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This blog is about gut flora, good bacteria, scientific research, and anti-inflammatory food. It’s a prescription for anyone who wishes to eat their way to a healthier life. It’s impossible to overdose on this course of treatment.

Karolinska Institutet

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Food for Thought – Our Bacteria Are Also Controlled by Epigenetics

Louise Sjöholm has an undergraduate degree in molecular biology as well as a doctorate in depression genetics from the Karolinska Institute. For the last seven years, Louise has worked in the epigenetic field and researches the role of the gastrointestinal tract in relation to autoimmune diseases, i.e. diseases where the body’s own immune system attacks its own tissue. Furthermore, she seeks to broaden our understanding of the epigenetics of bacteria and what connections there are to health and disease.

In my previous post here at Food Pharmacy, I wrote about epigenetics, which to repeat is – the link between inheritance and the environment, in conjunction with their important role in both disease and health. Interestingly, there is more that is affected by the environment (through, for example, what we eat) than just our DNA. This also applies to the bacteria both within and upon our bodies and their genetic coding. They, just as we, are controlled by epigenetic mechanisms.

The epigenetics of bacteria and its connection to diseases is a relatively unexplored area. Quite odd seeing as that, we are in fact only “10% human” – the rest of us is actually made up of bacteria and other microorganisms. We are merely landlords. This, broken down means that, for each cell in our body there are nine times as many microbes in and on us!

There is research which shows that bacteria can actually affect our own epigenome. For example, studies have shown that, that is exactly how the stomach ulcer bacteria Helicobacter pylori works to induce stomach cancer: through epigenetic mechanisms that fight our defense against this bacteria. And even changes within bacterias own epigenomes could potentially contribute to various diseases, due to their basic functions being steered by epigenetic mechanics. Imagine for example, that bacterias production of serotonin, vitamin B12 and vitamin K become disrupted. Surprisingly, some bacterias ability to infect and make us sick (e.g., Escherichia coli, Salmonella and Vibrio) also seem to be partly controlled by epigenetic mechanisms.

My research attempts to, among other things, understand and investigate the epigenetic changes of bacteria, primarily DNA-methylation. This is to determine if there are connections to various diseases. I am developing a new method that can be used to study the most common epigenetic modification of bacteria: methylation of the DNA base A. I hope this new technique will serve as a first screening method and complement the other expensive and more time-consuming methods available. Thus, that we will then be able to understand more about the interaction between us and our bacteria, the tenants.

Perhaps it’s time for us epigeneticists to start studying the remaining 90% of what we call our body?

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Recipes

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Hot Pink Beet Smoothie with Raspberry and Lime

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Friday, and time for our second pink recipe here on the blog. Let’s play the guessing game!

Three hundred points:
Three ingredients have made the cut
Combine and drink for a happy gut

Twenty points:
Beet juice can lower blood pressure, researchers say
Hardly surprising, but a pink beet recipe is on its way

One and a half points:
What’s a good rhyme for smoothie?
Fruity, beauty or Mount Fuji?

Yup, exactly, just right – as you might have guessed, today’s recipe is a hot pink beet smoothie with raspberries and lime. You’ll love the taste as much as the health benefits of this one, we promise.

Hot Pink Beet Smoothie with Raspberry and Lime
(1 glass)

3 small beets
a small piece of fresh ginger
1/2 cup raspberries
almost 1/2 cup red beet juice
juice från 1/2 lime

almost 1/2 cup plant-based milk of your choice
ice (optional)

Add all ingredients to a high speed blender and mix. Serve and enjoy the power of pink greens!

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Therese Elgquist

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Mindful Eating: Eating with All of Your Senses

It might sound a bit weird. As if eating in a mindful state would be something complicated. It’s really not. It’s just about being (really) present when you eat, listening to your body’s signals, and better appreciating what you’re eating.

How? By letting all of your senses register the food and the experience. What does the food look like? How does it feel on your tongue, on your palate? How does it smell? How does it REALLY taste? How does it sound when you take a bite? Pay attention to the colors, textures, aromas, flavors, temperatures and sounds. It’s a completely new experience each time. Once again, food is magic.

Slowing down, being more conscious about the food that you’re eating – and all of its characteristics – will not only make you appreciate the food more, you will also help your body to better absorb all the nutrition in the food. And, you’re more likely to eat the amount of food that your body is really asking for instead of over eating. But note – mindful eating is not a diet – it’s about getting to know your body.

Ever heard about hunger? Or, simply put, hormones flushing through your body telling you that you’re ready to process some more food. Sometimes we eat only because we “should” or because the clock says so – and not because we actually need more food. Mindful eating has helped me sort through all the emotions and recognize the feeling of hunger. Of course, I still give in to cravings once in a while and I eat when I’m not really hungry. It’s not about setting up rules – it’s about finding balance.

Mindful eating in 4 steps

  • Turn off your television, computer and smartphone. And try to put away your favorite book while eating.
  • Give yourself time to eat. Take a look at the food before digging in. Try to be fully aware of your senses.
  • Before you eat, take a deep breath and tell your body you’re at ease – and in for a treat!
  • Put down the fork/knife/spoon/hand between bites. Slow down and give yourself the chance to savor what is already in your mouth.

Enjoy every bite!
/Therese

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Recipes

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Fish Taco with Guacamole & Homemade Corn Tortillas

It’s time to have some friends over and you want a meal that’s festive, but not too complicated. So, what’s for dinner tonight? Fish taco à la Food Pharmacy! In this recipe, the white flaky fish is layered with mango salsa, cilantro and guacamole, all tucked inside warm corn tortillas. And rest assured, the actual preparation is much easier than you think.

You need two fillets of white fish. Cut the fillets into cubes and marinate with cilantro, chili pepper, garlic, lime, ginger, tamari and honey. Pan fry the fish at low temperature and set aside.

Change into something festive and mix almost 1 cup corn flour, almost 1 cup psyllium husk, almost 1 cup sesame seeds, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl.

Add almost 1 cup of water (or any milk) and 1-2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil and stir until smooth.

Divide the dough into six pieces, and shape each piece into a small ball. Roll out into a corn tortilla between two baking papers, then bake the tortilla over low heat using a cast iron pan. Wait a couple of minutes and turn the bread to bake some more. Kind of like making pancakes.

Congratulations! You’ve made your first tortilla!

Top the tortilla with all the things you love. Diced mango? Cilantro? Spicy chili mayonnaise? Guacamole? So easy to make with ripe avocados, garlic, lime, cilantro, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pickled red onions? Peel and thinly slice a red onion, and put in a heatproof bowl. Then bring 0.5 cup water, 2 tbsp white or red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt to a boil, and pour over the sliced onions. Done!

Dinner is ready and the guests will arrive in less than five minutes. But one burning question remains: what should we wear?

Muy bien! Enjoy!

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