About Kelly Brogan

KELLY BROGAN, MD, is a holistic psychiatrist, author of the New York Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your Own, Own Your Self, the children’s book, A Time For Rain, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression.

Co-written with Sayer Ji, Founder, GreenMedInfo.com

Paleo-oriented researchers, foodies, and clinicians seek to honor a wisdom in evolution that has been forsaken in the modern food era.

The human genome is best expressed under conditions of plentiful macro and micronutrients, an absence of foodborne and manmade toxins, and an acknowledgement of our coevolution and inextricable interdependence with other animals, plants, and microbes. If we get out of our own way, and follow ancestral practices, we can hope to optimize the genetic potential of our bodies to produce a robust and sustainable state of health and vitality.

Does that mean that those with ancestral dietary aspirations are glorifying a time long gone that was in actuality riddled with pestilence and plague? Weren’t people dying prematurely of diseases we have long since eradicated through the miracle of vaccination? Isn’t vaccination the best way to have it all – Paleo principles plus suppression of those nasty bugs that threaten our very lives from the moment of birth? Are we cherry-picking modern epigenetic exposures – yes to a traditional diet, no to evolutionary immunity – in favor of ‘high tech’ medical interventions?

Paleo Immunity

Why are we eating ancestrally in the first place? Isn’t it to evade or undo the immune-disrupting, inflammation-generating, and infection-promoting effects of the modern grain-based diet, also featuring genetically engineered vegetable oils, synthetic additives and flavorings, grain-fed meats, and processed dairy? Our present dietary trajectory was initiated around 10,000 years ago in the transition from 2.5 million year old Paleolithic to the so-called Neolithic periods. Our Neolithic predecessors were the innovators of today’s grain-based, animal breeding and milking, sedentary, city-dwelling mode of subsistence, whose glorious technological innovations (written language, science, engineering, pyrotechnology, pottery, etc.) came with an ultimately steep price: epidemic levels of so-called ‘diseases of affluence,’ including metabolic syndrome, heart disease, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and cancer.

Our radical departure from sugarless, low-starch, high-nutrient, and mostly raw foods, to cooked grains (and their secondary reiteration in grain-fed animal products) marked a transition that had profound implications, affecting not only human physiology, but the very structure of human consciousness itself. Plenty of evidence now exists that far from being an optimally healthy part of the human diet, or a so-called “staff of life,” grains are like a crutch — highly addictive,1 life force draining – which while capable of supporting population growth by getting bodies through the critical reproductive window in one piece, end up contributing to chronic, degenerative disorders that profoundly reduce the quality of human life..2

The ‘Paleo approach’ is based on acknowledging that our body is the product of a deep metabolic pre-history – millions of years of foraging, hunting, living off the land in such a way that – nutrigenomically – the genetic infrastructure of our very cells hungers daily for the dietary compounds that had nurtured them for eons. Our genes are not expecting to see oxidized ‘vegetable’ oils, sugar, grains, or lectin-infused legumes.

Paleo respects this fact.

What does this intention to preserve a relationship with the natural world teach us about our immunity? Through exposure to soil, fermentation, the elements, and each other, we engaged in an epic journey of evolutionary adaptation – one marked by a countless responses to the microbial world. We birthed vaginally and breastfed to communicate what a mother’s body had learned about its bacterial and viral friends and foes, and we preserved our own microbiome with respectful integrity. When we got sick, our bodies formed a memory of the experience, and brought that memory to subsequent and related encounters. The exact details of our immunologic evolution are something we, even with our modern minds, techniques, and resources, have not come close to fully elucidating.

Has Vaccinology Misconceived Immunity?

Is it possible that vaccinology has applied a reductionist – one disease, one drug/vaccine – model to an evolutionarily adapted system with built-in complexities we have barely begun to appreciate? Is it possible that we have misapprehended immunity, or are still fundamentally learning about its most basic principles? If we are to accept that billions of years have gone into priming our physiology for interface with pathogens, as enemies, but also as commensals, then we must acknowledge that there is more to immunity than antibody response. In fact, we have only begun to understand the most fundamental processes at play within our immunity, with some researchers claiming:

“For the immune molecules that we know are important, almost nothing is understood about their mechanisms of action.”

  • Evolutionary growth protection Newborns are described as possessing an “anti-inflammatory phenotype” which fosters rapid growth and restructuring while relying on maternal immune factors through breast milk. Evolutionarily,

“this anti-inflammatory phenotype may be beneficial to the neonate at a time when tissue growth and remodelling events are taking place at a rapid pace… thus the inability of the neonate to respond to infection with encapsulated bacteria may be the risk the organism takes for successful development.”

This is why babies produce reduced amounts of inflammatory messengers like ILI-B or TNF-alpha – nature designed them that way. Yet, the modern medical ethos to ‘improve upon Nature’ compels the addition of toxic inflammatory-provoking adjuvants to vaccines. Perhaps, in our hubris, we are yanking, unpredictably, on a complex web of psychoneuroimmunological and endocrinological effects.

We only have a keyhole view of what comprises a lasting immune response, and recently the very notion that antibody-mediated responses to infection are necessary to ward off infection has been called into question.

If the native immunologic posture emphasizes cell-mediated or TH1 immunity, what happens when we use pharmaceutical products to hyperstimulate the TH2 arm of the immune system, selectively? Could we be inducing associated allergy,4 asthma,5 atopy, demyelinating disorders, 6 lupus 7 and other autoimmune disorders? 8

What about innate immunity? Is it important?  According to a study published in Vaccine titled, “Consequence or coincidence?: The occurrence, pathogenesis and significance of autoimmune manifestations after viral vaccines“:

“New research is required to establish the mechanistic foundations of the different acquired immune systems, which in our mind have been overlooked because, in part, of the inadequacy of current definitions and the prevailing paradigm…It should be emphasized that acquired immunity alone is not enough; the immune system must include both innately genomic and somatically acquired mechanisms that function in concert.”

Herd Immunity

“The body defends most efficiently as a result of ongoing re-exposure,” explains Dr. Suzanne Humphries, MD, in her brilliant essay, “Herd Immunity: Flawed Science and Mass Vaccination Failures.” The assumption that a 95% vaccination rate will altogether eradicate infectious challenges, and that one can supplant the vital role of natural re-exposure with vaccine boosters, with the goal of full control or complete eradication, is a fairy tale without basis in science. We are made to believe that vaccine compliance and conformity is a social as well as an individual service. It’s for the ‘greater good.’ The humble origins of this powerful meme may surprise you. In fact, it has no basis in vaccine-induced antibody production and heralds from an observation by A.W. Hedrich,9 in 1933, that measles outbreaks in Boston between 1900 and 1930 were suppressed when 68% of the children contracted the virus. In other words, natural infection confers immunity (as it has since time Paleolithic times and before) . The push to generate synthetic immunity via vaccination attempts to co-opt this phenomena – community-based interactions and immune information-tracking have been hijacked by the application of vaccines such that lasting immunity and re-stimulation of that immune response by passive exposure and maternal transfer has been sabotaged.

Normal and essentially benign childhood infections such as varicella (chickenpox) that are self-limiting and confer protection against more serious, adult-onset disease (herpes zoster/shingles) have been nearly vaccinated out of natural circulation in the community. As Dr. Goldman describes:

“Prior to the universal varicella vaccination program, 95% of adults experienced natural chickenpox (usually as school aged children)—these cases were usually benign and resulted in long term immunity. This high percentage of individuals having long term immunity has been compromised by mass vaccination of children which provides at best 70 to 90% immunity that is temporary and of unknown duration—shifting chickenpox to a more vulnerable adult population where chickenpox carries 20 times more risk of death and 15 times more risk of hospitalization compared to children. Add to this the adverse effects of both the chickenpox and shingles vaccines as well as the potential for increased risk of shingles for an estimated 30 to 50 years among adults.”


Should the goal, therefore, be eradication or optimization of natural immunity?

Didn’t Vaccines Eradicate Infectious Disease? Isn’t That Why We’re Living Long Healthy Lives?

Our collective consciousness around infectious disease has been programmed with the alluringly reductionist perspective that vaccination has helped to save us from major deadly diseases, irrespective of the radical changes in sanitation and hygiene that marked the early to mid twentieth century. This line of rhetoric, of course, also ignores the fact that the ~3.4 billion year long struggle of the living cell to perfect itself into our present day organism required the development of a sophisticated immune system – one that successfully interfaced with a virtually infinite number of infectious challenges along the way, and kept us alive and well before the nanosecond old (in biological time) shift into modern medical interventions began only 100 years ago.

Perhaps the most emblematic example of oversimplified benefits and dismissed risks is the darling of vaccine enthusiasts the world over: Polio.  An exploration of the true natural history of this dread disease reveals more than iron lungs and crutches cast aside by valiant needles. After the live Salk vaccine paralyzed hundreds of adults and children, strategic redefinition of polio in 1955 eliminated labeling as “poliomyelitis”, all of the cases of acute flaccid paralysis caused by myriad viruses and also toxic exposures such as DDT. In fact, what would have formerly been called polio, transverse myelitis and Guillain-Barre are increasingly common today. Ironically and tragically, the only US cases of confirmed polio since 1973 have been vaccine-associated polio paralysis, prompting the acknowledgement of infectious risks associated with the live vaccine still imposed upon third world citizens.11

Indeed, In 2012, just when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative claimed ‘mission accomplished’ in India, with no reports of naturally transmitted (wild-type) polio infection in the 2011, over 47,000 cases of polio-like “acute flaccid paralysis” were reported 12 in the same year in children by The National Polio Surveillance Programme (TNPSP) in populations fully immunized with bivalent oral polio vaccine. TNPSP conveniently renamed these cases “non-polio acute flaccid paralysis” to avoid connecting them to the polio vaccines, describing them as “mild cases,” and “…of little consequence,” despite the fact that they were shown to be twice as lethal as naturally transmitted polio.

Additionally, not only has a far more deadly strain of vaccine-strain polio virus now displaced naturally circulating strains, but amazingly, modern technology has now made it impossible to fully eradicate it, as a fully infectious, replication competent form is now entirely synthesizable in a laboratory.  In other words, even if polio could be rendered extinct, it could be resurrected through modern technology at any point in time, making the rallying cry of ‘global eradication’ disingenuous.

  • Co-evolution: We coexist with bacteria and viruses to a level of enmeshment that makes the perception of ‘vaccine-preventable infections’ a laughable notion. They are in and among us, literally, incorporated into our genome with tight epigenetic regulation dictating the nature of the symbiosis. If viruses represent vectors of lethality, to be feared and vaccinated against in eradication efforts of global proportion, how does one explain the fact that the human genome itself is almost 45% viral in origin, composed of or derived from what are known as virus-like transposon-related elements?13 14

Our own mitochondria were once ancient bacteria that lived outside of us. Were ‘germs’ truly as deadly as vaccine policy and propaganda would have us believe, the very genetic code that makes us human and alive would not exist.

The very field of research known as Paleo-immunology only recently uncovered that our entire adaptive immune system — the part that the vaccines co-opt, disrupt, and legitimize themselves through — only exists as a result of an ancient viral infection (primordial Epstein barr),15 and therefore without having the good fortune of being infected, we would have no antibody-mediated immunity and therefore no reason to even consider being vaccinated.

  • Contrary to the claim that vaccines eliminate infection, they promote it:16 17
  • The natural course of some population-based infections seems to be suggested by rates of decline prior to widespread vaccine implementation, and relative latency (i.e. the disease naturally disappears periodically) without vaccine interference as is the case with typhoid, scarlet fever, and tuberculosis. Worse than taking credit for already declining infections, vaccination may ultimately be increasing the vulnerability of those injected, and of the community at large. Through original antigenic sin (now termed linked epitope suppression), we are rendering some vaccine recipients more susceptible to future illness from the organism vaccinated for. This increased infectious vulnerability is related to incomplete stimulation of response and is well-documented in the case of pertussis/whooping cough which takes postinfectious hold through a toxin (ACT) against which the vaccine has no antibody stimulation. In this way, the vaccinated are more likely to carry, infect, and fall ill from pertussis and related parapertussis than the unvaccinated.18
  • This was borne out in a recent study demonstrating infectious spread from vaccinated to unvaccinated primates.19 Similarly, Hepatitis B is inducing covert infection and the flu vaccine is increasing post-injection viral susceptibility.20 21 22

An extensive record now exists in the biomedical literature of vaccine failure and outbreaks blamed on the non-vaccinated that were later proven to have occurred within the fully immunized.  More fundamentally, if vaccines worked, and protected life by improving upon our immune system’s presumably flawed design, why does the U.S. have one of the highest infant mortality rates (IMRs) in the developed world (33 nations have lower IMRs), while at the same time having the most infant vaccines in the world (26 vaccine doses for infants aged less than 1 year)?23

Beyond the clearly immune disruptive properties of vaccines, are the presence of “hidden” viruses that contaminated the master seed stock of cell lines used to produce the original live and “attenuated” vaccines, e.g. simian virus 40 (SV40), long before virus detecting technologies like polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were available, or even reverse transcriptase — the enzyme used by retroviruses to infect a cell — was known to exist. These so-called adventitious viruses, including endogenous retroviruses, are still present in many of the vaccines used today and may be gaining direct entry into the human host, without any regulatory oversight, or clear understanding of their true adverse effects on health.

Talking to Our Genes

Why take human or foreign biological material and co-culture and pass it through infectious materials, combining the resultant vaccine with chemicals like formaldehyde, antibiotics, phenol, anti-freeze, etc., and inject it directly into a presumably healthy body to “improve on immunity” or “protect” against a future theoretical risk of infection? What Paleo-oriented scholar would consider this in line with our evolutionarily determined health needs?

In the ancestral health community, we know to question the goods peddled by corporate food companies, in bed with the FDA, and in gross and belligerent neglect of our best health interests. We know to take matters back into our own hands – to liaison with farmers, to share a cow with neighbors, pasture our own chickens, and ferment vegetables on our countertops. Agenda and profit driven influence has sabotaged our relationship to our very sustenance. Don’t take those highly sophisticated and empowered lenses off yet, though. Take a look through them at the pharmaceutical industry.

Acknowledge their criminal-level corruption and their thorough lack of interest in or appreciation for your lifestyle, for your genome. Understand that the faulty premise of injectible immunity has no place in evolutionary medicine. Appreciate the enormity of this enterprise and its thorough lack of checks and balances – 69 doses of 16 vaccines by age 6, no matter who your child is or of what health status.

Are vaccines really unavoidably unsafe? Unavoidable because inducing inflammation and oxidative stress 24 25 are part of the perceived therapeutic package? Or are they safe and effective? We have no means of risk stratifying for whom they are what, and are making absolutely no effort to do so through individualized screening.

You can sue McDonald’s for your E.Coli ridden Big Mac, but when you develop neurological dysfunction, autoimmunity, cancer, or even die after an acute or longer-latency vaccine reaction, you can’t sue anyone. Your case can enter a bureaucratic holding pen where an estimated 1% are assessed for damages, but that nonetheless has already paid out 2+ billion dollars to injured citizens.

Ancestral health enthusiasts know that immunity cannot be manufactured, that buoying us with synthesized antibiotics and steroids — best left to emergency medicine — is a practice that is only necessitated by neglect of nutrition-based immune support.

Let’s use our frontal lobes to revisit rhetoric we have been forced to accept, to examine the evidence base disproving the very premise of vaccination – a premise that offends our Paleo sensibilities.