Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician, believed that all diseases begin in the gut. Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, a Russian neurologist and originator of the GAPS Healing Protocol, likens the digestive system to the roots of a tree. The root system is fundamental to the support of the well being of every single branch, twig and leaf of the tree. No matter how distant the leaf is from the root, if the roots are not healthy, it will effect the vitality of parts of the tree that are very far away. In much the same way, the health of the digestive system translates into the relative robustness or debility of all organ systems of our body, and most importantly our immune system.
Central to the theory of the GAPS Healing Protocol is that an imbalance of the micro flora of the gut, responsible for maintenance of the integrity of the gut wall, results in many symptoms of illness and disease states. Our intestines contain trillions of tiny diverse micro organisms, on our skin, eyes, respiratory, excretory organs and digestive system. The largest colony of these microbes is in the gut. The average adult carries 2-4 pounds of bacteria in the digestive system, which represents 10 times more microbial cells than human cells. In other words, we are 10% human cells and 90% microbial cells, and contain 100 times more microbial genes than human genes. We are sacks that carry around colonies of vast number of microflora. In this context Dr Natasha quipped, “Who is running the show here?”
We exist in symbiosis with these microflora, neither they nor we can live without one another. The beneficial bacteria perform vital protective functions essential to the preservation of our health, digestion and immunity. There are also harmful bacteria whose numbers in a healthy individual are kept in check by the beneficial bacteria. When these opportunistic bacteria gain the upper hand, the integrity of the gut wall is breached and contents that should remain inside the gut leak out, causing inflammation in the body and the brain. This results in digestive, auto-immune, neurologic and psychiatric diseases.
In a healthy individual, a thick band of beneficial bacteria line the gut wall, protecting the intestinal cells, the enterocytes, which perform vital functions. This wall of bacteria acts like turf which protects soil. When the turf is eroded by opportunistic microflora, the enterocytes become damaged, resulting not only in increased intestinal permeability, but also the absorption of nutrients is disrupted, resulting in malnutrition and malabsorption which further undermine health. In addition the enterocytes are responsible for detoxification, as well as the secretion of anti-viral and anti-bacterial substances. If they malfunction, toxic substances can no longer be neutralized, and viruses and bacteria can cause infections.
It is for this reason that the GAPS Healing Protocol focuses upon the restoration of the balance of the microflora in the gut through nutrition, supplementation and detoxification. Fermented foods are prescribed, as they provide a rich natural source of beneficial microflora. Not all people, however, can tolerate fermented foods. Individuals with histamine intolerance may find that fermented foods aggravate their symptoms.
In addition to fermented foods, Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride recommends probiotic supplementation for everyone. For those individuals who have adverse reactions to fermented foods, probiotics are particularly essential to their healing. I have tried several types of probiotics, and have not found them equally effective or tolerable. Some have worsened my symptoms of histamine intolerance, with headaches and increased constipation.
I recently began a course of Prescript Assist, a probiotic consisting of soil-based organisms, and have noted a remarkable response. This is the first time in all my life that I have had regular bowel movements, without the use of Magnesium Citrate as a laxative. Constipation is a particularly intractable problem, and thus the good results achieved with Prescript-Assist are especially noteworthy. There are also reports that it is useful for diarrhea and other symptoms of IBS. In addition, it does not need to be refrigerated, in contrast to some probiotics.
Chris Kresser, an acupuncturist with a large integrative medical practice, reported that he also has had excellent results in his practice with Prescript Assist, particularly in patients with constipation. He is so impressed with it that he is now selling it in his store. I bought mine from Amazon. In this transcript from a podcast he stated,
“A few months ago, I started doing some research about it. There’s one study that was double-blind, placebo-controlled that lasted for quite a long time, especially for probiotics. A lot of the studies are pretty short in duration. And essentially the theory behind it is that we evolved in an environment where we were continually exposed to these soil-based organisms. Our ancestors were not scrubbing their vegetables and fruits before they ate them. They were taking them out of the ground and maybe wiping them off a little bit and eating them. They weren’t buying them in the store after they had been scrubbed, and they weren’t scrubbing them themselves. And the other thing is that the soil diversity and quality has changed a lot since the industrialization of agriculture, and so we’re just not exposed to the same number and types of soil-based organisms to the same extent that we probably were for most of our evolutionary history. And as we’re going to discuss in a lot more detail in a later question, there’s a lot of evidence that these soil-based organisms have profound immunoregulatory effects. In other words, we evolved with them over a long period of time, and our immune systems have a symbiotic relationship with them and function much better in their presence. And so the soil-based organisms are a different approach than the lactic acid-forming types of probiotics, and I’ve found that they’re better tolerated in people with SIBO. As a fairly unrelated side note, they tend to work better for constipation than a lot of other probiotics. Oftentimes, probiotics can make constipation worse, so the soil-based organisms and Prescript-Assist, I think, is a really good choice for people with SIBO.”
I have begun recommending Prescript-Assist to the patients in my practice, with good results. Suggested dosage is 2 capsules twice a day for one month, and then decrease to 1 capsule twice a day. Over time, one per day may be sufficient for maintenance. I would be eager to hear from any of my readers who have experience with this probiotic, and from those who decide to try it. Please write to me with your results.