Gut Microbiota and the Immune Compromised


Research now help explain why dietary changes are often effective in treating conditions related to dysfunctions in the microbiome and the immune system.

Scientists know that these two system are closely interlinked and constantly engaged in dynamic interaction. Studies like this one continue to reveal the intricate connections between the microbiome and the immune system of the human body and how dysfunctions in both contribute to disease. 

Food safety and health agencies warn people with immune system disorders or chronic health problems not to consume raw milk. The reasoning is that the raw milk may potentially contain pathogens (harmful bacteria that can make humans sick). This is highly unlikely when raw milk is produced to high standards and tested regularly to be pathogen-free, under high standards like those of the Raw Milk Institute. Not all regulated raw milk is equal but the risk associated with certified raw milk has been exaggerated. Many foods can contain pathogens and are allowed to have a manageable risk, but raw drinking milk (RDM) is often expected to have a perfect food safety profile. No food can be considered 100% safe.

In countries where raw milk is regulated, like New Zealand and the United Kingdom, there is a requirement for unpasteurised milk to carry

a health warning informing vulnerable groups like the immune suppressed, the elderly, young children or people with a chronic condition not to consume the product. This is seen by some as a fair approach to both mitigate risk and respect consumer choice. 

On the other side research show raw milk do have immune boosting benefits when consumed by healthy people. So the question is: how do you get to enjoy raw milk when you have a compromised constitution, you are advised not to consume RDM or are too afraid to try RDM due to warnings?

It may also be useful to explore how modern society came to be so immune depressed in the first place and what the experts say is the best solution. Some of it may shock you.

Please remember that when we talk about raw milk, we are referring to raw milk produced to high standards, tested, pathogen-free and meant for direct human consumption.

According to the WSJ article, people who eat the Standard America Diet of processed foods, refined grains, processed fats, white sugar and white flour tend to have an increased risk to suffer from the immune diseases that are epidemic in the Western world today.

The same article also offers a unique solution for many immune compromised people who want to regain their health. 

Deprivation from microbes: an inner city dilemma

If a person is deprived of this interaction with beneficial microbes, the immune system remains "sloppy and immature, unable to fight off diseases properly" (source). Many conventional foods found in supermarkets are often sterile or void of friendly bacteria. Dairy is pasteurised and yogurt is often cultured with only a few select strains of bacteria, making it an inferior pro-biotic (study). Many fresh vegetables and fruits are irradiated (a form of sterilisation), or they are gassed, excessively washed or waxed to have a longer shelf life. Many conventional vegetables and fruits are treated with the pesticides of  

commercial agriculture. Many may have seen the correlation drawn between pesticides and damage to the microbiome (source). According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, pesticides act like anti-biotics; they kill microbes. Supermarket processed foods are also known to contain too much sugar. This creates gut dysbiosis because it feeds the wrong kind of bacteria, which in turn "crowds out" the good ones. It is also now common for industrially produced foods like raw chicken and leafy green vegetables to contain pathogens like Campylobacter.

The brilliant author of the book Big Farms Make Big Flu, Evolutionary Biologist Dr. Rob Wallace came to Australia late last year to talk about the rise of virulent pathogens in industrialised intensive animal agriculture and the politics and economics that support this broken model. Consumers are disturbed when they learn that pathogens and anti-biotics are tolerated in the economic engine of our large-scale food system. Anti-biotics are in our food supply and they are microbe killers, except many virulent pathogens have built resistance to them. This food system encourages growth of harmful pathogenic bacteria. Authorities are unwilling to put public health before corporate interests. Watch one of Dr. Wallace's enlightening talks here or see the short film The Tale of Two Chickens for a quick brief on this issue.

According to this article a British government report estimates that about 700,000 people worldwide currently die annually due to antibiotic-resistant infections. The CDC estimates that 23,000 people in the US die every year due to the antibiotic-resistance created by the animal industry. Most people don't realise that chickens can cause both the infection and the resistance to treatment (source).

According to this article, more foods are pasteurised every day to make up for unsanitary conditions, destroying the natural bacteria and enzymes that would normally counteract the growth of pathogens. Clearly pasteurisation is not the best solution. Food production will have to clean up its act.

Where can Australians get interaction with the right kind of microbes when they rely on supermarket for food?

Modern society is far removed from real farm foods that do contain naturally occurring healthy microbes. A researcher recently said that we don't get enough exposure to microbes here in Melbourne (source). Australian children now have the highest rate of food allergy in the world. Melbourne have been called the food allergy capital of the world. The same article say that dairy farmers and their children are protected from allergies and it is because of their exposure to microbes.

New research on mice show the devastating effects of being deprived of gut bacteria, being raised in sterile environments, receiving anti-biotics in early in life etc. on the immune system (more). 

Article:  Feed Your Gut Microbes Well, Lest They Feed on You


The elderly are most vulnerable

According to this Herald Sun article, Melbourne researchers will be tackling the overuse of antibiotics in nursing homes. 14 Nursing homes across Melbourne and Sydney will be monitored to ensure they are treating infections properly and not overprescribing antibiotics. This comes after previous work of Infectious diseases and microbiology Professor Anton Peleg, that uncovered that superbugs was made worse by the overuse of antibiotics. According to the article, more than a third of ­nursing-home residents are carriers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, while at least half of common infections like urinary tract infections are being wrongly treated with ­antibiotics. Prof Peleg said: “We know that being exposed to antibiotics and high use of antibiotics drives superbug infection.”

Antibiotics kill microscopic life, but some microbes respond to the attempt on their lives by adapting and surviving. It's not hard to see why the elderly in Australia are so vulnerable. They may have a gut packed with potentially harmful microbes, and not enough good microbes, or a diversity of beneficial microbes via the diet to counter them.

Get proper dietary fibre to feed the good gut microbes

The WSJ article mentions a 2010 study in the Proceedings of the National academy of Sciences comparing the microbiota of rural African children with urban Italian children. The African kids ate a high-fibre diet of vegetables, grains and legumes and the Italian children had lots of sugar, processed food and refined grains in their diet. The urban children had a higher risk of suffering from immune diseases.

There is a lot of evidence showing that eating too much of the wrong kind of food can alter our microbiome and expose us to disease.

The article say an individual's community of microbes is surprisingly responsive to what sort of diet they eat.

"Recent studies find a direct link between the presence and absence of certain bacteria and all of the chronic diseases mentioned above. It turns out that the microbes within us are much more than quiet residents; they are an inherent part of our physiology, and altering them leads to disease."

The WSJ article say that eating a variety of foods is perhaps the best way to increase microbial diversity and there is no better time than during the first few years. The article say that the Western diet is extremely low in fibre and refined grains contains too little of it. It suggests protein-rich legumes, such as lentils, beans and peas have an abundance of fibre that can be easily mashed for babies. Traditional starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, parsnips or cassava (tapioca) can also be beneficial as it contains more fibre than potatoes. Remember the modern varieties of potatoes and some other root vegetables are curiously low in fibre, so source heirloom varieties where possible. These sources of dietary fibre are known as pre-biotics. They feed the microbial colonies inside the human gut. For older children, the article suggests  

adding fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and other pickled vegetables. This study finds that leafy greens are essential for feeding good gut bacteria.

Professor Kim Barrett, professor of medicine at the University of California, recently hosted a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything about how microbes influence our overall health and wellbeing. She also recommends eating "a well-balanced diet, including cultured/fermented foods, and avoiding excessive fat and processed carbohydrates (source)." She also says that it is now clear that changes to diet can change the microbiome within weeks, if not days.

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome and an advocate for the GAPS diet, say that diet has to be the number one treatment for healing the digestive tract. She says the gut is a long tube, and what you fill it with has a direct effect on its wellbeing. Dr. Natasha is a Russian-born neurologist and nutritionist and naturally an advocate for traditional fermented foods like raw milk (more). See this video by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to learn more about raw milk and lactose intolerance. Also see GAPS Australia, an organisation who support the work of Dr. Campbell-McBride. The Mindd Foundation in Australia have also done some extensive work to promote traditional and alternative treatments for a range of gut related disorders. A 2014 episode of Catalyst also explains why giving more dietary fibre feeds the gut bacteria and in return produce better health.

Article:  The Extraordinary Link between the Gut and the Brain

Article:  How dietary fiber helps the intestine maintain gut health - UC Davids Health

A diverse microbiome is key to health, source a diverse probiotic

Another article say that a less diverse or a less balanced microbiome can have a negative impact on health. It has been linked to inflammatory bowel diseases and the increase in autoimmune diseases in developed countries. A 2013 study found that Bangladesh children have more diverse gut microbiomes than United States children. 

In another study researchers found that the stool samples of people affected with chronic fatigue syndrome had significantly lower diversity of species compared with the healthy people - a finding typical of inflammatory bowel disease as well. Scientists say that there is a biological difference between people with chronic fatigue syndrome and healthy people. 

It is suggested that the long lasting idea that it's a


psychological illness should be abandoned (source). This research show CFS is associated with the abundance of distinct abnormal bacterial types and their metabolic pathways.

Professor Kim Barrett also say there are thousands of different species of bacteria in our gut but suggests the specific types of bacteria may be less important than the bacteria's effect on how the body works. This can explain why a diversity of gut bacteria is linked to good health - possibly because it gives you "multiple routes to arrive at the same metabolic capacity..., then, if you wipe out one type of bacteria inadvertently, you have redundant capacity for the same functions (source)".

Article:  Loss of microbial gut diversity a threat to health?

Article:  Ethnic fermented foods reveal microbial diversity

Image: a milk kefir grain, purchase online in Australia here.

Raw Milk Kefir

This information may also explain why this study shows that drinking raw milk kefir have significant health benefits. Milk kefir (from kefir grains) have an impressive array of microbes and yeasts compared to inferior sources like commercial yogurts or some probiotic pills. The cultured raw milk kefir also contain the extra benefits of whatever natural microbes were present in the raw milk, before it was cultured with the kefir. According to this study the microorganisms in the kefir grains produce its own lactic acid, natural antibiotics and bactericides which inhibit the development of pathogens.

Science show raw milk kefir is a very beneficial food.

Raw dairy farmers are known to farm for beneficial microbes on their farm. However, remember that many authorities do not recommend raw dairy for the immune compromised. Instead scientists recommend these people find other, non-raw dairy avenues to regain microbial diversity, immunity and health.


Commercial yogurts not effective for additional benefits

Supermarket yogurt, probiotic pills and culture starters (like powdered kefir or instant cultured vegetable starters) all tend to have a small variety of select microbes. Professor Kim Barrett also warn against many commercial products like yogurts and off-the-shelf supplements because they have shown to contain few, if any, live bacteria. This study shows most probiotic yogurts don't contain enough 'good' bacteria for additional benefits.

Researcher Mary Scourboutakos said their study found that the probiotic levels in these yogurts were sometimes up to 25 times lower than what clinical trials have found to be effective. 

She also said there’s agreement among scientists that the more good bacteria there is in your gut, the harder it is for bad bacteria to flourish and 

cause problems. Also remember that many commercially produced bottles of sauerkraut or milk kefir have been pasteurised to increase shelf life, rendering it useless for 'microbial therapeutic use'.

Bifidobacterium and lactobacillus not efficient

This article also talks about the handful of strains of lactic acid bacteria, typically belonging to the genus Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus commonly used in probiotic supplements. Studies show "most of these bugs are unable to colonise the human gut (5, 6, 7), in large part because they are not adapted to live there. In other words, they are just transient members of the microbiota." The article recommends a particular probiotic strain to set up shop in the human colon, learn more about it here.

We need a healthy bio-diversity of live microbes for good health, not just a few select strains, nor dead ones.

Article:  7 Ways Probiotics DETOXIFY Your Body

Train the immune system with natural microbes from nature

Research show raw milk can reduce asthma, allergies, eczema, ear infections and colds when children consume raw milk. In this article, Belgian researcher Professor Hamida Hammad say that exposure to dust on dairy farms have shown to be protective against asthma and allergies. She says there are three factors on the farm that are protective: exposure to hay, exposure to living cows and the third is drinking raw milk. This suggests that the beneficial bacteria found in raw milk also lives on the farm, in the healthy soil of organic farms where nature is in balance and raw milk (for human consumption) are produced (more). This may be the same bacteria that is found on organic vegetables that are used to make naturally cultured/pickled foods like sauerkraut or kimchi (without the use of an artificial culture starter).  See the work of Sandor Katz, author of the book Wild Fermentation: the flavour, nutrition craft of live-culture foods or listen to an interview here.

According to research a three to four leaf spinach plant straight from the garden has over 800 species of bacteria, naturally occurring in soil, inside it.

Image:   Healthy, grass-fed cows on healthy pastures

Image: Healthy, grass-fed cows on healthy pastures

What an irony that raw milk can help asthma, eczema, allergies, ear infections and colds, yet are not recommended for people with immune problems? This is why ARMM advocate for a regulated raw milk industry to ensure that dairy farmers produce only a high quality, low risk product on par with world best practise.

Consumers want raw milk that do not contain any pathogens, only friendly bacteria.

No food can be produced and declared a 100% safe but with standards that risk can be mitigated (more). 


A closer look at the Immune System in action:

Mark McAfee (from the Raw Milk Institute) say that the immune system of a person consuming the Standards American Diet is so weak, that a pathogen that would not normally make a healthy person sick, can make someone with this severe depressed immune system very sick (source). Mark also say that before 1972 campylobacter was not considered a human pathogen in America. It became a problem when people lost their microbe bio-diversity, which is their immunity (more). 

According to this article, most of Australia's 6000 dairy farmers and their families drink raw milk without health problems. This may be because they have built up a very strong immunity, over a long period of time.  If farmers do ingest pathogens their immune system may have the potential to deal with it much more efficiently. Please note we do not recommend

consuming raw milk from a conventional dairy (more). Raw milk has to be properly produced and tested, otherwise there is decreased ability to predict its potential risk.

Livestock nutritionist and Vet Dr. William Winters say that high quality raw milk contains large amounts of beneficial bacteria which help "crowd out" pathogens. He says the only way a pathogen can get a foothold is if there aren't enough beneficial bacteria (source).

“If you have a full lining of probiotics in your gut and you happen to swallow some E. coli, salmonella, or staph organisms, there’s no room at the inn. So you’re much, much less likely to have a problem.” - Dr. William Winters

Photo: Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

Ignorance to gut health contribute to autism

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, another well known scientist in this field, recently spoke at the GAPS Congress 2016 and made a great case for the importance of tending to the internal garden of our children. She warns that between 2020 - 2025, in English speaking countries, we will be diagnosing half our babies with autism. She says that graph will continue to climb because of ignorance to gut health. See her compelling 14 minute presentation here. She also compares strengthening the gut flora to growing flowers in a garden (source).

"Time, patience and plenty of TLC are critical to re-establish good bacteria. A probiotic can assist with this. Consuming foods high in soluble fibre is also a great step you can take to re-establish your supply." - Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

Research has shown that a balanced bacterial community in the intestine is a key factor in people's susceptibility to immune diseases. For example, children who develop type 1 diabetes have abnormalities in their gut microbiomes; what's more, a healthy gut appears to protect against allergies, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease throughout life (source).

Article:  MIT Researcher’s Warning: Half of All U.S. Children Will Be Autistic (by 2025)

Also see the work of Dr. Robynne Chutkan, a gastroenterologist and author of the book The Microbiome Solution: A Radical New Way to Heal Your Body From the Inside Out. Listen to her speak about gut health in this video.

Research:  disruptions and changes to the microbiome


This research show a single strain of Lactobacillus is able to enhance mood! Imagine what the bio-diversity naturally present in raw milk can do… Researchers say the onset of depression in the study came with the loss of Lactobacillus.


Microbiota disruption due to anti-biotic usage:

A Reddit user asked Professor Kim Barrett on her AMA page about the problems related to damage to the gut microbiota as a result of anti-biotic usage and what can be done to mitigate the potential negative impact (source).  She responded:

"Particularly in early childhood, multiple rounds of antibiotic treatment are known to disrupt the normal maturation of the gut microbiota and its role in educating the immune system. To say nothing of the general problem of generating antibiotic resistance and super-pathogens. As we learn more about how to adjust the components of the microbiota via the diet and perhaps probiotic supplementation, we may have more tools to do something about this."

Babies who receive anti-biotics may be unable to make use of probiotic supplementation to reseed the microbiome. Fortunately nature has a perfect solution. In this article Spanish researchers report that breast milk contains more than 700 species of bacteria, a larger microbial diversity than previously thought. Breast milk is not sterile.

Chronic Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

Many studies show the consequences of a microbiome thrown out of whack by infection with the wrong kind of bacteria. In 2000 the small Canadian town Walkerton had a flood that resulted in contaminated drinking water with pathogens like E.coli and Campylobacter jejuni. About 2,300 people suffered from severe gastrointestinal infection and many developed chronic irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). During an eight year study researchers noticed psychological issues like depression and anxiety seemed to be a risk factor for persistent IBS. Gastroenterologist Premysl Bercik says that this interplay triggered intriguing questions. Could psychiatric symptoms be driven by lingering inflammation, or perhaps by a microbiome thrown out of whack by infection? (source)


Parkinson's Disease:

Researchers are now studying the gut for for further insights into this disorder.  According to this article by the Michael J. Fox Foundation there is a clear effect of Parkinson's disease on the gastrointestinal tract. Nearly 80% of people with PD have constipation, and this condition often predates the motor symptoms of PD by several years.


Autism Spectrum Disorder:

It is common knowledge that children with autism have more gut problems than healthy children. Research show these children have fewer types of gut bacteria and less bacteria overall. Now scientists can show that changing gut bacteria can alleviate both their stomach problems and the behavioural problems associated with autism. A growing body of research connects the gut to brain development and behaviour (more). 

Earlier this month parents of autistic children in America suffered a huge blow after the FDA got raw camel milk producers to comply with a federal regulation prohibiting interstate commerce across state lines. Walid Abdul-Wahab,

the founder of the largest camel milk distribution company in the U.S., estimates that well over 10,000 autistic children consume raw camel milk in America. He says a survey by their California-based company found that about 40% of customers are parents of autistic children. The raw camel milk is very expensive, USD$18 per pint, but it's obvious these parents believe the milk has benefits. This cruel ban has parents scrambling for new sources to alleviate the symptoms of ASD in their children (more).

Article:  Raw Camel Milk – The Superfood For Autism


The information in this article shows how dietary changes can help people with a weakened immune system or those with long-term illness to regain good health when raw dairy is not an option. This information may be useful for people who are afraid to try certified raw milk due to health warnings from authorities. Once health is restored, these people may feel more confident about adding certified raw milk to their diets. This information may also explain why moving away from locally sourced, organic farm foods caused some of the gut problems in the first place.

It shows why a return to the food of a healthy farm environment, like certified raw milk, may be a pathway to a healthy microbiome.

Many in the scientific community now agree that humans need an abundance of beneficial microbes for the health of their microbiome and overall wellbeing.

Research also show that diversity is linked to good health. Some scientists also warn about the inferiority of commercial yogurts and most probiotic supplementation. Many are recommending cultured/fermented foods to re-seed the microbiome.

Friendly bacteria have a powerful, beneficial effect on the gut’s immune system. They are the first line of defence against pathogens, they prime a strong immune system and can reduce allergies.

We need these microbes to protect us against the many pathogens in the conventional food system.

If you consider the undeniable presence of pathogens in our conventional food system, and the lack of beneficial bacteria needed to counter them, you realise that this is hypocrisy. Why single out certified raw milk to be excluded from the Australian diet?

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