Health, Wellness & Performance Coaching

Mental Health Connection to Gut Microbiome: Depression, Anxiety, PTSD & More (Dr. Christopher Lowry - Episode #176)

July 19, 2021 Christopher A. Lowry, Ph.D. Season 3 Episode 29
Health, Wellness & Performance Coaching
Mental Health Connection to Gut Microbiome: Depression, Anxiety, PTSD & More (Dr. Christopher Lowry - Episode #176)
Show Notes Transcript

Anxiety, depression, PTSD and so many other aspects of mental health have been shown to benefit from an enhanced microbiome. But what does that even mean?!? And what practical steps do we take to enhance something we don't even understand in the first place? In this fascinating interview, Dr. Christopher Lowry, who has spent his entire career researching the answers to these questions, brings the realities and everyday practical steps to help us get there.

Christopher A. Lowry, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder. Dr. Lowry’s research program focuses on interventions for the prevention and treatment of disorders including anxiety, depression, and PTSD. His research has an emphasis on the role of the microbiome-gut-brain axis in stress resilience, health, and disease.

For more information about the Catalyst Community, earning your health & wellness coaching certification, the annual Rocky Mountain Coaching Retreat & Symposium and much more, please see https://www.catalystcoachinginstitute.com/ or reach out to us [email protected]

 If you'd like to share the Be A Catalyst! message in your world with a cool hoodie, t-shirt, water bottle stickers and more (100% of ALL profits go to charity), please visit https://teespring.com/stores/be-a-catalyst

 If you are a current or future health & wellness coach, please check out our Health & Wellness Coaching Forum Group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/278207545599218.  This is an awesome group if you are looking for encouragement, ideas, resources and more.

 Finally, if you enjoy the Catalyst Podcast, you might also enjoy the YouTube Coaching Channel, which provides a full library of freely available videos covering health, wellness & performance: https://www.youtube.com/c/CoachingChannel

 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyutgFYKrKUQWD_faN9tiaQ

Speaker 1:

What if the foods we put in our mouth could positively influence the struggles related to depression, anxiety, PTSD, and mental health in general. And what if you discovered this connection, wasn't simply something that fell under the general eat, right, and exercise guidance. But rather that the science was clearly demonstrating a measurable impact. Welcome to the latest episode of the catalyst, health, wellness, and performance coaching podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Bradford Cooper of the catalyst coaching Institute and today's guest, Dr. Christopher Lowery is likely to have you sprinting for the prototype . Dr. Larry is an associate professor of integrative physiology at the university of Colorado. His research focuses on interventions for the prevention and treatment of disorders, including the things that we mentioned, anxiety, depression, and PTSD, with an emphasis on the role of the microbiome gut brain axis in terms of stress, resilience, health, and disease. One of our coaches, Yvette Morton suggested him as a guest and I am so Lachy , dead thinking of coaches. If you're looking to pursue your MBA, HWC approved coaching certification in August. Please do not wait. Our programs have all been filling up early and this one will likely do the same [email protected]ithanoteatresultsatcatalystcoachinginstitute.com . And we'll set up a time to talk through all your questions and all the details related. And if you're a coach, you do not want to miss the Rocky mountain coaching retreat and symposium in Estes park, Colorado, September 17th, through the 19th, we're already at record registration levels. So keep that in mind if you've been thinking about it now it's time to talk health microbiomes and more with Dr. Christopher Lowry on the latest episode of the catalyst, health, wellness, and performance coaching podcast, professor Lowery big time privileged to have you on the show today. Thanks for joining us

Speaker 2:

Really happy to be here. Thanks.

Speaker 1:

So before we get into the connection with mental health, let's just talk the gut biome microbiome right now. W what are we learning? What, what exactly is that in a basic sense for our listeners, and then we'll build off of that and how it influences other things in our lives?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so the gut microbiome is essentially , um , the genetic component of the gut microbiota and the gut microbiota is all of the microorganisms that live inside our gastrointestinal tract. And that's a good thing. Yeah, that's a good thing. And there , uh , of course bacteria, which is what we think of when we think of the gut microbiome, but , uh, we also have viruses or archaea and even, you know, small micro organisms , oneself, micro organisms that are a little bit more advanced than bacteria, for example. So it's a complex community, it's its own ecosystem. And, you know, as humans, we essentially are striving to generate or develop a really complex dynamic, healthy ecosystem because healthy gut microbiome means a healthy person. That's really the goal.

Speaker 1:

Now, some folks are listening, going, wait a minute. So you're saying there's a bunch of little things in my stomach, and I , I should be happy about that.

Speaker 2:

It should be very happy. You know, we, we as humans have co-evolved with these microorganisms for hundreds of millions of years, as, as mammals. And we've in a sense, we've almost farmed out certain responsibilities, physiological roles to these microorganisms. And if , if we didn't have these microorganisms, we would be very, very unhealthy. Um, they play a critical role in ensuring that our immune systems are functioning properly, that our physiology's functioning properly. And, you know, later in this podcast, we'll think about the idea that it's also important for a healthy brain and for our mental health. Yeah .

Speaker 1:

Excellent. Excellent. All right . So I listened to your Ted talk folks, you need to pull this up. It's good stuff. You note that the standard measuring stick of fruits and vegetables, as we all know, is , is servings. It's like, are you getting your five? You're getting your seven, you getting your nine, but you say that , that doesn't tell the whole story. It's the variety that is as, or more important than the actual number of servings. Talk us through why that matters in terms of the microbiome.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So, you know, when we think about ecosystems, a diverse ecosystem is a healthy ecosystem and, you know , uh , the standard analogies comparing a monoculture of wheat in a wheat field to say an Amazonian rainforest, and, you know, the Amazon rain forest essentially sustained , right? And we don't have to do anything to keep the rainforest alive. We just leave it alone. But with , with a monoculture, we have to use herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, all kinds of chemicals, maybe fertilizer , um , add water. We don't want to refill typically, but , um, you know, it needs help because it's not a healthy self sustaining ecosystem and it needs these, these kind of manipulations to remain healthy. So what we're striving for is more like the Amazonian rainforest , uh, as opposed to a monoculture , uh, of wheat has to be chemically sustained to be able to survive. And so when it comes to fruits and vegetables, and there's been a kind of a progression of nutrition, right, we used to think of nutrition as, okay, how , how much carbohydrate, how much fat, how much protein protein are we consuming? And, you know, that was our focus, right? But, but now once you understand that the gut microbiome is a critical part of human health, that really changes the equation because the gut microbiome doesn't really care about how much protein, carbohydrate and protein you're consuming. It cares about other things and those other things, you know , and they're not even like, you know, the standard vitamins and minerals that we think about that we get from plants, right in our diet, what the gut microbiome cares about is a, how many different types of microbes are we consuming? And therefore , uh, you know, we, we're learning that that impacts the diversity of the gut microbiome, right? So this is someone ANSYS unanticipated. I don't think this was expected that the American gut project, which was led by Rob Knight and his team, what is, it was the citizen science funded project and essentially 10,000 people over 10,000 people across the United States submitted their gut microbiome samples for sequencing. And when you submit your sample, you fill out this very lengthy survey, but there's one particular question on the survey that turned out to be really informative in terms of predicting the diversity of the gut microbiomes and by this in its simplest form, I mean, how many different types of organisms do you have? How many different types of bacteria do you have in your own microbiome? And the question was along the lines of in an average week, how many different plant species do you do you eat? And , um, you know, the options are less than five , uh, six to 11 or six to 10, 11 to 20 and 21 to 30 or over 30. And it turns out the more different types or species of plant that individuals reporting consuming in an average week, the higher, the diversity of their gut microbiome . And as I said, that was kind of unexpected, but it turns out to be a very proud , powerful predictor and a recent paper that just came out this this week, showed that not only is it affecting the diversity of a number of different types of bacteria you have, but you can also look at the composition and other ones . In other words, what types of bacteria are present? And if you use the zero to five group as your comparison, you can tell someone who reports eating up to 11 plants. You can tell them from someone who eats less than five, and then there's a gradation where the more plants the people are eating, the more differences from the people that are eating zero to five. And that doesn't tell us whether it's healthy or not healthy, that the diversity metric is I would say by consensus, a measure of, of health, the more diversity you have , the more health health in general, in general, you are again, is there an Amazonian rainforest analogy? And we know that hunter gatherer populations like that get Emami , uh , Amerindians in the upper Amazon basin in south America, they have the highest opera diversity of any instrument population that's been studied. If you look at the data, then people from Omaha, Nebraska, sorry, people from Omaha,

Speaker 1:

Nebraska, I have a few friends out there

Speaker 2:

Have the lowest , um, in the, in the comparison groups that there were being compared, and you may ask, well, why, you know, why, why is the diversity so important? Then I I'll give a , I'll give a couple examples, you know , in, in terms of practicalities, why this might be important. And we know for example, that about 80% of the critically used antibiotics that we use in medicine today come from soil bacteria. So these are drugs that were basically invented by bacteria to kill other bacteria. And in a sense, bacteria have been in an arms race for much longer than humans around, and certainly much longer than mammals have been around. And they've developed ways of defending themselves from other bacteria. And we've capitalized on that by isolating these chemicals and using them as antibiotics. And so if you, do you understand that and you realize that that's where antibiotics come from. It , many of the bacteria in our microbiomes can make these antibiotics and the more different types of bacteria that you have, the more likely it is that you have a broad spectrum antibiotic profile that will keep pathogens from getting a foothold then and , uh, taking over the ecosystem. Right. Okay . And so that's just one example. I mean, we come up with many other kind of tangible examples of why it's important to have that diverse microbiome.

Speaker 1:

So the 30 number jumped out to me when you mentioned that in your talk and some of the things you've written, I was kind of going through and I literally went to our refrigerator and started thinking, okay, 1, 2, 3, 4. And I think I eat pretty healthy. It's tough. I was thinking I'm probably 20 to 25 on a good week. Any practical suggestions for folks that want to bump that up? I mean, there's some obvious ones, but can you, can you walk us through the practical side of getting to 30 or, and I know 30 is not a magical number. It's just the way the survey was set up, but getting closer to that ultimate target that you've thrown out in some of your things.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I mean, you know, there's , you can cheat, you can cheat a little bit. One thing I did , uh, I found myself doing before the pandemic is I would go to a local grocery store that had like a salad bar type , uh, in a set up where , uh, you know, they had all kinds of salad ingredients

Speaker 1:

And dissolve this whole spectrum.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. For , for breakfast, I grabbed a few blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, you know, some sunflower seeds and other nuts and seeds and chia seeds and , uh, you know, all of the salad ingredients, but the key is, you know, you , you only need like a couple of blueberries. Right. You know , I think it's, it's a , it's a different way of looking at nutrition , right. Where you're more of a hunter gather , right. It's not like if you're a hunter gatherer, you know, in our ancient evolutionary paths, you're gonna, you're gonna come, come across some, you know, massive blueberry, you know , farm pick 20 pounds of blueberries and, you know, just have a , a blueberry seeds . No , no, you know, you might find a few small, wild, blueberry seasonal. Right. And so we just didn't have the very farms in our ancient, evolutionary past. And so, you know, hunter gatherers, they, they had little bits of that. The wild blueberries, maybe the raspberries would come into season and they have some of those. And they knew where to find the honey , the seeds and nuts, but they're not, you know , feasting on one product right. To , to really have a meal. They, you know, they're probably sampling small amounts or many different things. Well , I think that's a huge salad . Yeah . If you go to a salad bar like that, you can just have a couple of a few of everything. And then at the end you have this nice big salad with an , you know , I would, at times I would count over 50 different plant species. So, you know, as we come out of the pandemic, that's one way to kind of become a hunter gatherer again. Right. And it's all fresh and it's put out daily and , uh, you know, not, not a lot of energy expenditure in that hunter gather activity, but it's something that I think mimics what , what we, as humans would have done throughout our evolution. And , uh, you know, of course in the Ted talk, I, I talk about another way that you can kind of guarantee that you get 30 plants.

Speaker 1:

Well, that's good . And jumping into that, that was one of my last questions, but let's jump to the 30 plants smoothie. Was that something you did on a , you know, you did it for once a week or does it last only a couple of days? What , what was your strategy with that? Oh, actually let's not talk as if everybody's heard you basically, he goes, he gets 30 different varieties and then he throws it into a smoothie and I'll let you take it from there.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So, I mean, honestly, this was just something that I thought of when I saw the data, you know, even before the data were published, it's like, yeah , it was a microbiome. Scientists were like, you know, the , uh , a really diverse microbiome is like the holy grail, right. It's like, gosh, that's what we all want, but how do you get that? How do you get that? And then, you know, if the number of different plants you eat is linearly, or , you know, almost in any year leaving related to how many different plants species you eat , um, why not go out and eat a lot of different plants like over 30 every day. And I mean, I was kind of going overboard. It's like, you know , um, yeah, 30 a week is great, but what, what if I had 30 a day that sounds even better. And I do want to take one tiny step backward, because it's really important to , to understand the biology between why eating different plant species impacts the diversity of the gut microbiome. And it comes down to this fact that plants are living organisms. They have their own microbiomes. And so just like us, if they didn't have a microbiome and a diverse microbiome, they also couldn't survive. And so inside the plant in all, you know, what kinds have these channels that go through the stems and the leaves inside the plan are what are called endophytes. And you can look this up. It's, it's , uh , an area of research in plant biology. And these are the bacteria that live inside the plant. And the example I like to use is a three to four leaf spinach plant has over 800 different types of bacteria inside the plant that you can't wash off. That when you eat the plant, you eat 800 different types of bacteria. So undoubtedly let's say you're eating a thousand just for simplicity sake with each pan and you have 30, you're eating 30,000 different strains of bacteria, and that's a lot of diversity. And some of those may be able to colonize your gut and stick around and some, maybe just pass through, but we're also learning. It doesn't really mean it's not essential. The back that the bacteria stick around, they don't have to colonize the gut, got to affect our physiology, and we could go into why that's true, but they can impact our physiology just by passing through. Um, and so, yeah, these endophytes are important. And if we look at plants as not just a source of fiber source of, you know, nutrients and vitamins and minerals, but also source of bacteria and that the more different types of plants you eat, the more bacteria or the more different types of bacteria you consume, then that kind of becomes the objective. And, and then, you know, without having access to a salad bar, it's really hard to, I'm not going to keep 30 different plants in my fridge. Right. Cause you know, you can't just sit and laugh . It's foil , it doesn't last. And so you're either going to have the hunter gatherer approach where you go to the salad bar every day and you just like, think if you have everything or being like, you know, modern, urban American, I , I want something, I can just pull out the frame to be honest. And so I thought I'm just going to go get 30 different plants and put it in a blender with six cups of water. And then I'm just going to put that in Mason jars and put it in the fridge. And I have some every day. And I thought, you know, when I first did that, I had never known anyone else to do that. So I was kind of experimenting on myself really, but I put these, you know, maybe eight, nine jars of one court jars, Mason jars in the fridge and went through the first jar. And, you know, I take like what might be the equivalent of four ice cubes worth and put that in a bigger court jar and then squeeze some lemon or lime in it, you know, for dinner and then drink it like a shake. I've come to love it. Actually. I love the tastes . You're still doing it. So they do it every day. You know , I've got my last serving tonight of a batch that I think I made like two months ago.

Speaker 1:

Okay. So it lasts, this is something you're throwing in the freezer.

Speaker 2:

What I was getting at right. Is I just totally surprised because I thought, you know, after a week, surely I'm going to have to throw it out. Right . But then a month goes by and it's just in your fridge, you know how, when you open something that's going to have to go. So that generally doesn't happen. And I think the reason is because it's a living ecosystem, but a very complex ecosystem. And just like in our bodies, if you have a really complex ecosystem, there's, there's no way that a single microorganism that can overtake and overcome all the other 30,000 micro organisms that are there and out compete them for those resources. It's a similar principle. And so I think it just doesn't permit because there's no one organism that can really outcompete the others and proliferate in that environment.

Speaker 1:

When I think just the concept probably brings to folks' attention that you're not talking about, you're talking about minuscule pieces of each one because he's making seven to 20, 30 servings of this out of the 30 things with six cups of water. So it's just a tiny bit of each of these 30.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. It's probably 10 servings per court charge times nine. So it's almost a hundred servings from one batch of 30 plants. And to me that that's like the perfect combination of getting the diversity, but I only have to make it once a month or once every two months. Right. And then , so my effort, it's a lot of effort. Don't get me wrong

Speaker 1:

A couple times a month though . Tops .

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Once a month or once every two months. Yeah . And then, you know, every day you have this incredible diversity in

Speaker 1:

You'll need to send me a picture of the , uh, the refrigerator with the , with the jar sitting in there.

Speaker 2:

Well, I can send you pictures of my next bag . That'd

Speaker 1:

Be perfect.

Speaker 2:

Let me turn the tables a little bit. And you know, let's , let's talk about an example of , uh , a situation where things go terribly wrong, right? And the classic example in our modern , uh , environment is C difficile infection or a C diff infection, right? Where you may know someone who's C diff infection. And essentially this is a , uh , a bacteria that really just takes over and out , competes other bacteria and starts to create havoc and begins to destroy your own gut lining. And this is a terrible condition. And one of the biggest risk factors for getting a C diff infection is having a series of antibiotic , uh , treatments. And so, you know, you may have antibiotic and it for a particular infection and it doesn't resolve. And so you have a second course of antibiotics and then maybe a third course of antibiotics. And by the third course, you've got, microbiome has become so dysregulated. And so diminished in is diversity that it's like C diff comes along and they're like, Hey, there's no competition. I'm going to make hay. Right. It's like my turn. Right ? And then you had this situation where one species, one strain totally dominates the environment. And what, what are, what are people finding is the best treatment for D S C difficile infection, a complete fecal microbiota transplant transplant. So they , they essentially can take the fecal microbiome from a donor, a healthy donor, and then transplant that to the patient that has the infection. And it resolves the infection around 90% of the time. Wow. And so here's this whole sequence, right? Where you diminish the diversity with a series of different antibiotics over time, C diff, which is often present, but can't compete can now compete and proliferate. You get the infection , uh , effects your whole body, your cognitive function, your mood , uh , your health. And then the best treatment that's available is to take a really complex ecosystem from someone else that's healthy and transplant it into the patient where their microbiome is compromised.

Speaker 1:

This wouldn't really be related, but it's a good spinoff of what you're talking about here. How about something like celiac where your , your absorption is much less effective than it might otherwise be? Is that a factor in this or is that completely a different conversation? Does it affect the microbiome? Do somebody with celiac, I'm asking you this, selfishly all three of our kids have celiac. So is that something that that person needs to be more aware of or this is a completely different conversation?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I think that that's a question that just needs to be studied empirically. It's quite possible that this approach would be, be effective. But I think many people with these gut conditions have diet sensitivities, and I think it just hasn't been studied adequately. I think the prediction is that this kind of diversity approach to the diet could be, could be really bad . It has the potential to be really beneficial at night after I gave the Ted talk, my coach, who was coaching the TEDx mile high program, she produced a series of Tik TOK videos. And , uh , I've seen some of the comments of people that saw it and tried it themselves. And there were individuals who had, you know, self reported difficulties, you know, consuming that's your Posen fibrous foods. And they , they said that, you know, it was , these are key studies. So we need clinical trials when they said they were able to tolerate this and that they felt better within days within a matter of three or four days. And so I think it's just, it's an empirical question. I mean, the theory behind it is really strong. If you think about the plants, all the plants that we get at the grocery store, as far as we know, these are healthy plants, right? So each and every one of those plants has a healthy microbiome. So we're relying on their health to transfer to our health. Do we know all the mechanisms? Absolutely not. Are the mechanisms complex? Definitely. But the theory behind diversity and health is , is really strong.

Speaker 1:

So let's transition. Cause a lot of folks are like, oh my gosh, I want to hear about this mental health. So bring us to that, explain the, this connection between the microbiome and mental health. And if we want to dip our toe in anxiety and depression and some of those things to just run with that, let's see where it goes, because I think folks are fascinated by these possibilities.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I think there's several level levels to this question. Um, one is more about the diet and I'll start there, but then , uh, also talk about some of our research where we can take a single strain of bacteria and improve mental health outcomes, which shows the power of the, these bacteria. So the first thing to say about the micro-biome diet and the microbiome and mental health is there's a really exciting new area of psychiatry , uh, which is called nutritional psychiatry. And , um, it's exciting because it's really effective. And there was a meta analysis, an amended , a meta analysis is essentially a study where they look at lots of different published studies and consider them all together and do statistical analysis to see if there's any , um, you know, clear overriding statistical effect based on all of the published studies. And they did a meta analysis with what they call the whole dietary changes are whole dietary interventions. And essentially what they were doing is they were in some cases looking at people that were just from the population, the community who didn't technically have a clinical diagnosis of depression, but there were also studies where people did have a clinical diagnosis of depression. And they also looked at anxiety, which is important as well. And the interventions are whole dietary interventions. And of course, because there's 19 different studies, they don't all have the same dietary intervention. But when they talk about the common themes of these dietary interventions that were used, well, first of all, what did they find? They find that these whole dietary interventions decrease depressive symptoms in people that you know , were not clinically diagnosed with depression, but may have had some depression symptoms and also had an antidepressant effects in people with a clinical diagnosis of depression. And furthermore, there was evidence for reduced symptoms of anxiety. And so then what, then the question is what, what was the dietary intervention? And if you look at it, all of them together, essentially, it's, I mean , you can encapsulate it by saying a Mediterranean style. Yeah. And so, in other words, reducing the intake of high-fat foods, especially trans fats, high sugar foods, convenience foods take out foods, ultra processed foods and replacing those with fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts seeds, olive oil, and occasionally fish, which is essentially a Mediterranean style diet. Right. And is high in diversity. If you think about the fruits, the vegetables, the nuts, the seeds, they all have their own microbiomes. Olive oil has its own microbiome . You may not have thought of that, but olive oil comes from olives, which plant is plant based food. And if it's not highly processed, still has these bacteria in the olive . I did not count that one. Yeah . So countdown 1 26, there you go. And , uh , spices, you know , uh, time Rosemary Faisal , you know, those all count. Those are plants. We can come back to the, the idea of whether the plant has to be alive or not. You know, whether the bacteria has to be alive or not. I would argue that it doesn't mean we have very good reasons for saying that, but that, that was the thing, the man and the , and the point is that just changing the diet can have antidepressant effects. How great is that? I mean, huge. It's huge. It's , it's so important to understand it's hard to implement, right? Cause we all like take out foods . We all like, you know, these convenient convenience, it's high fat foods, high sugar foods. And one thing that's not been answered, you know, could you get your 30 plants a day and then still have the cherry pie. Right . And still be fine. I would say probably you would. The reason, the reason that the D the nutritional , uh , the whole dietary intervention is probably working is because of the , the diversity of the dietary intake. And if you're eating a lot of ultra processed foods, it's just not going to be hungry for 30 different plans. Right. You're not going to eat those. And so what we haven't answered yet is if you like a little bit of ultra processed foods, and , but you still get your 30 clients a day, you know, is it , can that offset the negative elements in that ? There's a, there's a paper that I had just, I thought was really funny. Um, when I saw them , I have no idea why they did this study, but they, I think it illustrates a principle and that's why I'm talking. That's why I'm bringing it up. And basically they , they found that if you, if you had a hamburger, you have an inflammatory response. And we haven't really talked about inflammation, but inflammation is really important here . And that's really the focus of my work and the context of the relationship between diet and, you know , our gut microbiome and mental health is something called inflammation. And so they show that the hamburger induces an inflammatory response, and, you know, we don't know all the mechanisms involved, but , uh , part of that is because hamburger contains certain types of fats that we know were inflammatory and reduce inflammation. But what they showed is if you put a slice of avocado on your hamburger, then you don't have an inflammatory response to him. Yeah. So, you know, it's not once , like I literally some game, right. It's, it's not like

Speaker 1:

You ruined it with the

Speaker 2:

Hamburger, this 50% of them, it's like the avocado can Trump the hamburger. Wow. Right. And that's , that's really cool. Right. If, you know, if you have the avocado, then you , you eliminate the negative consequences of the hamburger. Right. And so I, I S I bring up that question about, you know, can we offset eating our cherry pie with having 30 plain cocktail, I think is a real possibility, right. That we can, not only, we can kind of have our cake and eat it too right. Where we, as long as we get that diversity and that, and we think if that really is king and that trumps everything else, then you can maintain health by making sure you have that every day .

Speaker 1:

So you made a comment in your Ted talk about it changed your life, or it was a life-changing step or something like that with this 30 per day drink. Now you are most likely, I don't know you specifically, but most likely you're relatively healthy before that. And so this was one big step up. What was that an overstatement for the purpose of Ted talk? Did, what types of things did you notice that literally changed your life coming from being pretty healthy prior to the

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Yeah. So a few things, you know, it, wasn't just for the Ted talk. I did notice , uh , what I think are really significant changes , uh, relatively quickly. And the context is important to hear as well. So I'm, I'm getting a bit older. And as you age, as all of us age, there's a process called inflammation, aging , where as we get older, we become more and more prone to inflammation, and we've become more and more prone to inflammatory conditions. And, you know, classic example is, is cardiovascular disease, right? We, you know, we don't have cardiac cardiovascular disease when we're 20 and Uber healthy. It's not, when I was younger, I did triathlons and track, and it was very athletic and was very, very healthy eating my Wyoming, you know , diet of meat and two veg, you know, growing up in a Wyoming family. But as I get older, I, I noticed that I become more sensitive to things like excessive carbohydrates during the day. I just get drowsy, say , oh my gosh, you know , my brain kind of shuts off and really undesirable , uh, you know, for someone who relies on, you know, my job is as a university professor professors really based on cognitive functioning, right. If my brain is not working, I'm, I'm, you know , I can't do my job. And so anything that impairs that functioning, I, I view as a negative as a negative thing. And so what I, what I, one thing I really noticed, two things, surely one is, and I still believe this to be the case is that I need less sleep

Speaker 1:

And you just sold me . You sold it . That's awesome. That's here .

Speaker 2:

Right? In fact, I don't set my alarm anymore. It's very predictable. I will wake up six hours after going to sleep at night

Speaker 1:

And you feel fine.

Speaker 2:

Finally, if I'm asleep at 10, then I will wake up at four and I'll be like, all right , time to go and jump out of bed and feel great and feel great all day and not get tired all day. And I honestly, I couldn't do that before.

Speaker 1:

Um, that's a big one,

Speaker 2:

You know, my kids joke about it. They're like, you know, get up at four 30 and I would stay up till 10 30. It's like, you're nuts and

Speaker 1:

Crazy dad.

Speaker 2:

Yeah . Yeah. There was a Calvin and Hobbes comic that my son showed me last night. And it was Calvin saying, parents are like not really normal, you know, getting up at six and going for a run in the sleet. And, you know, maybe you've read that one, but he thought that was very funny because, you know, that's essentially me, you know, I get up in the morning and run if, if that's what I'm into, you know, during the winter typically. And that's all I could do during the pandemic release is run. So I was running every morning and now switch to swimming. And I , I do it in the afternoon cause I just like being outdoors in the sun as well. So yeah, less sleep and also less, at least in my, my, you know, self-report better cognitive functioning during the day and sustained cognitive functioning. And I, I don't, I just , I try to avoid caffeine because I don't, I don't need caffeine when I wake up, I feel great. It's like the best time of the day. And, and then that's sustained all day long. I mean , and I , I honestly don't think I ever experienced that even when I was younger and to be in that situation now, when I'm older, it's like, oh, wow. That's awesome.

Speaker 1:

That's huge. I think you've gotten people's attention just with that statement alone. They're like, wait, I need to rewind this and hear this part again. What, this is significant. Now, one of the other things you mentioned that all the pet lovers listening you're going to love is having dogs, cats in your homes that brings healthy bacteria in as well. Can you talk us through, because most people are like, oh man, that makes the house dirty or that, you know, whatever in you're saying no , no, no, no, no. That's the good kind.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So this is a whole different, different , uh, area. That's also very important. And when we think about diversity , uh, of microbial exposure, right, what we eat is one element of that, but what we often forget and it's vastly understudied . And so we can't really be definitive as definitive about it is what we breathe. We breathe in over a billion bacteria every day. And then the question is where are those bacteria coming from? You know, if you're in a really sterile setting and, you know, the only contribution to the bacteria, other human beings, maybe that's not the best and most diverse microbial environment to be breathing in. And so how do you diversify what you breathe in? Uh, clearly having pets matters and clear example of the benefit of pets is that children that grow up in a home with dogs the first two years of life, has it have a lower risk of allergic asthma later on in life. So having a pet protects you against allergic asthma and you know, those kinds of observation . And so also being, just being exposed to nature can expose you to a more diverse environments. Uh, and here we're talking about healthy ecosystems, like a park or a forest and nearby forest or a grass. And I ended up just made me near your house. That's a way from the asphalt and , and the urban environment where you can find a diverse ecosystem again, that , you know , think back to the ecosystem analogy. And so when you, when you're thinking about being exposed to a diverse microbial environment, that you can breathe in, you can enhance the diversity of your own home by having a pet, right? Cause the pet has its own microbiomes , very different Myers . They tend to go outside. They bring dirt back in dirt is great. We love dirt. Soil is great. All those footprints you see after rain and Have cat dog, you know, it's like not again, but all that kind of dirt, it's just, that's great for us. That's more diversity. This is all tied in with something called the hygiene hypothesis, which my steam colleague from university college, London, Graham Cranbrook kind of rebranded as the old friends hypothesis. It's also been referred to as the biodiversity hypothesis by researchers and Finland. And it all comes down to this idea that as humans have moved into urban environments, we've lost contact with the diverse microbial environments that we encountered in our evolutionary past. And we can restore that to some extent by re-engaging with nature family and developed a program with this basic understanding that was run from 2008 to 2018, it was called the , the Finnish allergy program 2008 to 2018. And essentially they decided that they were going to implement a program over 10 years to try to reduce the incidence of allergy and the costs economic costs of allergy to the country and improved the quality of life of their citizens by introducing this concept of healthy allergy and as opposed to avoiding exposure to nature and natural environment and different foods and dogs and cats and all these sources of incredible diversity, instead of avoiding that and isolating yourself, creating this idea of healthy allergy, meaning yes, you're , you're you have an allergy, but that doesn't mean you can't go out and enjoy life, right. And engage with your environment in a way that is going to enhance your, your, the diversity of your microbiome. And, and you know, what worked the program worked on a national level, wow . To reduce the incidents of the cost , uh, of allergies at all ages,

Speaker 1:

We're not just talking infants two year olds, like this was influencing a 30 year old, 50 ,

Speaker 2:

Et cetera , a lifespan, interesting lifestyle lifespan project. And that approach worked. And a big part of that was nature. Step getting , uh , re re engaging with nature and the fins have done a fantastic job of exploring these ideas. And these are very difficult ideas to , to , to, to talk about variables. Yeah, exactly. And so just to take a step back, you know, I , the last 20 years of my research had been studied on one strain of a bacterium , isolated from the soil. Wow. Right. One strain and 20 years of research. And we published a study in 2007 when I was still at the university of Bristol in the United Kingdom, we had basically immunized mice with this bacterium. And then we wanted to know how do the lungs, and initially you put the bacteria into the lungs, cause it's in the soil, you breathe it in. And that's how we get exposed. And when we did that, we saw that in the brain, it activated a very small group of serotonin neurons in the brain. And very strongly what captured our imagination was those were the serotonin neurons, because we were like serotonin knowledge. As some , we knew a lot about serotonin. Those were the neurons that we thought were antidepressant, serotonin neurons. They projected areas of the brain like the hippocampus and bobbed at cognitive function, anxiety and fear, and also the prefrontal cortex involved in affective and cognitive function. And so we, we predicted, well, you know, surely we should also be able to document antidepressant like behavioral effects. And so we did experiments to test that. And that's what we found. So just exposing the mice to these bacteria had these antidepressant behavioral effects had neurochemical effects that we were able to measure. Uh, there were neurochemical changes in the cortex that were identical to what you would see if you got an Insta depressant drug. And then we published that in 2007. And you know, that was kind of before the whole gut microbiome explosion, right? And we, we had a press release and it happened to be on April fool's day, press release . And you know , so people are calling Amex , is this a joke? You know, you inject a bacteria, you get answers to present effects and activate surcharge neurons in the brain. And we're like, no, it's not a performance joke. And the next day I think I had 14 live radio interviews, you know , BBC Ireland and BBC UK, and went to the Bristol studios to BBC studios. And the guardian, you know, had a piece and the economist ends up having a piece called good bacteria, bad bacteria. And so it really captured the public imagination, you know, and within months there were like half a million hits on Google. And this idea that bacteria could be antidepressant, especially bacteria from the soil. And, you know, then people are thinking, what about gardening? What about mountain biking? What about hiking and being outdoors? And we're like, well, you know, theoretically, yes, that should work. But like, you know, done that experiment, but now they have the research isn't Finland they have, and they they've just published. I just think this is such a monumental study, even milestone in our understanding of this particular question of, you know, can you engage with complex environmental ecosystems, nature and improve outcomes? And what they did was very clever. They brought basically the forest floor real quick, who

Speaker 3:

Was the lead author on this one? Do you know?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Actually sink in is the senior author who says , can you spell it can . And I think it's S I N K K O N E N, but that might be slightly off. Um, uh, I met him he's, he's just a top-notch researcher. They have an amazing team. Um, you know, and, and this was the human study. So they brought essentially a forest floor, a healthy forest floor into a daycare center. Wow. You know, my kids' daycare center had this like big outdoor area with dirt . Sure . You know, a few trees, we have plant a tree there one day, but they just brought this forest floor and they encourage the kids to play with it and, you know, handle it and over a period of month , and, you know, the control was a daycare center that didn't have this intervention just had the normal outdoor play area. And they found that just being exposed to this forest floor material that was kind of trucked in altered the microbiome of the children. Wow. And most importantly, when they, when they were able to take a blood sample from the children and, you know , my kids hate needles. So I don't know how , how they did this, but they got a blood sample from the children and they measured these immune molecules that we know are really critical for keeping inflammation under control. And , uh, they're called interleukin 10. And, you know , the exact molecules aren't important, but once into the content and the others, TGF beta transforming growth factor beta. And we, we knew and, and, and to, to show how all this ties in together, we knew that the bacteria that I studied , which I haven't even mentioned, its name it's called mycobacterium. We knew that microbacteria Becky can prevent allergic airway inflammation in mouse models. And we knew that that protection from inflammation depends on the same two molecules until the TGF beta. So we know that we knew that the soil bacteria could increase into the content increased TGF beta, and it could prevent allergic airway, inflammation, and models of allergic asthma. And now in children, they bring in this forest floor, which has lots of soil, bacteria, kids play with it. And then after a month they have more TGF beta and that of content in their blood. That's like, wow, it really does work. You know, and if you have more, [inaudible] you have more TGF beta, you have more protection from allergic airway, inflammation, inflammation, allergic asthma. And we think psychiatric disorders later on in life. That's why do I say that? It's because it's becoming very clear that inflammation is a risk factor, not just for what we typically consider to be inflammatory conditions like allergic asthma , um, cardiovascular disease type one, diabetes Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, et cetera, but also psychiatric disorders. And this became clear early on with depression. And that's very well established. You can actually cause depression by giving one of these , uh, inflammatory immune molecules to humans. Um, and then the patients become depressed after getting the treatment. And , um, and so we've known that for a long time with depression. And now it's clear with PTSD post-traumatic stress disorder and an early indication of that. And I think this is really important to , to kind of understand and why , why it's so clear now that it's a risk factor. There was a study of 2,600 us Marines, and they took blood samples at bootcamp, and they measured this biomarker of inflammation, which is called C reactive protein or CRP. And you can actually have CRP measured at , you know, at your , your family doctor's office. I sometimes request to CRP assessment in my annual health assessment. And the American heart association has developed these thresholds for CRP concentration. So if you have below 1.0 milligram per liter, then you have no risk of cardiovascular disease. If you have between one and three, you have moderate risk for cardiovascular disease. And if you have above three, you have high risk of cardiovascular disease. So here's a clinical cutoff for risk of developing inflammatory disease. And what they found in these U S Marines is individuals who had higher CRP when they were at bootcamp were at much higher risk of developing PTSD symptoms after deployment overseas. Wow. Three to six months after being deployed. So if individuals came into bootcamp and they just had high elevation higher , uh , inflammatory markers, those are the individuals that went on to develop PTSD later. Another more recent study, it was just published this year. Actually, they looked at the hundred first airborne , uh , Rangers in , in Kentucky, very elite for us . And they did the same thing, but they measured lots of other blood biomarkers. They did lots of surveys, you know, asked about sleep quality and , uh, anxiety symptoms and other clinical symptoms, et cetera. And then they were deployed to Afghanistan specifically. And then again, three to six months after deployment, they came, they brought them back and they assessed for PTSD symptoms. And then they can use this new technique called machine learning to take all those hundreds and hundreds of features that they measured at bootcamp and see which of those features predicts PTSD symptoms and PTSD severity after deployment and among the highest ranking features were multiple, not just one but multiple biomarkers of inflammation. And that included C C reactive protein , uh , which had been shown before, but also the absolute number of monocytes. So monocytes are a type of immune cell that's released from the bone marrow circulates through the blood. And importantly, we think this is important, those monocytes traffic to the brain. And if they have an inflammatory phenotype, they can induce inflammation in the brain. And we think the downstream downstream consequences of PTSD and depression and other psychiatric disorders. So the more Monticello , the , these monocytes absolute numbers, we're able to predict to went on, to develop PTSD. And the final, there were, there were more markers, another one was eicosanoids, which are inflammatory lipids. And so you can see that, you know, is that it's not one inflammatory, right ? It's smoker, diversity, the diversity of , uh, of him , you know , inflammatory markers or , you know , diverse inflammatory processes. And that's why the microbiome is such a good target, right? Because we can give someone a Cox two inhibitor, right. Is it a drug that will block the enzyme that produces these inflammatory lipids? The eicosanoids right. It's very good antiinflammatory drug, but it's not preventing the increase in the interleukin one beta and increasing the TNF alpha and the increase in , uh , these monocytes and these inflammatory amount of sites and all of their products. So inflammation very , uh , complex cellular mediated process. And when you use a truck like a Cox two inhibitor, it's inhibiting one enzyme that may produce one class, I'm talking Tori agents, and it's not doing anything to the other agents. And so, but the gut microbiome seems to be able to influence inflammation across the board. It's multi targeted in other words. And that's, what's so exciting about it

Speaker 1:

And I'm watching the time and you've been so generous. I've got one more question. Folks are , I'm sure begging me to ask, and it's not an, I'm not intending this as a fix-all , but is there any indication that the probiotics and prebiotics that are so popular now have any influence , uh , obviously the , the, the best option or the things you've been talking to us through, but is there anything out there recently showing us that? Yeah, it's not the thing. You've got a lot better options, but it could be helpful. Or do we just not know with either the pre or the pro

Speaker 2:

Two things prebiotics? Probably a great idea, because prebiotics are essentially food for the gut microbiome, prebiotics are complex fibers that are found in plants that human cells cannot metabolize, but bacteria can, and it turns out that it's the good bacteria that can metabolize these prebiotics. And so when you eat fiber and this could be fiber and plant fruits and vegetables, as part of your normal diet, again, that 30 plants thing, or you can take a fiber supplement like psyllium flakes or other types of fiber, right. That can be used as food for the bacteria. And then you can allow expansion of these, these bacteria that have beneficial effects. So that's kind of a bow , still a broad spectrum approach. When you get to the single probiotic, it's much more targeted. And here it may be that probiotics may be more effective in individuals that we already know have elevated inflammation, right? So we actually conducted a clinical trial in us veterans with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. And this was done together with Lisa Brenner at the BA in , in Denver and her team. We used a particular probiotic that, that we knew had anti-inflammatory effects. And there was evidence that it also had immunoregulatory effects, which can be beneficial. And we, again looked at CRP because we know that CRP is this risk factor. And what we found is when we gave the probiotic for eight weeks, we compared CRP at the beginning of the trial with CRP at the end of the trial. Uh, we saw reductions in individuals that , that Keppra got the probiotic, but with a p-value of 0.056, which is not technically significant, but it's a bit, it's a bit of splitting hairs, you know, at that point. And we're doing a new trial and where we've optimized trial by only allowing participants that have CRP above a certain threshold. Uh , cause the problem with the first trial is we had some people didn't have any CRP and if you don't have any, then you can't go down. That's why we, we , uh , didn't see a stronger effect. We were quite sure about that. And so in that, you know , that's evidence that a probiotic strategy can work to reduce what are known risk factors in other words. And the other thing that we saw was , uh , we exposed participants to the most stressful thing that we can do to human beings in a , in a clinical setting. That's ethical talking about this , have them give a , get up and give a speech in front of a camera. What we found is people that had the probiotic had an attenuated heart , uh , techie cardia, are you increasing the heart rate in response to the stressor? And we're starting to think that this probiotic it was elevated and they had the probiotic, it reduced stress induced heart rate. So it reduced our reactivity to the stressor. And we think that this is important because particularly in PTSD increased arousal, which is, which includes activation of the sympathetic nervous system. It's part of the PG PTSD condition. It's part of the diagnostic criteria, right? And you just can't shut off that hyper-vigilance and arousal. And the probiotic seemed to , to shut that off , uh , at least as measured by the stress heart rate increase in heart rate. So we're very intrigued by that. We have some , uh , preclinical studies that support that, that we haven't published yet, that we are really pointing us in the direction that somehow these probiotics seem to be altering the autonomic nervous system. We don't completely understand how they do that, but the thing that I want this, and this is very important. The thing that I want to caution people about is that these probiotic effects are they're very strain specific. So for example, you can't just, you know, you can't, you know, if someone tells you, you know, your cousin or , you know , a friend or family says, oh, take lactobacillus redraw . You know, as a probiotic, there are dozens of strains of lactobacillus read-write that are available commercially and are on the market. And what we know about probiotics, particularly some people have suggested the term psychobiotic, you know , where a probiotic has mental health benefits, particularly in the case of these psychobiotics, they're very strain specific. And so you can have two bacteria that are of the same species, but different strains and one is effective and one is not . And so it's not enough, Tim know this, the species name , like the genus and species lactobacillus through dry. You also have to near the strain designation, which is a series of letters and numbers after the species name. And so there's a tremendous need for education of the consumer, what are active strains and what are non-active strains . And there is one organization that I can point people toward that is, is, is working very hard to kind of bridge that gap. That's like, if you just type in probiotic guide, you'll find it online . And what they've done is they have a section for children and they have a section for adults and they , they have a series of clinical conditions like diarrhea, constipation

Speaker 1:

That makes it specific versus just the generic. These have billions of different, good

Speaker 2:

Mood or ethic , and they have three levels of evidence, one, two, and three, like how good is the evidence for this probiotic, for this condition? They have one listed for mood in effect . You know , that's based on the fact that there've been multiple clinical trials with that combination with positive outcomes in studies that were unbiased and where they identified this, the strains of the probiotics that are being used. Okay . And they also, they also identified the commercial products . And so that's, that's important for the current consumer because you might borrow me a probiotic that is just a probiotic, right? It's just a probiotic and some kind of oil or, you know , inert substance, or it could be a probiotic that's packaged together with the prebiotic, right. And that combination may matter, or maybe there's two strains in one package, right. And that matters.

Speaker 1:

The site will help them determine, oh, that's the one I need to use for me,

Speaker 2:

Particular product, which you can buy it. Right ? Your favorite supplier, that product has evidence for being effective. And I think that's the level of scrutiny that's required for the probiotics. And I think there needs to be an awareness that those things matter, you know , the , the company that makes it matters because you can grow these bacteria in a multitude of different ways, right ? With different culture, media and different fatty acid substrates in the culture media and these things matter. And in what we're looking for is evidence that they work, right? And you can only develop that evidence through clinical trials in humans. And that's what this group is trying to do. And I also have to say, I, I, you know, I bought some probiotics online that you can only buy online and you know, we've done testing and they just don't contain what they say they contain . And so I'd be very cautious. My advice to consumer be very cautious. If you have a product and they don't list the strain designation, right. They say, oh , it contains this bacteria and your first

Speaker 1:

Question and billions of them,

Speaker 2:

Billions and billions. But your first question should be which strain I need to know the street name . They don't tell you the strain then frankly, I wouldn't believe it because if you don't know the strain, you don't know the product. None of this , if you don't know the strain, you don't know what's in the package.

Speaker 1:

Professor Lowry . This is fantastic. But you had so much for us. Thanks for doing this. Really appreciate it. Keep it up. How can people follow you if they want to keep track of what you're doing?

Speaker 2:

I'm an account on Twitter. [inaudible] PhD.

Speaker 1:

Perfect. Perfect. And we'll provide a link to that .

Speaker 2:

And then the Ted talk is great. Place to start. Excellent. Stay in touch. Feel free to contact me directly. I mean, I, I try to answer.

Speaker 1:

You did great. You were great with us. No , I really appreciate it. Thanks for sharing everything. Great stuff.

Speaker 2:

Thank you.

Speaker 1:

Oh , that's fascinating. Isn't it? I am definitely going to be expanding my produce plans going forward and our two Australian shepherds. Well, they're going to be very glad they got the thumbs up for the way they improve our health by hanging out inside. Thanks for tuning in to the number one podcast for health and wellness coaching. And thanks for sharing the podcast with friends that makes more of a difference than, you know, and we really, really appreciate it. This is our 176 episode and each one involved about seven hours of work. So sometimes frankly, I questioned investing that much time, but when someone tells us it was recommended to them, that definitely brings a smile and makes it worth it. Next week's episode features our most popular guests of all time. Yes. The number one downloaded episode of our 177 episodes through that one. You're welcome to take a guess, but right or wrong, you will absolutely love this hidden jail. Now it's time to be a catalyst on this journey of life. The chance to make a positive difference in the world while simultaneously improving our own lives. That is exactly what a catalyst does. This is Dr. Bradford Cooper of the catalyst coaching Institute. Make it a great rest of your week. And I'll speak with you soon on the next episode of the catalyst health wireless performance coaching podcast, or maybe on YouTube coaching.