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Reading Time: 2 minutes

One in 10 schoolchildren in the western world suffers from eczema and even developing nations have also seen an increasing trend in the last few decades. There are many proposals to explain the increased incidence, one area of relevance is the environmental impact. Falling under the often misused ‘hygeine hypothesis’ title it has been proposed that there is a reflective difference in the gradient between rural and urban children. Implying the environmental impact on the developing immune system of children is different and therefore less protective in the urban setting.

This concept has now been studied in a recent article in the British Journal of Dermatology.[1] By conducting a Medline and Embase data base review studies that compared the incidence between the two environments were reviewed. Some 26 papers were assessed with 19 demonstrating a higher risk for eczema in an urbanised area, of these 11 were regarded as being statistically significant. A further 6 studies showed a lower risk of eczema in an urbanised area, of which just 1 was statistically significant.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The immune system in humans and animal is complex, all the more so because it crosses over all tissues. The traditional view has been that the immune system keeps itself in check, and that is mostly the case. However, for some years there has been a development of a neural feedback loop comprehension that helps to answer some of the complex mechanisms and remarkably ties in the role of a nutritional strategy for immune management. This is known as the inflammatory reflex.

The inflammatory reflex, a prototypical neural circuit that modulates innate immunity, is activated by the presence of cytokines or other inflammatory products in tissues that triggers afferent (a nerve that passes impulses from receptors toward or to the central nervous system) action potentials travelling in the vagus nerve. The ascending information is relayed to brainstem nuclei that control efferent (nerves that convey nervous stimulus from the brain to other parts) neural signals in the form of action potentials transmitted back to the periphery via the vagus nerve.

Whilst this may sound complex – few subjects that combine neurology and immunology aren’t… the outcome suggested meets simple strategies, based on complex mechanisms.

Butyrate Improves Bowel Transit

Wednesday, 02 June 2010 by | Comments: 3
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Problems such as poor transit or constipation are common, and can produce significant misery for the individual compromised in this manner. Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid, manufactured in the gut by the anaerobic fermentation of dietary fibres by resident microbiota. It is proposed that apart from its already well understood properties that it has another remarkable effect – the ability to increase the neuronal concentration of the Enteric Nervous System.[1]

Butyrate-generating foods and supplements might become an effective and simple option to prevent or treat functional gut disorders via modulation of enteric neuroplasticity.

Can Bacteria Make You Smarter?

Wednesday, 02 June 2010 by
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The potential cognitive gains linked to the role of gastrointestinal bacteria continues to attract international interest. The scientific community are becoming entranced with the notion that our bacterial exposure affects not only the local tissues, but also others including the brain.

Exposure to specific bacteria in the environment, already believed to have antidepressant qualities, could increase learning behaviour.  Mice fed live cultures of Mycobacterium vaccae were able to learn and complete a maze twice as fast as control mice were the key comments delivered at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology last week.

Mycobacterium vaccae is a natural soil bacterium which people likely ingest or breath in when they spend time in nature,” says Dorothy Matthews of The Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, who conducted the research with her colleague Susan Jenks.

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Michael Ash looks at leaky gut with a contemporary approach to investigation, relevance and restoration. It is quite clear that in order to extract nutrients and other sentinel information carrying agents the barrier that divides the contents of the gastric lumen from the host must be permeable. The question that has interested clinicians for many years is – when is it too permeable and what does that mean in terms of health and illness.

A paper in the March edition of Mucosal Immunology explores this concept in some detail and delivers some much needed information and potential direction in terms of dietary management and risk.[1]

Resveratrol Adds Another Benefit

Wednesday, 05 May 2010 by | Comments: 2
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Ulcerative colitis is a nonspecific inflammatory disorder characterised by oxidative and nitrosative stress, leucocyte infiltration and upregulation of inflammatory mediators. Resveratrol is a polyphenolic compound found in grapes and wine, with multiple pharmacological actions, mainly anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumour and immunomodulatory activities.

Inflammatory bowel disease is a recognised as a chronic pathology by uncontrolled inflammation of the intestinal mucosa which can affect part of the gastrointestinal tract, with causes including genetic factors, immune deregulation, barrier dysfunction, and a loss of immune tolerance toward the enteric flora.

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Michael Ash BSc(Hons) DO, ND, DipION reviews the possibility that strategically selected foods and food concentrates represent a valid therapy for inflammatory illnesses.

There is substantive interest in the potential translation from bench to bedside of simple safe strategies to modify the adverse effects of inflammation. Approaching from a preventative and restorative angle the numbers of papers being published on the role of orally ingested bacteria (probiotics) and in this article – the herb Tumeric (active ingredient of which is curcumin) is presenting increasingly supportive evidence for their reasonable and safe clinical use.

Modern analytical techniques are helping to reveal novel opportunities for inflammation control in the gut and the systemic tissues in new ways that even a few years ago would have been thought of as very alternative!

Antibiotics Can Cause Gut Related Diseases

Thursday, 18 March 2010 by | Comments: 4
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Michael Ash BSc (Hons), DO, ND FDipION reviews the current understanding of the role of antibiotics in the initiation of gut associated inflammation and local and systemic health problems, and briefly explores some strategies to prevent and manage this.

What is perhaps the greatest medicinal discovery in the last 100 years has a sting in its tail, the tremendous success in managing bacterial infection has encouraged over and inappropriate use of antibiotics, the problems of which have been well documented. This review explores the developing comprehension that even a single day of antibiotic use has consequences that may produce transient and long term effects that compromise the health and well being of the patient and their bacterial co-habitants.

Sir Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic substance penicillin in 1928 and was awarded a co share in the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945.

It was a discovery that would change the course of history. The active ingredient in that mould, which Fleming named penicillin, turned out to be an infection-fighting agent of enormous potency. When it was finally recognised for what it was—the most efficacious life-saving drug in the world—penicillin would alter forever the treatment of bacterial infections. By the middle of the century, Fleming’s discovery had spawned a huge pharmaceutical industry, churning out synthetic penicillin’s that would conquer some of mankind’s most ancient scourges, including syphilis, gangrene and tuberculosis. (Time Magazine April 1999)

However, as the combined benefits of decent engineering for sanitation, prevention via vaccination and bacterial infection control through antibiotics have contributed to life extension, they have also produced microbe and human disturbances. The incidence of immune mediated disorders is continuing to increase and the gastrointestinal tract is continuing to gain traction as a site of significant origination.[1],[2]

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In the context of the ever increasing relationship between inflammation and diseases of our western lifestyle the idea that the old adage of ‘an apple a day keeps the Dr away’ this recent paper has some attractive evidence.

The university of Illinois team of researcher have written a paper due to be published in the prestigious Journal Brain Behaviour and Immunity later in the year around May.[1]

Looking at a mouse model – and we are aware of how diet affect mouse studies from a post written a few days ago- Food Choice Affects Lab Outcomes this group have extended the concept further, and presented the mice with a specially enriched diet. This study fed a low fat diet to both groups for six weeks differentiated by one having soluble fibre and the other non soluble fibre.

When challenged using a microbial wall particle called lipopolysaccharide (LPS) the group on the soluble fibre had a 50% reduction in symptoms compared to the insoluble group. They also recovered 50% faster. It seems that just 6 weeks of an increased soluble fibre intake change their immune responses in a very positive manner.

Gluten May be Causing Your Brain Problems!

Tuesday, 09 March 2010 by | Comments: 1
Reading Time: 3 minutes

An interesting paper published in the Sept 2008 Annals of Neurology described a ‘new to science’ brain aggravating enzyme, triggered by reactivity to gluten, but acting independently of other coeliac symptoms.[1]

Most clinicians understand that overt gluten reactivity is classified under coeliac disease and the the classic constellation of symptoms and signs characterising  malabsorptive syndrome is a readily recognised manifestation  of  coeliac  disease. Frank malabsorptive symptoms include steatorrhea, weight loss or failure to thrive, bloating, and flatulence, with multiple deficiency states. More common but more difficult to recognise, however, are the other diverse ways in which coeliac disease presents.

Coeliac disease may also mimic many common clinical entities. These atypical modes of presentation include deficiencies of single micronutrients; nonspecific gastrointestinal complaints such as bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation, flatulence, secondary lactose intolerance, and dyspepsia; and non-gastrointestinal complaints such as fatigue, depression, arthralgia, milk intolerance, osteomalacia or osteoporosis, and iron deficiency anaemia.

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