Category: Writing

There’s no substitute to rescuing a dog!

Meet the family that has many dogs!

The joy that comes from rescuing a dog from a shelter, especially a shelter that can’t guarantee a no-kill policy, is beyond measure.

This post by Shelley Blount covers that in spades!

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Woman Goes To Adopt One Dog From Shelter — And Comes Out With Three

Group freedom ride 👏🤗💕

By Caitlin Jill Anders
Published on 10/31/2019.

When Shelly Blount saw a post online last week about a dog who was about to be put down in North Carolina, she called the shelter immediately. To her relief, they told her the dog had just been adopted, but it got her thinking about the other dogs who might be in danger. She asked if there were other dogs scheduled to be put down and they told her a dog named Caleb was next on the list — so Blount got in her car.

Accompanied by a friend, Blount drove four hours from Virginia to the shelter, determined to rescue Caleb. When she arrived, she realized two other dogs were about to be put down as well. Despite having three other rescue dogs already at home, Blount suddenly knew what she had to do.

Shelley Blount

“I asked the limit on how many you could adopt,” Blount told The Dodo. “They said there wasn’t one. So I decided to get all three.”

Blount had arrived at the shelter that day expecting to leave with just Caleb — and instead she left with Caleb, Charisma and Bella.

Shelley Blount

As they began the long drive home, all three dogs were so excited and couldn’t contain their happiness, and Blount knew she had absolutely done the right thing.

Shelley Blount

“Caleb was sooo excited — kept giving kisses from the back seat, and his tail was wagging so fast,” Blount said. “Bella was so content being held so she sat in my friend’s lap and literally didn’t move. Charisma, my sweet little angel, was literally hugging me and slept the entire ride.”

Shelley Blount

When Blount decided to adopt all three dogs, she hadn’t really had a plan. She knew she couldn’t leave them at the shelter to be put down, but she also didn’t have room for three more dogs at home — but luckily, within days, she’d already found the best new homes for both Caleb and Bella.

Shelley Blount

“Caleb is super happy in his new home with a friend of mine,” Blount said. “She has another Lab who he loves. Bella went to my boyfriend and let’s just say they are inseparable.”

Shelley Blount

Blount is likely going to keep Charisma, as the pair have bonded quite a bit in the days since the rescue. Either way, Charisma would need to stay with Blount for a while — because after a vet visit, she realized the sweet little dog was pregnant.

Shelley Blount

No one at the shelter had told Blount that Charisma was pregnant with five to six puppies, and later said they hadn’t known. Not only did Blount save Charisma that day, but she also saved the lives of her puppies, and for that Charisma is continuously grateful.

“My Charisma girl is very attached to me and we take lots of cat naps because she’s so sleepy,” Blount said.

Shelley Blount

Charisma is due to give birth within the next week, and her new family is so excited for her. In the meantime, she’s enjoying spending lots of time cuddling with her new mom and best friend, thanking her every day for saving her life.

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Shelley is a real star and, indeed, so are all the other people that rescue dogs.

At the risk of blowing our own trumpet, and I don’t intend to, here’s a photograph from home to finish today’s post.

Brandy, to the left, and Pedi. Two ex-rescue dogs that are now so happy.

The above photograph was taken in 2019!

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!

The American Kennel Club

For the Love of All Things Dog!

Dan sent me a link back last November and I have only got around to looking at it! It concerns the American Kennel Club and the sub-heading above is the greeting one gets when one goes to the home page of the AKC.

But this is what Dan sent me. It is about being thankful!

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The Secret Sauce to a Long, Sharp Life

A partial review of Sanjay Gupta’s book.

With credit to Amazon books.

There is so much to speak about in this book, and anyone the ‘wrong’ side of 50 should consider purchasing the book. Really! I include the link to the book on Amazon. (And nothing in it for me I have to say.)

I want to concentrate on two items of note.

The first is that given the right diet, primarily a Mediterranean plant-based diet, and plenty of exercise, it is possible for the brain to rejuvenate new brain cells. Yes, that’s correct! New brain cells!

The second item of note is over on page 194. Let me quote:

Dr. Waldinger’s findings are attractive because they debunk commonly held myths about health and happiness. The findings are based on a comprehensive review of the participants’ lives and biology.

and two sentences later:

The lesson learned is that health and happiness are not about wealth, fame, or working harder. They are about good relationships.

Dr. Robert Waldinger is a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. His TED talk, “What Makes a Good Life?” has been viewed more than 36 million times. The link to the TED Talk is here.

What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.

On page 198 among the list of tips about staying engaged is to consider adopting a pet! Yes siree!

Now I am 76 and have had 14 years of pure happiness. Because in 2007 I met Jean, and all her dogs. We fell in love!

We came up to Payson, Arizona in 2010 and were married. In 2012 we came up to our rural acres in Southern Oregon.

Jeannie, Sweeny and Cleo. Taken in April, 2012.

It is 2021 and there is no doubt that we are both ageing but we are still very much in love.

We are very happy and that is because as luck would have it we are also each other’s best friend!

The Secret Sauce to a Long, Sharp Life!

Whoops!

Wrong dog is brought home!

Here’s a little story that I got from The Dodo.

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Husband Goes To Groomers And Comes Home With The Wrong Dog

He had no idea 😂
By Stephen Messenger January 1st, 2020

It was a simple enough task, yet this well-meaning dad named Rudy Salazar still managed to miss the mark.

The other day, Rudy’s wife CoCo asked him to pick up their adorable white pup, BooBear, from the groomers where she’d dropped him off earlier. And that’s what he did.

Well, sorta.

When her husband arrived home with the little dog in his arms, CoCo noticed something rather strange. The haircut BooBear had been given seemed to have transformed his appearance into that of an entirely different pup.

But it turns out, there was actually a really good reason for that.

Dad had grabbed the wrong dog.

As it so happens, when Rudy arrived at the groomers, he said he was there for CoCo — like, on her behalf. But there was some confusion. Instead of handing him BooBear, they gave him a different little white dog, also named CoCo.

And somehow Rudy failed to notice the mix-up, leaving both CoCos understandably confused.

Fortunately, having realized the error, Rudy was able to set things right. BooBear was soon back where he belongs, and the unwitting imposter pup, too.

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I guess it takes all types and in some ways this is understandable.

Not much more to say!

Origins of the Shih Tzu Breed

A Guest post from Rick Hatfield.

For the life of me I can’t recall how the connection between Rick and me was made; sign of the times! But Rick asked for a link to his website to go onto my blogroll and then offered this guest post.

So without any further ado here it is!

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Origin of Shih Tzu Breed

The shih tzu has enjoyed a long history, starting in its country of origin, Tibet. Although the exact date of the breed being recognized is not known, what is known is that a short, rather squat dog which fits the general description of the shih tzu was first recorded around 1000 BC. This means that it is possible to record the history of the shih tzu from that point forward, although it is believed that the dog was around for centuries before that time.

Tibet & China

While the exact origin point is not known, the shih tzu does appear to be from Tibet. You can see evidence of their presence with the famous statues of Tibetan “Lion Dogs” which are part of Buddhism. It appears that the shih tzu was bred to resemble lions, albeit in small form. In fact, the very name “shih tzu” means “lion”. Of the holy dogs that were part of Tibetan culture, the shih tzu quickly became the most famous.

It was not long before the breed spread from its origin point from the mountains of Tibet and into China itself. The fierce looking dog with the gentle nature quickly became a favorite at the royal courts of Chinese rulers. However, they would not gain their current appearance until a millennium later when trade was opened to another part of the world far away from China.

Change from Europe

Contact between China and Europe dates to the Roman Empire. And from such countries as Malta, Persia, Greece, and Turkey small dogs were provided as gifts to the Chinese rulers which in turn were bred to the “lion dogs”. The Pug and Pekingese were intermixed with other breeds and the shih tzu as we know it came about.

Although a favorite in the courts of China, their original purpose was as guard dogs that would warn the Emperor of people or animals that approached their presence. When they became smaller in size, the shih tzu was adapted to becoming a companion dog. When this occurred, it became rare for a shih tzu to leave China as they were so revered.

Explosion of Popularity

The shih tzu that we see today can be credited to Dowager Empress Cixi who had a kennel that included Pugs and Pekingese as well. However, when she died in 1908, the breed was seemingly lost as the kennels were dispersed.

But in 1930, a pair of shih tzus arrived in England. Over the next three decades, more shih tzus arrived which helped expand the breeding population. As this was happening, soldiers returning from the China theater during World War II brought the dog to America where it was quickly bred. Soon, the dog became extinct in China as they were expanding around the world.

While the breed was recognized in England in 1949, it would take another two decades before being officially recognized in the US. Today, the shih tzu is one of the most famous breeds in the world. A stark contrast to its near-extinction 80 years earlier.

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Rick clearly knows the history of the Shih Tzus as this fascinating account reveals. Fancy the history going back to 1000 BC! But of course the history of dogs being associated with humans goes back much beyond 3,000 years ago; to at least 20,000 years ago and there are reliable accounts of dogs going back, perhaps, another 20,000 years for a total of 40,000 years ago. What beautiful creatures!

Anyway, this was a lovely guest post as I am sure you will all agree.

There’s no limit to the care of dogs

For as long as I live I will never stop marvelling at dogs.

Dogs are many things. In a sense they have as many likes and dislikes as us humans. But the one thing that is unique to these beautiful animals is their unconditionality. That, especially, shows through in the way that they care and love the humans and dogs around them.

This story on The Dodo emphasised that special way they care for their fellow dogs. Read it and you will see what I mean.

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Camera Catches Dog Bringing His Bed To His Sick Brother So He’s Comfy

“As he’s dragging it he’s looking at Roman almost to say, ‘This is for you’”

By Caitlin Jill Anders
Published on 6/18/2020

From the moment they became brothers, Spanky has always adored and looked up to his big brother Roman. He follows Roman everywhere he goes, and is always happiest whenever they’re together.

“Roman is definitely Spanky’s security blanket,” Jackie Rogers, Roman and Spanky’s aunt, told The Dodo. “Spanky will do nothing without Roman and always makes sure he is close to him and if he’s not he gets up and goes near him.”

JACKIE ROGERS

About two weeks ago, Roman’s ear started looking a little puffy and infected, so his mom took him to the vet and discovered he has a hematoma on his ear. They scheduled a surgery to take care of it, but unfortunately, while he waited for the surgery, his ear kept getting worse and poor Roman got more and more uncomfortable.

JACKIE ROGERS

At first, Spanky didn’t notice anything was different, but as Roman’s ear got worse, everyone noticed that Spanky was much more gentle and concerned about his best friend.

“We had to take him back to the vet to confirm he could wait five more days for surgery and I brought Spanky along for the ride, but due to COVID we couldn’t go inside with Roman and for 20 minutes Spanky sat in the car crying/whining/barking until Roman got back,” Rogers said.

JACKIE ROGERS

With the surgery set, all the family could do for Roman was to let him rest. During the day while everyone is at work, the family has a Ring camera set up so they can check in on the dogs, which is especially important now so they can make sure Roman is OK. Rogers was checking the camera recently when she noticed Spanky watching his brother lying on the floor, looking very concerned — and then he did the cutest thing.

“I see Spanky pacing for a minute while looking at Roman and then the bed and then I see him dragging the bed to Roman and as he’s dragging it he’s looking at Roman almost to say, ‘This is for you,’ and then the next clip is them snuggling,” Rogers said. “I had to re-watch it multiple times, I was in disbelief that he did that!”

Spanky was worried about his brother and wanted him to be as comfortable as possible, so he brought his bed to him so he wouldn’t have to move — because that’s how much he loves his big brother.

JACKIE ROGERS

Spanky brought the bed over to Roman around 10 a.m., and when Rogers got home that evening, they were still snuggled up there together. Spanky knows his brother isn’t feeling well, and he’s determined to stay by his side until he’s feeling better — and will do anything he can to make sure he’s safe and comfortable in the meantime.

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There’s no real way that words can explain that. It’s beautiful, loving and caring and just goes to show how the loving bond works in practice.

Fabulous creatures!

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!

 

The Queen’s Christmas message.

Can the Queen save Christmas?

Learning from Dogs is going to take a break. For a week. We will be back ‘on air’, so to speak, on January 1st, 2021.

The Queen has been broadcasting a Christmas message since 1952. I was just eight-years-old when she first broadcast her own message.

How very much has changed over those years. Beyond imagination.

The Conversation has an article about the Queen’s broadcast and it is shared with you all.

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Can the Queen save Christmas?

December 21, 2020

By

Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Aston University

At 3pm UK time on Christmas day, the Queen’s Christmas message is broadcast across the Commonwealth. Each year the format is largely the same, with the Queen giving her own account of the main personal, national and international events of the year and reflecting on the meaning of Christmas. As such, it has become an important part of the festivities for many families in the UK and beyond.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, fresh restrictions imposed and Brexit rapidly approaching, this year’s broadcast has taken on new significance as a source of stability and comfort, a constant in these difficult and uncertain times. Therefore, it is worth examining how the language used in the broadcast creates this sense of reassurance.

Since 1952, the Queen’s Christmas message has performed three ideological functions through rhetorical appeals based on faith and family.

Identification

The Queen shares personal anecdotes, which she often links to ordinary people’s experiences through the pronouns “we” and “us”.

On Christmas Day 1964, for instance, she told viewers that: “All of us who have been blessed with young families know from long experience that when one’s house is at its noisiest, there is often less cause for anxiety”. As most new parents would recognise this truism, it conveys the message that – in this respect at least – the royals are like any other family.

The first televised Royal Christmas message, 1957. The Royal Family/YouTube

The Queen is also aware that some families will be separated during the festive season and regularly expresses empathy for them. As she said in 1956: “I would like to send a special message of hope and encouragement to all who […] cannot be with those they love today: to the sick who cannot be at home”.

This message is made more poignant because of COVID-19, as the Queen recognised in her special address on April 5 2020. Indeed, it is almost inevitable that this year’s Christmas broadcast will include similar words of consolation for those who have been separated from their loved ones during the pandemic.

Continuity

Uncertainty is another recurring theme in the Queen’s Christmas broadcast, as she tries to make sense of the year’s events for the benefit of her audience. She gives her personal responses to national and global problems, which frequently involve the enactment of supposedly timeless (but predominantly Christian) values. On Christmas Day 1980, amid issues such as the Soviet-Afghanistan war and UK unemployment, she said:

We know that the world can never be free from conflict and pain, but Christmas also draws our attention to all that is hopeful and good in this changing world; it speaks of values and qualities that are true and permanent and it reminds us that the world we would like to see can only come from the goodness of the heart.

Among these values are faith, charity and compassion and, by praising them as a source of stability and the means for creating a better world, the Queen is perhaps seeking to strengthen adherence to them. Not only that, her appeals to Christian values and her emphasis on the family provide a sense of security for those who are disoriented by the rapid pace of social change. In turn, this sustains the monarchy by establishing the Queen as “a permanent anchor, bracing against the storms and grounding us in certainty”, as former British prime minister David Cameron said in 2012, marking her Diamond Jubilee.

Unity

The Queen’s rhetoric of unity is based primarily on the metaphor of the Commonwealth as a family, which recurs throughout the Christmas broadcasts. In 1956, for instance, she observed that:

We talk of ourselves as a “family of nations”, and perhaps our relations with one another are not so very different from those which exist between members of any family. We all know that these are not always easy, for there is no law within a family which binds its members to think, or act, or be alike.

Despite these differences, in 2011 the Queen described the Commonwealth as “a family of 53 nations, all with a common bond, shared beliefs, mutual values and goals”. As the head of the Commonwealth, it is perhaps no exaggeration to say that the Queen is the matriarch of this family of nations, whose primary role is to keep the unit together and uphold its values. Indeed, the Christmas broadcast has been an important source of soft power since the end of Empire. As Sonny Ramphal, a former Commonwealth secretary general, put it: “without her presence, the Commonwealth will feel it is missing the captain from the bridge”.

With the UK government having tightened Christmas COVID-19 restrictions, as well as the introduction of bans on UK travel in numerous countries, this festive season will be very different. Perhaps more than ever, as families face separation or the disruption of their traditional plans, people will seek solace in the ritual of the Queen’s Christmas broadcast.

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I can’t find a copyright-free photograph of the Queen’s Corgis but this one will do. It is from Pexels.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

So her Majesty The Queen is 94! Wow!

That makes her the oldest monarch to have reigned in Britain. Ever!

Queen Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death, in 1901. That makes Queen Victoria the second longest monarch to have reigned.

So with that, it’s time for a small break.

See you in 2021!