Strange when you can look back and realize that a single moment in time was a turning point in your life. I have always loved that kind of hindsight, figuring out those exact moments that changed everything.
One was March 22, 1996, the day my 2 year old son, Alex, was diagnosed with autism. My entire world shifted on its axis. Everything I had ever done or thought, wanted or needed, liked or hated…everything became irrelevant. What mattered was helping my sick baby. (And Alex was and is SICK: idiopathic immune deficiency, seizures, and a history of inflammatory bowel disease.)
What I rapidly came to understand is that the system-model of the human body that is taught in your average 9th grade biology class (the circulatory system, the immune system, the central nervous system, etc.) is nonsense. My first teacher was Dr. Sidney Baker, one of the founders of the functional medicine movement that thankfully continues to gain traction around the world, who I first met on March 8, 1997 (at 2:00 pm EST, to be precise), just after Alex’s 3rd birthday. Another major turning point.
Sid pointed to the fake spider web he had hanging in the corner of his office and explained to me that the human body is all one thing: like that spider web, everything is intertwined…and no part of the body works in isolation. Sid went on to explain that autism is a set of symptoms that results from alterations in the immune system and in the biome of the gut…
The what of the gut?
The biome: all the living organisms in an ecosystem. And the human body is an ecosystem, teeming with life. Like all ecosystems, we have our non-living matter (for example, water) and living matter, like our own cells and the trillions of co-inhabitants that live in and on us.
As time passed and I learned more, I truly came to understand what Sid meant. More and more research began to demonstrate alterations in normal gut flora being suspect in the origin of autism…and other chronic illnesses ranging from obesity to celiac disease to depression. Then, in 1999, I read an article in the NY Times (“In Pursuit of Autoimmune Worm Cure,” by Andy Newman) which explained the work of Dr. Joel Weinstock who used helminths – the native animal life inhabiting the guts of all mammals on this planet, except those of us in the industrialized world – to treat inflammatory bowel disease. Dr. Weinstock hypothesized that by adding back our missing macrobiome, he could stimulate the immune system in such a way as to reduce autoimmunity and inflammation. Sure enough, 6 of the 7 individuals in the study went into remission and the 7th also improved dramatically.
The article rocked my world.
It was at that moment, reading that article, that what had been a mere interest in the human biome became an obsession.
In 2013 I co-founded Biome Restoration Ltd., a UK company that provides those helminths (more on this in future posts). I turned my hobby into my profession: it’s the old “love what you do and you’ll never do a day’s work” adage come to life. Yes, as my big brother mutters when introducing me, “My sister sells worms.”
So, here I am, so many years later, still daily reading whatever I can find (which is now an incredible amount) on the wonderful and amazing biome and its relationship to health. Trendsetter that I am, it seems like pretty much everyone else in the world has finally figured out that this is where it’s all happening – deep down in our digestive systems, where the majority of our old friends live.
Our biome is what’s trending.