Category Archives: liver disease

Paleolithic Diet Reversed Osteoporosis and Fatty Liver in an 82 year old man

Joe (not his real name) is an 82 year old man who presented to me in 2009 with severe degenerative arthritis of the spine, debilitating chronic pain,  osteoporosis, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure and fatty liver. When I first met him in 2009 he weighed 265 pounds (6 foot), had just undergone multi-vessel coronary artery bypass surgery. He could not walk more than 30 feet without feeling short of breath and severe low back pain. He was referred to me for interventional pain management. At that time the only way he could sleep was in a hospital bed with his head elevated to a 90 degree angle. Otherwise he experienced “orthopnea” (shortness of breath lying flat caused by congestive heart failure). His osteoporosis (demineralization of bone) was so bad it was difficult to do pain blocks using X-RAY because the bone did not show up well on X-Ray due to the osteoporosis. He had also suffered compression fractures in the lumbar spine. Compression fractures are caused by weak bones where just the weight of the body can cause one or more vertebrae to partially collapse.

I recommended a paleolithic-carbohydrate restricted diet. He lost 90 pounds and on the paleo diet was able to get off some of his medication for congestive heart failure.

I saw Joe yesterday for an interventional pain management procedure (radio-frequency ablation of nerves to his painful arthritic lower lumbar facet joints). He gets these about every 6 months to treat chronic pain.

I recalled the first time I did this procedure. It was a struggle because his bones were so demineralized. But yesterday it was a breeze, his bones looked 30 years younger and had enough calcium and other minerals to provide beautiful fluoroscopic (live X-ray) images.

Joe is now sleeping with just 10 degrees elevation at the head of his bed (previously 90 degrees). His fatty liver disease is gone.

The Paleo diet allowed this elderly gentleman to lose 90 pounds, improve his exercise tolerance dramatically (he just won a metal detecting contest competing against young adults) and significantly improve his bone strength. It also cured his fatty liver disease.

Not bad for just limiting food to fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, meat, seafood, nuts and eggs.

Joe’s improvement is not a surprise. A study done at UCSF on the metabolic ward demonstrated improved calcium metabolism (reduced urinary excretion of calcium)  within 2 weeks of placing young “couch potato” adults on a paleolithic diet. It also demonstrated improvements in blood pressure, glucose tolerance, decreased insulin secretion, increased insulin sensitivity and improved lipid profiles in just a few weeks. This occurred without an exercise program (exercise will enhance bone strength, reduce blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity and improve lipid profiles) and without weight loss. The subjects were “force fed” to avoid weight loss so the beneficial effects of the dietary change alone could be analyzed without the con-founder of weight loss. You can read the abstract of this study here.

The improvements in calcium metabolism are not mentioned in the abstract but appear in the full article in Table 1.

Joe is very grateful for the tremendous improvement in his quality of life, primarily achieved by adopting a Paleo-diet.

Until next time.

BOB Hansen MD

The bacteria in your gut are essential to your health Part II, obesity, metabolic syndrome and dysbiosis

I have discussed the evidence linking the mix of bacteria in your gut (gut flora) to health and disease in Part I. The Bacteria in your Gut are essential to your health Part I | Practical Evolutionary Health

Today I will discuss the evidence related specifically to  obesity and metabolic syndrome (the constellation of obesity, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and abnormal blood lipids). My discussion will follow closely the evidence and theory presented in research and review papers authored by Dr. Cani and colleagues. The first one is titled:

Gut microbiota controls adipose tissue expansion, gut barrier and glucose metabolism: novel insights into molecular targets and interventions using prebiotics.”

You can find the full text of this article here .

I have had the pleasure of corresponding with Dr. Cani by e-mail regarding her many publications investigating the relationship between gut flora, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.

“Recently, we and others have identified several mechanisms linking the gut microbiota with the development of obesity and associated disorders (e.g. insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hepatic steatosis).”

Explanation: The gut microbiota are the bacteria, viruses and other “bugs” that reside in our intestines. Insulin resistance can occur in various parts of the body, wherever insulin has an effect including fat cells, liver, muscle, brain. When higher amounts of insulin are required to achieve an effect this is called insulin resistance. In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is still able to make insulin but insulin is less effective in controlling blood sugar. In Type I diabetes the pancreas no longer produces insulin. Hepatic Steatosis means fatty liver disease. The liver accumulates fat and this can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and death. Alcohol consumption can cause this but when alcohol is not involved this is called Non-Alcoholic-Fatty-Liver Disease (NAFLD). Our nation presently has an epidemic of not just obesity but also NAFLD. Evidence points to  excess carbohydrate consumption and excess consumption of vegetable oils (linoleic acid)  as contributing factors in NAFLD.  Carbohydrate restriction and consumption of saturated fat, particularly medium chain fats (as found in coconut) can protect against NAFLD. But the gut flora also play a role. The mechanisms involved are many.

“Among these, we described the concept of metabolic endotoxaemia (increase in plasma lipopolysaccharide levels) as one of the triggering factors leading to the development of metabolic inflammation and insulin resistance.”

Endotoxemia occurs when a toxin from certain kinds of bacteria circulates in the blood. This endotoxin enters our blood through our intestines under conditions in which the protective barrier of the intestines is compromised. The compromise of the intestinal barrier is variously referred to as ” leaky gut” or “increased intestinal permeability”. Wheat gluten-gliadin  causes increased intestinal permeability (especially in celiac disease) as can other plant lectins. In this discussion, the gut bacteria also contribute in the setting of “dysbiosis” (the beneficial effects of helpful bacteria are overwhelmed by the harm-causing bacteria when a healthy balance is not present)

Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) comes from the outer wall membrane of certain bacteria. Blood plasma is the liquid part of blood in which the blood cells circulate. So an “increase in plasma lipopolysaccharide” simply means that there is more LPS circulating in the blood. That is a bad thing. Depending on how much is circulating this alone can cause organ failure and death and is a major part of the physiologic changes involved in septic shock. But lower levels of LPS circulating in the blood can cause chronic low grade inflammation and insulin resistance. Obesity is associated with chronic inflammation and increased LPS circulating in the blood and being distributed to various organs where it wreaks havoc.

“Growing evidence suggests that gut microbes contribute to the onset of low-grade inflammation characterizing these metabolic disorders via mechanisms associated with gut barrier dysfunctions.”

“We have demonstrated that enteroendocrine cells (producing glucagon-like peptide-1, peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-2) and the endocannabinoid system control gut permeability and metabolic endotoxaemia.”

That is a mouth-full. Over thirty different kinds of hormone producing cells have been found in the human intestine. These cells are called enteroendocrine cells. The hormones produced by these cells have many effects. You can find a great review of these cells and their effects here .

In Dr. Cani’s review article she describes how some of these hormones produced in the gut can increase intestinal permeability and allow more of the toxic, inflammation producing LPS to enter the bloodstream. But these hormonal effects are just part of the picture. Another part relates to endocannabinoids.

The  Endocannabinoid system in humans is complex and relates to hunger, satiety, energy metabolism, and yes gut permeability. Endocannabinoid refers to our internal (endo) production of cannabis like substances. Pot smoking people get the munchies because of the appetite stimulating effects of marijuana. But endocannabinoids have many other physiologic effects including the modulation of pain, mood, immune function and memory.

Dr. Cani describes in great detail the evidence supporting the roles that the gut flora play in influencing intestinal permeability mediated through the effects of various hormones and endocannabinoids. In animal and human studies changing the gut flora produces changes in these hormones and endocannabinoids which in turn can increase or decrease intestinal permeability and increase or decrease circulating LPS.

It turns out that specific  Prebiotics can produce growth of beneficial gut bacteria and through the series of steps outlined above, reduce inflammation in the body, improve blood sugar, improve insulin sensitivity, and decrease fat,

Oh, and similar to the endocannabinoid system, there is an “apelinergic system” in our bodies that also plays a role. If you want to read more about these systems you should read the original article and the other links below to related articles.

I have discussed in the past that fecal transplants have been used to treat the specific dysbiosis that occurs with C Difficile colitis. But fecal transplants have many potential beneficial uses.

The Fatlose 2 trial is presently studying the effects of fecal transplants on insulin resistance and related problems in human volunteers. I will let you know when the results are published, Studies conducted in rodents have demonstrated significant weight loss and improved insulin sensitivity when obese rodents receive fecal transplants from lean rodents.

In summary: dysbiosis represents an unhealthy mix of bacteria in the gut

  • dysbiosis causes increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut)
  • increased intestinal permeability leads to increased circulating LPS, which is bad
  • elevated levels of circulating LPS create a chronic state of inflammation which contributes to obesity and metabolic syndrome
  • the mechanisms that link dysbiosis to intestinal permeability include hormonal disruption (enteroendocrine cells) and the endocannabinoid system. Other mechanisms are also likely in play.
  • prebiotics and probiotics can mitigate dysbiosis, reduce intestinal permeability, reduce inflammation, and offer potential therapy for obesity and metabolic syndrome
  • fecal transplantation offers a potential for treatment for obesity and metabolic syndrome, research is underway

Our ancestors lived and evolved for a few million years prior to the relatively brief ten thousand years of agriculture and one hundred years of industrialization. The overuse of antibiotics in medicine and animal husbandry have contributed to dysbiosis. Other factors include stress, disruption of circadian rhythm, sleep deprivation. Cesarean delivery and avoidance of breast feeding conspire to dysbiosis. Processed foods feed unfriendly bacteria in our guts at the expense of beneficial bugs. Agricultural foods have introduced dietary lectins which also increase intestinal permeability and thereby contribute to chronic inflammation. The further we stray from our evolutionary niche, the more problems we experience.

This discussion just touches the surface of gut flora, dysbiosis, health and disease. We have yet to explore the gut-brain axis. Our gut and microflora communicate with and effect the function of our brain and other organs as well.

We will continue to explore health and disease from an evolutionary perspective.

Below are links to articles related to our discussion.

Peace, health and happiness.

BOB

Gut microbiota controls adipose tissue expans… [Benef Microbes. 2014] – PubMed – NCBI

Glucose metabolism: Focus on gut microbiota, … [Diabetes Metab. 2014] – PubMed – NCBI

Probiotics, prebiotics, and the host microb… [Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2013] – PubMed – NCBI

Crosstalk between the gut microbiota a… [Clin Microbiol Infect. 2012] – PubMed – NCBI

Gut microbiota and its possible relationship … [Mayo Clin Proc. 2008] – PubMed – NCBI

Enteroendocrine Cells: Neglected Players in Gastrointestinal Disorders?

Intestinal Permeability, Food and Disease

In medical school I learned some fundamental concepts about nutrition and digestion that turn out to be wrong. For example, we were taught that proteins in our diet are completely broken down into single amino acids in the gut, then absorbed through the wall of the intestine as individual amino acids. Turns out that not all proteins are completely digested in this manner and that fragments of proteins that are several amino acids long can be absorbed through the gut and enter our blood. Examples of such proteins include wheat gluten and bovine serum albumin (found in cows milk and whey protein) to name a few. The problem with absorbing such nutrients into our bloodstream is that these protein fragments are “foreign” and can be recognized by our immune systems as foreign, triggering an immune (inflammatory) response.

Some peptides (short chains of amino acids) in bovine serum albumin have structural similarity to peptides in human tissues. This foreign protein has been implicated in autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Type 1 Diabetes.

Other substances such as bacterial endotoxin similarly can be absorbed into the blood and cause trouble. Endotoxin, also called LPS or  Lipopolysaccharide, is a major component of the outer membranes of certain kinds of bacteria (gram negative bacteria such as E-coli) that live in the  Lumen of our gut. High levels of endotoxin circulating in the blood occur during septicemia and can result in death from septic shock. Lower levels of circulating endotoxin have been demonstrated to contribute to alcoholic and non-alcoholic liver disease, both of which can cause liver failure and death.

Intestinal wall permeability is governed by many factors. There are regulatory proteins that open and close the gaps (tight junctions) between the cells that line the walls of our intestines, thereby allowing more and larger foreign substances to enter our blood. This mode of entry is referred to as “paracellular” since it does not involve the usual absorption mechanism through the walls of the cells that line the intestines.

Substances regularly consumed by Americans known to increase intestinal permeability include gluten (the sticky protein found in wheat, barely, rye, oats), alcohol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs  like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naprosyn (Alleve), and aspirin.  Refined “vegetable oils” that are high in a specific Polyunsaturated fatty acid called linoleic acid (examples of these vegetable oils include corn oil, soy oil, cottonseed oil) have also been demonstrated to increase intestinal permeability.

Vegetable oils have also been found to enhance the liver inflammation and destruction caused by  alcohol which is at least in part mediated by absorption of endotoxin and ultimately also caused by oxidative stress.

The same applies to non-alcoholic liver fatty liver disease. (Progression of alcoholic and non-al… [Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 2011] – PubMed – NCBI)

Interestingly, consumption of saturated fat (as found in beef tallow, coconut oil, butter and cocoa butter-the oil of dark chocolate) protects the liver from inflammation and destruction caused by alcohol, while polyunsaturated fat consumption (vegetable oils)  do the opposite. (References above and below)

There is growing evidence for a link between auto-immune disease and Alterations in intestinal permeability. Increased intestinal permeability (IP) has been observed in a substantial percentage of individuals with Type I diabetes. It is commonly observed in populations at high risk of developing Crohn’s disease and has been observed in patients who subsequently develop Crohn’s disease. Patients with ankylosing spondylitis have increased IP and although these patients are typically treated with NSAIDs which increase IP, the effects of NSAIDS have been isolated from a primary defect in IP which is shared by relatives without the disease.

“increased intestinal permeability is observed in association with several autoimmune diseases. It is observed prior to disease and appears to be involved in disease pathogenesis.”

A paleolithic diet avoids all sources of gluten (paleo is grain-free) and it also avoids refined “vegetable oils”. These food items present a double hit relative to inflammation. First, they increase IP which increases circulating levels of various “foreign” proteins and other foreign macromolecules which can stimulate the immune system. The second hit from these food items represents their direct inflammatory effects once absorbed into the body. I have previously discussed the  inflammatory response to excess omega six fats here.

An excellent review of the importance of the ratio of omega six fats found in “vegetable oil”  to omega three fats found in fish oil can also be found here ,  here   and  here.

The potential inflammatory response and anti-nutrient effects of cereal grains and in particular the gliadin portion of wheat gluten has been discussed and reviewed in multiple papers including:

Do dietary lectins cause disease?

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: The New Frontier of Gluten Related Disorders

BMC Medicine | Full text | Spectrum of gluten-related disorders: consensus on new nomenclature and classification

BMC Medicine | Abstract | Divergence of gut permeability and mucosal immune gene expression in two gluten-associated conditions: celiac disease and gluten sensitivity

Bioactive antinutritional peptides derived from cere… [Nahrung. 1999] – PubMed – NCBI

Antinutritive effects of wheat-germ agglutinin and… [Br J Nutr. 1993] – PubMed – NCBI

This discussion just scratches the surface of the effects of intestinal permeability and health. Future discussion will address how the micro-flora (bacteria and viruses that live in our GI system) affect intestinal permeability, our brains, our immune system and our health.

Avoiding foods that we have not evolved to eat will result in decreased inflammation and will often reduce the symptoms of auto-immune and other inflammatory diseases. Many present day diseases are considered by evolutionary biologists to represent a mismatch between our culture, food, and our evolutionary biochemistry. These diseases were likely rare or non-existent  before the advent of agriculture and the subsequent industrialization of society with highly processed foods.

Eat only pastured meat, free range poultry and eggs, wild seafood, fresh vegetables, fruit and nuts and you will avoid the problems discussed above as well as a host of other problems to be discussed in future posts.

Peace,

Bob Hansen MD