C-sections, Immune/Autoimmune Disorders, the Microbiome and Why You Should Read The Symbiont Factor!

The lowly microbiome appears to be capturing an ever-increasing audience in the news these days. This explosion of new knowledge about our microscopic symbionts and how they contribute to who we are prompted me to write The Symbiont Factor. It has been exciting to see the continued flow of news stories that support and contribute to the concepts I wrote about in my book. This article is about one of those concepts and recent news that supports it.

There are many aspects to how the microbiome is crucial to human function, with one of the most significant involving the immune system. Our human immune system depends on the microbiome for its early development, as well as continued “target practice” to maintain its functional accuracy throughout life. This is one reason that the diversity and integrity of the human microbiome in the first few years of life is of such crucial significance. If the microbiome is lacking in diversity or imbalanced in some other way, the immune system will not develop normally. The result is often a lack of specificity, with many body tissues falling prey to friendly fire as the immune system begins to mutiny against the body and autoimmune disease manifests.

The newborn baby receives a huge dose of gut bacteria “starter culture” from the mother during normal childbirth. Children born via Caesarian section  (“c-section”) do not receive this gift of microbiome, instead developing a microbiome characterized by the interior of the hospital room. Recent studies suggest that newborns are not born sterile and may receive some bacterial symbionts prior to birth, yet this is a small amount compared to that received from vaginal birth.

A large, long-term study was recently completed in Denmark to evaluate whether being born via c-section resulted in increased incidence of autoimmune disease. The study spanned 35 years and included 2 million individuals, providing substantial support for the different outcomes from birth methods. The researchers found an increased incidence of several autoimmune diseases in those who were born by c-section compared to those born via vaginal section. The researchers did not claim that the different outcomes were a result of differences in microbiome, yet the study does lend considerable weight to that argument! It is the largest, longest-running study yet published showing different health outcomes for the two birth methods. Other studies have already established the connection between altered infant/early life microbiome and a variety of chronic health conditions. Many of these are discussed in The Symbiont Factor, and I’ve included some references below as well.

If you were about to have a baby and had to choose a hospital (with a safe outcome being your top concern) would you choose a hospital that provides free or low-cost care to an indigent or poor population? Surprise! that hospital might actually be safer. San Francisco General is just that hospital, and boasts a very low rate of c-section (and great outcomes). Why would that be? This article identified one major difference: SFG has its physicians on salaries, so they make no additional money if they perform a c-section than if they help a mother deliver naturally. In addition, they are not on a “time-table” to complete a delivery during their shift, as they lose no income if the next physician does the delivery instead! It has been estimated that many (potentially more than half) of all c-sections are not medically necessary and are instead performed for convenience. This is not necessarily the convenience of the mother, but often that of the physician as the example above illustrates. If you’re a physician, please don’t take that personally-just contemplate how it would be if your paycheck never changed regardless of how many procedures of any kind you performed. It might actually be less stressful!

Once again, the microbiome seems to be central to human function and health. If the microbiome is compromised, then problems result-making it extra critical for us to learn the signs of dysbiosis (imbalanced microbiome), what can be done to ensure its health, and how it affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally. All of these concepts and more are discussed in The Symbiont Factor, and referenced with 1327 references-most of them from peer-reviewed professional journals. Now is the time to learn about symbionts and their powerful influence on our lives, so check it out!

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25452656

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/07/in-delivery-rooms-reducing-births-of-convenience/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24217032

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21645799

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25601913

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25578246

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25346925

3 thoughts on “C-sections, Immune/Autoimmune Disorders, the Microbiome and Why You Should Read The Symbiont Factor!

  1. chip Littlejohn

    Reading Symbiont Factor has certainly pried my eyes open. I mentally file it under “invisible issues that effect everything”! I value my own microbiome and everyone else’s more realizing that our personal welfare, relationships, then society as a whole are on the line whenever our bacterial selves are supported or afflicted. This article sheds additional light on where beneficial cultures should come from. It helps answer the question: ” What is going wrong with everyone health? “

    Reply
    1. Dr. Richard Matthews Post author

      Thanks, Jon! Yes, many of these problems have somewhat circuitous causes. You’re right about the liver; low stomach acid (from antacid or PPI use, or age) can have a similar effect. The bacteria in turn affect the liver’s production of bile, in part to regulate their environment. Everything affects everything else!

      Reply

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