Fermentation – Good, Bad, and Ugly
Majid Ali, M.D.
Our early primordial ancestors were fermenters. Throughout human evolution, some of those fermenting cells thrived in oxygen-poor nitches in the human body, serving many purposes, including food digestion. These were “good fermenters.” Our later human ancestors learned—experientially or intuitively, it seems—learned ferment foods to enhance their value. We can call it “good fermentation.”
Every chronic disease begins with fermentation. This need not raise any eyebrows. Diseases involve inflammation with buildup of acids and alcohols. Fermentation, of course, is conversion of sugars into alcohols and acids. We can call it “bad fermentation.”
Then came the age of fermenting human cells—most notably during the last century—ushered in by the era of antibiotics, sugar abuse, and industrial pollutants. The modern epidemics of inflammatory, immune, and degenerative disorders are rooted in cellular fermentation. In a broader evolutionary context, I recognize these epidemics as evolution-in-reverse. This is “ugly inflammation.”
This article is a part of my series (begun in the early 1980s) on good fermentation. Citations and links to my series on bad and ugly fermentation are included at the end of the article.
Laps and Taps: the Good and Bad Guys of the Bowel
LAPs and TAPs are my terms for lactic acid-producing and toxic agents-producing microbes in the bowel. LAPs preserve the normal bowel ecosystem, TAPs disrupt it.
In my book entitled “The Caanary and Chronic Fatigue” (1994), I discussed many elements that increase oxidative stress on energy and detoxification enzymes. It turns out that almost all these elements also suppress LAPs and — both directly by inhibiting LAPs and indirectly by other mechanisms — promote the growth of TAPs. This subject is of enormous significance in the normal aging process as well as in the accelerated aging process associated with chronic fatigue states.
LAPs confer many important host defenses upon the bowel discussed later in this section. TAPs are equally versatile in their functions and produce a very large number of noxious substances in the bowel. Among these are ammonia; phenols; tryptophan metabolites; vaso-constrictive amines such as histamine, tyramine, agmatine and cadaverine; certain steroid metabolites; and many toxins — most notably mycotoxins derived from fungi (yeasts). This area has received rather limited investigative attention, and it is almost certain that future research will uncover a host of as yet undetected bacterial and fungal toxins and metabolic villains. Finally, the bowel flora both produce and potentiate some carcinogenic substances.
Not unexpectedly, LAPs-TAPs dynamics are profoundly influenced by food choices. American and British individuals show overgrowth of some TAPs such as bacteroides and some types of clostridia as compared with Japanese, Indians and Ugandans (Lancet 1:95-100; 1971). It appears likely that these differences are due to an abundance of fats and beef in the former populations’ diet.
Dysfunctional Oxygen Signaling In 1998, I introduced the term dysoxygenosis (dysox, for short) for this disease-causing “ugly fermentation.” This age of respiratory-to-fermentative shift arrived in our times—most notably during the 20th century—was ushered in antibiotics, sugar abuse, and industrial pollutants. The modern epidemics of inflammatory, immune, and degenerative disorders are rooted in cellular fermentation. In a broader evolutionary context, I recognize these epidemics as evolution-in-reverse. In 1998, I introduced the term dysoxygenosis (dysox, for short) for this disease-causing “ugly fermentation. Simply stated, the dysox state is characterized by degradative metabolic shift from high-efficiency human energetics to low-efficiency energetics of yeast and other fermenting microbes. The full text of my original published in The Journal of Integrative Medicine containing numerous photomicrographs and extensive bibliography is available free of cost at http://www.drali.org (Google ORPEC and Ali for quick search). I devote the 10th, 11th, and 12th volumes of my textbook entitled “The Principles and Practice of Integrative Medicine” to an in-depth treatment of these subjects.
For additional reading on the subject, I suggest my book Oxygen and Aging (2000), available at www.aliacademy.org