Thursday, January 28, 2010

Vitamin D may help fight Crohn's Disease

More evidence regarding the benefits of Vitamin D for Crohn's in this recent article. See my post from Sept 2009 for additional evidence - "Vitamin D and Why Immunosuppressants May Be Counterproductive".

Excerpt from the recent article:
“Our data suggests, for the first time, that Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to Crohn’s disease,” says Dr. White, a professor in McGill’s Department of Physiology, noting that people from northern countries, which receive less sunlight that is necessary for the fabrication of Vitamin D by the human body, are particularly vulnerable to Crohn’s disease.
Perhaps an argument to finally take that vacation to Hawaii.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and other butyric acid producing bacteria may be a treatment for IBD

Saw this article ("Gut bug may hold key to inflammatory bowel disease treatment") today about trials in mice of F. prausnitzii that produced promising results in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). See my blog post from August 2009 on the initial findings related to F. prausnitzii - Lack of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii Bacteria May Contribute to Crohn's.

Here's an excerpt from the more recent article about the trials:

While the exact causes are unclear, IBD is known to be the result of an overactive immune response that is linked to an imbalance of the normal types of bacteria found in the gut.

Several recent studies have identified butyric acid as a potential therapeutic agent for IBD. Some gut bacteria produce butyric acid naturally in the intestines, but in IBD patients some of these strains are heavily depleted.

Trials in mice have shown that injecting one such strain Faecalibacterium prausnitzii into the digestive tract is effective at restoring normal levels of gut bacteria and treating the symptoms of IBD.

In addition, novel identified butyrate-producing strains, such as Butyricicoccus pullicaecorum, have been shown to exert similar effects.

Butyric acid has well-known anti-inflammatory effects and is able to strengthen intestinal wall cells - making it an ideal therapeutic agent against IBD.

In addition to butyric acid, it is hypothesized that strains such as F. prausnitzii and B.pullicaecorum secrete other anti-inflammatory compounds that may enhance the therapeutic effect.

Prof. Filip Van Immerseel, a medical microbiologist from Ghent University in Belgium said that a new treatment for IBD would be welcomed.

“Conventional drug therapy has limited effectiveness and considerable side effects. Probiotics are live bacterial supplements or food ingredients, which when taken in sufficient numbers confer health benefits to the host,” he said.

There are likely more strains of gut bacteria that produce butyric acid, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a probiotic treatment in the coming months or years.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Hunt for an Autism Drug

Just read an interesting article in Business Week ("The Hunt for an Autism Drug") about how many companies are seeking drugs to treat autism. Apparently, 1 in 110 8-year old children in the US falls someone on the autism scale. That's a pretty staggering statistic when you think about it. Obviously autism is a very different disease from Crohn's, so why am I mentioning this? When I was reading the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle, they mentioned how the Specific Carbohydrate Diet showed improvement in children with autism. One start-up drug maker is looking at this link:
One of the most promising treatments in this category is a drug called CM-AT made by a startup called Curemark. Dr. Joan Fallon, the company's founder and CEO, observed that many autistics show a strong preference for foods high in carbohydrates and low in protein. A diagnostic test revealed that some autistic children lack enzymes that digest protein. As a result, these children produce fewer of the essential amino acids that are the building blocks for brain development and neuroreception. Fallon believes this deficiency is linked to the most severe symptoms of autism, and she says an early observational study of CM-AT, an orally ingested powder that delivers protein-digesting protease, showed "significant improvements." Curemark is enrolling patients in phase III clinical trials at 10 to 12 sites—the largest autism trial to date.
Seemed related and interesting so thought I would mention it.

The other thing I found interesting was the mention of epigenetics, which I think I'm going to do some further research on. The basic premise is that the environment can influence gene expression. So many diseases may be a combination of both genetics and environmental influences (pollution, viruses, diet, etc.). Perhaps that's why it is so hard to pin down a single cause for Crohn's, autism, and many other diseases.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Good Bacteria - Lactobacillus Plantarum

Read an article about a particular probiotic called Lactobacillus Plantarum. Here's an excerpt:
Lactobacillus plantarum is a resilient and highly adaptive bacterium that can survive at vast temperature ranges (1-60 degrees Celsius) and a wide scale of atmospheric pressures. The name "plantarum" indicates that this bacterium is a "species of the plants." According to several specialists, including Dr. Bengmark, the adhesive properties of L plantarum make it a powerful tool to fight off pathogenic bacteria such as E Coli, while repairing the intestinal lining.

Mannose-specific adhesions are common among gram negative strains, but not gram positive (lactobacillus). Interestingly, according to Dr. Bengmark's research, L-plantarum uses mannose-specific adhesions, which makes it possible that L plantarum can compete with both gram- positive and gram-negative pathogenic strains for receptor sites and valuable nutrients in the mucosal membrane. It also secretes anti-microbial substances that help to inhibit the formation of pathogenic gram-positive & negative colonies.

These characteristics make L plantarum a potent aide for irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, and Colitis. In fact, several studies have shown that L plantarum is able to survive through harsh environments including rounds of antibiotics. This is especially important for emergency situations when someone may have to take an antibiotic. According to Donna Gates, Body Ecology Diet, the L. plantarum in your intestines will survive the antibiotic onslaught, maintaining long-term health by ensuring that a yeast overgrowth will not occur.
Apparently only 25% of the Western population has this strain in their guts. So how do you get it? Another excerpt:
L. Plantarum is found in abundance in many fresh vegetables and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and brined olives. However, be careful of store-bought processed alternatives which use cheap vinegars to pickle vegetables. The real cultural dishes use natural fermentation or salted foods and/or put them in a brine solution, all methods which allow Lactobacillus plantarum to survive and thereby be ingested. Many of these dishes can easily be made at home on a continual basis.
Maybe time to add some kimchi.