Monday, January 19, 2015
The year 2014 began with my posts on damage to the gut microbiota caused by antibiotics, processed foods and excess hygiene. I lamented the inadequacy of information from the media on damage/repair of the gut bacteria and highlighted medical myths with a post on some of Dr. Oz’s own ills that are self-inflicted by his diet and hygiene recommendations. I also started to discuss how to cure autoimmune diseases by repairing damaged gut flora and by avoiding the antibiotic activity present in many common drugs.
With my 200th post in March, I summarized my thoughts on the causes and cures of common diseases in a series of diagrams on:
Antibiotics Contribute to Autoimmune Diseases
Some species of gut bacteria are needed for the development of the aggressive half of the immune system and other species are needed for the suppressive half. Thus, starving or poisoning gut flora leads to immune system problems and diseases. Antibiotics are a quick way of crippling the immune system. It seems that the aggressive part of the immune system is less fragile, because in most cases antibiotic treatments produce autoimmune disease due to loss of bacteria that are needed for development of immune cells that block the aggressive half of the immune system from attacking innocuous cells of the body or environment, i.e. antibiotics usually trigger deficient tolerance, and autoimmunity.
Feed the Gut Microbiome for a Healthy Immune System
Diet provides food for the body and flora. Protein and fat are the macronutrients needed for the body, while the gut microbiota lives off of plant polysaccharides (except starch) that pass through the small intestines undigested into the colon. The hundreds of plant polysaccharides are hydrolyzed by hundreds of enzymes made by gut flora and produce short chain fatty acids, e.g. acetate and butyrate, that feed colon cells. Food processing systematically removes polysaccharides that feed gut flora and compromises the components of the immune system dependent on those bacteria.
Repairing the Gut Microbiome by Eating the Missing Bacteria
It is easier to see that eating a diet that lacks food for the gut microbiota will be a problem, than it is to figure out where to find replacements for lost species of gut bacteria. The only way that bacteria get into the gut is down the throat. To repair a damaged gut microbiota requires both changing diet and introducing the missing types of bacteria by eating them. Eating dairy probiotics and fermented vegetables can provide a quick, but only temporary fix. Most of the needed bacteria are more common in soil than in food.
Phytochemicals Are First and Foremost Antibiotics
I was shocked that my background in phytochemicals didn’t lead more directly to a major culprit causing modern diseases. The gut microbiota is clearly a major factor in health and sickness. Antibiotics that kill bacteria, damage the gut microbiota. It is also unsurprising that processing food to reduce soluble fiber, damages gut flora, by systematically depriving gut bacteria of their major source of food. The proliferation of antimicrobial products also damages the gut flora. What I missed in this onslaught of modern lifestyles on the gut microbiota, was the major player in antibiotic resistance — phytochemicals are natural antibiotics.
I Missed the Antibiotic Activity of Common Medicines
I studied phytochemicals and wrote research articles on their toxic, antibiotic activities, but everyone else was merchandizing phytochemicals as antioxidants, essential oils and superfoods. This is a major conceptual problem. Our bodies expend a significant fraction of our energy resources to detoxicify phytochemicals and human cultures have elaborate rituals to avoid phytochemicals and domesticate plants by breeding for the least toxic. What I missed was the implication that the pharmaceutical industry was repurposing toxic, antibiotic phytochemicals as medicines and then skipping the "antibiotic" label.
Unlabelled Antibiotic Drugs Cause the Rise of Superbugs
Overuse of antibiotics is a problem, because it damages the gut microbiome and contributes to the modern increase in autoimmunity. Food processing is another culprit and so is the mania for hyperhygiene and the demonization of bacteria. Unfortunately, the major culprit in the development of multiple antibiotic resistant superbugs is the tons of commonly used pharmaceuticals that systematically attack gut bacteria, but are not labelled as antibiotics. Most modern drugs were developed from phytochemicals and were initially used in plants to kill bacteria and fungi, i.e. phytoalexins. Pharmaceutical companies acknowledge the antibiotic activities of common drugs, by sponsoring research conferences to develop existing drugs as new classes of antibiotics for treatment of superbugs.