Part One: A GAPS Overview

November 13, 2010

Natasha Campbell-McBride MD: Gut and Psychology Syndrome (Lecture 11/12/10, Friday 10-5)

(a four-paragraph overview compiled by Sarabeth, including information from Natasha Campbell-McBride as well as quotes and adaptations from an article by Tom Cowan, M.D… )

“All diseases begin in the gut” –Hippocrates

Gut and Psychology/Physiology Syndrome establishes a connection between the functioning of the digestive system and the functioning of the rest of the body.

1. Each of us has millions of intestinal villi, which are tiny finger-like hairs projecting into the small intestine. These villi dramatically increase the surface area of the intestinal lining, making it a more effective semi-permeable barrier (meaning that unwanted things stay out of the bloodstream while nutrients can flow right through).
2. In order to do their job, the villi require a protective layer of mucus which in turn nourishes “good” microbial flora--some estimate a total of 5-7 pounds of millions of different bacteria, viruses, yeast, and other microbes--which reside in the human gut. These healthy bacteria are essential for a healthy human existence. They make vitamins, they digest food, they make antibiotic substances to keep down pathogens, and they function as our immune system.
3. These intestinal villi are the sole site in the body where production of an enzyme called disaccharidase occurs. Just as lipases digest lipids (fats) and proteases digest proteins, these disaccharidases digest disaccharides. When the microbial flora balance is tipped in favor of pathogenic microbes, the protective layer of mucus in the small intestine gets eroded. The villi become blunted, they lose the ability to make this important enzyme, and we lose the ability to digest disaccharides. When we keep eating foods with disaccharides and can't digest them, they become perfect food for the pathogens that always reside in our gut, particularly species of candida. We then continue to produce an overgrowth of candida, other yeasts, clostridia and other potent pathogens - and these often make unhealthy proteins instead of the B vitamins made by our healthy gut flora.
4. Due to all this irritating activity in the small intestine, it becomes more permeable and “leaky,” allowing foreign proteins into the bloodstream. This leaky gut causes either direct poisoning of our nervous system (the proteins essentially act like neurotoxins, as in autism) or creates antibody formation in reaction to these abnormal proteins (which is the process of auto-immune illness). Diseases which are the direct result of this process include not only intestinal diseases such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, but all the auto-immune problems such as eczema, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.


--protection from invaders, health and integrity of the gut, appropriate digestion and absorption, vitamin production, detoxification, immune system modulation. Benificial bacteria in the gut produce anti-viral and anti-protozoa substances. A healthy gut, among other effects, protects against the absorption of environmental contaminants, such as mercury and PCBs in fish.

Additionally, B vitamins do not get consumed in the diet in such constant levels to sustain life—beneficial gut flora produce these constantly, and then release calibrated quantities into the bloodstream. A prerequisite for cancer is damaged gut flora.

There is a constant conversation between immune cells, the entire immune system, and the gut. The immune system is hugely complex. Two branches of immune system function have been discovered (and some researchers say there is a third): TH1 and TH2. The balance between the two is regulated by the gut. TH1 deals with anything that comes from outside (mucous membranes, eyes, digestion, skin, sweat). Every spring, the newspapers publish photos of pollen, highly magnified and looking really fierce and irritating. If TH1 is functioning, you can inhale mouthfuls of them, and not feel any effects. But if TH1 disabled for any reason, TH2 tries to take over. This imbalance causes the body to develop asthma; allergies to pollen, toothpaste, anything in the environment, pollution,

Immunity is born in the gut.


The list is long, and getting longer and longer. Starting with antibiotics. Then there's steroids, the pill, other drugs, stress, poor diet, infections, disease, bottle feeding, old age, pollution, radiation, alcohol, toxic chemicals, dental work.

--Antibiotics kill everything (all types of bacteria, beneficial and not). In an ideal scenario, these microbes take two weeks to two months to recover. But in reality, this time period allows opportunistic, pathogenic microbes to put down roots, since they're normally controlled by the beneficial ones. This can happen not only in the gut, but on any or every mucous membrane, and anywhere on the skin. Antibiotics (including acne medications given to teenagers) change the composition of your body's flora.

--Diet, particularly processed carbohydrates and junk food, are extremely detrimental.

--It's a chicken and egg cycle – chronic disease weakens gut flora, which then makes chronic disease worse, which then weakens gut flora further.

--The older we become, the less robust our gut flora becomes.

--If you know you will be encountering any gut-flora-weakening events, take probiotics, or eat fermented foods, before and after.


--To Start:
A newborn baby's gut is sterile. As it passes through the birth canal, it swallows its first dose of flora. Then it spends the next few weeks picking up further doses of microbes from breastmilk, and others' skin, etc. We have generations of women and men who, since antibiotics have been invented, have themselves been developing increasingly abnormal gut flora.

When she works with patients, she tries to get the history of the whole family. Gut flora passes through the generations. Maybe Grandma was born during the second world war, with decent flora, since antibiotics were rare, all foods were organic, and there were way fewer processed foods. For Mom's generation, though, antibiotics were given for every sneeze and cough. And breastfeeding went out of vogue, and mothers were encouraged to bottle feed. Now these daughters are coming of age, having inherited abnormal gut flora form their moms. And we can't forget widespread use of the pill, which severely affects gut flora. And now these daughters are having children themselves, and these are the kids that can be compromised severely from birth.

These are the kids who are dyslexic and have eczema and asthma and autism and ADHD. And with every generation, the damage to gut flora gets worse.

--The Autism Epidemic:
Twenty years ago, 1 in 10,000 children got diagnosed with autism. Now, in some counties in Britain, 1 in 88 are getting diagnosed. And in addition, are all the diagnoses of other neurological illnesses, like schizophrenia. The epidemic is not abating--it is currently getting worse. There is nothing worse than having a disabled child.

--The Father's Role
Fathers are not exempt from the gut flora equation, because the father is sharing his gut flora with his wife on a regular basis. In the rare cases when a mother of an autistic child doesn't have any signs of gut dysbiosis, the father is riddled with it. All this means is the baby does not develop normal gut flora, and the immune system is compromised. This means that s/he gets common ear infections, and chest infections, and then they're given round after round of antibiotics. Children with learning disabilities, on average, go from one course of antibiotics to the next.

Which of course causes further damage to gut flora and immune system. Pathogens disable macrophages and change the ability of the body to deal with toxins.

Vaccinations are designed for healthy children, with a healthy immune response. We have a growing population of children who are not fit to be vaccinated. The government is getting a lot of income from vaccinations. Combined vaccines should never be given, and individual ones, in healthy children, should be given with a minimum of two months between shots. In the real world, it's extremely rare for a child to get two diseases (like mumps and measles) at the same time. In the rare documented cases, the doubly diseased child generally ends up with severely impaired cognitive capabilities.

Also: the age when vaccinations are given should be thoroughly reviewed. GAPS kids should not be vaccinated until at least 4 or 5 years. At that point they'll be walking, and talking, and developing, and properly nourished (no deficiencies), and _absolutely well_ (no viruses, sickness, etc.) at the time.

--An Improper Weaning Diet:
The foods we feed our weaning babies are generally processed carbohydrates and grains. These are full of substances that impair digestion, which further damages the gut wall.

--The Damage Adds Up:
Then comes...the damaged and leaky gut. Food allergies, intolerance, and other allergies begin to show up. Various toxins begin to be absorbed through the leaky gut, and depending on their particular affinities, they will attach to different tissues and cause myriad different problems.

Autoimmunity joins in, because it is born in the gut. Our gut flora regulates and keeps things in a balanced state. When the flora is damaged, the immune system can't function normally. With a lack of protection normally provided by beneficial gut flora, there's a literal attack by pathogenic microbes and the toxins they produce. Enterocytes degenerate, tight junctions between the cells become unglued, foods absorb partially digested, and lead to food allergies and intolerances.

We need to heal and seal the gut lining, and the junctions between the cells that are allowing toxins to leak through. Food allergies are _not_ for life. Illnesses are not cast in stone. Allergists will say, you're allergic to this, this, this, and this, and you're told that it is forever. But when you heal and seal your gut, you can start eating foods again that you could not eat before.