Embracing cooties: Why our quest to kill all germs is unhealthy

Health & Wellness

Since the discovery of microscopic organisms in 1676 by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, people have had an antagonistic relationship with microbes. At first people scoffed at their very existence, but soon it became clear that these tiny creatures were the source of all sorts of ailments.

Not long after this, a new attitude toward bathing, cleanliness and sanitation formed, and gradually doctors began to understand the need for antiseptic conditions during medical procedures. More recently, the phenomenon of mysophobia (the pathological fear of contagion or infection) has pushed the industrial use of antibiotics to catastrophic levels.

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Because antibiotic usage is so common for both people and animals, many microbes have evolved to be tolerant to medicine. Penicillin, once a wonder drug, is now far less effective. New drugs are becoming less useful as well. Strains of infections that had been controlled have reappeared in much more virulent forms, and constant hand sanitizing is one of the causes.

New research is showing more and more that we need a wide variety of microbes in and on our bodies. Babies who are delivered via C-section have had a history of being more prone to sickness, food intolerances, allergies and many other metabolic and immune disorders. In a recent experiment, some babies delivered via C-section were immediately swabbed with cloths saturated with the mother’s birth fluids. When compared to C-section babies without the swabs, the treated infants showed a bioflora colonization remarkably similar to vaginal births. It will take time to evaluate whether or not this treatment leads to actual long-term health improvements, but thus far, the infants who are colonized with their mother’s flora are seeing far fewer health complications.

We need bioflora in our digestive tract as well. “Good bacteria” helps us digest our food. They also grab up extra sugar in our guts, thus depriving “bad bacteria” from gaining a foothold. Your friendly cooties actually starve out the harmful cooties! Have you noticed how bad you feel after taking antibiotics? It’s because these medicines act like carpet bombing and wipe out your bioflora in general. Virulent species begin to thrive, because your helpful bugs are no longer competing with them. Be sure to eat yogurt or some other type of fermented food after taking antibiotics. These foods replenish your healthy GI tract colonies.

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There are also studies that demonstrate that microbes teach our bodies how to differentiate between benign and malignant microbes. You can reduce allergic reactions and many other common health problems by being more judicious about how many of your cooties get summarily wiped out. Wash your hands with soap and water, but avoid using sanitizer more than is actually necessary. Ask your doctor if antibiotics are truly effective when you don’t feel well, and if they are necessary be certain to take all of your medicine. People who do not finish their antibiotics properly also contribute to the evolution of superbugs.

And one final point: Antibiotics run rampant in our food. Animals are crammed into closequarters, then give each other illnesses that spread like wildfire, and then need even more medicine. I highly suggest that you consume animal-based foods that are sourced from creatures that have been allowed to roam free without being crammed full of poor food and too many medicines. Remember that you are ingesting everything the animal did. Support suppliers who avoid using drugs on their animals and who allow them to live happier lives. Your health will be so much better!

info: Jack Kirven completed the MFA in Dance at UCLA, and earned certification as a personal trainer through NASM. His wellness philosophy is founded upon integrated lifestyles as opposed to isolated workouts. Visit him at jackkirven.com and integre8twellness.com. He is also a former staff writer for qnotes.

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