ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS: What CAN we do about them?

Lecture by Mark Pettus transcribed by Carolann Patterson

ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS: How do they get inside of us; what do they do to us; and how can we undo the damage they cause?

Learning objectives for this lecture will be to

i. Review some common sources of environmental toxins that pervade daily living.

ii. Examine how the growing burden of environmental toxic exposure affects health and quality of life.

iii. Examine lifestyle, behavioral, and supplement strategies that can reduce our toxic burden and optimize our capacity for detoxification.

The Precautionary Principle

We as physicians must act on facts…and on the most accurate interpretation of them, using the best scientific information.  That does not mean that we must sit back until we have 100% evidence about everything. When the state of the health of the people is at stake…we should be prepared to take action to diminish those risks even when the scientific knowledge is not conclusive” Horton. Lancet. 1998;352(9124):251

America does not apply The Precautionary Principle as do other parts of the world - especially in Europe and Canada. In America, THOUSANDS of chemicals are permitted to be used in food and countless other products until proven 100% unsafe and dangerous. Other countries approach it from the opposite angle: when a chemical is proven 100% safe it is then permitted to be used. If it happens that it is already in the system and considered to be unsafe it is more readily removed than would be the case in the US.  

Exposure to environmental toxins

Since WWII, more than 85,000 new synthetic chemicals have been released into the environment. As a species we are exposed to 6 million lbs mercury and 2.5 billion lbs of other toxic chemicals each year. Most have not been tested for potential toxicity in adults [few in children]. Over 4 billion lbs of pesticides are used annually in the US. Current law allows 350 pesticides to be used on the foods we eat. The average home contains 3-10 gallons of hazardous materials. Traces > 280 synthetic chemicals can be found in the average newborn.

Our Toxic Load is being passed on

The Environmental Working Group commissioned five laboratories in the U.S., Canada, and Europe to analyze umbilical cord blood collected from 10 minority infants born in 2007 and 2008. Collectively, the laboratories identified up to 232 industrial compounds and pollutants in these babies, finding complex mixtures of compounds in each infant. This research was the first ever to detect BPA in US cord blood as found in 9 out of 10 cord blood samples. Environmental  Working Group [EWG.org] -Neonatal Toxicity Study.

The research demonstrates that industrial chemicals cross the placenta in large numbers to contaminate a baby before the moment of birth. Of 10 babies born in US hospitals, 287 chemical compounds are identified in their cord blood, with an average of 200 chemicals per infant. In total, the nine EWG subjects with chemical traces in the cord blood carried:

  • 76 chemicals linked to cancer in humans or animals [average 53]
  • 94 chemicals that are toxic to the brain and nervous system [average 62] – nb: a more sensitive part of the body, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s
  • 86 chemicals that interfere with the hormone system [average 58] – nb: endocrine disruptors, puberty is now 2 years earlier, PCOS poly-cystic-ovarian-syndrome is an epidemic in, infertility is close to epidemic, sperm counts are down and 1:8 women develop breast cancer]
  • 79 chemicals associated with birth defects or abnormal development [average 55] – nb: associated with Autism
  • 77 chemicals toxic to the reproductive system [average 55]
  • 77 chemicals toxic to the immune system [average 53] nb: autoimmunity epidemic linked to toxic exposure 40-50 million adults with thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, MS. 

Pesticide Levels in Children

Some foods have more “residue” from pesticides. Switching your Dirty Dozen to 100% organic will yield 90% reduction in pesticide residue levels in urine.

Some foods have more “residue” from pesticides. Switching your Dirty Dozen to 100% organic will yield 90% reduction in pesticide residue levels in urine.

What are the Main targets of chemical toxins? Chemical compounds clearly affect the:

  • immune system [allergies/asthma, chronic infections, auti-immunity]
  • Nervous system
  • Endocrine-hormonal system
  • Generational [coding and programming that is passed on to children who are born with their systems on alert and “switched on“].

The Effects of Toxins

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches / joint pain
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Sinus congestion and allergies
  • Digestive problems
  • Skin problems
  • PMS and hormone imbalances
  • Weight gain

 Plausible evidence links toxic exposure with risk of:

  • Immune: Autoimmune diseases, allergies, asthma, chronic dermatitis, and multiple chemical sensitivities [MCS]
  • Mitochondrial and Metabolic: Chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, PD, autism spectrum, obesity, insulin resistance
  • Endocrine and reproductive disorders: weight gain, PMS, PCOS, Infertility, Endometriosis, Fibroids
  • Digestive disorders: IBS, nausea and vomiting
  • Neurological disorders e.g. Parkinson’s, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum, and multiple sclerosis
  • Behavioral health disorders e.g. depression, anxiety, attention deficit and hyperactivity
  • Diabetes and cardiovascular diseases

Mitochondria are our “powerhouses.” There are 53 trillion contained in every cell. They have their own DNA - their own “book of life” - and can run themselves.  We get our mitochondrial DNA from our mothers. Mitochondria from the father are loaded in the tail of the sperm and exclusively designed for one thing: to be the first to get to the egg. Once there, the tail falls off and all mitochondria then come from the mother. 

Sick mitochondria are driving many complex diseases:

  • Parkinson’s, Autism, ALS, MS, Dementia
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Complex pain syndromes
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Pre-diabetes/diabetes

There are many things that can be done to restore mitochondria health by following the same protocol as Anti-Inflammatory diet and lifestyle. To learn more, link here to The Health Edge podcast on mitochondria.

Chemicals Cause Damage:

  • Mitochondrial toxicity – reduced function of the mitochondria and reduced function in cells/organs that contain mitochondria
  • Oxidative damage [ATP ‘our energy.” Fats are more efficient than carbs for energy production. They improve metabolism and decrease oxidative damage]
  • Neurotoxicity – solvents diminish neural functioning and Pesticides are neurotoxins by design

Some people retain more toxins than others for the following reasons:

  • Genetic differences in Phase One and Phase Two enzymes [polymorphism] nb- this is less about a “bad” gene and more about “typos” in the genes that we are given at birth
  • Nutrient deficiencies [in Mg – Magnesium; Se - Selenium, and Vitamin B6] prevent detoxification. Many of us are also deficient in Vitamins A, E, and K all of which are powerful antioxidants that aid detoxification.
  • High sugar/Low protein diets
  • Stress, emotional stuffing, trauma – allostatic overload impairs one’s ability to detoxify
  • Heavy metal presence [esp Hg – Mercury]
  • Increased exposure to toxins
We enter the world with genetic pre-dispositions towards certain conditions, but that does not mean you will get it

We enter the world with genetic pre-dispositions towards certain conditions, but that does not mean you will get it

We enter the world with genetic pre-dispositions towards certain conditions, but that does not mean you will get it.

Inheriting “typos” can lead to poor detoxification.

Glutathione S-Transferase pi-1 is responsible for Phase II detoxification of xenobiotics*, carcinogens, steroids, heavy metals, and products of oxidative stress. GSTP1 is located primarily in the brain and lungs.

GSTP1 polymorphisms are associated with either higher or lower enzyme activity, depending on specific environmental exposures. There is an increased risk of toxic burden, oxidative stress and various cancers especially if “GSTM1 Absent” or exposed to cigarette smoke. *Xenobiotic: a foreign chemical substance found within an organism that is not naturally produced by or expected to be present within that organism; substances which are present in much higher concentrations than are usual.

Treatment options to Boost GST activity:

  • Eat cruciferous vegetables [broccoli, bok choy] and alliums [garlic] to increase GST activity and reduce cancer risk
  • Eat a diet rich in antioxidants [colorful foods] and consider supplementation
  • Ensure availability of GSH cofactors [methionine-rich foods, NAC, L-glutamine, glycine, Mg, B6
  • Limit Glutathione depletion with alpha lipoic acid, milk thistle and taurine
  • Minimize exposure to xenobiotics, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and toxic metals

Pharmaceuticals are in our Drinking Water

At least one pharmaceutical was detected in tests of finished drinking water supplies for 24 metropolitan areas, according to an Associated Press survey of 62 major water providers. Only 28 tested finished drinking water. Tests results vary widely. Some water systems said tests had been negative, but the AP found independent research showing otherwise.


Phthalates are in the Products we use...and in our Urine...

Phthalates are used in many common products easily released into the environment. Exposure is airborne, from food and from direct contact. They disrupt endocrine function [EWG's list of endocrine disrupters] and are associated with cancer e.g., breast


Environmental Toxins are prevalent in many products:

  • Persistent Organic Pollutants “POPS” : e.g. PCBs, dioxin, DDT, organochlorine pesticides, petrochemical fertilizers, herbicides
  • Perfluorooctanoic acid “PFOA”: water repellant in Scotch Guard, Gortex, carpeting, upholstery and PTFE in Teflon
  • Polybrominated compounds PBDEs : flame retardants in TVs, computers, etc. “21st century PCBs”
  • PCBs : in meat, fish, dairy
  • Bisphenol A “BPA”: polycarbinated plastics, canned foods, cash register receipts
  • Atrazine agricultural pesticide and herbicide seeps into drinking water

Toxic Chemicals are in Beauty Products:

The average woman uses 12 products daily, containing 168 unique ingredients. The average man uses 6 products daily, containing 85 unique ingredients. Get to know what you are putting ON your body, not just IN your body:

  • Phthalates and Parabens: found in hair and skin care products
  • Fragrancefound in shampoos, deodorants, skin and body care
  • DiethanolamineI: DEA
  • TriethanolamineTEA - found in many cosmetics
  • Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea, and Quarternium-15: found in skin and hair products…all release formaldehyde and are linked to sensitivities
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: [SLS]
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate: [SLES] found in makeup, shampoos, conditioners and toothpaste. When combined with DEA and TEA they form nitrosamines which are carcinogenic
  • Triclosan: a synthetic antibacterial in skin cleaners and household products is a hormone disrupter. The EWG Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disrupters are listed here

A useful site for to help you get to know the cosmetics you use: 

Explore switching to natural cosmetic products:

MERCURY is found in Fish

Mercury is environmentally ubiquitous with levels 30x higher last 2 generations. It enters the air and rain from coal and oil-fired power plants, incinerators, waste and manufacturing plants that use mercury to produce chlorine-containing plastics, PVC piping, pesticides, etc. It enters water and soil from natural deposits, volcanic activity, mining ore, and disposal of wastes e.g. batteries. Methyl mercury is formed in soil and water by algae and bacteria that is then ingested by fish. It is also found in fungicides. Elemental mercury and amalgams used in dental fillings, batteries, electrodes, barometers, fluorescent light bulbs, red tattoo dye, skin-lightening creams and thermostats. Federal Toxic Release Inventory states that over 6 million lbs of toxic waste in the form of mercury compounds in toxic waste are generated by industry, most of which is released directly into the environment.


High levels found in: Bluefish, Grouper, Marlin, Tuna [yellowfin, blue, albacore], Tilefish, Sea bass, Mahi, Swordfish

Low levels found in: Arctic cod, Anchovies, Catfish, Crab, Flounder, Haddock, Herring, Mackerel, Non-farmed salmon, Trout, Tilapia, Oysters, Tuna [skipjack and chunk light]

MERCURY causes Negative Health Effects

  • Damages enzymes and other proteins by binding sulfhydryl groups, e.g., metallothionein, hemoglobin, glutathione
  • Promotes oxidative stress by formation of lipid peroxides, H2O2, and hydroxyl radical
  • Depletes glutathione and selenium
  • Penetrates nerves and binds to cysteines on Ach receptors
  • Damage to brain and kidneys
  • Cognitive dysfunction, depression, irritability, tremors, changes in vision and hearing
  • Probable carcinogenic

Chemical Additives are in Food. Read labels and steer clear of the ones pictured below:


MSG and Glutamate

  • Glutamic acid is a non-essential amino acid found in plant and animal protein. 
  • Glutamate is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the brain.
  • Glutamate activates or excites cells to “communicate” important messages important for growth, development, learning and memory…essentially a brain stimulant.
  • MSG or monosodium glutamate is a synthetic chemical added to processed foods to make them more palatable.
  • The scientific literature regarding the health effects of MSG indicates controversy over the potential of MSG to cause various adverse reactions—from headaches and migraines, altered mood and cognition to endocrine disruption.
  • Possible Genetic susceptibility and “leaky” blood brain barrier
  • MSG goes by many names, read labels carefully. See image below for other names to watch out for.


Switch out THE DIRTY DOZEN to Organic and Stick to THE CLEAN FIFTEEN when not buying Organic

Follow the Principles of Healthy Detoxification:

  • Minimize your exposure to toxins by eating organic foods, moderating processed foods with refined grain flour, sugar, avoiding large game fish
  • Drink filtered water
  • Keep your bowels moving at least once a day through use of flax seeds and magnesium citrate [400mg/day]
  • Eat only organic animal products
  • Eat 6-8 servings of colorful vegetables and fruits including cruciferous veggies [broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale] and allium family [garlic, onions, leeks, watercress, green tea, cilantro, berries, etc]
  • Eliminate nicotine and moderate alcohol intake [no more than 1 drink/day]
  • Exercise: Interval cardio 20-30” twice week; yoga; tai chi; Resistance 20” twice/week; Walk a lot and use stairs
  • Eliminate white flour and sugar and HFCS
  • Minimize char-broiled meats [heterocyclic amines]
  • Don’t be afraid to sweat e.g. sauna, steam
  • Mercury and dental amalgams
  • Home testing for mold
  • Reduce toxic thought-behavioral patterns e.g. Mindfulness practice, CBT
  • Apply chelation protocols for heavy metals

Reduce your toxic burden:

  • Buy and eat organic whenever possible
  • Consider glass or ceramic containers instead of plastic
  • Decline stain protection treatments for upholstery or floor coverings
  • Ask about VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in paints, new carpeting, furniture
  • Avoid polycarbonate plastics with “7” and “3” stamped on bottom.  Consider aluminum instead
  • Switch to stainless steel or hard-anodized aluminum pots and pans when Teflon cookware wears out
  • Vacuum/dust at least once per week: Air purification ionizers
  • Carbon Filter water

Practice Mind-Body Detoxification

  • Mindfulness about the dietary and lifestyle choices you make
  • Meditation

Enhance Blood and Lymph Circulation through:

  • Aerobic exercise
  • Yoga
  • Massage and body work
  • Sauna and heat therapy
  • Skin exfoliation and brushing


Talk to your doctor or nutritionist to find out what SUPPLEMENTS are right for you to help you detoxify:

  • Multivitamin with mineral supplementation
  • Milk Thistle
  • Curcumin/turmeric and rosemary
  • Probiotics
  • Magnesium citrate [400-800 mg/day]
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine [NAC, 1200-2400mg]
  • SAMe, pronounced Sam-MEE [400-800]
  • Vitamin D [2,000-5,000 units/day to level 30+]
  • Co-Q-10 [200-400mg]
  • Alpha lipoic Acid [400-1000 mg]

 Explore Helpful websites such as these:

Use Helpful APPS such as these:


CREATING HEALTH Lecture #3: Inflammation

Lecture by Mark Pettus transcribed by Carolann Patterson



Learning Objectives from today's lecture:

  1. Explore the root causes of inflammation that fuel chronic-complex disease
  2. Examine the connection between inflammation and brain health
  3. Examine the mechanisms that link many common environmental triggers with increased inflammation
  4. Consider lifestyle changes that can reduce-reverse inflammation to improve longevity and quality of life

The proposition for this lecture: how the outside gets inside

  1. Health and disease are byproducts of complex individualized gene-environment interactions that may go back more than a generation before our conception and continue throughout our lives.
  2. Your DNA i.e., your “Book of Life” still has a Stone Age imperative, not often adapted for 21st century environmental inputs e.g. the foods in our modern food supply.
  3. This incompatibility creates a distorted metabolic trajectory e.g. inflammation that forms the basis of chronic complex disease and diminished quality of life.
  4. Through mindful living that aligns conscious choosing with what are are most designed to be in relationship with, our biology can be transformed to promote-restore optimal function and health throughout the life continuum.

Nutrigenomics studies the effects of food and food constituents on gene expression and focuses on the molecular-level interaction between nutrients and genome. It is where we look beyond “food as calories” and see food for what it is: informationMolecules of food have the power to influence life-sustaining pathways. Depending on the quality of a certain food, it will send information that will either trigger inflammation or reduce it.

Does the stress of our present diet create an epigenetic change in our health? Absolutely... 

SHAPE of things to come.png

This is the shape of things to come…and this is the route we are taking to get there…

  1. Poor Quality Carbs - information from food leads to...
  2. Excess Insulin - It is impossible to burn fat with excess insulin [leads to...]   
  3. Fat storage [leads to...]
  4. Down-regulation of insulin receptors [leads to...]
  5. Insulin Resistance and then on to Leptin Resistance and then on to Eat More + Do Less = NO GOOD

It is not simply a matter of poor food choices that lead to Inflammation and then on to Insulin Resistance. All of the following factors eventually lead to Insulin resistance: Visceral fat, Changes in food consumption, Stress, Sleep disruption,  Altered gut-permeability/microbiome, Social Isolation, Hormonal imbalances, Toxin excess. 



Inflammation is connected to every chronic complex disease...and it's got everyone's attention. Scroll through the titles listed below to find articles related to Inflammation and Stroke; Inflammation, Atherosclerosis and Coronary Artery Disease; Inflammation and Cancer; Inflammation and Depression and the Brain; Inflammation and Obesity; Obesity and Periodontitis.

CRP. C-Reative Protein is a marker for inflammation. We can easily test for CRP levels. When tested for CRP, cancer patients' survival rates are higher when there is Low CRP. See graph below: 

Slide courtesy Jeanne Wallace PhD

Slide courtesy Jeanne Wallace PhD

Inflammation effects cancer prognosis and reaction to chemotherapy: Patients with higher CRP experience poor prognosis; toxicity of chemotherapy; cachexia; and fatigue...


NF-κB is Inflammation’s “Master Switch” - keep it turned off

NF-κB is a nuclear transcription factor that is triggered by diet, stress, environmental toxins, visceral fat, infections, intestinal barrier integrity disruption, oxidized LDL, free radicals, vitamin D deficiency, altered microbiome, LPS, inflammation from other sources. It up-regulates expression of 400+ genes involved with cytokine production, cell proliferation, apoptosis, angiogenesis. Exercise, meditation, Vitamin D, Spices [e.g. turmeric] and many plant flavonoids have shown to inhibit NF-κB in vitro and in vivo. 

Nrf2 is the antidote to NF-κB.

Nrf2 activation is a critical intra-cellular defense: keep it turned on. Exercise, Meditation, EGCG, Resveratrol, Coffee, Sulfurophane, Curcumin all boost Nrf2


Changes in our diet trigger inflammation. Watch out for the following inflammation boosters:

  • SUGAR and REFINED grain flours, PROCESSED poor quality carbs with high “carbohydrate density”FRUSCTOSE from sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Not enough vegetables and plant-based fiber to strengthen and balance your microbiome [we need 6-9 servings per day]
  • Increased processed seed oils [they are too high in Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Excess Omega-6 fatty acids build up in our cell membranes and contribute to inflammation]
  • Insufficient healthy saturated fat [e.g. coconut oil and grass-fed-pasture-raised butter, whole milk, cream, eggs, red meat]
  • Sensitivity to GLUTEN and DAIRY
  • ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS - contaminated foods such as game fish [mercury], non-organic fruits and vegetables [pesticide residues], food stored in BPA in plastics…and that’s just the short list


Obesity and Diabetes: The Twin Epidemics. Rates of Obesity and Diabetes have risen drastically in the past century. In 1890, one in thirty [adult 60 year old men] was obese. In 2000, 1 in 3 [adult 60 year old men] was obese. In the 1930's, one in 50,000 adults was diabetic. In 2000, one in 9 adults is diabetic [Johnson et al, American Journal Clinical Nutrition, 2007].


Inflamed About Obesity, Michael Lehrke & Mitchell A Lazar: Two studies find that adipocytes and macrophages have more in common than previously thought. The work bolsters the notion that the inflammatory response might link obesity to afflictions such as diabetes. The epidemic of obesity stems from a clash between genes that allowed our ancestors to survive extended periods of famine and the caloric excess and sedentary lifestyle of our modern environment. Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes and atherosclerosis, afflictions associated with a constellation of insulin resistance, hypertension and lipid abnormalities that is now defined as Metabolic Syndrome [Nature Medicine, Vol 10, No. 2, February 2004]

What is metabolic syndrome? Metabolic syndrome is not a disease in itself. Instead, it's a group of risk factors- high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat at the following levels [Source AHA]:

  • Waist Circumference > 35” in women and > 40” in men
  • BMI > 30 (= obese)
  • Elevated blood pressure: > 130/85
  • High triglycerides: > 150 mg/dL
  • low HDL: < 40 mg/dL men, < 50 wome
  • Elevated fasting glucose: >100 mg/dL

Visceral Adipose stores [mid-section weight gain, belly fat] is linked to Insulin Resistance; Dyslipidemia [high TGA and low HDL]; Elevations of Blood Pressure; and increased risk of chronic complex disease. It is the outward signal that internal fat surrounds organs and can penetrate the liver, causing the liver to respond as though it is Hepatitis. 


The Quality of carbohydrates you eat matters. 

Different carbohydrates produce unique genomic responses. NF-κB is the Inflammation Master Switch: keep it turned off...

High Glycemic Carbs [NF-κB turned on = bad]. 

Low Glycemic Carbs [NF-κB turned off = good]. 

... and stay away from those seemingly innocent rice cakes and pretzels!


Gluten attacks the intestinal tract. Boston Mass General's Alessio Fasano is a gastroenterologist and pioneering researcher whose team discovered Zonulin, the molecule which regulates intestinal permeability, a.k.a. Leaky Gut.

Gluten triggers Zonulin. Over-production of Zonulin has been linked to a series of autoimmune diseases, including Type 1 Diabetes, Celiac Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

Gluten is the primary cause of Celiac Disease. Fasano's research in 2003 demonstrated the prevalence of Celiac Disease in the U.S. to be far higher than previously thought, at a rate of 1 in 133 persons. Currently, 1.4% of Americans have Celiac Disease.


Primary source of Gluten is Wheat, and Wheat is NOT what it used to be...


Inflammation is a systemic process. Inflammatory triggers such as Gluten cause inflammatory manifestations in all parts of the body, not just at the "point of entry" e.g. the stomach and can disrupt coordination/balance, cause joint pain and brain fog and... 

  • Celiac Disease is caused by Gluten and associated with many neuro-psychiatric diagnoses e.g. ADHD seen in approx. 60%!
  • Celiac Disease is associated with white matter changes on MRI…similar to that seen with MS
  • Gluten increases insulin resistance in individuals who are sensitive
  • Brain wave patterns in ADHD improve consistently with gluten restriction
  • Gluten sensitivity enhances zonulin that increases intestinal permeability
  • Gluten sensitivity can alter blood flow to frontal lobes

From Gut to Brain: Gluten sensitivity is linked to:

  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Movement disorders
  • ADHD
  • Pain 

The intestines are only one cell layer thick. What causes Intestinal Permeability?

  • Food sensitivities
  • Dysbiosis – Too much bad and not enough good bacteria. Gut microbiome needs diversity to balance
  • Acid suppression [Causes overgrowth of bad bacteria. Prolonged acid suppression is not good for you Short-term use only e.g Prilosec]
  • Stress response
  • Environmental toxins
  • Medications e.g. regular steroids and NSAID use [irony: anti-inflammatory drugs such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen promote inflammation]

A-cellular carbohydrates [not from vegetables or legumes] cause increased inflammation which leads to:

  • Insulin-fueling lipogenesis
  • Insulin resistance in muscle and liver
  • Inhibits capacity to burn fat
  • NF-κB goes up [bad]
  • Increased LPS - Lipopolysaccharides elicit a variety of inflammatory responses and may be a part of the pathology of Gram-negative bacterial infections [bad]
  • Cytokine up-regulation [bad]
  • Leptin resistance [hungry and less energy to move]
  • Poor health and many symptoms [including Periodontal disease]

The Host Genotype Affects the Bacterial Community in the Human Gastrointestinal Tract

Host genes shape the gut microbiota. 90% of our bodies is not human: it's microbial. Microbes are essential to our health and most of them live in the gut sending out messages to support digestion, immunity, metabolism. When the microbiome is disrupted and out of balance [dysbiosis] messaging in our body gets mixed up. Big time.

The F-Word: FIBER [and F. prausnitzii]

When the mucous layer in the intestines is reduced, opportunists can move close to the gut lining, inciting inflammation. Fermentation of plant-based fiber seems to keep the mucous layer intact. So does the presence of peace-keeping microbes such F. prausnitzii.


Speculative interpretation of current research is that gut colonization is most beneficial before the age of 3 and is strengthened by these three key factors at birth to age 3:

  1. Vaginal delivery
  2. Breast-feeding
  3. Minimal or no use of antibiotics and anti-bacterial products [both contribute to a less diverse ecosystem and microbiome]

Diversity of gut colonization relies on:

  1. One organism preventing overgrowth of another 
  2. Cross-talk influencing the immune system

Late colonization/infection + poor microbial diversity + genetics = sickness

Scientific America explains why our progeny may not be inheriting their fair share... "Because the critical issue is the inter-generational transfer of microbes and its timed assembly, three periods are relevant: before pregnancy, during pregnancy and in the child's early life.

For all three periods, antibiotic use is relevant because it may directly change maternal microbes prior to transfer or the child’s microbes afterward. Elective cesarean sections mean that the child misses the birth canal transit, and anti-bacterials in soaps and foods directly affect microbiota composition. Infant formulas have not been constructed with the benefit of millions of years of mammalian evolution, because breast milk contains nutrients that specifically select for the growth of preferred co-evolved organisms and inhibit opportunists and pathogens.

The aggregate of modern assaults on the early-life microbiome suggests that our progeny may not be inheriting their fair share. Exceeding the developing microbiome’s plasticity predictably leads to consequences, as growing evidence evinces.

Studies have linked C-sections and exposures to prenatal and postnatal antibiotics to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, celiac disease, asthma and allergies, among other ailments that have their roots in development."


The brain responds to the gut. Researchers have learned which strains of gut bacteria affect the nervous system and have mapped out the pathways they use to influence the brain.  Gut flora can improve mood; some can produce neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine; while other microbes such as L. helveticus and B. longum operate through the neuro-endocrine system and can lower cortisol.

A specific strain of Lactobacillus reuteri can increase the level of oxytocin, the hormone that kicks in when you cuddle, hug, or have sex. Lactobacillis acidophilus [found in yougurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi] is critical to regulating pain. B infantis and L reuteri and other strains attack inflammation by suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokines. They also send signals to increase Leptin [The “I am Full” hormone].

Watch this space – Psychobiotics might just be the next happy pill because of their links to:  

  • Protection of intestinal barrier function
  • Influence on local and systemic antioxidant status
  • Direct neurochemical production e.g. Gamma Amino Butyric Acid
  • Indirect influence on neurotransmitter function
  • Experimental evidence of links to depression, anxiety, and autism
  • Stress-induced alterations in microbiota
  • Direct activation of neural pathways between gut and brain
  • Regulation of immune response - inflammatory cytokines
  • Can influence production of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor [BDNF]*
  • Loss of microbiome “heritage” a contributor to many modern diseases

[Psychobiotics: a novel class of psychotropic. Biol Psychiatry. 2013 Nov 15;74(10):720-6. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.05.001. Epub 2013 Jun10Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry Eva M Selhub1*†, Alan C Logan2† and Alison C Bested3 Journal of Physiological Anthropology 2014, 33:2]

*BDNF - Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor

Up your Game and Up your Brain. Your Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor [BDNF] is Known as "Miracle Grow." BDNF is decreased in Depression, Alzheimer's, Epilepsy, Schizophrenia and OCD.

BDNF increases with Exercise, Coffee [and other phytonutrients], DHA-omega 3, Curcumin-turmeric, EGCG [green tea], Meditation, Reduction in gut permeability. 


Evidence for increased inflammation in:

  • MCI/Alzheimer’s disease
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • PD
  • MS
  • ADD and ADDHD
  • Brain fog i.e., trouble with concentration, focus, memory
  • Anxiety and Panic
  • Autism spectrum

What is happening in the brain doesn't necessarily originate there.

The contemporary convergence:

Gene-Epigenome + Environment + Microbiome = 

OUTCOME [how the outside gets inside]


Sugar triggers inflammation. Diabetes and pre-diabetes prevention and glucose control in midlife may protect against late-life cognitive decline. Higher glucose levels are associated with an increased risk of dementia. Studies show higher levels of fasting plasma glucose correspond to a higher rate of shrinkage of memory center [Neurology 2012;79:1019-1026].

High glucose is reversible and highly preventable.

High intake of energy from carbohydrates and low intake from fat may have inverse implications for development of Mild Cognitive Impairment [MCI]. In a study of 1,230 individuals age 70 and older, individuals with higher carbohydrate intake had nearly four times the risk of developing Mild Cognitive Impairment. Those individuals with the highest fat intake compared to the lowest fat intake were 42% less likely to have MCI.


Exercise training increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory. "A physical activity program of an additional 142 minutes of exercise per week on average modestly improved congnition relative to controls in older adults with subjective and objective memory impairment" JAMA, September 3, 2008, Vol 300, No 9.

A six-month exercise intervention influences the genome-wide DNA methylation pattern in human adipose tissue. Studied followed 24 healthy men with low level baseline activity levels before and after 6-month exercise program. There were 30 controls as genome-wide methylation patterns were examined in adipose tissue. Several patterns changed in exercise group demonstrating reduced lipogenesis and a “silencing” of genes associated with obesity, inflammation and impaired insulin signaling.


Disrupted sleep and loss of entrainment is a major inflammatory risk

  • 15% of Americans experience insomnia
  • 1 out of 3 has sleep disruption on one or more nights each week
  • Major risk factor for many chronic complex diseases
  • Neuro-endocrine-immune disruption
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Avoid pitfalls of sleeping medications
  • Follow the Circadian Rhythm strategy [below] and work up to a healthy sleeping pattern:


The process of achieving stability or balance through physiological or behavioral change in response to changes in one’s environment. Simply put: Ability to achieve stability through change. Here are some helpful tips that are at the heart of an an Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle:

  • Sleep well. Get your ZZZ's and your Zeitgebers [Time Givers] - Light, Ambient temperature, Social Interactions, Exercise, Meal Timing
  • Get your Vitamin D through supplements or sensible sun exposure each day. Vitamin D influences many things - Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Autoimmunity, Depression, CHF, Osteoporosis, Fall Risk, Pain Syndromes
  • Whole foods always trump processed foods
  • Reduce-eliminate sugar, fructose and refined-processed, grain-based flour [carbohydrate-dense foods] e.g. breads, pasta, bagels, chips, pretzels, muffins, donuts, and many cereal grains
  • Consider an elimination trial e.g. gluten, dairy, sugar
  • Eat lots of vegetables, plant-fiber, sweet potatoes, plantains, beans
  • Reduce processed seed-vegetable oils e.g. corn, safflower, sunflower, canola, peanut and introduce more healthy fats e.g. grass-fed butter, EVOO, coconut oil, lard, ghee, and an increase in O-3s fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocados
  • Lean, red meat  (grass fed-finished ideal), eggs
  • Eat organic for “the dirty dozen” produce

Round off an anti-inflammatory lifestyle with these healthy practices...

  • Movement: Motion is the Lotion: walking, aerobic, resistance, yoga, tai chi
  • Mind-Body awareness
  • Prayer, Breathing techniques, Relaxation Response, Meditation
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction; HRV-Heartmath
  • Sleep hygiene-entrainment
  • Laughter
  • Volunteer Work
  • Social connection
  • Cultivate meaning in work, love, and play
  • More time outdoors during sun season

Recommended Reading: 

The Wahls Protocol, by Terry Wahl, M.D.

For more "news to use" and the science to go with it, visit The Health Edge: Translating the Science of Self-Care. Not all research slides are shown in this article. To download complete lecture, follow this link to BHS Creating Health Wellness Series.