The Health Benefits of Mushrooms

Are mushrooms healthy? Like the kinds that you can find at the grocery store? The overwhelming answer is: yes, they are a ‘superfood’. They help the human immune system to function properly in addition to being a high nutrient value, low calorie sustenance. Amino acids, B vitamins, trace minerals, and Psilocybin is also being studied for its therapeutic benefits to mental health, which is the psychotropic compound found in “magic mushrooms”. The ‘stoned ape theory’ (Terrence McKenna) states that mushrooms were a primary factor enabled the immense increase in brain power of the human species that separates humanity from other animal species and perhaps gave birth to language as we know it. This theory hasn’t received a lot of attention from the scientific community due to McKenna’s lack of anthropological data and evidence. However, Paul Stamets began to introduce his research on Mycology, which has reinvigorated the subject of debate and helped to bring new understanding the how mushrooms function in nature.

In the United States alone every year more than 940 million pounds of edible mushrooms are bought in grocery stores, farmers’ markets and health food stores.

Mushrooms are “packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.1” There are over 10,000 types of fungi that produce mushrooms, which are actually the fleshy fruiting body of a fungus; hyphae is the term used for the roots.

There are also species of mushrooms that are decidedly unhealthy; even some that are deadly. Don’t eat a mushroom, or anything for that matter, unless you can properly identify it.

Mushrooms are incredible lifeforms; some scientists believe they were some of the first organic life forms on planet Earth. The roots of mushrooms, called Mycelium is a network of hyphae, which can develop from a single spore, produced by the fungus3. Mycorrhiza is the mutual association between the fungus and the plant, which play important roles in plant nutritionsoil biology, and soil chemistry.

The Anatomy of a Mushroom

Mushrooms have common features, though there are several deviations that are very interesting. Here are the major features:

  • Caps – can be scaled, warted, or have areolae, some are moist
  • Margin, containing gills, spines, teeth or pores under the cap
  • Spores are released from under the cap
  • Ring, skirt, or annulus, remnants of reproduction
  • Stipe or stalk
  • Volva or cup
  • Basal bulb – connects the mushrooms to mycelium

The Stages of Growth of a Mushroom

The life cycle of a mushroom can be a couple days to several years, to hundreds or thousands of years. There are several distinct stages to the growth.

  1. Spores drop from mushroom cap, spores are the seeds of a mushroom
  2. Two spores fuse and become a hyphae, long tubular structures with genetics
  3. Hyphae link to Mycelium, to obtain nutrients from mycelium to the fruiting body of the mushroom.
  4. Baby mushrooms are formed in a hyphal knot, pinheads begin to grow out of the Mycelium
  5. Growth and maturity

Mushroom Function in Nature

Catherine N. Jacott, Jeremy D. Murray and Christopher J. Ridout - [1] doi:10.3390/agronomy7040075

Mushrooms are the fruiting body of the mycelium and arbuscules are the site of nutrients exchange between a plant and the fungi. Mushrooms, Mycelia and Mycorrhizae are very important for plant and tree root systems to absorb nutrients surrounding the roots and to create resilience against drought, salt, heavy metals, and pathogens.

Most mushrooms are anti-viral and anti-bacterial, and also fight cancer and aging in various ways by boosting the immune system in humans. In short, they are very good for overall health, in ways that science doesn’t fully understand yet. Many pharmaceutical drugs are made using chemicals and molecules derived from mushrooms. Compounds successfully developed into drugs or under research include antibioticsanti-cancer drugscholesterol and ergosterol synthesis inhibitors, psychotropic drugs, immunosuppressants and fungicides.

Mushrooms as organisms are very unique. Mushrooms with psychoactive properties have long played a role in various native medicine traditions in cultures all around the world. They are rich in vitamins and will absorb the metals surrounding them, as proven by their ability to absorb Cesium after Chernobyl.

They can be bad for the body in ways that the general population doesn’t know yet either. Some mushrooms can cause liver and circulatory toxicity when taken in high amounts over long periods of time. Some cause death when eaten. Some are just dangerously poisonous. There is a lot of research to be done to fully understand how these complex organisms interact with the human body.

The benefits of the mushroom are noted largely by their species; each has different nutritional properties and interacts with the human body uniquely, just as each species of mushroom functions differently in nature. Each will have a different reaction within the body due to the diversity of human microbiomes; cooking is used to reduce toxic chemicals.

Some general characteristics and benefits of mushrooms species are noted below. Please do some of your own research and comment on what you find!

Mushroom Nutrition

Basically, mushrooms are good for the human immune system. They contain polysaccharides, amino acids, minerals, anti-oxidants, and are anti-inflammatory. Various compounds from mushrooms are being studied for their positive effects on heart health, blood sugar levels, digestion, immunity, and cellular regeneration; many compounds are being researched for their ability to fight cancer. In short, mushrooms are certainly part of a healthy diet and are a low calorie alternative to processed foods. In fact, many mushroom species are resilient to commercialism, and are extremely difficult if not downright impossible to cultivate.

Mushrooms Species

Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster Mushrooms

These mushrooms are a common edible. They are carnivorous (they eat nematodes and also diesel fuel) and are often used in oyster sauce and various kinds of soup, especially in Asia. It can be found in subtropic and temperate forests. These mushrooms boast high nutrient values (because of their carnivorous nature), high anti-oxidant content, helps to lower blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and insulin levels. It can also help to improve respiratory tract infections, especially in HIV positive patients. There is also a significant potential for anti-carcinogenic properties and gut health/anti-inflammatory effects. They are also delicious when cooked. More research is needed to understand exactly how the mushrooms interact with the gut and human microbiome, but the general consensus of the scientific community is pretty unanimous to these being a great addition to a healthy diet.

Bolete Mushrooms

Beschreibung: Schale mit Steinpilzen Quelle: selbst fotografiert Datum: August 2006 Fotograf: Karsten Dörre (grizurgbg)

Also known as a porcini or porcino mushroom, these are found all over the world, but was only recently introduced to the Southern Hemisphere. These are difficult mushrooms to commercialize and are mostly foraged. The mushrooms spans root systems and fruit during summer and autumn. It is prized as a culinary edible and is highly regarded for its taste in risotto, pasta, and soup, though it is very difficult to cultivate. It is one of the few mushrooms known for being delicious when pickled. They vary in size. These mushrooms have a tremendous amount of amino acids; more than any other Portuguese mushroom. They contain lots of fatty acids: palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid. They are also rich in dietary minerals: sodium, iron, calcium, magnesium, b vitamins, and tocopherols, as well as trace amounts of bioavailable selenium. It also contains a diverse host of phytochemicals: ergosterol and ergothioneine and polyphenols: rosmarinic acid, oxalic acid, citric acid, succinic, and fumaric acids and alkaloids. Suffice to say that this mushrooms species can have tremendous nutrient diversity; if soil composition is diverse enough to support it.

White Button Mushrooms

These are less-mature cremini mushrooms. See below.

Cremini Mushrooms

Cremini or Crimini mushrooms are from the species Agaricus bisporus which includes portobello mushrooms and white button mushrooms. These are all the same type of mushroom, but portobello are the most aged and white buttons the youngest. Age gives them different and more pronounced flavors.

These are the classic mushrooms for fine dining and cuisine and have numerous health benefits, including being anti-inflammatory and reducing blood pressure and alleviating hypertension, which seems to be a characteristic of edible mushrooms. There are B vitamins, D vitamins, Zinc, Iron, Copper, anti-oxidants and some fiber and protein. In short, they are good for balancing gut health; especially when cooked, there are very few side effects.

The presence of selenium in mushrooms is also a huge contributing factor to their health benefits. Selenium is nutritionally essential for humans and is a constituent of more than two dozen selenoproteins that play critical roles in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage and infection. Its important.

Agaritine, which is a carcinogen is present in these mushrooms so eating large amounts of them can imbalance the gut in a big way; but the toxins are degraded when cooked. Plus its only present in small amounts so you would have to eat a large amount of moldy mushrooms in order for it to affect you.

Cordyceps Mushrooms

There are over 600 species of cordyceps mushrooms, mostly in tropical and humid areas in Asia and is a mostly parasitic species of mushrooms, feeding on other mushrooms and insects. The fungus takes over the bodies and brains of its victims forcing their zombified bodies to permanently relocate to the trees and low-lying jungle plants where the conditions are ideal for the fungus to thrive. They are used in traditional medicine across the spectrum of asian religious practices specifically Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, as well as spiritual mushrooms practices.

Table of Cordyceps benefits from the national library of medicine (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

Traditional uses of Cordyceps sinensis (Yercha gumpa) in North Sikkim

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These claims are unsubstantiated, but only due to lack of data and testing

Cordyceps is a very interesting mushrooms that we simply do not know a ton about yet. It has been proven to increase stamina and blood oxygen regulation in mice, but beyond that, we don’t have a lot of evidence of how it creates these benefits within the body. However, we do know that it is anti-parasitic.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms – (Trametes versicolor)

This is a common mushroom with a variety of benefits. Paul Stammets sells this mushroom supplement on host defense, due to its benefits for gut health, anti-inflammatory properties, and ability to slow and stop the spread of cancer by enhancing natural killer cell activity in the host body. His mom, after being diagnosed with breast cancer and three months to live went on to live an additional ten years eating eight turkey tail capsules a day. One chemical in the mushrooms, polysaccharide K, is being studied in Japan for its anti-carcinogenic qualities.

Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake Mushrooms

Originating in East Asia, Shiitake mushrooms are now cultivated all over the world for their taste and are used in traditional medicine. They grow on the decaying wood of deciduous trees, particularly shii and other chinquapinschestnutoakmaplebeechsweetgumpoplarhornbeamironwood, and mulberry. These are more of a culinary mushroom rather than medicinal, however, shiitake mushrooms still are a low carb, low calorie food that increases immunity. It has been known to cause allergic dermatitis reactions, but these are sometimes mitigated by cooking the mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms account for about 25% of all commercially cultivated mushrooms.

King Trumpet Mushrooms

King Trumpet Mushrooms are a off-shoot of the oyster mushrooms genus, and are very similar in their benefits. They have tons of fiber, support bone health, and boost the immune system and energy levels of the host. It also has been shown to lower cholesterol. These mushrooms are believed to have co-evolved with nematodes which they can consume predatorily.

Chanterelle Mushrooms

Chanterelles are some of the most popular wild mushrooms to forage. These mushrooms contain mostly water, but also B vitamins, a little protein and fiber and carbohydrates. They are rich in iron, D2 (from sunlight exposure), and riboflavin, magnese, and potassium.

Porcino Mushrooms

See Boletus Mushrooms, same species.

Enoki Mushrooms

enoki shroom

This mushroom is mostly known for its use in Japanese cuisine, Flammulina filiformis. It originated in China, but grows naturally in Japan, and Korea as well and is used commonly in asian cuisine for soups. Like other mushrooms, it grows on deadwood and is cultivated sometimes with sawdust.

One hundred grams of dry enoki mushrooms provide 346 calories, of which 53% is carbohydrates, 26% is protein, 26% is dietary fiber, and 3% is fat. Vitamins and minerals found in enoki include niacin, calcium, iron, potassium, and riboflavin.

In Asian medicine, enoki mushrooms have been used for centuries to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, liver disease, and stomach ailments.

There are tons of amino acids in Enoki mushrooms, and also lots of trace minerals and some electrolytes and even iron. And the high water content is probably what makes it so beneficial for the stomach and liver.

Hedgehog Mushrooms (Hydnum repandum)

Hedgehog Mushroom

Also known as sweet tooth or wood hedgehog, these mushrooms are mostly identified by the spines that descend from the roof rap instead of gills. The capo is yellow or light orange and the stem is white, mostly with irregular shaping of the caps and spicy/bitter taste. It also has no poisonous look-alike, which is a major concern for some of the mushrooms that are foraged. It is broadly distributed in European woodlands and fruits during summer and autumn.

It has a nutty taste and crunchy texture, and is well recognized for its edibility. Some even say that it is similar to oysters.

The mushroom is full of nutrients, and seems to be extremely adept at absorbing heavy metals including Cesium from the Chernobyl disaster. It is especially high in copper and manganese, and fatty amino acids.

Armillaria (Honey Fungus Mushrooms)

These mushrooms form the largest living and oldest organisms in the world. In Oregon’s Malheur natural forest, one is know to cover 3.5 square miles and is over 2,500 years old. They are often bioluminescent. Armillaria can be extremely destructive to forests; it causes white rot root disease in trees. It is known to consume decaying and dead plant matter, making is parasitic. The only trees known to be resilient are birch and larch.

Their caps are yellow and brown, somewhat sticky or moist, and has at least one look-alike that is deadly poisonous called Galerina. It usually fruits during autumn.

Honey fungus is regarded as one of the best wild mushrooms in many places in Europe, but they must be cooked because they are slightly poisonous raw. They are more poisonous when ingested with alcohol. They are described as being slightly sweet when cooked.

Several antibiotics have been created from Armillaria14. They are prescribed in China for treating a variety of neurological conditions including Meniere’s Syndrome, vertigo, headache, insomnia, epilepsy, neurasthenia and hypertension. It has high levels of polysaccharides and several indole compounds have been isolated from it, including serotonin. It is also shown to be anti-glycemic, an anti-oxidant, seems to enhance brain function, and has powerful immune boosting activities that promote killer T cells, which balance the bodies bacteria and help to prevent illness. Overall, this mushroom is extremely beneficial, but must be cooked and ingested with care, as it is slightly poisonous raw.

Shimeji Mushrooms

This mushroom is native to East Asia but it cultivated in North America and Europe. It should always be cooked and is normally used in soups and stews and stir-fry. It is rich in Guanylic acid, Glutamic acid, and aspartic acid all of which are amino acids.

It is high in B vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, fiber and iron. It is also a source of selenium, which is good for skin health. It also is high in copper, which is good for heart health, immunity, and gut balance. It is also well known for its cancer fighting abilities.

Morcella or Morel Mushrooms

These mushrooms are highly prized because they only grow in the wild in North America and Europe and are very difficult to cultivate. Typical fruiting season is spring. They seem to do well in alkalized soils, especially after medium intensity wildfires though they are notoriously difficult to find. They are slightly poisonous so they must be cooked and shouldn’t be eaten in massive quantities or with alcohol.

There are 80 different species of Morel mushroom and most are found under trees. Raw morel mushrooms are 90% water, 5% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and 1% fat. A 100 gram reference amount supplies 31 calories, and is a rich source of iron (94% of the Daily Value, DV), manganesephosphoruszinc, and vitamin D (34% DV, if having been exposed to sunlight or artificial ultraviolet light).

Matsutake Mushrooms

These edible mushrooms are found throughout East Asia, Europe, and North America and are enjoyed for their aroma as well as their taste. They are becoming rarer, as competition is fierce for their once a year harvest. They are very difficult to cultivate. It is listed as “vulnerable” due to habitat destruction. Similar to other mushrooms, it has high vitamin content, as well as amino acids, fiber, and is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. It shares most of the characteristics of the other mushrooms, but perhaps with more protein, and more fiber than most other species.

Maitake Mushrooms – Hen of the Woods, King Mushroom (Grifola frondosa)

This mushrooms has considerable health benefits, and grows wild under elm, oak, and maple trees. It has been shown to stimulate the immune system and can also beneficial for people who have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Benefits: Adaptogenic, antioxidant, useful in preventing and treating breast cancer2, suppresses tumor growth2

Maitake Mushrooms are rich in the following nutritional properties:

  • beta-glucans 
  • vitamins B, C, and D 
  • copper 
  • potassium
  • fiber
  • minerals
  • amino acids

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus)

Lions Mane Mushroom

Lion’s mane mushrooms are brain boosters and are implicated in neurogenesis and are getting a lot of attention in reducing Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine. They are being investigated by pharmaceutical companies for Erinancine, which enhances nerve growth amongst other cognitive benefits7. It may help the nervous system to repair itself faster. They typically grow on dead American Beech trees.

Reishi Mushrooms

Reishi mushrooms contain adaptogens and help the body to combat stress. They are known as the king of mushrooms because of their origins in East Asia and use in traditional medicine. They are immune boosters by improving lymphocyte function and increasing white blood cells counts in a very similar way to most mushrooms, but specifically have high amino acid content, which can help fight infection and cancer. This may occur primarily in those who are ill, as mixed results have been seen in those who are healthy8.

Chaga Mushrooms

These mushrooms typically grow on birch trees and resembled a dark chunk of dirt; scientists are getting increasingly interested in the health benefits because of its ability to fight and prevent cancer through triterpenes, which cause cancer cells to self-destruct without affecting healthy cells4. It is also rich in antioxidants and lowers cholesterol, which can help to prevent heart disease. It is also anti-inflammatory by regulating cytokine production, which can help to combat arthritis.

Here are some nutritional properties of Chaga mushrooms:

  • B-complex vitamins
  • rubidium
  • cesium
  • amino acids
  • fiber
  • zinc
  • iron
  • manganese

Healing Mushrooms, “Magic” and Psilocybin

“It is well known that most of the new drugs discovered in the last few decades have originated from nature. Chemical constituents obtained from medicinal plants and other natural products have been increasingly used to treat many infectious diseases.”

Mushrooms are increasingly studied around the world for their pharmacological health benefits. Lion’s mane is implicated in faster nervous system regeneration after a stroke.

There are 4 different substances that create the hallucinations: psilocybinpsilocinbaeocystin and norbaeocystin. There isn’t a lot known about the substances, however they are psychotropic alkaline analogues to psilocybin, meaning they alter the way the psilocybin is processed to create hallucinatory effects in the brain. Not a lot of data is available due to hallucinogenic mushrooms being illegal in most countries.

Psilocybin and the other hallucinogenic compounds are known to interact with Serotonin and the HTP Axis or stress response. This is the most likely explanation for mushrooms being seen as a cure for depression.

We will wait to discover and understand what the real healing capacity of Psilocybin and the other hallucinogenic compounds can be.

Please leave a comment or share this article if you found it to be useful. I tried to combine as many high quality sources and do as much research as I could.

References

  1. Time Magazine – Are Mushrooms Healthy
  2. Healthline
  3. Micropia
  4. Real Eats
  5. Medical News Today
  6. Rejuvii
  7. Erinacine Wikipedia Page
  8. 6 Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms
  9. Draxe.com Cremini Mushrooms – Cremini Mushrooms Benefit the Heart, Gut & Fight Against Cancer
  10. NIH on Selenium
  11. Bolete Mushrooms
  12. Health Benefits of Enoki Mushrooms
  13. The Life Cycle of a Mushroom
  14. Honey Mushroom Nutrition
  15. Shimeji Mushroom Nutrition
  16. Mushrooms Analysis

Anatomy of the Femur Bone: The Pillar of Support for the Human Skeleton

Femur

Introducing the most Massive and Strongest (in most ways) Bone in the Human Body

There are 62 bones in the legs: 10 trunk/hip bones, 14 ankle bones, and 38 foot bones. The femur (thigh) is the largest and strongest of these bones. Most land mammals capable of jumping also have femur bones, also lizards, frogs, and other tetrapod vertebrates. Its length on average is 26.74% of a person’s height, a ratio found in both men and women and most ethnicities with only restricted variation.

A Few Femur Bone Stats

  1. the Femoral neck sits at a 125 degree angle
  2. Femurs can resist 1,800-2,500 pounds of stress
  3. Vehicular accidents are the primary cause of breakage

The Greater Trochantergreater_trochanter_grays

The Great Trochanter is a large, irregular, quadrilateral eminence on the upper portion of the femur bone. This portion of the bone has several, extremely important muscle insertions for the thigh and hip bones:

The lateral surface, quadrilateral in form, is broad, rough, convex, and marked by a diagonal impression, which extends from the postero-superior to the antero-inferior angle, and serves for the insertion of the tendon of the gluteus medius.

Above the impression is a triangular surface, sometimes rough for part of the human_ape_femurstendon of the same muscle, sometimes smooth for the interposition of a bursa between the tendon and the bone. Below and behind the diagonal impression is a smooth triangular surface, over which the tendon of the gluteus maximus lies, a bursa being interposed.

The medial surface, of much less extent than the lateral, presents at its base a deep depression, the trochanteric fossa (digital fossa), for the insertion of the tendon of the obturator externus, and above and in front of this an impression for the insertion of the obturator internus and superior and inferior gemellus muscles.

Reference: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_trochanter)

The Lesser Trochanter

The Lesser trochanter is on the underside of the femoral head and also has several muscular insertions: The Psoas Major on bottom and the Illiacus on top.

The Femoral HeadFemur_insertion_point

The Femoral Head is the highest part of the femur bone, support by the femoral neck. It inserts as a ball/socket joint into the Hip/Ilium via the structure depicted to the right.

The Femoral Neck

The Femoral neck usually sits at a 120-135 degree angle with some variation. A fracture of this area is known as a hip fracture and happens during aging. This structure supports the head of the femur bone and its insertion into the hip.

femur_pic_grays_2The Femoral Body

The Shaft of the femur is somewhat curved and has a protruding ridge called the linea aspera (rough line). The area of the bone supports the strongest muscle tissue in the body, including the hamstrings, Quadriceps, and thigh musculature. The Vastus Laterallis (outer quadricep) and adductor magnus (inner thigh muscle) connects into the linea aspera.

Lower Portion of the Femur

lower_femur_graysThe Lower portion of the femur bone consists of two condyle (from the Greek word for knuckle), lateral and medial that create the surface for the upper tibia bone and the knee-joint. Coated meniscus tissue layers on top of the bone and provides synovial fluid for frictionless movement within the knee. The medial (inside) condyle is the larger than the lateral due to its increased weight-bearing. 

How the Femur Bone affects your Holistic Health

Femur bone fractures correlate with increased disease in the elderly. It is safe to say that the femur bone is an organ that houses much of the mineral deposits for the body. Therefore, as we age and the bone tissue become more porous, this bone become one of the primary areas of decomposition.

One of the primary aspects of bone health is acquiring enough calcium to maintain bone density. Most calcium is available via leafy green vegetables, notably kale, bok-choy, and broccoli. Sodas and carbonated beverages make it harder for the body to absorb calcium and should be avoided by those with osteoporosis (orthoinfo.com). Vitamin D is an important catalyst for absorbing calcium into the bloodstream.

Phosphorus is another vital nutrient to maintain bone health. Nuts, Sesame Seeds, peanut butter, parsley, crab and prawns are all foods high in phosphorus. Don’t feel like you have to eat meat or drink milk to get these essential nutrients.

References:
  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Femur_neck
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_trochanter
  3. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/calcium-nutrition-and-bone-health

The Human Body is an Ecosystem (Part 4/5 : Gastro-Intestinal Micro-Organisms)

E.Coli

Part 4: Micro Organisms of the Gut

Please see the other parts of the article; once they are completed the links will be active:

Part 1: anatomy of the human microbiome
Part 2: micro-organisms on the skin
Part 3: micro-organisms in the mouth
Part 5: implications for modern medicine

The increased knowledge of gut bacteria is a an excellent example of a paradigm shift in the health community. The scientific community has obtained an incredible amount of knowledge from this new field of microbiology. The gut flora is sometimes considered an organ because of its importance, this community of micro-organisms is evidenced to protect its host (that’s us) from pathogens and allow us to extract nutrients from our diet.

Your colon contains over 100 trillion micro-organisms most of which are bacteria. It also has the most complex and intricate interactions of the human micro-biome. The flora in the stomach and upper intestine are not as diverse or populous. This “gut” ecosystem is complex with over 400 species (identified genomes) but not quite as numerous as the 1,000 different genomes of skin micro-organisms. This is probably because of the skin’s increased interaction with the environment.

Bacteria populations within the gastrointestinal tract differ greatly depending on the host: geographical location, diet, genetics, even the behaviors of different species are vastly different based on the history of the host. Not surprisingly, diet is probably the largest factor in the populations of bacteria in the gut.

These bacteria have lots of different functions: synthesizing vitamin B and K, nutrient extraction, metabolizing bile acids, sterols, and xenobiotics, defense against pathogens, cell growth stimulation, and response to disease. They are often referred to as the forgotten organ because of the immense role they play in digestion and little attention they have received until more recently.

Gut flora evolve during the course of an individual’s life. These microbiota are non-existent until birth, and mature at the age of 3. Micro-biota are normally associated with nutrient intake, and concentration of communities are indicative of the type of diet of the host. This ecosystem, or microbiome in the gut is essentially your metabolism and what allows your body to breakdown and re-intake nutrients from your food sources. They believe this may be a reason why breastfeeding is important for infants; the nutrients help to form the initial microbiome of the child.

Without these bacterial cells, our bodies wouldn’t be able to breakdown certain nutrients. They also help the gut to maintain efficiency, especially in the colon. The colon has a lower pH level than the rest of the body, preventing harmful bacteria from proliferating and possibly even enhancing the excretion of carcinogens (cancer causing agents).

Gut bacteria have a primary role in nutrient absorption, especially electrolytes, and help the body to control its fat levels. They also help to fight allergens including over-action of the immune system. Some bacteria can even stop inflammation during the digestive process. Some genus’ of bacteria aid cancer growth, while some fight it. There is increasing evidence to suggest that obesity might be caused by bacteria populations and that the two could be intricately related.

The populations of micro-organisms in your gut is not to be under-estimated, we will be learning more about the implications of gut ecology on diet, health, and especially in obesity regulation over the next few decades. This is one of humanity’s primary links to the environment and is essential for optimal immune function. As we learn more about allergies, we will also be learning more about the ecological properties of our own bodies.

The last article in the series should be out soon, stay tuned for the implications this research has on the future of modern medicine. Questions or corrections are always welcome!

Sources:

  1. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11894-009-0045-z#page-1
  2. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=909284&fileId=S0007114502001782
  3. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/308/5728/1635.short
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1379087/?page=2
  5. http://journals.lww.com/jtrauma/abstract/1987/02000/endotoxin_but_not_malnutrition_promotes_bacterial.12.aspx
  6. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-011-2364-8_4#page-1
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK7670/

 

The Human Body is an Ecosystem (Part 1 of 5)

Microbiome_Wikipedia

Part 1: Anatomy of the Human MicroBiome

Please see the other sections of the article; once they are completed the links will be active:

Part 2: micro-organisms on the skin
Part 3: micro-organisms in the mouth
Part 4: micro-organisms in the gut
Part 5: implications for modern medicine

Your ability to think of yourself as one whole being is an incredible phenomenon; especially considering that the human body is made up of 37.2 trillion human cells that can act somewhat independently, which is really a gross estimate at this point. What is really interesting is that the majority of the cells in your body are actually bacteria cells, mostly that reside in the human gut. Modern estimates say the proportion is about 10 to 1 (baceria to human cells). That means there are possibly over 300 trillion bacteria cells in your body. In fact, there is evidence to suggest 90% of our cells are microbes or micro-organisms. (small animals,fungi, bacteria, archaea, algae, and protozoa). Outside of the body, on the skin, there are also a fair amount of micro-animals that are excluded from the human microbiota, or the aggregate of the micro-organism genomes on the skin, in the gastrointestinal tract, in the saliva, oral mucosa, and conjunctiva.

Your body might have a proportion of 10 to 1 micro-organisms to human cells, according to one study, which makes it important to consider your body as an environment. Basically, you have an entire ecosystem in your digestive track and this aspect of your body is what merges you with your environment. The digestive tract, from the mouth to the rectum and anus, is essentially a part of the outside world which is why there is so much bacteria and other micro-organisms living there. This is also the reason behind recent skepticism of the effectiveness of antibiotics for certain illnesses and why there is so much emphasis on probiotic in modern nutrition science.

With our new understanding of the micro-organisms that co-exist within humans, we have also begun to study and catalogue the different genomes, however, scientists have found a nearly infinite variation in how the micro-organisms interact and function. The same bacteria cells might function completely differently within the body of another, making the biome extremely difficult to study. The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) is the organization fueling the majority of this research and they are attempting to catalogue the different bacteria and their functions in the body in a similar way to how the Human Genome Project catalogued the human genome.

What this means is that there are not baseline calculations for micro-biome health because it varies so greatly from person to person. Also, different sites on the body have their own distinctive communities; skin and vaginal sites have a smaller amount of diversity than the mouth and gut. Different bacteria like to inhabit different places in the mouth from person to person and can also have different, specialized functions. Over 500 types of bacteria live in the gut alone, mostly in the large intestine or colon. These bacteria are incredibly useful because they break down food and allow for the absorption of nutrients into the human body, however, in times of lowered immunity they can also act as opportunistic pathogens (meaning they can cause disease). E. Coli is one of the bacteria that exist in the gut, and certain mutated strains of this can also cause disease (as you probably heard in the news). But this is a healthy bacteria that when balanced against a strong immune system provides enormous benefit to the digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Here are the elements that create the chemical balance of your body and their associated proportional mass:

  • Oxygen = 65%
  • Carbon = 18%
  • Hydrogen = 10%
  • Nitrogen = 3%
  • Calcium = 1.4%
  • Phosphorus = 1.1%
  • Potassium = .25% (can be radioactive)
  • Sulfur = .25%
  • Sodium = .15%
  • Chlorine = .15%
  • Magnesium = .05%
  • Iron = .006%
  • Fluorine = .0037% (toxic in large amounts)
  • Zinc = .0032%
  • Silicon = .002%
  • Rubidium = .00046%
  • Strontium = .00046%
  • Bromine = .00029%
  • Lead = .00017% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Copper = .0001%
  • Aluminum = .00000087%
  • Cadmium = .00000072% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Cerium = .00000057%
  • Barium = .00000031% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Tin = .00000024%
  • Iodine = .00000016%
  • Titanium = .00000013%
  • Boron = .00000069%
  • Selenium = .00000019% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Nickel = .00000014%
  • Chromium = .000000024%
  • Manganese = .00000017%
  • Arsenic = .00000026% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Lithium = .000000031% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Mercury = .00000019% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Caesium = .000000021%
  • Molybdenum = .00000013%
  • Cobalt = .000000021%
  • Antimony = .00000011% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Silver = .00000001%
  • Niobium = .0000016%
  • Zirconium = .000006%
  • Lanthanum = .00000137%
  • Tellurium = .00000012%
  • Gold = .000000140%
  • Vanadium = .00000026%
  • Uranium = .0000000013% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Beryllium = .00000000005% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Radium = .0000000000000000001% (toxic in high amounts)

You’ll notice a few very interesting things about some of these elements. The first is that many substances can be toxic in high dosages, and obviously you can be malnourished if you have less of these elements. The second is that there are radioactive elements in your body; yes you are radioactive, just like the Earth. The radioactive elements are particularly interesting: Potassium40 has over 4,000 events per second in the human body; Carbon14 has over 3,000; Rubidium has over 100; and Lead210, Tritium, Uranium238, Radium228, and Radium226 all have under 20 events per second. To me, this emphasizes the need for balance in the human body; not too much and not too little.

It is astonishing to think that there is a hole, a series of tubes really, inside of you that is really a part of the outside environment. But this makes perfect sense to a Taoist, who would say that a human ‘is the same’ as the environment they are in. Two sides of Yin and Yang that are always playing together to continue life. Most research suggests that our gut flora (or the collective bacteria in an ecosystem) is symbiotic and has a direct relationship with the functioning of the body.

The functions of the flora are the following (though it has been found that some people can function without gut bacteria):  fermenting unused energy substrates, training the immune system, preventing growth of harmful species, regulating the development of the gut, producing vitamins, and producing hormones. Extensive modification and imbalances of the gut microbiota and its micro-biome or gene collection are associated with obesity. However, in certain conditions, some species are thought to be capable of causing disease by causing infections or increasing risk for cancer (paraphrased from Wikipedia).

So obesity might be better understood as an imbalance in gut bacteria that leads to slower digestion and less nutrient absorption. It also makes sense that there is a cascade type of effect, where the body has “momentum” to digest with large amounts of built up gut bacteria. So a ‘fast metabolism’ might be summarized as healthy gut flora. Interesting stuff right? In my opinion this is some of the most exciting science being researched today.

This is part of the reason why a balanced diet is key to being healthy. There is a lot more information coming, I’m especially excited to get into the gut flora and their implications for mental and cognitive health. The next article will be about the skin, and all of the micro-organisms that live on you. Stay tuned, hoping to have it out tomorrow.

10 Metabolic Facts to help you Optomize your Nutrition

label_reading

I have been experimenting with nutrition for over 6 years, ever since I had the desire to get the most out of my yoga practice. I believe I have found the best strategies for my own body. These are some tips to manage your body’s metabolism.

The first step is reading labels. Do it with everything at first, then you can do check-ins. You’ll be surprised to notice how often the chemicals in food change. Everything is a chemical, so don’t get too concerned, but be aware of what you are consuming. This means using Google, probably a lot at first to figure out what you are consuming. This is the true key to dieting.

Once you are aware of what you are eating, you can start to cut out certain chemicals, say hydrogenated oils and preservatives. You can start to look for organic ingredients, which typically are higher quality and less toxic. If you can, go organic with most things, the food has more nutrition and less toxins due to having no exposure to pesticides.

Here are 10 things to consider as you eat during the day:

  1. Your metabolic rate is set by your endocrine system, your hormone regulation system. Stay cool, not stressed. Stress releases in your day are essential to keeping things running smoothly underneath the hood, endorphins help the body to handle stress and keep you content.
  2. Your metabolism moves fastest when you wake up in the morning. Ideally, you eat your meals in an upside down pyramid sort of way throughout the day, stopping before 8 at night. Start early, end early. When it gets dark, stop eating, if you can.
  3. Sweating stimulates toxin excretion and your metabolism. Get enough exercise to stimulate your sympathetic nervous system, but there’s no need to become a marathon runner, or king of the elliptical.
  4. You are in control of your metabolic rate. There are people with genetic metabolic disorders, but they are about 1 in 1,400. This means that there is likely no genetic reason for obesity.
  5. Your body has internal clocks and regulators you should know how your body has been programmed to work by your past behavior. Often, people change diets dramatically when trying to lose weight and this, in and of itself, can shock the body into digesting slower. This happens when people decide to “go vegan”. Meet your body where it is, add things slowly to your diet, rather than taking things away at first. The body also seems to really like eating on a schedule, I saw this in France where there are no obesity problems.
  6. Eat a large breakfast because your metabolism can process the food all day and it gives your body momentum to get started in the morning. Eat within an hour of waking up if you can.
  7. Keep your parasympathetic nervous system active while exercising to burn fat and use your bodies stores of energy. Yoga is great for this, so is walking, meditation, breathing exercises, etc. Low energy output tasks that don’t require exertion will target the fat tissues for energy.
  8. There is a protein myth in modern health, that you need more of it than fat and carbohydrates, but in truth you need all three in fairly equal portions for optimal digestion. That means even if you are consuming lots of protein, you need to consume fats and carbs to digest efficiently.
  9. Don’t cut calories, just sugar. The easiest ways for many people to lose weight are simple. Less sugar. potato chips, and meat.
  10. Water keeps everything moving, dehydration can lead to stagnation in the metabolism. Electrolytes are key here because they keep the fluids in the body concentrated with energy. The less toxic the fluid content in the body, the easier energy currents can flow though it.

These are just a few tips that I use personally. Balance your food groups. Find new stuff to eat, not the new flavor of cheetos, try a new kind of fruit, even if its nasty, spit that shit out. Try these guidelines out, see how they affect you before doing anything strict. I have found them to be incredibly useful for myself. They are simple, but HARD to execute. Especially water and hydration. Most americans (~75%) are chronically dehydrated, so water consumption throughout the day is a great place to start. I come back to it almost every day.

Basics of Nutrition

nutrition

Nutrition is the concept of selecting and preparing food to be eaten, which largely contributes to the health of the body. Diet is the selection of foods that the body receives and palpability is the taste or perceived pleasantness of the food. There are four macro-nutrients and a few other types of nutrients that the body requires to function optimally.

The body then uses the received nutrients to grow, repair, or maintain itself. All food contributes to the body’s wellbeing and must be processed or broken down through the gastrointestinal tract and expelled from the body. The quality of the nutrients that you consume are directly related to your health, alongside your genetics and medical history. The body is a vehicle of momentum, so dietary changes normally take anywhere from 30-90 days to begin to show, sometimes longer. Exercise will help to expedite the process. A diet is not something that should be difficult to maintain; challenging, maybe, but it should be rewarding because you are feeling healthy and energized. Eventually breaks happen more and more occasionally as you settle into a healthier lifestyle.

Yes, it is more expensive. But it pays for itself in medical bills over the years, in sick days from work, in focus and energy at work. Health is something that allows you to live life more fully and vibrantly, it is priceless. That is my opinion and I know people that live happily and disagree with it so take it with a grain of salt. Just like everything else you hear from people.

There are four macro-nutrients, or big categories of nutrient: fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and water. Fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals make up the micronutrients. Poor health can be caused by too little of a required nutrient, or too much of a required nutrient. Each requires balance and agility; adjust to the body based upon its response to what you feed it. The four macro-nutrients should be relatively balanced in each meal, as much as possible. Tweak your diet and ratios depending on the sensations and results in your body. Yoga can help you to tune into your internal organic processes. Remember too much water can kill you, just like overloading on anything else; however, its probably not going to happen. Be careful out there.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are things like rice, noodles, bread, grain, and really represents sugar. Monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides are all hydrates of carbon, meaning water molecules mixed with carbon molecules. Normally monosaccharides and disaccharides are referred to as sugars, which saccharide means in Greek, and very often the two cause words to end in ‘ose’. Monosaccharide glucose is grape sugar, disaccharide sucrose is cane sugar, and disaccharide lactose is milk.

Most people consider polysaccharides to be complex carbohydrates because they are more useful in storing energy and repairing structural components as opposed to sugar molecules. However, the body is shown to digest both at similar rates so there isn’t too much truth to needing to eat complex carbohydrates rather than the ‘lighter’ carbohydrates. A balance of both is good, but consider carbohydrates to be the primary energy source for the body, whereas fats and proteins are needed more for maintenance and repairing the body.

Fats

Fats are long chained organic acids, also known as fatty acids. The longer the chain of acids, the higher the melting point of the fat. Oils, fats, and lipids are often used interchangeably, but there are differences between the three: lipid is a general term used to describe all fats, not necessarily limited to triglycerides.  Oil is usually used to refer to fats that are liquid at room temperature and fat it usually used to refer to fats that are solid at room temperature. Fats serve both metabolic (processing) and structural needs.

There are two essential fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid and linolenic acid, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, respectively. Other fats used by the body are synthesized and broken down from these fatty acids. Fats and other lipids are broken down by enzymes called lipases in the pancreas.

Fat is categorized according to the number and bonding of carbon atoms in the aliphatic chain. Saturated fats have no double bonds, while unsaturated fats have one or more double bonded carbon atoms in the chain. Some have more than one double bond and they are called polyunsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats can be divided into cis fats, the most common in nature and trans fats, which are very uncommon in nature. Hydrogenation is the process used to bind hydrogen to the fat and creates saturated fat from unsaturated fats. However, during this processes of hydrogenation (which is used to create vegetable shortening) trans fat is also created as a by-product and trans fat is proven to increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Try to stay away from hydrogenated oils; they make cooking easier but are not processed well by the body or circulatory system.

Fats store energy for the body, mostly for long term survival, as opposed to short bursts gleaned from carbohydrates. This is why slow rates of metabolic activity tend to target fat rather than muscles. Walking is often more effective at reducing body-fat than running due to the way that the body stores fat and uses carbohydrates before fats for energy. Fat is important in every meal, as it allows for a cascade of chemical reactions that the body requires fat to initiate; Vitamins A, D, E, K, are all fat-soluble, meaning fat is required to process them. Fat is also important for body temperature regulation, insulating organs from shock (think hypothermia), maintains the skin and hair, and promotes health cell function (each cell has a fatty cell wall). Fat is also very useful in fighting disease; fat cells can store unwanted substances to keep it from the bloodstream. Fats are essential for the bodies maintenance and a a required part of balancing your diet.

Proteins

Proteins are large molecules consisting of one or more long chains of acids called amino acid residues. The functions of proteins are vast including catalyzing metabolic reactions, replicating DNA, responding to stimuli, and transporting molecules. The primary difference in proteins is their sequence of amino acids, which is dictated by the genes of the protein, more specifically the nucleotide sequence, which results in the three-dimensional folding of the protein for its specific purpose.

Proteins have to be recycled because they are constantly degrading, or depreciating against the bodies usage because they are essential parts of organisms and participate in nearly every cellular process. The average half-life of proteins are 1-2 days, sometimes lasting months and other times used for minutes. Abnormal or malfunctioning proteins are recycled faster.

Proteins participate in some of the most complex processes in the body including: many catalyze metabolic reactions, have structural or mechanical functions in muscle fibers and cells, some are important for cell signaling, others for immune responses, cell adhesion, and are extremely necessary in diet because they give the body amino acids it needs to metabolize other foods. The body needs all 20 of the regular amino acids and a few of them are considered essential because they are required by the body to metabolize:

Essential Nonessential **
Histidine Alanine
Isoleucine Arginine*
Leucine Aspartic acid
Lysine Cysteine*
Methionine Glutamic acid
Phenylalanine Glutamine*
Threonine Glycine*
Tryptophan Proline*
Valine Serine*
Tyrosine*
Asparagine*
Selenocysteine

 

During starvation protein is used to help the body sustain itself, most notably, muscle tissue. Proteins are a necessary element of every meal.

Water is also essential in every meal, but you should also be adding electrolytes in accordance with your physical activity and exertion. Coconut water, bananas, and most fruits are great for replenishing electrolytes.

The micro-nutrients are vitamins, minerals, and fibers. Here are the required Vitamins and Minerals:

Vitamins

Dietary minerals (elements that humans need nutritionally)

Many of these vitamins and minerals are required by the body for functioning and some can only be broken down by complex biological bacteria before the body can use them. Apparently, scientists have only begun to appreciate the role of beneficial bacteria in nutrition somewhat recently. Many of these dietary elements are necessary for the different chemical processes in the body and the amount that the body needs of each can be from kilograms to milligrams.

Too many nutrients can lead to deficiencies and ultimately poison the body. Too little will leave the body malnourished and forced to sustain itself with muscle mass. Balance is the single most important concept in nutrition. Four to six meals a day is optimal, try to drink plenty of water in between each meal. Keep things moving, your body wants to cycle at the rate of the planet. Try to get to sleep at 10 and wake up at 6. Eat heavier at the beginning rather the end of the day because your body uses the time when your awake to process food, and doesn’t metabolize while you are asleep.

 

 

Electrolytes and why they are essential

refuel

Electrolytes are extremely important for the human body and cellular activity in general. Have you ever had a cramp? Ever done exercise until muscle failure? Ran a triathlon or marathon? Then chances are that you have needed electrolytes before and felt a lack of them in your body.

Really, electrolytes are what your body uses to carry electricity from your nervous system to your muscles. The human body is mostly water (blood), so there are certain chemicals that the body uses to spread electrical charge using ions. The major electrolytes are:

  • Sodium – In animals, sodium ions counter potassium ions to build up charges on cell membranes, allowing transmission of nerve impulses when the charge is dissipated.
  • Potassium – the most common radioactive chemical in the human body, this is completely necessary for all cell functionality. Key for nerve transmission, K is also a part of the pump mechanism that each neuron in your body uses (the brain alone has over 20 billion nerves) and is used to close cell membranes
  • Calcium – the most common metal in animals, used for bones and shells and an important signal mechanism for cell cytoplasms
  • Magnesium – This is an extremely important reactant, used by the body for DNA, RNA, and ATP synthesis. Is used to calm excited nerves
  • Chloride – salt, helps regulate firing of nerves by controlling the fluid into and out of cells, found in all bodily fluids

As you can see, all of these chemicals are extremely important conductors and regulators of electricity, which is how the body sends signals. These chemicals are found in almost all life, including plants and animal nervous systems and could be considered basic building blocks of life.

Yoga is something that cultivates life-force, that grows and strengthens nervous connection. Supplementing electrolytes and ensuring that the body has enough fuel is extremely important, especially for yogis that sweat often and heavily with their practice. A proper amount of electrolytes in the bloodstream can really make the difference between a great asana practice and a mediocre one.

This is how drinking too much water can dehydrate you, water is not the only thing your muscles need to function. You need these salt-like chemicals to conduct the electric currents flowing from your brain, through your spinal cord, and down into your muscles through your nerves.

Here are the electrolyte sources that I use to replenish:

  1. bananas
  2. coconut water
  3. sliced mangos
  4. sea salt
  5. spinach
  6. avocado
  7. dark chocolate
  8. olives
  9. almond milk

Magnesium is found mostly in leafy greens and I put sea salt on meals often. Far and away, coconut water and bananas are the most effective foods for me. What do you use to replenish after yoga, or a tough sweat intensive workout?

Kale’s Nutritional Qualities

kale

Kale is fresh and in season because it loves frost and winter’s chill. Cultures around the world use the plant in various dishes and praise it for its versatility. Kale can even make good chips (crisps if you’re british), though I don’t like them.

Some people really don’t like the taste, but I don’t mind it in salads, or cooked with some light oil. Cooking of course alters the nutrient properties, but there is so much awesome stuff in Kale that you are still getting massive amounts of nutrition.

Here are the nutritional properties of the flower-like veggie, they are pretty incredible:

  • Beta Carotine – interesting nutrient, small amounts seem to be really healthy
  • Vitamin K – super good for us, from leafy vegetables (photosynthesis), greases the metabolic passageways
  • Vitamin C – anti-oxidizer, necessary for metabolic reactions and is a powerful enzymatic enabler
  • Calcium – combined with phosphate to form hydroxylapatite is the mineral of our bones. It is also extremely involved in neural functionality, including action potential release in muscles and neurotransmitters. Too much can be bad and it is regulated by vitamin D (sun exposure)
  • Sulforaphane – has possible anti-cancer properties
  • Indole-3-Carbanol – is the subject of on-going Biomedical research into its possible anticarcinogenic,[3] antioxidant, and anti-atherogenic effects. Inverse relationship to prostrate and breast cancer because of increased estrogen regulation.
  • Magnesium – essential nutrient for every cell (allows for photosynthesis in plants)

There are also Phosphorus, Potassium, Maganese, and several other trace minerals, including all the electrolytes and Vitamin B6. Kale is basically your multivitamin’s ingredients in raw form, similar to broccoli. Most could stand to eat more.

Like anything else, moderation is necessary, so find some balance among other food groups and don’t go kale crazy.

Daily consumption might not be a bad idea, especially for heart and artery health due to its digestive and anti-oxidant properties. Green drinks, Kale/almond ice cream, omelets, find a way to make the taste insignificant. It’s always interesting how nutrition inevitably becomes biochemistry.