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13 Weeks: I Got Bugs!

"Bugs, Mr Rico! Zillions of them!"

by
Charlie Martin

Bio

September 28, 2013 - 9:00 am
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(Follow my 13 Week experiments in diet and health here at PJ Lifestyle, or at the 13 Weeks Facebook Group. Send any questions to ask.charlie.martin AT gmail.com.)

One of the interesting research areas recently has been a number of reports that obesity, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and more serious problems like various kinds of inflammatory bowel disease all seem to associate with differences in the population of the bugs in your gut.

Long-time readers of this column may notice that list is not unlike what I’ve been troubled with since I started it a year ago.

While I’m not quite ready to look for a skinny donor for a fecal transplant (eewwwww), I’d still been rather frustrated with the continuing weight plateau and difficulty lowering my blood sugar, even after raising the metformin dose.

I was also suffering from what I’d have to say was the worst constipation I’d ever had. (I know, TMI, but this is significant.) Let’s just say that for the first time since I swallowed a big wad of chewing gum when I was 4, I learned to appreciate “Fleet” as a brand name.

So I was walking through one of the local sprouthead stores. (Alfalfa’s, which through a complicated series of maneuvers was taken over by Wild Oats, which was acquired by Whole Foods, which had to spin off some stores, which were then re-acquired by the original owners of Alfalfas and renamed Alfalfa’s. Boulder is the Peyton Place of hipster grocery stores.)

My doc had already talked to me about probiotics for my digestion issues, and on her recommendation I’d gotten Arbonne Essentials Digestion Plus, but hadn’t started with it yet.

So there I was in Alfalfa’s, and I decided to look at the probiotics there.

There are a lot of probiotics there. Hell, there’s a whole refrigerator case full of probiotics. They have more varieties of probiotics than most grocery stores have kinds of yogurt. It’s a little intimidating, plus (damned cataracts) I can’t really read the fine print, so I find something by the heuristic of “if it has more kinds of bugs, it must be better,” and buy it. It’s called Garden of Life Raw Probiotics 5-Day Max Care and it says it has 400 Billion something and 34 live strains. It says something about taking it with juice, so I buy some 400ml mixed orange and mango juice bottles, plus a cranberry juice and an apple juice. It also says take it with yogurt, so I buy some greek yogurt, full-fat (which is harder to find than you might imagine) and live cultures, and I buy some apples.

Yeah, I know, where’s the low glycemic load thing? Bear with me.

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All Comments   (59)
All Comments   (59)
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Charlie, thanks for your reports here. I've been experimenting with a paleo-variant diet for a couple years now that I've had some weight-loss success with when I actually stick to it, but have plateaued as well, and looking to take the pro-biotic route as well. I've been on antibiotics for recurring sinusitis and bronchitis so many times in the last 15 years that I probably only have about 5 gut bacteria left. I remembered reading this when you published it 3 months ago, and found it again with no problems. Comments also very helpful.
The all-natural-foods types will tell you that you should get your probiotics from real food. I tend to be forced into a "quicker is better" pill-popping mode myself at certain times of year, so I'll certainly explore your probiotic mix, but I also just took a fermenting workshop two weeks ago, and it turns out that old-school fermentation like our grandparents used to do is pretty stupid simple, and investing an hour or two once a month and a couple $$ in some jars yields delicious homemade sauerkraut, beets, pickled garlic, kimchi, and it's apparently not hard to get a culture via mail order that you can use to make your own kefir as well.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
After two days using Garden of Life Raw Probiotics 5-Day Max Care, my morning blood glucose is 85. It is usually north of 110. I mixed it with water. I have been trying a ketogenic (high fat/low carb) diet with small success in weight loss and very little success in either elevating ketones or lowering FBG. I'll see how my ketones are doing tomorrow (those strips are expensive!)
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'll be very interested to find out. I've now heard from several people who've had good results. I'm down to 264 and morning glucose is sitting nicely between 95 and 105.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
After reading your follow-up, I'm going to hit my local Vitamin Shoppe for the ingredients and give this a shot. Obviously, there are no guarantees, but you seem to have hit on something, and I think it's worth a try.

I've plateaued at 205-212 for the last few months, and nothing seems to be helping. And I've had various intestinal issues for years that may very well be explained by bad flora. That plus the various aches in my joints.

I should be able to start tomorrow morning. I'll keep you posted.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've been drinking Kefir for a few months. I use one of the commercial brands that I can get at the grocery store. It has around 12 varieties of live probiotics. It tastes like a yogurt smoothie and there are number of fruit tastes. I usually drink one cup in the morning with breakfast. It is very thick and filling.

I started it because I read that it would improve allergy symptoms and promote weight loss. I don't think I've seen those effects but it definitely has changed my bowels. They work much better now ;-) And that seems like a good thing. If I cut down the effect seems to wear off in a few days so I need to keep taking it at least once every two, three days to keep my bowels working in top form. It seems much more active than yogurt with live cultures.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I only hope the Russians don't get you, Charlie, or the Venezuelans. What with your security background and all, they just need to feed you a bunch of pasta two meals a day and you'll be spilling all you know..
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
That ain't all I'll be spilling.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Charlie - I've been following your columns here for awhile, and i applaud your efforts. I've followed many of the same pathways you are. I recently had a terrible bout and then a rebound bout of diverticulitis. First time I've ever had something like that. The second bout I was on two different antibiotics for several weeks, both with some unpleasant side effects. I was "gun shy" on abandoning the "bland" diet (which is pretty carb heavy) after the second bout. It took me awhile to get to the point where now I think I could go back on low-carb. In the meantime, I have been experiencing, um, greatly increased bowel sounds. It made me think SOMEthing must be up with the intestinal flora. Second clue is that I lost about 20 pounds over the whole course (mainly due to simply not eating for multiple days at a time while really ill) and despite eating carbs like a kid in a candy store for the past several weeks - have not gained an ounce. Normally that kind of carb load would send my weight shooting up. I decided to try to up the ante a bit and get some probiotics to try - I'm still a bit unnerved by the increased bowel sounds. I just picked up what seemed like the cheapest version with the largest spread of strains. I'll be interested to see what happens in your case. Here's to better bugs!
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
What do you use to measure your blood sugar?
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I use a Bayer USB glucometer.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
The link to for the Arbonne pro-biotics says it costs $50. How long does that last? Is it enough pro-biotics or do you need to take it constantly?
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Never mind about the second question. It says at the bottom that it is a 30 day supply. Do you plan to take more after 30 days?
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually my doc suggested one a day for a week or so and then cut back to once a week.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I dose Middle about once a year with a jar of Jarrow-dophilus. He was hospitalized at two months old, plus various rounds of intense antibiotics. It's about a month's worth of prevention every year.

It's a good brand, and the name is in large print, so you can find it.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Loved the reference to Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" in the title comment.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unfortunately for Mr. Rico (and Rio De Janeiro) there was no symbiosis between man and bug - the only good bug was a dead bug.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm so glad someone caught that.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hard to miss! :D


29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Still more fun when someone catches it.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Some interesting info over at the Science Based Medicine blog about the limitations of the probiotic theory. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/probiotics/
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Interesting article.I see a couple of things I'd quibble with, but he's got a very good point that eating some fecal matter from a person who isn't having the problems you're having is probably the most effective approach. And sure enough, there have been pretty good experiments showing that "fecal transplants" are very effective for some things.

Or, as a facebook friend put it, "Eat sh*t and diet."

(Oh, I do hate our prudish comment filter.)

The practicalities are a little daunting, however. Finding someone who can be the donor. Arranging the transplant. Making sure the donor doesn't have something else I'd rather not transplant. And there's the "eewwww" factor I mentioned above; I'm not easily grossed out, but that's getting there.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I know some folks who tried that, but they made the transplant by, well, going in the other way…. Kinda like your Fleet product, I guess.

Some people claim that’s more effective too, since many of the good bugs are killed by stomach acid.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think you need the bugs in the upper colon, too (or maybe, mostly?), so that method wouldn't get the job done.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
See above, "eewwww".
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Charlie, looks like someone has figured out a way to avoid the "eewwww" factor.

http://news.yahoo.com/pills-made-poop-cure-serious-gut-infections-150405405.html


Hmmm. Now can someone take the "eewwww" factor out of the X-Factor?

Nah, probably not.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
I take fish oil in addition to my prescription medicines to reduce blood fats. As a side effect, taking fish oil eliminated much of my constipation problems. Since it sounds like you are suffering from many of the same things that I do, it might be worth trying yourself.

Thanks for the information on your experience with probiotics. I recently started eating yogurt due to the recent reports on gut bacteria but wasn't sure if trying probiotics would be worth the expense. Sounds like its worth the attempt.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
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