Every cloud has a silver lining, but the reverse is true as well.
Pretty much nothing in this world happens without unintended consequences. Think of how excited Alexander Fleming must’ve been when he was about to change the world forever in the 1920s…
He’d discovered a strain of mold that attacked bacteria, continued developing it, and bang – we’ve got penicillin and the citizens of the world who might never have survived something like strep throat finally got a chance.
And because the ecosystem of the body mirrors the complexity of a jungle’s ecosystem, or the ecosystem of galaxies…
Unintended consequences are a recurring motif in the bodies of humans.
Take the gut microbiome, for example. Frequent and sustained antibiotic use diminishes the diverse supply of the bacteria in the gut by wiping out whole bacterial populations indiscriminately, which leaves us more vulnerable to diseases, which means…
We’ll need those antibiotics again soon.
The best way to combat unintended consequences is to prepare for them.
This flu season, there’s more at stake than sniffles – we’ve got Covid, pneumonia, packed hospitals, influenza, and a nation of weakening immune systems to contend with.
One study in particular shreds some much-needed light on how to proceed.
Microbes and Immunity
Bacteria are essential to the immune system. And the microbiome has the most bacteria anywhere else in our entire bodies.
Scientists in the 1950s discovered that without certain bacteria, newborn mice would grow up to have underdeveloped immune systems. That’s because bacteria regulate immune pathways.
Basically, that means that bacteria set off the domino effect required for the body’s fight against an intruder.
In one more recent study, mice were used to track the journey of our microbial allies during a course of neomycin. At the end of the study, mice treated with neomycin were likelier to contract an influenza virus.
Bacteria that were sensitive to neomycin – and naturally present in the guts of mice – caused a ripple effect of healing with T cell and antibody production.
Here’s what happens…
The bacteria engaged “inflammasome” proteins in the immune system. Those are the intracellular proteins responsible for creating inflammation, which is, after all, a defense mechanism designed to kill pathogenic or harmful cells.
So once those proteins are activated, an immune protein called the cytokine interleukin 1-β transforms chemically into its actualized state, which then sends the dendritic immune cells (which send antigen materials to T cells) to the lymph nodes of the lungs.
There, those immune cells disarm the influenza virus.
However, should any of these steps fail to occur, then the body’s calculated attack against the virus wouldn’t happen.
When treated with antibiotics, it was found that the bacteria required to engage inflammasomes was greatly reduced in number, and thus the inflammasomes were quenched instead of fired.
Now, the purveyors of the study certainly note that more work needs to be done to isolate the exact bacteria whose reduction resulted in the virus replying…
But the author of the study did find that Lactobacillus notably decreased in the guts of the mice treated with neomycin, although not the nasal cavities, suggesting that its reduction was due to the neomycin.
Getting in Front of the Enemy
If you feed it, it will grow.
Make sure you’re feeding your Lactobacilli what they really like in order to be fruitful and multiply. They love prebiotics, like soy, apple, barley, wheat brain, walnuts, chicory root, artichokes, buckwheat, chokeberry, and konjac flour.
And in addition to fending off influenza viruses, a healthy population of Lactobacilli will also create short-chain fatty-acids and vitamins with robust energy – more essentials for fighting viruses during flu season.
High fiber and low meat intake – like the Mediterranean diet – will help support a healthy Lactobacilli population because the bacteria love to ferment dietary fibers that the gut is unable to digest or absorb.
Whole foods like fruits and veggies that are rich in polyphenols, which have antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties, are not only beloved by Lactobacilli, but also serve to keep the body calm and well-functioning so that if it does need to launch an attack of inflammation, it has the energy and resources to do so.
A healthy Lactobacilli population is not meant to negate other safety precautions, but keeping it in mind via microbiome tests, prebiotic supplements, or deliberate and consistent dietary decisions can help turn your body into the disease-fighting machine it can be.
And we all need to be strong and powerful now more than in years past.