Another Partial Sugar Roundup


Tsar Bomba mushroom cloudIn reviewing the Childhood Obesity News posts concerned with sugar, we suggested that the discovery of how to extract and refine sugar from plants might be the cultural equivalent of humankind’s discovery of how to obliterate itself with nuclear weapons. Both have inspired a lot of controversy and caused a lot of deaths. Equally regrettable is the fact that both radioactive weaponry and refined sugar have been responsible for making many human lives unproductive and miserable because of the illnesses they cause.

In a post titled “How Addictive is Sugar?” we mentioned a website called My Addiction, which lists almost 30 known addictions. Sugar is in its own category on the site, not even included with the rest of food. We mentioned addiction specialist Dr. Joel Rice, who calls sugar “the most commonly used white drug,” and says that it is the most prevalent addictor of all. He also predicts that 85 percent of the American population will be overweight by 2030.

Sugar Junkies Out Themselves” discussed the social acceptability of sugar addiction. It is the substance abuse problem to which most people most readily admit. In fact, talking about one’s pathological dependence on sweets is, in some circles, considered pretty darn cute. We also talked about how difficult it is to eliminate sugar from one’s diet, because it appears in almost every variety of processed food. It appears in nearly three-quarters of packaged foodstuffs under 60 different aliases. What on earth is it doing in ketchup? What is it doing in salad dressing? In bran cereal? Only the manufacturers know.

The Gateway Drug: Sugar, Part 1” introduced Dr. Frank Lipman, who pointed out that most people don’t believe sugar is addictive, and certainly deny that they are personally addicted to it—until they try to quit. Then, the veil of illusion is torn away and the ugly truth becomes apparent. Dr. Lipman comes right out and says it: “Sugar is the first addiction for almost everyone with addictions later in life.”

When doing painful things to babies, medical professionals sometimes use sugar as an analgesic. The only good thing that can be said for that is that it’s probably slightly better than morphine. For more information on the problems that result from such an early introduction, readers are referred to Dr. Pretlow’s guest post on the Fooducate website, titled “Food Supplements and Childhood Obesity.”

A lot of suffering stems from the fact that children learn very young that the answer to pain, anxiety, and other experiences is a substance. Specifically, a sweet substance. As they grow a little older, sugary treats are what they often get in lieu of parental attention, and as a reward for good behavior or as a bribe to circumvent bad behavior. Going forward, the body’s natural fondness for sweetness is reinforced by adding the emotional layers that pile up when a treat is used as a substitute for other things.

In the sequel to that post we further explored the idea that the much-discussed “gateway drug” posited by some addiction specialists is actually sugar. One consequence of this relationship is that, as Dr. Mark Hyman says, alcoholics tend to recover only from alcohol, but not from sugar, whose only advantage is that it is legal.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Andy Zeigert


Where Are the Roots of Addiction?

delicious (237_365)

From profiling the microbiomes of many people, science has learned that only about one-third of each person’s internal bacteria are like other people’s. As Honor Whiteman explains for

…two thirds of the gut microbiome is unique to each person, and what makes this unique is the food we eat, the air we breathe and other environmental factors. Some studies have even suggested the makeup of the gut microbiome is influenced by genes.

Wency Leung of The Globe and Mail summarizes another astonishing fact about the tens of thousands of species that live inside us—there are no “good guys” or “bad guys.”

Rather, the microbiome is now understood to be a complex and bustling community, where even potentially disease-causing strains can be useful neighbours and friendly ones can turn against us.

Individual microbiomes are like fingerprints! They are all different, and even organisms of the same kind can act in different ways and have varying effects on the metabolisms of their hosts. By taking antibiotics, we can cause a mass extinction event among the microbiota, but aside from killing them, we can’t really control what they do—not consciously, anyway. But one theory holds that our genes can say Yea or Nay to quite a few questions. Consider the Enteric Nervous System:

The ENS and its connection to the brain also causes foods to affect your mood. For example, fatty foods can make you feel good because they contain fatty acids that are detected by the gut wall, which then sends out feelings of comfort to the brain.

Research has suggested possibilities to explain how the microbes get their way. Julie Beck wrote for The Atlantic about potential mechanisms that the critters might use to induce in us the sensations that we describe as cravings:

They may change the expression of taste receptors, making certain foods taste better; they may release hunger-inducing hormones; or they may manipulate the vagus nerve (which connects the stomach to the brain) to control their hosts’ eating behavior.

In a piece titled “Your Gut Bacteria Want You to Eat a Cupcake,” Beck mentions how individuals who are “chocolate desiring” and those who are “chocolate indifferent” may eat identical diets and yet have different microbial metabolites in their urine, and what that appears to mean.

Psychologist and evolutionary biologist Athena Aktipis teaches at Arizona State University, where she studies how the gut, with its links to the nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system, could be sending out signals that influence our physiologic and behavioral responses. These, presumably, would include addictive behavior, whether the behavior involves hard drugs, alcohol, or food. How could this happen? Maybe through the vagus nerve, “which connects 100 million nerve cells from the digestive tract to the base of the brain.” Aktipis writes:

Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good.

Given all this, is it possible that the particular arrangement of intestinal fauna in each individual could be responsible for the development of addictive behaviors? Can the little critters make a person shoot heroin into his or her own antecubital vein? Can they make a person eat a pound of cheese for a bedtime snack?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The gut microbiome: how does it affect our health?,” MedicalNewsToday,com 03/11/15
Source: “Say hello to your little friends: Making sense of gut bacteria,”, 06/07/15
Source: “Get to Know Your Microbiome for Health & Wellness,”, 06/05/15
Source: “Your Gut Bacteria Want You to Eat a Cupcake,”, 08/19/14
Source: “Do gut bacteria rule our minds?,”, 08/15/14
Image by Tim Pierce

An Open Letter to Justin Williamson

JustinWhile we can’t set these words to music, we hope Justin Williamson will take them to heart anyway. The outstandingly talented, morbidly obese youth has embarked on a path of changing his life and inspiring others to do the same. As Dr. Pretlow says, “This teen has quite a voice!” That he can belt out a song is undeniable, and Childhood Obesity News looks forward to Justin’s success in achieving a healthy weight, along with his dream of singing and acting on the Broadway stage. Now, here are some words for the singer from Dr. Pretlow.

As an intelligent young man who has gone to school, you must be familiar with the basic tenets of nutrition. Like so many others who struggle with excess weight, you have also realized that facts about nutrients and calories are not enough. The task in front of you involves learning a whole new way of life, and I have no doubt of your ability to put in the work and reap the rewards. You have already made a great start.

There are many coping skills and practices that can help. When you feel the urge to eat, relax and concentrate on your breathing for a while. Put off snacking for five minutes, then for five minutes more. Soon, you will be able to aside whole chunks of the day. Eliminate snacking in the morning, then in the afternoon, then evening and night. At home, ask your family to cooperate by not bringing in high-calorie treats, and by keeping food put away so the sight of it doesn’t trigger the urge to eat.

Learn to recognize any vicious circle that is impeding your progress. For instance, don’t let a slip turn into a slide. If you make a mistake and indulge too much, don’t let remorse tempt you into overeating even more to relieve the bad feelings. Forgive yourself and move on. Each time you are able to break a vicious circle, the small victory will make the next battle easier.

Find a variety of physical activities that you can do, and vary them to avoid boredom. Find access to a swimming pool. Even walking around in the shallow end can be useful exercise, and the buoyancy is a delightful preview of how it will feel to weigh less. Even the most dedicated artist can’t spend every waking moment practicing and performing. Cultivate other interests that hold your attention and divert your thoughts from eating. Cultivate activities, such as whittling or drawing or doing needlepoint (like football player Roosevelt Grier), that keep your hands busy.

Write your problems down and “think out loud” to yourself on paper. Find a source of professional help, like cognitive behavior therapy or some other type of counseling, to build your life-coping skill set. Of course, you will need to identify your problem foods and withdraw from them, one by one. This is totally possible, and cravings will soon go away. You will need to weigh the amounts you eat at mealtime, and gradually decrease them.

When the W8Loss2Go smartphone app launches, you might want to give it a try, because it is designed to help in all these ways and more. Something you can do right now is to download the booklet “Addiction Model Intervention for Obesity in Young People.” Another thing you can do right now is visit the Weigh2Rock website, where thousands of young people have found inspiration, useful tools, ideas, facts, answers, companionship, and understanding.

“Saving Justin” is a worthy goal. In one way you are incredibly fortunate, because of the very thing that has brought you into the public eye. Your determination to become a professional entertainer has almost magical power, and because of it you enjoy an advantage over multitudes of unmotivated youth who don’t even know what incentive would light their fires. You are far ahead in another way, too, because you already know that helping others is an effective way to help yourself. For you and for them, there is hope, and a way out.

Someday, Dr. Pretlow would enjoy hearing Justin sing “Over the Rainbow.” The choice brings a bittersweet memory of another vocalist, Israel “Iz” Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’ole, whose rendition of that song is beloved by millions. The world-famous Hawaiian singer, whose physique was almost cubical, reached a weight of over 750 pounds and died from a heart attack at age 38.

A tragedy of this kind is not inevitable. With the help of the Saving Justin team, and most of all through the courageous young man’s determination to save himself, Childhood Obesity News is confident that Justin Williamson will achieve his dream.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Saving Justin

The Amazing Dream of Justin Williamson

Justin at airport

When Justin Williamson was invited to California to be a guest on TV show “The Doctors,” the big question was whether he would even be allowed to fly there from Texas. A video clip on his homepage was made on the day of his preliminary visit to the airport to find out. The picture on this page shows the triumph of learning that he could fit on a Southwest Airlines plane.

To the best of anyone’s knowledge Justin, at 18 years and 670 pounds, was the nation’s most obese teenager. What made him more than that was an extraordinary talent for singing that he had discovered in 8th grade. Flying is kind of a theme here, because it is how he describes the feeling that comes from giving voice to a melody. A theater teacher also encouraged him toward acting, and the desire to develop these two abilities combined into an ambition to perform in Broadway shows. His biography says:

At fifteen, Justin knew something had to change. He had to get healthy to pursue his dreams. Try as he could, though, he just didn’t have the resources he needed to do it on his own. Like too many people, Justin found himself believing he was trapped in a body and a life marked by mental, physical and financial challenges.

For instance, to make the trip to California, plane fare was needed not only for Justin but for his mother and sister, who were also invited. For such an occasion, a good set of clothes could not just be bought off the rack. But the family did not have to face these challenges unaided.

When Justin decided “I don’t want to die with the music still inside me,” an advocate showed up to help share the process of turning the dream into reality. In charge of media outreach is Joe Ostaszewski, whose credentials include losing 147 pounds during the 14th season of the TV show “Biggest Loser” and partnering with the National 4-H Council with the aim of motivating and mobilizing American youth into a state of fitness.

Justin’s team organized a crowdfunding effort that quite recently succeeded in meeting its stated goal. Through a link on the Kickstarter page, we can hear Justin’s rendition of “Amazing Grace.” The next step will be to launch his first single, and the money will go toward coaching, technical support, marketing, and travel. In another short video clip, which is also available via YouTube, Justin can be heard singing part of the National Anthem. There is also a bit where his mom admits, “The pain and the guilt that I feel by enabling him is beyond words,” and other brief words from her and Justin’s sister.

The family’s appearance on “The Doctors” was a step toward engaging an entire country in cheering for this teenager’s potential to turn his life around. Justin hopes to become living proof that other young people can reverse the course of morbid obesity and pursue their own ambitions. But this wish is about more than outward, worldly achievement. It’s about inner satisfaction and meaning. Justin says, “When I sing at home in my room alone, it feels like church to me, my church. I’d like everyone to know how that feels for themselves.”

His goal is to help people see the potential in themselves, and translate that vision into action as they “step up and start working together to create change.” He is showing the way. One of the Kickstarter updates announced that he had already gotten below 600 pounds—a weight he had passed in 10th grade. “Justin lost 4 bowling balls,” is how they put it. He has many supporters, like Home Depot, which donated equipment for his workouts. Another supporter is Jeff Koz, founder and CEO of hum music, where the recording will be made.

The song Justin sings, “When I Sing,” was written by Siedah Garrett, who has won a Grammy award and been nominated twice for the Academy Award for best original song. She feels this song could “give voice to the millions of individuals facing similar challenges.” Here are some parting words from Justin Williamson himself:

If I can help others through this experience, that would be amazing. Now I have a process to do what I couldn’t do alone. I’m part of a team of people who care about me and who can help me share the experience and the tools with other people who might feel trapped, who have a voice they want to share, but for one reason or another, feel like they can’t.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Saving Justin”
Source: “Saving Justin – When I Sing”
Image by The Doctors

Does the Microbiome Call the Shots?

GarlicAccording to one hypothesis, the microbiota that colonize us do not simply sit around waiting for nutrients to arrive. They have their likes and dislikes, and ways of enforcing those preferences. Like college students with Dad’s credit card, they phone out for pizza or sesame chicken and in this paradigm, we are mere delivery boys servicing a bunch of microscopic brats who may not even tip us. About a year ago, researchers from three major American universities undertook a meta-study that proved something rather startling:

Microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on…Optimizing the balance of power among bacterial species in our gut might allow us to lead less obese and healthier lives.

Garlic enthusiasts have always existed, and the oft-repeated joke is that they are so healthy because nobody can bear to get close enough to transmit any communicable diseases. Probably every American has, at one time or another, known someone who believes raw garlic is the elixir of life, and who consequently eats a ton of it.

Maybe now we finally know why. Inulin is a fiber found in wheat, barley, leeks and—you guessed it—garlic, and research has shown that a healthy population of inner bugs enjoys these foods very much. Some scientists go so far as to call them “general fertilizers for the microbiome.” An article titled “How fast food could wreak havoc on your gut microbiome” says this:

Inulin helps encourage the gut microbiome to produce butyrate, which is an acid that feeds cells in the colon and keeps inflammation in check…Studies have also suggested that diets high in inulin lead to increases in health-promoting bifidobacteria, which break down carbohydrates to short-chain fatty acids, which may in turn decrease the risk of cancer, digestive and heart disease.

Disease prevention is wonderful, but the basic usefulness of these short-chain fatty acids is routine feeding of the cells of the intestinal lining, which don’t obtain their nutrients from the bloodstream. A paper titled “Contributors to Pediatric Obesity in Adolescence: More than just Energy Imbalance” begins with a monumental understatement:

Disentangling the etiology of pediatric obesity continues to challenge researchers.

The increasing trends in pediatric obesity are not accounted for solely by increased energy intake and decreased physical activity. Indeed, under similar conditions of energy balance, inter-individual variation in fat accumulation has been consistently noted.

It is becoming more evident that additional factors may contribute independently and/or synergistically to the increase in obesity. Such factors include (but are not limited to) metabolic programming in utero and in early childhood, the hormonal environment, endocrine disruptors…

The microbiome plays a part in metabolic programming, the hormonal environment, the effect of endocrine disruptors, and so much more. It has even been called our “second brain,” and more is discovered every day about its activities and influence. Consider these words from Dr. Pretlow about the W8Loss2Go studies:

It seems that the brain will glom onto any behavior which distracts from or eases nervousness, stress, anxiety, or tension… In the face of further stress/tension, the behavior will be repeated, which likewise eventually results in brain changes. Furthermore, the behavior becomes self-perpetuating, as trying to resist the behavior is, in itself, stressful, and stress is handled by eating. Participants in our studies reported that trying to resist taking more than the app-specified weighed amounts at meals “drove them crazy,” such that they ended up taking even more, during or after meals.

In compulsive eating, who really does the compelling? What if the feelings we interpret as stress, tension, anxiety, and being driven crazy actually arise from a pitched battle between our two brains? One brain knows better, tries to resist bad eating habits, and does not want to be destructively reprogrammed. The other brain, made up of trillions of microorganisms, contains a subpopulation of bugs that do nothing but compellingly chant “eat eat eat eat eat eat….” Is it possible?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Do gut bacteria rule our minds?,”, 08/15/14
Source: “How fast food could wreak havoc on your gut microbiome,”, 05/27/15
Source: “Contributors to Pediatric Obesity in Adolescence: More than just Energy Imbalance,”, 2011
Image by ilovebutter

A Partial Sugar Roundup

fake food

Why partial? Because Childhood Obesity News has published so many posts about sugar that it might take a while to recap all of them! As long as sugar is on the market, writers about health will never run out of material.

A piece titled, “Add Fat, Sugar, Salt, Sugar, and Fat. Repeat.” discussed Dr. David Kessler’s book The End of Overeating, and also Dr. Pretlow’s response to some of the ideas expressed in it. Dr. Kessler talks about the industry that sells us stuff that “looks like food.”

That marvelously blunt assessment is reminiscent of what many restaurants used to display: facsimiles of menu items, made from plaster, wax, or papier-mâché. Some still do this, probably more in other countries now than in America. The point is that many products we ingest daily have just about as much nutritional value as those fake presentations. Here is a line from the post:

Once we start down the junk-food road, the very substances themselves go to work rewiring the brain and telling it to want more, more, more. Pretty soon we’re looking at, for instance, a plate of fries, and seeing a friend who’s going to make us feel better.

How Evil is Sugar?” included an appreciation of a New York Times piece by independent health policy investigator Gary Taubes, whose conclusion could be summarized as, “Very evil indeed.” Childhood Obesity News said:

The terminology comes from Dr. Lustig himself, who uses the word “evil” to describe sugar five different times in his YouTube lecture “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” which has by now accumulated over 1,300,000 views—and there’s not a bosom or even a cute kitten in it.

Incidentally, as of today, that video presentation, from University of California Television, has now accumulated 5,846,600 views—and it’s not even the only version of “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” hosted by YouTube. Obviously, many people are paying attention and having their awareness raised. But the gap between awareness and action is very, very wide. The reason for that lies, quite probably, in the addictive qualities of sugar.

One eye-opening idea that Taubes put forth was the possibility that the famous Seven Countries Study was grossly misunderstood, and that nutritional science has laid a lot of blame on fat that should have been assigned to sugar instead.

As a substance, sugar hits us with a double whammy. It not only provides empty calories, but does active harm in ways that are still being catalogued. Some foods found in nature contain a certain amount of delightful sweetness. It is strangely significant that, for thousands of millennia, any human who wanted concentrated sweetness could only get it by stealing honey from a hive, at the risk of terrible retribution from angry bees.

The realization that sugar could be extracted, refined, and concentrated from some plants was as fateful as the discovery that atoms could be manipulated to explode and wipe out cities. How different human history might have been if neither of those possibilities had been exploited!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Edward Dalmulder

Everything You Know about Calories is Wrong

Coke hatsRemember all the disdain that our posts have heaped onto fatlogic proponents who convince themselves that food snuck from someone else’s plate doesn’t have calories, or food eaten on an airplane is calorie-free? Maybe Childhood Obesity News should apologize for making fun, because, as it turns out, calories don’t count and never did.

That’s right, at least according to the Global Energy Balance Network. It exists thanks to the Coca-Cola Company, whose profits have been shrinking as consumers become more health-conscious. A truism expressed by more than one skeptic is that when corporate corruption enters the picture, science can no longer be trusted. Lest anyone scoff at the idea that these two entities are working hand in glove, Anahad O’Connor revealed this in the New York Times:

Records show that the network’s website,, is registered to Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, and the company is also listed as the site’s administrator. The group’s president, James O. Hill, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said Coke had registered the website because the network’s members did not know how.

This leaves the public with the unfortunate impression that nobody at the University of Colorado knows how register a domain name. Anyway, says:

Coca-Cola is putting millions of dollars forward to fund a scientific study that will indirectly promote and defend their product. Coca-Cola sought out researchers that have an established belief that diet does not affect weight gain to the extent that most people think it does.

“Diet—no! Exercise—yes!” is the battle cry, as researcher Steven N. Blair of GEBN assures the press that there is “really virtually no compelling evidence” that obesity  is caused by fast food or sugar-sweetened beverages. Coke is paying handsomely to prove it, and $5.5 million can buy a lot of proof. Coincidentally, $4 million of that total will be shared between Dr. Blair and Gregory A. Hand.

Blair (one of whose compositions is titled “Fit and Fat”) and his colleagues are tasked with designing a study that will deliver the desired results. It must certainly be one of history’s most expensive image-building campaigns, for which Blair promises that “actual data” will be utilized.

Marion Nestle, whose expertise lies in the multiple fields of public health, food studies, and nutrition, is one of the people sounding the alarm, calling the organization “nothing but a front group for Coca-Cola” and warning:

Coca-Cola’s agenda here is very clear: Get these researchers to confuse the science and deflect attention from dietary intake.

The writer added a telling detail about the soda manufacturer:

Earlier this year they published a number of pieces online for American Hearth Month, which suggested that a mini can of Coke could be a “healthy treat” that is actually good for you. Those pieces were largely rejected, so it seems that the company may be toning down their propaganda.

The Coca-Cola Company funded a study whose results were published in the August issue of the journal Obesity. Conducted by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, it showed that childhood obesity is caused by too much screen time, insufficient sleep, and not enough physical activity. Junk food, fast food, and sugar-sweetened beverages get off scott-free.

Of course, there are other, dissenting researchers who proclaim that everything we always believed about exercise is wrong—in other words, it does not lead to weight loss—so two different philosophies are crossing swords, and kids keep getting bigger.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Coca-Cola Spending Millions To Fund A Study Saying That Diet Doesn’t Affect Weight Gain, August 2015
Source: “Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets, 08/09/15
Image from

Rejection Expert—The Microbiome


Soon after show business personality Jamie Kilstein accepted that he was an alcoholic, he understood that his relationship to food was also one of addiction and said:

Once you admit you have a problem, you have a new agenda: to get healthy. To be better. You will find other loves. You will find healthy food that makes you stronger. You will stop when you’re full. You will see your old self in the shadow of the drunk guy puking his guts out.

Isn’t it amazing how those tiny little critters inside us can call the shots? They decide to eject the contents of Kilstein’s stomach, and there is nothing he can do about it. Consider this quotation from Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ, by Giulia Enders:

Vomiting is a “tour de force performance,” particularly when sparked by powerful emotions: “It’s really your inner digestive tract sacrificing itself because it would like to have this energy from this food. But instead, it will shoot it out to save energy it would otherwise use for digestion.”

First-time opiate users usually throw up, regardless of the administration route—drink cough syrup, take pills, snort mashed pills or shoot up, it doesn’t matter. Some addicts of morphine, heroin, and other drugs continue to vomit throughout their junkie careers, and some even consider the experience a plus.

Speaking of morphine, a University of Chicago study defined the “bad influence of morphine upon normally harmless bacteria living in the human gut.” A bug called Pseudomonas aeruginosa is often a member of a person’s microbiome, and usually it doesn’t bother us. Previous research had found that when these particular bacteria are disturbed, for instance by surgery, they can turn nasty and attack their host, who already has enough trauma to deal with.

As if that were not aggressive enough, Professor of Surgery John Alverdy learned that P. aeruginosa does not care for the common post-surgical analgesic. The body normally produces some morphine-like chemicals, and apparently those are tolerable in normal amounts. But when a big hit of post-op painkiller comes on board, the critters have a hissy fit. The hospital’s website says:

Activated by morphine, P. aeruginosa suppressed the natural production of mucus in the intestine, disrupted the epithelial cells that line the gut, and provoked the immune system to release various immune factors. offers a charmingly detailed description of how the enteric nervous system (ENS) reacts to toxic intrusion:

When a pathogen crosses the gut lining, histamines and other inflammatory substances are secreted from the immune cells in the gut wall. These substances are then detected by the ENS, which notifies the body and the brain to dispose of the pathogens through diarrhea or vomiting.

Up in the brain, the chemoreceptor trigger zone collects information about any foul substances that have found their way into the bloodstream, and tells the vomiting center to get busy:

In an important step approaching the climax of the vomiting process, the vomiting center issues a command to have the small intestine send a fair portion of its contents back into the stomach. This starts about one minute before vomiting and lasts about 45 seconds…

Known as the retrograde great contraction, this reflex serves to dilute the stomach acid and neutralize it somewhat, to curtail damage to the teeth, esophagus, and everything in between. There is disagreement about why the retrograde great contraction takes place. Is it just that the stomach contents need something pushing from below, and more volume, to make expulsion happen? Some researchers say it’s logical that the small intestine would also want to empty part of itself, because the objectionable substance reached that far, where it had the bad fortune to meet up with some cranky microbes that reported it to headquarters.

Bonus Reader Testimonial

Once, through sheer automatic, robotic eating, I managed to put away a whole tubular can of potato chips. Suddenly I knew I’d better get into the bathroom fast, but I couldn’t make it to the toilet. My digestive system was like one of those water cannons police use to subdue crowds of protesters. It decorated the shower curtain, the sink, the floor, and it was quite a cleanup job. There are some feelings in life that you never want to recapture, and projectile vomiting is right at the top of the list.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “I’m an Alcoholic Dude With an Eating Disorder. Hi.,”, 09/03/13
Source: “Say hello to your little friends: Making sense of gut bacteria,”, 06/07/15
Source: “Morphine’s Bad Influence on the Microbiome,”, 03/14/12
Source: “Get to Know Your Microbiome for Health & Wellness,”, 06/05/15
Image by Jade Jackson

Image by stu spivack

Alcohol Addiction, Candida and the Microbiome


Candida Yeast

Who would want to believe that any aspect of her or his life could be controlled by a gang of itty-bitty tyrants working in unison? Who wants to think that we noble Homo sapiens are gigantic puppets whose strings are pulled by trillions of very determined squatters and hitch-hikers? But as Dr. Pretlow says:

From an evolutionary biology standpoint, it makes sense that gut bacteria would develop biochemical effects on the host organism in order to enhance symbiotic survival.

That is unsettling enough, but then these other critters sneak in and give our native bacteria something new to wrangle and negotiate with. They are not even decent bacteria, but fungal microorganisms. Yesterday, Childhood Obesity News looked at Candida, which at times literally refuses to respect our boundaries, and penetrates our intestinal walls.

Undesirable substances get into the bloodstream that don’t belong there, and the body sets up an immune response, leading to low-grade but constant inflammation, which leads to metabolic syndrome. Or maybe the metabolic syndrome causes the inflammation—some issues are not quite clear yet.

In all fairness, it should be mentioned that Candida is not the only substance accused of this piercing behavior. When writing “Some of My Best Friends Are Germs,” Michael Pollan learned about emulsifiers (like lecithin) that are put into many processed foods and then, of course, left behind inside us. They are not organisms—Pollan describes them as “detergentlike”—but it appears that their molecules can also scrape away at the intestine’s protective lining  and promote Leaky Gut Syndrome. When debris leaks through into the bloodstream, it can lead to general inflammation and the development of at least 90 auto-immune conditions.

The thing about Candida is that it not only pokes holes through the intestinal wall, but also has the nerve to set up a distillery right inside of us and make moonshine, which enters the bloodstream through those holes that it made. Alcohol is one of the most pervasive addictors, the one that inspired the archetypal 12-step program upon which all others are based. An article on “Candida and Gut Dysbiosis” says:

As Candida is a yeast, it produces alcohol (ethanol) and acetaldehyde (this is the chemical responsible for the main symptoms of a hangover) as the major products of its metabolism. In healthy individuals alcohol can be detected in the blood from exactly this source but it is at a level that doesn’t cause any problems as the body’s detoxification systems can cope with it. If however you have an overgrowth of intestinal Candida, the levels of alcohol entering the bloodstream are going to be greatly increased.

So this organism can both poke holes in the intestine, making it permeable or “leaky,” and also manufacture two very toxic chemicals to inject into those holes. Could this have anything to do with why so many people fall off the wagon?

Apparently, a relapse can be triggered by eating foods cooked with wine. Even using mouthwash can cause a recovering alcoholic to lose his or her sobriety. And yet, because of Candida, the microbiome of an alcoholic could be overrun by tiny creatures intent on sabotage, working tirelessly to flood the system with alcohol. Sobriety might be a hopeless goal. No wonder so many programs have such high recidivism rates.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Some of My Best Friends Are Germs,”, 05/15/13
Source: “Candida and Gut Dysbiosis,”, 01/27/15
Image by Yale Rosen

Our Bodies – Prime Real Estate for Microorganisms


A locust swarm.

Is human suffering just collateral damage in a territorial fight going on inside us? Scientific articles are sprinkled with clues that addiction may be one of the human problems caused or exacerbated by the trillions of microorganisms that live in the human digestive system. The sway they hold over physiological processes is undeniable, and evidence continues to suggest that their power extends over our mental, emotional, and psychological well-being. Their sphere of influence overlaps everything involved in addiction.

One random example of a reference to the connection between the microbiome and addiction is a book by Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, titled Beat Sugar Addiction NOW!. It urges the reader to “customize your diet” to escape from sugar addiction, and consequently lose weight. The author says, “This book teaches you to understand your individual metabolic makeup.” If a person’s metabolic makeup influences addiction, and if the gut microbiota influence the metabolic processes, then it seems that the gut microbiota must have a role to play in addiction.

Teitelbaum enumerates four distinct types of sugar addiction, one of them “driven by depression and anxiety caused by hormonal shifts.” (Coincidentally, a lot of work is being done on the influence exerted by the microbiome on hormone production.) Another of his categories is “sugar addiction driven by yeast/candida overgrowth,” which he explains as “often associated with digestive problems” such as irritable bowel syndrome. Although the microbiome apparently can reach out and touch any organ or system, the part most directly affected is its home, the bowel.

The Wars Inside Us

The body’s mucous membranes are supposed to contain a certain amount of the fungus Candida, and not just the media-familiar Candida albicans, but several species. When antibiotics or steroids knock out whole populations of “friendly” gut bacteria, the opportunistic Candida rushes in to fill the gaps, and the resulting overgrowth can cause innumerable problems. For example, Candida has been indicted in such diverse maladies as airborne allergies and celiac disease.

Let’s temporarily digress to locusts, which normally exist as relatively harmless loners. When food scarcity crowds them together, their bodies produce more serotonin, their muscles get bigger, their colors change, and they turn into a mob with an ability to devastate the countryside that rivals that of Genghis Khan and his hordes.

Candida, being dimorphic, can exist in either of two states: as a round yeast cell or in mycelial (fungus-like) form. When the gut is in a state of dysbiosis, Candida organisms make that locust-like change. They produce extrusions called hyphae that can pierce the intestinal wall and cause Leaky Gut Syndrome.

In fact, rather than devote energy to forming more hyphae, or other life activities, they prefer to penetrate any accessible part of us. As a report published in the journal Cytometry phrased it, “Epithelial invasion outcompetes hypha development.” The researchers, from several German institutions, go on to say:

This analysis revealed that the initiation of hyphae formation represents an ultimate commitment to invasive growth and suggests that in vivo, the yeast to hypha transition must be under exquisitely tight negative regulation to avoid the transition from commensal to pathogen invading the epithelium.

An ultimate commitment! Like Napoleon invading Russia, Candida would rather be death-defying gangsters than peaceful neighbors, which is what “commensal” means in the intestinal context. Instead, they pursue their goal of poking holes, a habit which is said to facilitate the development of at least 90 autoimmune conditions. Many practitioners believe that the treatment of any autoimmune disease should commence with prebiotics, to try and restore balance to the thousands of populations inside us that jostle each other for space.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Q&A with Jacob Teitelbaum, MD,”, undated
Source: “Candida and Gut Dysbiosis,”, 01/27/15
Source: “Epithelial invasion outcompetes hypha development during Candida albicans infection as revealed by an image-based systems biology approach”, 11/20/13
Image by Niv Singer

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