A Case for Loving Germs

By Karen Dente, MD


I’ve always been of the opinion that germs are our friends – at least to a certain degree. And I have never understood the germ-phobia and obsession of those trying to eradicate microorganisms that live within and around us. This overly sanitary zeal to disease prevention that has played a big role in western medicine’s approach to curing diseases especially since penicillin was discovered, has implications that are not always conducive to health. Here’s a worthwhile article written by food journalist Michael Pollan in New York Times Magazine that makes a case for respecting and understanding the function of the microbes residing within and all about us:

I believe that the more we understand about their crucial role, especially of the gut microbes residing within, in maintaining a balance in human health, the more we learn to respect the ecology of our internal and external body as it relates to our external environment, the more we can aim to achieve a healthy balance in our lives and prevent many types of chronic disease.


On Gut Microbes and Leukaemia Prevention

By Karen Dente, M.D.


Some researchers don´t give up on providing evidence to bolster their theories, as is the case with cancer researcher Mel Greaves, in the UK, who has been obsessed over 30 years with looking into the causes of childhood leukemia, a cancer of the blood in which the white blood cells multiply  out of control exponentially.

A recent study published in Nature Cancer Reviews confirms the theory that too much hygiene and a lack of stimulation of the immune system in early childhood, before the end of the first year of life, is likely a major risk factor for developing leukemia during childhood. The immune system requires two so-called hits, infections, to be primed and mature and reach a normal function before it reaches adulthood. There is something to be said about children going through childhood diseases. I am somewhat concerned that even for childhood diseases considered normal for children to go through back in my day, like something mild like chicken pox, we now have vaccines and children are exposed to ever fewer diseases during childhood.  This, compounded with a lack of exposure to dirt, and an increasing number of children born to caesarean sections, is also a risk factor for developing asthma and allergies later in life in those predisposed genetically with a family risk for allergies.  Kids growing up in closer proximity to farm animals are known to have fewer risk for allergies.

Here is an article in the Observer on Mel Greaves´ recent approach to preventing leukemia, that includes development of a special bug cocktail, a probiotic booster that he says can be given in a yoghurt to help ensure a healthy mix of bugs in the gut of children to prevent mutations that can lead to acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the blood cancer he thinks can be prevented by early priming of the immune system.

As in any imbalance of the gut microbiome, avoiding treating childhood respiratory infections indiscriminately with antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, is a good protection against development of gut dysbiosis, and a precaution to maintaining a healthy intestinal microbial ecosystem into adulthood.

It is good to see research I wrote about for the lay press over a decade ago confirmed. Here is the article written for the German readers among you, that was published in the  newspaper Die Welt quoting the same scientist in the UK on this subject. It states that children in day care had more infections in the first year of their life due to exposure to bugs from other children, and fewer risk for developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This is in line with the theory that early priming from infections of the maturing immune system is necessary for healthy functioning.




Too much dietary salt overload impacts brain function via the gut´s immune cells

By Karen Dente, M.D.


There is a link between autoimmunity and salt intake that can be traced back to the interaction with salt on the immune cells residing in the intestine. About five years ago, a couple of studies showed that high salt intake leads to fundamental immune changes in the gut, resulting in increased vulnerability of the brain to autoimmunity— a condition in which the immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues by mistake, suggesting that perhaps the gut can communicate with the brain via immune signaling.

New research in mice has shown how excessive salt intake can make the brain vessels vulnerable and lead to stroke (similar mechanism as leading to heart attack), irrespective of high blood pressure, which is conventionally seen as a major risk factor for stroke. The researchers found that immune responses in the small intestines set off a chain of  chemical responses that reduced blood flow to the cortex and the hippocampus, two brain regions integral to learning and memory, bringing about cognitive decline. This impact due to salt overload was even seen in the absence of high blood pressure.

Understanding this vital link between a healthy low salt diet and the gut´s immune signaling is an important reminder of why reducing the stressor of excessive salt intake and paying attention to a balanced, healthy diet is key to preserving our mental health.

See the following article published in Science magazine this December for more.

Glyphosate implicated in infertility, miscarriages and celiac disease

A study in fish showed an association between the impact of the herbicide Roundup (ingredient glyphosate) used in crops on reproduction. Fish exposed to glyphosate develop digestive troubles that are reminiscent of celiac disease.

Reproductive issues associated with celiac disease, such as infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects, can also be explained by glyphosate.

Glyphosate is known to inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes. Characteristics of celiac disease point to impairment in many cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are involved with detoxifying environmental toxins, activating vitamin D3, catabolizing vitamin A, and maintaining bile acid production and sulfate supplies to the gut.

Deficiencies in iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper and other rare metals associated with celiac disease can be attributed to glyphosate’s strong ability to chelate these elements.

Deficiencies in tryptophan, tyrosine, methionine and selenomethionine associated with celiac disease match glyphosate’s known depletion of these amino acids.

Here is an article in the Holistic Health published Nov 28 that makes the case for glyphosate´s implication in gluten-intolerance becoming so widespread.

Another scientific study published in Interdisciplinary Toxicology found that if glyphosate usage continues unabated, glyphosate resistance among weeds will become a growing problem necessitating a strategy that either involves an increase in the amount of glyphosate that is applied or a supplementation with other herbicides such as glufosinate, dicampa, 2-4D, or atrazine.

Agrochemical companies are now actively developing crops with resistance to multiple herbicides, a disturbing trend, especially since glyphosate’s disruption of CYP enzymes leads to an impaired ability to break down many other environmental chemicals in the liver.

This makes us ever more vulnerable to the onslaught of environmental toxins increasingly found in our food chains, and chronic diseases like cancer and leads to more problems in reproductive health as a species.

We need to talk about meat

The Lancet editorial from Nov 6th https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2818%2932971-4  has a timely piece on the ecological and health implications of too much meat consumption.  It seems like the debate on the lack of sustainability of meat consumption for our species’ health and our planet’s ecological survival is finally entering the forum of the highly respectable scientific press.  The consumption of red and processed meat has been associated with increased mortality from chronic diseases, and as a result, it has been classified by the World Health Organization as carcinogenic (processed meat) and probably carcinogenic (red meat) to humans  (see News Lancet Oncol 2015; 16: 1599–600).

Taxation for red meat has been put forth as a policy similar to other carcinogens and foods of public health concerns (tobacco and soda tax) to curb consumption.  In a recent article published in PLOS One Nov 6th ([10.1371/journal.pone.0204139] the health-related costs to society attributable to red and processed meat consumption in 2020 amounted to USD 285 billion ! This is a staggering figure of preventable health risk amenable to consumer-driven changes in lifestyle choices and habits.



MIT and Harvard Study links Gut & Microbiome with Neurobehaviors

The connection between the microbial composition of our intestines and behavior keeps coming up in discussions on gut microbes and their wide-reaching effects, as biological researchers of late are focusing more of their interest and energies into deciphering the complex composition of microbes residing in our guts and the influence on our organism in all of its various aspects.

In a landmark 2018 study published in Molecular Psychiatry, a teamof researchers from Harvard Medical School, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and the University of Toyama, found that “changes in gut microbiota can control brain insulin signaling and metabolite levels,” which in turn impacts neurobehaviors.

Read more of this fascinating study in the publication Psychology Today:


Mediterranean Diet May Influence Breast Microbiome Population

October 9th, 2018.

Hello, I am back .. it has been eons since my last update on microbes and health.

Here is an interesting study examining the specific impact of a Mediterranean diet on the bacterial composition of the breast tissue and the risk for developing cancer.

This recent study looks into the impact of a Mediterranean diet versus a Western diet and the influence on the Lactobacillus population inside breast tissue. Usually studies have looked at the particular bacterial composition of the microbiome in the gut, but this is taking a look inside the breast tissue glands themselves and how this has an influence on breast cancer development.

A Mediterranean diet increases the Lactobacillus population which is thought to offer a protection against breast cancer.

See the full article below published in Cell Reports.