rest and eating well. Of course exercise and moments to restore and nurture your emotions is also essential to your well-being. 

What we must understand that our bodies have unique limits. For example, sleep habits that are sufficient for someone else, may not be sufficient for you. Some need six hours of sleep, while others need nine. The same is true for eating habits and tolerable stress levels. Each body, and its’ systems and requirements, is unique. We like to believe we are a machine and can decide our limits, but our bodies decide. The body will inform you of its' limit through the symptom of fatigue.
If you are getting enough rest, eating right for you, managing stress well, and still feel fatigued- see a health practitioner. Be prepared for multiple visits and tests. Our bodies are complex and pinpointing a cause among hundreds of possible explanations will take time and diligence. But, having an explanation and knowing the unique needs of your body, can make the doctor’s visits worthwhile.

At Kay’s Naturals, we believe that a healthy lifestyle is a cornerstone to wellbeing. It is our mission to provide healthier and more accessible gluten-free snacks and cereals. We hope that our snacks make it easier for individuals and families to eat healthier and be happier.