Confirmed – Your Digestive
System Dictates Whether You’re Sick or Well
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Story at-a-glance : There is an emerging
consensus that most disease originates in your digestive system. This includes
both physical and mental disease. Once you heal and seal your gut lining, and
make your digestive system work properly again, disease symptoms will typically
Up to 85 percent of children with autism also suffer from some kind of
gastrointestinal distress, and researchers are now beginning to look for links
between gut flora, autism, and irritable bowel disease
A first-of-its-kind study on human breast milk and its impact on infants’ gut
flora gives new insight on why breast milk is better than formula at protecting
newborns from infectious illness. Compared to infant formulas and regular milk,
only breast milk appears to promote a healthy colonization of beneficial
A healthy diet is the ideal way to maintain a healthy gut, and regularly
consuming traditionally fermented or cultured foods is the easiest way to ensure
optimal gut flora
By Dr. Mercola
More and more, science is finding that
teeny tiny creatures living in your gut are there for a definite purpose.
Known as your microbiome, about 100 trillion of these cells populate your
body, particularly your intestines and other parts of your digestive system.
In fact, 90 percent of the genetic material in your body is not yours, but
rather that of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms that
compose your microflora.
True, some of these bacteria can make you sick; for example, the National
Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases recently found Crohn's Disease
may be caused by immune responses to certain gut microbiota.
But the majority are good, and they work together as helpmates to aid your
digestive system and keep you well. Beneficial bacteria, better known as
probiotics, along with a host of other microorganisms, are so crucial to
your health that researchers have compared them to "a newly recognized
organ." For example, we now know that your microflora influence your:
Brain development, mental health, and memory
Risk of numerous chronic and acute diseases, from diabetes to cancer
According to the featured article in Time
"Our surprisingly complex internal ecology has been a
hot topic in medicine lately. Initiatives such as the Human Microbiome
an extension of the Human Genome Project, have been working tirelessly
to probe potential links between the human microbiota and human health,
and to construct strategies for manipulating the bacteria so that they
work with us rather than against us.
...They've been linked to a range of nasty
conditions, including obesity, arthritis, and high cholesterol. Now, two
newer areas of research are pushing the field even further, looking at
the possible gut bug link to a pair of very different conditions: autism
and irritable bowel disease."
Microflora Being Investigated to Ascertain Links with Autism and
This is precisely what Dr.
Natasha Campbell-McBride's work centers around, and her Gut
and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) nutritional plan is
designed to reestablish proper gut flora in order to heal and seal your gut
– thereby reversing and eliminating ailments running the gamut from autism,
ADD/ADHD, learning disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, just to
name a few possibilities. It's exciting to see science is starting to take
this more seriously, as autism has reached epidemic proportions.
According to the featured Time article:3
"Up to 85 percent of children with autism also suffer
from some kind of gastrointestinal distress such as chronic constipation
or inflammatory bowel disease. Research published in 2005 in the Journal
of Medical Microbiology and
in 2004 in Applied
that the stools of autistic children contained higher levels of the
two 2010 studies in the Journal
of Proteome Research5 and Nutritional
unusual levels of metabolic compounds in autistic children's urine
consistent with the high bacterial levels found in the stools of
In 2011, a study published in Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences found
that mice with essentially germ-free guts showed abnormal movement and
anxiety symptoms, suggesting that at least some active intestinal biome
is essential for normal development.
'Until a little while ago it was outlandish to suggest that
microbiomes in the gut could be behind this disease,' University of
Guelph assistant professor of biology Emma Allen-Vercoe said. 'But I
think it's an intersection between the genetics of the patient and the
microbiome and the environment.'"
Recent research published in the journal Science7 may
shed much needed light on the persistent and hard-to-treat nature of
irritable bowel disease (IBD). The researchers infected mice with Toxoplasma
gondii, a parasite associated with lethal food-borne illness.
Interestingly, when the immune system of the mouse reacted to the presence
of the parasite, it also began overreacting to beneficial bacteria. In fact,
while about 10 percent of the T cells in the GI tract attacked the parasite,
approximately 45 percent of the T cells began attacking other gut microbes.
Furthermore, once the parasite had been successfully cleared, the immune
system continued to misidentify beneficial bacteria as a foreign agents,
preventing the mice from ever fully recovering from the infection. As stated
"If something similar happens in humans – either with Toxoplasma
gondiior another invader – it could go a long way to explaining both the
existence and persistence of all of the IBD conditions."
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:8
"The team's findings are among the first to
demonstrate that T cells in the gut mount an immune response to
commensal bacteria [normal microflora] during an infection. They also
are the first to show that commensal-specific T cells remain in
circulation after the infection is cleared. Based on their observations,
the investigators speculate that, when uncontrolled, commensal-specific
T cells may contribute to development of Crohn's disease, but more
research is needed."
Who Would Have Known? Breast Milk Boosts Beneficial Growth of Gut
Adding more weight to Dr. Natasha
Campbell-McBride's insistence that breastfeeding is crucial to help
normalize an infant's microflora (hence protecting against disease and
developmental problems), a first-of-its-kind study on human breast milk and
its impact on infants' gut flora gives new insight on why breast milk is
better than formula at protecting newborns from infectious illness.9
The study's author, William Parker, explained that breast
milk appears to promote a healthy colonization of beneficial biofilms.
Previous research has already established that breast milk reduces diarrhea,
flu, and respiratory infections in babies, as well as lowers their risk of
developing allergies, Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other
According to Duke University:10
"'This study is the first we know of that examines
the effects of infant nutrition on the way that bacteria grow, providing
insight to the mechanisms underlying the benefits of breast feeding over
formula feeding for newborns,' said William Parker, PhD, associate
professor of surgery at Duke and senior author of the study.
Only breast milk appears to promote a healthy colonization
of beneficial biofilms, and these insights suggest
there may be potential approaches for developing substitutes that more
closely mimic those benefits in cases where breast milk cannot be
The researchers grew bacteria in samples of three popular brands each of
milk- and soy-based infant formulas, cow's milk, and breast milk. All
samples were incubated with two strains of beneficial E.coli bacteria (while
some E.coli cause violent disease, other 'friendly cousins' actually serve
helpful roles). While the bacteria rapidly multiplied in all the specimens,
there was one major difference. In the breast milk specimens, the bacteria
formed biofilms, whereas the bacteria in the whole milk and the different
infant formulas grew as individual organisms and failed to form into a
This is indeed important. Biofilms are essentially thin, sticky bacterial
"sheaths" that adhere to your intestinal wall, where they serve as a shield,
effectively blocking out pathogens and infectious agents. This is an
essential part of the "healing and sealing" of your gut that Dr.
Campbell-McBride's GAPS protocol accomplishes.
According to Duke University:
"...This study adds even more weight to an
already large body of evidence that breast milk is the most nutritious
way to feed a baby whenever possible," said Gabriela M. Maradiaga
Panayotti, M.D., co-director of the newborn nursery for Duke Children's
and Duke Primary Care. "We know that babies who receive breast milk have
better outcomes in many ways, and mother who breast feed also have
improved health outcomes, including decreased risks of cancer. Whenever
possible, promoting breast feeding is the absolute best option for mom
How to Optimize Your Gut Flora
A healthy diet is the ideal way to
maintain a healthy gut, and regularly consuming traditionally fermented or
cultured foods is the easiest way to ensure optimal gut flora. Healthy
Fermented vegetables of
all kinds (cabbage, carrots, kale, collards, celery spiced with
herbs like ginger and garlic)
Lassi (an Indian yogurt drink, traditionally enjoyed
Fermented raw milk such as kefir or yogurt, but NOT
commercial versions, which typically do not have live cultures and
are loaded with sugars that feed pathogenic bacteria
Just make sure to steer clear of pasteurized versions, as pasteurization
will destroy many of the naturally occurring probiotics. For example, most
of the "probiotic" yogurts you find in every grocery store these days are
NOT recommended. Since they're pasteurized, they will be associated with all
of the problems of pasteurized
milk products instead. They
also typically contain added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, dyes, and/or
artificial sweeteners; all of which are detrimental to your health.
Consuming traditionally fermented foods will also provide you with the
following added boons:
Important nutrients: Some fermented foods are excellent sources of
essential nutrients such as vitamin
K2, which is important for preventing arterial plaque buildup and
heart disease. Cheese curd, for example, is an excellent source of both
probiotics and vitamin K2. You can also obtain all the K2 you'll need
(about 200 micrograms) by eating 15 grams, or half an ounce, of natto
daily. They are also a potent producer of many B vitamins
Optimizing your immune system: Probiotics have been shown to
modulate immune responses via your gut's mucosal immune system, and have
anti-inflammatory potential. Eighty percent of your
immune system is located
in your digestive system, making a healthy gut a major focal point if
you want to maintain optimal health, as a robust immune system is your
number one defense system against ALL disease
Detoxification: Fermented foods are some of the best chelators available.
The beneficial bacteria in these foods are very potent detoxifiers,
capable of drawing out a wide range of toxins and heavy metals
Cost effective: Fermented foods can contain 100 times more probiotics
than a supplement, so just adding a small amount of fermented foods to
each meal will give you the biggest bang for your buck
Natural variety of microflora: As long as you vary the fermented and
cultured foods you eat, you'll get a much wider variety of beneficial
bacteria than you could ever get from a supplement
When you first start out, you'll want to start small, adding as little as
half a tablespoon of fermented vegetables to each meal, and gradually
working your way up to about a quarter to half a cup (2 to 4 oz) of
fermented vegetables or other cultured food with one to three meals per day.
Since cultured foods are efficient detoxifiers, you may experience detox
symptoms, or a "healing crisis," if you introduce too many at once.
Learn to Make Your Own Fermented Vegetables
Fermented vegetables are easy to make on your
own. It's also the most cost-effective way to get high amounts of healthful
probiotics in your diet. To learn how, review the following interview with
Caroline Barringer, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) and an expert
in the preparation of the foods prescribed in Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's
Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS)
Nutritional Program. In addition to the wealth of information shared in this
highly recommend getting the book Gut
and Psychology Syndrome, which provides all the necessary details
for Dr. McBride's GAPS protocol.
Although you can use the native bacteria on cabbage and other vegetables, it
is typically easier to get consistent results by using a starter culture.
Caroline prepares hundreds of quarts of fermented vegetables a week and has
found that she gets great results by using three to four high quality
probiotic capsules to jump start the fermentation process.
Caroline prepares the vegetables commercially and I used hers for a month
before I started making my own. So, if you just want to put your toe in the
water and see if you like them, you can order a jar or two and try them out.
You can find her products onwww.CulturedVegetables.net or www.CulturedNutrition.com.
AVOID This to Optimize Your Gut Flora!
Along with eating naturally fermented foods
and/or taking a high-quality supplement, it's essential that you avoid
sugar, including fructose. Sugar nourishes pathogenic bacteria, yeast, and
fungi in your gut, which may actually harm you more than its impact on
insulin resistance. One of the major results of eating a healthy diet like
the one described in my nutrition
plan is that you cause your
beneficial gut bacteria to flourish, and they secondarily perform the real
"magic" of restoring your health.
Remember, an estimated 80 percent of your immune system is located in your
gut, which is just one more reason why "tending to" your gut microflora is
an essential element of good health. A robust immune system, supported by
your flourishing inner ecosystem, is your number one defense against ALL
disease, from the common cold to cancer. I feel very strongly that if we can
catalyze a movement to get more people to implement this ancient dietary
wisdom to their normal eating patterns, then we'll start seeing a radical
change in health.