Scientific research carried out over the past couple of decades has shown that microbial imbalances (dysbiosis) and inflammation are at the root of a long list of diseases and health problems—including type 1 diabetes, acne vulgaris, colon cancer, and chronic depression. Despite the abundance of available evidence, the subject remains something many doctors are unaware of—which really is not surprising, given how little space in medical curricula is devoted to dysbiosis and chronic low-grade inflammation, the type of inflammation that goes hand in hand with chronic disease.
Instead of addressing the underlying factors driving the progression of the listed diseases, most physicians target the symptoms—they prescribe various antimicrobial creams to patients with acne; they put people with diabetes on a lifelong supply of insulin (without considering the possibility of reversing the progression of the illness, or of even bringing the pancreatic beta cells back to life); they largely overlook the vital importance of diet and gut-microbiota composition in the pathogenesis of colon cancer; and they instinctively opt for the pharmaceutical route to treating chronic depression, rarely considering why depression develops in the first place.
Obviously, there are some good guys out there, as not all mainstream health practitioners adhere to the conventional approach. However, as a whole, I think it’s safe to say that we have a long way to go before our healthcare system deserves its name and its reputation. At present, we’re not taking good care of people’s health, and to change this, we need to work together.
I believe one of the first and most important steps toward making a positive change is to cool down the body—bringing down the levels of inflammatory compounds in our bloodstreams and adjusting our microbiome for it to better match our genetic makeup.
Dysbiosis and Inflammation Fatigue
A body that is chronically inflamed and that harbors an imbalanced microbiota is a sick body! If the microbial ecosystem of the body becomes messed up, everything falls apart—igniting an internal fire. The liver becomes overloaded with toxins, substances that shouldn’t be allowed to pass from the gut into systemic circulation are allowed to pass, the blood-brain barrier becomes compromised, and the whole hormonal system spins out of control.
Together, these changes can cause a range of health problems, including insulin resistance, bloating, fatigue, food intolerance, sexual dysfunction, and depression. Yes, it’s all connected. No organ, receptor, or hormone operates in isolation. All of the above-mentioned conditions have a somewhat similar etiology and are all a part of a bigger cascade of problems. Hence, if a patient suffers from, let’s say, chronic fatigue, high chances are he also suffers from other chronic health problems.
However intuitive seeming, this interconnection often eludes mainstream medicine. Instead of viewing the human body for what it is—a complex biological system, shaped over eons by evolutionary forces—the conventional medical community has historically viewed the body as a monolithic machine. If one part of this machine is damaged, efforts are put into “repairing” that part and that part only. Under this paradigm, little attention is paid to the rest of the machinery and how the various components interact with one another.
As such, in the case of mental-health problems—like autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder—virtually all of medical attention has historically been placed on what goes on in the brain. This is unfortunate, because a solid body of evidence indicates that many mental-health problems may actually originate in the gut—not in the brain.
A Multifaceted Approach to Inflammation
The conventional, drug-based approach to treating the types of chronic health problems we’ve talked about so far has proven largely ineffective—no surprise here, given that it’s impossible to resolve complex genome conflicts with a pill or with a topical cream.
In order to effectively treat the chronic ills plaguing modern man, we have to acknowledge that no disease or health problem develops in isolation. If one part of the human body exhibit signs of disease, chances are something is wrong deeper down in the system—evidencing that many other parts of the body are also functioning at suboptimal capacity.
Granted, it is obviously futile to try to treat only the part of the system that is manifesting malfunction. To really make headway, we have to dig a little deeper and try to find out where the problems we see have originated. If we dig in the right direction and go deep enough, we’ll usually discover dysbiosis and inflammation as the culprits. They may not be the only things we find, but they are typically key players.
Dysbiosis and inflammation are among the major health hazards caused by the hurricanes of evolutionary mismatches that have swept across the globe over the past 10,000 years. And there are no simple solutions to these health hazards.
We can’t simply give sick people a jar of pills and expect their problems to magically vanish. We have to get to the root of the problem—which can only be achieved via the evolutionary route. We have to acknowledge that many—if not most—of the chronic ills plaguing us today didn’t develop because the human body is inherently flawed, but rather because we began exposing our bodies to an environment that they are poorly adapted for. We bombard ourselves with drugs, grains, processed foods, pollutants, and many other harmful agents. It’s a wonder how some—though not many—people seem to maintain “okay” health.
Here is our medicine of choice to treating chronic inflammation and dysbiosis: A Paleo lifestyle coupled with microbiome restoration (think fermented foods or microbiota transplants). This is the only medicine that effectively addresses the evolutionary mismatches underlying the plethora of modern disorders. And though not everyone will be able to overcome the chronic ills that plague them by taking up an ancestral diet and lifestyle—many will. At the very least, everyone will benefit from measurable health improvements.
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