Memory Monday

It’s time for a throwback but it isn’t Thursday so welcome to Memory Monday. There’s been a lot of talk this year about 1918 and the subsequent roaring 20s. Many have drawn parallels between what happened then and what’s happening now. Today’s throwback shows that even diet advice in the 1920s had elements that sound familiar in 2020. Why? Because science.

One jewel of 1920s diet advice was authored by Professor Arnold Ehret and entitled, Mucusless Diet Healing System. The tag line tells us this volume contains: “A Scientific Method of Eating Your Way to Health.” Scientific sounds promising and I agree with something Fred S. Hirsch, D.N.S. said in the introduction, “Bias, prejudice, and erratic conclusions have always stood in the way of progress….”

He also said, “The main trouble with the average individuals of present-day civilization is that they refuse to think. They prefer ‘mob thinking.’ Because everybody else does it, it must be right.” I’m pretty sure I’ve read similar statements recently on Twitter.

Arnold Ehret suffered from several ailments that left him feeling chronically ill. Bright’s disease which would now be described as chronic nephritis characterized by swelling and the presence of albumin in the urine, bronchial catarrh or a buildup of mucus, and consumptive tendencies that may have been caused by tuberculosis all plagued him. After many trips to sanitariums to recover, he was pronounced incurable. The grandson of a doctor and son of a veterinarian, he set out to find a way to heal himself.

Through trial and error, he discovered that he felt best when he alternated fasting and a diet based on grape sugar or dextrose. Monosaccharides like dextrose are single sugar molecules which require no further digestion in order to be transported across the intestinal barrier and into the bloodstream. I’m sensing a similarity between Ehret’s diet and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet devised by Elaine Gottschall.

The theory at play in both is that monosaccharides or “predigested” carbohydrates found in ripe fruit, honey, some vegetables, nuts, and tiny amounts of meat can reduce inflammation. While Ehret’s work is primarily based on observation, Gottschall’s is based on sound science of the 1950s backed by degrees in biology, nutritional biochemistry, and cellular biology.

We now know that inflammation is involved in the process of many diseases and we are learning the role of the microbiome in health. There is also a move away from meat toward plant based diets. While Ehret may not have had a complete understanding of the science behind any of these, he was not totally off track.

In Lesson XXV (p191), he even mentions decayed and fermented mass of matter in the colon. That sounds like a mention of the microbiome to me. This early insight still holds enough relevance that Prof. Arnold Ehret’s Mucusless Diet Healing System is available for purchase.

It’s funny. We usually think we’ve advanced so far in the past century that nothing from the past can possibly be useful. Then along comes a pandemic and photos of 1918 outdoor barbershops take on a whole new meaning.

That’s the thing we always seem to forget – science is not an absolute, it is a living body of knowledge. It is always rooted in what was known before, proven, built on, revised, and relearned in an expanded understanding that is greater than before. One of its basic principles is that any law, theory, or otherwise can be disproven if new facts or evidence are presented.

There is much in Ehret’s diet system that can be questioned, but he asks a pertinent question: “What shall man eat to be healthy or heal his disease?”(p86)

Asking the right questions can advance science and those questions can come from anyone, any time, anywhere. Translational research recognizes this. Professor Ehret lived it. Jill Viles does too.

Science is always looking back and moving forward at the same time. That makes every day in the scientific community a Memory Monday.

Your Gut Has a Mind of Its Own

If you feel like your gut has a mind of its own, it’s because it does. The billions of neurotransmitters in your intestine are of the same type as those in your brain and house the Enteric Nervous System. The gut is capable of a level of independent intelligence equal to that of your dog.
Does that mean our stomachs can be trained?

It’s kind of a funny idea, but it’s one that’s currently being explored. Some scientists hypothesize that we can treat stomach pain using hypnosis — essentially curing our tummies by talking to them.

The gut is host to 100,000 billion bacteria. When researchers mapped the DNA of one study participants’ microbiomes, they first reported that each of us falls into one of 3 enterotypes.

Subsequent research has called this limited number and the specific characteristics within each type into question. Things may be a bit more nuanced and complicated than originally indicated. Research continues and will bring a clearer picture over time.

We do know that the gut communicates with the brain via the vegas nerve and can affect our emotions. That could be why it feels like the gut has a mind of its own that sometimes controls us.

Ninety-five percent of the seratonin in our bodies is produced in the gut where it regulates the immune system and sets the pace for intestinal transit. Seratonin is also released into the bloodstream acting on the hypothalamus and registering in the upper brain as a sense of well-being.

With conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in which there is no observable organic malfunction, it is theorized that there could be a problem between brain and gut communication. One of the brains may send the wrong message or a message may be misinterpreted resulting in the symptoms experienced.

Learning more about this possible process may lead to innovative treatments for the 1 in 10 of us who suffer from IBS. It also has potential benefit for those who have become hypervigilant as a result of trauma.

An examination of the microbiome can increasingly assist in diagnosis and treatment of disease. The microbiome can show a propensity for Type II diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease and may influence obesity. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) show an increase in pro-inflammatory molecules and a decrease in inflammatory dampening bacteria. Altering microbial composition could possibly be used to reduce inflammation or calm down the immune system.

Researchers have successfully diagnosed Parkinson’s disease through intestinal biopsy paving the way for additional exploration of the possibility that the gut and brain share diseases. This could be key to a greater understanding of autism spectrum disorders and alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Michael Gershon, Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center who is sometimes referred to as the father of neurogastroenterology has, along with Dr. Anne Gershon, demonstrated that shingles can occur in enteric neurons and may be the cause of several gastrointestinal disorders currently of unknown origin.

It’s a little unclear whether the DNA of a microbiome is a set entity that changes slowly over time or whether researchers were simply mapping a DNA moment in a constantly changing microbiota. Studies have shown that the microbiota can change within one day with a change in diet.

That sounds like great news to me! It’s possible that a change in diet could bring symptom relief fairly quickly once we better understand what in the diet needs to be altered.

The possibilities are huge and the research has just begun. Changing the microbiome through diet, prebiotics, and probiotics may have a much greater effect in preventing and reducing disease than we previously believed. Diet may not just be fuel to keep the body strong, it may be real medicine that can be used to reduce inflammation, revise autoimmune response, and change the messages transmitted from the gut to the brain.

Knowing that my gut has a mind of its own sounds like relief to my upper brain!