Poultry & Paralysis

Poultry & Paralysis
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A neuropathic strain of the fecal bacteria Campylobacter, found in poultry, can trigger Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rapid and life-threatening paralysis.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

There is one neurological condition definitively caused by an infectious agent in poultry: Guillain-Barré syndrome. Also known as acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, which is as bad as it sounds, it’s a brutally rapid, life-threatening autoimmune attack on your nervous system. It’s like MS in fast forward, where instead of taking years, you can end up paralyzed, on a ventilator, in a matter of days. Why would our immune systems do such a thing?

It didn’t mean to; it had the best of intentions. There is a neuropathic strain of a fecal bacteria, called Campylobacter, contaminating the U.S. chicken supply. If you get exposed and infected, 999 times out of 1,000, you just get sick; food poisoning. No problem, your immune system wipes out the invaders, and in a couple days, you’re as good as new. But in 1 in 1,000 cases, our immune system makes an honest mistake.

This is what your nerve cells look like on the outside, on a molecular level. This is what Campylobacter looks like on the outside. Your immune system detects the bacteria, rides in guns a-blazin’, take no prisoners. And your nerves end up a victim of friendly fire.

Your first symptom is what’s called ascending paralysis. Weakness starts in the hands and feet, and works its way up. In many cases it happens within hours. Within days you can’t walk, then you can’t swallow, then you can’t breathe. In which case you’re dead—unless you can get to an ICU with a mechanical ventilator, in which case, after about two weeks, something amazing happens.

Your immune system steps back from the fight, surveys the damage, and says, uh oh. And it stops, and you come back to life. Now sometimes, it’s too late, and you end up with severe lifelong disability. Or you don’t even make it that far—it kills people even in the best ICUs in the world.

The bottom line is that now that polio is largely a thing of the past, the most common cause of acute paralysis in the United States is, ultimately, chicken consumption.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Medlat, National Cancer Institute, Flip Schulke, De Wood, MrArifnajafov via Wikimedia Commons, and Gino.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

There is one neurological condition definitively caused by an infectious agent in poultry: Guillain-Barré syndrome. Also known as acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, which is as bad as it sounds, it’s a brutally rapid, life-threatening autoimmune attack on your nervous system. It’s like MS in fast forward, where instead of taking years, you can end up paralyzed, on a ventilator, in a matter of days. Why would our immune systems do such a thing?

It didn’t mean to; it had the best of intentions. There is a neuropathic strain of a fecal bacteria, called Campylobacter, contaminating the U.S. chicken supply. If you get exposed and infected, 999 times out of 1,000, you just get sick; food poisoning. No problem, your immune system wipes out the invaders, and in a couple days, you’re as good as new. But in 1 in 1,000 cases, our immune system makes an honest mistake.

This is what your nerve cells look like on the outside, on a molecular level. This is what Campylobacter looks like on the outside. Your immune system detects the bacteria, rides in guns a-blazin’, take no prisoners. And your nerves end up a victim of friendly fire.

Your first symptom is what’s called ascending paralysis. Weakness starts in the hands and feet, and works its way up. In many cases it happens within hours. Within days you can’t walk, then you can’t swallow, then you can’t breathe. In which case you’re dead—unless you can get to an ICU with a mechanical ventilator, in which case, after about two weeks, something amazing happens.

Your immune system steps back from the fight, surveys the damage, and says, uh oh. And it stops, and you come back to life. Now sometimes, it’s too late, and you end up with severe lifelong disability. Or you don’t even make it that far—it kills people even in the best ICUs in the world.

The bottom line is that now that polio is largely a thing of the past, the most common cause of acute paralysis in the United States is, ultimately, chicken consumption.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Medlat, National Cancer Institute, Flip Schulke, De Wood, MrArifnajafov via Wikimedia Commons, and Gino.

Doctor's Note

How common is fecal contamination of retail chicken? See Fecal Residues on Chicken, and for meat in general, see my video Fecal Bacteria Survey. And for a discussion of other neurological conditions that may be linked to poultry consumption, see Poultry Exposure & Neurological Disease. There’s also a strain of E. coli in chicken that causes urinary tract infections: Chicken Out of UTIs

Be sure to check out my associated blog posts: Adding FDA-Approved Viruses to MeatGerson Therapy for Cancer?; and Bugs & Drugs in Pork: Yersinia & Ractopamine.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

9 responses to “Poultry & Paralysis

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  1. How common is fecal contamination of retail chicken? See Fecal Residues in Chicken, and for meat in general, my video Fecal Bacteria Survey. And for a discussion of other neurological conditions that may be linked to poultry consumption, see yesterday’s video. There’s also a strain of E. coli in chicken that causes urinary tract infections: Chicken Out of UTIs. For hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects check out the word cloud.




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  2. According to “The Food Revolution” by John Robbins, anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of store bought chicken has traces of campylobacter.




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  3. Things don’t seem to be getting any better. According the a recent The Guardian article, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/23/-sp-revealed-dirty-secret-uk-poultry-industry-chicken-campylobacter

    Two-thirds of fresh retail chicken in UK are contaminated with campylobacter. There is a video documentary that accompanies the above article. The chicken handling processes that are being used in the UK seem like the same ones employed in the US. There was an interview with a woman who had developed Guillain-Barré syndrome. She was suffering long term disability from the neurological damage that she sustained from her auto-immune episode. It is frightening to think that one can be crippled by such a ubiquitous food item regardless of whether you eat it or not because it is the cross contamination from handling the chicken before cooking which is the typical source of the infection.

    Chicken is a biohazard. It would be safer to refrain from bringing raw poultry into one’s home.




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  4. I got Guillain-Barré and was paralyzed from the waist down and suffered severe upper body weakness. This all began after eating questionable chicken. It took my six months to recover. Happy to report I’m now vegan and running half marathons! Thank you, Dr. Greger!




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  5. Please help me find a related video. I’m search-weary and want to share it.
    It was about fecal contamination in cooking chcken YES I’ve searched every combo of words and watched several more than once. The researchers did *several* tests. The key: I remember “The Voice” :) saying that after a test showing fecal contamination even after cooking chicken, that the researchers thought, “Well, maybe these people just don’t know how to clean” – so they did the test all over again with scrupulous cleaning, and still found fecal contamination in the kitchen.
    That’s the kicker that I just can’t find!
    I saw it in 2013, when I was living with a large shared kitchen facility, and joking about “you chicken-eaters”.
    But I can’t find it!
    Any help? Thanks!




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    1. Ravensquawk: I know exactly the video you are talking about! I too think it is a very powerful video and for the life of me, I can’t find it. I’ll forward this to the other moderators to see if someone else can find it. Or if someone from the public can find it, big brownie points for you!!!




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  6. my sister got Guillain-Barré and was paralyzed from the waist down and suffered severe upper body weakness too, she is still in bed i would like to help her to recover fast helping her body with good food… do you have any video or can you tell me what she needs to eat to help the body recover . Thanks for your help.




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  7. I’m glad your sister has such a caring sibling who know she needs good nutrition now to recover. I think you’ll find much help going to the basic videos Dr. Greger has prepared. You may even want to share those with your sister if she is up for it, to give her motivation for why eating right is so important for her. Check these out:
    https://nutritionfacts.org/introduction/ (This will lead you to 5 video links)
    You’ll see you want to be especially careful about poultry contamination https://nutritionfacts.org/video/poultry-and-paralysis/
    Best wishes to both of you as you face the challenges of her recovery.




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