Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov was a Ukrainian and Russian pathologist best known for his pioneering research in immunology. Known as the Father of Orthobiosis theory and Probiotics, he was credited in 1882 with the discovery of phagocytes, which came to be known as the major defence mechanism in innate immunity.
No less than 75% of the immune cells of the body are thought to be found in the gut. This means that the gut flora is important to ensuring our immune defence is functioning correctly. Together with Mechnikov’s discovery, functional medicine believes that if the gut is healthy, the person is healthy. Therefore, treat the gut first.
Interestingly, we also know that there is a direct connection between the gut and the brain, which begs the question, “if the gut is not populated with healthy flora, does that mean the brain is also not in good health?
What activities affect the gut negatively?
Prescribed for different bacterial diseases, not only kill off the bad bacteria, but also kill off the good bacteria, destroying the balance of flora in the gut. This is why it is so important to re-populate the gut with good bacteria by taking probiotics during and after completing a course of antibiotics.
Similarly, instead of probiotics, eating fermented foods on a regular basis, for example Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Kefir (preferably sheep or goats), and Kombucha can all ensure a healthy gut flora, supporting the immune system.
Cultures that eat spicy foods, such as Indian, Pakistani and Thai cultures, in general suffer less from gut bacterial infections. This is because spicy foods containing herbs – chilli, ginger, turmeric, fennel, cardamom, etc… tend to create an environment in the gut that bad bacteria are unable to thrive in. Therefore cooking with these beneficial herbs and spices can also aid in ensuring a healthy gut.
Depleted diet due to “dead” foods
Processed foods, fast foods, wheat, excessive dairy, and sugary foods all lead to an acidic gut. One of the side effects of this can be acid reflux, which is a very unpleasant condition where there is a backward or return flow of the stomach contents into the oesophagus.
Acid reflux, if left untreated, can lead to burning of the oesophagus and possibly cancer. Conventionally this condition is treated with Proton Pump Inhibitors, (antacids) which act by damping down the amount of acid released in the gut. Whilst it might “cure” by relieving the symptoms of the acid reflux due to low levels of stomach acid, it actually inhibits food digestion and nutrient absorption.
This can then lead to other inflammatory problems if the medication is taken over long periods of time. Consulting a homeopath, herbalist, nutritionist or other complimentary practitioner will result in treating the cause of the problem, through dietary and lifestyle changes.
A 1997 comparison of the carbohydrate intake of Primitive versus Modern man shows that Primitive man ate approximately 1% whole grain cereals, the balance being vegetables, fruits, roots, legumes and nuts, whilst Modern man eats 59% refined grains, 18% refined sugars and artificial sweeteners and 23% vegetables, fruit, legumes and nuts. (Eur J ClinNutr). Whilst this study is 20 years old, has the diet of Modern man changed positively in the direction of Primitive man or has the percentage of refined sugars and grains increased, thus leading to escalation in chronic and autoimmune diseases?
In the West we invest a lot of time, money and effort in ensuring our home and living environments are clean and free of bacteria, through the use of disinfectants, hygiene wipes, regular hand washing, etc…
On the other hand, developing cultures put less emphasis on keeping children away from playing in the dirt and then licking their fingers. These activities help the young immune system to develop effectively to have an adaptive immune response to microbial exposures and pathogens. It is a fact that “exposure to dogs in early infancy has been shown to reduce the risk of childhood allergic disease development” (Fujimura et al.)
Stress can induce gastrointestinal permeability, such as leaky gut. (Kelly JR, Kennedy PJ). Stress can be induced by many factors of modern living, overwork, family and financial pressures, environmental toxins, plastics, electromagnetic radiation and poor diet, to name a few.
A recent study by Robbie Gonzalez entitled “Your Poop is probably full of plastic” points out that in a small study conducted internationally, every single person had microplastics in their stool sample. Ten plastics tested for included polythene (plastic bags), polypropylene (plastic bottle tops) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC pipe). Out of the ten tested, nine were present and, on average, researchers found up to 20 particles of microplastic per 125g of poop.
Our gastrointestinal tract and other organs in the body were never designed to deal with plastic toxicity. When combining this with other toxins, heavy metals found in fish, toxins coming from pesticides and insecticides, electro magnetic radiation and so on, this puts the immune system into warfare all the time. How does the result of this warfare manifest?
What damage is this doing to the brain, the gut and to other body organs, as well as your immune system?
Paleolithic nutrition revisited: a twelve-year retrospective on its nature and implications https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9104571
House dust exposure mediates gut microbiome Lactobacillus enrichment and airway immune defense against allergens and virus infection . Fujimura et al. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1310750111
Breaking down the barriers: the gut microbiome, intestinal permeability and stress-related psychiatric disorders. Robbie Gonzalez https://www.wired.com/story/your-poop-is-probably-full-of-plastic/?curator=MediaREDEF
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