Last week we looked at the benefits of gut flora. In this column I’ll concentrate on the effects of gut flora on our immune system. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, in “Gut and Psychology Syndrome – Natural Treatment for Autism, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Depression and Schizophrenia”, explains how the immune systems of people with GAPS Syndrome (discussed last column) are out of balance, often attacking their own bodies including the brain and nervous system.
Beneficial bacteria coat the epithelial surface of the small intestine and stimulate production of lymphocytes which in turn produce immunoglobulins, especially IgA, and other immune system regulators such as cytokines and interferons. These are our body’s first line of defense against pathological microorganisms. Beneficial bacteria also enable neutrophils and macrophages to function better. Their job is to destroy and gobble up viruses, bacteria and toxins.
The health of our gut flora affects the immune system of the entire body, not just that in the digestive tract. When the first line of defense in the lining of the gut fails, pathogens and toxins enter the bloodstream and our second line of defense is activated. This includes several different interleukins and IgE, the antibody involved in allergic reactions. These are not as effective at fighting pathogens, often allowing chronic viral infections to persist. If these antibodies become overactive they can lead to allergic and auto-immune conditions including asthma, eczema, chronic fatigue syndrome and neurological conditions like ADHD and autism.
Two additional effects of gut flora on the immune system are malnutrition and auto-intoxication. The nutrient deficiencies caused by a lack of beneficial bacteria (discussed last week) affect the immune system along with every other system of the body. And the unchecked growth of pathogens produces toxins like ethanol and acetaldehyde which depresses the immune system and attacks the nervous system.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.