The microbiota of Westerners is significantly reduced in comparison to rural individuals living a similar lifestyle to our Paleolithic forefathers but also to that of other free-living primates such as the chimpanzee. The great majority of ingredients in the industrially produced foods consumed in the West are absorbed in the upper part of small intestine and thus of limited benefit to the microbiota. Lack of proper nutrition for microbiota is a major factor under-pinning dysfunctional microbiota, dysbiosis, chronically elevated inflammation, and the production and leakage of endotoxins through the various tissue barriers. Furthermore, the over-comsumption of insulinogenic foods and proteotoxins, such as advanced glycation and lipoxidation molecules, gluten and zein, and a reduced intake of fruit and vegetables, are key factors behind the commonly observed elevated inflammation and the endemic of obesity and chronic diseases, factors which are also likely to be detrimental to microbiota. As a consequence of this lifestyle and the associated eating habits, most barriers, including the gut, the airways, the skin, the oral cavity, the vagina, the placenta, the blood-brain barrier, etc., are increasingly permeable. Attempts to recondition these barriers through the use of so called 'probiotics', normally applied to the gut, are rarely successful, and sometimes fail, as they are usually applied as adjunctive treatments, e.g. in parallel with heavy pharmaceutical treatment, not rarely consisting in antibiotics and chemotherapy. It is increasingly observed that the majority of pharmaceutical drugs, even those believed to have minimal adverse effects, such as proton pump inhibitors and anti-hypertensives, in fact adversely affect immune development and functions and are most likely also deleterious to microbiota. Equally, it appears that probiotic treatment is not compatible with pharmacological treatments. Eco-biological treatments, with plant-derived substances, or phytochemicals, e.g. curcumin and resveratrol, and pre-, pro- and syn-biotics offers similar effects as use of biologicals, although milder but also free from adverse effects. Such treatments should be tried as alternative therapies; mainly, to begin with, for disease prevention but also in early cases of chronic diseases. Pharmaceutical treatment has, thus far, failed to inhibit the tsunami of endemic diseases spreading around the world, and no new tools are in sight. Dramatic alterations, in direction of a paleolithic-like lifestyle and food habits, seem to be the only alternatives with the potential to control the present escalating crisis. The present review focuses on human studies, especially those of clinical relevance.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.