Monday, 30 September 2013 13:39

Health consequences as pesticides cause gut bacteria imbalance

THERE is growing evidence for the benefit of organic food, according to a previously sceptical doctor who says many agricultural pesticides are lethal to "good" bacteria in the bowel.

"Scientists have always said eating organic food is senseless and makes no difference, as ingested pesticides don't harm humans," says Dr Mark Donohoe, a Sydney GP with a special interest in environmental medicine.

"However, the pesticides kill certain species of gut bacteria, not us." This causes an imbalance that contributes to obesity and poor general health, says Dr Donohoe, speaking at an AustralAsian Academy of Anti-Ageing Medicine Conference in Melbourne.

"This thinking is becoming mainstream, particularly among gastroenterologists. My wife and patients have told me for 20 years that they feel better on an organic diet, but I have said there is no reason why they should."

It turns out they are protecting their gut flora, he says.

"For the past 10 years doctors have been looking at gut bacteria as something that makes us healthy. If our gut bacteria is not healthy, we cannot be healthy," says Dr Donohoe.

"A lot of what doctors see in their surgeries is just a consequence of altered bacteria playing up." He says entire families can become obese if something in their environment disrupts their gut. There is also much concern around the assertion that gut bacteria imbalance can cause autism, exposed in ABC’s Four Corners recently aired, controversial documentary The Autism Enigma.

"It's not what they eat or some type of moral corruption of the owner of those bugs."

Dr Donohoe is also particularly concerned about the high rate of elective caesarean sections, which may leave babies with inadequate gut flora for years after birth, affecting their weight.

"More research is needed for a solution, but breastfeeding appears to be a healthy and effective way to encourage a broader diversity of gut bacteria in the infant."

As the baby grows, plenty of fresh organic fruit and vegetables in season and minimising grains is the key to a gut-healthy diet, he says.