If Bioxyne affiliated practitioner Odette Blacklock looks familiar, it’s likely because 2017 saw the health and fitness specialist gracing our TVs as a Survivor Australia castaway. An almost all-encompassing expert when it comes to movement, Odette’s list of credentials covers podiatry, running, personal training and pilates. Odette also recently celebrated being appointed head coach and program director of Virgin Active’s new outdoor running program.
Odette took time out for her insanely busy schedule to talk to us about her own wellbeing rituals and how she factors gut health into her overall health regimes.
How long have you been a health practitioner for?
I have been in the health and fitness industry as a personal trainer and pilates instructor for over 10 years. Recently graduating from a Masters in Podiatrist Medicine, I have been practicing in my clinic for almost two years. Because of my expertise in gait mechanics, I am the head coach and program director of Virgin Actives new Outdoor running program.
Where does your interest in health and wellbeing originate?
It originates from my own personal experience with depression. After having my son I fell into unhealthy habits. The only thing that felt most accessible to me was running. This gave me the momentum to fix other areas of my life including diet, I then endeavoured to learn more about health and fitness by doing my personal training certificate, which lead me to doing my bachelors of health science and later my Masters in Podiatrist Medicine. I am always constantly learning and growing in this area, and my passion lies in being able to educate and teach people on how to improve their health and love their bodies.
What have been your career highlights and what are you working on at the moment?
After graduating with my Masters in 2016, I was lucky enough to be 1 of 2 Australians chosen to run in Death Valley for Under Armours Run Camp. This run made me redefine my own mental toughness, whilst showing me how far I have come on my journey. The following year I applied for Australian Survivor season 2 and stepped foot on the island a few months later, to learn yet again how mentally tough you have to be to survive. Being on the island allowed me to put life in perspective and find clarity for the future. I realised how much running had changed my life, so I founded Urban Run Club, and it quickly took off. This run group and my unique methods of training runners captured the attention of Virgin Active. A position has been created in the company and I am now head coach of my own program written and directed by me. I absolutely love the fact that I can bring running to a bigger audience.
Is there one piece of wellbeing advice you consistently find you give to your clients?
The hardest part is turning up- just make the effort to turn up consistently. Whether it’s two minutes of exercise or two hours, every bit gets added to the bank.
Do you have any wellbeing rituals you practice at home?
Cold showers and meditation. The mind is important to look after and these two practices allow me to be in the present moment and clam my thoughts. I also love a glass of wine and a Ted Talk ;)
How do you take care of your own gut health?
I obviously use a probiotic daily, and since using Bioxyne probiotics for myself and my son, we have not been sick once. I also make sure I feed my gut an array of vegetables and good fibre for the probiotics to eat and serve their purpose in the lower GI tract.
What do you see as the role of probiotics to health and wellbeing?
Our gut microbiome has over 100 trillion microbial cells compared to our 10 trillion human cells. So when these cells communicate they have a tremendous impact on our health. Numerous scientific studies have proven the beneficial effects of taking a high quality probiotic supplement, linking probiotics to weight management, higher energy levels, mental clarity and a stronger immune system.
In January 2018, Professor Claudio de Simone published a paper in the journal “Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology” in which he sent a warning about many of the commercial probiotics on the market. In the paper, entitled “The unregulated probiotic market”, Professor de Simone, who is an internationally recognised leader in the field of probiotics and the human gut microflora, stated:
“Many properties of probiotics are strain-specific, and safety and efficacy findings associated to specific formulations should not be generalised to other probiotic products.” This is crucial, because we at Bioxyne Limited know that not all probiotics provide a health benefit. We have undertaken several clinical studies to show that the specific strain in Progastrim®, PCC®, is highly effective at boosting gut and immune health.
Professor de Simone went on to say: “Manufacturing processes, conditions and ingredients are important determinants of product characteristics and changes to manufacturing are likely to give rise to a product not identical to the "original" in efficacy and safety if proper measures and controls are not taken.”
Bioxyne’s probiotic products are manufactured to the highest standards by world-leading probiotic manufacturer Chr Hansn, based in Denmark. This ensures that each batch of PCC® is the same consistent quality.
Professor de Simone concluded: “These regulatory deficits may have serious consequences for patients where probiotics are used as part of clinical guideline-recommended management of serious conditions such as inflammatory bowel diseases, and may make doctors liable for prescribing a formulation not previously tested for safety and efficacy.”
Bioxyne’s dedication to clinical studies, manufacturing stringency and quality control ensures that consumers, patients and doctors alike can be confident that Progastrim®, does what it says it does in boosting gut and immune health.
de Simone C. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Jan 25. pii: S1542-3565 (18) 30084-3. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2018.01.018.
Bioxyne affiliated practitioner Lee Holmes has an impressive list of health-related titles to her name; she’s certified health and wellness coach, whole foods chef, hatha yoga teacher, author, blogger and holistic nutritionist. What’s even more impressive is that in the five years since Lee started practicing, she’s become something of a household name within the Australian wellbeing space. A great portion of her work is focused on gut health.
Where does your interest in health and wellbeing originate from?
After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia a few years ago, I became accustomed to feelings of lethargy, pain and inflammation. I was prescribed to a cocktail of foreign chemicals and medications, which I was told, were going to help heal me. While the antibiotics did help ease some of my symptoms, I knew there was something deeper that I had to explore. This sparked my interest in health and wellbeing. I started researching all about health and the gut, writing down my own ideas and creating recipes that aligned with my new-found knowledge. This then lead to the creation of my blog, www.superchargedfood.com and got me to where I am today!
What have been your career highlights and what are you working on at the moment?
One of my biggest career highlights is the moment that I found out that my book, Heal Your Gut, was on its tenth print-run. I can’t describe how amazing it feels to have a book you’ve worked so hard on be so loved, useful and cherished by other people.
Another career highlight was creating my own products! I love the idea of a daily way to look after your gut, which led me to producing both my own Love Your Gut powder and Golden Gut Blend!
Finally, releasing my two gut healing programs – the Four-Week Heal Your Gut Program and my Love Your Gut bi-weekly program was a huge highlight for me.
Currently, I’m working on releasing my latest book, Supercharge Your Gut and other gut-loving powders! 2018 is shaping up to be a huge year for me and I can’t wait to see what else unfolds.
Is there one piece of wellbeing advice you consistently find you give to your clients?
Don’t overcomplicate it! Please don’t take on every single health tip you read, you’re more likely to regress and burn out. You don’t need every superfood on the planet to make you healthy, just eat real and whole foods.
Do you have any wellbeing rituals you practice at home?
Yes, I love sticking to my rituals! In the morning, I always take a glass of warm lemon water with my Love Your Gut powder. Then it’s time to move! I either head out the door for my morning walk or walk up to the gym depending on my mood.
This may not be a wellbeing ritual, but the one thing that truly motivates me to get home after my exercise is the thought of my frothy, home-made chai. Delicious.
In terms of night-time rituals, there’s nothing I love more than putting some Epsom salts in a bath, applying my Earth, Mask & Scrub and just relaxing! It’s so important to take care of ourselves every single day.
How do you take care of your own gut health?
I give my gut time to heal. As a result of all the toxins we ingest, foods we eat and chemicals we consume on a daily basis, the least our gut deserves is to rest. I let my gut rest by following an intermittent fasting regime. This doesn’t mean no food at all but rather, restricted calories over a short period of time. I recommend 500 calories per day for females and 600 calories per day for men two days a week. It’s the perfect time to let both you and your gut rest and digest. You can read more about intermittent fasting in my book Fast Your Way to Wellness.
What do you see as the role of probiotics in health and wellbeing?
Probiotics have been used for centuries to treat a variety of bowel conditions including constipation, diarrhoea and irritable bowel disease. Probiotics balance our microflora which in turn, helps support positive moods, boost energy and help produce other essential nutrients. They basically help the health world go-round.
Scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in November 20161 have demonstrated that the health of the gastrointestinal tract plays a key role in regulating healthy brain function. In a paper in the very prestigious international peer reviewed scientific journal Cell, the researchers reviewed 194 published papers that provide evidence for gut bacteria being “integral contributors to development and function of the nervous system and to the balance between mental health and disease”.
They presented evidence that showed the gut microbiome (the bacteria that reside in the gastrointestinal tract of humans) and/or probiotics could play a key role in a range of neuropsychiatric conditions, including depression and anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) . This was further supported by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences who provided evidence for the role of the microbiome, and, by implication, probiotics, in dementia2.
The role of the gut microbiome and probiotics in human health.
The authors acknowledge that the gut microbiome plays a significant role in the wellbeing of its host. Consumption of probiotics supplements the gut microbial population with a specific microbe, either transiently or permanently, and can change the microbiome profile and function, as well as interact with the host to produce a range of beneficial health effects. The effect of probiotics on immune health was clearly stated by the researchers: “Research in animal models and humans has inextricably linked gut bacteria to the development and function of the immune system. The presence of entire immune cell types requires the microbiome, and specific microbes have been discovered that either promote or ameliorate immunologic disorders such as type 1 diabetes, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease.”
"Research in animal models and humans has inextricably linked gut bacteria to the development and function of the immune system"
In both papers the authors predominantly focused on evidence for the role of the gut microbiome in nervous system disorders.
Evidence for the ability of probiotics and the gut microbiome to influence mood:
- A study in healthy volunteers who consumed a fermented milk product containing probiotic bacteria showed alterations in brain activity during an attention task, in brain regions that control processing of sensation and emotion, in comparison to a control group who consumed a milk drink without probiotic bacteria.
- Another study in humans associated the gut microbiome in IBD with stress disorders.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms are associated with depression, with around 20% of patients reporting such symptoms.
- The composition of the gut microbiome in major depressive disorder (MDD) patients is significantly different from that of healthy controls3. When fecal samples from MDD
"Mouse and human studies provide tantalizing suggestions that the microbiome may play an active role in driving depressive-like behaviors suggesting potential new avenues for therapeutic development"
Sharon G, Sampson TR, Geschwind DH, Mazmanian SK. The Central Nervous System and the gut microbiome. Cell 2016; 167: 915-32.
Alkasir R, Li J, Li X, Jin M, Zhu B. Human gut microbiota: the links with dementia development. Protein Cell 2016; DOI 10.1007/s13238-016-0338-6
Significantly more Actinobacteria and less Bacteroidetes in MDD-associated microbial populations
patients and controls were transplanted to mice, the recipients of MDD samples exhibited much more depressive-like behaviour compared to controls
Evidence for the role of probiotics and the gut microbiome in autism spectrum disorder (ASD):
- The gut microbiome of ASD patients has an increased abundance and diversity of “unhealthy” bacteria4.
- The gut microbiome of ASD patients often lacks probiotic bacteria.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea are significantly more prevalent in children with ASD.
Evidence for probiotics and the gut microbiome in dementia
Dementia is a syndrome that affects memory and other cognitive functions to the extent that it interferes with daily function. There are many conditions that can cause dementia, including neurodegenerative disorders [e.g. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD)], cerebrovascular disease, brain injury, and certain infections. There are several studies cited by the authors that imply a role of the gut microbiome in AD and PD:
- Individuals afflicted with PD display significantly different fecal and mucosal microbial populations:
- There are increased numbers of tissue-associated E. coli in the gut of PD patients compared to healthy controls,
- Furthermore, short chain fatty acid (SCFA) concentrations in feces from PD patients are decreased as compared to controls. SCFA are produced by bacterial fermentation in the gut, and are needed for normal nervous system development.
- Recent evidence suggests that molecules from bacteria present in the microbiota can trigger autoimmune responses that promote neurodegeneration during AD and PD.
- There are marked differences in the composition of the gut microbiome between AD mice and healthy mice and strongly indicated that a distinct microbial population in AD mice may play a role in the development of the disease.
From their extensive review of the literature, the American group conclude that there is a growing understanding of how different gastrointestinal tract microbial populations, beneficial or pathogenic, regulate the nervous system in health and disease. They contend that, “this holds promise in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of some specific neuropathologies. Determining how a microbiome, changing with Westernisation and other environmental factors, impacts a human population with growing rates of neurodevelopmental disorders and increasing life expectancy represents an urgent challenge to biomedical research and to society.”
The Chinese group reports a similar result. They propose that modulation of the gut microbiota (by probiotics or other dietary intervention) is a growing area of interest for the pharmaceutical and functional food industries, with the goal of decreasing the incidence of diseases associated with Westernisation and longevity, including Alzheimer’s disease.
4 These were reported to include Clostridia species, non-spore-forming anaerobes, microaerophilic bacteria and Sutterella.
In studies published in 2015 and recently (October 31, 2016), researchers at the University of Florida in the United States reported on the role that probiotics could play in reducing elevated blood pressure1,2.
It is well accepted that the gut microbiota (the trillions of bacteria, both good and bad, that live in your gastrointestinal tract) plays an important role in supporting and maintain a healthy immune system. In fact, the GI tract is commonly referred to as an essential acquired organ because its composition and richness are constantly adapting to the challenges presented by the environment or by the host, such as age, diet, lifestyle modifications and disease states.
Changes in gut microbiota have been related to chronic inflammatory diseases, such as asthma, eczema, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and infectious diseases.
However, the researchers found data from clinical trials to suggest that the gut microbiota may also play a role in the development and maintenance of heart disease and metabolic disorders including obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Adult gut microbiota is diverse; it is made up of trillions of microorganisms but a delicate balance in its composition is key in maintaining good health; any disruption of this balance could lead to devastating physiological consequences.
They quoted the work of a group3 who in 2014 looked at several clinical trials that have been conducted over the past few years examining the effect of consumption of probiotics on blood pressure. Their combined analysis of nine randomized clinical trials with 543 participants in total showed a significant decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients who consumed a daily dose of live probiotic organisms. This evidence indirectly suggests that gut microbiota may play a key role in the control of blood pressure and that any change in microbiota composition or imbalance may potentially result in hypertension.
Furthermore, the researchers went on to conduct their own study, and their results were consistent with previous clinical studies, showing that a shift in the gut microbiota was associated with higher blood pressure.
In a recent study (October 2016) the researchers concluded that a dysfunctional gut microbiota is associated with gut pathology, dysbiosis, and inflammation, and plays a key role in hypertension. “Thus, targeting of gut microbiota by innovative probiotics, antibiotics, and fecal transplant, in combination with current pharmacotherapy, may be a novel strategy for hypertension treatment.”
Yang T. et al., Gut dysbiosis is linked to hypertension. Hypertension 2015; 65:1331-1340
Santisteban MM, et al., Hypertension-linked pathophysiological alterations in the gut. Circ Res 2016 Oct 31.
Khalesi S, Sun J, Buys N, Jayasinghe R. Effect of probiotics on blood pressure. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Hypertension 2014; 64:897-903
A multi-member European research group has proposed a mechanism whereby probiotics can have a beneficial effect on a range of diseases, including obesity and diabetes, necrotising enterocolitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and possibly allergy. They cite evidence that probiotics can stabilise a person’s intestinal barrier integrity. Many diseases are characterised by ‘leaky gut syndrome’, including those described above, as well as chronic kidney disease.
The study was published on line in the British Journal of Nutrition on the 19th January 2017 (DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114516004037)
In our intestinal tract, only a single layer of cells (called epithelial, or skin cells) forms the physical barrier between the intestinal contents and the underlying blood vessels and immune system. Therefore it is essential to health and well-being that this intestinal barrier is maintained. There are a number of systems that are designed to preserve the barrier integrity including secretion of mucus, antibodies and other proteins by the epithelial cells. In addition, the epithelial cells grip each other tightly using structures called “epithelial tight junctions” that stop bacteria and toxins getting through the barrier, between the cells. Also, the body’s “good” bacteria provide a defence against “bad” or pathogenic bacteria getting to the epithelial cells that form the barrier, and attacking them. When these systems fail, however, the barrier stops being effective, and toxins, pathogens and other undesirable chemicals and molecules can pass from the gut into the surrounding tissues and blood vessels, stimulating an inflammatory response and leading to a disturbance of the body’s immune system and functions. Therefore leaky gut syndrome underlies many diseases.
The authors reviewed a number of clinical and pre-clinical studies and concluded that, “a variety of studies imply that mucosal barrier function can be improved by probiotic treatment,” and therefore could have a beneficial impact on many diseases such as diabetes, obesity, IBS, IBD and possibly allergy (and others) that have as their underlying cause a faulty intestinal epithelial barrier. They called for more clinical studies in disease populations specifically looking for markers of improvement in epithelial barrier integrity.
This study adds to the growing body of knowledge regarding the potential wide- ranging health benefits of consuming clinically tested probiotics that show health benefits. But, the authors caution, not all probiotics work, or work the same way.
- Bron PA, Kleerebezem M, Brummer R-J, Cani PD. “Can probiotics modulate human disease by impacting intestinal barrier function?” Br J Nutr 2017; 19:1-15.
- Evenepoel P, Poesen R, Meijers B. The gut-kidney axis. Pediatr Nephrol 2016; doi: 10.1007/s00467-016-3527-x
The connection between digestive issues and the gut microbiome is now well understood by consumers, but what many people don’t know is that gut health is connected to a host of other common ailments.
Fashion, beauty and lifestyle blog See.Need.Want recently interviewed Bioxyne’s Chief Scientist Dr Peter French, who has studied the connection between the microbiome and immune health since 2002.
In this detailed interview, Peter explains the importance of maintaining gut health, how gut bacteria affects the immune system and mental health, and what we know about how PCC (Lactobacillus fermentumVRI-003) affects all these things.
“PCC® has been shown to be effective at inhibiting a range of pathogenic bacteria in the laboratory, and to boost immune and gut health in clinical studies,” Peter told See.Need.Want editor Rosie McKay. “Given the clear connection between the gut and the brain, PCC® is likely to have a positive effect on the function of both.”
With Spring on the way, while most of us look forward to warmer weather and longer days, those of us who suffer from severe symptoms of hay fever are less excited. Many dread the onset of itchy eyes, runny noses and constant sneezing. Some turn to over the counter drugs to dry up their symptoms. But there may be a better way.
With the increased knowledge that out gut microbiome is critical for a range of health conditions, including our immune system, researchers have focused on the use of probiotics – good bacteria – to assist with our gut and immune health. And now there is evidence that probiotics could alleviate the symptoms of hay fever. There are at least 18 studies that show that some probiotics can produce a significant improvement in symptoms and quality of life in hay fever sufferers. How they do this appears to be by boosting what is called the Th1 immune response.
A clinical study on babies with moderate to severe eczema, which, like hay fever is a response to an environmental allergen, showed that Bioxyne’s probiotic, called PCC® (A Lactobacillus strain) boosted the Th1 immune response and significantly improved the symptoms of eczema in comparison to a placebo control.
PCC® therefore is likely to have a similar effect on hay fever symptoms. And it has been shown to boost gut health as well! You don’t get that benefit with the OTC hay fever drugs!
Cell and molecular biologist Dr Peter French is Bioxyne’s Scientific Director.
Peter has worked on the connection between gut health and immunity since 2002.
In this short video, he talks about the connection between gut health and immunity, and the findings of several PCC® scientific and clinical studies.
“We’ve demonstrated that PCC can colonise the intestinal tract and, most importantly, we’ve got several clinical studies published in peer-reviewed international journals that demonstrate that PCC® when you take it, even one capsule a day, can significantly boost our mucosal immunity,” Peter said.
Endurance training is excellent for heart health but it does take a toll on the immune system.
It has been known since at least 1993 from a range of studies that unusually heavy acute or chronic exercise is associated with an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI).
The clinical data supports the concept that heavy exertion increases an athlete's risk of URTI because of negative changes in immune function and elevation of the stress hormones, epinephrine, and cortisol.
The Bioxyne team suspected that PCC would be of benefit to athletes and their compromised immune systems when our own preclinical studies showed that PCC® preferentially bound to the Peyer’s patches in the gut. Peyer’s patches is immune tissue in the gastrointestinal tract that plays a key role in mucosal immunity.
We proposed, therefore, that PCC® may boost the mucosal immune system, providing protection against respiratory tract infections leading to cold and flu symptoms.
In order to examine the ability of PCC® to boost the mucosal immune system in humans, we designed clinical trials on long distance runners and other elite athletes, who are known to be more susceptible to contracting URTIs than the general population.
To carry out the study, we took 20 male elite distance runners in the height of winter. They were training to compete in events ranging from 800 metres to the marathon (42.2 km).
After recruitment, our athletes completed an initial treatment month (28 days)receiving either L. fermentum VRI-003 (PCC®) or placebo. A washout month followed the completion of the first treatment month. Previous studies have shown that it typically takes a probiotic bacteria 3–8 days to pass through the gastrointestinal tract. We then swapped what our participants were taking, so that those receiving PCC® as the first treatment received the placebo as the second treatment and vice versa. The athletes were monitored for an additional fortnight (referred toas ‘‘follow-up’’) after completing the second treatment. During each treatment month subjects were required to take three capsules, twice daily.
Athletes maintained daily diaries recording symptoms, days, severity and medications.
The most important finding of the study was a significant reduction in the number of days of respiratory illness symptoms, and a trend towards a lower severity of illness, during PCC® treatment compared with placebo.
It’s clear from the clinical data that elite endurance athletes can benefit from taking PCC® when undertaking intense training for competitions, because it improves resistance to common illnesses associated with the increase in stress hormones at that time, which will ultimately impede their training and performance.
The study authors noted that “different strains of L. fermentum have different immune-stimulating ability” - PCC® it seems is particularly effective at boosting mucosal immunity in elite athletes.
Learn more about the study here.