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An Introductory History to Gut Microbiome Research

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What is your gut flora?

The gut flora or gut microbiome is a collection of microorganisms that live inside the digestive tract of every person. These microorganisms are helpful in proper digestion. An imbalance can have the opposite effect bringing about a variety of issues relating to the irritability of the stomach.

What is gut microbiome research and how is it used?

What is it?

It is estimated that every person has just as many microorganisms living in their stomach as they do cells in the entire body!

A collection of different fungi, bacteria, and viruses make up the trillions of microorganisms in the gut. Thankfully, it is estimated that only 10-20% of these microorganisms are ever shared to another person, meaning that your microflora focuses more on helping or maintaining your own body, as opposed to fighting outside threats and illness.

The microorganisms living in the body are different for every person. The amount of each depends on the individuals’ diet and lifestyle, as well as the presence or absence of the microorganisms, which can affect someones’ appetite, weight, and even mood.

Diet

You are what you eat?

You’ve surely heard the expression before, but scientists are finding that this could be closer to the truth than we previously thought.

The gut microbiome changes “rapidly” with diet. A group of six scientists noted a clear difference with diet in their study. The test changed subjects that consumed a low fat plant-based diet, to a “western” high fat/high sugar diet. The results showed a shift in the structure of the microbiome, as well as, the metabolic pathways and expression.

In simple terms, a high fat/high sugar diet changed the gut microbiome entirely in one day!

Scientists from ‘Scientific American‘ confirmed these findings, showing a clear difference in the microbiome, the type of microorganisms present in the gut, and the genes that they were expressing. The scientists noted changes occurring as quickly as 3-4 days from a change in what someone ate.

What is a Healthy Gut?

A healthy gut is different for every person, and unfortunately what works for one person, may not be the best for another person.

Scientists are unable to say with certainty which is good and which is not, but they hypothesize that those that eat a healthier plant-based diet will have healthier gut biomes. Gut microbiome research has come a long way and scientists are able to say with certainty that the gut biome directly affects the GI tract of the person.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Symptom (IBS), which can affect as many as 10-20% of U.S. adults, have been seen as a byproduct of a changed microbiome. The scientists that are doing gut microbiome research want the public to understand that there are no connections to made yet. The science community is not saying that one diet is necessarily bad or good, just that they affect the gut in different ways.

As said before, every persons’ gut is different and the things they need change, which makes it difficult to say what works best for the gut universally. Your gut biome began to develop when you were born and changes every day with your food choices, lifestyle decisions, and stress levels too.

Gut Microbiome Research: Signs and Symptoms

What is gut health?

It’s hard to say what exactly gut health is, due to the changes every person has in their own gut microflora and the diet they adhere to. There are a few symptoms and byproducts that can be used as signs though.

An upset stomach with repeated feelings of bloating, heartburn or gas could be directly related to the gut biome and the difficulties that the gut is having processing the food.

Other signs are seen in unintentional weight fluctuations and sleep problems. A change in weight going up or down without a change in exercise could be the result of an imbalanced gut. The gut may be unable to process the nutrients, store fat and regulate blood sugars as needed.

Insomnia, poor sleep and constant fatigue can be related to gut issues. The body’s supply of serotonin is produced in the gut, and serotonin not only affects mood but also sleep. This means that gut damage or issues could be affecting your mood and sleep as well!

Finally, gut microbiome research has shown that an increase in skin conditions like eczema could be due to gut health! Gut health plays a role in constant inflammation in the body. This inflammation can even lead to additional autoimmune issues if left unresolved.

Not all is lost though! If you can lower stress levels and get enough sleep you are already on your way to repairing any gut issues you may have!

Can it be fixed?

Is there any way to fix this?

The evidence is available to show that the gut is highly responsive to change both good and bad. More fruit gives rise to different microorganisms than high sugar foods do.

The gut will only work as well as the foods it is given, but there are other things that help to make this process easier. There are even supplements that help with digestion. These supplements can help the gut in different ways.

Probiotics can be introduced to help with the digestive process. Digestive enzymes can be taken if the body is lagging behind in its’ natural production of enzymes too.

Along with probiotics and digestive enzymes, peppermint oil, Pepin and other supplements can also be used to get your gut operating at it’s most effective.

The Gut

The gut plays a bigger part in our lives than we thought possible before, but the evidence is clear, what we eat will affect us! It’s important to take care of yourself as it will make your mood better, help you get more restful sleep and make you more energized! Supplements can also be used to help boost the gut, but every person is different.

Gut microbiome research has come a long way, and proven that our gut microbiomes are changing every day… like the saying goes put good in, get good out, your gut included!

Surrey604 is an online magazine and media outlet based in Surrey, BC. Through writing, video, photography, and social media, we secure an intimate reach to the public. We promote local events and causes.

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Surrey Students Awarded Scholarships, New Scholarship Created By Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation.

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CLOVERDALE, BC: In June 2020, while the world came to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Cloverdale Rodeo & Country Fair postponed, one of the things that didn’t stop was the Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation annual scholarship. Seven grade 12 students from across the city of Surrey were awarded $1000.00 scholarships for post-secondary education by the Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation.

“As a Board we collectively agreed to proceed with awarding scholarships during the pandemic, whether there was a rodeo or not, because people are in a time of financial need more than ever, and this is not a time to hold back, but to give and lend a helping hand”, says Foundation Chair Nicole Reader.”

The recipients, all of whom were part of the graduating class of 2020, will use their $1000.00 scholarships for a variety of post secondary institutions across British Columbia.

The 2020 Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Foundation recipients:

  • Vincent Labador – Johnston Heights Secondary
  • Nisha Niijar – Fleetwood Park Secondary
  • Aashna Thapar – North Surrey Secondary
  • Natasha Kalinic – Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary
  • Alexander Thornton – Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary
  • Taya Suttill – Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary
  • Skye Graham – Clayton Heights Secondary

“Each of these graduates are incredibly deserving of these awards,” says Foundation Chair Nicole Reader. “The entire community should be proud of these young people.”

The foundation adjusted its scholarship criteria, so applicants did not require having previous volunteer experience at the Cloverdale Rodeo in order to be eligible, as long as they had volunteer experience with another organization.

The Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation will also be awarding scholarships this year under its new criteria. The application deadline for the 2021 scholarships is Friday, May 21st, 2021.

Scholarship applications can be found here.

Not only has the Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation continued to support the youth community throughout the pandemic, but the organization has also been provided the opportunity to establish an additional scholarship through its organization called The Isabella Olson Scholarship Award “Rising Above”.

The “Rising Above” scholarship was established in loving memory of a Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary student, Isabella Olson, on behalf of her loving family. Isabella was an extraordinary and inspirational young individual who strived to ‘Rise Above’ the various obstacles she faced while always remaining determined to succeed.

To honour Isabella’s legacy a $2,000.00 scholarship has been created to recognize an inspiring Lord Tweedsmuir grade 12 student who is “Rising Above” obstacles, whether personal, mental health, bullying, or family related complications.

A student who has the determination to continue doing well in school, who may participate in school activities community services and/or may have work experience.

“Isabella’s inspiring spirit was a source of strength to all who knew her, and it is our esteemed honour to be able to present this award and assisting inspiring students in achieving their dreams, says Foundation Chair Reader.”

The application deadline for the 2021 Isabella Olson Scholarship Award “Rising Above” is Friday, May 21st, 2021.

Scholarship application can be found here.

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Fossil Discovery Deepens Snakefly Mystery

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Fossil discoveries often help answer long-standing questions about how our modern world came to be. However, sometimes they only deepen the mystery—as a recent discovery of four new species of ancient insects in British Columbia and Washington state is proving.

The fossil species, recently discovered by paleontologists Bruce Archibald of Simon Fraser University and Vladimir Makarkin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, are from a group of insects known as snakeflies, now shown to have lived in the region some 50 million years ago.

The findings, published in Zootaxa, raise more questions about the evolutionary history of the distinctly elongated insects and why they live where they do today.

Snakeflies are slender, predatory insects that are native to the Northern Hemisphere and noticeably absent from tropical regions. Scientists have traditionally believed that they require cold winters to trigger development into adults, restricting them almost exclusively to regions that experience winter frost days or colder. However, the fossil sites where the ancient species were found experienced a climate that doesn’t fit with this explanation.

“The average yearly climate was moderate like Vancouver or Seattle today, but importantly, with very mild winters of few or no frost days,” says Archibald. “We can see this by the presence of frost intolerant plants like palms living in these forests along with more northerly plants like spruce.”

The fossil sites where the ancient species were discovered span 1,000 kilometers of an ancient upland from Driftwood Canyon in northwest B.C. to the McAbee fossil site in southern B.C., and all the way to the city of Republic in northern Washington.

Archibald at Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park
Archibald at Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park

According to Archibald, the paleontologists found species of two families of snakeflies in these fossil sites, both of which had previously been thought to require cold winters to survive. Each family appears to have independently adapted to cold winters after these fossil species lived.

“Now we know that earlier in their evolutionary history, snakeflies were living in climates with very mild winters and so the question becomes why didn’t they keep their ability to live in such regions? Why aren’t snakeflies found in the tropics today?”

Pervious fossil insect discoveries in these sites have shown connections with Europe, Pacific coastal Russia, and even Australia.

Archibald emphasizes that understanding how life adapts to climate by looking deep into the past helps explain why species are distributed across the globe today, and can perhaps help foresee how further change in climate may affect that pattern.

“Such discoveries are coming out of these fossil sites all the time,” says Archibald. “They’re an important part of our heritage.”

Archibald fieldwork at Mcabee

About Simon Fraser University

As Canada’s engaged university, SFU works with communities, organizations and partners to create, share and embrace knowledge that improves life and generates real change.

We deliver a world-class education with lifelong value that shapes change-makers, visionaries and problem-solvers. We connect research and innovation to entrepreneurship and industry to deliver sustainable, relevant solutions to today’s problems.

With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities—Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey—SFU has eight faculties that deliver 193 undergraduate degree programs and 127 graduate degree programs to more than 37,000 students. The university now boasts more than 165,000 alumni residing in 143 countries.

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The 5 Best 3D Animation Schools In BC

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Did you know Canada is the ultimate hub of 3D animation productions around the globe? With films like Spider-Man, the Avengers, Black Panther, Jurassic World and Star Wars being animated in Vancouver alone, there is no shortage of talent needed in our booming 3D animation industry!

For a prosperous career in the 3D animation industry, it’s no surprise that students are searching for the perfect school to meet their needs. We’ve assembled a list of the top five best film schools in Canada to help streamline your search.

Course offerings at these schools range from flexible one year programs to Bachelors degree options, allowing students to choose from an array of programs best catered towards their needs.

Vancouver Film School

Vancouver Film School is a powerhouse for BC’s creative economy! VFS offers a 12 month diploma that allows you to graduate with a master demo reel of your final project. The school prides itself on producing alumni who push boundaries and discover new frontiers all around the globe!

Though the school comes with a hefty price tag, if you’re seeking to gain experience with traditional arts, computer animation, and exceptional storytelling skills in a professional, student environment – look no further.

InFocus Film School

InFocus Film School in Vancouver, BC offers arguably one of the most practical, hands-on 3D animation programs on this list. Their 3D animation course encourages students to maintain creative freedom.

Despite being one of the most affordable 3D programs in Canada, InFocus students and staff have found work for major studios like Warner Bros., Marvel, DC and more. If you want to learn 3D modeling, character animation and more in one action-packed year, this 3D course will give you the most bang for your buck!

Vancouver Animation School

VANAS is a humble college in Burnaby, BC specializing in the 3D Animation and VFX Industry! They offer introductory courses for beginners, and advanced diploma programs for artists to enter our digital entertainment industries.

Each program is designed to enable aspiring animation filmmakers to learn the production process of creating high quality animation using 2D and 3D computer software. All of their courses are 12 months or under – perfect for students seeking a fast-paced, practical-based education for their animation career.

Emily Carr University of Art & Design

Emily Carr University of Art and Design is the ideal place to develop the academic and practical skills necessary for entering the animation industry!

If you learn best in the classroom through extensive curriculums, Emily Carr’s education system will be an excellent fit for you. You’ll also be given the opportunity to gain some solid hands-on animation production experience and collaborate with experienced individuals in the animation industry. This four year masters program will enable you to become an exceptional critical thinker while honing your technical skills.

Vancouver Institute of Media Arts

VANArts pledges to transform hungry creative minds into the best in the industry, and their 92% placement upon graduation is a testament to this. They offer several animation programs that cater to specific niches, such as 2D & 3D character animation, video game animation, and more. If you’re a student keen on focusing on your interests while working with industry professionals, VANArts is the place for you!

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The Dangers of Toxic Positivity

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Toxic positivity can be attributed to “insincere” positivity which is detrimental to someone’s mental well being. It is “the assumption, either by one’s self or others, that despite a person’s emotional pain or difficult situation, they should only have a positive mindset “ as Dr. Zuckerman phrased it. Examples of when toxic positivity in daily phrases can include “it can be worse”, “everything will be fine”, “look at the bright side”, and “just be happy”.

Optimism can be considered an “attractive behavior in people that makes them seem more well-adapted” said Dr. Preston, who specializes in empathy, altruism, and the way emotions affect behavior. As per the research of Dr. Preston and Dr. Carolyn Karol optimism can lead to an issue when people begin to invalidate the range of emotions they experience, or a problem they have encountered.

Carolyn Karoll, a psychotherapist in Baltimore also states that in doing so it is not only counterproductive but “it can give the impression that you are defective when you feel distressed, which can be internalized in a core belief that you are inadequate or weak.”

As per Dr. Zukerman, toxic positivity can constitute consciously or unconsciously as an avoidance strategy “ used to push away and invalidate any internal discomfort” which can lead to disrupted sleep, increased substance abuse, prolonged grief, or even PTSD.

This topic is especially integral to discuss in a time period, where hardships of people during the Pandemic are even more prevalent. It has been stated that 40.9% of respondents for a survey in June 2020 reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder.

During a time period where people are more susceptible to a mental health condition, people must not get persuaded by forms of toxic positivity in their aspirations of recovery.

Social media is unknowingly flooded with toxic positivity, to lift people’s spirits during this time period. People are embraced by quotes such as “pursue a hobby” and “you have so much time make use of it”.

These notions are valuable ways for people to be engaged in their community and stay connected with themselves and their passions during the pandemic. However, “putting one foot in front of the other is an accomplishment for many during this global pandemic.” as Dr. Karoll states.

Being productive can be constituted as something important to consider during the pandemic, but let this not hinder people from validating their emotions and finding the support they need with it.

To refrain from a mindset that is regulated often by toxic positivity, people must first understand the gravity of the situation of their lives during the pandemic, and realize that this pandemic naturally causes interferences in people’s schedules and lives, thus amounting to stress at times.

People must learn to stay in tune with their emotions and reflect on their current state of mind. If a person realizes that they are not able to cope or adapt to the current situation, they should understand that this is natural and that they have the right to be upset.

It is equally important that people full-heartedly experience their emotions, and then take measures to support themselves during this time period. Connecting with mental health resources, therapists, and integrating small habits in their days to consider their mental health is optimal.

As per a UCLA Study writing things down can “be putting feelings into words [and] reduce the intensity of emotions such as sadness, anger, and pain.” This is just one method for people to fully decipher their emotions and find an outlet for it.

In order to support other people during this pandemic as well, Dr. DeSilva states that “it’s [..] healthier to acknowledge the pain a person might be experiencing. Ask what they need. It’s possible to exude a positive attitude and still interact with others in a caring way. That’s when positivity is not toxic.”

Our word choices and thought patterns can greatly effect our approach in supporting others. Instead of using phrases such as “it can be worse”, people should try saying something along the lines of “I know things are currently difficult right now for you, what are some positive things that you can surround yourself with?” Instead of saying “just be happy” say “it’s okay if you can’t be happy right now, that’s normal and part of life. Do you need to talk about it? What are some things you can turn to that will help you feel better?”

These small changes in our wording choices validate and fully experience their emotions, and then reflect on it and work towards a solution, opposed to simply suppressing what they feel.

When these steps are acknowledged in a person’s path to rehabilitation, a person without the hindrance of ‘toxic posiitvity’ can truly digest their experiences, and grow from them.

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Sensing Robot Healthcare Helpers Being Developed At SFU

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Robots that could take on basic healthcare tasks to support the work of doctors and nurses may be the way of the future. Who knows, maybe a medical robot can prescribe your medicine someday?

That’s the idea behind 3D structural-sensing robots being developed and tested at Simon Fraser University by Woo Soo Kim, associate professor in the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering.

“The recent pandemic demonstrates the need to minimize human-to-human interaction between healthcare workers and patients,” says Kim, who authored two recent papers on the subject – a perspective on the technology and a demonstration of a robots’ usefulness in healthcare. “There’s an opportunity for sensing robots to measure essential healthcare information on behalf of care providers in the future.”

Kim’s research team programmed two robots, a humanoid figure and a robotic arm, to measure human physiological signals, working from Kim’s Additive Manufacturing Lab located in SFU Surrey’s new engineering building.

The robotic arm, created using Kim’s 3D printed origami structures, contains biomedical electrodes on the tip of each finger. When the hand touches a person, it detects physiological signals, including those from an electrocardiogram (which monitors heartbeat), respiration rate, electromyogram (monitoring electrical signals from muscle movements) and temperature.

The humanoid robot can also monitor oxygen levels, which could be used to monitor the condition of those who develop severe COVID-19. The data can be viewed in real-time on the robot’s monitor or sent directly to the healthcare provider.

Kim plans further development and testing of the robot together with healthcare collaborators. At this stage, the robots are capable of passively gathering patient information. But within the next decade, he says it’s conceivable that healthcare robots fitted with artificial intelligence could take a more active role, interacting with the patient, processing the data they have collected and even prescribing medication.

Further study will also need to involve determining acceptance levels for this type of technology among various age groups, from youth to seniors, in a hospital setting.

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