Category: Immunity

6 Awesome Superfoods you should check out!

Each fruit, vegetable and herbs has its own share of nutrients and health benefits. But there are certain foods just a class apart from the rest. These super-foods are absolutely irreplaceable!
 
Check out these 6 super-foods!

 

Abiyuch or garlic pear

 

Abiyuch better known as garlic pear is a fruit found in South-East Asia and the South Pacific Islands. Botanically referred to as Crataeva religiosa, this fruit earns its name after its fruit that looks like a pear, but smells and tastes like garlic. The caper trees, on which these fruits are borne are usually found growing along the banks of streams and rivers mostly near temples and monasteries. The oval-round garlic pears are a have a thick rind and kidney-shaped seeds. But the yellow pulp within this fruit is a powerhouse of Vitamin C and other minerals such as iron, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.
 
For hundreds of years, these delicious fruits have been relished by local communities. Besides being just a tasty treat, these fruits have also been used in a number of traditional medicines, particularly to treat kidney stones. The locals not only ate the fruits but made full use of the whole tree. The young shoots were cooked as a vegetable or used in curries. When in bloom, the flowers were picked and pickled. The fruits were used as a spice because of its garlic-like flavor.

 

Acorn squash

 

Acorn Squash, also known as the pepper squash is a variety of squash distinct from the others because of its longitudinal ridges and yellow-orange flesh. The Native Americans were juicing the goodness out of these squashes way before the European settlers had a clue about it. Each of these fruits weighs about 1 – 2 pounds and are known to have a shelf life of shy of a few weeks. The locals in the Philippines prefer to chow down on the leaves and flowers too along with the fruits.
 
Besides the great taste, this creeper is known to survive through some of the harshest conditions. Undoubtedly this survivor is one of the most nutrition-dense squashes from the entire family.
 
This vegetable is packed with enough dietary fibre to keep the bowels moving like a smoothly oiled machine. Besides that, it is also a treasure trove of Vitamins A & C besides housing the B complex vitamins. Abound with potassium, magnesium, iron and copper, this vegetable is the perfect addition to a power packed meal.

 

Adzuki beans

 

All through Asia, these beans are used behind the screens to make those power punch red sauces. These red little ninjas are loaded with razor-sharp antioxidants, essential vitamins and minerals. In Japan, where these beans are believed to have originated, they are used to make cakes and bean jams which are usually eaten with rice-dumplings.
 
Adzuki beans are a great source of protein and fibre making a great help to those trying to normalize blood sugar. Adzuki being a rich source of protein is a great choice for anyone looking to beef up the healthy way. Besides that, these beans have been shown to rein control over cholesterol and completely relax those blood vessels.

 

Advocaat

 

The story goes that the Dutch were trying to imitate an avocado-based drink from Java or Brazil. And in their version, they added eggs instead of Avocados along with the brandy. “Advocaatpeer” which stands for “avocados” in Dutch, is very similar to “Advocaat” the Dutch word for “Advocate”. Over time the drink came to be known as advocateborrel which could be translated to “lawyer’s drink” What better name for a boozy eggnog that lubricates the throat?
 
This creamy drink is usually made with egg yolks, vanilla, sugar and brandy. This smooth, custard-like flavored drink had a typical alcohol content of anywhere between 14% and 20%. But modern versions of this liqueur have had a few changes over the years. The drink is usually cooked like a mixture of custard for fears associated with raw eggs, and the alcohol content is pushed up to almost 40%. The original version of this drink was dairy free, but recent versions have also whipped cream or condensed milk to make this one heavy liqueur.

 

Ale

Back in the medieval period, ale with bread was an important source of nutrition. What was then a mild beer, contained just enough alcohol to preserve all of its nutrition without any intoxicating effects. Small beer was consumed almost on a daily basis by everyone, including children in the medieval world. During those times, it was probably a safer bet to gulp ale as compared to water since the germ theory of disease and the sterilizing properties of boiling were absolutely unknown!
 
The alcohol and hops used to preserve some of these ales could have played a role in staving off the pathogens. But more importantly, this was safer because of the hours of boiling required in the production! These drinks were mostly brewed by the womenfolk who were referred to brewsters or alewives. Not surprisingly, the men couldn’t be trusted with the finished ale!
 
In modern day, ales are made at temperatures between 15 and 24-degree Celsius. In all brews which are heated above 24 degree Celsius, the result is a fruity flavor attributed to the esters released.

 

All spice

 

All Spice, also known as Pimenta refers to a Caribbean spice, which originated in South America but now found in all warm parts of the world. The English coined the term to describe its aroma, which has traces of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. These seeds have been used for ages by traditional communities to spice their savory delicacies.
 
The fruits from these trees are picked when they are unripe, much like the harvest of green peppers from vines. These are dried in the sun before being packed and stored for use. The leaves of this tree, which are similar to those of Bay leaf, are also used in cooking. In regions where this tree grows in good number, the leaves and wood are used for smoking meats.
 
In the Middle East, this spice is used to flavor savory dishes but not surprisingly in Great Britain & United States, the spice is used paradoxically used to flavor desserts.
 
Disclaimer: The above article is sponsored by Thryve, the world’s first Gut Health Program that incorporates microbiome testing and personalized probiotics to ensure a healthier gut, happier life, and a brighter future.

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5 Autoimmune Diseases To Watch Out For

Our immune system protects us from foreign bodies. It puts up a fight against infectious microbes and toxins. It comprises the thymus, bone marrow, and lymph nodes. Each of these organ systems fights tooth and nail to protect our physical bodies and upkeep healthy cells.
 
Any disease where the body’s own immune starts attacking a healthy part of its body is called an Autoimmune disease.   
 
Autoimmune diseases are among the most prevalent diseases in the US. They affect more than 23.5 million Americans. A study showed that the incidences of autoimmune have seen a significant spike in the last 30 years. More than 80 different autoimmune diseases are known. Each of these disorders has different symptoms and effects. Treatment for these diseases focuses on reducing pain and ameliorating the symptoms of the condition.
 
Researchers are not yet sure why these immune systems misfire. But there has been an emerging pattern with autoimmune diseases over the years. These diseases are usually a result of many factors acting simultaneously. Some of the factors that have been identified so far include:
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  • Bacterial or viral infections: Certain strains of microbial pathogens trigger and promote autoimmune diseases. Some people are more prone to being affected by these pathogens than others. Either way, it is seen that these bacteria and viruses clearly play a significant role in compromising the immune system in the body.
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  • Effects of drugs: Both prescription and recreational drugs have a strong impact on the human body. When some of these are ingested in large quantities for prolonged periods of time, there is a risk of developing autoimmune diseases.    
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  • Environmental pollutants and toxins: Large-scale industrialization and globalization have had a catastrophic impact on the planet. This has led to drastic changes in the quality of the air, water, and food. This is referred to as the “Hygiene Hypothesis”. This mentions how our bodies are hyper-reacting to toxins and chemicals which have become a part of our present environments.   
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  • Genetic predisposition: Certain ethnic groups are found to be more susceptible to some of the autoimmune diseases. Like for example, African-American and Hispanic populations are more prone to Lupus than Caucasians.
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  • Diet and lifestyle: The “Western diet”  is said to be one of the factors leading to autoimmune diseases. The “Western diet” refers to the high-fat, high-cholesterol, high-sugar, high-salt intake diet. This coupled with frequent consumption of “fast food” makes it all the more worse. It is seen that this diet promotes obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease. These, in turn, promote autoimmune disease.  
 
While these are some factors that have been identified, there could be others which yet remain unknown.
 
Here are 5 of the most common autoimmune diseases.

 

Rheumatoid arthritis

 
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease. Here, antibodies attach themselves to the lining of the joints. And cells from the immune system start attacking the joints thinking they are foreign particles. This leads to severe swelling and pains at the joints.
 
Symptoms are usually described as tender, warm joints that go stiff in the mornings or after inactivity. Some of the other symptoms also include fatigue, fever, and weight loss.
 
The disease is known to take root in smaller joints such as those of the fingers and toes. As it progresses it spreads to the wrists, ankles, elbows, knees, hips, and shoulders.
 
Besides joint pain, there this form of arthritis also affects other organs such as the skin, eyes, salivary glands and bone marrow. This disease is also characterized by alternate periods extreme pains and times when the swelling and pain seem to fade or disappear. These are usually referred to as “flares”. It would be good to visit your doctor if you find any kind of persistent discomfort and swelling in your joints.
 
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have persistent discomfort and swelling in your joints.

 

Inflammatory bowel disease

 
Inflammatory Bowel Disease is also known as IBD. This term is used to describe a range of disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Here the lining of the intestine is attacked by the body’s own immune system.  
 

There are two types of IBD

 
  • Ulcerative colitis: This is characterised by ulcers in the colon, the innermost lining of the large intestine and the rectum.
     
  • Crohn’s disease: In this case, inflammation is present throughout the lining of the digestive tract. It often spreads deep into the affected tissue.
 
The symptoms of both these forms of IBD are quite similar. Usually, the person suffers from abdominal pains, severe diarrhea, blood in the stool, fatigue and weight loss. IBD can get extremely serious if allowed to progress. Sometimes leading to life-threatening complications.
 
The symptoms with IBD are not always too easy to read since they are not always present continuously. There are intermittent phases when the symptoms peak and lull down.

 

Multiple sclerosis

 
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, happens when the brain and the spinal cord are attacked by the body’s own immune system. The immune system particularly targets the myelin sheath. Myelin is a fatty substance that insulates & protects nerve fibres. With the loss of this layer, the communication channels between the brain and the organ systems are under threat. Over time, these nerves deteriorate and are permanently damaged.  
 
Symptoms of MS vary considerably from person to person. All symptoms are a result of a miscommunication between the brain the limbs or organ systems. Symptoms include muscle weakness, poor coordination, loss of vision, spasms, tremors, numbness in the extremities and slurred speech. But then again, not all of these symptoms show up at once. Only one or a few of them show up with long periods of remission in between.   
 
At later stages, when the symptoms worsen, there are problems with mobility and gait. The rate at which it spreads is not fixed and greatly varies with the person.

 

Type 1 diabetes

 
Type 1 Diabetes is quite different from Type 2 Diabetes. Both these forms are closely linked to the hormone insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It facilitates their absorption into the liver, fat, and skeletal muscle cells. This process enables the carbs, particularly glucose to be used as fuel by the cells, to release energy.  
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  • In type 2 diabetes, the body produces insulin but is unable to use it in the right manner. 90 – 95 % of the people who have been diagnosed with diabetes suffer from this form of diabetes.
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  • Type 1 diabetes is when the body’s immune system destroys cells in the pancreas that release insulin. Only 5-10% of people who have been diagnosed with diabetes suffer from this form of diabetes.
 
Type 1 diabetes is also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. There are various factors that have been identified that lead to this condition. It has been found that the genetic predisposition to Type 1 diabetes is quite high. Despite heavy research on this subject, there has been no treatment for this form of diabetes. Treatment mostly focuses on managing blood sugar levels with the right amounts of insulin, diet, and lifestyle changes.
 
Symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, mood swings, fatigue, and blurred vision.

 

Grave’s disease

 
Grave’s disease is when the thyroid gland becomes overly active. When the thyroid gland becomes hyperactive it produces copious amounts of the Thyroid hormone. The thyroid hormone is primarily responsible for the regulation of metabolism. And this is linked to functions concerning a number of organ systems. In Grave’s disease, at times there are no perceptible symptoms at all. But when symptoms are present, they can vary widely.
 
Symptoms usually include an enlarged thyroid, insomnia, irritability, sensitivity to heat, muscle weakness, shaky hands, frequent bowel movements, change in menstrual cycles, rapid or irregular heartbeat and weight loss despite normal eating habits.
 
Besides these, there are two characteristic symptoms associated with Grave’s disease.
 
  • Grave’s ophthalmopathy: This refers to the inflammation of the muscles and tissues around the eyes often leading to bulging eyes. The bulge at times is also coupled with double vision, light sensitivity, and pain in the eyes.
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  • Grave’s dermopathy: This refers to the reddening and thickening of the skin mostly on the shins and the tops of the feet.  
 
In Grave’s disease, the treatment focuses on the inhibition of the overproduction of thyroid hormones. And to reduce the severity of the other symptoms.
 
The best way to steer clear of these deadly diseases is to stay calm, eat healthily and keep fit. So make sure to keep up your routine without falling prey to the pitfalls.
 
Disclaimer: The above article is sponsored by Thryve, the world’s first Gut Health Program that incorporates microbiome testing and personalized probiotics to ensure a healthier gut, happier life, and a brighter future.

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The Vital Life Force behind a Balanced Meal: Vitamins

Have you ever wondered why Vitamins are important to us? Why do health nuts go gaga over them?
 
The word “Vitamin” is a short version of Vital Amine. Amines or Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential in minute quantities. They support the body’s various physiological functions. These organic compounds cannot be synthesized by the body.  Which is why they need to be supplemented through our foods on a regular basis to meet our needs.

 

Vitamins have three main characteristics

 
They are naturally available in the foods we eat, usually present in very small quantities.
 
They are essential for normal physiological functions of the body – digestion, growth, and reproduction.
 
When we do not consume vitamins in sufficient quantities, the body exhibits deficiency symptoms.

 

Based on their solubility, vitamins are divided into two types

 
Vitamins that dissolve in fats or lipids are called lipid-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed passively into the body and must be transported along with dietary fat. These are usually found in cells which contain fat such as membranes, lipid droplets or oils within seeds. In the body, these vitamins are stored in the fatty tissues.
 
Vitamins soluble in water are known as water-soluble vitamins.
 
Each of these super awesome vitamins serve multiple functions in the human body. But the most crucial among them is the role they play with Enzymes. Vitamins are absolutely necessary as cofactors for enzymes to catalyze reactions. And every process in the body depends on these enzymes.
 
When the body does not receive vitamins in the right quantities on a regular basis, there are deficiencies. These can create or worsen chronic health conditions.

 

Water-soluble vitamins

 
The functions of some of the vitamins are very similar to one another and are found in similar foods. One such group of vitamins is referred to as the B complex. These include 8 B vitamins – B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12). These vitamins, as a group, play an important role in keeping our bodies functioning like well-oiled machines. While each of these vitamins work in tandem, they also have their own unique roles and functions within the body including
 
They are usually found together in different food groups. Each of them plays a vital role and ensures that the body operates efficiently, as it should!
 
Referred to as vitamin B complex, the eight B vitamins — B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12 — play an important role in keeping our bodies running like well-oiled machines. These essential nutrients help convert our food into fuel, allowing us to stay energized throughout the day. While many of the following vitamins work in tandem, each has its own specific benefits.

 

Vitamin B1

 
Vitamin B1 is often referred to as the anti-stress vitamin only because of its ability to protect the immune system. This vitamin helps break down simple carbohydrates (1) and helps the body make new cells.
 
Sources: Sunflower seeds, asparagus, lettuce, mushrooms, black beans, navy beans, lentils, spinach, peas, pinto beans, lima beans, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, tuna, whole wheat, and soybeans.

 

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

 
Vitamin B2 works much like an antioxidant, fighting free radicals that damage cells. This action is also believed to prevent early aging and the development of cardio-related ailments. Riboflavin is known to stave off migraines (2) and play a role in the body’s red blood cell production. Exposure to sunlight is known to reduce the riboflavin content in foods. Particularly UV rays.
 
Sources: Almonds, unpolished wild rice, milk, yoghurt, spinach, mushrooms, and eggs.

 

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

 
Vitamin B3 which I’d also known as Niacin boosts HDL cholesterol aka the good cholesterol. Alcohol consumption has shown to lower B3 levels in some individuals. Niacin I absorbed typically and is used to treat done common skin ailments like acne (3).
 
Sources: Beans, green vegetables, peanuts, sweet potato, peaches, tuna, and salmon.

 

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)

 
Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic Acid is found in almost all food groups in small quantities. This comes from the Greek word Pantothen which means “ from everywhere”. B5 plays a crucial role in the body in breakdown of fats, and production of the sex & stress hormones including testosterone. B5 it’s also known to promote healthy glowing skin and is used to prevent redness/skin spots (3).
 
Sources: Avocados, eggs, strawberries, lentils, cauliflower, squash, sunflower seeds, and broccoli.

 

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

 
Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine along with fellow B vitamins such as 12-and 9 helps regulate the amount of homocysteine in the body. Homocysteine is known to be associated with heart disease. Pyridoxine plays an important role in mood and sleep patterns. The body needs pyridoxine to produce serotonin, melatonin, and norepinephrine. Pyridoxine also helps reduces inflammation in the body particularly with rheumatoid arthritis.
 
Sources: Chicken, brown rice, carrots, cheese, tuna, salmon, tuna, and bell peppers.

 

Vitamin H or B7 (Biotin)

 
Mainly because of its association with healthy hair, skin and nails this is known as ‘the beauty vitamin’. This vitamin is one of the saviours to those suffering from high blood sugar. Amongst all B vitamins, Vitamin B7 or Biotin is believed to play a crucial role during pregnancy. This is needed for normal growth during the embryo stage (4).
 
Sources: Barley, potatoes, fish, eggs, nuts, chicken, and fish.

 

Vitamin B9 (Folate)

 

You may have heard the word Folic acid being mentioned alongside other food supplements. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. Folate is known to stave off depression and prevent memory loss (5). This is one of the other vitamins that play a key role in pregnancy particularly to prevent nerve-related birth defects in the child.
 
Sources: Dark leafy greens, beetroots, and other root vegetables, beans, salmon, and milk.

 

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

 
Vitamin B12 must combine with intrinsic factor before it’s absorbed into the bloodstream. We can store a year’s worth of this vitamin – but it should still be consumed regularly. B12 is a product of bacterial fermentation, which is why it’s not present in higher-order plant foods.
 
Unlike other vitamins, Vitamin B12 is a total team player. B12 combines with B9 to help iron-protein complex aka hemoglobin do its job, ie carry oxygen. Since B12 is a product of bacterial fermentation, it is not present in higher-order plant foods. Non-meat ie vegetarians and vegans are seen to be more prone to deficiencies with regard to the vitamin (6).
 
Sources: Fish, shellfish liver, trout, salmon, tuna, and eggs.
 

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

 
The Miracle Vitamin! Believe it or not, the true potential of this vitamin was first seen at sea. Sailors who consumed lemons and other citrus fruits did not develop scurvy like the others. From then on this Vitamin was closely studied they found that Vitamin does wonders in treating a whole range of ailments. This water-soluble vitamin easily gets destroyed when fresh foods are processed. In the body, Vitamin C acts as a strong antioxidant (7). It stimulates the production of hormones & enzymes. It also helps in the synthesis of collagen amongst other functions. Presence of Vitamin C is strongly correlated with reduced incidences of cancer, blood pressure, immune-related disorders (8).
 
Sources: All citrus fruits such as limes, oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, pineapples, guavas, and kale.

 

Vitamin A (Retinoids)

 
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant, that is most well known for the role it plays in maintaining healthy vision and neurological function (9). This Vitamin is found in two primary forms namely active Vitamin or retinol and beta-carotene. We get active Vitamin A from animal-derived foods and this can be directly used utilized by the body. Beta-carotene is primarily found in plants and needs to be converted to Vitamin A before the body puts it to use.
 
Sources: Carrots, papayas, carrots, green leafy vegetables, squash, bell peppers, peaches, beef, and eggs.

 

Vitamin D (Calciferol)

 
The Sunshine Vitamin! This fat-soluble vitamin most well known for the crucial role it plays to build and maintain strong bones (10). This vitamin boosts immunity and improves resistance to certain diseases. Vitamin D is known to play an important role in regulating mood and is one way you could kick out the blues (11). And guess what, the body naturally produces this vitamin when exposed to sunlight. Now you have more reason to go into your birthday suit on a bright sunny day.
 
Sources: Sunlight is the best sources but it could also be supplemented with salmon, mackerel, tuna, and mushrooms.

 

Vitamin E (Tocopherol):

 
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, preventing free radical damage to specific fats in the body & in effect reducing ageing. Vitamin E plays an important role in the functions of various organ systems, enzymes and neurological processes (12). And guess what, this Vitamin is only found in plant sources!
 
Sources: Broccoli, green leafy vegetables, almonds, olives, blueberries, tomatoes, most nuts, and seeds.

 

Vitamin K

 
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that one of the prerequisites for blood coagulation (13). This vitamin controls the binding of the calcium in bones and in other cells within the body. Without this vitamin, blood clotting is seriously impaired. The absence of Vitamin K from the diet is seen as one of the causes of osteoporosis and calcification of arteries (13).
 
Sources: Green beans, green peas, carrots, watercress, parsley, and asparagus.
 
Ensuring that your meal is power-packed with these Vitamins is one of the safest sure shot ways to steer clear of various ailments. Try your hand at this balancing act!
 
Disclaimer: The above article is sponsored by Thryve, the world’s first Gut Health Program that incorporates microbiome testing and personalized probiotics to ensure a healthier gut, happier life, and a brighter future.

 

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Allergic Diseases And Probiotics

By Jun Kim Ph.D.
 

 
Worldwide sensitization rates to common allergens among school children are approaching 40%-50% [1]. The prevalence of diseases such as allergic rhinitis, asthma, and atopic dermatitis have been increasing especially in the developed world. For example from 1980 to 1994 the prevalence of asthma increased by 75%, while in the developing world, the lower prevalence of the allergic disease has not changed significantly during the same period [2]. The disorders have a genetic basis and are heritable, but the rapid increase suggests that there are external factors from the environment. The hygiene hypothesis posits that increased human longevity and allergy prevalence are consequences of lower rate of infections during childhood. Although mechanisms remain unclear, the hygiene hypothesis is generally considered strong.
 
The association between gut microbiota and allergy has been focused on in multiple studies [3]. For example, associations have been found between allergic diseases and differences in the gut microflora among children in countries with a low and high prevalence of allergies [4]. Much evidence suggests that the establishment of the gut microbiota plays an important role in directing immune system development. Such findings led to the microbial hypothesis, which states that exposure to microbes affect the development of the immune system and allergic diseases, to explain the hygiene hypothesis [5]. Given the immunological basis of allergic diseases and probiotic effects on immune system, probiotics have been investigated for their beneficial effect in preventing allergic diseases.
 
Changes in the gut microbiota can modulate immune response in distal organs, and studies suggest probiotics can alleviate allergic rhinitis [6,7]. Probiotics prevented the pollen-induced infiltration of white blood cells into the nasal mucosa and altered immune response in allergic rhinitis[6–8]. A study of young children (6–24 months) showed that orally taken Lactobacillus rhamnosus mildly decreased allergic sensitization [9]. Another study showed that Lactobacillus casei Shirota modulated immune response and alleviated the severity of symptoms in adult patients [10]. However, there are other studies showing few or no clinical benefits of probiotics [11]. Allergic rhinitis may be subdivided into different kinds and new studies that take this into consideration may provide clearer results.
 
Some studies report beneficial effect of probiotics for atopic dermatitis [12]. For children, it was especially effective when both prenatal and postnatal probiotics were used. Also, the preventive effect was greater in those with a family history of allergic diseases [13–18]. Meta-analyses suggest that there is convincing evidence for probiotics preventing the development of atopic dermatitis in high-risk infants but with varying degrees among the different disease subtypes and treatments [19–21]. At this point, a preventive effect of probiotics is not confirmed but the results seem to show at least some benefits.
 
In a study with infants with atopic dermatitis, probiotics prevented asthma-like symptoms [22]. Another study showed that the clinical severity of asthma and allergic rhinitis decreased in the probiotic-treated patients compared to the controls, suggesting that probiotic supplementation may have clinical benefits for children with allergic airway diseases [23]. Although the possibility of using probiotics to treat asthma has been promising with animal models, no significant effect has been shown in human trials [24, 25]. For example, in a study with 1223 mothers with infants at high risk for allergy, prenatal and postnatal use of probiotics did not have a preventive effect on asthma, although some allergic diseases occurred less in cesarean-delivered children receiving probiotics [26]. Similar results were shown in two other trials with no significant difference in terms of wheezing and prevalence [15, 21]. In general, the results are affected by variables such as method of delivery, supplementation periods, and follow-up periods, which makes well-controlled trials very challenging.
 
The hygiene hypothesis and the microbial hypothesis suggest that the link between the immune system and the gut microbiota affects the development of allergic diseases. Currently, the evidence is not strong enough to conclude that there is an absolute benefit. There are many contradicting results with confounding variables. However, collectively there has been a significant progress in understanding the mechanism behind how the gut microbiota can affect the human body and allergic diseases, and this can lead to new trials with more effective probiotics. Some of the proposed mechanisms will be discussed in the next article.
 
Disclaimer: The above article is sponsored by Thryve, the world’s first Gut Health Program that incorporates microbiome testing and personalized probiotics to ensure a healthier gut, happier life, and a brighter future.

 

 

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Resources

 
[1] Pwankar RC, Giorgio Walkter; Holgate, Stephen T.; Lockey, Richard F.: White Book on Allergy 2011–2012 Executive Summary. World Health Organization.
 
[2] Mannino DM, Homa DM, Pertowski CA, Ashizawa A, Nixon LL, Johnson CA, Ball LB, Jack E, Kang DS: Surveillance for asthma — United States, 1960–1995. MMWR CDC Surveill Summ 1998, 47:1–27.
 
[3] Riiser A: The human microbiome, asthma, and allergy. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol 2015, 11:35.
 
[4] Iacono A, Raso GM, Canani RB, Calignano A, Meli R: Probiotics as an emerging therapeutic strategy to treat NAFLD: focus on molecular and biochemical mechanisms. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 22:699–711.
 
[5] Bach JF: The effect of infections on susceptibility to autoimmune and allergic diseases. N Engl J Med 2002, 347:911–920.
 
[6] Belkaid Y, Hand TW: Role of the microbiota in immunity and inflammation. Cell 2014, 157:121–141.
 
[7] Ouwehand AC, Nermes M, Collado MC, Rautonen N, Salminen S, Isolauri E: Specific probiotics alleviate allergic rhinitis during the birch pollen season. World J Gastroenterol 2009, 15:3261–3268.
 
[8] Wassenberg J, Nutten S, Audran R, Barbier N, Aubert V, Moulin J, Mercenier A, Spertini F: Effect of Lactobacillus paracasei ST11 on a nasal provocation test with grass pollen in allergic rhinitis. Clin Exp Allergy 2011, 41:565–573.
 
[9] Rose MA, Stieglitz F, Koksal A, Schubert R, Schulze J, Zielen S: Efficacy of probiotic Lactobacillus GG on allergic sensitization and asthma in infants at risk. Clinical and Experimental Allergy 2010, 40:1398–1405.
 
[10] Ivory K, Chambers SJ, Pin C, Prieto E, Arques JL, Nicoletti C: Oral delivery of Lactobacillus casei Shirota modifies allergen-induced immune responses in allergic rhinitis. Clinical and Experimental Allergy 2008, 38:1282–1289.
 
[11] Koyama T, Kirjavainen PV, Fisher C, Anukam K, Summers K, Hekmat S, Reid G: Development and pilot evaluation of a novel probiotic mixture for the management of seasonal allergic rhinitis. Canadian Journal of Microbiology 2010, 56:730–738.
 
[12] Drago L, Iemoli E, Rodighiero V, Nicola L, De Vecchi E, Piconi S: Effects of Lactobacillus salivarius LS01 (DSM 22775) treatment on adult atopic dermatitis: a randomized placebo-controlled study. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol 2011, 24:1037–1048.
 
[13] Lee J, Seto D, Bielory L: Meta-analysis of clinical trials of probiotics for prevention and treatment of pediatric atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2008, 121.
 
[14] Jenmalm MC, Duchen K: Timing of allergy-preventive and immunomodulatory dietary interventions — are prenatal, perinatal or postnatal strategies optimal? Clin Exp Allergy 2013, 43:273–278.
 
[15] Abrahamsson TR, Jakobsson T, Böttcher MF, Fredrikson M, Jenmalm MC, Björkstén B, Oldaeus G: Probiotics in prevention of IgE-associated eczema: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007, 119.
 
[16] Kukkonen K, Savilahti E, Haahtela T, Jutunen-Backman K, Korpela R, Poussa T: Probiotics and prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharides in the prevention of allergic diseases: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007, 119.
 
[17] Kim JY, Kwon JH, Ahn SH, Lee SI, Han YS, Choi YO, Lee SY, Ahn KM, Ji GE: Effect of probiotic mix (Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus) in the primary prevention of eczema: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2010, 21:e386–393.
 
[18] Brouwer ML, Wolt-Plompen SA, Dubois AE, van der Heide S, Jansen DF, Hoijer MA: No effects of probiotics on atopic dermatitis in infancy: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Clin Exp Allergy 2006, 36.
 
[19] Kim NY, Ji GE: Effects of probiotics on the prevention of atopic dermatitis. Korean J Pediatr 2012, 55:193–201.
 
[20] Lee J, Seto D, Bielory L: Meta-analysis of clinical trials of probiotics for prevention and treatment of pediatric atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2008, 121:116–121 e111.
 
[21] Taylor AL, Dunstan JA, Prescott SL: Probiotic supplementation for the first 6 months of life fails to reduce the risk of atopic dermatitis and increases the risk of allergen sensitization in high-risk children: a randomized controlled trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007, 119.
 
[22] van der Aa LB, van Aalderen WM, Heymans HS, Henk Sillevis Smitt J, Nauta AJ, Knippels LM: Synbiotics prevent asthma-like symptoms in infants with atopic dermatitis. Allergy 2011, 66.
 
[23] Chen YS, Jan RL, Lin YL, Chen HH, Wang JY: Randomized placebo-controlled trial of lactobacillus on asthmatic children with allergic rhinitis. Pediatr Pulmonol 2010, 45.
 
[24] Hougee S, Vriesema AJ, Wijering SC: Oral treatment with probiotics reduces allergic symptoms in ovalbumin-sensitized mice: a bacterial strain comparative study. Int Arch Allergy Immunol 2010, 151.
 
[25] Yu J, Jang SO, Kim BJ, Song YH, Kwon JW, Kang MJ, Choi WA, Jung HD, Hong SJ: The Effects of Lactobacillus rhamnosus on the Prevention of Asthma in a Murine Model. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res 2010, 2:199–205.
 
[26] Kuitunen M, Kukkonen K, Juntunen-Backman K, Korpela R, Poussa T, Tuure T, Haahtela T, Savilahti E: Probiotics prevent IgE-associated allergy until age 5 years in cesarean-delivered children but not in the total cohort. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2009, 123:335–341.
 

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Potential Mechanism Behind The Hygiene Hypothesis

By Jun Kim Ph.D.
 

 
Previously the association between gut microbiota and allergy was discussed [Here]. To describe worldwide increased rates of allergies in school children, the hygiene hypothesis was proposed, which subsequently led to the microbial hypothesis as a potential explanation. Given the strong evidence supporting these hypotheses, probiotics treatment has been suggested as a viable strategy to prevent allergic diseases. This article will discuss some of the proposed molecular mechanisms behind the microbial hypothesis.
 
Helper T cell 1 (Th1) and helper T cell 2 (Th2) are types of immunes cells that modulate the activities of other immune cells. While Th1 is known to be mainly involved in the cellular immune system Th2 is known to be involved in the humoral immune system. It has been observed that while Th2 reacts to allergens Th1 reacts to microbes. Interestingly Th1-inducing molecules have been demonstrated to reduce allergen-specific Th2 response and vice versa [1]. This reciprocal down-regulation of Th1 and Th2 cells led some researchers to suggest that in developed countries the lack of microbial burden, which normally favors a strong Th1-mediated immunity, redirects the immune response toward a Th2 phenotype and therefore predisposes the host to allergic disorders [2]. The problem with this explanation is that Th1 cell-mediated autoimmune diseases have also been shown to be protected by Th1 activating infections and that Th2 activating allergic response can be prevented by parasites that induce a Th2 response [3]. But these observations still fit with the concept of a common mechanism underlying infection-mediated protection against allergy and autoimmunity, and other mechanisms have been proposed.
 

Another proposed mechanism is antigenic competition. Two immune responses elicited by distinct antigens occurring simultaneously tend to inhibit each other. For example, given the limited resource for the immune system, activation of the immune response for one antigen reduces the resource to activate for the second antigen. Therefore, the development of strong immune responses against antigens from infectious agents could inhibit responses to ‘weak’ antigens such as autoantigens and allergens [4]. Immune cells compete for cytokines, recognition for major histocompatibility complex (MHC)/self-peptide complexes, and growth factors necessary for the differentiation and proliferation of B and T cells during immune responses. Some of the molecules known to play an important role are IL-2, IL-7, and IL-15 [5].
 
Other mechanisms involve a specific type of cells activated by microbes inhibiting activating signals for allergies. For example, regulatory T cells (Tregs) can suppress immune responses distinct from responses against the antigen in question. So it is hypothesized that when these cells are activated by microbes they suppress signals that are activated by other antigens such as allergens. Evidence from mouse models shows CD4+CD25+ forkhead box P3 (FoxP3+) T cells are involved in this mechanism [6]. Also, these cells have been observed to be especially abundant in newborns of mothers exposed to farming. Other data suggest a role for IL-10 producing B cells and natural killer T cells [7]. At the molecular level production of cytokines IL-10 and TGF-beta, and activation of Toll-like receptors by microbial molecules have been observed to prevent allergic reactions [8].
 
It remains to be seen which mechanism plays the most critical role in pathological outcomes. It may turn out that different mechanisms apply for different infections. These mechanisms open interesting therapeutic perspectives for the prevention of allergic and autoimmune diseases. Of course, infecting people at high risk of developing allergic diseases to prevent them will cause infectious diseases instead. Specific molecules with a bacterial origin and potentially have a preventative effect are being discovered. However, such a chemical could be limited by a short half-life. Probiotics can be a safe and effective approach to preventing various allergic diseases by modifying the gut microbiota, but further work is needed to determine the exact mechanism and the most optimal composition.
 
Disclaimer: The above article is sponsored by Thryve, the world’s first Gut Health Program that incorporates microbiome testing and personalized probiotics to ensure a healthier gut, happier life, and a brighter future.

 

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Resources

 
[1] Bellanti JA: Cytokines and allergic diseases: clinical aspects. Allergy Asthma Proc 1998, 19:337–341.
 
[2] Maggi E: The TH1/TH2 paradigm in allergy. Immunotechnology 1998, 3:233–244.
 
[3] Okada H, Kuhn C, Feillet H, Bach JF: The ‘hygiene hypothesis’ for autoimmune and allergic diseases: an update. Clin Exp Immunol 2010, 160:1–9.
 
[4] Bach JF: The effect of infections on susceptibility to autoimmune and allergic diseases. N Engl J Med 2002, 347:911–920.
 
[5] Surh CD, Sprent J: Homeostasis of naive and memory T cells. Immunity 2008, 29:848–862.
 
[6] Belkaid Y, Piccirillo CA, Mendez S, Shevach EM, Sacks DL: CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells control Leishmania major persistence and immunity. Nature 2002, 420:502–507.
 
[7] Schaub B, Liu J, Hoppler S, Schleich I, Huehn J, Olek S, Wieczorek G, Illi S, von Mutius E: Maternal farm exposure modulates neonatal immune mechanisms through regulatory T cells. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2009, 123:774–782 e775.
 
[8] Aumeunier A, Grela F, Ramadan A, Pham Van L, Bardel E, Gomez Alcala A, Jeannin P, Akira S, Bach JF, Thieblemont N: Systemic Toll-like receptor stimulation suppresses experimental allergic asthma and autoimmune diabetes in NOD mice. PLoS One 2010, 5:e11484.
 

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Probiotics In Breast Milk

By Jun Kim Ph.D.
 

 
Recently breast milk even seems to have become a significant commodity with for-profit companies such as Prolacta Biosciences processing 2.4 million ounces in 2014, which compares to 3.1 million ounces dispensed in 2013 by all 18 nonprofit milk banks in the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. Such high demand may be justified given that human milk has been considered as the gold standard for infant feeding throughout history and across different cultures, although there seem to be some questionable applications [1]. Despite the extensive literature describing the advantages of human milk it still surprises scientists with new discoveries that allow a glimpse of how perfectly it is made for newborns [2].
 
It is widely acknowledged that there are many benefits in breastfeeding that are physiological, environmental, socioeconomic, as well as psychological [3]. Well-controlled scientific analysis of breastfeeding is inherently challenging because it is unethical and practically impossible to conduct a double-blind randomized trial comparing breastfeeding and formula feeding. Yet, reduction in infection rates is a widely recognized health benefit of breastfeeding. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), any breastfeeding reduced the risk of gastroenteritis by 64% and of otitis media by 23% [3]. Further, exclusive breastfeeding for more than 4 months reduced the risk of lower respiratory tract infection by 72% [3]. There are also studies showing the benefits of breastfeeding in neurodevelopment, obesity, allergy, and autoimmune disorders, but mostly they are observational studies and require better controls for more reliable results [3–6].
 
In addition to carbohydrates, protein, and fat, breast milk provides vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes, and hormones. Breast milk also contains human milk oligosaccharides (varies between women), antibodies and lymphocytes from the mother that help the baby resist infections [7]. Such components seem to be individualized for each infant. When the mother comes into contact with the baby and subsequently, the pathogens that colonize the baby, she then makes the appropriate antibodies and immune cells that can be passed to her baby through her breast milk [8]. More antibodies are found in the initial milk produced, named colostrum, and this helps to protect the newborn until its own immune system is functioning properly [9]. Therefore, some of the key health benefits from breastmilk are personalized for the baby and come not only from dietary nutrition but also from interactions with the mother.
 
Breast milk is not sterile but contains as many as 600 different species of various bacteria, including Bifidobacterium breve, B. adolescentis, B. longum, B. bifidum, and B. dentium [10]. These bacteria can come from the baby’s mouth, but more intriguingly they can also come from the mother’s gut. Studies suggest that immune cells in the mother’s gut can pick up bacteria and carry them around the body using the lymphatic system [11]. These cells can then end up in the mammary glands and eventually in the breastmilk. A study showed that in 1 day-old newborns Enterococcus and Streptococcus were the microorganisms most frequently isolated[12]. From 10 days of age until 3 months, bifidobacterial become the predominant group. Lactobacilli and bifidobacterial are some of the most common bacteria found in breast milk and may contribute to the initial establishment of the microbiota in the newborn.
 
Probiotics isolated from breast milk are suggested to have various health benefits. Some of the strains have been shown to produce anti-microbial compounds to inhibit the growth of E. coli, Salmonella spp., and Listeria monocytogenes [13]. It has also been shown that they can improve the intestinal barrier function by reducing intestinal permeability [13]. Most importantly they compete with entero-toxigenic bacteria for nutrients and for colonization sites [14]. Clinical studies such as those involving L. reuteri and L. salivarius show various benefits when treated [15, 16]. Furthermore, these probiotics are some of the first microorganisms that the newborns contact, which is crucial for determining the subsequent course of immune system development [11]. Probiotics are known to induce a TH1 response and down-regulate the production of TH2 cytokines, responsible for the allergic response [17]. Also, a clinical trial showed that supplementation of infant formulas with rhamnosus LGG improved neonate growth pattern [18].
 
Cellular and molecular insights on how human breast milk and breastfeeding influence child development are important because they can lead to novel therapeutic approaches. For example, molecules and probiotic species discovered in human breast milk have shown promising results in clinical studies for diseases such as cancer, inflammation, and infections [13, 19, 20]. Many of these probiotic species are already being used in infant formula or dietary supplements, and it would be exciting to see more active uses as actual treatments. However, it is also important to keep in mind that some of the benefits cannot be artificially generated with a few ingredients as they involve a genetic, molecular, and psychological interaction between the mother and the child.
 
Disclaimer: The above article is sponsored by Thryve, the world’s first Gut Health Program that incorporates microbiome testing and personalized probiotics to ensure a healthier gut, happier life, and a brighter future.

 

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Resources

 
[1] Nutrition ECo, Agostoni C, Braegger C, Decsi T, Kolacek S, Koletzko B, Michaelsen KF, Mihatsch W, Moreno LA, Puntis J, et al.: Breast-feeding: A commentary by the ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2009, 49:112–125.
 
[2] McGuire MK, McGuire MA: Got bacteria? The astounding, yet not-so-surprising, microbiome of human milk. Curr Opin Biotechnol 2016, 44:63–68.
 
[3] Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics 2012.
 
[4] Anderson JW, Johnstone BM, Remley DT: Breast-feeding and cognitive development: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 1999, 70:525–535.
 
[5] Yan J, Liu L, Zhu Y, Huang G, Wang PP: The association between breastfeeding and childhood obesity: a meta-analysis. BMC Public Health 2014, 14:1267.
 
[6] Dick S, Friend A, Dynes K, AlKandari F, Doust E, Cowie H, Ayres JG, Turner SW: A systematic review of associations between environmental exposures and development of asthma in children aged up to 9 years. BMJ Open 2014, 4.
 
[7] Bertotto A, Castellucci G, Fabietti G, Scalise F, Vaccaro R: Lymphocytes bearing the T cell receptor gamma delta in human breast milk. Arch Dis Child 1990, 65:1274–1275.
 
[8] Gros L, Pelegrin M, Plays M, Piechaczyk M: Efficient mother-to-child transfer of antiretroviral immunity in the context of preclinical monoclonal antibody-based immunotherapy. J Virol 2006, 80:10191–10200.
 
[9] Hurley WL, Theil PK: Perspectives on immunoglobulins in colostrum and milk. Nutrients 2011, 3:442–474.
 
[10] Cabrera-Rubio R, Collado MC, Laitinen K, Salminen S, Isolauri E, Mira A: The human milk microbiome changes over lactation and is shaped by maternal weight and mode of delivery. Am J Clin Nutr 2012, 96:544–551.
 
[11] Donnet-Hughes A, Perez PF, Dore J, Leclerc M, Levenez F, Benyacoub J, Serrant P, Segura-Roggero I, Schiffrin EJ: Potential role of the intestinal microbiota of the mother in neonatal immune education. Proc Nutr Soc 2010, 69:407–415.
 
[12] Solis G, de Los Reyes-Gavilan CG, Fernandez N, Margolles A, Gueimonde M: Establishment and development of lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria microbiota in breast-milk and the infant gut. Anaerobe 2010, 16:307–310.
 
[13] Olivares M, Diaz-Ropero MP, Martin R, Rodriguez JM, Xaus J: Antimicrobial potential of four Lactobacillus strains isolated from breast milk. J Appl Microbiol 2006, 101:72–79.
 
[14] Gilliland SE, Speck ML: Antagonistic Action of Lactobacillus acidophilus Toward Intestinal and Foodborne Pathogens in Associative Cultures. Journal of Food Protection 1977, 40:820–823.
 
[15] Urbanska M, Szajewska H: The efficacy of Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 in infants and children: a review of the current evidence. Eur J Pediatr 2014, 173:1327–1337.
 
[16] Niccoli AA, Artesi AL, Candio F, Ceccarelli S, Cozzali R, Ferraro L, Fiumana D, Mencacci M, Morlupo M, Pazzelli P, et al.: Preliminary results on clinical effects of probiotic Lactobacillus salivarius LS01 in children affected by atopic dermatitis. J Clin Gastroenterol 2014, 48 Suppl 1:S34–36.
 
[17] Matsuzaki T, Chin J: Modulating immune responses with probiotic bacteria. Immunol Cell Biol 2000, 78:67–73.
 
[18] Vendt N, Grünberg H, Tuure T, Malminiemi O, Wuolijoki E, Tillmann V, Sepp E, Korpela R: Growth during the first 6 months of life in infants using formula enriched with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG: double-blind, randomized trial. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 2006, 19:51–58.
 
[19] Chen HY, Mollstedt O, Tsai MH, Kreider RB: Potential clinical applications of multi-functional milk proteins and peptides in cancer management. Curr Med Chem 2014, 21:2424–2437.
 
[20] Groeger D, O’Mahony L, Murphy EF, Bourke JF, Dinan TG, Kiely B, Shanahan F, Quigley EM: Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 modulates host inflammatory processes beyond the gut. Gut Microbes 2013, 4:325–339.
 

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The Gut Microbiota and The Immune System

By Nishant Mehta Ph.D. candidate
 

The immune system is responsible for detecting and destroying foreign pathogens with the ultimate goal of protecting the host from harm. Through a stringent process of T cell selection, the human immune system is largely depleted of cells that could attack the host, preventing autoimmunity in healthy individuals. The immune cells that remain are ready to defend against foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. This begs the question: since the human gut contains around 1014 bacteria [1], why does the immune system refrain from attacking these cells and clearing them from the digestive tract? At first glance, we would expect immune cells to constantly wage war with the billions of bacteria we ingest every day. Fortunately for us, humans have evolved intricate immune-mediated mechanisms to preserve and enrich the microbiota in our gut while still protecting the rest of the body from opportunistic invasion. The microbiota, in turn, plays an integral role in regulating the immune system.
 
Microbes in the gut are essential for healthy digestion and therefore must be protected against immune system clearance. There are two main methods of microbiota protection: stratification and compartmentalization. Stratification is the physical separation of gut bacteria from areas of immune activity. Compartmentalization is the containment of immune responses to intestinal sites to prevent widespread, systemic immune activation. Successful stratification is dependent on gut anatomy. The intestinal lumen is the cavity that is exposed to digesting food and commensal bacteria. A layer of epithelial cells joined together via tight junctions lines the outside of the lumen and serves as a protective barrier between the gut and blood circulation of the host. In the large intestine, there are two mucus layers that serve as physical barriers between the lumen and epithelial cells.
 
Bacteria can penetrate the outer, looser mucus layer but rarely pass through the firm, inner layer [2]. In the small intestine, a single mucus layer impedes bacterial penetration of the epithelial cell layer [3]. Stratification also depends on the activity of dendritic cells (DCs), i.e., cells responsible for surveying the environment and notifying the immune system of threats. These dendritic cells reach across the epithelial cell layer and sample bacteria that have penetrated the inner mucus layer. By engulfing sample bacteria and displaying bacterial fragments to other immune cells in intestinal lymph nodes, these DCs induce the production of secretory IgA antibodies. Secretory IgA can cross the epithelial cell layer and bind to encroaching bacteria, thereby preventing their migration across the epithelial barrier [4].
 
Even with bacteria-resistant mucus layers and protective secretory IgA antibodies, a small number of bacteria can successfully traverse the epithelial cell blockade. In the event of bacterial infiltration, the immune system is locally stimulated to clear the invaders without inducing systemic inflammation that could be harmful to the organism. This compartmentalization of the immune response is achieved through local macrophages and lymphoid cells that reside in tissues just outside of the epithelial cell layer. Lamina propria macrophages can engulf bacteria and lymphoid cells release a molecule called IL-22 that prevents bacterial passage into the blood stream [5], [6].
 
In addition to controlling the location of gut bacteria, the immune system can also directly modulate microbial composition. Epithelial cells have been shown to secrete antibacterial peptides called α-defensins that can alter the species of microbes present in the gut [7]. The influence of immune system on microbiota is also demonstrated through experiments with immune-deficient mice. Mice that are missing an important transcription factor called T-bet and are without a functional adaptive immune system (T cells and antibodies) spontaneously develop ulcerative colitis. Microbes from these mice can then be passed on to mice with functioning immune systems and the disease is passed on along with the bacteria [8]. It is hypothesized that a functioning immune system is necessary to prevent the microbial community from becoming too dysbiotic, i.e., problematic enough to cause inflammatory bowel disease.
 
It is clear now that the immune system is structured to modulate and protect gut microbiota. Remarkably, new evidence also proves the inverse is true: bacteria in the gut directly influence the immune system. The gut is maintained through a system of checks and balances between proinflammatory cells that secrete immune-stimulating molecules and anti-inflammatory cells that turn down the immune response. Colonization of mice with segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB) results in an inflation of pro-inflammatory T cells [9], while colonization of mice with Clostridial bacterial strains results in an increase in immunosuppressive regulatory T cells (Tregs) [10]. These two experiments show how the ratio of individual strains of bacteria can alter the inflammatory signature of the gut. The balance between stimulation and down-regulation is especially critical in the intestines because a lopsided pro-inflammatory response can lead to inflammatory bowel disease [11].
 
In addition to influencing immune cells in and around the gut, commensal bacteria can also affect the immune system globally. Recent animal studies have shown that gut microbes contribute to systemic autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE, a mouse model of multiple sclerosis). Germ-free mice, or mice that lack commensal bacteria, have a significant decrease of disease in models of arthritis, EAE, and colitis [12], [13]. It is thought that autoimmune T cells are generated in the gut in response to the bacteria present. These auto-reactive cells can then enter the bloodstream to induce disease in distal locations. Additionally, as discussed in a previous blog post about the hygiene hypothesis, commensal gut bacteria can have a significant impact on the allergic response. An altered diversity of microbes in the gut of young children has been linked with a heightened risk of allergy [14]. The mechanism is still unknown, but it is thought that strong immune activation against microbes in the gut during infancy can inhibit weaker immune responses against allergens simply due to resource allocation issues.
 
A healthy microbiome is essential for many aspects of overall health. In this article, we review some of the inherent connections between the immune system and microbes that live in the gut. Humans possess a highly evolved immune system that prevents the spread of gut bacteria while still allowing them to thrive inside the gut lumen. The composition and density of gut bacteria can, in turn, influence inflammatory signatures in the gut, drive autoimmunity, and even prevent allergic responses. The intricate relationship between immune system and gut bacteria is just another reason to prioritize the health of your own microbiome.
 
Disclaimer: The above article is sponsored by Thryve, the world’s first Gut Health Program that incorporates microbiome testing and personalized probiotics to ensure a healthier gut, happier life, and a brighter future.

 

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Resources

 
[1] I. Koboziev, C. Reinoso Webb, K. L. Furr, and M. B. Grisham, “Role of the enteric microbiota in intestinal homeostasis and inflammation,” Free Radic. Biol. Med., vol. 68, pp. 122–133, Mar. 2014.
 
[2] M. E. V. Johansson, M. Phillipson, J. Petersson, A. Velcich, L. Holm, and G. C. Hansson, “The inner of the two Muc2 mucin-dependent mucus layers in colon is devoid of bacteria,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., vol. 105, no. 39, pp. 15064–15069, Sep. 2008.
 
[3] M. E. V. Johansson, J. M. H. Larsson, and G. C. Hansson, “The two mucus layers of colon are organized by the MUC2 mucin, whereas the outer layer is a legislator of host–microbial interactions,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., vol. 108, no. Supplement 1, pp. 4659–4665, Mar. 2011.
 
[4] A. J. Macpherson, D. Gatto, E. Sainsbury, G. R. Harriman, H. Hengartner, and R. M. Zinkernagel, “A primitive T cell-independent mechanism of intestinal mucosal IgA responses to commensal bacteria,” Science, vol. 288, no. 5474, pp. 2222–2226, Jun. 2000.
 
[5] B. Kelsall, “Recent progress in understanding the phenotype and function of intestinal dendritic cells and macrophages,” Mucosal Immunol., vol. 1, no. 6, pp. 460–469, Sep. 2008.
 
[6] H. Spits and J. P. Di Santo, “The expanding family of innate lymphoid cells: regulators and effectors of immunity and tissue remodeling,” Nat. Immunol., vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 21–27, Jan. 2011.
 
[7] N. H. Salzman, D. Ghosh, K. M. Huttner, Y. Paterson, and C. L. Bevins, “Protection against enteric salmonellosis in transgenic mice expressing a human intestinal defensin,” Nature, vol. 422, no. 6931, pp. 522–526, Apr. 2003.
 
[8] W. S. Garrett et al., “Communicable Ulcerative Colitis Induced by T-bet Deficiency in the Innate Immune System,” Cell, vol. 131, no. 1, pp. 33–45, Oct. 2007.
 
[9] V. Gaboriau-Routhiau et al., “The Key Role of Segmented Filamentous Bacteria in the Coordinated Maturation of Gut Helper T Cell Responses,” Immunity, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 677–689, Oct. 2009.
 
[10] K. Atarashi et al., “Induction of Colonic Regulatory T Cells by Indigenous Clostridium Species,” Science, vol. 331, no. 6015, pp. 337–341, Jan. 2011.
 
[11] E.-O. Glocker et al., “Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Mutations Affecting the Interleukin- 10 Receptor,” N. Engl. J. Med., vol. 361, no. 21, pp. 2033–2045, Nov. 2009.
 
[12] Y. K. Lee, J. S. Menezes, Y. Umesaki, and S. K. Mazmanian, “Proinflammatory T-cell responses to gut microbiota promote experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., vol. 108, no. Supplement 1, pp. 4615–4622, Mar. 2011.
 
[13] H.-J. Wu et al., “Gut-Residing Segmented Filamentous Bacteria Drive Autoimmune Arthritis via T Helper 17 Cells,” Immunity, vol. 32, no. 6, pp. 815–827, Jun. 2010.
 
[14] J. Penders et al., “Gut microbiota composition and development of atopic manifestations in infancy: the KOALA Birth Cohort Study,” Gut, vol. 56, no. 5, pp. 661–667, May 2007.
 

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The Good, The Bad and The Acne — The Skin Microbiota

By Ericca Steele
 

Acne is the most common skin disease among Americans affecting 80%-85% of the population, largely being adolescents. It’s safe to say that there is no magic cure that works for everyone — I’ve spent a fortune on beauty products and medications over the years looking for the answer myself (Sorry, I don’t have it yet).
 
But, let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Just as the gut is made up of good and bad bacteria, research suggests that the population of these bacteria is also different among people that suffer from skin diseases such as acne, rosacea, and eczema [1]. However, acne is a complex skin disease with bacteria being only one of several factors (e.g. environment, diet, hormonal status) involved.
 
Previous research has shown that, in general, there are 4 main phyla of bacteria present on the skin (Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, and Bacteroidetes) [2]. A recent investigation conducted metagenomic shotgun sequencing to discover the role of the skin microbiome in skin health using acne as a model disease. The sampling of these individuals revealed that these 4 main phyla of bacteria were present with the addition of Cyanobacteria. The testing showed that these bacteria differed in abundance for individuals who had healthy skin and those affected by acne. These comparisons included testing the bacteria present on adults over the age of 55 (rarely known to have acne) as a control, and groups of young adults that had healthy skin compared to those that suffered from acne.
 
In this case, the composition of the skin microbiota varied between individuals (just like other areas of the microbiome). However, there were significant differences in presence of certain species and strains among individuals with healthy skin and those with acne. Individuals with healthy skin were found to have greater abundances of P.acnes and P.granulosum, suggesting these strains may contribute to maintaining healthy skin [3]. Research of the microbiome is increasing and although cannot be used as a diagnosis for skin disease, it points to the potential for further discovery of the role the microbiome plays and the use of probiotics to maintain healthy skin. This study analyzed several other elements beyond the role of bacteria and you can access the research in its entirety here.
 
As the study of the microbiome is steadily increasing, more companies are looking into developing products for balancing bacteria throughout the body. Specifically, companies such as AOBiome, TULA, and NERD skincare (just to name a few) are researching the skin microbiome and developing topical products to increase levels of “good bacteria” in order to maintain healthy skin.
 
We are excited about these new developments in the industry — at Thryve we envision a future in developing a variety of custom-made products focused on all areas of the microbiome.
 
Disclaimer: The above article is sponsored by Thryve, the world’s first Gut Health Program that incorporates microbiome testing and personalized probiotics to ensure a healthier gut, happier life, and a brighter future.

 

Click Here To View Resources

Resources

 
[1] Grice, E. A. (2014, June). The skin microbiome: potential for novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to cutaneous disease. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425451/.
 
[2] Hannigan, G., & Grice, E. (2013, December 1). Microbial ecology of the skin in the era of metagenomics and molecular microbiology. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24296350/.
 
[3] Barnard, E., Shi, B., Kang, D., Craft, N., & Li, H. (2016, December 21). The balance of metagenomic elements shapes the skin microbiome in acne and health. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from http://www.nature.com/articles/srep39491.
 

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The Development of the Gut Microbiome

By Nishant Mehta Ph.D. candidate
 
As adults, we have fully matured microbiomes that are constantly interacting with the food we ingest. This conglomeration of hundreds of different bacterial strains works together in synergy to digest food and release byproducts that contribute to our well-being. As humans, we have evolved the capacity to generate new life through an intricate combination of genes from the mother and father. However, these genes only encode for human life, not bacterial life. Nothing in our DNA directly translates to bacterial proteins or furthers the reproduction of bacterial life. How then, do trillions of bacteria end up colonizing our gut? How does the commensal relationship between microbes and human cells first arise?
 
For decades, most of the scientific community agreed that the intrauterine development of the fetus takes place in a sterile environment, free from microbes [2]. Recent evidence, due in part to the advent of advanced sequencing technology, is challenging this belief. Vestiges of microbes have been found in the fetal amniotic fluid, fetal membranes, and placenta [3]. In fact, DNA of the common gut bacterial strains Lactobillus and Bifidobacterium were found in all biopsies of the placenta from C-section births (which circumvent classic exposure to the mother’s native microbes) [4]. This evidence suggests that the gut microbiome is undergoing development even before birth. It is hypothesized that the mother can pass gut microbes on to the developing fetus. A randomized patient trial showed evidence that the consumption of probiotics during pregnancy changes the immune signature of cells in the fetal gut and amniotic fluid [5]. This finding suggests fetal interaction with maternal microbes in the uterus. However, most of the new evidence suggesting microbial colonization in the fetus must be taken with a grain of salt. High-throughput sequencing experiments performed on small samples such as fetal biopsies are prone to the contamination that can drastically skew results. Even if there is some microbial interaction in utero, the consensus is that the vast majority of gut microbial colonization happens during and immediately following birth.
 
As a newborn travels through and exits the birth canal, exposure to the vaginal, fecal, and skin microbiota of the mother takes place. First, bacterial species such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus, and Streptococcus colonize the infant’s gut. These initial species create a local environment devoid of oxygen that allows strictly anaerobic species such as Bacteroides and Bifidobacterium to colonize the gut in the first few days of life [6]. In addition to direct exposure to maternal and environmental microbiota during birth, microbes are also directly transferred to newborns through breast milk. As discussed in a previous blog post titled ‘Probiotics and Breast Milk’, human breast milk is a direct source of microbes such as Staphylococcus, Bifidobacterium, and Lactobillus strains, among many others. Breast milk also contains human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), which are prebiotics, or molecules that promote the growth of microbial communities [7]. The infant microbiome is dynamic — it changes from an environment that facilitates breast milk utilization to one dominated by anaerobic organisms that can help digest solid foods. By 1 year of age, the gut microbiome starts to converge on a profile that resembles a fully-formed adult gut [8]. This rapid colonization and convergence of microbes emphasize the importance of exposures that take place during birth and in the first year of life.
 
Unfortunately, the natural development of the neonatal microbiome can be disrupted through three common human interventions: C-section delivery, early antibiotic use, and formula feeding. Babies that are born through C-section harbor no vaginal microbes initially and are instead first colonized by skin bacteria (e.g. Corynebacterium, Propionibacterium) [9]. This delays the colonization of healthy anaerobic species Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides and increases the levels of pathogenic C. diff bacteria in the gut [10]. Differences in the bacterial composition of the gut due to mode of delivery are noticeable up to 7 years later [11]. Additionally, the use of antibiotics during labor delivery or directly after birth has been associated with a lower abundance of healthy Lactobillus and Bifidobacterium strains and overall lower diversity of gut bacteria [12]. Finally, the introduction of formula early in the postnatal period has been shown to perturb the colonization of intestinal microbiota and can increase the prevalence of C. diff while decreasing amounts of Bifidobacterium [13]. While the scientific community is still unsure how long-lasting these perturbations can be, we are sure that the immediate changes in microbial composition are quite significant.
 
If you were born through C-section, were exposed to antibiotics at a young age, or were formula-fed early on, does that mean you are doomed to have an imbalanced microbiome? Not necessarily! Although you may have to work a bit harder than those who were born and fed naturally, lifestyle choices as an adult can drastically alter your microbiome. New evidence shows that choosing a plant-based diet vs. an animal-based diet can markedly and reproducibly alter the human gut microbiome [14]. In mice, exercise has also been shown to drastically shift microbial populations [15]. We also know that probiotics are useful for a variety of conditions such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea, H. pylori and C. diff infections, and irritable bowel syndrome [16]. This evidence suggests that probiotics can significantly shift microbial populations. At Thryve, we aim to be at the forefront of this discovery. We want to better understand how humans can change their own microbiome through the administration of targeted probiotics. By gathering a wealth of microbial sequencing data, we are confident that patterns and correlations will be identified that can improve human health.
 
Here is a fact file for you!
 

Disclaimer: The above article is sponsored by Thryve, the world’s first Gut Health Program that incorporates microbiome testing and personalized probiotics to ensure a healthier gut, happier life, and a brighter future.

 

Click Here To View Resources

Resources

 
[1] (image) “Reduced diversity and altered composition of the gut microbiome in individuals with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome,” The Microbe Discovery Project, 03-Jul- 2016.
 
[2] M. W. Groer, A. A. Luciano, L. J. Dishaw, T. L. Ashmeade, E. Miller, and J. A. Gilbert, “Development of the preterm infant gut microbiome: a research priority,” Microbiome, vol. 2, p. 38, Oct. 2014.
 
[3] N. T. Mueller, E. Bakacs, J. Combellick, Z. Grigoryan, and M. G. Dominguez-Bello, “The infant microbiome development: mom matters,” Trends Mol. Med., vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 109–117, Feb. 2015.
 
[4] R. Satokari, T. Grönroos, K. Laitinen, S. Salminen, and E. Isolauri, “Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus DNA in the human placenta,” Lett. Appl. Microbiol., vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 8–12, Jan. 2009.
 
[5] S. Rautava, M. C. Collado, S. Salminen, and E. Isolauri, “Probiotics Modulate Host-Microbe Interaction in the Placenta and Fetal Gut: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial,” Neonatology, vol. 102, no. 3, pp. 178–184, Sep. 2012.
 
[6] I. G. Pantoja-Feliciano et al., “Biphasic assembly of the murine intestinal microbiota during early development,” ISME J., vol. 7, no. 6, pp. 1112–1115, Jun. 2013.
 
[7] “The First Prebiotics in Humans: Human Milk Oligosaccharides : Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology,” LWW. [Online]. Available: http://journals.lww.com/jcge/Fulltext/2004/07002/The_First_Prebiotics_in_Humans__Human_Milk. 8.aspx. [Accessed: 10-Mar-2017].
 
[8] C. Palmer, E. M. Bik, D. B. DiGiulio, D. A. Relman, and P. O. Brown, “Development of the Human Infant Intestinal Microbiota,” PLOS Biol., vol. 5, no. 7, p. e177, Jun. 2007.
 
[9] M. G. Dominguez-Bello et al., “Delivery mode shapes the acquisition and structure of the initial microbiota across multiple body habitats in newborns,” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., vol. 107, no. 26, pp. 11971–11975, Jun. 2010.
 
[10] J. Penders et al., “Gut microbiota composition and development of atopic manifestations in infancy: the KOALA Birth Cohort Study,” Gut, vol. 56, no. 5, pp. 661–667, May 2007.
 
[11] S. Salminen, G. R. Gibson, A. L. McCartney, and E. Isolauri, “Influence of mode of delivery on gut microbiota composition in seven year old children,” Gut, vol. 53, no. 9, pp. 1388–1389, Sep. 2004.
 
[12] F.Fouhyetal.,“High-ThroughputSequencingRevealstheIncomplete,Short-TermRecoveryof Infant Gut Microbiota following Parenteral Antibiotic Treatment with Ampicillin and Gentamicin,” Antimicrob. Agents Chemother., vol. 56, no. 11, pp. 5811–5820, Nov. 2012.
 
[13] J. Penders, C. Vink, C. Driessen, N. London, C. Thijs, and E. E. Stobberingh, “Quantification of Bifidobacterium spp., Escherichia coli and Clostridium difficile in faecal samples of breast-fed and formula-fed infants by real-time PCR,” FEMS Microbiol. Lett., vol. 243, no. 1, pp. 141–147, Feb. 2005.
 
[14] L. A. David et al., “Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome,” Nature, vol. 505, no. 7484, pp. 559–563, Jan. 2014.
 
[15] J. E. Lambert, J. P. Myslicki, M. R. Bomhof, D. D. Belke, J. Shearer, and R. A. Reimer, “Exercise training modifies gut microbiota in normal and diabetic mice,” Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab., vol. 40, no. 7, pp. 749–752, Feb. 2015.
 
[16] M. L. Ritchie and T. N. Romanuk, “A Meta-Analysis of Probiotic Efficacy for Gastrointestinal Diseases,” PLOS ONE, vol. 7, no. 4, p.e34938, Apr. 2012.

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Getting a Cold? It Might Be Your Gut Bugs’ Fault

Dr. Susan Hewlings, PhD, RD (IgY Nutrition)
 
More than 70% of your immune system resides in your gut. Yes, you read that right. 2/3rd of the immune tissue is located within the digestive system. That means that the intricate system that protects you and keeps you healthy is influenced by your intestinal flora and what happens in the digestive tract. In fact, the gut and the immune system have formed a complex integrated structure that supports both digestion and immune defense. [1]
 
Our microbiome acts as a gatekeeper, trying to prevent pathogens to penetrate its boundaries and enter the systemic circulation. The mucosal membranes lining the digestive tract are the optimal point of entry for pathogens to invade. When these harmful bacteria penetrate the gut wall they can trigger an immune response.
 
This is basically the alarm sounding, telling the body that there is an intruder. This interaction suggests a direct link between a healthy digestive tract and a healthy immune system. Therefore, it makes sense that an imbalance in the gut (called dysbiosis) can weaken the overall immune system and make the host more susceptible to colds and other pathogens. [1]
 
If our immune system is working overtime to capture bad guys and put out fires, then we are left with an immune system that is not functioning at its optimum. This is why, most of the time when your immune system is weak and depleted, it can be traced back to what is happening in your gut.
 
 
Maintaining microbial balance in the gut is key to a healthy immune system. In order to maintain a healthy balance consume a healthy vegetable-based diet, exercise, maintain a healthy weight and manage stress. Adding Probiotics and prebiotics will also help. In fact, the systemic immune response has been shown to be modified by changing the microflora through the supplementation of probiotics. [2] Probiotics have also been shown to regulate the host immune response. Indeed probiotics have been found to enhance innate immunity and modulate pathogen-induced inflammation via toll-like receptor-regulated signaling pathways. [3]
 
There are 3–4 main types of probiotics that aid in regulating the immune system:
 
Lactobacillus Acidophilus which produces vitamin K and lactase, and is most commonly found in the upper digestive tract.
 
Lactobacillus (L.) Acidophilus has been shown to improve digestion, blood pressure, and cholesterol; reduce lactose intolerance; increase absorption of calcium and B vitamins; help the body fight viral, bacterial, and fungal infections; decrease allergy symptoms, and decrease the likelihood of developing kidney stones.
 
Bifidobacterium Lactis inhabits the intestines and colon, and its main job is to breakdown waste and absorbs various vitamins and minerals. B. Lactis has been shown to improve digestive conditions by decreasing intestinal permeability and relieving general digestive discomfort; improve oral health by fighting dental caries, and enhance immunity by reducing the frequency and severity of respiratory diseases.
 
Lactobacillus (L.) Bulgaricus is one of the lesser-known probiotics, but it has significant benefits for immune health. Inhabiting the intestinal mucosa, L. Bulgaricus helps to reduce intestinal infections by adjusting the pH of the GI tract to promote healthy flora growth; increase immunity by releasing natural antibiotics, and fight infections by blocking pathogen adhesion sites within the intestinal mucosa.
 
Prebiotics can also help maintain a healthy immune system through the gut. Prebiotics are to be taken along with probiotics as they help to decrease the non-beneficial bacteria while supporting the growth of the beneficial bacteria. In contrast to the probiotic action, which provides living microorganisms, prebiotics stimulate the activity of healthful bacteria. Prebiotics are found in many foods such as bananas, asparagus, onions, leek, garlic, and artichokes to name a few.
 
In conclusion, if there is one thing to remember it is that a healthy GI tract is key to maintaining optimal immune health. Maintaining a healthy microbial balance in the gut can be done through a healthy diet, daily exercise and if needed, pre and probiotic supplements. So next time you feel a cold coming on; try probiotic or prebiotic foods and supplements first!
 
Disclaimer: The above article is sponsored by Thryve, the world’s first Gut Health Program that incorporates microbiome testing and personalized probiotics to ensure a healthier gut, happier life, and a brighter future.

 

Click Here To View Resources

Resources

 
[1] Lee YK, Menezes JS, Umesaki Y, Mazmanian SK. Proinflammatory T-cell responses to gut microbiota promote experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Proc Natl Acad Sci 2011;108 (S1):4615–22.
 
[2] Vitetta L, Coulson S, Linnane AW, Butt H. The Gastrointestinal Microbiome and Musculoskeletal Diseases: A Beneficial Role for Probiotics and Prebiotics. Pathogens.2013;2(4):606–626. doi:10.3390/pathogens2040606.
 
[3] Fang Yan, D.B. Polk. Probiotics and immune health. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2014 May 2.
 

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