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.

Game Change: Macro Implications of the Microbiome

We are almost a decade and a half into a new paradigm. One that decenters the gene-centric model of our flesh-robot existence. We are no longer just discrete individual entities trying to hack out a living until we die and disintegrate into nothingness. We can no longer justify means that don’t support a collective end. All of medicine, every specialty, must be revisited to account for the role of the microbiome as the master control of human health.

Science is leading us back to our common wisdom. It is telling us that we are not human in the ways we thought we were. That germs are our very constitution. That we are a part of a cocreated fabric on this planet, rather than at the top of a food chain.

We are learning about the evolutionary imperative implied by vaginal birth, in-arms infancy, and breastfeeding. And the consequences of departure from this Continuum, range from illness to existential pain.

Consequences of Neglect

As Francis Weller discusses, we are suffering a collective sorrow for the absence of primary satisfactions.

“The primary satisfactions are the elemental constituents of a healthy psychic and physical life. These included matters such as: adequate and available touch; comforting in times of grief and pain; abundant play; the sharing of food eaten slowly; dark, starlit nights; the pleasures of friendship and laughter…In these matters, traditional earth-based cultures were highly attentive to the ways they provided their people what it was that the soul required to feel at home, at ease, and known. Through meeting the basic needs of the soul, these cultures survived, thrived and endured. This was a level of contentment that is seldom known in our modern civilization…These practices address how we can assure an adequate measure of belonging in one another and how to maintain an intimacy with our inner and outer worlds.

They are the undeniable and irrefutable needs of the psyche that were established over the long journey of our species and are imprinted in our beings as expectations awaiting fulfillment.”

He posits that when we forgo these primary satisfactions, we are left with the endless hunger of secondary satisfaction pursuit. For power, for highs, for money.

Connecting to our inner and outer worlds, at this point, requires an acknowledgement of our fundamental connectedness to nature. Honoring the microbiome – the organisms that live in and among us stretching, enriching, and defining our human capabilities. Our ability to digest, to synthesize, to detox, and to mentate.

The Origins of the Microbiome

Science has begun to quantify the risks of disregard for the microbiome, particularly in the perinatal period. We tempt these risks through the use of antenatal and intrapartum antibiotics, through surgical birth, through formula feeding.

They include disturbance of immune and stress hormone profiles and associated origins of adult diseases – obesity, diabetes, allergy, autoimmunity, and psychiatric pathology.

With extensive exploration of how and why home birth is the only logical extension of our expanding knowledge, it seems almost an act of resistance to require further data to support the sensibility of home birth. But I will also offer that we need to zoom out and take in the grander landscape. We need to simply feel inside for that pull of the Continuum. This exercise involves letting go of your fears. Sitting calm and detached from outcomes, and just looking for a sense of what might feel right if you just trusted it.

C-Section: What to Do if It Happens to You

While I have grave concerns about hospital birth and accompanying risk for interventions, one of my primary concerns is around data that suggests babies born in the hospital develop guts seeding with opportunistic hospital-based bacteria and even non-maternal skin flora.

Is there anything that can be done if a hospital birth manifests?

According to Maria Dominguez-Bello et al in a recent ground-breaking study published in Nature Medicine, there may be a simple means of partially restoring the strains of Lactobacillus and Bacteroides noted to be present in the microbiome of the vaginally birthed baby.

Within two minutes of birth, 4 of the elective C-section babies were swabbed (mouth, face, skin) with a gauze vaginally incubated for one hour prior to birth. All 18 babies’ microbiomes were assessed 6 times in the first month of life. They found that the swabbed babies had a microbial profile more similar to the vaginal babies than the surgical.

Of course, the necessary caveat is imbedded as a misemployment of the precautionary principle:

“The researchers do not recommend that women try this swiping procedure just yet.”

Own Your Body

I’ll leave it up to you. We have trusted authorities – doctors, health organizations, government – with the integrity of our experience as women for too long. We have been told that our bodies are dangerous minefields of pain, suffering, and death. That we need the construct of intellectualized medicine to save us from the unpredictability of our natural processes. How long are you going to allow the captors to dictate the terms of your sentence while the prison door is open? The light is streaming in. I say: it’s your choice to walk out, anytime.