Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Weight Control, Glucose Sensitivity, and the other Benefits of B. Lactis B420

As the research on probiotics continues to mushroom, some very compelling applications are being shown that would not have previously been attributed to the microbiome.  

Along those lines, then, there's some very interesting research surrounding a new probiotic strain called, Bifidobacterium Lactis B420.  

Now, before we examine the research on this strain, let's first note that medical science is beginning to make a connection between body weight and gut microbiota.  This was first discovered by accident with fecal implant patients.  Doctors began to notice that recipients of fecal implants would take on the characteristics of the donor in terms of body composition.  So a study was done on mice to try to reproduce this, and indeed they found the same thing in the laboratory.  A fecal sample was taken from an obese person and implanted into a mouse, and the mouse gained weight. 

So enter, then, the research on B. Lactis B420. 

Before we look at the research specific to body weight, let’s first look at the various other benefits of this impressive strain on other health paramters.

Experimental research has indicated that:

  • B420 increased tight junction integrity of epithelial cells, and therefore protected gut epithelial cells from the harmful effects of pathogenic microbes.
  • B420 protected against NSAID-induced GI side effects in a rat model by reducing an NSAID-induced inrease in stomach permeability
  • B420 reduced mucosal dysbiosis, bacterial translocation, expression of major pro-inflammatory cytokines in various tissues, and improved glucose metabolism in mice fed a high fat diet (HFD).
  • In HFD-fed mice, B420 modulated gut microbiota and improved glucose intolerance.  Further, the combination prevented the impairment of intestinal immunity due to metabolic abnormalities induded by the HFD.
  • In a mouse model of diabetes, B420 enhanced concentrations of ileum GLP-1, a protein involved in both insulin secretion and satiety signaling.
  • In an obese mouse model, increases in body weight and fat mass in mice fed with HFD for 12 weeks were significantly reduced if the mice were co-administered B420.  
  • In a diabetes mouse model, mice receiving both HFD and B420 had decreased fat mass compared with mice receiving only HFD.  B420 also improved glucose metabolism in this mouse model.

So this is already a very impressive list of benefits even without the benefits of weight control.  But now let’s turn our attention to that aspect, which is human data.

The goal here was to determine if the B420 could make a change in the incremental body weight that many people experience over time as they age.  The untreated group of overweight individuals gained 3.1% of bodyweight in six months.  The overweight group receiving 10 billion units per day of the B420 probiotic strain, however, did not gain any extra body weight in that same period of time, and they observed no dietary or lifestyle changes.  All they did was add the probiotic.  The probiotic group also showed a slight decrease in waist circumference of 2.4%, AND they ate less, showing improved satiety with the use of the probiotic strain. 

Another very positive benefit was the improvement in short chain fatty acids over that period of time, a huge benefit to gut health. 

Now, as we know, many people tend to gain weight as they age, some a little, and some a lot.  It’s too early to tell if the B420 can legitimately be called a weight LOSS probiotic, but it can certainly be called a weight CONTROL probiotic.  With that in mind, remember that those in the study didn’t change anything about their lifestyles.  So it could be, perhaps, that if this probiotic strain was added to a weight loss plan, it may amplify the effects of the other weight loss efforts….maybe.  Again, there’s not enough information to go on yet to verify that statement, but I think it’s a fairly good assumption that this could be the case. 

I’ll close by saying that weight gain with age is multi-factorial, and can be attributed to shifts in hormones and other factors.  However, we cannot and should not rule out the changes in the microbiome that occur with age as well.  And weight issues aside, there are enough other benefits with this remarkable strain that it should be considered for use with leaky gut and autoimmune patients, those with gut dysbiosis, and even glucose and insulin intolerance. 

References available upon request

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Emerging Understanding of Probiotics and Colonization

Recently I was asked a good question by a doctor about oral probiotic supplements and whether they survive transit in the GI, particularly very acidic stomachs, and whether or not there are studies confirming colonization of various probiotics strains.  Since this question represents the more widespread thought process of probiotics -- a thought process that is becoming antiquated -- I thought I would pass the answer on.

To answer this question, let's consider the strain studied in weight control.  The genus, species, and strain are: B. Lactis B420.  B420 is not a human-strain. It was first identified in dairy. However, as fermented dairy foods are common in human diets, B420 can be grown from a stool sample from non-supplemented humans (proof of survival in GI transit). Also, in the current study, B420 was cultured from stool samples of the treatment arms as proof of survival in GI transit. So is this same culturing required for all human-strain probiotics? Not really. If they are human-strains, how did they get there in the first place? Orally, through foods, through the gut. Non-protected, no 'encapsulation' was needed naturally. And one would assume that this is the case even with very low pH (high acidity), since probiotics from fermented foods appear to still colonize the guts of people in all pH ranges.  (i.e. People with very high acid stomachs with a pH of, say, 1 or 2, do not have sterile GI tracts.  They are still colonized with all kinds of bugs.)

Regarding survivability of stomach acid, then, what is well understood is that the stomach is acidic pretty much all the time (while food may actually act as an acid buffer), and that human-strain probiotics should 'naturally' be able to survive GI transit (i.e. how did they get their in the first place?).

Now, here's the biggie: 

It used to be thought that the rationale for use of oral probiotics was to repopulate the gut. That is out of date. The current understanding of probiotics is strain-specific activity. In other words, residency in the gut microbiota seemed to be the marker of a strain's hardiness/survivability in times past.  But not anymore. The modern understanding is that oral probiotics are not about colonization.  Oral probiotics are about their transient effects, helping to make the neighborhood a better place. A healthy gut is a diverse one, made up of hundreds, even thousands of species. How can one create diversity through oral probiotics of one, two, or even eight strains? It likely cannot be accomplished with so few strains.  The oral probiotic stays for a little while, does its job, and then leaves.  Job done.  

Part of the definition of oral probiotics​ is proven efficacy in humans proven by reams of research, which, by the way, is why you want the genus, species, AND strain -- all three -- identified so that you can correlate the strain with the research.  Said another way, according to sources like the International Scientific Association of Prebiotics and Probiotics, a TRUE probiotic must have two things in particular in order to be legitimately called a probiotic: 1) genus, species, and strain identified, and 2) they must have proven oral benefit - including survival through the GI tract. If a product simply says on the label, for example, lactobacillus acidophilus, but no strain, then you cannot connect it to specific research, and thus, you don't know if it survives digestion or not, and you don't know what, if any, benefit it has in humans.  A product without the strain identified can probably rightly be called a bacteria, but NOT a probiotic.  If the strain is not identified on the label it is absolutely impossible to make any claim of being orally effective

Typically, part of the evaluation of a probiotic is observation of its traits (phenotype). The probiotic strain is tested for acid and bile tolerance. If tolerant, this is recorded. Once understood it is no longer necessary to test each generation of this proven strain trait. What is necessary is to test the DNA to ensure that each generation is the same as previous (genotype). 

The third factor to GI survival is the use of human microflora. As stated above, these species/strains ‘natively’ survive passage through the GI tract,​ as this is their normal abode. Once againhow do the hundreds of species of good flora get to the gut in the first place? Nearly a​ll orally. Ninety-percent of the bacteria that enters the body does so through the mouth. ​The genus/species of bacteria that live in our gut survive and thrive,​ as they are inherently adapted to do. 

As an example, consider the genus and species of one common probiotic family, Lactobacillus acidophilus.The latter term, acidophilus, is​ from the Latin, and refers to ​"acid-​loving."​
So, in short, yes, most probiotics survive digestion (some strains much better than others), even in very acidic stomachs.  And yes, part of the research in identifying a true probiotic is its effectiveness in humans. But again, colonization is not the true marker of a probiotic's effectiveness: strain-specific activity is.  And that is another reason why the genus, species, and strain listed on the bottle is so important.

In closing, I should add that some companies choose to list the strain in their promotional literature, but not on the bottles.  This, too, is a quality issue because by not listing it on the label of each bottle, companies don't have to prove that the strains are in THAT bottle or lot.  Companies who do random batch assays and then list the strains in their promotional literature are not proving anything in regards to all the different batches and bottles.  If a company lists the strains on the bottle, however, they have bound themselves to being able to provide documentation of the presence of those strains in that bottle and batch.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Lipid Management with Niacin: nicotinic acid vs. IHN

The question has come up a few times lately about straight niacin (nicotinic acid) vs. slow release niacin, or inositol hexanicotinate (IHN).  Some claim that there is conclusive evidence that IHN does not work at all for managing lipids.  Well, that's not really the case.

Straight niacin is less expensive than IHN and has been the subject of a lot of very impressive research on lipid management.  In some circles it is considered the gold standard, in fact, for cholesterol management, and is declared the treatment of choice for reducing blood lipids by the Expert Panel of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP).

However, the beef against niacin is that some people flush with it.  I am one of those people, and let me tell you, a strong niacin flush is NO FUN!  The "flush" is a burning, tingling sensation on the skin that is due to a temporary increase in prostaglandins leading to cutaneous vasodilation when too much is taken too soon.  The flush is very temporary, but WOW!  It can be very uncomfortable for some people who are sensitive to it.  And some people like myself can't seem to get to the point where they eventually don't flush when using nicotinic acid.  

Enter, then IHN, which does not reach maximum serum levels for 10 hours after ingestion and has practically zero flushing potential.  

There is indeed some evidence that IHN has very little impact on overall cholesterol or LDL/HDL ratios.  That evidence is by no means conclusive, however, especially when you compare it to the evidence showing that it does have benefit.  (There is also "evidence" that fish oil and herbs have no benefit, after all, so...)  

IHN consists of six molecules of niacin and one molecule of inositol.  It is metabolized in the body into its component parts, allowing for the positive benefits associated with high doses of niacin without the many side effects.  When administered orally, IHN results in a sustained increase in serum levels of free niacin and, in human studies, is better tolerated than regular niacin.

Studies showing that IHN improves lipid profiles date as far back as the early 1960s.1,2,3  An in vitro study showed that IHN was more effective than niacin in reducing hypercholesterolemia.4  When given to rabbits on a fatty diet, IHN resulted in normalization of all lipid fractions, including cholesterol.5  In humans, IHN has been shown by two research groups to produce a reduction in cholesterol that was even more profound than that produced by niacin.1

I have worked with practitioners for over two decades now who have used IHN extensively in their practices and have the lab results to prove that it does indeed work for many people.  It might not be a 100% effective, but neither is straight niacin, and neither are statins.  

Niacin supports healthy blood lipid levels via its inhibition of catecholamine stimulated lipolysis in adipose tissue, its affect on hepatic lipoprotein synthesis, and its support of healthy high-density lipoprotein levels.  So whether by nicotinic acid or by IHN, niacin appears to be a great option in the battle against cardiovascular disease.  


1. Welsh AL, Ede M. Inositol hexanicotinate for improve nicotinic acid therapy. Int Record Med. 1961;174:9-15. 2. Sommer H. Nicotinic acid levels in the blood and fibrinolysis under the influence of the hexanicotinic ester of m-inositol. Arzneim Forsch. 1975;15:1337. 3. Dorner VG, Fischer FW. The influence of m-inositol hexanicotinate ester on the serum lipids and lipoproteins. Arzneim Forsch. 1961;11:110-113. 4. El-Eneim AMA, Hafez YS, Salem H, Abdel M. The role of nicotinic acid and inositol hexanicotinate as anticholesterolemic and antilipemic agents. Nutr Reports Int. 1983;28:899-911. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Confessions of a Supplement Junkie

Yes, I admit it.  I'm a supplement junkie.  But I could think of worse things to be maniacal about.

I  sometimes get asked what supplements I take personally.  I often wonder if people ask me these questions to see if I really believe in all this stuff I market.  Well, the truth is that I believe in it so much that I spend a ridiculous amount of money per month on supplements for me and my family.

And here's why.

I eat at least one meal in a restaurant nearly every day of my life because of my travels.  I realize that restaurant food is not the best in the world, although I do always make good choices and never eat in fast food restaurants, unless you factor in places like Chipotle and such.  But "food" from McDonalds and Burger King never touches my lips.  When I eat at home, we make very good choices, but it's not always organic, and I do get concerned about the pesticides and other chemicals on my food and how much nutrition is lacking in commercial produce.

I also don't exercise as much as I should, although exercise was once a big part of my life.  But being a father, and now a grandfather, a busy businessman, an author, and a pastor have gotten in the way of exercising as much as I would like.

So since I often have to compromise in the areas of diet and exercise, supplements is something where I don't have to cut corners.  Yes, I do have to make a financial sacrifice to supplement like I do, but I feel like my health and the health of my loved ones is worth it.

What I Take and Why

My day usually begins around 6:30 am when I get up to read, pray, and meditate before I start the business part of my day.  I fire up my Bullit blender and throw in a raw egg, a little almond milk, water and ice, and then pack in a scoop of Ultra Clear Plus (medical food for detoxification), a scoop of Meta Fiber, a half teaspoon of spirulina, and a half scoop of Perfect Protein.  Believe it or not, it doesn't taste too bad, although the spirulina powder turns the drink green.

But it doesn't stop there.

Then I open up the cupboard to start  popping open bottles, as follows:

  • Ultra Potent C powder - half teaspoon
  • Celapro (phytochemical blend) 
  • Concentrated Ultra Prostagen (Prostate support; yes, I'm at that age.)
  • D3 5000
  • Adreset (Adrenal and HPA support for my morning giddyup!)
  • OsteoVantiv (Joint support. Stop laughing at my age, I'm a former athlete.  I ache sometimes!)
  • CoQ10 ST 100 (more energy, cardio, and antioxidant support)
  • Ultra Flora Spectrum (multi-strain probiotic)
That's just my Phase 1 supplement regime.  After a couple of hours I'm ready for a full breakfast before I leave the house, and Phase 2 kicks in.  With breakfast I take...

  • PhytoMulti (micronutrient and phytochemical blend)
  • EPA DHA 720 (fish oil)
  • Spectrazyme Complete (plant-based enzymes)
In the evening I repeat Phase 2 at dinner and may add a Cal Apatite w/ Magnesium sometimes to make up for the mineral loss when I drink coffee.  But since I don't drink that much coffee, Cal Apatite is not a daily thing.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm not overdoing it, and I suppose you could make that case.  But then I have to look at my health at almost 51 years of age, and I have believe I'm doing something right.  In spite of not eating a "pure" diet by some people's standards, and in spite of not getting the exercise I would like, and in spite of a workload and stress level that I wish were a little lighter, I'm still very fit, I'm almost never sick, I'm energetic, and I'm somehow able to manage a crazy schedule without imploding.  And when the younger family members or friends come come calling wanting to play some basketball or frisbee or touch football, I can keep up with them!

I have attended the funerals of school mates -- people my age -- who have died of cancer.  I have visited hospital rooms where people my age went down with heart attacks and nearly died.  I have counseled with people with all kinds of health problems that really come down to nutrition -- what they put in their bodies and what they DON'T put in their bodies.  It saddens me to see people suffer so needlessly when they could change a few things about their lifestyles and completely turn around their health.  I realize that lifestyle is not the only reason people sometimes get sick, but lifestyle is a BIG part of the picture.  In fact, a Surgeon General Report back in the 90s stated that 7 out of 10 leading causes of death in America are preventable because they are diet and lifestyle related.  SEVEN OUT OF TEN!

So when I see all the suffering around me, I do believe that my maniacal supplement regime is worth it.  If I lived 100 years ago when the environment was much cleaner, the stress levels were not as high, and the food was pure and nutritionally sound, then I probably wouldn't need to supplement at all.  But that's not the world we live in now.  When you consider that over 6 BILLION pounds of chemical toxins are released out into our environment every year, on top of the immense amount of stress our culture piles upon us, and add the horribly flawed food we are forced to ingest, then we have a health picture that is very different that in times past.  Yes, I believe that supplementation can make up for some of that.

Now if only there was a supplement for hair loss that really worked, I would be set!  ;-)


Friday, September 30, 2016

Amazing Novel Ingredients for Gut Healing

More than 70 million Americans suffer from chronic digestive disorders, and gastrointestinal issues are the most common reason for hospitalization.  

While there are a number of health promoting natural agents in nature's pharmacy, health science continues to uncover new and novel ingredients to heal the gut in unique ways.  

Enter, then, 2-fucosyllactose (2-FL).  2-FL is a nature-identical Human Milk Oligosaccharide, the most abundant prebiotic found in human breast milk.

Several functions have been attributed to 2-FL, including the ability to support the growth of beneficial microbiota and significant increased production of short chain fatty acids, including butyrate, and the ability to increase and normalize motility.  

2-FL also works by blocking potentially harmful pathogenic bacteria from adhering to host cell receptors by acting as a decoy molecule.  In other words, instead of adhering to intestinal epithelial cells, pathogens will be attracted to the 2-FL, binding to it and hence being escorted out of the body in the stool.  In research, 2-FL has been shown to act as an anti-adhesive antimicrobial to campylobacter jejuni, vibrio cholera, E. coli, and norovirus.  

In fact, in a 6-week trial at the Functional Medicine Research Center (FMRC) in Gig Harbor, Washington, a functional food drink mix containing 2-FL was given to patients with previously diagnosed IBS, IBD, and celiac disease.  In that study, 8 potentially harmful bacteria were identified at baseline.  At the end of the study, 7 of the 8 total pathogen species were no longer detected.  

Butyrate and Short Chain Fatty Acids
Interest has been recently rekindled in short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) with the emergence of prebiotics and probiotics aimed at improving colonic and systemic health. SFCAs include the sum of butyrate, acetate, and propionate.  

Butyrate is the major energy source for colonocytes and is considered an anti-inflammatory fat. Butyrate also helps to support apoptosis of the cells lining the gut, and is the most important source of energy for those cells.  (More on butyrate here.)

Specific SCFA may reduce the risk of developing gastrointestinal disorders, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Acetate is the principal SCFA in the colon. Propionate, a gluconeogenerator, has been shown to inhibit cholesterol synthesis. 

In that same study at the FMRC featuring the functional food containing 2-FL, total SCFA increased by a mean of 72.2%, and butyrate alone increased by a mean of 72.7%, an amazing increase in these health-promoting fatty acids. 

Huge Bifidobacteria Proliferation   
It's one thing to give probiotics to help supply the GI with beneficial bacteria, and that is always a good thing.  But helping the bacteria that is already there to multiply is also extremely helpful for the microbiota.  

Isomalto-oligosaccharides (IMOs) are a prebiotic soluble fiber and help to increase the growth of bifidobacteria, which 2-FL also does.  In the aforementioned study on patients with previously diagnosed celiac, IBD, and IBS, bifidobacteria increased by an astounding 1900% in 6 weeks!  

It is no surprise, then, that patients in this study showed significantly improved quality of life scores.

A Better Form of L-Glutamine
Glutamine is an important amino acid for epithelial cell repair and function.  What is not as widely known is that L-glutamine in the free form, which is the most commonly used form, is not as well absorbed as the dipeptide version.  "Sustamine" is an L-Alanyl-L-Glutamine dipetide that is designed to be absorbed faster and with less energy than a single amino acid.  Dipetides and amino acids require a transporter to carried across the cell membranes.  This helps to facilitate absorption.  In fact, Sustamine has been shown to be absorbed 224% better than free from L-glutamine, possibly demonstrating better clinical outcomes at lower doses.  

This form of dipeptide L-glutamine is also featured in the functional food studied at the FMRC, and this, combined with the 2-FL, IMOs, and other supportive macro and micronutrients, makes it a very good choice for nutritional support for health conditions related to intestinal permeability, as well as providing excellent nutrition for celiac, IBD, and IBS patients.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Natural Interventions for Strep B

I'm about to be a grandpa!  
And my daughter, Hannah, who is due in two short weeks, has recently been diagnosed with Strep B, and her Ob-Gyn wants to put her on antibiotics during labor, which is the typical procedure.  Of course, wanting to avoid the antibiotic route, I started doing some studying on the subject, and here's what I found.  Hopefully this will be of interest to all my holistic-minded readers.

What is Strep B?

Group Beta Streptococcus (GBS), otherwise known as Strep B, is a colonization that affects many people and around 1/4 to 1/3 of women in the third trimester of pregnancy. Many people carry this bacteria in their digestive systems with no problem, but it can cause complications in newborns of mothers who are colonized.  In some rare cases babies have actually died when exposed to high levels of GBS during labor.  
Mothers are often tested for Group B Strep in the third trimester of pregnancy and, if they are positive, are usually given Penicillin or other antibiotics during labor.  While antibiotics might indeed be necessary if the bacteria cannot be eradicated, antibiotics, of course, carry their own risks for newborns and mothers alike, such as a higher risk of candida.  
When a baby is born its GI is sterile, and the microbiota must be colonized by the mother when the baby passes through the birth canal and when mother holds the child.  This colonization process is important to ward off the chances of digestive and immune issues later in life.  
For example, C-section babies, who bypass the birth canal and are therefore not colonized by the mother sufficiently, have a 75% higher risk of developing autoimmune disease later in life because the early biodiversity of the intestinal tract is negatively effected. (See, Cesarean Delivery May Affect the Early Biodiversity of Intestinal Bacteria, Journal of Nutrition.)
For reasons of proper colonization, then, it is important to either try to eradicate the GBS bacteria before labor, or be sure to aggressively colonize mother and baby with probiotics after the birth if antibiotics become necessary.  
Thankfully, there are natural ways to deal with GBS that can yield very good results.
The following suggestions do not represent documented research, but is compiled from anecdotal evidence, and is not intended to be medical advice.

Natural Remedies for GBS

Again, let me state emphatically that GBS does have the potential to be serious and shouldn’t be ignored. But just as emphatically I will state again that antibiotics carry their own risks and can be problematic as well. 
The good news is, at least in some cases, GBS can be avoided with natural remedies.


As GBS occurs naturally in the digestive tract for some people, it is important to treat the intestinal tract as a whole instead of simply focusing on the vaginal area. A probiotic-rich diet is beneficial for overall health, and may also be beneficial in eradicating GBS.  A probiotic-rich diet can be accomplished both dietarily and by taking probiotic supplements, preferably both.
Eating a probiotic-rich diet including things like KombuchaWater Kefir, Yogurt, Sauerkraut and other fermented foods to help create a healthy gut environment, and taking aggressive amounts of probiotic supplements orally and vaginally may cause the colonization to occur much faster.  
Taking oral probiotics does work for bacterial vaginosis, depending on the strains used, but it takes some take to migrate to the vaginal area -- two weeks in some cases.  Using the capsules as suppositories will colonize the vagina immediately. Two strains in particular, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuters RC-14, have been studied extensively in bacterial vaginosis and possess anti-fungal and bacteriocin-like compounds, and even produce hydrogen peroxide.  In short, these are powerful antimicrobial probiotic strains that can ward off numerous different kinds of urogenital issues, including, perhaps, GBS, although GBS has not been specifically studied with respect to these strains as of yet.  There are, however, over 175 scientific publications on these strains for bacterial vaginosis and yeast vaginitis, and other colonization studies by oral and vaginal application showing impressive results. 

A List of Antimicrobials that can be Complementary 

  • High potency garlic supplements (2-3 caps between meals) or raw garlic cloves daily.
  • Coconut Oil for its naturally antiviral properties.
  • Plain organic yogurt vaginally to help balance bacteria. May add the GR-1 and RC-14 probiotic supplement to the mix, and or other strains if desired.
  • Taking high potency vitamin C daily.
  • Using a Chlorhexidine rinse vaginally before and during labor. (This is the usual protocol.) This might considered a last resort, as the emerging evidence about the bacterial transfer during labor brings this practice into question.
  • Raw apple cider vinegar consumed orally daily and using it as a diluted rinse.
The above protocol is what has been working out there according to midwives.  Some anecdotal evidence I found suggests that GBS can be eradicated in 2 weeks using this protocol.  

The jury is still out for me, so I will let you know what ends up happening with my daughter.