Welcome! This blog contains research & information on lifestyle, nutrition and health for those with MS, as well as continuing information on the understanding of the endothelium and heart-brain connection. This blog is informative only--all medical decisions should be discussed with your own physicians.

The posts are searchable---simply type in your topic of interest in the search box at the top left.

Almost all of MS research is initiated and funded by pharmaceutical companies. This maintains the EAE mouse model and the auto-immune paradigm of MS, and continues the 20 billion dollar a year MS treatment industry. But as we learn more about slowed blood flow, gray matter atrophy, and environmental links to MS progression and disability--all things the current drugs do not address--we're discovering more about how to help those with MS.

To learn how this journey began, read my first post from August, 2009. Be well! Joan

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

You and Your Microbiome

During the past year, there has been a lot in the medical press on the "microbiome."   Researchers continue to explore the connection between the microbiome and neurodegenerative disease.  Articles on the microbiome and MS, Alzheimer's, and dementia as well as cardiovascular disease and stroke, are being published in medical journals and discussed in online communities.

You might say 2014 has been the Year of the Microbiome!

But what is it??  Microbiome literally means the "small living community" inside each of us.  It's the word doctors and researchers use to describe your own, unique ecosystem.  You see, we are not just "ourselves", we are also host to a universe of living organisms.  And most of these guests take up residence in our gut.

We have about two pounds of bacteria living inside us.  These bacteria are broken down into four families: the Actinobactera, Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes and Proteobacteria.  http://www.nature.com/nri/journal/v13/n11/fig_tab/nri3535_F2.html

When these families live in balance, the human body functions better.  When these families get knocked out of balance, diseases can be linked.  "Dysbiosis" is when inflammatory bacteria outnumber beneficial bacteria.  Whether the link to specific diseases is causal, or resultant, is yet to be established.  But there's more and more evidence connecting an imbalanced microbiome to inflammation and diseases of "autoimmunity."

Here are some more specifics on what researchers found, when looking at the fecal bacteria in people with MS, and comparing them to healthy controls.  This is Dr. Sushrit Jangi of Brigham and Women's Hospital discussing results of a recent study:

The preliminary data show that there are at least a couple of different genera of bacteria that are different in the gut of MS patients compared with healthy controls. We found that a bug called Methanobrevibacteriaceae *** is enriched in the gut of MS patients and seems to have immunoproliferative properties that drive inflammation. We also found that the population of Butyricimonas ### bacteria is low in MS patients compared with healthy controls. This is an interesting result because these bacteria produce butyrate, which is thought to be immunosuppressive, but we do need to repeat this study in a larger cohort.
So it seems that our work initially supports the idea that the gut in MS patients contains bugs that drive inflammation and are low in the types of bacteria that control inflammation. This is consistent with work in rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
This also mirrors the idea that MS is a disease of the western world. If you go to countries like India and parts of Asia, where diets are far more vegetarian, you don't really see MS. However, when these people come to the United States and adopt a more westernized diet, the incidence of the disease goes up. I think this is an exciting premise but it's still too early to say anything about the causality.
***Methanobrevi bacteria are found to be enriched in those who are constipated.  
### Batyricimonas is also low in RA and inflammatory bowel disease.

I included probiotics and eating more plants in the Endothelial Health Program, because I read a lot of research on the link between bacteria, inflammation and the endothelium.  And I wanted to help Jeff.  He was severely constipated when we started the program (sorry, hon!  Is that TMI?)  His serum numbers were off the charts for inflammation.  His meat and animal protein to plant food ratio was far too high in meats, too low in vegetables and fruits.  His just wasn't eating enough living, plant-based foods with phytonutrients and fiber.  I thought there might be a connection, and found it in the endothelium.  Here is a post from 2011, where I explain:
Probiotics, also know as helpful bacteria, are included in the Endothelial Health program, because they affect the lining of our blood vessels in a positive way, by reducing inflammation and regulating NO. A strong endothelium is less permeable, and will keep plasmic particles out of tissue--in the brain and the gut.  This can modify the reaction of immune cells, and reduce what is called the "autoimmune" reaction.  (Although I believe calling this reaction "autoimmune" is a misnomer.  The immune cells are simply doing their job, by responding to foreign particles which should not be in brain or intestinal wall tissue.)

What to do?  How can we create a more balanced, happier microbiome, and encourage growth of healthy bacteria?   There are a few things scientifically proven that we can do today, while the researchers continue to look for specific answers.

1. Work with your own healthcare provider, and find a probiotic solution that fits your lifestyle and needs.  Some people eat yogurt, others prefer fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi or kombucha, or some take a probiotic supplement.  Some folks (like me!) enjoy all three.  Jeff finds his supplement is enough.   Each individual needs to discover what works best for them.

2. Eat more plants, eat less meat and animal products.   And stay away from processed foods. The research shows that the more saturated and trans fats, the less balanced the microbiome.  The more fresh vegetable and fruits, the better the microbiome.

3. Watch your bowel movements!  Are you going at least once a day?  If not, you're not moving waste products through your body efficiently, and that build up of noxious or "bad" bacteria may be enhancing inflammation in your body.  If you are having a couple smooth, not runny, bowel movements a day, chances are, your microbiome is pretty happy.  (sorry, was that TMI again??)

4. Stay at a healthy weight.  Obesity is linked to an unbalanced microbiome.

Let's be good hosts to the universe within us all!


  1. Love the photo...
    I think CHARCOT's illustrations predated Rindfleisch but the Neuri's are discustingly refusing to even LISTEN to the mention of those great men that they owe their bl***y careers to...
    I wish we set up a case... so I'm trying an ECONOMICS DEGERE if I can as Adam Smith ( from Fife!) got slavery abolished by challenging the ECOMOCAL logic... its at the root of everything.. so who knows lads and lassies.