food. who’s in control?

The question: Can gut microbes influence our eating behavior?

Veronica sends a short list of the food and drink she particularly enjoys (and on occasion craves).  Meanwhile I figure out the composition.  I weigh choice and consequence.

Microbiome. Healthy food / Unhealthy food. I weigh the food that feeds good microbes and promotes health (plant-based, fiber-rich) against the food that feeds bad microbes and supports dysbiosis (microbial imbalances that drive disease).

A few things I learn along the way: Less diversity of the microbes in our gut can lead a person to obesity. A healthy microbiome can protect us from infection and disease and produces vitamins (B12 and K).

I know (cuz I draw) there is limited space in the gut. I also know microbes complete for the space. Microbes use it = Microbes use us.  Microbes compete with each other and they compete with us (their host) for space and resources.

What if each and every individual’s gut microbes have needs and wants of their own ? This sort of changes the picture, doesn’t it? And you thought self-control (or lack of) was the main thing driving your food choice and intake.

This whole thing starts to make a little more sense as I draw and paint the food on Veronica’s list, into the composition. I can’t help but think about all the apartments going up in Phoenix and all the growing city traffic. Microbes, like Phoenicians, might be trying to figure out how to survive and thrive in dense environment. #competition

Below are some of the images and notes I post into social media. And as usual…the food pulls in the people (comment threads, not included, were interesting to read).

Pepsi 🥤 has 41g of sugar (and 38mg of caffeine). A Snickers bar 🍫 has 27g of sugar and 14g of fat. Who do you think craves sugars and fats more? You or the microbes  that live in ur gut? #Conflict between #host (you and me) and #microbe (our bugs!). #obesity

I read somewhere that the grilled cheese🧀 🥪  might be the most popular sandwich in the world. 😮 Could this be true!? You tell me. They always remind me of my grandmother who used to take me to a local diner to enjoy one. She loved ❤️ a good grilled cheese 🧀 🥪 . All I’m going to say is that they change your gut flora. All dairy changes the gut flora. It has something to do w short chain fatty acids (lipids). Do your microbes 🦠 love 🧀 🥪?? I bet some of them do. #oozycheese btw…all food changes the gut flora. #bread and #butter #noprocessedcheese

I wrote about the benefits of 🥑 in my last study and they’re plenty. In this current study about obesity and microbes 🦠 – things get complicated. 🥑 are unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). It feels to me like the benefit might be unique to each individual depending on their gut microbes. 🥑 satiate and if everything is balanced they can suppress hunger and increase meal satisfaction. But if it’s true that microbes 🦠 can hijack our neuronal systems 😮 and our 🧠 brain (I 👂 they can!) well then this changes things. Do microbes 🦠 compete w us for food and energy? It’s the question here. Anyway- I ❤️ 🥑. #appetitehormones #WhoIsInCharge? Is there anyone who doesn’t love a good guacamole?!

🥩 The art of the red meat 🥩 (in this case medium rare). What if 🥩 red meant promoted the growth of bad 🦠 bacteria? And what if we benefitted from eating less of it? This is how I 👁 it (as I ✏️ it). Think about the space in your gut 🤔. It’s limited, right? And tunneled and narrow and twisty turny… Why would we put something hard to digest into our gut to take up space (for a good amount of time) when we can eat more fiber-rich and plant-based 🌱 food that promoted microbes beneficial to our gut? Things could move easily, quickly, take the turns smoothly…or not. Just something light and easy to think about. 🤔 WhatKind? HowMuch? HowOften?

Clementines. 🍊 Oranges! Fruits feed good bacteria 🦠 . 🍊 🍊🍊 in particular have some sort of soluble fiber our gut bacteria 🦠 ferments. One of the byproducts of this process is a fatty acid called #butyrate. Butyrate helps maintain the cells that line our GI tract. And that’s a good thing! You know the soluble fiber is mostly in the stuff that divides the segments of the orange…so eat them all up. Good stuff! #ShortChainFattyAcid #VitaminC #AnOrangeTreeGrowsInPhoenix 🍊🦠

The last thing I draw on the list is 🍺. Veronica likes a German wheat beer called Hefeweizen. I played w the logo Hefe and turned it into the word Jefa. #Jefa, Spanish slang indicating the female #boss.  She is! Ok, now back to the microbes…🤔 Who craves the 🍺? You? or your microbes 🦠? Which microbes? #VitamiminB #Polyphenols Your body lets you know. #OrDysbiosis

Do microbes influence your eating behavior?

#obesity #microbiome  #conflict #cooperation



©2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ

gut. brain.

What do you visualize when you read the phrase Gut-Brain Axis? Or Brain-Gut Connection?

I picture very active brains communicating with very active intestines. Or is it the other way around? Both. It’s a two-way, busy connect especially when you consider the wandering nerve, aka, the vagus nerve. Think: 2-way, information highway. The vagus nerves are paired cranial nerves (CN X) and happen to be my favorite of all the nerves.  Because it is the longest nerve in the body it moves alongside heart and lungs and goes through all the organs of the digestive tract, connecting brain to gut.

I enjoy the challenge of capturing Veronica’s likeness while I work her profile.  I organize and sketch in the brain. The small area of my drawing is detailed into a collaged map of El Paso,TX,  where my cousin lives.

I have fun with the photo ↑ and strategically place color pencils to direct attention to the brainstem, the area of the brain I am working to understand.  I imagine the space to be like a facility loaded with chemicals and chemical messengers / hormones and neurotransmitters. Think: Food intake. Signals and controls. Many and complex. (FYI – purple pencil points to vagus nerve start.)

Some of the hormones involved include adipoectin (a protein hormone that modulates glucose regulation and fatty acid oxidation), and leptin (made by fat cells and decreases appetite).

Veronica, during our initial conversation, noted ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite. If I understand correctly, it is primarily released in the stomach and signals hunger to the brain. It also plays a role in determining how quickly hunger returns after a meal. And it promotes fat storage. After my surgery, she says, no more ghrelin. No more! What does this mean?  Forever? I ask.  I don’t know, she answers. And now you eat because??
I must live!
Ah…survival!

Side note: The hormones that play a role in obesity, do they also play a role in anorexia?

I haven’t brought the microbiome in yet. But I will. Now when I hear gut-brain, I also think of microbes.  FYI…they can influence hunger and satiety.

Anyway…I’m still laying ground work…which is both complicated to figure out and complicated to draw. Both my brain and my hands are keeping busy.

One more thing…
In early posts I highlight the brown adipose tissue (BAT) and the white adipose tissue (WAT). Now I study and set in subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) located under the skin and visceral adipose tissue (VAT).

In the image above, ↑ I enhance (darker area) the greater omentum (cool name! for an organ) , an example of VAT. It looks like lace, doesn’t it?  This apron of fatty tissue, connective tissue and lymphatics,  comes down from the stomach and stretches over the intestines. The greater omentum, aka, Policeman of the abdomen, might just be the first line of defense against toxins or infections (microbes).

BTW…yes, there is also a lesser omentum…

Meanwhile… drawing circles/making connections.


Keeping a note:
Amylin is a hormone, co-stored and co-secreted with insulin in response to nutrients. It promotes satiety by mediating brain function, including appetite inhibition.

Amylin also plays a role in neural regeneration. It helps regulate glucose metabolism and modulates inflammation. I pull it aside and note it here because of a possible link to Alzheimer’s Disease (Type II Diabetes).

archaea/m.smithii – old/new

Methanobrevibacter smithii, AKA M. smithii, member of Archaea domain, I don’t know of you before this. I feel bad considering you are descendants of the oldest life in existence.

Archaea derives from the Greek word achaios, meaning ancient or primitive.

M. smithii look how beautiful you are…

The single-celled microorganism Methanobrevibacter smithii,  the most abundant  archaeon in the human gut, aids in digestion of complex sugars. These microbes are a hydrogenotroph (consumes hydrogen) and a methanogen (produces methane). Yes, they are manufacturers of gas!

Methano refers to its connection with methane, and brevibacter means short rod. There appears to be an association between gas production and body weight. M. Smithii may influence weight gain and loss (anorexia) as well as constipation.

These microorganisms are prokaryotes having no cell nucleus (or any other membrane-bound organelle). Archaea, in general, are unique in that they have a distinct biochemistry.

About archaea and life…
They’ve been around for about 4 billion years! They’re resilient, truly thriving between order and chaos, proving life creative – even in time of crisis.

#history #inthebeginning #theytookabreath

 

white becoming white

Candida albicans, member of the Saccharomycetaceae (yeast) family as well as the human microbial community, I especially enjoy painting you fungus. I wasn’t planning on it, but maybe I’ll draw another member of your fungi kingdom.


The word Candida comes from the Latin candidus, meaning white. Albicans derives from the Latin word albicō, meaning becoming white. White becoming white.

Man, are we loaded with bugs! I never gave this stuff a thought…by stuff I mean the variety of microorganisms, including candida, holding microscopic space in the human body.

This fungus is most commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract and mouth (in at least 80% of the worldwide population). In some circles Candida aids in food digestion and absorption, while in other circles (the out of control circles?) it’s known as an opportunistic pathogen.

Candida albicans under the microscope.

The fungus (yeast) is naturally  found in the human body, primarily in the intestine, colon and mouth. Out of control, it can attack skin and mucous membranes. It can also travel through  the blood stream and affect kidneys, heart, lungs, throat and heart-valves. (Is this what it means to be metabolically flexible?)

cellular structure.

C. albicans is an eukaryotic organism. It’s structure includes a cell wall (which seems an important aspect to this microorganism), nucleus, ribosomes and mitochondria. I don’t know what it means when I read hyphae sense reproductive units from a distance and grow towards them but it makes me think of an electric pull.

I appreciate the lace-like quality of the organic form. The long branches, called hyphae (web) with their circular budded tip, appeal to me. This subject-matter is visually elegant and playful. Candida itself, complicated.

Here is what I wonder:
Candida albicans are commensal. We eat at the same table? I take this to mean they consume what the human host consumes. Yes? Or do they eat what the host discards?  Mutually beneficial?
Is C. albicans overgrowth always seen as an attack on the body? Can the out of control set up be a warning sign of another imbalance (other microbes) in the human body? 

#Microbiota #NewToMe #LoveDrawingMicroorganisms

twisted and seedy bacteria – you are streptococci

I work H. Pylori bacteria a few weeks ago so why do I feel the need to mess with Streptococcus? Bacteria is bacteria – or is it? Maybe it’s all about location…

Strepto from Ancient Greek: streptós, means easily twisted, pliant. Coccus from Modern Latin: coccus, from Ancient Greek: kókkos, translates to grain, seed, berry.

My painting goes through too many mutations for several reasons including that at times I don’t care for the look and feel of the surface, the heavy line work is not a preference and again, I discover filters.

Streptococci (plural) forms in pairs or chains. My compositions focus on their spherical quality, otherwise you’d see connecting chain-like or bead-like forms moving across the picture plane.

I work with smooth mylar to play with the translucent quality and glossy surface. What am I thinking to lay in a gesso black ground? Everything goes opaque, contrast is high and I lose a natural lightness. I rework and overwork.

Frustrated, it feels right to cut the bacteria out and seal it into a petri-dish. I enjoy holding it (with my cotton gloves).

The internal structure of streptococcus bacteria.

The external structure of streptococcus bacteria.

A few weeks ago a friend comments about streptococcus bacteria and its relationship to heart problems (aortic valve). It leaves an impression. I know then I’ll draw the bacteria.

Streptococci can live in the mouth, nose, throat, upper respiratory tract, intestine, genital tract, and on the skin. Particular strains can cause pink eye, meningitis, endocarditis and necrotizing fasciitis. Its trouble causing span feels much too broad, from the not so serious to the deadly serious. It surprises me to learn its nonmotile. It doesn’t move?! (Unlike H. Pylori with its flagella.)

I do move…
Yesterday, I don’t like these studies. Today, is a brand new day and I like them after all. Next: Fungi.


PS: I can’t write very much about the microorganisms I study. While I understand some things in general, I don’t understand things in particular. It’s a whole new (microscopic) world.

I look at microbiota – in hope of gaining insight into the human microbiome.  I hear microbial cells, in and on our body, outnumber our human cells 10-1 (statistics seem to vary – what do I know).  But what does this all mean in terms of our genes? What rules – the human or the microbial?

The most valuable thing that happens as I continue to work is I make connections to things I understand or thought I understood.  Let’s see how it works itself out of me.

In the meantime, I love the tiny stuff I’m drawing. I just wish I’d gone bigger with the microorganisms. I tell my drawing students regularly – it’s easier to work large than it is to work small. Right now I feel like the latter is the only thing I know for certain (but this too can change).

a bacterium – the coiled gatekeeper

Meet Helicobacter pylori, AKA H. pylori – a bacterium found in the mucous lining of the stomach (in at least 50% -60% of the world’s population).

External (top image) and internal (bottom image) study of H. pylori bacteria.

Helicobacter from the Greek, means spiral or coil. Pylori related to pylouros, the opening or junction leading from the stomach into the duodenum, also from the Greek, translates to gatekeeper.

My studies include bacterial cell basics: plasma membrane, cell wall, ribosomes, cytoplasm and nucleoid (no enclosed nucleus).

H.Pylori: external (top), internal structures (bottom)

I remember once-upon-a-time studying single-celled organisms. I always liked the word flagella and still it manages to get my attention (determines compositional layout). The whip-like appendages support locomotion (moving, pushing, swimming) and are also sensitive to temperature and chemistry.

I wonder – in the case of  H. pylori – should this particular microorganism really be on the move? 

Flagella – a whip-like appendage.

I work from images that include the pili (another cool word…related to pilus and Latin for hair) while other photos suggest the bacteria to be a smooth coil. In each study I take liberty with color and I include the hair-like pili in one drawing, for the added rhythmic line and texture.

Some of my favorite bacteria (in name only) have a lot in common (of course they do, they’re bacteria). To my untrained (in bacteria) eyes (perhaps even to the trained eye) my study of H. pylori could resemble E-Coli. Perhaps one might even pass for Lactobacillus and another for Salmonella.

As my study evolves – Surface of bacteria

The human body (yours and mine) is home to loads of (100 trillion) bacteria.  We host colonies of microorganisms! They live in us and on us.

Are they harmful? They can be. Are they beneficial? They might be. For example, H. pylori in the stomach can lead to duodenal ulcers and stomach cancer. Did I mention this particular bacteria adapts to an acidic environment? Note – it does not always produce disease.

Process photos… study continues to evolve…internal structure of bacteria

I think about the creative process a lot, laying out careful design only to sometimes rub it out quickly. It is, for me, a continuous mix of control and freedom.

Helicobacter pylori, Coiled Gatekeeper, are you a natural expression of the creative process?


Back in the studio…
I am in the stomach with this bacteria. I plan to look at viruses, fungi and archaea too. Let’s see where they take me. At some point I will be returning to the brain – with a new perspective.
#GutBrainAxis #Microbiome