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13 Weeks: I Got Bugs!

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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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The next day, I have my usual breakfast of sliced boiled eggs with mayonnaise, and coffee, and 4 strips of bacon. Around lunchtime I have broiled hamburger, about 4PM I have some cheese.

Around 7PM, I add one dose of the Garden of Life Raw Probiotics 5-Day Max Care, and one package of Arbonne Essentials Digestion Plus, to one bottle of juice and shake it vigorously. I taste it gingerly — not bad, although maybe it tastes a little … muddy? Not bad, and I haven’t had orange juice in a year, so I drink it. I eat a container of yogurt, and an apple. That’s dinner, and I’m completely satisfied.

The next morning — well, Mr Fleet’s products aren’t needed. Morning fasting glucose is … 103. That’s 20 mg/dL less than it’s been averaging. Weight is 272. No big deal there, that’s been reasonably within the swings. But I’m certainly feeling fine.

Okay, another day. Next morning … glucose is 98. Weight is 268.8. That’s 3.4 pounds down. Next day, glucose is 114, weight’s 267.4. Another 1.4 pounds.

Glucose 104, weight 265.8. Then 114/265.2. That was today.

In six days of using these probiotics, I’ve lost 7 pounds (this is Friday night) and my average morning fasting glucose has fallen by between 10 and 15 mg/dL. Oh, and the other problem has gone away — I’d now make the most anal-agressive British nanny a happy woman.

This is just one week, and I’ve certainly been fooled by one-week swings before. Except — weight is now considerably lower than I’ve been since I started this madness a year ago, and I seem to once again be consistently losing weight more or less every day. The apple/yogurt/juice/bacteria combination seems perfectly satisfying as dinner — maybe a bit more than satisfying, I’m feeling pretty full right now and I’m not at all hungry at night. Total kcals/day are running around what should be a 2 pound per week loss in theory, call it 1900 kcal a day, and actually the glycemic load isn’t bad, something like 50. Nighttime glucose right now is 167, in the target range and not awful for an hour after eating.

So I don’t know. It’s kinda looking like adding these probiotics has made some real difference: my glucose is down, my glucose tolerance looks like it’s up, and I’ve lost seven pounds, putting me almost four pounds lower than my previous lows.

Here’s some completely wild speculation: my bowel flora have endured some pretty significant insults in the last year, between two colonoscopies and one stomach bug that required Cipro before I could hold anything for an hour. It at least seems plausible that my little friends were sort of disrupted. And, as I pointed out above, we have lots of science now suggesting the gut’s inhabitants really do have something to do with both obesity and T2DM.

Needless to say, I bought another jar of Garden of Life Raw Probiotics 5-Day Max Care and some more bottles of juice. But n=1 is pretty much the definition of “anecdotal.”

So, here’s a request. I’d like to find out if anyone else sees this effect. Now, I am not a doctor, but these probiotics are pretty benign, and I don’t think you really need to drink them with fruit juice — V8 should be fine, and I imagine that you could mix them in almost anything and just slam it. So if you’re so inclined, give it a try, and let me know — in comments, in the 13 Weeks Facebook page, or send me an email to ask.charlie.martin AT gmail.com.

But damn if it doesn’t look like it might be worth a try.

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images courtesy shutterstock / Albert Ziganshin