Gut - The Seat of the Immune System
The gut is the immune system's first line of defense against food-borne diseases.
Obviously, the digestive track is responsible for digesting food. And, when things go wrong, digestive problems can develop and even lead to food allergies.
Core of Natural Immunity
The gut as a physical-chemical barrier is the first line of defense against food-borne disease. Thanks to hundreds of millions of years of evolution, the gut is what has kept people alive for several dozens of years despite our consumption of microbe and toxin-laden foods and water since the beginning of time. When considering the sheer physical volume of food-borne bacteria, viruses, and pathogens handled by our gut, the complexity of this feat is overwhelming. Thus, in this sense, the gut is often considered as the seat of the immune system. The Gut is sometimes referred to, by people like Gary Null, as your second brain. Nevertheless, that fact is of little practical benefit for those wishing to obtain "real protection" for themselves against deadly communicable and food-borne diseases.
The Gut Microflora Regulates Intestinal Permeability
However, the idea that the gut microflora regulates immunity is a misnomer. What the gut microflora actually does is regulate the physical-chemical barrier of the intestinal lining. This physical-chemical barrier is merely one small part of the immune system. An abnormal ecosystem in the gut microflora is theorized to cause permeability problems in the lining of the intestinal wall. A leaky gut syndrome in turn develops which is theorized to cause many autoimmunity problems. Should it surprise anyone that as a first line of defense physical-chemical barrier, the gut does NOT comprise the core of the body's immune system? The real magic of natural immunity is regulated by the innate immune and adaptive immune systems. Thus, the notion that the gut is the seat of the immune system does NOT agree with how conventional medicine has laid out the organization of the immune system.
While future research on the gut microflora and microbiome has a potential to unravel the current mystery of inflammatory bowel, food allergy, and autoimmunity diseases; it is very unlikely to have much of an impact upon preventing food-borne diseases.
Much rhetoric has been written about the trillions of bacteria residing inside everyone's gut. Doctor Saputo is a big promoter of the importance of your gut microflora to your immunity, but what he really means is the importance of microbiota in preventing leaky gut syndrome. The gut has very little to do with how most people view the role played by immunity, to prevent sickness. Nor, do probiotics strengthen your natural immunity. This misunderstanding has led many to conclude incorrectly that intestinal microbiota are supposed to be capable of creating an extremely effective immune system, if only the public better utilized probiotics. Nevertheless, has that ever been the case?
The Importance of Gut Microflora
To see just how wrong the gut microbiota position is, all you have to do is revisit how things were back in 1812.
During this period, people grew their own food. All meat consumed was free range, and often consisted of wild game. Virtually everyone ate a 100% organic diet back in 1812. Use of antibiotics was unheard of. Sugar in food was NOT a problem. Fastfoods were unheard of. Refrigeration did NOT exist, outside of the winter months. People routinely ate fermented foods, because it was constantly in a state of going bad. Milk was drunk raw. Moreover, ALL mothers breastfeed their babies.
Rather than experiencing the often preached about state of bliss that consuming such a perfect diet is supposed to bring about, people back in 1812 were dying in droves from food-borne illnesses such as typhoid fever, tuberculosis, and cholera.
Scientists have detected Tuberculosis (TB) in wild bison that lived 17,000 years ago. Around 460 BC, Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, identified TB as the most widespread disease of the period. Typhoid fever killed more than 6,000 American settlers between 1607 and 1624. Between 1817 and 1926, 6 cholera pandemics struck parts of Asia, Europe, North Africa, and the Americas during the course of the nineteenth century.
Certainly, in urban areas and anywhere neighbors did not live miles a part from each other; poor sanitation developed with fecal-contaminated water and food supplies. Funny how their perfect gut microbiota and microbiome did NOT protect these people against food-borne illnesses?
The lifespan of the average person back then was only about 37 years, and the under-five mortality rate was staggering. The majority of the population died off from communicable diseases long before unhealthy lifestyles ever developed into a problem.
Today in 2012, scientists have identified at least 250 different food-borne illnesses that are caused by a variety of different bacteria, viruses, fungus, and parasites.
Once the populace stopped raising cows, on their own farm, the consumption of raw milk resulted in a dramatic rise in deaths from tuberculosis, brucellosis, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and Q-fever. The Romanticism of the raw milk movement will NOT protect people in the modern world from catching a serious food-borne illness. Those suggesting that you can locate a local farmer who sells the perfect raw milk, are more than a little crazy. Irresponsible people promoting the consumption of raw milk in 2012 are playing Russian roulette with the public health because the consumption of raw milk in urban areas historically has always caused major public health problems.
To protect yourself from the very real threat of food-borne disease, the Natural Health Perspective suggests that you implement excellent kitchen hygiene rather than rely on your gut to save you. Avoid eating the foods most associated with food-borne illnesses: raw milk, raw fish, hamburger, shellfish, and undercooked meat. In addition, be sure to take steps to strengthen your natural immunity with appropriate nutritional supplements.
Please read our Medical Advice Disclaimer.
Gut - The Seat of the Immune System Comments:comments powered by Disqus
- Tuberculosis, Wikipedia, 06:44, 16 September 2012 revision.
- Byrne, Joseph Patrick (2008). Encyclopedia of Pestilence, Pandemics, and Plagues: A-M. ABC-CLIO. p. 190.
- History and Global Impact Vibrio Cholerae and Cholera." 123HelpMe.com. 07 Oct 2012
- Foodborne Illness, Foodborne Disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Human nutrition, the gut microbiome and the immune system.
Kau AL, Ahern PP, Griffin NW, ...
Nature. 2011 Jun 15;474(7351):327-36. doi: 10.1038/nature10213. Review.
- Pasteurization, Wikepedia, 23:11, 5 October 2012 revision.