The Effects of Damaged Gut Flora
This article is part 2 in a series covering Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s all day seminar on Gut and Psychology Syndrome at this year’s Weston A. Price Foundation Wise Traditions conference in Baltimore. Read Part 1: Functions of the Gut Flora HERE.
What Damages Gut Flora
The gut flora that evolved with us over the past millions (billions?) of years are utterly unprepared for our modern lifestyle. There are 80,000 new manmade chemicals in the last few decades alone that don’t exist in nature. Most of them have not been tested for safe use in humans. And yet they come into contact with our microbiome every day. (1)
Going back to the previous article in this series, our flora are responsible for detoxification. They inform the immune system when to attack (and when not to). When something unrecognizable enters the gut or the bloodstream, healthy, functioning flora will alert the immune system. This is great for things like viruses, that like to mutate every few years. Now, though, the alert system is always on. And not from viruses. It’s from these things:
- vanity products (biggest culprit)
- household cleaners
- air and water pollution
- pesticides, fertilizers, and fungicides
- OTC and prescribed pharmaceuticals
- radiation and electromagnetic frequency
- heavy metals (household products, vaccine adjuvants, seafood, dental work)
- food additives
It’s not just foreign chemicals we have to worry about. Substances abound that can completely wipe out populations of microbes in the gut. Broad-spectrum antibiotics and other drugs, over-signaling of stress hormones, synthetic “foods,” and antibacterial products can all be detrimental to the diversity of the microbiome. (2)
Read more about things that damage the microbiome HERE.
Results of Damaged Flora
Once the flora are damaged and the bad guys take over, the many functions begin to stop working properly. When all of those flora-dependent systems go awry, we get multi-system chronic diseases that all stem from the silent battle taking place in the gut.
Most viruses sit dormant in the body, kept in check by the gut flora. They either fail to multiply or they don’t really do any damage. Damaged flora, however, create conditions favorable for growth, replication, and subsequent cell damage from viruses. (2)
The results of damaged flora often don’t even make it out of the GI tract. Digestive disorders like IBS or ulcerative colitis are a sure sign of damaged flora, as protection of the gut is arguably the most important function of healthy flora. (3)
Allergies & Autoimmunity
Pathogenic gut flora will use one of our most powerful weapons–our immune system–against us. The immune system is informed by the gut flora. When it’s getting bad information, it will cause a cascade of inflammatory responses (innate) or eventually attack our own healthy tissue (adaptive), leading to allergies and autoimmune disease. (4)
The evolutionary reason any of us (humans) can get any nutrition at all from plants is because our gut flora go to work for us. They do the job of digesting and converting plant matter into nutrients we can use. If there’s an overgrowth of bad flora, even the most nutrient-dense plants in the world will not help us (not to mention vitamin capsules…). Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, malabsorption, indigestion, and low stomach acid are all results of bad players in the gut. (5)
At the heart of Dr. Campbell-McBride’s work is her treatment of mood disorders through nutrition. Her methods are founded upon the theory that psychiatric conditions stem from the following failures in the gut flora:
1. Improper detoxification–an inability of the flora to trap and store heavy metals and other anti-nutrients. (6)
2. Leaky gut–a porous gut lining that then allows these un-trapped molecules to enter the bloodstream. (7)
3. Leaky gut-brain barrier–a porous lining to the brain that allows the “river of toxins” to enter, putting stress on the HPA. (8)
This gives only a very basic picture. In addition, those with compromised gut bacteria may develop improper stress signaling. And the diverse microbes responsible for the production of hormones in the brain may be diminished or even missing altogether. (8)
Epidemics in Children
The sobering thing we don’t know is how the effects of our altered diet, environment, and microbiome will affect future generations of children. Current outlook does not look good. Dr. Campbell-McBride gave a picture of what she’s seen in her clinic in the last few years:
- Gut flora is getting worse with each generation–the act of giving birth is itself an act of unloading toxins for mothers.
- As a result, more and more babies are starting life with already damaged flora, immune systems, and detox support.
- Allergic diseases are getting so severe, we’re running out of tools to heal them.
- Overuse of antibiotics, formula-feeding, inability to handle vaccines, and the typical weaning diet of rice and grains is causing earlier and earlier diagnoses of allergic and autoimmune diseases.
Waiting for a Diagnosis
Don’t wait! If a child (or adult) shows signs of a behavioral (or physiological) disorder, there’s no reason to wait around for a diagnosis while damage continues in the gut. Autism, dyspraxia, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy, eating disorders, OCD, bi-polar disorder–Dr. Campbell-McBride believes that all of them stem from the toxic fog that makes its way into the brain of gut-compromised individuals. Her answer to this epidemic has been her time-honored nutritional protocol: the GAPS diet.
The GAPS Diet
The GAPS diet has helped thousands of children and adults all over the world recover from behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, and immune dysfunction. The diet has evolved through Dr. Campbell-McBride’s own clinical and familial experience with prescribing the right nourishing foods to clear the toxic fog from the brain. Her own son has fully recovered from autism spectrum disorder. You can read her personal account about it HERE.
When the gut stops being a source of toxicity, it becomes a healing source of nourishment. Pioneering doctors like Dr. Campbell-McBride have paved the way for the “food as medicine” movement.