Tag Archives: caesarean

Pollution and Gut Bacteria: A Different Take


Our planet is becoming increasingly toxic, as we add more chemicals to its  air, rivers, lakes and ocean every day. While laws designed to curb pollution have probably helped, they don’t prevent things like massive oil spills or the release of antibiotic or hormone residues from farm animals and humans. You see, all of those pharmaceutical products used to produce a steak from an overcrowded, stressed and diseased animal, almost all of those substances get passed by the animal, and run downstream-eventually to lakes and oceans. Toxic materials such as arsenic and mercury are common. The yellow water in the image above is from a mine leak in Colorado (image from The Durango Herald). The water debacle in Flint, Michigan is just one example of how toxins are present. With those admittedly grim thoughts in mind, what are the most adaptable organisms on the planet? Yes, bacteria. With the ability to share DNA in horizontal transfer and a gene pool replete with ways to break down poisons, bacteria have been at the toxin-vs-detoxify game for over a billion years. What if the bacteria that live inside our bodies could help us to detoxify? Perhaps a different way to ask the same question would be to ask why, given a somewhat consistent toxin exposure in a given neighborhood or community, do some people develop toxicity while others do not? As it turns out, some of our beneficial symbionts (Lactobacillus) can do exactly that. A study found that these bacteria can break down pesticides, and reduced the accumulation of arsenic and mercury in pregnant women and children. That should be pretty good news, right? It is if you make efforts to keep these organisms present. They are often reduced or absent due to antibiotic use/abuse and poor nutritional choices. Ironically, the poor people that are often exposed to these toxins also tend not to buy organic produce or have the educational background required to make the right choices. Instead, they are the victims of our capitalistic dark side, believing that it’s normal to eat McDonalds or Wendy’s on a regular basis and consume Pepsi or Coke instead of water. Elective C-section births are very common, and many new mothers are not taught the benefits or techniques of breastfeeding. The combination of c-section and bottle feeding robs a newborn of the microbiome needed for optimal brain and immune system development. Now we can also say it leaves this child more vulnerable to the effects of pesticides and toxins. This affects all of us in one way or another, and it is simply wrong on many levels to allow it to continue.

One long-term result of the intergenerational demise of the microbiome is that while our planet is accumulating toxins and poisons, our microbiome which could help us to detoxify those substances is on the way down. As the “modern” world infects virginal areas and their indigenous people, bringing them antibiotics and Coca-Cola, the core ancestral microbiome becomes an endangered entity.

It is vitally important that more people understand how the microbiome is necessary for so many aspects of life. It is also important to put in place limitations on drug and chemical releases into the environment, as the current system is not a bucket but a sieve, giving the illusion of containment from a distance but constantly leaking in many directions. Even our nuclear power plants in the USA have joined Fukushima in leaking radioactive waste into the ocean (Indian Point in NY has been leaking).

If mankind does not change the trajectory that our species has been on for some time, it is only a matter of time before our health is so fragile and our planet is so toxic that life will no longer be possible the way it is now. Even if that were to take 500 years, it is still the path we’re on. Perhaps, when the Bible stated that “the meek shall inherit the earth,” it was really a microbial prophecy, as bacteria were the first organisms here and will likely be the last. It’s probably a good time to make sure that your microbiome is fully operational, as it helps you cope with toxic exposures. Perhaps it’s time to coin the term “microbiome survivalist?”


Children with health impairments by heavy metals in an e-waste recycling area.

Zeng X, Xu X, Boezen HM, Huo X.

Chemosphere. 2016 Apr;148:408-15. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2015.10.078. Epub 2016 Jan 30. Review.


Material Flow for the Intentional Use of Mercury in China.

Lin Y, Wang S, Wu Q, Larssen T.

Environ Sci Technol. 2016 Mar 1;50(5):2337-44. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b04998. Epub 2016 Feb 15.


Industrial arsenic contamination causes catastrophic changes in freshwater ecosystems.

Chen G, Shi H, Tao J, Chen L, Liu Y, Lei G, Liu X, Smol JP.

Sci Rep. 2015 Nov 30;5:17419. doi: 10.1038/srep17419.


Free PMC Article

Long-term toxicity assessment of soils in a recovered area affected by a mining spill.

Romero-Freire A, García Fernández I, Simón Torres M, Martínez Garzón FJ, Martín Peinado FJ.

Environ Pollut. 2016 Jan;208(Pt B):553-61. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2015.10.029. Epub 2015 Nov 20.


Environmental factors in cardiovascular disease.

Cosselman KE, Navas-Acien A, Kaufman JD.

Nat Rev Cardiol. 2015 Nov;12(11):627-42. doi: 10.1038/nrcardio.2015.152. Epub 2015 Oct 13. Review.


Probiotic lactobacilli: a potential prophylactic treatment for reducing pesticide absorption in humans and wildlife.

Trinder M, Bisanz JE, Burton JP, Reid G.

Benef Microbes. 2015;6(6):841-7. doi: 10.3920/BM2015.0022. Epub 2015 Jun 30.

Select item 230999397.

Occurrence of ciprofloxacin, enrofloxacin, and florfenicol in animal wastewater and water resources.

Wei R, Ge F, Chen M, Wang R.

J Environ Qual. 2012 Sep-Oct;41(5):1481-6. doi: 10.2134/jeq2012.0014.


Impact of medicated feed on the development of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria at integrated pig-fish farms in Vietnam.

Dang ST, Petersen A, Van Truong D, Chu HT, Dalsgaard A.

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2011 Jul;77(13):4494-8. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02975-10. Epub 2011 May 20.


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Occurrence of veterinary antibiotics in animal wastewater and surface water around farms in Jiangsu Province, China.

Wei R, Ge F, Huang S, Chen M, Wang R.

Chemosphere. 2011 Mar;82(10):1408-14. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2010.11.067. Epub 2010 Dec 14.

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[Do pharmaceutical waste and drug residue pose a risk to public health?].

Haguenoer JM.

Sante Publique. 2010 May-Jun;22(3):325-42. French.


Household disposal of pharmaceuticals as a pathway for aquatic contamination in the United kingdom.

Bound JP, Voulvoulis N.

Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Dec;113(12):1705-11.


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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!