Today we are exploring the microbiome with Martha Carlin, a citizen scientist who turned a personal crisis into a groundbreaking exploration of Parkinson's disease. From the creation of The Bio Collective to the development of life-changing probiotic formulas, this episode is packed with inspiring stories and cutting-edge science. Don't miss out on this deep dive into the gut's role in health and disease!
Martha’s Journey to Find Answers About Parkinson's Disease
In 2002, my husband was 44 years old and I began noticing troubling changes in his health. He developed a tremor in his pinky finger, and his once lively and expressive face seemed to lose its animation. To gain some insight, I decided to read Michael J. Fox's book, "Lucky Man." As I read it I started to wonder if my husband might be dealing with Parkinson's disease. We went through a series of medical tests, all of which initially came back with no clear answers. But I knew something was going on so we were referred to a neurologist.
The neurologist noticed right away and he told us that there wasn’t a cure and that my husband's condition would worsen over time. I’ve always been a problem solver and I couldn’t accept that there was nothing we could do. I started researching the issue and my intuition told me that food might be a significant part of the problem.
I started to clean out the kitchen cabinets, buy organic whenever possible, and dove deeper into research around our food system. I was shocked to discover the abundance of chemicals and genetic engineering in our food. I knew there had to be a way to connect these puzzle pieces and the organic home-cooked meals proved to be a turning point. My husband's tremor started to improve and although he had some ups and downs, the dietary changes made a significant difference.
To better understand his condition, I collected an extensive amount of data including over 150 whole genome samples of his stool. I turned to scientific literature for guidance and started to connect the dots between, diet, microbiome, and my husband's Parkinson’s symptoms. This is where I started to think that the microbiome could be the key so we started focusing even more on the diet. I came across the impact of exposure to glyphosate and he stopped eating wheat and sugar to shift his microbiome.
Parkinson’s and Gut Health
In 2016, I went to a Parkinson’s conference and a group was showing that the sugar alcohol mannitol could stop the aggregation of the proteins in a Parkinson's mouse model and pull the aggregates out of the brain. So I came back from the meeting and bought a book on mannitol chemistry. Mannitol is a free radical scavenger, it depletes deuterium and does amazing things. People who have Parkinson's have osmotic stress in the body, 70% have severe constipation and mannitol can help with both. The book had a discussion about the microbes that make mannitol and that’s where I first started thinking “Could we put back a system in the gut that can make this so you have a production factory of it?”
One of my advisors had been in the nutraceutical business so we sat down and put together the concept of the formula and he helped us create a prototype in 2 months. My husband started taking it and we found that he was moving closer to the healthy human microbiome but even more remarkable, he didn’t have to walk with his cane after a month. We started to develop computational models to prove that what we had come up with works. We did before and after tests, then took that concept and built other working systems of probiotics.
There is something called the UPDRS score which shows how advanced your Parkinson's is. In 2017, my husband's highest score was 35 and this was when he started taking the probiotics. After a fecal transplant, Covid, and other health problems this probiotic helped him repopulate his gut. A neighbor told me that someone she knew developed Parkinson’s symptoms after getting Covid and she made a yoghurt with my sugar shift capsules. She started with 10, fermented it for 36 hours got a really high count, and made this every week for a month and his symptoms went away. This is when I started making the yoghurt for my husband and he has bounced back on track.
There are some microbiome papers coming out that say people have a worse outcome with Covid when they have low bifidobacteria. In our Parkinsons data, we showed that these people had low bifidobacteria or only had one strain which was bifido animalis (this is different than other bifido strains). But there have also been some other Parkinson’s data that show bifido is higher so this still needs more research.
Mannitol, Deuterium Depletion, and Glyphosate
Deuterium is heavy hydrogen that can muck up the cellular machinery (you can learn more about it with Dr. Laszlo Boros and with Dr. Gabor Somlyai!) Mannitol is a 6-carbon sugar and it picks up the hydrogens and takes them out. Humans don't use mannitol, we make it and then it gets released in our urine or stool. We make mannitol from glucose and fructose and then it picks up 6 deuteriums and takes them out.
We have also found that lactobacillus planetarium from fermented wild elderberries breaks down glyphosate with these three pathways:
- The third pathway
- Circustime pathway
Dr. Jack Kruse also talked about how microbes use deuterium in this interview. The science is evolving into how these microbes use it and how they potentially eliminate excess deuterium from the body as well. - Kriben Govender
Sugar Shift Capsule vs. Sugar Shift Yoghurt
There are a lot of bioactive peptides in milk and you can make the Sugar Shift yoghurt with either organic grass-fed cold cream or grass-fed organic half and half. Yoghurt makes minerals and vitamins more bioavailable and you’re getting a very high count of microbes because they are doubling every 12 hours.
I have wonderful testimonials from people who take the capsules and say they have an increase in energy, they have lost weight and they don’t crave sugar. You can both open up the capsules and create a yoghurt or you can use this starter that has been designed for it. If you want to learn more about the yoghurt process, read this blog post with Dr. William Davis!
The book “The Life Bridge” shows how microbes make inorganic matter living and much more bioavailable. This book has 10 pages of fermented foods from around the world and what strains of bacteria are in them. I found that 3 of the key strains in my formula are found in those fermented foods and not so much in probiotics.
I can back up your comment on bioavailable peptides because I’ve done a lot of work on milk kefir. A lot of benefits of kefir come from the conversion of these milk proteins into all of these bioavailable peptides. - Kriben Govender
Takeaways from Thousands of Data Points
The thing about diseases is that we put them in singular categories but what we actually have is metabolic dysfunction across the spectrum. So maybe where your different weak spots are is where it pops up as a disease but much of it is in this dysregulation of lipids and sugars in the body. I continue to have eureka moments with the Parkinson's data because:
- We have given those samples to Caltech and they published an interesting paper on it.
- We took our whole genome data and worked with Artigen, a company in Poland and they applied their machine learning and came back with all of these incredible insights and potential biomarkers.
I continue to send these samples out to Parkinson researchers and there have been some interesting insights that go back to mycobacteria, which has been an interest of mine. Some papers came out with potential connections to Parkinson and I started looking at the sequencing. It's an organism that is very hard to get because of its low abundance in the microbiome and it often gets missed. We published a paper on sample collection methods and how this biases the data. When you are using a DNA or RNA preservative or freezing, you have a significant impact on proteobacteria and actinobacteria, and those are two key things in disease. Finnish researchers just came out with a paper saying that Desulfovibrio may be the cause of Parkinson's. This is interesting because Stephanie Seneff has shown this sulfur dysregulation with glyphosate and there's also research in the United States that shows Desulfovibrio in the pipes of the public water system.
Insights on Lipopolysaccharides
There's an animal model for Parkinson's called the LPS-induced Parkinson's model. I started expanding from there about how LPS is an inflammatory trigger for so many different diseases. We did a clinical trial in diabetes in Cuba and we did all the standard tests like:
- Fasting blood sugar
- Homa IR insulin
And I said, “Can we do serum LPS?” And that turned out to be one of the fastest-moving markers that we had. At 90 days LPS dropped substantially and at 180 days it was almost non-existent. We don’t know the exact mechanism and we are still working on the paper from the data.
There's a lot of work happening in the LPS space in terms of how it can pass through the gut into the blood and brain. - Kriben Govender
Enzymes and Copper
For the last 2 months, I have been in deep research with Morley Robbins (you can read more about his research here) looking at this enzyme called the PAM enzyme. This is required for amidating about 279 peptides that we have found so far and it needs 2 atoms of copper. Glyphosate chelates copper and a number of the microbes in my formula have multi-copper oxidizes, so we think they may be able to bring that copper where it needs to be. Reuteri may be one of those microbes as well because Dr. Davis is looking at it in oxytocin, which is one of the peptides that have to be amidated with the PAM enzyme.
The Story of BiotiQuest
I created Sugar Shift just to help my husband. The key organisms we were looking at were Lactobacillus reuteri, bacillus subtilis, and others that make mannitol but we knew we needed a combination that was sustainable and would keep itself going. We looked for a method of putting a mixture together that would balance the pH and be self-sustaining for 10-12 hours. We already knew we had the planetarium that had the glyphosate remediating so we wanted to include that as well.
A fermentation chemist named Steve helped me with the formula. He had his own lactobacillus reuteri that he was using in the animal side of things but didn’t use it for humans yet. We used it as a pretty high percentage of the formula because we knew it had great capabilities. When we first formulated it, it was luck. We looked at before and after microbiomes and then we could see the upregulated genes involved in butyrate, mannitol production, and siderophores.
One big surprise was that we had a huge drop in antibiotic-resistance genes. This is interesting because mannitol also can make antibiotics more effective. In that same time frame, we had brought on Naseer Sangwan who had been at the University of Chicago and was one of the top people in terms of using whole genome sequencing. I knew from the beginning I wanted to see specific genes that were involved in things especially anything that could give me a clue about glyphosate. So then we started taking his computational modeling capabilities and building what we call a bioflux model.
This model is where we fed around 2,500 microbial genomes > then we used a database from Oregon National Lab that has 17,000 metabolites based on wet laboratory data > and we took our 8 strains, fed the genomes into it, and then you put the complete media or whatever your substrate is going to be, apply your constraints, and run the model for however many hours you want to.
This shows you the growth curves of the bacteria during that time of each of the strains in your consortium. And it shows you how they cross-feed each other and then you select different metabolites. We were interested in butyrate and mannitol then we did our modeling and said “If we take this microbe out will it still work?” We used this model to look at other people's products as well. That all proved that the original hypothesis that we put together did work.
Then we asked, “What other problems do we want to solve?” This is how we came up with 24 formulas and 5 on the market. We created some for mood, optimal vitamin uptake, immunity, and cardiovascular health and my chief scientific officer Dr. Kano helped us come up with these formulations. And since a scientist on my team, Raul is also an incredible microbiologist, we built out a biobank of our own microbes. There are four unique strains in our formulas that are ours and we have a suite of 10-12 that we are looking to bring to market as well.
I want to highlight how brilliant this methodology is. Most of the formulators will just draw upon buzzwords and they wack together the formula and hope that it works. The brilliance of this methodology is noting your ability to identify experts in the space, get them on your team, and improve the knowledge base of where you are starting from. The second brilliance of this is that you have a huge amount of microbiome data to draw upon. You can identify what the missing pieces are and then put them into a computational model so you can understand the interactions between different microbes. Then you have target postbiotics and use that theoretical model to formulate and make a product that is going to deliver on the key outcomes. This is incredibly sophisticated. And I love how you are factoring in the interaction between the different microbes. Most of the time they are working together and the number of the microbes is very much determined by metabolites that are then feeding the next ones. It's a bit of a succession and the end outcome is what that metabolite that you're trying to produce is. You’re doing it in a clever way because it's using a model with a lot of artificial intelligence - Kriben Govender
The Different BiotiQuest Products
Ideal Immunity - This produces butyrate, acetate, reduced glutathione, and tryptophan. It also has a specific strain in it called lactobacillus rhamnosus which is very effective against food-born pathogens. We have shown that it can kill 100% of listeria and is effective against salmonella and E. coli. We have had some discussions about using it in food safety for the drains in restaurants and factories. All of the products have lactobacillus planetarium in them which has the ability to break down glyphosate but the ideal immunity also has some of those core sugar conversion strains.
Heart-centered - This supports cardiovascular health and produces coenzyme Q10, tyrosine, short-chain fatty acids, butyrate, and nitric oxide. This could also help with sports performance and erectile dysfunction.
Simple Slumber - This product was designed to make tryptophan, melatonin, and GABA. It increases the reduced form of glutathione and alanine and activates the opiate receptors. That system works together for about 7 hours.
Antibiotic Antidote -There was a paper that came out of the Weitzman Institute where they looked at the impact of 11 different strains after taking antibiotics and they were not beneficial. We ran that formula through our computational model and just by looking at it, one of my advisors knew that it wouldn’t work. So we sat down and figured out a few things to run through the model. We had this in the pipeline but then Steve’s mom (the man who helped me with sugar shift) got sepsis after surgery and was having a lot of digestive issues after being on antibiotics for a month. We made a small batch of the antibiotic antitide so she had it. She wrote me a review and said this had turned her life around so we created this as a staple.
We also have a product coming out for anxiety. It will be called “perfect peace” and it will be designed for tryptophan production and aspartate reduction. And also helps to activate the opioid receptors, reduce glutamate, and increase butyrate.
Can Any of These Supplements Work for Other Issues?
Many people with Parkinson's have chronic constipation and report to me that Sugar Shift is the only thing that has ever helped them. Mannitol is an osmotic diuretic so it does make sense. There was a woman whose dad was a doctor and he got a disease from a patient back in the 1970s. He has had chronic diarrhea ever since and nothing worked until he tried. Sugar Shift. We are working with another scientist who does autoimmune-related work on a strain of bacteria that has the potential to be beneficial in IBS. We are in the process of doing a safety study and it has been shown in dairy cattle that it works for a similar issue.
Overall, these products can greatly improve your life. Make sure to avoid glyphosate at all costs, eat whole foods and fermented foods when possible, and keep an eye on Martha’s company for the release of new products! Share this with a friend who could benefit from the wealth of knowledge in this post!