Gut Revolution

Gut Revolution

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (2017)

Film Review

This is a three-part Australian documentary about state-of-the-art treatment for various manifestations of gut dysbiosis.* Thanks to genetic sequencing, gut scientists can now identify approximate numbers of bacterial species in patients’ large intestines. In many cases, scientists have also identified the relative helpful/harmful effect of specific species.

For example, in high numbers some bacteria are linked to metabolic syndrome;** some produce sulfuric acid, a cause of irritable bowel symptoms (eg diarrhea, gas, bloating), and some are linked to inflammatory changes leading to depression and impaired cognitive function.

In this series, a dietician works with three patients with very different manifestations of gut dysbiosis: the first suffers from chronic diarrhea, the second from obesity and metabolic syndrome, and the third from severe anxiety, coupled with disabling abdominal paid.

The first patient rebalances her gut bacteria (and eliminates her diarrhea) by starting a low FODMAP diet,*** effective in 70% of patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

The second patient rebalances his gut bacteria by eliminating all processed foods;**** increasing his intake of fruits, vegetables, and high fiber complex carbohydrates; and engaging in a modified fast two days a week. After six weeks he’s lost six kilos, as well as noticing substantial improvement in his mood and energy levels.

The third patient rebalances her gut bacteria with a Mediterranean-style diet. The latter has reduced major depression symptoms in several double blind studies. Due to severe anxiety levels, patient 3 has a long history of severe dietary restriction and also uses yoga and hypnotherapy to make it easier to try new foods.

Link to Part 1: https://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/gut-revolution-a-catalyst-special—part-1/11017218

Link to Part 2: https://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/gut-revolution-a-catalyst-special—part-2/11017246

Parts 1-3 can be viewed free on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of you public library into your search engine.


*Gut dysbiosis is an imbalance  of bacterial populations in the large intestine. According to a growing number of scientists, your gut microbiome (ie community of bacteria in your gut is just as important as genes and lifestyle in achieving and maintaining good health.

**Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels.

***A low FODMAP (Fermentible Oligo-,Di-. Mono-Saccharides and Polyols) diet eliminates short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. High FODMAP foods should only be eliminated for six to eight weeks because most are really important for long term gut health.

****The dietary emusifiers and artificial flavors and colors in processed foods are really damaging to the microbiome.

 

 

Corruption, Federal Farm Subsidies and the False Economy of Cheap Processed Food

Food Fight: How Corporations Ruined Food

Real Stories (2017)

Film Review

This is a documentary about the rise of the organic/local food movement in the late sixties and early seventies and the ongoing battle to end a corrupt federal food subsidy program. The latter plays a major role in the US epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

The film depicts the organic food movement as arising out of a 1960s hippy counterculture that viewed America’s growing system of industrial agriculture as intimately linked to the military industrial complex waging the war in Vietnam.*

Ironically the organic food movement began to take off just has the Nixon administration was repealing New Deal agricultural subsidies that supported small family farms and redirecting USDA subsidies to corporations producing the cheap commodities used in processed foods, such as corn, wheat and soy.

The activists interviewed decry the federal emphasis on cheap food as a false economy – we will never save enough to cover skyrocketing medical costs related to processed food diets.

Despite the rapid growth of small organic farms across the US, food activists face an uphill battle without major changes to the USDA farm subsidy program which makes cheap processed food the only affordable option for many low income families.

The high level of corporate-financed corruption becomes clear as the film follows Representative Ron Kind’s efforts to get his Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment added to 2016 Farm Bill.


*Monsanto and Dow, the corporations producing Agent Orange and Napalm also produce the toxic pesticides and herbicides used in industrial agriculture.

 

How the Sugar Industry Blocks Health Research: A Thirty Year Scandal

The Case Against Sugar

Gary Taubes (2017)

Taubes is an investigative journalist whose main focus is the deplorable state of public health research in the US.

During the 1990s, Taubes cut his teeth debunking the shoddy studies leading to public health recommendations that salt in the diet leads to high blood pressure and heart disease (which turn out to be totally groundless). He followed this with a series of exposes on the biased studies erroneously linking saturated (animal) fat to obesity, heart disease and cancer. These studies, and the infamous “low fat diet” western doctors have been pushing for nearly fifty years have been a major culprit in our current global epidemic of obesity, diabetes, cancer and tooth decay (see The Role of Western Medicine in the Epidemic of Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease and Tooth Decay).

His most recent book, The Case Against Sugar, focuses on a successful 30-year effort by the sugar industry to shut down independent research into sugar as a major causative agent in these chronic illnesses.

He maintains a big part of the problem was the demise of German and Austrian research into obesity after World War II. This European research, informed by the developing fields of genetics, metabolism and endocrinology, supported a hormonal regulatory defect as the primary cause of obesity. Lacking this background in genetics, metabolism and endocrinology, US researchers were blinded by their puritanical bias that lack of willpower causes obesity. With the discovery of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance (both aggravated by high sugar and carbohydrate diets), it turns out the European researchers had it right all along

For me, the most interesting part of this talk is Taubes’ discussion of sugar’s role as an addictive drug. I had no idea the tobacco industry began adding sugar to their cigarettes in 1954 to make them more addictive. I also like the point he makes about sugar, along with rum, chocolate and tobacco, being important New World discoveries to cheaply dull the pain of oppressed workers under industrial capitalism.

Saving Your Child from an Over-Sanitized World

let-them-eat-dirt

Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Over-Sanitized World

By B. Brett Finlayy and Marie-Claire Arrieta

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (2016)

Book Review

Let Them Eat Dirt is a down-to-earth parental guide to the latest research about the role of intestinal bacteria in preventing obesity, diabetes, autism, schozophrenia, depression, anxiety, asthma, eczema, allergies, autoimmune illness, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome. The book also provides a lot of practical suggestions for parents seeking to promote healthy gut bacteria in their kids.

Most research points to the avoidance of antibiotics during pregnancy and the first few months of life as being most important in preventing the gut-relaed illnesses described above. In addition to recommending that expectant mothers take probiotics and give them to their infants, the authors also emphasize the importance of vaginal birth and breast feeding in transferring maternal gut bacteria to the infant. Where C-section can’t be avoided, they recommend inoculating a newborn with a swab from the mother’s vagina.

Let Them East Dirt also provides numerous tips on increasing the diversity of gut bacteria to maximize immunity. In infants and children, this is done by exposing them to a wide variety of foods and indulging their natural urge to get dirty and put things in their mouths. Finlay and Arrieta believe children are biologically programmed to engage in these behaviors to increase gut bacteria diversity.

In discussing the science behind their recommendations, they point out that only 100 species of bacteria cause human illness, out of a total of 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bacterial species on the planet. They also discuss the essential role “friendly” bacteria play in training the human immune system, as well as the devastating health consequences of disrupting this process through antibiotic overuse.

The part of the book I found most helpful gives useful suggestions for ways parents can work with pediatricians to safely minimize antibiotic use in their kids.

The Care and Feeding of Gut Bacteria

diet myth

The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat

by Tim Spector

Weidenfeld and Nicholson (2015)

Book Review

The Diet Myth is all about looking after our intestinal bacteria – which are ultimately responsible for the proper functioning of our digestive, immune, endocrine and nervous system. As Professor Tim Spector explains, all mammals co-evolved over millions of years with the bacteria that inhabit their intestines. Because these bacteria produce a number of vital biochemicals that our bodies are genetically incapable of producing, without them the species homo sapiens would not exist. This relatively recent discovery has led many scientists to classify the microbiome (the collective name given to gut bacteria) as a vital organ like the brain, liver or kidneys.

Civilization hasn’t been kind to our intestinal bacteria. For various reasons (overuse of antibiotics, processed foods and pesticides like Roundup), urban life has caused us to lose half of the septillions of gut bacteria we started out with. Nearly all the chronic illnesses that plague modern society (obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disease, depression, autism, schizophrenia and possibly drug addiction and alcoholism) can be traced to loss or malfunction of intestinal bacteria.

For this book, Spector has chosen to focus on dietary research into foods that improve the health and diversity of our remaining gut bacteria. He blames the myriad of contradictory diet fads on the reality that each human being has their own distinct collection of bacteria. This means the foods that keep them healthy depend on the preferences of their particular bacteria.

Fortunately he’s able to make a few general recommendations that seem to apply to most people.

According to Spector, people with the most diverse profile of gut bacteria are the healthiest. The best way to promote this diversity is through a diverse fiber-rich diet that includes:

  • At least 20 different food types per week
  • A daily serving of 5 vegetables and 2 fruits
  • Daily servings of probiotic foods (fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut and miso, raw milk and unpasteurized cheeses) that contain beneficial bacteria.*
  • Daily servings of prebiotic foods rich in polyphenols that gut bacteria love**
  • A strict limitation on red meat,*** sugar, refined carbohydrates, transfats (hydrogenated fats found in vegetable oils, margarine and Crisco) and processed foods

Research also indicates that lifestyle factors such as exercise (athletes have the most diverse microbiomes) also promote bacterial diversity (and good health). As does episodic fasting.****


*These mainly provide different strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria that crowd out harmful inflammatory gut bacteria.

**Foods rich in polyphenols include dark chocolate, coffee, green tea, turmeric, red wine, onions, garlic, (uncooked) extra-virgin olive oil, roasted nuts, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, leeks, asparagus, broccoli, bananas, wheat bran and fermented fruits and vegetables.

***Citing numerous studies, Spector totally debunks the claim that red meat is harmful due to its fat content. He maintains the risk associated with red meat is the conversion (by gut microbes) of L-carnitine to trimethylamine oxide, which causes plaque build-up in arteries (in Europeans – this effect appears to be absent in other ethnic groups). He recommends that Europeans limit their intake of red meat to ½ serving or less per day. Those who eat more than this have a 10% increase in mortality. Those who eat one daily serving or more of processed meat (sausages, ham, salami, etc) have a 40% increase in mortality.

****When people fast, a gut organism caused Akkermansia cleans up gut inflammation by feeding off the intestinal lining. Research reveals specific benefit from the 5/2 diet in which people fast two days a week and eat normally the other five.

Big Sugar, Inc

Big Sugar: Sweet, White and Deadly

Brian McKenna (2005)

Film Review

Big Sugar is about the sugar lobby and how they use their wealth and power to prevent the World Health Organization (WHO) and other regulatory agencies from dispensing accurate information about the link between high sugar intake and obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

This Canadian documentary is divided into two parts. Part I deals with the links between sugar and slavery and the modern sugar barons have replaced the slaveholders who effectively controlled British foreign and domestic policy for 200 years. Part II is about the global obesity epidemic and efforts by WHO in 2005 to issue guidelines limiting daily sugar intake to 10% of total calories. The powerful sugar lobby defeated this initiative by employing many of the same techniques as the tobacco industry (and the climate denial industry). After attacking the science linking high sugar intake and obesity, they attacked the scientists themselves as biased fanatics. They then got them fired, demoted, and/or transferred. Under pressure from Big Sugar, both Bush administrations threatened to withhold the funding they owed WHO, and the pesky nutritionists who sought to warn people about the dangers of sugar magically vanished.

The documentary focuses on two of the most prominent slave holding families, as well a Canadian woman of African descent whose ancestors were owned by the Church of England and worked on a plantation in Barbados. The filmmakers liken these historical paragons to a modern day Cuban exile family in Florida called the Fanjuls. The latter donate generously to both major parties to make sure the US government continues to subsidize sugar production. The Fanjuls and other Florida sugar barons reap $1.5 billion in subsidies for $3.1 million in campaign contributions.

In addition to exposing the ecological devastation sugar cultivation has caused in the Florida Everglades, the filmmakers also visit the Fanjuls’ sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic. Despite the official abolition of slavery, working conditions on Dominican sugar plantations remain virtually unchanged. The Fanjuls lure Haitian immigrants across the border with a promise of paying work. Once their passports are confiscated, they become virtual slaves. Workers, who are paid $2 for a twelve hour day, experience chronic hunger and malnutrition. Forbidden to grow their own vegetables, they’re forced to rely on a company store that charges them three times the normal price for food. They have no access to medical care, and child labor is rife.

The Role of Western Medicine in the Epidemic of Obesity, Diabetes and Heart Disease

Carb Loaded: A Culture Dying to Eat

Directed by Lathe Poland (2014)

Film Review

Carb Loaded follows the personal journey of a 40 something male (one of the filmmakers) who suddenly develops type II diabetes, despite being physically fit and follow a “heart healthy” diet. What he discovers is that the low fat, high carbohydrate promoted for fifty years by Food Inc, the USDA, and the American Dietetic Association is responsible for a global epidemic of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and most likely Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Food Pyramid was an Experiment and Americans the Guinea Pigs

The documentary begins by tracing the history of the “food pyramid,” which the FDA and corporate cronies foisted on the unsuspecting American public in 1977 – without a single clinical trial supporting its safety and effectiveness. With the adoption of the “food pyramid,” doctors and dietitians induced hundreds of millions of patients to drastically reduce their intake of protein and fat and to increase foods previously associated with weight gain (bread, pasta, potatoes, high carb snacks, etc). in other words it was a vast experiment and Americans – and citizens of other industrialized nations – were the guinea pigs.

Statistically the prevalence of diabetes, obesity heart disease and Alzheimer’s began to take off in the late seventies, the widespread adoption of the low fat, high carbohydrate diet. Over the last decade the researchers have identified the mechanisms by which a high carbohydrate diet causes these conditions.

A high carb diet causes diabetes by triggering excessive insulin production, which over time leads to insulin resistance, a physiological condition in which cells fail to respond to insulin, leading to higher blood sugar levels.

It causes obesity by reducing brain sensitivity to leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells that notifies the brain when we’re full.

It causes heart disease mainly by triggering an inflammatory response in our blood vessels that increases cholesterol production. Contrary to popular belief (driven by relentless corporate marketing), most cholesterol is produced by the body in response to inflammation and is totally unrelated to diet.

Alzheimer’s: Type III Diabetes

Most ominous of all, high carbohydrate diets can cause the accumulation of “glycated”* proteins in the brain. These are linked to the development of Alzheimer’s Disease, which doctors and researchers have begun referring to as Type III diabetes.

The film goes on to explore numerous lifestyle changes which have led many residents of the industrialized world to cook less and rely more on cheap, carbohydrate-rich fast foods. It also explodes the myth that fast food is cheap, with a recent study that the average American spends $3,000 a year on fast food and $8,000 on doctors visits for medical problems caused by fast foods.

Potential Solutions

The filmmakers finish by reviewing a range of possible solutions at the government, community and individual level. High on the list of policy changes are an end to the US corn subsidy (responsible for the ubiquitous presence of damaging high fructose corn syrup in most processed foods) and a tax on sugary beverages similar to those enacted by Mexico, Denmark, Hungary and France.

On a community level, they talk about what activists can do to eradicate food deserts and increase the availability of fresh, unprocessed food.

On a personal level, they explore the importance of understanding the addictive effect of sugar and specific behavioral changes people can make to gradually wean themselves and, most importantly, their children off sugar and other refined carbohydrates.

 

How Gut Bacteria Control Our Health

The Microiome Revolution: Why Microbes Control Your Life

Jack A Gilbert

The Microbiome Revolution provides a brief and user friendly introduction to the essential role the microbiome (the bacteria that colonize our gut) plays in human health. Through their research, Gilbert and other microbiologists have induced obesity, allergies, autism, depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease and other illnesses by manipulating intestinal bacteria in mice. Gilbert contends that specific gut bacteria can even alter behavior.

He stresses that our current obsession with eradicating bacteria (ie prescription antibiotics, antibiotics used on factory farms, antibacterial soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc) has dire implications for human health. The human body is an ecosystem in which microbial cells outnumber “human” cells by ten to one. Doctors increasingly view the microbiome as a vital organ, like the liver or kidneys.

Thanks to Gilbert’s crowdfunding site*, his research team has collected the microbiome profiles of hundreds of thousands of people. This baseline has enabled them to identify specific bacterial profiles associated with good health. In general, rural third world residents have the most diverse and healthiest gut bacteria, while urban residents in the industrialized world have the least diverse and the most unhealthy.

Lecture starts at 3:15.

*Ubiome – for $89 you get a Ubiome gut kit to submit a sample of your feces for analysis

 

Western Medicine: Still Stuck in the 20th Century

Origins

well.org (2014)

Film Review

In brief, Origins is a film about saving the planet by improving your diet and lifestyle. The filmmakers assert that a healthier diet will enable people to think more clearly about the imminent crises confronting civilization. While I totally disagree with the premise – I don’t believe real change is possible without confronting corporate corruption and growing inequality – I liked the film. It offers the clearest explanation yet of the fundamental role of the microbiome* in human health and the rhizophere** in plant health.

Western medicine, as currently practiced, has become totally obsolete owing to its inability to view the human body as a holistic integrated unit. The end result is that roughly half of us are in really poor health. While I disagree with the premise of the film, I’m willing to concede that many of us aren’t healthy or fit enough to tackle major social or political change.

A secondary premise of the film is that we need to fundamentally rethink the way we use technology – mainly because we’re systematically poisoning ourselves through air pollution and toxic endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen in our bodies. This heavy estrogen effect is a major factor in an epidemic of breast, prostate and other cancers, as well as infertility, obesity and anxiety/depression.

My favorite part of the documentary concerns the microbiome, which turns out to be primary source of our immunity. Owing to the overuse of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture (in livestock feed), most of us have experienced a mass extinction of our intestinal bacteria. This, in turn, plays an even bigger role than toxic chemicals in diseases triggered by inflammation, such as obesity, cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and autoimmune illnesses.

Origins goes on to stress the importance of vaginal birth and breast feeding in establishing a healthy microbiome in infants and the avoidance of antibiotics, antibiotic soaps and commercial household cleaners and toxic chemicals in keeping it that way. Letting kids play in the dirt is another important source of beneficial bacteria. As are are fermented foods and fresh (unprocessed) chemical free foods.

I was also pleased to see the filmmakers brutally debunk the low fat, high sugar, high carbohydrate diet*** Food Inc and western medicine have been trying to sell us for the last fifty years. This is the number one reason half of Americans suffer from “diabesity” (aka metabolic syndrome), even though many of them may not realize it yet.

To their credit, thousands of doctors (according to filmmakers) are taking their patients off GMO foods, resulting in rapid relief of allergies, chronic illnesses and infertility.

I was also pleased to see the comparison filmmakers make between the soil rhizosphere and the gut microbiome. While we’ve been destroying our intestinal bacteria with antibiotics, Food Inc has been systematically destroying essential soil bacteria with pesticides, herbicides and GMOs.

Citing a recent UN study, Origins explodes the myth that GMO technology is the only solution to world hunger. According to the UN, we could double current crop yields in ten years simply by switching to organic farming methods that restore the health and integrity of our soil.

Ignore the background music (I hate documentaries with soppy background music). It’s worth putting up with for the excellent section on diet.


* Microbiome, as defined in this film, refers to the millions of intestinal bacteria that are essential to healthy digestion and immunity.

** The rhizosphere is the narrow region of soil that is directly influenced by root secretions and associated soil microorganisms.

***For a great book summarizing the research that debunks the low fat diet, see Why the Low Fat Diet Makes You Fat and Gives You Heart Disease, Cancer and Tooth Decay

The Sugar Conspiracy

The Secrets of Sugar

By Fifth Estate (2014)

Film Review

The Secrets of Sugar is a Canadian documentary about the conspiracy by the sugar industry and processed food companies to conceal the damaging effects of sugar on human health. For decades, the medical establishment has led us to believe that our intake of animal fat is responsible for soaring rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It turns out the real culprit all along is sugar (see The Big Fat Surprise).

Investigators have uncovered industry documents going back to the 1950s linking excess sugar intake with health problems. In 1972, researcher John Yudkin published the book Pure, White and Deadly about research linking sugar to heart disease. The response by the food industry was a vicious campaign to portray Yudkin as an incompetent quack. This, in turn, led to a thirty-year shutdown of institutional funding for research into sugar’s health effects.

For me, the film’s most shocking revelation was the immense amount of sugar hidden in so- called “healthy” processed foods, such as yoghurt, oatmeal, soup and Healthy Choice frozen dinners. In one segment, a former industry scientist nicknamed “Dr Bliss” explains the importance of the “bliss point,” the quantity of added sugar that makes you crave a particular product.

A close look at product labels suggests they are designed to confuse consumers about the actual sugar content of foods. Meanwhile like the tobacco industry, Food Inc spends billions of dollars lobbying against government (and UN) recommendations for a maximum daily sugar intake and clearer food labeling laws.

For years, doctors and dieticians have been telling us that sugar is bad because of all the “empty” calories. New research indicates sugar acts as a poison, inflicting direct damage on the liver and brain via its impact on insulin production. In addition to studies implicating high sugar intake in obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, others point to its role in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease and polycystic ovarian disease.

Industry scientists interviewed in the film manifest the same “blame the victim” mentality as the tobacco industry. They maintain the responsibility lies with the consumer to choose whether to eat sugar – or to smoke. The filmmakers counter that healthy choices are impossible without good information.

The film follows an obese couple over three weeks, who achieve significant weight loss, as well as reductions in cholesterol and triglycerides, simply by eliminating all processed foods from their diet.

Also posted in Veterans Today