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Are microbes controlling the planet?

Our entire society, as in most of the world, is focusing on the current COVID-19 virus pandemic and its effects on the way we live and function. I’ve noticed a difference in the level of fear and communicated feelings of helplessness between those engaged in a lot of television watching as compared to those who seek knowledge a different way.

I admit, I would rather gain knowledge about medical scientific issues from medical and health scientists than from news reporters, politicians, and paid actors. I have listed some of the news sources I’ve exposed myself to recently regarding the COVID-19 issue here.

In an interview conducted 4/20/2020 on Fox News of medical research expert, Dr. John Ioannidis of Stanford University, confirms the real data regarding this Corona Virus is still coming in and the reality may be less severe for most people than the media tends to portray. The interview clip is eight minutes and should help allay at least some fear. In the list of issues covered by Dr. Ioannidis is that many deaths occurring from the COVID-19 virus happen in people over the age of 80 where multiple significant health issues already exist. Dr. Ioannidis emphasizes we still do not know the denominator of the equation representing the actual number of total COVID-19 cases out there.
https://video.foxnews.com/v/6150670357001#sp=show-clips

On April 16, 2020 Dr. David Katz of Yale University (https://davidkatzmd.com/david-katz-md-biography/) published a commentary on COVID-19 on LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/out-blight-contagion-light-pandemic-pyramid-david/
(Another similar article by Dr. Katz: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/opinion/coronavirus-pandemic-social-distancing.html)

Both medical experts acknowledge we don’t know the denominator when it comes to COVID-19. The denominator is the bottom of the fraction indicating the total number of actual cases. Not the total number of tested cases or the total number of assumed cases but the actual total number of cases, including the ones where people never developed symptoms. One study out of Stanford University published last week indicates up to about 4% of the population may have antibodies to this COVID-19 virus indicating they have had exposure and built immunity. In many cases there were no symptoms.
https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.14.20062463v1

a 4/20/2020 article in the newsletter of the University of Southern California also indicates about 4% of people they tested show positive for antibodies. https://news.usc.edu/168987/antibody-testing-results-covid-19-infections-los-angeles-county/

In a Bloomberg article published April 19, 2020 on the strategy of Sweden who has chosen to keep their country open, the authors candidly discuss the potential strengths and weaknesses of Sweden’s approach to protecting their citizens from the COVID-19 pandemic. One commonality Sweden shows to the rest of the world is their admission they should have better protected those in nursing homes.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-19/sweden-says-controversial-covid-19-strategy-is-proving-effective

Three time Pulitzer Prize winner, Thomas L. Friedman of the NY Times (https://www.thomaslfriedman.com/ ) wrote an opinion column on 3/22/2020 weighing the health and economic impact of our approach to the current pandemic:
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/22/opinion/coronavirus-economy.html

Friedman is, among other things, considered an expert on globalization and how behavior and changes in one country or culture affect others and the world. In his essay he does not provide answers but questions which time will ultimately answer regarding the consequences of different approaches to the COVID-19 issue.

So, what are we to do about protecting ourselves from the risk of being that person who contracts severe symptoms from this virus? The simple answer is that we all need to keep our bodies strong and healthy. This means managing stress well and nurturing health. All sources indicate those with healthy bodies at any age have a better chance of recovery than those with health issues. A host of professionals, myself included, advocate strategies for a healthier life.

Stress is the universal force which weakens the body and leaves it more susceptible to breakdown from disease. Stress has several faces.

Physical Stress can be reduced by participating in regular exercise involving both increased heart rate (cardiovascular) and physical loading (weight training) exercise. It can also be helped by chiropractic intervention and intervention from any discipline seeking to aid the human body in a move toward peace and balance. An article published 4/15/2020 in the UVAToday publication of the University of Virginia is titled, “Exercise May Protect Against Deadly Covid-19 Complication, Research Suggests” (https://news.virginia.edu/content/exercise-may-protect-against-deadly-covid-19-complication-research-suggests) The article elaborates research showing regular exercise reduces the likelihood of acute respiratory disease symptoms for those with COVID-19.

Chemical Stress may be reduced by avoiding noxious chemicals and by watching what we eat. Eating organic helps to avoid herbicides like Glyphosate in Roundup and avoiding heating food in plastic containers helps to avoid other toxins. In protecting our food ingestion, we should avoid any pre-packaged foods and any foods containing refined sugars, including even products like bread, noodles, pasta, and sweet fruits. Fruit juices and sugar sodas deliver sugar to our system rapidly and may overwhelm our systems, weaken immunity, and lead to diabetes. Even honey, agave and brown sugar are all still sugar and have similar detrimental effects. Eating mostly vegetables and particularly cruciferous vegetables and healthy fats like that found in avocado and coconut sound like a great start. As a reference, I keep a list of healthy items on my shopping list to try and deter poor food decisions in the marketplace. The list comes in part from Michael Greger, MD’s book, “How Not to Die”, and also from Steven Gundry, MD’s book, “The Plant Paradox”. According to Greger (https://nutritionfacts.org/), some body positive foods include:

Antioxidant Sources: herbs and spices
Black currant
Blueberries: fights cancer
Brazil nuts: (reduces cholesterol) 4 per week or even per month.
Broccoli
Cardamom: fights cancer
Cayenne pepper: good for headache and IBS
Cilantro
Citrus peel: for skin cancer freeze and zest
Cruciferous vegetables: retards cancer growth
Curry: reverses cancer growth
Erythritol: only in small quantities
Flax Seeds: Lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce prostate cancer risk
Garlic, especially raw: superfood, cancer fighting
Ginger: for headache
Gogi berries: for macular degeneration
Green Tea: reduces breast cancer risk (Matcha: powdered green tea)
Hibiscus tea: Ingest 3 cups per day
Indian Gooseberry: most powerful antioxidant on the planet 1t /day
Kimchi
Kiwi: 2 per day for IBS
Lentils, especially sprouted ones
Miso
Mushrooms: Boost Immunity
Mushrooms: Eat cooked more than raw
Nutritional Yeast: Boosts Immunity
Nuts
Peppermint is the most antioxidant herb
Peppers: may reduce Parkinson’s
Potassium Sources: greens, beans and sweet potatoes
Potato: eat purple or blue flesh ones instead of white
Purple cabbage: The most kick-ass antioxidant.
Red onion over white
Saffron: diminishes Alzheimer’s
Soy: fights breast cancer but must be organic and non-GMO
Stevia: only in small quantities
Sweet potato and the peel: superfood
Sweetener’s: Molasses and date sugar are the only truly acceptable ones.
Tempeh
Turmeric: reverses cancer growth
Walnuts: May cut risk of cancer and stroke in half
Wild blueberry

Holistic Stress is my own term. Typically, it would be mental or emotional stress but so many things influence our psycho-social state of being I decided to label it, holistic. It is my opinion the summation of all stresses happens both in our physical and mental health. These are the outcomes of how we as thinking people and physical beings process stress. Nurturing psycho-social well being in these times of uncertainty and isolation can be tricky. This is also a very personal and person-specific arena. This may be the place where consistent adequate sleep, rewarding work, meditation, rewarding hobbies, and spending time with friends and family… even virtually… can be rewarding and strengthen us. Focusing on what things we can look forward to and what things we have control over and the things we can be proud of or change and be proud we performed a change is important in reducing holistic stress and promoting health and joy.

In the book, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, (I actually just saw the movie… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hitchhiker’s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy), we see at the end the innocent house mice are the ones actually in control of the universe. Science is still learning in leaps and bounds and constantly finding places where we were so confident about how our bodies worked, only to learn our body functions in a completely different manner than what we thought. In her late 20’s a German gastroenterologist named Giulia Enders wrote a book called, “Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ”, to elaborate the link between our health and the food we eat (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giulia_Enders). The book is fun, and the author tells many fascinating stories about sciences new understanding of how the digestive system works and how bacteria normal to our digestive tract play an essential role in our brain function and health.

One of the stories she tells is about toxoplasmosis which causes cat-scratch fever and is the reason pregnant women are encouraged to avoid cats during pregnancy. If you want absolute accuracy, read or listen to the book as you will not regret it. My memory of the story is as follows. Toxoplasmosis is a bacterium who likes to live in cats. Rats do not like the smell of cat urine. If you let a rat smell cat urine, the rat will avoid it. Cats eat rats. It would be smart for any cat fearing rat to want to avoid cat urine. Where there is cat urine, there are probably cats. If you infect a rat with toxoplasmosis, the rat will begin to enjoy the smell of cat urine and will seek out the smell of cat urine. If the rat is eaten by the cat the toxoplasmosis bacteria gets to go home. It gets to go back into a cat where it is happy. People do not normally like the smell of cat urine. Interestingly enough; infect a human man with toxoplasmosis, and he will begin to enjoy the smell of cat urine. Infect a human woman with toxoplasmosis and she will still not like the smell of cat urine. What does this say about human men? Anyway, the part of our nervous system in the digestive tract which is called the enteric nervous system is now thought to house as many nerves as the spinal cord. One of the most major nerves, the Vagus nerve, provides much of the communication between the gut and the brain where approximately 90% of the information traveling on the nerve goes to the brain from the body (is efferent for all you neurophysiology buffs). One current theory is the toxoplasmosis bacteria can hitch a ride on the Vagus or other nerves and ultimately make it to the brain where it latches in and changes our sense of smell to certain chemical compounds. When observing the genetics of the human body modern science shows we have far more genetic material from bacteria than from our own cells. Is it possible when we have a craving for sweet food a micro-organism is telling our brain to crave something good for the organism but bad for us?

When it comes to the role of viruses in our body and in our environment, we may still be in an infancy of understanding. Maybe this is part of the reason for the fear and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 virus. It is new and as a global people we are still trying to figure out where it fits into our world and how we should modify our behavior to maximize our potential for safety and joy in our human race. As with toxoplasmosis, don’t be surprised if the truth we ultimately learn was not as intuitive as we once thought it to be.

Leonard Siskin, Chiropractor

Books I’ve listened to (as I am an audio book addict) which cover information about the role of microbes in the gut and subjects I’ve just alluded to include:

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders, MD

The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain by Steven R. Gundry, MD

The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health by Emeran Mayer MD

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers by David Perlmutter, MD

The Human Superorganism: How the Microbiome Is Revolutionizing the Pursuit of a Healthy Life by Rodney Dietert PhD

Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain – for Life by David Perlmutter, MD

The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long Term Health by: Justin Sonnenburg PhD, Erica Sonnenburg PhD

1 Join the Conversation

  1. Jennifer DePice says
    Apr 24, 2020 at 10:18 AM

    Dr Len Siskin, you are the quintessential scholar. Thank you for this comprehensive post referencing every article, book and video you spoke on. I too have read or listened to many of the same videos, and books and I now look forward to looking up the many others you referenced. This is good science at its best. Pointing people to read and study for themselves. Your blog is an amazing resource and a must read for everyone. And how you could remember the toxoplasmosis story in such detail points to my assertion that your memory is beyond compare. I am glad you wrote this and are open to us sharing it. It will be shared in all my circles. Thank you

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