Russian scientist, Dr Elie Mechinkoff, theorised that disease begins in the digestive tract. At the famous Pasteur Institute in Paris he coined the name “dysbiosis” to describe the problem of an imbalance of intestinal bacteria, viruses and fungi. In 1908 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work. It’s a great tragedy that, for nearly a century, Mechinkoff’s work was largely neglected.
Gut dysbiosis was around long before antibiotics were invented, but this well-intentioned medical strategy has drastically exacerbated the problem by killing off helpful intestinal bacteria. Antibiotics don’t kill fungi and, by killing off beneficial bacteria, they create space for fungi to flourish unhindered. When these harmful fungi get the upper hand the condition is described as fungal-type dysbiosis.
This is the point at which so much ill-health begins
Fungi secrete damaging enzymes, particularly the Secreted Aspartyl Proteases (SAPs), which can contribute to infection by digesting the proteins of the intestinal wall for its own nutrient supply, thereby degrading intestinal tissue and destroying it’s defences.
This can hinder the transportation of minerals through though the gut wall – particularly calcium, magnesium and zinc. It can disrupt our ability to effectively utilize vitamin B6 (vitamin B6 is needed by every cell in the body!)
Fungal-type dysbiosis leads to decreased hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach and the subsequent lack of absorption of vitamin B12, folic acid, protein, iodine etc. Vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiencies, in turn, can lead to epigenetic damage caused by the the loss of protective DNA methylation which can cause cancer and other degenerative diseases.
Fungal-type dysbiosis can disrupt the enzyme pathway used by the cells of the body to utilise essential fatty acids. These healthy fats are needed for the brain and nervous system and for the production of local hormones called prostaglandins. Fungi can also interfere with hormonal and biochemical functions, creating havoc in our bodies.
Perhaps the most insidious effect of fungal-type dysbiosis is the production of endorphin-like substances, capable of passing through the blood-brain barrier to create havoc with our thought processes, emotions and behaviour. (This is an insight much needed for the understanding of emotional and behavioural problems.)
We are able to comprehend much more nowadays than Mechinkoff ever could, about the mechanisms by which gut dysbiosis promotes disease. Our understanding, however, only serves to vindicate his work.
In fact, his insights are perhaps more desperately
needed today than they were a century ago.
We have now taken food processing to a level of sophistication far beyond the primitive refining of flour and sugar of Mechinkoff’s day. And environmental pollutants and additives in our air, water and food are also killing off our bacterial allies and encouraging our internal enemies. The contraceptive pill, steroids, social drugs, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and mercury tooth fillings all contribute to gut dysbiosis.
As if all that weren’t enough, we have taken the problem far beyond anything Mechinkoff could possibly have imagined. And we’ve done this by the well-intentioned, but indiscriminate, use of antibiotics.
The final irony is that, given the right internal eco-system, beneficial bacteria are capable of manufacturing their own natural antibiotics that have no damaging side effects or long-term consequences like the superbug, MRSA!
Sadly, however, we rarely create the right environment that our bacterial allies need in order for them to thrive and work on our behalf. We tend to include in our diet far too little of the natural, unprocessed foods that would create for them the eco-system they need to survive. A diet high in sugar and white flour creates the perfect conditions for harmful pathogens to thrive in an environment more suited to their survival than to that of our bacterial allies.
Far more diverse
In the past 20 years or so the link between gut dysbiosis (disordered microbiome) and the development of inflammatory disease, autoimmune disorders, chronic fatigue, cancers and other degenerative diseases has begun to be more widely understood.
The mechanisms by which gut dysbiosis undermines health and promotes illness, though, are far more diverse than Mechinkoff could have known. Dysbiosis can interfere with virtually all of the vital processes in the body – from the utilization of vital nutrients to the ability to fight infection – from mental function to energy production.
The production of hormones can be impaired or, conversely, excess hormones can result from a disordered mictobiome – and much, much more. The toxins produced by pathogenic organisms in the gut are linked, directly or indirectly, to virtually every illness.
As the repercussions of gut dysbiosis are recognised,
Mechinkoff’s theory that disease begins in the gut
is proving to be disturbingly accurate
Creator God, modern science has enabled us to see more clearly than ever the astounding complexity of how you made our bodies. But modern science has also enabled us to disrupt your workmanship like never before in history. Forgive us, we pray. We need your wisdom now to undo what we have unintentionally done.
Next – Leaky Gut Syndrome
Fungal-type gut dysbiosis can damage the intestinal wall. This has consequences that can undermine health and promote disease
Intestinal Dysbiosis – A Review. McLaren Howard J. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 1993;1:153-157.
Abnormal gut fermentation: Laboratory studies reveal deficiency of B vitamins, zinc and magnesium. Eaton KK, Mclaren-Howard J, Hunnisett A, Harris M. J.Nutr. Biochem. 1993;4:635-638.
Fungal-type Dysbiosis of the Gut: The occurrence of fungal diseases and the response to challenge with yeasty and mould containing foods. Eaton KK, Howard M. J.Nutr & Env Med. 1998; 8: 247-255.