Microbiome

Microbiome (mikro . biom) – This medical term has it’s first known use in 1952. It’s the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space.  Joshua Lederberg coined the term arguing the importance of microorganisms inhabiting the human body in health and disease.

photo of person with face and body paint

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Simply, it’s the bugs that live on or in us.

The bacteria, fungi, and viruses that inhabit a particular environment and especially the collection of microorganisms living on our body number about 100 trillion (Carl Zimmer) and together with other microbes, collectively are known as our own personal microbiome.

The material in our gut is the personal microbiome of our gut.

The largest number of microbes live in the gastrointestinal tract and are associated with the regulation of digestion, protection from disease-causing organisms, and the development of a strong immune response.

According to an article by Will Hartfield (12/32016), the microbiome is linked to a person’s genetic footprint and hence plays a role in the determination of our unique DNA, predisposition to pathogens, hereditary traits, body type and much more. In fact, up to 90% of all human maladies are linked to the health of the gut and the overall condition of our microbiome.

strawberry frozen yogurt cup

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Lifestyle can affect our microbiome. Dr. Heather Tick, a researcher, and the multi-book author suggests some healthful guidelines.

Medical procedures, medications, diet, questionable drinking water, chemotherapy are just a few issues that can alter the microbiome in our bodies and bring about serious long term health issues.

When our gut microbiome is balanced – which means that the ratio of good bacteria to bad will be higher keeping everything in check – we’ll find good bacteria (probiotics), bad bacteria, yeast (like Candida Albicans) and other microorganisms.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the healthiest microbiome. So, how do we know if our gut microbiome isn’t healthy?

  • Gas or bloating  * Indigestion * Diarrhea or Constipation * Food Allergies * Frequent Colds/flues * Infections * Sugar Cravings * Fatigue * Mood Swings * Skin Allergies * Depression * Weight Loss/Gain * Brain Fog/Trouble Concentrating * Headaches * Thyroid Issues * Autoimmune Issues

Changing our diet is a good way that we can intervene.

out of order text on persons belly

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“Ditch the sugar.” We’ve heard it before.  Well, we’re hearing it again now.  Sugar in all of its forms creates an addictive cycle.  The brain simply signals that another sugar treat is entering the bloodstream and like cocaine, the addictive cycle begins again.

Probiotic-rich foods are great sources of dietary probiotics: these include yogurt, kefir, and kombucha.  Fiber-rich foods such as onions, legumes, and bananas are also recommended since your gut bacteria break down the fiber for their own energy helping to support the colonization of healthy bacteria in the gut.

assorted color ingredients on grey wooden table

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Supplements with a probiotic that contains a variety of bacterial strain with a high colonizing unit per capsule such as 50 billion live cultures help to speed healing and improve gut diversity.  This is important if we’ve been prescribed an antibiotic.  Antibiotics destroy bacteria in the nonselectively, meaning they also kill the probiotic we need to keep our gut microbiome healthy.

Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is important because it’s linked to our overall health.

 

‘Thumbdriving’

Watching someone communicate using a hand-held telephone is like viewing a magicians’ sleight-of-hand skeletal manipulation – the fingers cradle the phone while the thumbs frantically hop across a neon-lit screen resembling adrenalin-infused high jumpers.

My definition of Thumbdriving is the skillful art of using your thumbs repeatedly to tap visual buttons on the smooth surface of a functioning electronic device with the goal of producing a retrievable text message.

Young children do it, teenagers do it, adults do it and even seniors do it – everyone’s in on the act.  If you use a cell phone you have done it at least once yourself. Thumbdriving does not require knowledge of keyboarding.

Lexicon entry into Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus might not be on the agenda just yet but the publication is adding new ideas at a fairly fast pace.

The thumb is a short, thick digit of the human hand or a corresponding digit of an animal that performs amazing functions for us in our daily lives.  This digit gives our hand dignity and without it, we couldn’t hold objects or shake hands.   We would find it more difficult to pick up our children or plan and eat a healthy, delicious meal if our thumbs were missing.

However, the reckless use of this fabulous digit may get us into trouble.

Thumbdriving can be addictive.  Texting using thumbdriving can be addictive.

Signs of this addiction may be insidious: awareness of aching in the joints, generalized swelling in the thumb, stiffness after short periods of inactivity, morning achiness in the digit that’s often relieved with a warm massage and possible pain relief with an anti-inflammatory.

Our body is telling us that we have overused our thumb either by texting too much or too fast or too often.  The dexterity in the joints of our digit can’t endure the repetition and speed.  The intensity of the coordination between our joints, hands, and eyes used in Thumbdriving can produce an adrenaline ‘high’ for some but it can ultimately cause joint damage to the thumb if not monitored carefully.

Driving a car requires thought and concentration. Thumbdriving a phone thoughtfully may be just as skillful.

 

 

 

Work in Progress

Just like our bodies are made to move, being healthy is dynamic.

When was the last time that you made a health mistake?  Did you correct yourself harshly or grant yourself a free pass?  Often when we’re trying to achieve our healthiest selves we hold ourselves to a level of perfection that’s impossible to reach.

Imagine that you’re a work in progress – you’re not done with yourself!!!

Medical literature and research give us some measurable goals to observe along our way.

  1. Failure can be a success – how else can we know what health areas to work on if we don’t fail at times? Failure is like a mirror that reflects back on us the area in need of improvement so that we can shift our health goals instead of quitting.
  2. Solutions may change when we look within ourselves – but that’s where the answer may be found, within ourselves.
  3. ‘Accepting it or Changing it’ is an attitude that any skilled counselor will profess. When we look at a situation that makes us unhappy adopting this method tends to take the stress off us and our lives.
  4. Take a ‘do-over.’  So we make a mistake, own it, apologize, make it better. The situation may be that we didn’t meet our buddy for a scheduled workout.  Okay, call them up, apologize, reschedule and offer to pick them up the next time and make sure that we keep the next appointment.
  5.  We’re changing, so look forward.  Rehashing mistakes is not in our gameplan.  Analyze our positive choices and realize that we can be whoever we determine to be.

We own this, so let’s give ourselves permission to proceed with our work in progress.

The Human Condition

A Generational Saga

My recent book of fiction ‘Ripples in the Generations’ is a generational saga that explores the delicate process of blending the heart-lifting joy of a life-long high school friendship with a soul-searching genetic relationship. Two factions of the Henry family share a common interest; Williams’ indiscretions, yet each is unaware of just how much they have in common. The next generation of William’s family share his DNA, but William has divided his legacy.

Even though this novel recounts the tale of a fictional family, worldwide some interesting and unbelievable results are being revealed with millions of people using commercial DNA tests to trace their family trees. Some results have been life-changing introducing them to relatives they had lost long ago-or never knew existed and some revealing long-held relationship secrets.

Sometimes when we poke our skeletons potential risks and positive responses sit side-by-side.  Taking the chance and checking our DNA makes us fragile, but being fragile also opens the opportunity to be brave and develop new connections.

So, if you’re considering having your DNA tested, make sure that the commercial DNA company is professionally credible and you’re ready for the results; whatever they may be.

The Absence of A Report

 Why don’t people report abuse?

Three basic reasons

  •  SOCIAL PROOF – Victims decide about reporting or revealing abuse when they feel safe about the reporting.  They do this after they watch to see how others are treated when they report.  They then ask themselves.  Will I be treated like that when I disclose my abuse?
  • PERPETRATORS – This defines someone who initiates, continues, fulfills or enacts a crime and continues the code of silence.  A perpetrator usually has a set of intimidating statements used to prevent their victims from reporting the abuse.
  •  – “I love you, I would never hurt you.”
  •  – ” I never meant to hurt you.”
  •  – “I’m sure that you remember it wrong.”

–   HORIZONTAL VIOLENCE – People turn on others in their own lives because to address the abusive authority figure is too painful or too involved and ‘politically-expensive. ‘By ‘politically-expensive’ I mean that any change in the current structure will topple who that person has access to and reporting will change their world.

Possibly, victims or people who observe abuse don’t report because they’ve convinced themselves that they have a ‘different’ memory of the actual event; even though their inner self screams out to them that abuse-is-abuse.  Finally, and regrettably, a parent or authority figure may tell a child “You’re always talking about things that never happen.”

Statistics reflect sobering numbers.

As of 2014, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) defines sexual assault as sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.  Falling under this definition are sexual activities such as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of 2016 estimates that 676,000 children were confirmed by Child Protective Services (CPS) as being victims of abuse and neglect.  1,750 children died from abuse and neglect across the country.  Stress and chronic abuse during infancy can cause regions of the brain to form and function improperly.  Children who experience abuse are at increased risk for engaging in high-risk behaviors.  Child abuse and neglect decrease the ability of people to establish healthy relationships in adulthood.

Intimate Partner Violence (IVP) occurs when an intimate relationship has gotten out of control and, ultimately, life is at risk. (American Nurse, March 2017, Vol. 12, #3)

  • IPV affects 1 in 3 women in the United States
  • IPV affects 1 in 4 men in the United States
  • These #’s are under-reported (Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

100 women have been killed by their partners this year in France. (NPR Podcast, September 3, 2019)

Questions to ask if you believe that someone is in an IPV relationship or any abusive situation:

  • Is someone hurting you?
  • Are you being insulted?
  • Has someone been threatening you?
  • Does someone scream at you?
  • Are you being isolated from your family or social interactions?
  • Are you afraid of the person you’re in a relationship with?

Most police departments have an abuse definition based on their states’ revised statues.  As well, each police department compiles abuse statistics.  The one for my particular state compiles the following data.

  • 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18
  • 75% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18
  • 1 in 2 of all women have been a victim of sexual assault
  • 1 in 4 have been victims of RAPE

Filing a needed abuse report is one of the most important things you will ever do.

 

 

DNA

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the hereditary material in humans and most other organisms. According to an article published by the National Institute of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine, most DNA is located in the cell nucleus where it is called nuclear DNA, but a small amount of DNA is also found in the mitochondria that convert food into energy.

DNA bases ‘pair-up’ with each other – A with T and C with G, to form units called base pairs.  These pairs bond with sugars and phosphates to form a double helix.  DNA from humans is made up of approximately 3 billion nucleotides bases.

The important property of DNA is that it can replicate – making copies of itself.  Think of the double helix as your personal bar code.  Also, consider our DNA sequence is mostly similar to that of a chimpanzee. Only a fraction of distinctively different sequences makes us human.

The sequence, or the order, of the bases is what determines our life instructions according to an article by Epigenetics Simplified, July 30, 2013.

Epigenetics and CRISPR

Epigenetics piggybacks with CRISPR.

The addition of methyl groups (methylation) to our (deoxyribonucleic acid) DNA can change rapidly during the life span of a cell or organism, or it can be essentially permanent once set early in the development of the embryo (Epigenetics). (Encyclopeaedia Britannica Inc., 2018. Web. 29 Jul. 2018)

So, what does this mean?

It means what you do in your everyday life or what your ancestors were exposed to can ‘tweak’ your DNA (chemical modification).  Essentially, the experiences you encounter imprint a chemical tag on your DNA which either turns ‘on’ or ‘off’ the potential expression of that particular strand of DNA.   Scary or not,  you can inherit the information in your ancestors DNA.

The study of epigenetics came into general use in the early 1940s when British embryologist Conrad Waddington used it to describe the interactions between genes and gene products. Since then, information revealed by epigenetics studies has revolutionized the fields of genetics and developmental biology.  The chemical tags that associate tightly with the DNA in the cell nucleus determine when or even if a given gene is expressed in a cell or an organism.

An article from “What is Epigenetics” July 30, 2018, outlines epigenetics. Think of the human lifespan as a very long movie.  The calls would be the actors.  DNA would be the script – instructions for all the participants of the movie.  The DNA sequence would be the words on the script, and certain blocks of these words that instruct key actions or events to take place would be the genes.  The concept of genetics would be like screenwriting.

The concept of epigenetics would be the directing. The script can be the same, but the director can choose to eliminate or tweak certain scenes or dialogue, altering the movie.  After all, Steven Spielberg’s finished product would be drastically different than Woody Allen’s for the same movie script.

Imagine, we can direct our DNA.  The research in methylating of DNA is in its infancy.  However, it’s becoming apparent that a decrease in methylation contributes to the expression of the gene while the increase of methylation contributes to the silence of the gene. (Judith L. Fridovich-Keil http://www.britannica.com/science/epigenetics) Epigenetics works by adding or removing small chemical tags to our DNA.

Environmental and lifestyle factors influence cell replication. (Lupus Foundation of America) This ‘damage’ occurs when lupus immune cells accumulate more DNA damage upon exposure to environmental stressors compared to healthy immune cells.  Also, living near a major highway may genetically influence overactive inflammatory conditions.

These same epigenetic changes extend to abuse especially when children are involved.  Some youngsters show symptoms immediately, but others appear asymptomatic until adulthood.  Also, untreated sexual abuse is a time bomb.  It ticks so quietly that even the victim doesn’t hear it.  But if it isn’t defused, eventually there’s an explosion. (You Are Not Alone – Men’s Health, June 2018)

Children who are hit as a form of punishment at a young age have altered stress-hormone profiles, which can make them more vulnerable to stress-related illnesses like heart and respiratory disease later in life. (WebMD.COM May/2018)

The reason that the concept of physical weight is important is that if grandma and grandpa are obese that tendency is imprinted on to their DNA and can be genetically passed on to their descendants. (DiscoverMagazine.com) Epigenetics doesn’t alter the sequence but influences the gene expression.  Childhood obesity rates continue to rise in the U.S. (WebMD July/Aug2018)

CRISPR

Can we require our DNA?

Science is using a new gene-editing technique called CRISPR/Cas9 or simply CRISPR to revise the DNA of animals and plants and even human cells in petri dishes according to Sam Sternberg, Ph.D., a biochemist, and CRISPR expert who completed his doctorate in the lab of Jennifer Doudna at University of California, Berkeley.

Think of your unwound DNA double helix as your very long, personal bar code.

Scientists attach a ‘messenger’ molecule to the section of the DNA that identifies which section to remove.  Then another ‘enzyme’ is sent to the identified section and removes it.  Following this, the cell realizes that the DNA is damaged and repairs it.

This scientific discovery has tremendous discovery for not only epigenetics in repairing gene mutations but for medical treatments.   A recent use is seen in travel to outer space.  The astronaut James Kelly spent an extended period in space and descended with some epigenetic changes to his DNA.  Therefore, he was no longer an identical twin.

However, the space center scientists were not to be disappointed.  CRISPR to the rescue.  Astronaut Kelly is now an identical twin without evident epigenetic changes – amazing.

Imagine if we do the same for diabetes, cancer, children of abuse, sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, autoimmune conditions, obesity, beta-thalassemia, and alcoholism. The health benefits are amazing not to mention the cost savings.  We would have a healthy, profitable world.

Aspirin

‘Take 2 and call me in the morning.’

Dr. John Whyte Chief Medical Officer at WebMD states that for more than a century aspirin has been considered a wonder drug; treating conditions from heart disease to easing pain.

However, medical providers and scientists are gaining a greater understanding of this ‘wonder drug.’  Even though you can purchase this item over the counter (OTC) without a prescription it may not always be safe.

Aspirin works by inhibiting the blood from clotting which can also increase bleeding.  Through recently well-designed large investigations we now know that if you have already have had a heart attack, the benefits of aspirin to ward future heart attacks and some types of strokes are likely greater than the risk of major bleeding.

However, if you’ve never had a heart attack or stroke age and risk are important factors.

  • Younger than 50 yo, most studies don’t support daily aspirins
  •  If you’re between 50 – 69, calculate your 10-yr. cardiovascular disease risk which increases if you have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • If you are 70 or older and have never suffered a heart attack or stroke, the benefit of daily aspirin is unclear

Consulting your health care professional always is the best call.  If you have chest pain or any of the known symptoms of a heart attack always call 9-1-1.  According to the European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care, heart attacks are just as common for women as men, and fast treatment makes all the difference.  Yet women wait 37 minutes longer to call for help. Even though a pain in the chest and left arm are the most common signs, these symptoms are more common in men.  Women, on the other hand, often feel back, shoulder or stomach pain during a heart attack.

Spotlight

You’re in the spotlight every day.

A bright light may not be blinding your eyes or beads of sweat forming on your forehead but a glaring spotlight may be shining right in your direction just the same.

That heat is the glare of potential illness.  Cancer, diabetes, eczema, multiple sclerosis, depression, asthma, psoriasis, deep vein thrombosis, leukemia, lymphoma, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, meningitis, myocardial infarction are just a few of the potential illnesses that are interrogated under the extreme glow of your potential.

At any moment you can be diagnosed with one or more of these medical conditions. So the key here is to maintain health and wellness in your everyday life so that if or when one of these conditions, unfortunately, is spotlighted on you you’ll be in a position to adequately deal with your diagnosis.

Even though we intrinsically know the basic rules and guidelines of health and wellness adhering to the ‘straight and narrow’ can be a challenge.  Good nutrition, adequate rest, daily exercise, social interactions, and mental stimulation seem to be the nationally accepted requirements.

Your bodies are simultaneously fragile and tough. Therefore, maintaining a delicate balance between the intricate chemical and physical interaction takes conscious attention and devoted effort.  Eating fruits and vegetables, adequate-proteins, complex carbohydrates, and decaffeinated-hydration in your daily diet gives your body the defense it needs to prepare for the potential spotlight glare.

Exercising on a regular basis strengthens and firms your muscles preparing them to withstand any potential hospital stay or unexpected accident.  Your recovery time will be shortened if you’re healthier before you’re injured.  Remember though it’s easier to stay well that to recover after being sick.

Pay attention to your daily diet.  It’s ‘easy’ to eat a couple of extra Oreo’s especially if they are ‘calling your name’ but doing this on a daily basis and adding in some french fries may not be a wise decision – but it’s your decision to make.

If the spotlight shines on you make sure you’re fortified because you have made a good decision about your health.

 

Cellphone Gunk

Dirty cellphones.  That seems to be a popular subject these days.

Initial I think about germs that live on the exterior of cellphones that cause disease.  We use our cellphones in every facet of our lives including in health care settings both as family members and health medical providers which increase the incidence of the alarming trend of cellphone contamination – according to a recent editorial in American Nurse Today (Vol. 14, No.3) it may be up to 74.4.%.

Are we making ourselves sick?

Do we, both the general public and medical providers, use our cellphones in the restroom wash our hands and neglect to clean our cellphones?  If so we could be setting ourselves up to increased contamination.

Just think about all those little microscopic green, slimy bugs and crawly microbes squirmy around on your cellphone.  Do you want them up close to your mouth every time to talk on the phone? Or picking at your food when you eat?

There’s other potential gunk floating around on the inside of your cellphone – personal information.  Potential because unless you want everyone knowing intimate details about the innermost secrets of your life it’s best not to share.

Keep your social life and your work life separate and only post to social media what you’d want the whole world to see.  There are legal issues connected to posting and re-posting private information.  The Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) of 1996 which was enacted in 2002 protects patients’ personal information while maintaining the flow for care.  It’s in place to protect both the patient and the caregiver.

Remember that social media is the opposite of private.

Cellphones carry information but they can be gunked-up both inside and outside.