We MUST Live in a Petri Dish
Our Immune System

Dr. Al Danenberg Nutritional Periodontist

May 4, 2020 [printfriendly]


We MUST Live in a Petri Dish


I get up early every morning. Even before taking a shower and making my coffee, I turn on the TV to my favorite newscast. Some would say that turning on my TV is the worst thing I could do. But I want to be informed – even if there is so much bias and hype out there in the media.


So, this morning I woke around 6AM and first tuned into my favorite live broadcast. The seasoned anchor said, “We certainly don’t want to put our kids back in school because school is like a petri dish.”


My guy was referring to children being exposed potentially to the COVID-19 virus in a closed-in, body-to-body contact area of a bunch of kids. Kids who are sneezing, drooling, touching their noses, and touching one another are prime carriers and spreaders of infectious diseases.


Did this morning journalist mean that we should put our kids instead in a sterile bubble to prevent the spread of all contagious diseases? Where do you fall on the continuum between living in a sterile sphere and comingling with highly contagious people?


Let me stop you here. I am not in favor of putting my child, my wife, myself, or anyone in a contained area of people who are highly contagious with a deadly disease. Common sense must prevail. Extremes generally are not the answers on either end of the pendulum.



Human Physiology

We must understand human physiology and our DNA blueprint. The human body learns over time to biologically defend itself from specific contagious diseases. One essential way is by being exposed to microbes with varying degrees of virulence that are all around us all the time. This is as it has been since the beginning of time.


During this time of the pandemic, we have to allow our medical scientists to develop a means to destroy the COVID-19 virus. At least they need to make it less contagious and destructive to our body.


But we must become proactive to improve our natural disease fighting capability. Our future health depends on this. The solution for health and wellbeing has never been a pill or a shot. That would be treating the symptoms but never addressing the causes.


Our natural defense mechanism against contagious diseases is our immune system. We were created and have evolved over thousands of years to survive and thrive. No one could survive if our immune system did not exist, or if our immune system was ineffective at fighting infectious diseases on its own. We can only thrive if this system is functioning at peak efficiency.


We eventually develop a strong immune system by being exposed to the world around us. If we lived in a sterile dome, our immune system would never learn to defend us from all the microbes from which we are exposed every minute of every day. Each of us will survive only because each of us has successfully been exposed to antigens slowly over time.


“SLOWLY” is the operative word. Being thrown continuously into a sea of deadly and contagious microbes will overwhelm the immune system and could cause death. But slowly becoming exposed in our germ-infested environment will build our defenses and develop our immunity over time. Our innate and adaptive immune system will learn correctly to mobilize our internal armed forces, which are collectively called our immune system.



Our Immune System

Most of us have an inefficient and dysfunctional immune system. How can I say that? Statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest we are generally unhealthy: 60% of US adults have a chronic disease; 70% of American deaths is caused by a chronic disease; and 72% of our population is overweight. Our society is drowning in an epidemic of chronic illness. These facts are the results of an immune system that is not doing its job. Our immune system is compromised and ill prepared to fight for our life.


About 70-80% of our immune system resides in our gut. The cells of the immune system and the gut bacteria regulate and support one another. If the garden of healthy gut bacteria becomes overgrown with harmful bacteria, then the balance between the gut bacteria and the immune system can become severely compromised. In addition, if the gut barrier membrane becomes damaged, unhealthy toxic substances will leak out from the gut lumen into the blood system. The toxic reaction in the bloodstream is called metabolic endotoxemia, which then leads to chronic system inflammation. This spread of inflammation throughout the body via the circulatory system could lead to the manifestation of various chronic and autoimmune diseases.


Our complex immune system is made up of two active mechanisms working in tandem: the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system.


Innate Immune System: The innate system is activated quickly whenever a foreign substance is detected in our body.  The defense mechanisms include physical barriers such as the epithelial barrier of the gut, chemicals in the blood, and immune system cells that individually attack foreign elements entering the body. The innate immune response is immediately activated by an invader’s specific chemical properties, called antigens.


Adaptive Immune System: The adaptive system is an antigen-specific defense mechanism. Once an antigen is detected, processed, and recognized, the adaptive immune system creates an army of immune cells specifically designed to attack that antigen. In addition, a unique and highly effective response by the adaptive immune system is to store “memory” cells for that specific antigen. Memory cells create “immunity” for future attacks from that exact antigen. If our body is attacked again by that invader, memory cells will create an onslaught of antibodies that will go to work against that antigen.


So, it is vital for the gut to be healthy in order to have an efficient and effective immune system.



Enhancing the Immune System

Diet and lifestyle choices affect the health of the gut, and therefore affect the health of the immune system. We must enhance our immune system by making necessary choices. Here are seven specific actions under our control that we must understand and strive to accomplish:


  • Eating nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods
  • Restoring and maintaining a healthy gut
  • Acquiring restorative sleep
  • Performing efficient exercise
  • Reducing emotional stress
  • Exposing our skin to sufficient sun exposure for the production of natural vitamin D (or consuming supplements if necessary)
  • Cleaning our mouth properly


It is critical for our survival to avoid continuous, highly contagious, potentially life-threatening pathogens. It is also critical for our survival to have a robust, efficient, and effective immune system. Our petri dish, which is the world around us, is part of the teaching mechanism that allows our immune system to defend itself. Our diet and lifestyle provide the essential elements to allow our immune system to do its job.


Taken all together, this is the path to health and longevity. We owe it to our body to be proactive.



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The Stress of COVID-19
and its consequences

Dr. Al Danenberg Nutritional Periodontist

April 13, 2020 [printfriendly]


Stress of COVID-19Stress!


You can’t see it or touch it or smell it. But it’s all around us.


Everyone talks about it and experiences it.


Life in our modern world seems to create it. Or maybe we are creating it for ourselves.


But then came COVID-19, and it blew all of us away!!



COVID-19’s Effects

I don’t have to tell you about the stress we have endured during this pandemic. COVID-19 has changed all of our lives abruptly and severely. Sadly, a number of us have gotten sick; many of us have lost jobs or businesses; a few have died. The emotional trauma of these bombshells is taking its toll. I’m not sure if life will ever be the same as it was before the virus raised its ugly head and spread like a raging hurricane.


The psychological ramifications are yet to be realized. So many of us have feelings of desperation and are demoralized. Those that are demoralized feel that no matter what they do and how hard they work will make no difference. They are falling into the abyss of depression and feelings of worthlessness.



Stress and the Gut

You may not realize it, but stress affects your gut, your immune system, and your brain. Especially if the stress is continuous and seems to have no end. The consequences could be subtle or might create significant and immediate effects. Or, it may affect our body months or years later manifesting as one of many types of chronic diseases. The pathway to tragic illnesses is pretty amazing and probably will surprise you.


Emotional stress can lead to changes in the intestinal wall by opening up spaces between the cells of the epithelial barrier. This is a natural process that allows additional water, sodium, and glucose to get into the blood system. Your body needs these to assist in the chemical changes induced by stress. When short bouts of stress are resolved, then the holes in this gut barrier return to normal. However, significantly increased stress from financial and social disruptions caused by COVID-19 can last a long time. No one knows how long these stresses will endure. What is certain is that chronic, overwhelming stress will induce serious problems. The resulting damage to the gut epithelial barrier will allow the continuous leakage into the blood system of harmful substances from the gut lumen – especially lipopolysaccharides (LPS).



Endotoxemia Causes Chronic Disease

LPS (which is an endotoxin) is the outer cell wall of dead gram-negative gut bacteria that is highly toxic. Endotoxemia is a disease where large amounts of lipopolysaccharides leak into the bloodstream continuously and course throughout the body. The immune system initially overreacts to excessive and continuous LPS causing a cascade of highly inflammatory chemicals. The immune system may settle down but will still produce inflammatory chemicals as long as the source of emotional stress is still present. The overall result is chronic inflammation circulating to all cells and organ systems. Ultimately, debilitating chronic diseases could manifest.


Some of the chronic diseases include depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic heart failure, type 2 diabetes, autism, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), asthma, and dental diseases including periodontal disease and tooth decay. The immune system also may begin destroying normal human cells causing autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.


The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that chronic diseases are responsible for 70% of all deaths in the US.[1] For the most part, these chronic diseases originate from low-grade, systemic, chronic inflammation originating in the gut.


In addition to the “leaky” gut as a result of continuous stress, poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle choices can create a “leaky” gut.


Poor food and lifestyle choices will cause chemical changes in that gut that promote the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria. The unhealthy change in the bacteria of the gut is called dysbiosis. Pathogenic species cause a breakdown in the protective mucosal layer as well as the epithelial barrier of the gut. Dysbiosis causes the immune system to produce inflammatory chemicals. Once toxic substances from the gut leak into the circulatory system, the immune system goes into high gear. It creates a cascade of inflammatory chemicals, which flood all the pathways leading from the gut to the rest of the body.


So, the emotional stress produced by COVID-19 along with dysbiosis in the gut are powerful ingredients directing the body to go into a prolonged tailspin leading to disastrous outcomes.


Resolving Stress

I have written several articles about dealing with stress and have published these Blogs on my website. Here are three that you might find interesting and helpful: HERE, HERE, HERE.



Resolving Endotoxemia

A double-blind randomized controlled trial was published in 2017[2]. The investigators showed how a supplement containing spore-based probiotics could heal a damaged gut lining and resolve endotoxemia.


Brian McFarlin and his researchers selected 28 participants whose blood tests demonstrated significant endotoxemia after consuming a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal. This select group of individuals were divided into two groups. Both groups took two capsules of a daily supplement for four weeks. One group took placebo capsules, and the other took capsules containing five different spore-based bacillus probiotics. At the end of the trial, participants ate another high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal. Their blood was tested before the meal and then retested after the meal. Five hours after the meal, the results showed an average decrease of endotoxemia of 42% in the group taking the probiotic capsules. However, the group taking the placebo actually had a 36% increase in endotoxemia. The authors suggested that the positive results might be improved significantly if the probiotics were taken for several more months. Also, the overall results probably would be significantly more effective if the participants were eating nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods rather than high carbohydrate, processed foods.



My Personal Experience

I am only one of billions of people dealing with the stress caused by COVID-19. I also am one of those in the high-risk group because of my age (73 years old) and my underlying health condition (incurable bone marrow cancer which I am successfully treating unconventionally). The stress from lifestyle changes caused by COVID-19 is as real for me as for everyone. Knowing about stress and dealing with stress are two different things.


I try to destress using some of the methods I described in my article I referred to earlier. And I also help heal my body from endotoxemia by following my daily Protocol to Restore Normal Gut Bacteria. Part of my Protocol consists of the spore-based bacilli probiotics that were investigated in Brian McFarlin’s peer-review study which I referenced above[3].


I am trying to do my part to do what I can do for myself and to share what I know with all my readers.


[1] https://www.apha.org/~/media/files/pdf/factsheets/chronicdiseasefact_final.ashx

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5561432/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5561432/



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