Nearly every day, I find some time to browse my Inbox newsletters for articles that directly shape what we do in practice. The newsletters I am most likely to open and read (ie actually click on to access the full text) are those from science sites that feature new research. One of my favorites is the magazine The Scientist– they almost always have something the peaks my curiosity. Those that I think are most pertinent are curated for you, our professional readers. Have you checked out our Research and News pages? Clicked on the link from the newsletter? I am always eager to hear if these are hitting the mark for you too.
We haven’t done a collective roundup of posts for a while. So here they are – these are my favorites from what we’ve unearthed, organized around the following important topics:
- The rationale for Functional Medicine
- Brain health
- Food reactions
- Systems connections between conditions
These are news items that I believe all of us Functional Medicine practitioners should be aware of.
~ Dr KF
The Rationale for Functional Medicine
Big news! A first-of-its-kind study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), shows that using a Functional Medicine approach to treat chronic disease produces superior health outcomes than a conventional primary care model. The study took place at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine which has experienced “explosive growth” since opening five years ago.
Alzheimer Drug Failures and Toxicity Underscore Relevance of Lifestyle Medicine
The opening section of this article, describing that drug failures are de rigueur in Alzheimer’s disease research and drug toxicity is a problem, really makes the point that lifestyle medicine is ESSENTIAL for Alzheimer’s disease right now. And drug efficacy requires starting Rx prior to onset of cognitive decline(!), just like lifestyle.. Further, less invasive assessments of early or pre-cognitive decline aren’t yet established.
Higher BMI Associated with Increased Brain Atrophy
Being overweight may accelerate brain aging by as much as 10 years, according to new research. This effect seems greatest in those under age 65 and suggests that weight loss may be an important factor for brain protection. In Functional Medicine we also recognize and address many more factors that affect brain function – find out more in our Functional Memory Rx center.
Allergic Sensitization Can Occur Through The Skin
A damaged skin barrier, such as by eczema, can play a role in the initiation of new allergies. Our immune system normally encounters foreign molecules after they have been broken down in the digestive tract. Specialized immune cells in the gut and lungs also help to ensure only appropriate molecules enter our circulation. When eczema is present, however, allergenic molecules enter our bodies directly, potentially creating an inappropriate immune response that manifests as food sensitivity or allergy, or environmental allergy.
SLIT may be as effective as OIT for peanut desensitization
New research suggests that sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) may be as effective as oral immunotherapy for peanut desensitization against accidental exposure. 48 peanut allergy patients underwent SLIT for 5 years and were able to tolerate 750mg or more of peanut protein (the equivalent of about 2.5 peanuts) without serious side effects. And unlike OIT, no patient had to leave the multi-year study because of side effects, making it a much safer potential option for allergy sufferers.
Oral Bacteria Implicated in a Wide Range of Noncommunicable Diseases
Your oral health is a significant factor for general health. We know that dysbiotic bacteria in the mouth, such as p. gingivalis, can have systemic effects by being absorbed into the bloodstream (and/or by their toxic byproducts being absorbed and circulated). New research provides a comprehensive view of all the potential connections so far attributed to oral bacteria – diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer (especially pancreatic cancer). It really pays to take care of your mouth!
Getting Specific About How Medications May Alter the Gut Microbiome
Everything we ingest has the potential to alter our gut microbiome in some way. Here are some impacts from medication, according to new work from researchers in The Netherlands: PPI use is associated with higher levels of streptococcal bacteria in the upper GI. Metformin use is associated with higher levels of potentially-infective E. coli. Oral steroids are associated with higher levels of methanogenic bacteria (linked with higher BMI and SIBO). Certain oral contraceptives, laxatives, metformin, PPIs and NSAIDs are among those linked to higher levels of antibiotic-resistance mechanisms. Future work will need to tease out causality, but these findings still suggest caution is warranted, and that upstream interventions are likely safest given the wide-ranging health impacts of our GI microbes. More on factors that influence the gut microbiome here.
Connecting Gut Microbes and Bone Health
Gut microbes and a healthy gut barrier are protective against bone loss. Connections between the gut microbiome and bone health may seem surprising, but research has shown that there indeed a strong influence. Animal studies have shown improved bone density following an intervention of probiotics. Similarly, exposing animals to bacterial infections in the gut has resulted in bone erosion. Human data using L. reuteri probiotics and, separately, fiber prebiotics also shows favorable impacts in protecting against bone loss in older women. The full story in The Scientist is well worth a read!
Wait, non-alcoholic fatty liver due to… (gut bug) alcohol!?
Can your gut bugs produce enough alcohol to make you drunk? A new research study has shown that Klebsiella pneumoniae, a bacterial species that we pick up fairly frequently on functional GI tests, is capable of producing alcohol to the extent that it can raise blood alcohol levels over legal limits. Not only that, but it is now considered another potential driver of fatty liver disease. First discovered in a human subject, subsequent animal experiments where Klebsiella pneumoniae was introduced into the gut microbiome produced similar results. In the human subject, a combination treatment of antibiotics and dietary changes proved successful.
Microbes in Natural Environments Play a Role in Immune Tolerance
A prescription for allergic disease: spend time in forests and nature (but not in chemically-managed farms)! Microbes in the soil and on plants play a hugely-important role in immune health and the prevention of allergies. Scientists studying two different, neighboring areas in Finland and Russia found that those on the Finnish side, where living environments had been modernized over the last 70 years, had higher rates of allergic disease. On the Russian side, where traditional forest and non-chemical farming environments still persisted, rates of allergic disease remained near zero. The latter also had more, and more diverse, skin bacteria, especially of the genus Acinetobacter, commonly found on plants.
Systems connections between conditions
Uric Acid Crystals From Gout May Also Deposit in the Heart
Untreated gout may be a previously-unrecognized cause of heart failure and coronary artery disease according to a new case report. Uric acid crystals, deposited in heart cells can cause localized information and cellular damage. Lifestyle changes can typically correct the underlying causes of gout with potential to avoid further damage to other soft-tissue organs.
Osteocalcin as a Mediator of the Stress Response
A surprising mediator of the stress response comes from bone. New research published in Cell Metabolism shows that osteocalcin, a hormone produced by bone tissue, induces the stress (fight-or-flight) response in mice. Osteocalcin receptors appear on many neurons on the nervous system, including the basolateral amygdala in the brain. These findings may lead to new thinking about how people’s osteocalcin levels, and not simply the more well-known mediators adrenaline and noradrenaline, may relate to their stress response.
Tongue Fat and Other Causes of Macroglossia that Can Affect Sleep Apnea
Having a slightly enlarged tongue can be telling… a FxMed clinician may discern this by a consistent scalloped pattern on the side of your tongue, indicating that it has been pressed up against your bottom teeth. Since macroglossia, the scientific name for an enlarged tongue, can be caused by several factors, including nutrient deficiencies, food reactions, and dysbiosis, it can provide an important clue to underlying imbalances that need correcting. Macroglossia can also promote sleep apnea, which itself has a number of adverse health effects. New data also show that loosing tongue fat, through overall weight loss or tongue exercises such as by playing a wind instrument (really!) can improve sleep apnea by reducing tongue size. Digeridoo anyone?
BPA Replacements Likely Still Problematic – Tied to Boys’ IQ
Bisphenol F (BPF), a commonly-used replacement for bisphenol A (BPA) in food packaging and other plastics, showed the closest ties with lower IQ scores in boys aged 7 when exposed during the first trimester in utero. These findings were based on a study of 718 Swedish mother-child pairs. One of the investigators, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, suggested that women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should reduce their exposure by avoiding canned food, plastics and pesticides.
Mom’s Fluoride Exposure Associates with Lower IQ in Kids
It’s a contentious topic – so much so that JAMA had to give these data extra scrutiny before publication: Fluoride exposure and IQ scores. New data show that increased fluoride exposure in mothers is associated with lower IQ scores in their male children. No association was found in their daughters in this study. The authors also raise the possibility that IQ may not be the only negatively-associated health outcome. As a precaution, we recommend avoiding fluoride ingestion and reserving fluoride use for specific dental needs, used topically on teeth only and rinsed out afterwards.
Yellow dye in turmeric linked with lead poisoning in Bangladesh.
These reports come out relatively often, unfortunately. I’ve been seeing them for years, especially as botanicals like turmeric are in high demand globally. Quality can be the first to go, and unscrupulous producers are interested in making a buck. Bottom line for us: use professional grade products and always, always request quality control data. The company should *happily* provide you with recent third party testing. If they give you any pushback, or provide outdated reports, (or anything that isn’t transparent to you) stop buying from that company.