More Butyrate Series, Part 8: Clostridium butyricum and Ulcerative Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea

Clostridium butyricum, a soil-based probiotic used commonly in Asia, colonizes the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of about 10-20% of the human population. Although it does produce butyrate in the GI tract, studies show it creates beneficial effects independently of butyrate too. I do not endorse Clostridium butyricum supplements. I became interested in learning about them because I’m interested in the effect of butyrate on slow colon motility. When I started reading about Clostridium butyricum, it sounded like a nice little probiotic, to the point that I have expanded Part 8 of my Butyrate Series much more than I anticipated in order to elaborate on Clostridium butyricum. (See the first post of Part 8 here.)

I’d like to highlight studies on Clostridium butyricum’s use for GI diseases in this and the next post (or two). Please, remember, I am NOT recommending this probiotic for anyone. I just enjoy reading, researching, and compiling information on niches I am learning about. Do NOT use anything on this blog as medical advice, even if I seem nice, honest, and have certain initials after my name. Anyone on the internet can feed you a line.

By all means, if you think Clostridium butyricum sounds right for you, print off the studies I cite, highlight important points, and hand them to your healthcare provider to see what they think. Although most of the information I have read about Clostridium butyricum, both scientifically and anecdotally, has been positive, I have read tidbits where it made some people worse. (Please pay attention. The Clostridium butyricum probiotics I have found have lactose in them and potato starch, which I know many readers are sensitive to.)

And, as always, please help me with typos or incorrect information. And because it’s more important than anything, be kind and gracious from your heart to all. This world is hurting.  And…now back to science.

Ulcerative colitis

Clostridium butyricum (Bio-Three brand) promoted remission in refractory ulcerative colitis patients, particularly if they started the study with low fecal Bifidobacteria counts.

Twenty refractory ulcerative colitis patients received Bio-Three, nine tablets daily for a month.

  • Nine of the 20 (45%) patients went into remission
  • Two of 20 had a positive response but not full remission
  • In total, 55% had clinical and endoscopic improvement.
  • Nine had no response or worsened. (One of 20 became worse.)
  • 10 of the 20 patients also received 100 grams of “fiber,” which seemed to make no difference in any parameter.
  • Response to the probioitic was not correlated with initial severity of disease symptoms. A person with “terrible” ulcerative colitis symptoms could do–or not do–as well on the probiotic as someone with “mild” symptoms .
  • Patients’ fecal biomes were able to be categorized into three distinct clusters, and those in the clusters with lower Bifidobacteria seemed to respond better to the probiotic and had improved fecal microbiota profiles after therapy.

Source: Clinical effectiveness of probiotics therapy (BIO-THREE) in patients with ulcerative colitis refractory to conventional therapy. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology. Vol. 42 , Iss. 11, 2007.

Clostridium butyricum (Bio-Three brand) maintained clinical remission better than placebo did in already controlled ulcerative colitis patients over the course of a year, although the results were not statistically significant.

Of forty-six patients, half received three tablets of Bio-Three three times daily and the other half received placebo doses instead.

  • At three months, the relapse rates in the probiotic therapy group was 0% compared to 17.4% for placebo.
  • At six months, the relapse rate in the probiotic group was 8.7% compared to 26.1% in the placebo group.
  • At 9 months, the relapse rate in the probiotic group was 21.7% compared to 34.8% in the placebo group.
  • At 12 months, the remission rate was 30.5 % in the probiotic group and 43.4% in the placebo group.
  • Fecal flora was analyzed and three clusters of bacterial profiles were identified: cluster I, cluster II, and cluster III. Cluster II has the highest levels of Bididobacteria and benefitted the least from the addition of the probiotic. Cluster I had the lowest level of Bifidobacteria and benefitted the most from the addition of the probiotic, which seems, among other things, to shift the flora to be more consistent with a cluster II bacterial profile. Cluster III was somewhere in the middle for Bifidobacteria.
  • The butyrate to acetate ratio was higher in patients who relapsed. The researchers suggest that the colonic cells are not able to uptake butyrate properly so it persists in the fecal matter.

Source: Yoshimatsu Y, Yamada A, Furukawa R, Sono K, Osamura A, Nakamura K, Aoki H, Tsuda Y, Hosoe N, Takada N, Suzuki Y. Effectiveness of probiotic therapy for the prevention of relapse in patients with inactive ulcerative colitis. World J Gastroenterol. 2015; 21(19): 5985-5994.

[So why not just take Bifido? I think one has to think about the whole climate of the GI tract. Clostridium butyricum would not directly inoculate Bifido. I’d like to think it creates bacteriocins (its own natural antibiotics) and pH changes that can then allow Bifido to properly reproduce and thrive as indicated. Like bringing in hummingbirds by planting geraniums and butterfly bushes. I can put hummingbird food out in winter and bring them, but I haven’t really provided them an environment to prosper. It’s all about cultivating an environment for cure to effect itself–not about taking the magic pill for cure. That’s why food is key.]

Treating ulcerative colitis patients who had food allergies with Clostridium butyricum (420 mg twice daily, brand not mentioned) plus specific immunotherapy for a year reduced the need ulcerative colitis medication.

[Aside: If you have ulcerative colitis, has your healthcare professional suggested food allergy for your consideration?]

Eighty patients with food allergy (diagnosed by skin testing) associated ulcerative colitis were divided into four groups: placebo, Clostridium butyricum only, specific immunotherapy only (SIT), or Clostridium butyricum with specific immunotherapy together. Using Clostridium butyricum alone or specific immunotherapy alone non-significantly reduced the need for ulcerative colitis medication. However, using the treatments together significantly impacted and reduced the need for medication for ulcerative colitis.

The study also investigated the cellular differences and immune response differences among the placebo group, the food allergy ulcerative colitis group, and the non-food allergy ulcerative colitis group. There were marked, significant differences among the groups, reflecting the significance of food allergy on the cellular response of the body. This study found that food allergy associated ulcerative colitis has unique cellular and immune response differences. [It reinforced in my mind the need for inflammatory bowel patients to modify their diets, especially looking at the top 8 allergenic foods.]

Source: Specific immunotherapy plus Clostridium butyricum alleviates ulcerative colitis in patients with food allergy. Bin La. Fan Yan. Dong Lu. & Zhenlv Lin. Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 25587 (2016).

Taking Clostridium butyricum (Miya-BM, three tablets three times daily) after total proctocolectomy with ileal pouch anal anastomosis for ulcerative colitis seemed to decrease the risk of pouchitis compared to placebo over a two-year period.

Nine patients received the probiotic and eight patients received a placebo; however only seven of the probiotic patients completed the study. Only 1 of the probiotic recipients developed pouchitis, whereas 4 of the placebo patients did. The difference was not statistically significant. Miya-BM was the probiotic. It is the same strain and made by the same manufacturer as the Miyarisan Miyairi CBM 588 I mentioned in the last post. However, the label for the Miyarisan Miyairi CBM 588 tablets that I see have 270 mg compared to the 20 mg mentioned for this study. I’m not sure how to compare that for equivalent dosing among Clostridium butyricum probiotics.

As mentioned in the other studies above, Bifidobacteria increased with use of the Clostridium butyricum. (It also increased in the placebo arm, but the placebo was lactose, which the researchers feel may have allowed Bifidobacteria to increase.) It was also found that Escherichia coli also decreased with Clostridium butyricum use. One last interesting parameter to point out is the effect of Clostridium butyricum on AST and ALT values (“liver function tests”). Clostridium butyricum significantly reduced AST and ALT values compared to placebo.

Source: The effect of Clostridium butyricum MIYAIRI on the prevention of pouchitis and alteration of the microbiota profile in patients with ulcerative colitis. Yasueda, A., Mizushima, T., Nezu, R. et al. Surg Today (2016) 46: 939.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Although Clostridium butyricum is commonly used in Asia for diverse indications, which I assume includes general symptoms of abdominal discomfort, bloating, and diarrhea (aka, irritable bowel syndrome), I did not readily find irritable bowel studies using Clostridium butyricum. I’ll present what I did find.

A new 2018 study on mice concluded that Clostridium butyricum may exert a beneficial action on visceral hypersensitivity of IBS by inhibiting low grade inflammation of colonic mucous through its action on NLRP6.

NLRP6 is thought to help stabilize the intestinal epithelium to allow repair. In this mouse study, Clostridium butyricum (dose: 1.25×10^9 CFU once daily for 7 days) increased NLRP6 while inflammatory IL-18 and IL-1B were decreased. Inflammatory infiltration into the colonic mucosa was decreased in the mice who received the probiotic. Mice who received Clostridium butyricum had less visceral sensitivity.

Source: Kejia Zhao, Leimin Yu, Xi Wang, Yibo He, Bin Lu; Clostridium butyricum regulates visceral hypersensitivity of irritable bowel syndrome by inhibiting colonic mucous low grade inflammation through its action on NLRP6, Acta Biochimica et Biophysica Sinica, Volume 50, Issue 2, 1 February 2018, Pages 216–223.

In a 2013 Chinese study, two groups of irritable bowel patients received the same dietary information and were maintained on common drug treatments. However, in addition, one group received Clostridium butyricum 500 mg twice a day for a month. At the end of the month, the researchers reported a significant improvement in symptoms of the Clostridium butyricum group.

The study is a Chinese study, and I cannot find it any more than I reference.

Source: http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTOTAL-GLYZ201303005.htm.
Zhu Ya-bi, Li Hong-guang, Wang Chang-xiong, Wang Wang-yue. Effects of clostridium butyricum in adjuvant treatment of patients with irritable bowel syndrome. The Chinese Journal of Pharmacology. 2013.

To prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea

In children who required antibiotics, Clostridium butyricum (MIYAIRI) decreased the frequency of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. The probiotic was effective in both prophylactic prevention of diarrhea and also in treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Study participants were divided into three groups: antibiotic only, antibiotic with Clostridium butyricum started half-way through the duration of antibiotic, and antibiotic with Clostridium butyricum given at the start of antibiotic dosing. The dose of Clostridium butyricum CBM was 1-4 grams daily of 10^7 CFUs in the form of a dissolvable powder. When the dose was higher than 3 grams, the beneficial effect of the Clostridium butyricum on loose stools was statistically significant: 83% versus 49%. Stool studies also showed that a more normal microbial flora was preserved with concomitant use of the probiotic.

Source: SEKI, H., SHIOHARA, M., MATSUMURA, T., MIYAGAWA, N., TANAKA, M., KOMIYAMA, A. and KURATA, S. (2003), Prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children by Clostridium butyricum MIYAIRI. Pediatrics International, 45: 86–90.

In a small study of 19 patients being treated for Helicobacter pylori with amoxicillin and clarithromycin, Clostridium butyricum (Miyairi CBM 588) at increasing doses eliminated diarrhea and/or soft stools. (A “regular” dose of 6 tablets of 10^7 CFUs showed a decrease in diarrhea, but a double dose of 12 tablets seemed to prevent diarrhea completely.)

Source: Efficacy of Clostridium butyricum preparation concomitantly with Helicobacter pylori eradication therapy in relation to changes in the intestinal microbiota. Kyoto Imase, Motomichi Takahashi, Akifumi Tanaka, Kengo Tokunaga, Hajime Sugano, Mamoru Tanaka, Hitoshi Ishida, Shigeru Kamiya and Shin’ichi Takahashi. Microbiology and Immunology. Volume 52, Issue 3, Version of Record online: 8 APR 2008.

Closing

I’ll have more coming on leaky gut, anxiety, pathogenic gut infections, and more!

Terri

Butyrate Series, Part 8

Hello! I have not stopped working on and constructing butyrate posts (or other posts, like recipes and homeschooling posts), but I haven’t been able to complete them in a very timely manner. Whew! Homeschooling is hard work! However, I’m ready to start posting the next installment of my Butyrate Series. Let’s look at another way to potentially increase butyrate production in the body. . .

Warning: Writing up what I’ve learned about certain topics is simply a hobby of mine. It’s my entertainment and way to unwind from motherhood, homeschooling, and housework. When you read my writing, I’d like you to enter into an agreement with me: you read it to see what I think I’ve learned, but you do not read it with the thought that I am some expert or that I can possibly help you. I can’t help you. Supplements and treatments discussed enthusiastically on the internet can be dangerous. You, however, armed with knowledge and curiosity, can take the initiative to safely and non-ignorantly make a difference for yourself. This site is not medical advice.

Probiotics to (directly) increase butyrate

The Japanese have used a strain of Clostridium butyricum, a direct butyrate-producing bacteria, as a probiotic since about the 1970s. Savvy health professionals know butyrate best for its gut benefits (healing leaky gut, improving the mucous barrier, and improving motility), but it also has positive effects on the kidneys, brain, and metabolism–not to mention colon cancer prevention. Despite its structural simplicity, the little short chain fatty acid called butyrate truly makes a powerful, all-encompassing health difference.

Personally, my favorite way to increase butyrate in the body is NOT to take supplements– but to eat green bananas, leftover boiled cassava root, and/or leftover potatoes. Aiming to eat whole, real food is always best, but it may not be enough for select problems.  I get that. So I’m curious about all the other ways to increase butyrate.

If you have read any of my butyrate posts, you may remember that I outlined and explored four potential ways to increase the body’s butyrate levels:

  1. Eat butyrate-rich foods, like butter from grass-fed cows.
  2. Eat foods that butyrate-producing bacteria like to metabolize, particularly green bananas, green plantains, refrigerated and then reheated potatoes, beans, lentils, cassava root, and/or rice.
  3. Take butyrate supplements directly.
  4. Take probiotics which contain bacteria known to make butyrate.

Since last writing, I’ve expanded my list of potential butyrate-producing methods that I’d maybe eventually like to write about:

5. Take probiotics which support butyrate-producing bacteria in the GI tract.
6.  Consume prebiotic fibers which enhance butyrate production by GI tract bacteria.
7. Maybe we could somehow upregulate our colonic butyrate importers, such as MCT1 and SMCT1. (1, 2)

My other butyrate posts have waded through points one through three. After quite a gap in my writing due to my work raising four wonderful people in the early stages of life, let’s talk about point number four: probiotics which contain bacteria known to directly make butyrate.

Commercially available butyrate-producing probiotics

The only direct butyrate-producing bacteria (that I found) that we have available as a probiotic for human consumption is Clostridium butyricum. Quite a bit of searching turned up only two different probiotic brands to buy with Clostridium butyricum. (Have you seen any others I’ve missed?) Although both probiotics contain spores of the same species, Clostridium butyricum, they are different strains of the species.

When ingested, the bacterial spores germinate and grow in the intestinal tract, making the short chain fatty acids butyrate and acetate (6). Both strains and brands have studies behind them for various health conditions which I’ll try to discuss in this thread of posts (but not in this post today). Both probiotics can be found on Amazon.

  1. MIYAIRI 588 (CBM 588) Miyarisan Tablets
  • A one-strain probiotic of Clostridium butyricum
  • Manufactured in Japan and distributed there as an over-the-counter medicine
  • Commonly available and used in Asia
  • Available in two strengths: standard and strong. If you look at my citation number 4, you’ll find the recommended dose and much, much more about this probiotic.
  • Other listed ingredients are lactose, corn starch, talc, microcrystalline cellulose, and magnesium stearate
  • History: First isolated from feces by Dr. Chikaji Miyairi in Japan in 1933. CBM 588 is the 588th MIYAIRI strain, isolated from a soil sample in Nagano, Japan in 1963.
  • As mentioned, the probiotic is composed of spores of C. butyricum (rather than “live,” active bacteria), which are then activated in the gastrointestinal tract, making the probiotic quite shelf stable with no refrigeration required. (3, 4)

2. Advanced Orthomolecular Research Probiotic-3

  • A three-strain probiotic which includes Clostridium butyricum TO-A, Enterococcus faecium (same as Streptococcus faecalis) T-110, and Bacillus subtilis TO-A (some places I see the label with Bacillus mesentericus)
  • Only the Clostridium butyricum is the direct butyrate-producing bacteria
  • Also contains lactose, potato starch, polyvinyl alcohol, providone, and sodium stearyl fumarate
  • If I understand correctly, it contains Bio-Three probiotic formula. I believe the “TO-A” implies that the strain was produced by the TOA Pharmaceutical company in Japan (inferred from Bio-Three website). The Bio-Three formulation is used in Japan, and has studies behind it.
  • No refrigeration necessary. As with the Miyairi probiotic, the Clostridium butyricum is in the shelf-stable spore form. (5)

About Clostridia and the bacterial species Clostridium butyricum in general

When we are about one month old, different commensal species of Clostridia start to colonize our gastrointestinal (GI) tracts. They are supposed to be there and provide specific and essential benefits to us without causing harm. Since we only typically hear of the toxic Clostridial diseases like botulism, tetanus, and “C. diff.,”  it may sound strange to some of you to know you healthfully have an abundance of clostridium residing in your GI tract! If you think of Clostridia as a “bad” class of bacteria, you might find it even more disturbing and confusing to know that a known pathogen like Clostridium difficile (the culprit in C. diff pseudomembranous colitis) can be part of a normal human gut biome or can actually prevent infection. (6-9)

[Opinionated aside: The fascinating idea that a strain of C. difficile, a bacteria we think of as toxic, can be normal flora supports why I would argue with people that we have to stop oversimplifying health, stop trying to peg things, and start convincing people to do complete overhauls to their modern lifestyles and mindsets to bring the body into rhythm with itself. Don’t just take butyrate supplements and butyrate-enhancing probioitics—investigate your life, eating, habits and make impact changes. Being honest with and scrutinizing oneself often hurts for several months, but if done properly, you move past the pain, and healing and change can begin. Perfection will never be reached in this realm, but progress feels so good to a mind and body.]

Clostridium butyricum is one species of Clostridia bacteria. It is Gram-positive, rod-shaped, and anaerobic. It lives in soil and in the GI tracts of birds and mammals and can be found on the skins of potatoes, Swedes, and even in cream and yoghurt. It ferments starches to produce butyrate. When C. butyricum is exposed to a stressful environment, it can form endospores, an alternative form which allows it to survive the stressful conditions, to later reactivate when exposed to desirable conditions. It is the spores which are used in the probiotic formulation, allowing them to be shelf-stable without refrigeration for several years. (3, 4)

Some of you may have read about the clusters of clostridia and wondered about that. The Clostridia microbiological class (to which C. butyricum belongs) is exceptionally diverse, and even the commonly accepted shared characteristics, such as being rod-shaped (bacillus), anaerobic, and spore forming, have variations and exceptions to the rules. In the attempt to break down, stratify, and classify the types of Clostridia, the species C. butyricum is categorized into what is called “Cluster I Clostridia.” Cluster I Clostridia aren’t common inhabitants of the human gut. Human guts seem to mostly contain butyrate-producing bacteria from Clostridium clusters IV and XIVa rather than cluster I, but some human GI tracts do contain Clostridium butyricum, so clearly it does naturally happen. Fecal studies have found Clostridium butyricum in about 10-20% of its surveys. (6-9)

For all practical purposes, C. butyricum is a non-toxic clostridium species, but there have been reports that it can acquire some of the toxic genes from other clostridia, leading to production of poisonous toxins which may contribute to infant botulism or infant necrotizing enterocolitis. Regarding adults, one case of sepsis from Clostridium butyricum has been reported in an intravenous drug user and one case of antibiotic associated diarrhea has been reported. The complexities of toxin acquisition/production depend on the strain, the host, and interactions with other strains. Some strains of Clostridium butyricum are probiotic and beneficial and other strains show virulence. The probiotic strains mentioned are tested for non-virulence.  (6, 7)

Closing

I’ll cut off this post for today and try to clean up my next writing segment regarding specific uses of the probiotic Clostridium butyricum. I do not have it “polished up” yet, but posting this half will force my hand to get the rest of it tidied up and posted for those interested. I’d like it if you’d point out typos or mis-information to me so I can make corrections. Thanks in advance.

Please keep in mind: I don’t really care about probiotics or bacteria or food. What I really care about is that you grasp your life, your whole life, and tenaciously latch on to the things that are good and real– and that you weed out the things that are bad for you and noxious. I love life. I’ve had my share of challenges, smaller than many, bigger than some. But no matter what, I try to choose to face life HEAD ON with as much transparency as I can. And each new day, each new week, each new stress, shows me how to become more true and real.

The best to you,

Terri F

Citations:

  1. Pedro Gancalves, Fa’tima Martel. Butyrate and Colorectal Cancer: The Role of Butyrate Transport. Current Drug Metabolism. Volume 14, Issue 9, 2013.
  2. Pedro Gonçalves, Fátima Martel. Regulation of colonic epithelial butyrate transport: Focus on colorectal cancer. Biomedical Journal. Volume 1, Issue 3, July–August 2016, Pages 83-91.
  3. Wikipedia site regarding Clostridium butyricumhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clostridium_butyricum
  4. Clostridium butyricum Miyairi 588 Novel Food Application, public version: C. butyricum MIYAIRI 588 as a novel food supplement.  Probiotic food supplement. Miyarisan pharmaceutical company, LTD. https://acnfp.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/mnt/drupal_data/sources/files/multimedia/pdfs/clostridiumbutyricumdossier.pdf
  5. Bio-Three website: http://www.bio-three.com/
  6. N.Cassir, S.Benamar, B.La Scola. Clostridium butyricum: from beneficial to a new emerging pathogen. Clinical Microbiology and Infection. Volume 22, Issue 1, January 2016, Pages 37-45. Review. 
  7. Rousseau, Clotilde & Poilane, Isabelle & De Pontual, Loic & Maherault, Anne-Claire & Le Monnier, Alban & Collignon, Anne. Clostridium difficile Carriage in Healthy Infants in the Community: A Potential Reservoir for Pathogenic Strains. Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. 2012. 55. 1209-15.
  8. CS Cummins and JL Johnson. Taxonomy of the Clostridia : Wall Composition and DNA Homologies in Clostridium butyricum and Other Butyric Acid-producing Clostridia. Journal of General Microbiology.   (197 I), 67,33-46
  9. Lopetuso LR, Scaldaferri F, Petito V, Gasbarrini A. Commensal Clostridia: leading players in the maintenance of gut homeostasis. Gut Pathogens. 2013;5:23. doi:10.1186/1757-4749-5-23.

 

On Waiting Patiently for What You Want

When the hour comes, find it. Don’t let it pass. But don’t force it. Wait on it. Wait on it. Like waiting to make a left-hand turn at a busy intersection. If you wait patiently long enough, your opportunity comes. Ignore the honking of your brain telling you to, “Go. Go now.” You know the time’s not right. You’d be cutting it too close.

I’m waiting on the routine hour or two of writing time I had in the past for this blog to come back to me. I know it will when the toddler gets a little older and doesn’t need my hands and feet so much from morning to night. I’m waiting patiently and calmly on my “left turn.” I know it will come. Yes, I get a little resentful at times that carving out an hour to write seems to be impossible without throwing the house out of equilibrium too much somewhere else. But it will come IF and AS I am patiently and persistently waiting on it.

Is there a place in life where you need to be patiently and persistently looking for that nice interval to get back in the flow of traffic again? I’m waiting and watching with you. I won’t turn into traffic and crash, and I won’t wait for midnight to make an easy, but too late, turn. I’m on the lookout for that good, timely opening. It always comes if I’m looking for it.

I have been absent here simply because I cannot get to the laptop to research and write. Thankfully, everything in “our little box” (my home) is going refreshingly well, one of those few lulls that life gives you every now and then! I just can’t carve out writing time! I’ve tried staying up late. That didn’t work. I’ve tried going to the library. That doesn’t work. And so on. But, I’ll figure it out. And I hope, in nutrition, health, education, whatever it is, I hope you do too!

Don’t give up. Look for a way. Problem solve. Wait patiently, yet with a steady persistent vision.

Hope to write more soon! But only as traffic and my driving skills allow! Thanks for your vote of confidence in reading what I write. It is valued.

Terri

 

My Experience With Working and Homeschooling

For two years I worked as a physician (as a hospitalist, if you know what that is) and homeschooled. It was a crazy time of life for me, and I didn’t like the chaos. Some of my best friends with kids say that working keeps them sane. Or that it makes them better parents. I kind of wondered at first what was wrong with me. Why wasn’t I a happy and working mom? Or a happy working and homeschooling mom? Was I somehow weak or flawed? Was I just not capable of being a modern woman?

Nah. I know I’m as capable as the next man or woman. But I didn’t want to do it. Homeschooling, “mommy-ing,” and working concomitantly didn’t make my heart happy. It didn’t add to my life. I don’t like frazzle. I don’t like chronic chaos. I don’t like being spread thin. And, notably, I could not make the transfer from work to kids. In some ways, I feel more “man” in this regard than my husband (who is what I call “all guy”), who can walk in the door and be fully vested in us, granting hugs all around.

Not me! Me? Point me to the nearest man cave! After a 12 hour day of work back in the day, I was like, “I’d prefer it if I didn’t see anyone until the Queen (me) has bathed, fully supped, checked her written correspondence, and then, perhaps then, she’ll grant kisses on chubby little hands on their way to bed.”

WHOA! Who wants that woman for a mom? WHO wants to be that woman? Not me! I didn’t like that me! I’m a good, kind, loving, and compassionate mom, and I needed to create the environment that allowed the real mommy-me to shine.

So when people ask me, “Can you work and homeschool?” My answer is, “Of course you can! I don’t want to, but you sure can!” I thought I’d share myself as a case-study for those exploring this question for themselves. Perchance, by seeing some of yourself–or NOT seeing yourself–in me, you’ll be better prepared to answer the question with awareness of yourself.

Yes, this helps…

First let’s look at the properties of my life that allowed me to feel comfortable homeschooling and working for a while:

  • An exceptionally supportive husband
  • Very flexible hours
  • Kind co-workers
  • Only homeschooling one child at first, who was in her early years (kindergarten through about second grade)
  • I kept the curriculum basic and felt 90% free to adapt it to how she learned (which wasn’t how I wanted her to learn…).
  • Living in a warm climate which allowed lots of outdoor time
  • Good friends already in place for my kids to hang out with on weekends and evenings (These friends went to school and were not homeschooled.)
  • A strong homeschool co-op for activities as we wanted them and where we could (and did!) meet new friends when I wasn’t working
  • I sent one younger sibling to a wonderful morning pre-school which she loved, leaving just the baby who still napped, so we could homeschool during morning nap time on my days off.
  • My daughter was young enough to cooperate with some weekend and evening work if we didn’t get things done.
  • My female doctor friends from medical school encouraging me to follow my heart

Mmm. That doesn’t sound pleasant…

Now let’s look at the other side which really began limiting a positive homeschooling and life experience:

  • I was tired all the time and very forgetful. I physically felt bad and wondered what was wrong with me.
  • The part of me that needs alone time to recover was battered, raped, and abused.
  • Work called more and I could give less. I felt guilty because my co-workers were good people who worked too much themselves, and here I was telling them “no.”
  • My kids needed me more and I felt guilty.
  • My husband wanted me and he was last on the list.
  • Physical messes in my home affect me greatly and with me gone working, there were more physical messes.
  • The schoolwork started requiring more time and effort.
  • It just didn’t feel like there was time for the refrigerator to break, the air conditioning to need fixed, fleas to get in the house, doctor’s appointments, sick days—-in general, no time for life to happen.
  • Schoolwork didn’t happen well without me there to guide it or push it along. (I had a recalcitrant student who has now blossomed incredibly.) A sitter or grandparent just didn’t have the same effect as mom.
  • I had a toddler. Toddlers are very demanding.
  • I had a nursing baby.
  • I was perpetually irritable.

Why do I need this?

When working and homeschooling became more than I wanted to piggyback, then I stopped and looked at WHY I wanted to work:

  • I had loans to pay off.
  • Because I had put SO much effort into getting where I was at! Twelve years of my life and tons of delayed gratification!
  • I liked being a hospitalist doctor a lot. Taking care of hospitalized, acutely ill patients is usually very rewarding.
  • Work offered rhythm, constancy, and community. When I walked into the hospital, I knew exactly what to expect. (Yes, each day and patient was different! But the rhythm of the system was the same.)
  • It worked a whole different part of my brain than child rearing and housework, and that felt good. Kind of like a back rub for the brain!
  • To provide a sense of equality with my husband in our household. (I’m a wee-bit competitive.)
  • I felt respected and well-liked.
  • I felt it was a service still being asked of me by my God.
  • I didn’t want to be “just” a stay-at-home mom.

Maybe if…

I often sit around, just for fun, and wonder what would have allowed me to homeschool and work. I think maybe I could have done both if:

  • I had immediate family living in the same town
  • Someone else would have been as good as I was at getting my daughter to do her work
  • If external chaos didn’t faze me so strongly
  • If my life situation necessitated it
  • My husband had a knack for teaching young children
  • The kids weren’t so young
  • I could have lowered expectations in all areas of my life
  • Monkeys flew and unicorns swam

Closing

Many people find my little spot here when they are searching about homeschooling and quitting work. I liked working as a medical doctor, but once I had kids, the same overachieving, perfectionist, benevolent tendencies that allowed me to succeed in medicine are the exact same traits that demanded me to achieve success my way in motherhood. I wish I could have it all: work, kids, homeschooling, a happy me, a happy marriage, exercise, three real-food-meals a day, friends, a clean and tidy house, sleep, a well-decorated house, church, a new kitchen, a dog, a blog, flying monkeys and swimming unicorns.

But I can’t. For me, I decided I didn’t need professional satisfaction or resting on laurels. I did need to keep learning and sharing (so I study and write little articles for this blog on alternative health). I needed to know I could work if necessary or desired (so I keep my licenses up). I needed to know that I was providing safety, security, and a strong psychological, emotional, educational, and spiritual core for my kids (and me!!!!). I needed to have time to foster a relationship with my husband. I needed some semblance of order.

No matter what—I don’t need aeronautical primates or aquatic, horned equines that just don’t exist.

Good luck to you! It’s a “live, studio audience,” so feel free to ask questions or leave comments on your experience.

Terri

Photo attribution:  Sonarpulse. origenal:Huji [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

More Diet Advice to a Friend

You’re “fat” and you’re determined to do something about that. But you’re overwhelmed at the road ahead of you, which you’ve skipped down before, thinking, “This time! This time!” Darn it– that time and that time must have been circular highways, because somehow you ended back here at fat again.

Again. Again. Why is it always again? You’ve lost 8.1256 pounds this month’s go-round, but do you really have what it takes to ditch 50 pounds for FORever?

Forever means like, well, forever. Never stop. Ever. Suddenly, you dip your head, slump your shoulders, let out a deep sigh, and look at the ground. Maybe I can’t do it, you think. Why try?

Why try? Why try? I’ll tell you why. For every ray of sunshine that rises in the morning. For every star in the evening sky. For every smudge on the wall from the hand of your child. For every kiss from your husband. For me writing this post. For you wanting it so badly. For your liver, heart, brain, hormones, ovaries (if you have them) and knees, all weight-sensitive body parts.

Don’t be overwhelmed. You can do this! While it IS all about the long haul, the victory is won in the moment! Every moment presents each of us with the same important question: Will I keep my motivation in this moment? Not, “Will I keep my motivation for a year?” Or, “Can I eat this way for 30 days?” NO. Repeatedly for the rest of our lives the question is, “Will I keep my motivation in THIS moment?” And if you don’t, you truly, really do have the next moment.

Motivational Baloney

That’s great talk, Terri. That’s  motivational. For a moment. Till I fail. Motivational speakers help us for a moment. And only a moment. Everybody knows that.

That’s right. That’s right. That’s 100% true. The only person who can change anything is you. But I believe in you.

My mom once told me, “Terri, I wish I had your self-confidence.” I about fell off of my chair. First, this is the woman who made me most of who I am. Second, I’m not that self-confident. I believe in myself. I believe I can find a way. I don’t give up easily when handed a problem. But when I was on the volleyball end-line serving the game-point serve for the win, I really didn’t want to be there, despite a 98% successful serving percentage. When I started writing about nutrition, I was scared, thinking maybe the die-hard Paleo, Raw Foodists, low-carbers, Mediterranean dieters, or heck, even the food pyramid advocates were right. Doubt assailed, and continues to assail, me like a mad hornet. I have enough self-doubt for about 20 people. (Want some? No, no. That’s not why I’m here. I’m here to show you it can be done, self-doubt and all.)

I’m helping my good friend Annie again with her forever weight loss plan, and I’m sharing things we talk about. I don’t know if I’m “qualified” or not. I’m not a nutritionist or a health coach or even a practicing physician anymore. You should check out everything you read here and not act blindly on any of it, especially health-related stuff. I can’t know the ins and outs of your story. I know I once struggled with bulimia and food addiction. I know obesity runs in my family. I know I’ve gained a new assurance around food, what I eat, and why I eat it with each passing year, and I know it’s required a hard look at my diet, my thought life, my history, my spirituality, and my driving motivation.

I’ve read about obese people losing all their weight and arriving at skinny, only to realize it didn’t provide the peace and security they envisioned. I don’t want that for any of you. This means interior work must be a priority as well as exterior work. I believe we are presented with problems in life to reach wholeness. It’s better than any video game you could ever play or design.

Doubtful and overwhelming thoughts crave full expression, not submersion. 

We’re only as strong as our ability to express our greatest weaknesses and fears. If you want to put obesity behind you, you have to face-to-face encounter your negative feelings. Instead of submerging negative feelings, they MUST be met and offered the light of day. I mean, for crying out loud, they’re there! The way people try to hide things is almost comical, if it wasn’t so sad. Hiding dirty socks under the bed for too long just keeps the room SMELLY!

I beg you to work very hard all day to catch negative emotions and name them. They are the junk food poisoning your brain and keeping you obese, telling you words like:

  • always
  • never
  • failure
  • can’t do it
  • too much
  • overwhelmed
  • stressed
  • weak
  • ugly
  • fat
  • too hard

So remember.

Permanently losing weight comes one choice, each moment at a time. You can change any bad choice now and from this choice onward.

Permanently losing weight requires cleaning up your thought life by identifying your feelings and expressing them fully to yourself. Start this assignment today. Now. (And teach it to your kids and spouse.) How did this article make you feel? Why?

Weight loss itself will NOT bring you happiness. Permanently changing the patterns that keep you on the circular highway of weight loss will.

You are worth it. Your body is worth it. Your kids are worth it. Your spouse is worth it. Your God is worth it. Persist despite your awareness of self-doubt.

I’ll keep sharing ideas that Annie and I discuss as they come up. There are MANY. If permanent weight loss was just moderately hard, you’d have done it a long time ago!

Terri

 

 

Teaching Homeschooled Kids Spanish, Part II

There’s a lot of talk about tolerance in America and how we, in particular our schools, can make people more tolerant. You can’t make people more tolerant from the outside in. It’s more likely to happen from the inside out, and there is a perfectly sound, academically acceptable way to begin to foster tolerance in our schools from the inside out: foreign language instruction beginning in kindergarten. Forget STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). There’s time for that later. (Neither Albert Einstein nor Isaac Newton flourished in their elementary math and science instruction, although I’ve read that Dr. Einstein learned French at a young age, had very little accent in the language, and was invited frequently to lecture in France, where he delivered the information in fluent French.) Foreign language acquisition promotes unity, brain development, and global competence.

In most American schools, learning a foreign language is a bottom priority and doesn’t truly begin until ninth grade (around age 15). So for all this talk about teaching kids tolerance (and for that matter, how to succeed in a global economy), we errantly save something that’s scientifically known to be best learned as a young child (which can promote tolerance and unity early on in an educationally appropriate manner) and shove it into the teenage curriculum. Think. What’s happening in the teenage years? At this time, kids are painstakingly trying NOT to be different! They just want a place to fit in.

Well, anyhow, my homeschooled kids are learning Spanish. It isn’t easy to track down tutors. It isn’t easy to keep them motivated. It isn’t easy to know what to tell the tutor to teach or how to teach it. But, my kids deserve, like most of the rest of the world, to know how to speak a couple of languages or more. I’d encourage the rest of you to call your local schools and start discussing academically legitimate ways to improve tolerance (don’t diss the other ways in any way, shape, or form–that won’t work), and I think early language acquisition is one of them. More rules won’t solve problems.

Okay. Enough on that. I want to share more on how we actually have implemented this Spanish curriculum. This is part two today. For part one, click here.

Where do you find tutors?

We chose the immersion method to teach our kids Spanish, which meant we simply needed a pleasant person who spoke Spanish and could interact with kids well.  My kids loved art, so the tutors would draw and color with them, naming colors, objects, and pictures as they went along. Sometimes, they’d go push them on the swings and describe the parts of the playground (swings, slides, sandbox). Sometimes they’d fly kites. But all of it was in Spanish. I didn’t want Spanish “class.” I wanted Spanish-speaking in life.

I approached many Spanish speakers I saw out and about, but I could see the thought of “teaching” intimidated them. It took persistent seeking to find someone willing to come be our Spanish tutor. Once they figured out all they’d have to do is play with my kids while speaking in Spanish, they didn’t mind.

Here are places and ways I have found Spanish tutors:

  • I have approached bank tellers with those little signs that read: “Se habla español.”
  • I have attended Spanish-speaking Sunday school classes and churches.
  • I have attended English as a Second Language classes that I found signs for at the library. I usually call and see if they need volunteers. If you get your foot in the door, you can meet Spanish-speaking students in the class who may reciprocate language instruction with you.
  • I have called a local university and asked to speak with the Spanish department head about potential students who may want to earn extra money tutoring.
  • I have asked the Spanish tutor we have to help us find another person if they have to leave.
  • Several of our tutors have been members of the local “International Club,” a club for people who move to our community from foreign countries, so this is a good place to ask.
  • I have asked the local Montessori school instructor. (Montessori schools are often multi-cultural.)

What did your Spanish teachers do?

My goal early on was immersion. Have the kids only hear Spanish with this person. What did they do? They played. Often my kids even picked the activity. I watched the kids for boredom or frustration during the “lesson” and guided them to different activities as needed. Many times, I got the tutor started on WHAT to do, letting them take over then as they figured out what I wanted. Some of our tutors have had their own unique ideas and after running it by me, did their own thing, and others liked it better if I told them what was on the agenda that day. I worked with the teacher’s style. Here are things I remember doing:

  • Playing on the swing set
  • Drawing (rooms of the house, gardens, and animals), labeling, and coloring
  • Flying kites
  • Having  tea parties
  • Planting seeds
  • Simple games like “Mother, May I” and “Simon Says”
  • Having competitions in the house among the siblings to see who can find objects fastest
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Classic children songs from the tutor’s childhood
  • Library books in Spanish
  • Flashcards
  • Spanish BINGO
  • Cooking food from the tutor’s homeland
  • Playing Barbies
  • Making plays in Spanish

How often did your tutor come?

Originally, all I could get was someone to come once a week as her work schedule allowed. As the years have passed, we have been able to find tutors able to come at a bare minimum of twice a week for two hours total a week. So my kids heard native Spanish at least two hours weekly in our home. Now, we are super lucky to have a friend who comes each day and speaks in Spanish with the girls.

Didn’t your children get frustrated when the tutor spoke only Spanish?

That was where my job came in. I almost always participated in the lessons. (I always asked the tutor if they preferred me present or not present. Usually they said they didn’t care. So then, I’d try it both ways and see which way my kids did better.) Not as a dictator, but more of an encourager, “Look we are in this together. I’m learning it too. We can do this,” and assistant teacher. If my children were getting frustrated, bored, or overwhelmed, I sensed it and could interpret or redirect as needed. Of course, I also asked the Spanish teacher to do that too, if they needed to. We had the best results when the tutor spoke entirely all in Spanish. My kids expected me to speak English and the tutor to speak Spanish.

How much did you pay?

This was greatly determined by the region of the country that I was living in, the year (prices go up as the years pass!), how much experience the tutor had, how many hours the tutor was going to come each week, how many kids I had at the time, and what the tutor was expected to do. I remember when a tutor asked for a certain price, and I was like, “Whoa! That’s a lot.” Then, I Googled it and saw that I was getting a bargain! Again, I think the price is greatly determined by your region of the United States. Our foreign language instruction does get the biggest chunk of our homeschool budget because I can’t teach it.

Closing

Well, I have more on this topic and will save it for another day. May you all be well and live well.

Terri

Illustration attribution: Francisco de Goya [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; {{PD-1923}} – published before 1923 and public domain in the U.S.

Teaching Homeschooled Kids Spanish

When my husband really decides to do something, he has a singular focus that only a few people in life can understand. I don’t. I’m slow and steady and persistent. He’s “cut the drivel” and do it now. Can be quite intimidating and abrasive for those who don’t get it. But once you recognize it as a signature style, it’s actually kind of fun to observe! Anyhow, he decided to learn Spanish about ten years ago. That meant if you even looked like you spoke Spanish, he would strike up a conversation with you in Spanish. He had a few fails, especially on people with Latino background who didn’t speak Spanish. (So much for not profiling…) He should have been embarrassed, but the thing is, he didn’t care! He was learning Spanish and wanted to practice whenever he could! Oh, but his wife and kids blushed. I mean, at the Mexican restaurant, people would be looking around for their food, and there would be my husband holding up their server with his Gringo Spanish. Eventually, though, we quit being embarrassed, decided to follow along, and now make friends at every Mexican restaurant we frequent.

I myself started learning Spanish about thirteen years ago during my fourth year of medical school. Fourth year medical school is the best year of your life, as all you do is “fun” rotations that you pick out. Plus, you get travel time to go to interview at residencies. That was the year I asked a Spanish-speaking bank teller if she knew anyone who could help me learn Spanish. I was encountering dozens of patients who only spoke Spanish, and I wanted to bridge that gap a little but didn’t know any Spanish speakers with time to help me learn. She put me in place with a pastor who was teaching his congregation English, and my foot was in the door. I still remember driving to sketchy neighborhoods at night and eating cactus and menudo (tripe; beef stomach).

That’s briefly our Spanish story. Both my husband and I decided that our homeschooled kids needed to learn a foreign language, and Spanish made the most sense. In general, we are very practical people. Being practical, we also know that the best time to learn a language is as a kid. We had moved around and it took a bit of time to find a tutor because, and this is my personal opinion, there is a general distrust between cultures and perceived social classes. But we found a native Spanish speaker to come to our home and spend time with our young children speaking only in Spanish. (She and every single one of our tutors have been amazing people. Each different. But each amazing.)

My oldest has been learning Spanish for about eight years now, and we finally just enrolled her in formal on-line lessons. Up to this point, everything has been done in our home by native speaking Spanish tutors who have had no training in teaching. They were just people who spoke Spanish as a primary language. I’d like to share our homeschooling Spanish experience for others to read who may be embarking on this second language trek.

We have four daughters, the oldest started learning Spanish at five years old. My second daughter was about 3. My third and fourth daughters will have been exposed to Spanish since they were born. I’m not a linguist. I’m not a teacher. I don’t even speak Spanish fluently, probably not even English either, compared to many of you! This is just my story and experience. I’ll run it in several pieces as it gets long.

Do you need a tutor who is a native speaker?

Until a few months ago, all of our Spanish tutors have been native speakers. This was a Spanish tutoring deal breaker for me. They had to be native speakers. Why? Well, our ability to hear language sounds and make our mouth, tongue, and palate reproduce them is strongest in infancy and childhood. As we age, this ability goes away, and any new language sounds that we encounter will be spoken by us with the closest sounds available to us from our own language. The later we learn the language, the greater the guarantee we will speak with an accent.

For example, I’ll never really be able to roll my r’s to say a word like rio; I’ll just consciously soften my r sound and add on some softened, repetitive d‘s (or t’s, both similar English sounds), like we do when we quickly speak the word batter.  As an aside illustrating story, my American aunt married a native German when she was 20. She moved to Germany with him and has lived there exclusively over 50 years. She tells me that Germans still tell her it sounds like she’s speaking with mashed potatoes in her mouth. Accents stick, and sadly, even when I am choosing my Spanish words correctly, some Spanish-speakers simply can’t understand me.

So I demanded a native speaker so my girls would not have a strong accent. Now that my oldest is 13, her Spanish is reported to me to be little accented by native speakers (maybe even “non-accented,” according to some). We have made the leap to transition her to on-line teaching, and the man is not a native speaker. This no longer bothers me because her “Spanish voice” is now ingrained, she continues to hear native speakers routinely, and now she needs to focus on grammar and progressing in her use of verb tenses.

For me, I believed in immersing my children as early as I could and as frequently as I could so they could get the SOUNDS EMBEDDED in the neural pathways of their brain and the CONNECTIONS WIRED to their mouths. Grammar and writing was not important to me early on. That is becoming important now that my oldest is maturing in her Spanish language, and so we have chosen an on-line tutor now who is not native that I know is strong in grammar skills.

For the fact, science-minded people, here’s an excerpt from a neuroscience book that you can read pieces of on-line:

Very young human infants can perceive and discriminate between differences in all human speech sounds, and are not innately biased towards the phonemes characteristic of any particular language. However, this universal appreciation does not persist. For example, adult Japanese speakers cannot reliably distinguish between the /r/ and /l/ sounds in English, presumably because this phonemic distinction is not present in Japanese. Nonetheless, 4-month-old Japanese infants can make this discrimination as reliably as 4-month-olds raised in English-speaking households (as indicated by increased suckling frequency or head turning in the presence of a novel stimulus). By 6 months of age, however, infants show preferences for phonemes in their native language over those in foreign languages, and by the end of their first year no longer respond to phonetic elements peculiar to non-native languages. The ability to perceive these phonemic contrasts evidently persists for several more years, as evidenced by the fact that children can learn to speak a second language without accent and with fluent grammar until about age 7 or 8. After this age, however, performance gradually declines no matter what the extent of practice or exposure.

That’s it for today. I’ll follow with the rest of the Spanish posts in readable bits. Everyone, take care!

Terri

Citations:

Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al., editors. Neuroscience. 2nd edition. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates; 2001. The Development of Language: A Critical Period in Humans. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11007/
Illustration: By Juan de la Cuesta (impresor); Miguel de Cervantes (autor) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. In public domain, {{PD-1923}} – published before 1923 and public domain in the U.S.