A Healthy Microbiome Builds a Strong Immune System That Could Help Defeat COVID-19

Yves here. So is kimchi the real secret behind South Korea’s Covid success? We have vintage pickles in our back fridge made by my father that we joke will be like Egyptian honey, someone will open the jars in 4000 years and find them to be edible.  I should probably make inroads into them.

By Ana Maldonado-Contreras, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Physiological Systems, University of Massachusetts Medical School. Originally published at The Conversation

You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

In the past two decades scientists have learned our bodies are home to more bacterial cells than human ones. This community of bacteria that lives in and on us – called the microbiome – resembles a company, with each microbe species performing specialized jobs but all working to keep us healthy. In the gut, the bacteria balance the immune response against pathogens. These bacteria ensure the immune response is effective but not so violent that it causes collateral damage to the host.

Bacteria in our guts can elicit an effective immune response against viruses that not only infect the gut, such as norovirusand rotavirus, but also those infecting the lungs, such as the flu virus. The beneficial gut microbes do this by ordering specialized immune cells to produce potent antiviral proteins that ultimately eliminate viral infections. And the body of a person lacking these beneficial gut bacteria won’t have as strong an immune response to invading viruses. As a result, infections might go unchecked, taking a toll on health.

I am a microbiologist fascinated by the ways bacteria shape human health. An important focus of my research is figuring out how the beneficial bacteria populating our guts combat disease and infection. My most recent work focuses on the link between a particular microbe and the severity of COVID-19 in patients. My ultimate goal is to figure out out how to enhance the gut microbiome with diet to evoke a strong immune response – for not just SARS-CoV-2 but all pathogens.

How Do Resident Bacteria Keep You Healthy?

Our immune defense is part of a complex biological response against harmful pathogens, such as viruses or bacteria. However, because our bodies are inhabited by trillions of mostly beneficial bacteria, virus and fungi, activation of our immune response is tightly regulated to distinguish between harmful and helpful microbes.

Our bacteria are spectacular companions diligently helping prime our immune system defenses to combat infections. A seminal study found that mice treated with antibiotics that eliminate bacteria in the gut exhibited an impaired immune response. These animals had low counts of virus-fighting white blood cells, weak antibody responses and poor production of a protein that is vital for combating viral infection and modulating the immune response.

In another study, mice were fed Lactobacillusbacteria, commonly used as probiotic in fermented food. These microbes reduced the severity of influenza infection. The Lactobacillus-treated mice did not lose weight and had only mild lung damage compared with untreated mice. Similarly, others have found that treatment of mice withLactobacillus protects against different subtypes of influenza virus and human respiratory syncytial virus – the major cause of viral bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children.

Chronic Disease and Microbes

Patients with chronic illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease exhibit a hyperactive immune system that fails to recognize a harmless stimulus and is linked to an altered gut microbiome.

In these chronic diseases, the gut microbiome lacks bacteria that activate immune cells that block the response against harmless bacteria in our guts. Such alteration of the gut microbiome is also observed in babies delivered by cesarean section, individuals consuming a poor diet and the elderly.

In the U.S., 117 million individuals – about half the adult population – suffer from Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease or a combination of them. That suggests that half of American adults carry a faulty microbiome army.

Research in my laboratory focuses on identifying gut bacteria that are critical for creating a balanced immune system, which fights life-threatening bacterial and viral infections, while tolerating the beneficial bacteria in and on us.

Given that diet affects the diversity of bacteria in the gut, my lab studies show how diet can be used as a therapy for chronic diseases. Using different foods, people can shift their gut microbiome to one that boosts a healthy immune response.

A fraction of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, develop severe complications that require hospitalization in intensive care units. What do many of those patients have in common? Old age and chronic diet-related diseases like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Black and Latinx people are disproportionately affected by obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, all of which are linked to poor nutrition. Thus, it is not a coincidence that these groups have suffered more deaths from COVID-19 compared with whites. This is the case not only in the U.S. but also in Britain.

Discovering Microbes That Predict COVID-19 Severity

The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired me to shift my research and explore the role of the gut microbiome in the overly aggressive immune response against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

My colleagues and I have hypothesized that critically ill SARS-CoV-2 patients with conditions like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease exhibit an altered gut microbiome that aggravates acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening lung injury, in SARS-CoV-2 patients is thought to develop from a fatal overreaction of the immune responsecalled a cytokine stormthat causes an uncontrolled floodof immune cells into the lungs. In these patients, their own uncontrolled inflammatory immune response, rather than the virus itself, causes the severe lung injury and multiorgan failures that lead to death.

Several studies described in one recent reviewhave identified an altered gut microbiome in patients with COVID-19. However, identification of specific bacteria within the microbiome that could predict COVID-19 severity is lacking.

To address this question, my colleagues and I recruited COVID-19 hospitalized patients with severe and moderate symptoms. We collected stool and saliva samples to determine whether bacteria within the gut and oral microbiome could predict COVID-19 severity. The identification of microbiome markers that can predict the clinical outcomes of COVID-19 disease is key to help prioritize patients needing urgent treatment.

We demonstrated, in a paper which has not yet been peer reviewed, that the composition of the gut microbiome is the strongest predictor of COVID-19 severity compared to patient’s clinical characteristics commonly used to do so. Specifically, we identified that the presence of a bacterium in the stool – called Enterococcus faecalis– was a robust predictor of COVID-19 severity. Not surprisingly, Enterococcus faecalishas been associated with chronic inflammation.

Enterococcus faecaliscollected from feces can be grown outside of the body in clinical laboratories. Thus, an E. faecalistest might be a cost-effective, rapid and relatively easy way to identify patients who are likely to require more supportive care and therapeutic interventions to improve their chances of survival.

But it is not yet clear from our research what is the contribution of the altered microbiome in the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. A recent study has shown that SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers an imbalance in immune cells called T regulatory cells that are critical to immune balance.

Bacteria from the gut microbiome are responsible for the proper activation of those T-regulatory cells. Thus, researchers like me need to take repeated patient stool, saliva and blood samples over a longer time frame to learn how the altered microbiome observed in COVID-19 patients can modulate COVID-19 disease severity, perhaps by altering the development of the T-regulatory cells.

As a Latina scientist investigating interactions between diet, microbiome and immunity, I must stress the importance of better policies to improve access to healthy foods, which lead to a healthier microbiome. It is also important to design culturally sensitive dietary interventions for Black and Latinx communities. While a good-quality diet might not prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, it can treat the underlying conditions related to its severity.

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  1. Dwight

    Does this mean antibiotics should not be given to elderly people who test positive for the virus but are still in early viral replication stage and haven’t yet shown inflammatory response or developed pneumonia?

    1. DorothyT

      NC has included many articles on antibiotics, especially antibiotic resistance. It is often stressed how taking antibiotics if a potential bacterial infection might be present or prophylactically for a potential bacterial infection can be a problem when confronting a virus. I recently read a policy paper on the ADA/American Dental Assn’s website on the subject. One used to be prescribed antibiotics often before dental or periodontal work. The ADA now recommends caution.

      And now we don’t know if any of us will develop the coronavirus. I recently read an article in Live Science entitled “Here’s Why Antibiotics May Give Viruses a Leg Up.”

      From that article:

      “Once you put a dent in a microbial community, unexpected things happen,” lead study author Larissa Thackray, an assistant professor of medicine also at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in a statement. “Some groups of bacteria are depleted, and different species grow out. It’s likely that antibiotic use could increase susceptibility to any virus that is controlled by T-cell immunity, and that’s many of them.”

    2. IM Doc

      As an answer to your comment, I have personally seen multiple patients who clearly have COVID and are COVID positive being started on ZITHROMAX. I have read enough comments about this in the national medical press to know this is a very common practice. It is without any merit at all. There is no evidence that zithromax or any other ANTI-BACTERIAL antibiotic has much effect on COVID one way or the other. There are multiple other anti-virals, and immune modulators that might. Much work in this area remains undone. We are having increasing evidence that IVERMECTIN has COVID effects although the exact pathway remains unknown.

      The idea in many providers’ minds seems to be that the patient is sick, likely has pneumonia, and I better cover them with antibacterials just in case. This may actually be harming way more than helping. It is a very unfortunate practice, not just with COVID, that I have spent decades trying to beat out of students.

      1. Synoia

        There is no evidence that zithromax or any other ANTI-BACTERIAL antibiotic has much effect on COVID one way or the other.

        I am under the impression that antibiotics are in no way antiviral. Or put another way, antibiotics are ineffective in treating viral conditions.

        And that up the the HIV research we had few, if any, anti viral medications.

        For example, the common cold is blamed on virus infections, and treatments attack the side effects, but not the virus itself.

        I could be very wrong, medicine is not my specialty.

        1. Carla

          Here’s another issue: the use of antibiotics lowers peoples’ resistance to hospital-acquired antibiotic-resistant diseases such as C-diff. Upon admission to the hospital, my then-93-year-old mother was unnecessarily prescribed an antibiotic; she then contracted C-diff, and the C-diff eventually killed her.

          1. sheila

            Ditto. My mother was prescribed a broad-spectrum (kills all bacteria, good and bad) antibiotic for a minor bladder infection. She developed C-Diff, which kept re-occurring inspite of being treated w/ strong antibiotics. She died of sepsis caused by C-Diff.

            Perhaps if her urologist had prescribed probiotics to replenish good gut bacteria, she might have fended off the C-Diff. Apparently C-Diff lives in all of us but only gets a foothold when biome is weakened and/ or good gut bacteria are wiped out. (I’m not a doctor).

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          The argument about antibiotics presented in the post is, I believe , this. That steady exposure to antibiotics can kill some of the bacterial species living in the intestinal surfaces. Some of the killed-off bacteria may be important in keeping the body’s immune system primed for responding correctly to a viral intruder.

          The antibiotically-caused absence of these immune-system-priming bacteria in the gut may lead to a partial absence ( just enough of an absence) in the correct and normal anti-virus response so as to give the virus “permission” to infect and spread. It may even remove the brakes from a runamok overresponce by the “cytokine stormtroopers”, leading to a default unprevented cytokine storm.

          I don’t believe the possibility of antibiotics being able to kill off a virus was ever invoked as an issue in this post.

      2. sheila

        You’re rare, IM Doc. My own doctor has never prescribed antibiotics but has told me to drink the brine of raw fermented sauerkraut! He would agree w/ the article’s premise that a damaged microbiome weakens our immune response and can cause an over-reaction (cytokine storm), leading to death. However, he does not pin the problem on diet but on the medical profession’s overuse of drugs, much as you have. His website says it better. (He is a regular MD, board certified internist, and a homeopath):


        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          I wonder if Big PetroCorporate Meat-Feedlot’s constant and steady use of antibiotics which go into the food and water supply is also a factor in gut-bacteria attrition.

  2. brook trout

    Personal testimony here from a gut biome evangelist, aka fermented food advocate. For years (about a dozen or so now) my breakfast has been miso soup, which, from the looks of things, is the food in the lower right hand corner of the illustration above. Besides nurturing my gut biome it is one of the few alkaline foods, hence it rebalances my system daily, especially in comparison to the normal American habit of morning coffee. Anecdotal evidence for sure, but I was able to eradicate a long running case of eczema (an autoimmune disease, from my understanding) after a few months of daily miso, something my physician prescribed cortisone creams were never able to do. One caution–some of the imported miso is pasteurized and so would not provide the biome boost that non-pasteurized miso does. My rule of thumb is that the latter tend to be in tubs; pasteurized miso comes in hermetically sealed plastic bags and has a lower price point (!). I am very much a traditionalist, making my own dashi (fish flake stock, fish flakes being dried smoked bonito) to which the miso paste is added, then adding wakame and a little ginger juice from freshly grated gingerroot for the final consumable. My personal taste has settled on a 60/40 blend of shiro and aka misos. All of these items are commonly available at an Asian grocer.
    In terms of Covid, I am also doing the zinc and vitamin D regimen. An ounce of prevention, etc. etc. So far, so good; knock on wood.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Homebrewer here. Currently have kombucha and mead brewing in the kitchen. Also began baking my own bread and want to learn how to make yogurt.

      Oh, I’m also doing the vitamins C, D3, and zinc regimen. My COVID defense. (Crossing fingers and toes!)

      1. TimH

        Yogurt: Buy a milk thermometer. Heat milk to 180°F, let it cool to 120°F. Pour into final container (glass, plastic). Stir in a puddin’ spoon’s amount of live yogurt from fridge. Put lid on, and put in airing cupboard or oven preheated to 120°F (and then turned off) for 5 to 10 hours. Don’t open it to check.. reduces shelf life.
        Starter: Allow 15 minutes at the store to find a yogurt that has whole milk, two bacteria and nothing else as ingredients. After that, use your last one.
        Happy hint: Mould on top? Remove top half inch or so carefully with a spoon, the rest is fine.

        1. Ctesias

          As a plus with Yogurt, you can drain it through a coffee filter or cotton cloth so that your yogurt becomes thicker, like Greek yogurt. I use the liquid (whey) to make lacto-fermented ginger-ale! It’s a healthy, fizzy soda of the kind our grand parents possibly knew how to make before the unhealthy soda in cans became the standard.

      2. HotFlash

        Ms Slim! Other fine ferments are sauerkraut, kimchi, and dill pickles of course, but you can (and I do) ferment anything that won’t get out of my way. A recent big hit is fermented rapini and cherry tomatoes (couldn’t help it, they were on sale!) with mustard seed and lots of garlic. I have bought big bags of romaine on clear-out, they fermented beautifully. FIfty yrs ago my naturopath (since retired) recommended vegan diet with lots of fermented, but back then that was sauerkraut, if you could even find any that wasn’t pasteurized (canned). Now fermentation is all the rage, and Sandor Katz is its prophet.

        Second brook trout’s recommendation, miso soup and kimchi soup are my fave breakfasts. We are lucky to have a local miso-maker here, my fave is barley miso, when they have it.

    2. Antagonist Muscles

      I have little knowledge of the relationship among fermented foods, microbiome, and Covid-19. Nevertheless, I eat and ferment food mainly because it tastes good. You should do the same.

      (By the way, this is my first time commenting since Yves’s last warning about comments. Maybe the moment I click on “Reply” there should be a message that says, “Please read our comment policy.”)

  3. Ryan

    The title of this article (and the various suggestions in line with it) is not robustly supported by the evidence, particularly that presented by the author which is not only NOT a clinical trial, but not even peer reviewed. At best, there appears to be a suggestion of temporal association between severe cases and particular microbiome configurations. I have yet to see any reliable evidence supporting specific dietary interventions for COVID.

    1. Yves Smith Post author


      There is pretty much no evidence to the clinical trial level on anything related to diet because the cost of a clinical trial is ~>$100 million and anything related to diet is not patentable and therefore will never be subject to a clinical trial. Oh, and that $100 million is based on a typical 8 week trial. Any dietary study would likely have go on much longer and costs would be more than proportionately higher due to the need to over-recruit to allow for dropougs.

      That is before getting to the fact that you can’t achieve double blinding in a dietary study.

      In other words, your standard is unreasonable and you should know that.

    2. cojo

      You seem quick to judge on this topic. The author admitted that her data is preliminary and likely currently undergoing the peer review process. At the very least, it is hypothesis generating. Much of the initial information being build on COVID-19, a novel virus, is observational with the clinical trials coming later. As Yves states above, your standards of evidence at this stage of the game are a bit too high, especially for nutrition studies. This phenomenon is not unique and many are arguing that nutritional evidence does not necessarily require RCT’s.

      I would also add, that the recommendations to eat a healthier diet should not require a preponderance of evidence prior to being initiated by the general population.

    3. ArvidMartensen

      There is something called the precautionary principle.”When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm. http://www.precautionaryprinciple.eu/

      Our local expert MD on national radio says it should be used during Covid-19.
      I would class giving nothing to patients until RCTs are completed as “morally unacceptable harm” when there are possible mitigants to death and disease from a lethal virus in a pandemic.

      It has taken our state Premier 11 months of Covid-19 infections and deaths to mandate masks where Covid is active. In other words, she has ignored the precautionary principle and only citizen pressure has changed her mind.

      In fact, all over the world the precautionary principle has been trampled in the race for vaccine profits in my opinion. Cheap pharmaceuticals and neutraceuticals that could have saved misery and death have been demonised, and links to some of that have been on this blog.

      So, demanding a randomised controlled study before you take any action to save lives goes against the precautionary principle. Physicians have a duty to save lives and if they have to use a “possibly” effective means when there is nothing else, then that is what they should do. If 20% die without any intervention, and 10% die with the intervention, then perhaps the intervention worked for some.

      Yes it is up for debate, and yes RCTs should be done, but there are possibly 10 people out of 100 who get to live, who would otherwise have died. Refusing to prescribe anything until a vaccine is available is the realm of scoundrels.

    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well, that’s what scientific inquiry is foooorrrrrrrrr . To find OUT if there IZZZZ such a relationship or not. Let us hope someone pays for someone to do the science.

      In the meantime, I will follow the lead of hopeful anecdata if that lead does not lead to something otherwise passively or actively dangerous.

  4. The Rev Kev

    An intriguing idea this. I have to confess that although it was obvious that black and Latino people were being hit hard by the virus, I had never considered the possibility of the diet being at fault here. So junk food may also make people less capable of fighting of diseases and infections. Of course you would have to compare results with other countries but now I am beginning to wonder if the amount of success that Africa is having with this virus may be diet related. To bolster this idea, it is true that the most developed country on that continent – South Africa – is being hit pretty hard by the pandemic so perhaps an examination of diet for the different regions of South Africa would be warranted. I wonder if there has ever been a study of the gut microbes that different people around the world have.

    1. Basil Pesto

      Of course, in seizing on the racial aspect, she misdiagnoses the true nature of the problem. It might be important to design dietary interventions, ‘culturally sensitive’ or not, for poor people, not racial minorities (although this has the vaguely unpleasant ~optics~ of bossing around the poors and telling them explicitly what to eat, instead of the market nudging them towards a crappy diet).

      By coincidence, I reread The Trouble with Disparity today.

      1. neo-realist

        A lot of poor people don’t have the stores and the resources in their neighborhoods to purchase healthier food. And in many cases, lack the money, since it tends to be pricier. They, for the most part, are surrounded by the junkier options of McDonald’s and Popeye’s.

        1. Basil Pesto

          indeed, that’s what I was alluding to with “the market nudging them towards a crappy diet”

        2. Synoia

          When I lived in a Dallas TX suburb, I was amazed that the minority community South East of downtown lacked:

          Flood Protection, Banks and Supermarkets.

          To me, Dallas appeared more racist than South Africa under Apartheid.

        3. drumlin woodchuckles

          Perhaps those places/ situations we call “food deserts” might better be called ” food junkyards”.

          Meanwhile, if the “poors” would reject as patronising any missionary advice about improving their food access and intake, then such advice and assistance will have to come from people and groups whom the “poors” already trust.

  5. DorothyT

    Such a welcome article. Researchers, microbiologists, have been writing about gut bacteria and the affect on our bodies. This is the first description I’ve read of research that is focusing on a specific gut microbe that may be a predictor to Covid-19 severity. The author stresses that the linked paper is a preprint and the subject requires and she welcomes robust research and peer review.

    I also wonder if the OTC probiotics I take are harmless, helpful, or harmful. The one I take includes a bacteria she mentions, but it’s one of many in this formulation.

    Thank you for this, Yves. I look forward to more on this subject including comments to it.

  6. Carolinian

    My brother tells me that the Sabin polio vaccine, the sugar cube vaccine that we got as children, works by introducing polio into the gut. And therefore the reason the modern use of this vaccine in certain African countries (a Bill Gates project) has actually caused people to get polio is that lack of modern sanitation allows contact outside the gut.

    At any rate the above sounds like important info.


  7. freedomny

    One of the best books on fermentation is The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. I think someone on this site mentioned it and it’s great!

      1. Susan the other

        I’m too lazy to ferment anything that isn’t already in my gut. But speaking of fermentation – doesn’t this put alcohol in a new category? Not for euphoria, but prevention. Maybe an ounce… or two?

        1. al

          “Auto-brewery Syndrome”?!

          “A perturbation of the gut microbiome is the underlying condition that allows fermenting microbes to over-colonize. Such gut disturbances are caused by a diet high in carbohydrates and refined foods and the overuse of antibiotic and non-antibiotic drugs in food and medicine.”


        2. HotFlash

          Ms Susan, NO! Yeast (a sort of fungus) fermentation produces ethanol alcohol and CO2 from carbohydrates (fruit, grain, sugar, etc.). Left to access O2, it will go to vinegar; cut off the O2 (as by airlock or baking) the process stops at alcohol until it kills off all the yeast and you get beer, wine, mead, bread, etc. The alcohol kills every other living thing in the brew/must/what have you, so no friendly bacteria in alcohol.

          Bacterial fermentation, OTOH, where salt is introduced to limit the fermenting critters to bacteria that convert carbs to lactic acid, leaves some kinds of live bacteria in the food, that is the probiotics that we want — it gets complicated. Nobody gets drunk on sauerkraut, kimchi, or kosher-type dill pickles, you can give yogurt to little kids, and the DEA won’t come looking for you if you make your own kombucha. No special airlock is needed, just keep the veggie matter under the brine. This is very, very simple, needs no no special equipment, can be made in small batches; one can (and I do) make sauerkraut by the quart jar.

          1. ambrit

            Wow! Here I am with a couple of small jars of home made pickled home grown jalapenyo peppers, made two years ago, hiding in the back of the larder. Little did I suspect that they would graduate from gustatory threats to medicinal potions.

    1. c_heale

      It’s a great book but doesn’t have much about Kimchi and Korean fermented food. But that is the only criticism I have of it.

      1. Antagonist Muscles

        Here’s some criticism of Sandor Katz. For the record, I have fermented plenty of foods.

        I could not stand Katz’s writing style. I read large portions of that book, and my eyes glazed over repeatedly. Many of the books I own are technical in nature: how to ferment food, how to write well, how to cook, etc. For this class of books, I can rate the value of the book by how much I want to roll up my sleeves and get right to work with whatever technique I am learning. Unfortunately, The Art of Fermentation did not encourage me to do this. All too frequently I asked, “Well, I have a little more knowledge about a particular aspect of fermentation. What do I do now?”

        I recommend Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey. The instructions are clear; photos revealing; writing style is pleasant. After reading the fundamentals, Shockey gives the reader recommendations on how to customize the fermented food and how to combine it into a meal. Also try phickle.com. I have yet to read Feifer’s book.

  8. Expat2Uruguay

    Here in Uruguay we have observed that 66%* of the positive cases in the capital city of Montevideo are asymptomatic. This is much higher than any average I have heard anywhere else. I have theorized that it is because, before the pandemic, people here shared drinks, marijuana, and cigarettes and kissed on the side of the face. (I have had complete strangers share their drink with me when I asked what it was they were drinking, it really was quite amazing!) This is also a place where a drink called mate was shared communally among small groups of friends. Anyway, this Behavior has meant that during cold and flu seasons everybody gets whatever is going around, resulting in theoretically strong immune systems. I wonder if something similar to what this article discusses has happened here in Uruguay.

    *The 66% asymptomatic rate was based on approximately 17,000 confirmed cases of which 38% occurred in the age range of 25 to 45

  9. Glenn S Olson

    “The China Study” illustrated the connection between diet and many western diseases. The internet is full of anecdotal stories about how fecal matter transplant (FMT) has changed the health of individuals. Many researchers are starting to study the human microbiome and finding connections to particular diseases. What we need now is an orchestrated effort to fully understand this microbiome and develop ways to improve human health. Unfortunately, much of this looks like a cure and cures are not financially advantageous to corporations.

    1. wilroncanada

      I would have called it prevention–unless you’re referring to the already obese/diabetic/sedentary-to-extreme. Prevention is also not financially advantageous to big corp’s either. Their mantra: Yeah Ill Health!

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Bad health is good for profits and other growing things.

        Good health is bad for business.

  10. Ruud

    My wife recently died of lungcancer. She had RNA based immunotherapy. A week before immunotherapy started she had a lung-infection treated with with anti-biotics. Later we found an article outlining a research in which patients treated with antibiotics just before the start of the immunotherapy had the lowest rate of survival. She didn’t respond to the immunotherapy. I think antibiotics only should be used as a last resort. Other than that I think vitamin D and low magnesium are also to be looked at.

  11. al

    Over a century ago, Peter Kropotkin, published his series of essays on ‘Mutual Aid’. The molecular pathways that exist and define microbial/mammalian mutualism are fairly well established, such that, . “. . . . in terms of cell numbers, we are about 10% human and 90% bacterial! Further, the number of genes in our microbiome may exceed the number of human genes by two orders of magnitude, making us genetically 1% human and 99% bacterial! Consequently, bacteria play a major role in bodily functions, including immunity, digestion, and protection against disease.”

    Yet, the human/bacterial commensalism balancing act does not exist without the possibility of potential negative outcomes, such as, “With the adaptability of a chameleon, the Bacteroides species can function as an integral partner in the human metabolic system and yet can be the cause of serious, life-threatening disease.”

    “Bacteroides: the Good, the Bad, and the Nitty-Gritty”


  12. Alexandra

    It’s easy to know what to do to protect one’s immune system.
    It’s easier to know what not to do, like eat non-organic food:

    GMO corn contain the genes of a bacteria that erodes the digestive system of the corn boll worm, causing it to die and “protecting” the corn. The inserted genes may survive digestion in the human gut and trick your stomach bacteria into eroding your own gut, causing leakage of the undigested corn into your bloodstream and causing an inflammatory response as your immune system turns on you and an “allergy,” from then on, to corn or any corn product.

    “In a study released by the International Journal of Biological Sciences, analyzing the effects of genetically modified foods on mammalian health, researchers found that agricultural giant Monsanto’s GM corn is linked to organ damage in rats. According to the study..“Three varieties of Monsanto’s GM corn – Mon 863, insecticide-producing Mon 810, and Roundup® herbicide-absorbing NK 603 – were approved for consumption by US, European and several other national food safety authorities.”

    “Monsanto gathered its own crude statistical data after conducting a 90-day study, even though chronic problems can rarely be found after 90 days, and concluded that the corn was safe for consumption.”


  13. bulfinch

    There was a very haute dining spot in SF a few years back which centered around the art of fermenting various core ingredients — READ: skillful rottenness. ‘Will it rot and change the flavor in an interesting way?’ At the time, it seemed to me like they were being radical for the sake of being interesting, but the more I’ve read in the years since, the more progressive their concept seems to me. Worth exploring.

  14. Olivier

    What are the foods in the picture? I don’t recognize the ones in the upper right and lower left corners.

    1. Barry

      The photo in the Conversation has the following underneath:

      ¨Fermented foods like kimchi, red beets, apple cider vinegar, coconut milk yogurt, cucumber pickles and sauerkraut can help provide beneficial bacteria.¨

      but the original Getty photo only has the label :
      ¨fermented food sampler – stock photo¨

        1. Barry

          My apologies – I should have taken more care.

          Also the order of the bowls is different – though the contents are the same. The Creative commons photo contents starting from the top left are: Cucumber pickles, coconut milk yogurt, kimchi
          Second row: sauerkraut, red beets, apple cider vinegar

  15. Darius

    I started rinsing my hair, face, and chest with unpasteurized apple cider vinegar after I wash about a year ago. I can say that my chronic dandruff and ringworm problems have gone away. YMMV.

    I also ferment my own pickles. I have settled on parsnips halved and sliced lengthwise. I have a sourdough going, and I keep feeding an aged hard cider in the fridge. I’m also trying to eat more organic fruits and vegetables with more microbial activity.

  16. ks

    I’m certainly a believer, but improving the gut biome goes along with improving soil health, which means supporting policies that promote regenerative rather than industrial agriculture. As Ag Secretary, Tom Vilsack is going to be a hindrance to this.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Those people who can learn enough about “healthy-soil farming” to be able to find the “healthy-soil” products for sale in their area can support the “healthy-soil farmers” behind those products by buying those products. That can keep a community of healthy-soil farmers alive in the teeth of Vilsack opposition and obstruction and sabotage.

      Every dollar is a bullet on the field of economic combat.

  17. drumlin woodchuckles

    There is another source of danger and damage to the gut microbiome. And that is Roundup in the food supply. ( Of course by Roundup I mean all brands of glyphosate, but glyphosate is so much harder to type AND to say that I will just say-type Roundup and hope everyone knows I mean all brands of glyphosate).

    Roundup is now so widely used that it is diffusing into the global water supply and air supply. There is a thin weak dilute fallout of Roundup falling out on everyone and everything. We now live with “background Roundup” the same way we live with “background radiation”.

    But Roundup levels are still higher in the food and other things that Roundup is deliberately used on.

    Why is Roundup a gut microbiome problem? Because many gut bacteria species share the same metabolic pathways that plants share. In particular the “shikimic acid pathway”.

    The same Roundup which disables weeds and plants by chelating certain crucial positive metal ions and strips them out of their crucial places in certain enzymes needed for certain key steps in the plants’s shikimic acid pathway . . . . is the same Roundup which does the same thing to the shikimic acid pathway of bacteria in the gut. Thereby killing them and depriving the body of whatever immune prompting and modulation they provided.

    So you can eat all the fermented food you like. But if you are also eating Roundup in part of your food, you are still killing off certain key species in your gut microbiome. So how can you avoid eating Roundup? Eat certified organic food which is grown without using Roundup. Also eat fruits and nuts from perennial trees which no one has figured out how to use Roundup on yet. I personally suspect Roundup can not be used on leafy green vegetables and cabbages and things because it would kill them
    ( unless they have been GMOd to tolerate Roundup). Also, don’t eat mainstream meat, dairy and egg products which came from mainstream animals which ate mainstream Roundup-polluted feed.

    Professor Emeritus Don Huber of Purdue University has begun highlighting this particular danger of Roundup along with all the other dangers. He can be search-engined, mainly for you tube videos of his presentations and interviews.

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