A new study out of Harvard has confirmed that there is a direct link between gut health, immunity and autoimmune diseases like diabetes.

The study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sought to investigate how a set of “guardian genes” – known as human leukocyte antigen (HLA) in humans, and major histocompatibility complexes (MHC) in mice – protect against autoimmune diseases.

The study determined that at least one of these genes is shaped by friendly bacteria in the gut. Of even greater importance was the team’s discovery that these guardian genes are virtually neutralized if their hosts are exposed to antibiotics in the womb or shortly after birth, or if they are kept in unnaturally sterile environments.

While doctors are quick to prescribe antidepressants and other chemical medicines to enhance production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, 80 percent of them are actually produced by our gut flora. It is therefore entirely logical that the way to treat problems like depression is not to medicate the symptoms away, but to correct the balance of the microbiome.

While it is important to avoid the use of antibiotics before birth and in the early years of life, and to ensure that babies are exposed to a variety of bacteria to develop healthy immune systems, it is also vitally important to ensure that we eat the right foods throughout our lifetimes to maintain a healthy microbiome.

This would include limiting processed carbohydrates, which feed unhealthy bacteria like the Candida albicans yeast, and increasing intake of fermented probiotic foods and drinks like yogurt with live cultures, kombucha, pickles and sauerkraut.

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