Category: Food

The Wapiti wolves

Stunning photographs.

I subscribe to Ugly Hedgehog, a forum about all things photographic.

It is a mine of information, people share incredible photographs, and much more.

On February 17th this year Photolady2014 published a set of photographs of wolves that were just gorgeous.

This is how she introduced the pictures:

So I am still on cloud 9 seeing wolfs rather close. They were about 150 feet away. Not the quality that the pros were getting who were there. I have seen their photos and well I still have a lot to learn. But, for someone who just started wildlife a couple of years ago, I will take these! If you do the download you will see they are not all bad. I have had to do some sharpening and noise reduction. The pros were all using the 600mm F4 with 2x extenders.
Me: Canon R5, 100-500 & 1.4 extender. All are at 700mm.

I asked if I could share them on Learning from Dogs and said Photolady2014 of South West Colorado said ‘Yes’.

Here they are:

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Photolady went on to report:

This is the Wapiti pack in Yellowstone.

We sat in below 0 weather for about 4 hours watching them and the coyotes who were patiently waiting their turn to eat!

Fabulous pictures and one can’t help thinking that some 23,000 years ago there started the long journey of domestication, and the bonding between humans and wolves brought about the dog.

It doesn’t get any better than that!

Communicating dogs!

Not just for kids!

The Conversation blog recently had a question in the Curious Kids section:

Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to CuriousKidsUS@theconversation.com.

But to be honest the answer is just as interesting for those a tad older than a kid!

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When dogs bark, are they using words to communicate?

By
Professor of Psychology, Arizona State University
February 8th, 2021


When dogs bark, do they have words? – Sarah W., age 9, Clinton, New York


Does your dog bark a lot? Or is he one of those quiet pooches who barks only when things get really exciting? Most dogs bark at least a little.

Dog barks are not words. But although your dog will never tell you about his parents or the weather or the amazing bone he had yesterday, his barks still communicate important information.

Dog barks are much closer to the noises people make when they accidentally hit their thumb with a hammer – “Ow!” – or open a fantastic present – “Wow!” These sounds convey how someone feels, but not why they feel that way. When other people hear these kinds of sounds, they often come over to see what has happened: How did you hurt yourself? What is this wonderful gift you received?

All dogs, even the tiniest chihuahua, are descended from great grey wolves. Wolves almost never bark. They howl. Sometimes dogs howl too – but howling is rarer in dogs. Understanding why wolves howl and dogs bark helps explain what barking is for.

United in sound. Fotosearch via Getty Images

A howl can be a beautiful sound – almost like a kind of music. And, just as group singing brings people together, so too does group howling help a pack of wolves feel united.

Dog barking also brings groups together – but it’s not a beautiful sound. It is a much more urgent noise, just like the sounds you make when you are hurt or very pleased. Many smaller animals, like scrub jays, meerkats and California ground squirrels, make such noisy sounds. They do this when they feel frightened by something. In dogs, barking can bring a group together to defend against a danger that can’t be coped with alone.

Wolves don’t need to make sounds like this because they are big and fearsome and don’t often feel threatened. Dogs, on the other hand, are much smaller and weaker than their wolf ancestors – and often need to call the group together.

A call for assistance. Seregraff/iStock/Getty Images Plus

This is why dogs bark. They are calling their group to get help with something they are not confident they can handle on their own. This doesn’t mean a barking dog is always frightened. He may just be very excited. He badly needs the family to know that there is a stranger coming to the door, or another dog coming close to the house.

Your dog’s barks may not be words, but he probably barks a little differently depending on what kind of thing has got him excited. If you listen closely, you may find you can tell the difference between a bark directed at a package deliverer and one directed toward a friend at the door. The bark to a passing dog may be different than the bark at a passing car.

Your dog doesn’t understand much of what you say, but he listens hard to try to make sense of human language. If you return the compliment and listen hard to his sounds, you may find you can also understand him better, and the two of you will have a richer life together.

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This touches on something that I saw elsewhere; the business of dogs having emotions (which they really do!).

I will try and find the article and see if I have permission to republish it.

Until then, keep safe all of you!

 

That dog food recall expands!

Again, there is an increase in the issue!

I am sure that you will recall my post of the 13th January, this year, entitled More on that Aflatoxin alert. Well it keeps on increasing.

Read the latest update and share it!

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Deadly Dog and Cat Food Recall Expands: More Brands, Over 1000 Lots

Image Credit – Food Safety News.

Important: Illustrations not complete. Additional images will be added if or when they become available. Original report published January 11, 2021 and updatedJanuary 26, 2021

January 26, 2021 — The FDA is alerting consumers that Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc. is expanding its recent recall to include over 1000 lots of Sportmix and 2 other brands of dog and cat food because they contain potentially fatal levels of aflatoxin.

As of January 21, 2021, FDA is aware of more than 110 deaths and 210 illnesses in pets that have eaten the affected products.

This is an ongoing investigation. This count is approximate and may not reflect the total number of pets affected.

What’s Recalled?

On December 30, 2020, Midwestern Pet Foods announced a recall of nine total lots of Sportmix pet food products.

      • Sportmix Energy Plus, 50 lb. bag
        Exp 03/02/22/05/L2
        Exp 03/02/22/05/L3
        Exp 03/03/22/05/L2
      • Sportmix Energy Plus, 44 lb. bag
        Exp 03/02/22/05/L3
      • Sportmix Premium High Energy, 50 lb. bag
        Exp 03/03/22/05/L3
      • Sportmix Premium High Energy, 44 lb. bag
        Exp 03/03/22/05/L3
      • Sportmix Original Cat, 31 lb. bag
        Exp 03/03/22/05/L3
      • Sportmix Original Cat, 15 lb. bag
        Exp 03/03/22/05/L2
        Exp 03/03/22/05/L3

On January 11, 2021, the company expanded its recall to include all pet food products containing corn that were made in the firm’s Oklahoma plant and that expire on or before July 9, 2022.

More than 1000 lot codes are affected, so they are not listed individually.

Lots of the following pet food products have been recalled if the date/lot code includes an expiration date on or before “07/09/22” and includes “05” in the date/lot code, which identifies products made in the Oklahoma plant:

    • Pro Pac Adult Mini Chunk, 40 lb. bag
    • Pro Pac Performance Puppy, 40 lb. bag
    • Splash Fat Cat 32%, 50 lb. bag
    • Nunn Better Maintenance, 50 lb. bag
    • Sportmix Original Cat, 15 lb. bag
    • Sportmix Original Cat, 31 lb. bag
    • Sportmix Maintenance, 44 lb. bag
    • Sportmix Maintenance, 50 lb. bag
    • Sportmix High Protein, 50 lb. bag
    • Sportmix Energy Plus, 44 lb. bag
    • Sportmix Energy Plus, 50 lb. bag
    • Sportmix Stamina, 44 lb. bag
    • Sportmix Stamina, 50 lb. bag
    • Sportmix Bite Size, 40 lb. bag
    • Sportmix Bite Size, 44 lb. bag
    • Sportmix High Energy, 44 lb. bag
    • Sportmix High Energy, 50 lb. bag
    • Sportmix Premium Puppy, 16.5 lb. bag
    • Sportmix Premium Puppy, 33 lb. bag

Lot code information may be found on the back of bag and will appear in a three-line code, with the top line in format “EXP 03/03/22/05/L#/B###/HH:MM”

Where Were the Products Distributed?

The affected products were distributed to online retailers and stores nationwide within the United States.

Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc. may have exported the recalled product to one consignee, respectively, in each of the following countries: Bahrain, Barbados, Chile, Costa Rica, Curacao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Polynesia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Singapore, Taiwan, Trinidad, Ukraine, UAE, Uruguay, and Vietnam.

About Aflatoxin

Aflatoxin is a toxin produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus and at high levels it can cause illness and death in pets.

The toxin can be present even if there is no visible mold.

Pets are highly susceptible to aflatoxin poisoning because, unlike people, who eat a varied diet, pets generally eat the same food continuously over extended periods of time.

If a pet’s food contains aflatoxin, the toxin could accumulate in the pet’s system as they continue to eat the same food.

Pets with aflatoxin poisoning may experience symptoms such as sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice (yellowish tint to the eyes, gums or skin due to liver damage), and/or diarrhea.

In some cases, this toxicity can cause long-term liver issues and/or death.

Some pets suffer liver damage without showing any symptoms.

Pet owners whose pets have been eating the recalled products should contact their veterinarians, especially if they are showing signs of illness.

There is no evidence to suggest that pet owners who handle products containing aflatoxin are at risk of aflatoxin poisoning.

However, pet owners should always wash their hands after handling pet food.

What to Do?

Affected products may still be on store shelves, online, or in pet owners’ homes.

Pet owners should stop feeding their pets the recalled products listed above and consult their veterinarian, especially if the pet is showing signs of illness.

The pet owner should remove the food and make sure no other animals have access to the recalled product.

Contact Midwestern Pet Foods Consumer Affairs at 800-474-4163, ext. 455 from 7 am to 4 pm CT, Monday through Friday, or by email at info@midwesternpetfoods.com for additional information.

Further information regarding this recall can be found in the related FDA Bulletin.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to the FDA’s “Report a Pet Food Complaint” page.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

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This is still a very serious issue and, please, make sure that all your friends and neighbours who have dogs and cats and who don’t read this blog are made aware of the situation.

Back to the gut!

Once again, an article from The Conversation.

I make no apologies for republishing this further article about the health of one’s gut. Apart from the relevance at this time in terms of defeating Covid-19 the health of one’s digestive system is key and, essentially, the digestive system is the gut.

Read it and if you need to adjust your diet, DO IT!

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A healthy microbiome builds a strong immune system that could help defeat COVID-19

By

Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Physiological Systems, University of Massachusetts Medical School

The microbes living in the gut are key to good health. Dr_Microbe/iStock/Getty Images Plus Ana Maldonado-Contreras, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Takeaways

  • Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
  • Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
  • New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.

You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

In the past two decades scientists have learned our bodies are home to more bacterial cells than human ones. This community of bacteria that lives in and on us – called the microbiome – resembles a company, with each microbe species performing specialized jobs but all working to keep us healthy. In the gut, the bacteria balance the immune response against pathogens. These bacteria ensure the immune response is effective but not so violent that it causes collateral damage to the host.

Bacteria in our guts can elicit an effective immune response against viruses that not only infect the gut, such as norovirus and rotavirus, but also those infecting the lungs, such as the flu virus. The beneficial gut microbes do this by ordering specialized immune cells to produce potent antiviral proteins that ultimately eliminate viral infections. And the body of a person lacking these beneficial gut bacteria won’t have as strong an immune response to invading viruses. As a result, infections might go unchecked, taking a toll on health.

I am a microbiologist fascinated by the ways bacteria shape human health. An important focus of my research is figuring out how the beneficial bacteria populating our guts combat disease and infection. My most recent work focuses on the link between a particular microbe and the severity of COVID-19 in patients. My ultimate goal is to figure out out how to enhance the gut microbiome with diet to evoke a strong immune response – for not just SARS-CoV-2 but all pathogens.

Good bacteria help the immune system ward off harmful microbes. chombosan/iStock/Getty Images Plus

How do resident bacteria keep you healthy?

Our immune defense is part of a complex biological response against harmful pathogens, such as viruses or bacteria. However, because our bodies are inhabited by trillions of mostly beneficial bacteria, virus and fungi, activation of our immune response is tightly regulated to distinguish between harmful and helpful microbes.

Our bacteria are spectacular companions diligently helping prime our immune system defenses to combat infections. A seminal study found that mice treated with antibiotics that eliminate bacteria in the gut exhibited an impaired immune response. These animals had low counts of virus-fighting white blood cells, weak antibody responses and poor production of a protein that is vital for combating viral infection and modulating the immune response.

In another study, mice were fed Lactobacillus bacteria, commonly used as probiotic in fermented food. These microbes reduced the severity of influenza infection. The Lactobacillus-treated mice did not lose weight and had only mild lung damage compared with untreated mice. Similarly, others have found that treatment of mice with Lactobacillus protects against different subtypes of influenza virus and human respiratory syncytial virus – the major cause of viral bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children.

Fermented foods like kimchi, red beets, apple cider vinegar, coconut milk yogurt, cucumber pickles and sauerkraut can help provide beneficial bacteria. marekuliasz/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Chronic disease and microbes

Patients with chronic illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease exhibit a hyperactive immune system that fails to recognize a harmless stimulus and is linked to an altered gut microbiome.

In these chronic diseases, the gut microbiome lacks bacteria that activate immune cells that block the response against harmless bacteria in our guts. Such alteration of the gut microbiome is also observed in babies delivered by cesarean section, individuals consuming a poor diet and the elderly.

In the U.S., 117 million individuals – about half the adult population – suffer from Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease or a combination of them. That suggests that half of American adults carry a faulty microbiome army.

Research in my laboratory focuses on identifying gut bacteria that are critical for creating a balanced immune system, which fights life-threatening bacterial and viral infections, while tolerating the beneficial bacteria in and on us.

Given that diet affects the diversity of bacteria in the gut, my lab studies show how diet can be used as a therapy for chronic diseases. Using different foods, people can shift their gut microbiome to one that boosts a healthy immune response.

A fraction of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, develop severe complications that require hospitalization in intensive care units. What do many of those patients have in common? Old age and chronic diet-related diseases like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Black and Latinx people are disproportionately affected by obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, all of which are linked to poor nutrition. Thus, it is not a coincidence that these groups have suffered more deaths from COVID-19 compared with whites. This is the case not only in the U.S. but also in Britain.

Minority communities continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic. Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Discovering microbes that predict COVID-19 severity

The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired me to shift my research and explore the role of the gut microbiome in the overly aggressive immune response against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

My colleagues and I have hypothesized that critically ill SARS-CoV-2 patients with conditions like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease exhibit an altered gut microbiome that aggravates acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening lung injury, in SARS-CoV-2 patients is thought to develop from a fatal overreaction of the immune response called a cytokine storm that causes an uncontrolled flood of immune cells into the lungs. In these patients, their own uncontrolled inflammatory immune response, rather than the virus itself, causes the severe lung injury and multiorgan failures that lead to death.

Several studies described in one recent review have identified an altered gut microbiome in patients with COVID-19. However, identification of specific bacteria within the microbiome that could predict COVID-19 severity is lacking.

To address this question, my colleagues and I recruited COVID-19 hospitalized patients with severe and moderate symptoms. We collected stool and saliva samples to determine whether bacteria within the gut and oral microbiome could predict COVID-19 severity. The identification of microbiome markers that can predict the clinical outcomes of COVID-19 disease is key to help prioritize patients needing urgent treatment.

We demonstrated, in a paper which has not yet been peer reviewed, that the composition of the gut microbiome is the strongest predictor of COVID-19 severity compared to patient’s clinical characteristics commonly used to do so. Specifically, we identified that the presence of a bacterium in the stool – called Enterococcus faecalis– was a robust predictor of COVID-19 severity. Not surprisingly, Enterococcus faecalis has been associated with chronic inflammation.

Enterococcus faecalis collected from feces can be grown outside of the body in clinical laboratories. Thus, an E. faecalis test might be a cost-effective, rapid and relatively easy way to identify patients who are likely to require more supportive care and therapeutic interventions to improve their chances of survival.

But it is not yet clear from our research what is the contribution of the altered microbiome in the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. A recent study has shown that SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers an imbalance in immune cells called T regulatory cells that are critical to immune balance.

Bacteria from the gut microbiome are responsible for the proper activation of those T-regulatory cells. Thus, researchers like me need to take repeated patient stool, saliva and blood samples over a longer time frame to learn how the altered microbiome observed in COVID-19 patients can modulate COVID-19 disease severity, perhaps by altering the development of the T-regulatory cells.

As a Latina scientist investigating interactions between diet, microbiome and immunity, I must stress the importance of better policies to improve access to healthy foods, which lead to a healthier microbiome. It is also important to design culturally sensitive dietary interventions for Black and Latinx communities. While a good-quality diet might not prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, it can treat the underlying conditions related to its severity.

[Get our best science, health and technology stories. Sign up for The Conversation’s science newsletter.]The Conversation

Ana Maldonado-Contreras, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Physiological Systems, University of Massachusetts Medical School

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Please note that obesity is regarded as a chronic illness.

Let me reprint a paragraph from the article:

In the U.S., 117 million individuals – about half the adult population – suffer from Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease or a combination of them. That suggests that half of American adults carry a faulty microbiome army.

This is not funny. Good eating, typically the Mediterranean diet, is not difficult.

Link up to the excellent blog site One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100. Tony is a master at communicating good common sense!

If you are a regular red-meat eater then give yourself a break for two or three days; what have you got to lose!

And if you are the ‘wrong’ side of, say, 50 then having a faulty microbiome will be having an increasingly negative effect on you.

Remember:

Diet and Exercise are crucial!

More on that Aflatoxin alert.

This is important!

The FDA has announced that Midwestern Pet Food is expanding its recent recall to include more brands and over 1000 lots of its dog and cat foods because they contain potentially deadly levels of aflatoxin.

FDA is aware of at least 70 deaths and 80 illnesses in dogs who ate the affected products.

So informed me at the start of an email received in the early hours of this morning (yesterday).

You will recall that we had a post back on January 2nd about aflatoxin. This is a further report.

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Deadly Dog and Cat Food Recall Expands: More Brands, Over 1000 Lots

Important: Illustrations not complete. Additional images will be added if or when they become available.

January 11, 2021 — The FDA is alerting consumers that Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc. is expanding its recent recall to include over 1000 lots of Sportmix and 2 other brands of dog and cat food because they contain potentially fatal levels of aflatoxin.

As of this date, FDA is aware of more than 70 deaths and 80 illnesses in pets that have eaten the affected products.

This is an ongoing investigation. This count is approximate and may not reflect the total number of pets affected.

What’s Recalled?

On December 30, 2020, Midwestern Pet Foods announced a recall of nine total lots of Sportmix pet food products.

  • Sportmix Energy Plus, 50 lb. bag
    Exp 03/02/22/05/L2
    Exp 03/02/22/05/L3
    Exp 03/03/22/05/L2
  • Sportmix Energy Plus, 44 lb. bag
    Exp 03/02/22/05/L3
  • Sportmix Premium High Energy, 50 lb. bag
    Exp 03/03/22/05/L3
  • Sportmix Premium High Energy, 44 lb. bag
    Exp 03/03/22/05/L3
  • Sportmix Original Cat, 31 lb. bag
    Exp 03/03/22/05/L3
  • Sportmix Original Cat, 15 lb. bag
    Exp 03/03/22/05/L2
    Exp 03/03/22/05/L3

On January 11, 2021, the company expanded its recall to include all pet food products containing corn that were made in the firm’s Oklahoma plant and that expire on or before July 9, 2022.

More than 1000 lot codes are affected, so they are not listed individually.

Lots of the following pet food products have been recalled if the date/lot code includes an expiration date on or before “07/09/22” and includes “05” in the date/lot code, which identifies products made in the Oklahoma plant:

  • Pro Pac Adult Mini Chunk, 40 lb. bag
  • Pro Pac Performance Puppy, 40 lb. bag
  • Splash Fat Cat 32%, 50 lb. bag
  • Nunn Better Maintenance, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Original Cat, 15 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Original Cat, 31 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Maintenance, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Maintenance, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix High Protein, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Energy Plus, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Energy Plus, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Stamina, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Stamina, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Bite Size, 40 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Bite Size, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix High Energy, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix High Energy, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Premium Puppy, 16.5 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Premium Puppy, 33 lb. bag

Lot code information may be found on the back of bag and will appear in a three-line code, with the top line in format “EXP 03/03/22/05/L#/B###/HH:MM”

About Aflatoxin

Aflatoxin is a toxin produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus and at high levels it can cause illness and death in pets.

The toxin can be present even if there is no visible mold.

Pets are highly susceptible to aflatoxin poisoning because, unlike people, who eat a varied diet, pets generally eat the same food continuously over extended periods of time.

If a pet’s food contains aflatoxin, the toxin could accumulate in the pet’s system as they continue to eat the same food.

Pets with aflatoxin poisoning may experience symptoms such as sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice (yellowish tint to the eyes, gums or skin due to liver damage), and/or diarrhea.

In some cases, this toxicity can cause long-term liver issues and/or death.

Some pets suffer liver damage without showing any symptoms.

Pet owners whose pets have been eating the recalled products should contact their veterinarians, especially if they are showing signs of illness.

There is no evidence to suggest that pet owners who handle products containing aflatoxin are at risk of aflatoxin poisoning.

However, pet owners should always wash their hands after handling pet food.

What to Do?

Affected products may still be on store shelves, online, or in pet owners’ homes.

Pet owners should stop feeding their pets the recalled products listed above and consult their veterinarian, especially if the pet is showing signs of illness.

The pet owner should remove the food and make sure no other animals have access to the recalled product.

Contact Midwestern Pet Foods Consumer Affairs at 800-474-4163, ext. 455 from 7 am to 4 pm CT, Monday through Friday, or by email at info@midwesternpetfoods.com for additional information.

Further information regarding this recall can be found in the related FDA Bulletin.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to the FDA’s “Report a Pet Food Complaint” page.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

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As always, please share this food alert as widely as possible.

More on a healthy gut!

A continuation from yesterday!

I wasn’t going to post anything today but then in response to Val Boyco’s comment: “Good stuff Paul. Thank you! Please do more research and share here 💛 My gut will thank you!” I did do some more research and quickly came upon another article that was published recently and is worth of a read!

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How to prepare and protect your gut health over Christmas and the silly season

December 20, 2020

By


Senior Lecturer, Edith Cowan University

Disclosure statement
Claus T. Christophersen receives funding from NHMRC and WA Department of Health. He is a co-author of The Gut Feeling Cookbook linked in this article – all proceeds from sales of this cookbook go directly back into supporting our research, no personal financial interest.It’s that time of year again, with Christmas parties, end-of-year get-togethers and holiday catch-ups on the horizon for many of us — all COVID-safe, of course. All that party food and takeaway, however, can have consequences for your gut health.

Gut health matters. Your gut is a crucial part your immune system. In fact, 70% of your entire immune system sits around your gut, and an important part of that is what’s known as the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), which houses a host of immune cells in your gut.

Good gut health means looking after your gut microbiome — the bacteria, fungi, viruses and tiny organisms that live inside you and help break down your food — but also the cells and function of your gastrointestinal system.

We know gut health can affect mood, thanks to what’s known as the gut-brain axis. But there’s also a gut-lung axis and a gut-liver axis, meaning what happens in your gut can affect your respiratory system or liver, too.

Here’s what you can do to bolster your gut microbiome in the coming weeks and months.

Read more: Gut health: does exercise change your microbiome?

How do silly season indulgences affect our gut health?

You can change your gut microbiome within a couple of days by changing your diet. And over a longer period of time, such as the Christmas-New Year season, your diet pattern can change significantly, often without you really noticing.

That means we may be changing the organisms that make up our microbiome during this time. Whatever you put in will favour certain bacteria in your microbiome over others.

We know fatty, sugary foods promote bacteria that are not as beneficial for gut health. And if you indulge over days or weeks, you are pushing your microbiome towards an imbalance.

For many of us, Christmas is a time of indulgence. Shutterstock

Is there anything I can do to prepare my gut health for the coming onslaught?

Yes! If your gut is healthy to begin with, it will take more to knock it out of whack. Prepare yourself now by making choices that feed the beneficial organisms in your gut microbiome and enhance gut health.

That means:

  • eating prebiotic foods such as jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions and a variety of grains and inulin-enhanced yoghurts (inulin is a prebiotic carbohydrate shown to have broad benefits to gut health)
  • eating resistant starches, which are starches that pass undigested through the small intestine and feed the bacteria in the large intestine. That includes grainy wholemeal bread, legumes such as beans and lentils, firm bananas, starchy vegetables like potatoes and some pasta and rice. The trick to increasing resistant starches in potato, pasta and rice is to cook them but eat them cold. So consider serving a cold potato or pasta salad over Christmas
  • choosing fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables
  • steering clear of added sugar where possible. Excessive amounts of added sugar (or fruit sugar from high consumption of fruit) flows quickly to the large intestine, where it gets gobbled up by bacteria. That can cause higher gas production, diarrhoea and potentially upset the balance of the microbiome
  • remembering that if you increase the amount of fibre in your diet (or via a supplement), you’ll need to drink more water — or you can get constipated.

For inspiration on how to increase resistant starch in your diet for improved gut health, you might consider checking out a cookbook I coauthored (all proceeds fund research and I have no personal interest).

Good gut health is hard won and easily lost. Shutterstock

What can I do to limit the damage?

If Christmas and New Year means a higher intake of red meat or processed meat for you, remember some studies have shown that diets higher in red meat can introduce DNA damage in the colon, which makes you more susceptible to colorectal cancer.

The good news is other research suggests if you include a certain amount of resistant starch in a higher red meat diet, you can reduce or even eliminate that damage. So consider a helping of cold potato salad along with a steak or sausage from the barbie.

Don’t forget to exercise over your Christmas break. Even going for a brisk walk can get things moving and keep your bowel movements regular, which helps improve your gut health.

Have a look at the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and remember what foods are in the “sometimes” category. Try to keep track of whether you really are only having these foods “sometimes” or if you have slipped into a habit of having them much more frequently.

The best and easiest way to check your gut health is to use the Bristol stool chart. If you’re hitting around a 4, you should be good.

If you’re hitting around a 4, you should be good. Shutterstock

Remember, there are no quick fixes. Your gut health is like a garden or an ecosystem. If you want the good plants to grow, you need to tend to them — otherwise, the weeds can take over.

I know you’re probably sick of hearing the basics — eat fruits and vegetables, exercise and don’t make the treats too frequent — but the fact is good gut health is hard won and easily lost. It’s worth putting in the effort.

A preventative mindset helps. If you do the right thing most of the time and indulge just now and then, your gut health will be OK in the end.

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That book that Claus refers to, the one on the gut Gut feeling: Mindful menus for the microbiome is here. It looks a very good book.

Well Val (and many others), did you find this interesting? It was a rhetorical question because I know that you did.

I will continue to republish these posts and, especially, the one on exercise. Because as I have often said: Diet and exercise are key!

Onwards and upwards!

Being healthy in your later years.

This is a key article!

Now this has nothing to do with dogs. Well not directly but the longer we humans live the longer we can have dogs as pets.

I was having an email ‘conversation’ with Jon over in England and he pointed me to Professor Tim Spector. Prof. Spector writes on his website that he:

Tim Spector is a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Director of the TwinsUK Registry at Kings College, London and has recently been elected to the prestigious Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences. He trained originally in rheumatology and epidemiology.

In 1992 he moved into genetic epidemiology and founded the UK Twins Registry, of 13,000 twins, which is the richest collection of genotypic and phenotypic information worldwide. He is past President of the International Society of Twin Studies, directs the European Twin Registry Consortium (Discotwin) and collaborates with over 120 centres worldwide.

He has demonstrated the genetic basis of a wide range of common complex traits, many previously thought to be mainly due to ageing and environment. Through genetic association studies (GWAS), his group have found over 500 novel gene loci in over 50 disease areas. He has published over 800 research articles and is ranked as being in the top 1% of the world’s most cited scientists by Thomson-Reuters.

He held a prestigious European Research Council senior investigator award in epigenetics and is a NIHR Senior Investigator. His current work focuses on omics and the microbiome and directs the crowdfunded British Gut microbiome project.

Together with an international team of leading scientists including researchers from King’s College London, Massachusetts General Hospital, Tufts University, Stanford University and nutritional science company ZOE he  is conducting the largest scientific nutrition research project, showing that individual responses to the same foods are unique, even between identical twins.

You can find more on https://joinzoe.com/ He is a prolific writer with several popular science books and a regular blog, focusing on genetics, epigenetics and most recently microbiome and diet (The Diet Myth). He is in demand as a public speaker and features regularly in the media.

That is quite a CV!

Then I came across an essay on The Conversation website about being healthier in one’s old age.

Read it!

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Keen to be healthier in old age? Tend your inner garden

By

Clinical Senior Lecturer, King’s College London

Professor of Genetic Epidemiology, King’s College London

January 29, 2016

Grub’s up. Lunch by Shutterstock

The world’s oldest man, Yasutaro Koide recently died at the age of 112. Commentators as usual, focused on his reported “secret to longevity”: not smoking, drinking or overdoing it. No surprises there. But speculation on the basis of one individual is not necessarily the most helpful way of addressing this human quest for the Philosopher’s Stone.

The “very old” do spark our interest – but is our search for a secret to longevity actually misguided? Wouldn’t you rather live healthier than live longer in poor health? Surely, what we really want to know is how do we live well in old age.

Clearly as scientists we try to illuminate these questions using populations of people not just odd individuals. Many previous attempts have approached this question by looking for differences between young and old people, but this approach is often biased by the many social and cultural developments that happen between generations, including diet changes. Time itself should not be the focus – at least, in part, because time is one thing we are unlikely to be able to stop.

Yasutaro Koide made 112. Kyodo/Reuters

The real question behind our interest in people who survive into old age is how some manage to stay robust and fit while others become debilitated and dependent. To this end, recent scientific interest has turned to investigating the predictors of frailty within populations of roughly the same age. Frailty is a measure of how physically and mentally healthy an individual is. Studies show frailer older adults have an increased levels of low grade inflammation – so-called “inflammaging”.

New research published in Genome Medicine by Matt Jackson, from our group at King’s College London, investigated this question in an unlikely place – poo. Recent evidence indicates that our immune and inflammatory systems are trained and educated in our gut, through key interactions with gut bacteria. So we asked if changes in our gut bacteria could be part of the process of inflammation driving frailty.

Our recent work found that the frailer an individual, the lower the diversity of gut bacteria they have. We looked at stool samples from more than 700 healthy British twins and found that a group of bacteria belonging to the species with a tricky and slightly unpleasant name, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, were found in higher amounts in the healthier twins. This is a particularly interesting microbe as it has been linked with good health in many other diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and is believed to reduce inflammation of the gut. Could this bug help protect against frailty?

Putting in the research. Paper by Shutterstock

There were other microbes seen in increased amounts within the frailer twins. One was Eubacterium dolichum, which has been seen to increase in unhealthy Western diets. We found the same picture when comparing frailer, more elderly, individuals from the ELDERMET study, by the University of Cork. This suggests that dietary changes might be an easy way to encourage healthy ageing.

Our study does not yet clarify whether the changes to the gut bacteria are a cause of poor ageing itself or are just a consequence of frailty – longitudinal studies that follow people over several years will be needed to sort this out. But these results are exciting for researchers in the ageing field and suggest that if you want to age well you should perhaps do fewer crosswords and spend more time looking after your microbial garden, for example by eating plenty of plant fibre, for example in a Mediterranean-type diet.

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Well this essay was published nearly 5 years ago and one wonders if more information has come to light.

Certainly Jeannie and me are heavily into a plant-based diet with a small selection of fish from time to time.

I will do more research and see if there are any updates that may be published.

In the meantime stay as healthy and as happy as you can be!

 

Yet another dog food alert!

This is regarding Sportmix.

This alert came into my inbox on December 30th.

The FDA has announced that Midwestern Pet Food is recalling select lots of Sportmix dog and cat foods because they contain potentially deadly levels of aflatoxin.

FDA is aware of at least 28 deaths and 8 illnesses in dogs who ate the affected products.

So this is extremely important.

The full details now follow:

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Sportmix Dog and Cat Foods Recalled Due to Deadly Mold Toxin

December 30, 2020 — The FDA is alerting consumers that Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc. is recalling nine lots of Sportmix pet food products because they contain potentially fatal levels of aflatoxin.

FDA is aware of at least 28 deaths and 8 illnesses in dogs that ate the recalled products.

This is an ongoing investigation. Case counts and the scope of this pending recall may expand as new information becomes available.

What’s Recalled?

The dry pet food products to be recalled by Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc. on December 30, 2020 include:

  • Sportmix Energy Plus, 50 lb. bag
    Exp 03/02/22/05/L2
    Exp 03/02/22/05/L3
    Exp 03/03/22/05/L2
  • Sportmix Energy Plus, 44 lb. bag
    Exp 03/02/22/05/L3
  • Sportmix Premium High Energy, 50 lb. bag
    Exp 03/03/22/05/L3
  • Sportmix Premium High Energy, 44 lb. bag
    Exp 03/03/22/05/L3
  • Sportmix Original Cat, 31 lb. bag
    Exp 03/03/22/05/L3
  • Sportmix Original Cat, 15 lb. bag
    Exp 03/03/22/05/L2
    Exp 03/03/22/05/L3

Lot code information may be found on the back of bag and will appear in a three-line code, with the top line in format “EXP 03/03/22/05/L#/B###/HH:MM”.

As new information becomes available, the product list above may continue to expand.

FDA and the Missouri Department of Agriculture are working with the firm to determine whether any additional products may have been made with the same ingredients containing potentially fatal levels of aflatoxin.

About Aflatoxin

Aflatoxin is a toxin produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus and at high levels it can cause illness and death in pets.

The toxin can be present even if there is no visible mold.

Pets are highly susceptible to aflatoxin poisoning because, unlike people, who eat a varied diet, pets generally eat the same food continuously over extended periods of time.

If a pet’s food contains aflatoxin, the toxin could accumulate in the pet’s system as they continue to eat the same food.

Pets with aflatoxin poisoning may experience symptoms such as sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice (yellowish tint to the eyes, gums or skin due to liver damage), and/or diarrhea.

In some cases, this toxicity can cause long-term liver issues and/or death.

Some pets suffer liver damage without showing any symptoms.

Pet owners whose pets have been eating the recalled products should contact their veterinarians, especially if they are showing signs of illness.

There is no evidence to suggest that pet owners who handle products containing aflatoxin are at risk of aflatoxin poisoning.

However, pet owners should always wash their hands after handling pet food.

What to Do?

Affected products may still be on store shelves, online, or in pet owners’ homes.

Pet owners should stop feeding their pets the recalled products listed above and consult their veterinarian, especially if the pet is showing signs of illness.

The pet owner should remove the food and make sure no other animals have access to the recalled product.

Further information regarding this recall can be found in the related FDA Bulletin.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to the FDA’s “Report a Pet Food Complaint” page.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

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Please, please take note of this and wherever possible please share this email around.

The wonderful world of Border Collies

Part One of a two-part post.

This is an account of blogger Auntysocial’s post about her Border Collie. Part Two will be on Tuesday.

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The wonderful world of Border Collies

I love the sheer time, care and patience these dogs have for things. This one stealing a bottle of Coke kills me because it has the same careful creeping side eye Puddi had as a puppy when she was in pure arsehole mode and determined to get on my nerves.

Back then she wasn’t allowed inside the kitchen and knew the line was drawn at the physical point where wood floor met ceramic tiles. Most of the time she stood there cos she knew the rules but when she was that way out she would stand there for a bit, then put one paw so it was literally half in and half out.

I could see her out the corner of my eye but carried on chopping veg or whatever I was doing and reckoned not to have noticed which was a similar technique I used with the kids when they were little. Would allow them to take things to a point they knew they’d already broken a rule but gave them a minute or so to decide if they should quit while ahead or try pushing it further.

Puddi just didn’t know the meaning of quitting so this one day as I chopped veg and made tea pretending not to notice, in came the paw. The half in – half out lingered a moment but because it go no reaction, in came the whole paw.

Then came the second paw with her head peering round the side of the wall looking and no doubt expecting me to suddenly see and tell her off. Nothing.

So in came the third then after what felt like an eternity she moved that last one and all four paws were now on the kitchen tiles. OFFICIAL REBEL

Me casually without even glancing her way “Out you go”

She stood there momentarily, casually started backing up, scanned her immediate surroundings and did the old “Yeah well I’m going anyway… don’t wanna be in your shit kitchen BUT I’M HAVING THIS SO SCREW YOU BITCH!!!!”

The nearest thing happened to be a used train ticket that had fallen next to the bin so she grabbed that and legged it feeling thoroughly pleased and satisfied I’d been one-upped.

This was what we went through all day every day until she was about a year old.

And another

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Simply put: A puppy’s start to a happy life! Certainly for puppy Puddi!