There has been an epic battle raging on throughout the ages and the casualties are insurmountable. Mankind has faltered before this mighty foe many times throughout history and the wounds run deep and the losses have not been forgotten. Due to breakthroughs in science mankind has lifted hopes of pushing back against this foe. Further research has also yielded that there is dissension amongst the ranks of the enemy and there are powerful allies to mankind amongst those who would aide against their malicious onslaught that have left many dead, others hospitalized, paralyzed and so on. So, just who is this maniacal threat that could so effortlessly cripple entire populations who lack the right protection? Just stay tuned.
Who They Are
This powerful threat to humanity is none other than prokaryotic microorganisms known as bacteria. Bacteria are single-celled microbes that do not have any organelles like a nucleus, chloroplasts or mitochondria (Audesirk, Audesirk & Byers, 2008). In consideration of the size of this foe that ranges from 0.2 to 10 micrometers in diameter, it is easy to see why they aren’t likely to make a blip on our most advanced radar devices, although the largest Thiomargarita naibiensis, is a whopping 700 micrometers in diameter and is visible to the naked eye (Audesirk et al, 2008). The type of cell walls that they possess defines their physical appearance and that ranges commonly as spherical, rod like or corkscrew-shaped (Audesirk et al, 2008). In the prokaryotic domain, which deals with both bacteria and arcaea, “A drop of seawater contains hundreds of thousands of prokaryotic organisms, and a spoonful of soil contains billions, while the average human body is home to trillions of prokaryotes, which live on the skin, in the mouth, and in the stomach and intestines” (Audesirk, Audesirk & Byers, p. 372, 2008). This massive force is more than a force to be reckoned with and it is impossible to avoid their patrols.
Now that we have an idea of the size, let’s take a look at some of their operational procedures. One very powerful method in which they use for protection and it also has the effect of a powerful offensive weapon is the creation of a sticky layer of slime that is composed of polysaccharide or protein (Audesirk, Audesirk & Byers, 2008). You see, this protective slime not only protects but helps to make the bacteria adhesive. Also of note, “One or more species aggregate in colonies to form communities known as biofilms (Audesirk, Audesirk & Byers, p. 373, 2008). The defensive abilities of these biofilms helps to defend the bacteria against some of our greatest weapons to eliminate them such as antibiotics and disinfectants (Audesirk et al, 2008). Some of the commonly inhabited surfaces of biofilms are contact lenses, surgical sutures and medical equipment like catheters and by and by this leads to more casualties on our side right in the midst of the hospital where many seek for refuge and help from bacterial offensives. Surely they have no shame to set up their operational bases in our places of solace. However, they are even more shameless and would take the fight right into our mouths and form a slimly biofilm that ensures that they will cling to our tooth enamel and will cause tooth decay. Perhaps one of the greatest threats they pose to our race is their ability to brave various conditions that would normally destroy them in a suspended state just waiting for the right environment to awaken them from their cryogenic capsule known as an endospore. “An endospore, which forms inside a bacterium, contains genetic material and a few enzymes encased within a thick protective coat, metabolic activity ceases until the spore encounters favorable conditions, at which time metabolism resumes and the spore develops into an active bacterium”, (Audesirk, Audesirk & Byers, p. 374, 2008).
In consideration of the size of the threat against humanity and their stealthy ability to infiltrate even or most esteemed establishments of solace a retreat could be thought necessary, but not so fast because this silent war not only spans time and space but even reaches to the depths of our internal organs. Horrifying, bone chilling, inconceivable even, but it’s very necessary. You heard me right, I said it was necessary that the enemy without is also within us. The truth of the matter here is, that not all bacteria is the enemy. You heard that right, many of them are on our side, especially those that are within us. “When you were born, your intestines were free of microorganisms, virtually sterile. Almost immediately, however, bacteria, both beneficial and harmful, fought for dominance. If you were breast fed, somewhere between days four and seven after you were born, the “good guys’ won the battle and staked their claim to virtually every square inch of your digestive tract-from your mouth to your anus and researchers now realize that one of the chief reason breast-fed babies get so many fewer infections than formula-fed babies is that mother’s milk tends to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, whereas store-bought formulas have little such beneficial effect” (Barron, 2002, p. 29).
You see the true battle ground of this silent war lies within each man, woman, and child. It is a crucial matter of understanding what will cause the loss or gain of terrain by good beneficial flora which aides us in things such as digestion, absorption, and the production of enzymes or by the bad bacteria that fill us with toxins and cause disease. “In a healthy colon there are, on average, anywhere from 100 billion to 100 trillion beneficial bacteria per milliliter (about 1/5 of a teaspoon) that consume harmful bacteria and other invaders. “ (Barron, 2002, p. 30). The emphasis is on healthy and to keep it simple a healthy colon is one that is able to function the way it is supposed to. That means that it does not look like the interstate after a big rig has overturned and scattered all of its cargo across three out of the four available lanes. Just imagine that rig and its cargo being not properly digested fecal matter. I know it is not a very pleasant picture but very important to understand.
Digestion can be humanity’s greatest aide to the enemy, without them even having the slightest clue that they are helping them grow exponentially. Let me clarify that, improper digestion is the greatest aide that we give to the enemy within our bowels. Just how is that, you may ask? It is simple; digestion begins in your mouth. The more you chew your food and the more saliva mixes with that food it is predigesting it before it reaches the stomach making its job a lot easier and this also ensures that those crucial, nutrients will indeed be extracted and dispersed to where they are needed the most. “Chewing signals other components of the digestive system to get ready to go to work: it also allows food to mix with saliva. Saliva contains the enzyme salivary amylase, which breaks down starch molecules into smaller sugars, “(Murray & Pizzorno, 1998, p. 127). However, if most meals are eaten like a snake as opposed to a cow taking its sweet time munching and crunching away on grass, then those large chunks that hit the stomach just become a sticky mesh that gets plastered along the walls of your colon and continue to build up over years and decades. “Old fecal matter is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and parasites”, (Barron, 2002, p. 29). Also, “Your intestinal tract is the source of all nutrient access to your body and if it isn’t working properly you have two major problems: First, you have a hard time digesting food properly-breaking down sufficiently so that your body can use it. Secondly, even if you can digest it properly, if the intestinal wall is covered with hardened waste and colonies of hostile bacteria/flora, you’ll end up absorbing only a fraction of the nutritional value of the food you eat,” (Barron, 2002, p. 19). There you have it, by not taking the time to properly chew our food we feed the enemy along with some not so friendly parasites and create an environment internally where it is more habitable for them to stick around. Just to give you an idea, “Consider that a sluggish bowel can retain pounds of old toxic and poisonous fecal matter (10-20) pounds is not unusual, and up to 65 pounds has actually been reported and many times the real cause behind sickness and disease is this retention and reabsorption of built up toxic waste,” (Barron, 2002, p. 16). Ring that cow bell and tell all the enemy ranks to fall out and fall in on our intestinal tract so they can grow and continue to afflict us. This toxic waste drastically disrupts the acid to alkaline potential of hydrogen (pH) balance and helps to reduce the amount of oxygen in our system so that our anaerobic assailants can breathe much easier. The other bad side to this is the genocide of many friendly bacteria that would help us to defend against the parasites and bad bacteria, considering that they are mostly aerobic.
When the enemy has overrun so much of our internal terrain it would be safe to say that times are drastic. Drastic times call for drastic measures, at least that is how the saying goes and thanks to technology and medicinal advancement we have a powerful weapon to unleash against that growing horde of bacteria threatening our right to live an active and healthy life free from disease and discomfort. . . . Antibiotics. “In the past 60 years, antibiotics have been critical in the fight against infectious disease caused by bacteria and other microbes. Antimicrobial chemotherapy has been a leading cause for the dramatic rise of average life expectancy in the Twentieth Century,” (Todar, 2011, p. 1). Aside from that “In 1998, in the United States, 80 million prescriptions of antibiotics for human use were filled. This equals 12,500 tons in one year. Animal and agricultural uses of antibiotics are added to human use. Agricultural practices account for over 60% of antibiotic usage in the U.S., so this adds an additional 18,000 tons per year to the antibiotic burden in the environment,” (Todar, 2011, p. 1). So let’s celebrate the hero of the human race and let our victory cry reverberate throughout the earth, right. Well, while antibiotics are a powerful weapon against the enemy you might want to rethink that celebration.
The first problem that we run into with using this internal nuclear bomb is that it lacks the ability of a smart bomb and there is too much collateral damage. What do I mean by collateral damage? “If you‘ve ever been subjected to a round of “medicinal” antibiotics, you can kiss your beneficial bacteria goodbye. The problem is that antibiotics indiscriminately destroy both bad and GOOD bacteria – allowing virulent, mutant strains of harmful microorganisisms to emerge and run rampant inside the body. Antibiotics (both medicinal and in our food supply) are the #1 culprit in the overgrowth of HARMFUL pathogens in the gastrointestinal tract (a condition called dysbiosis) that may be at the root of many autoimmune disorders and certain cancers,” (Barron, 2002, p. 22). On one hand the bomb does its job well by eliminating the threat along with the collateral damage but it is counterproductive when all the fecal backup is present and it makes it nearly impossible for the good flora to ever make a comeback considering the magnitude of bad bacteria is just too overwhelming. In plain text it just means headache, stomach ache and every other kind of ache you can think of for you if the balance continues to stay so topsy-turvy. Along with this “Diarrhea is a common side effect of antibiotics. Antibiotics can cause diarrhea in 5–25% of individuals who take them but its occurrence is unpredictable. Diarrhea due to antibiotics is called antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). Diarrhea may be mild and resolve when antibiotics are discontinued, or it may be more severe. The most severe form of AAD is caused by overgrowth of Clostridium difficile which can cause severe diarrhea, colitis, pseudomembranous colitis, or even fatal toxic megacolon. Rates of diarrhea vary with the specific antibiotic as well as with the individual susceptibility,” (Charalampopoulos & Rastall, 2009, p. 848) Also, “Risk factors for antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) include broad spectrum antibiotics, especially ampicillin or amoxicillin, cephalosporins, and clindamycin, although other antibiotics may be involved. AAD results in longer hospital stays (8 days on an average), higher cost of care ($2,000–4,000 USD), a fivefold increase in other nosocomial infections and a threefold increase in mortality (0.7–38%),” (Charalampopoulos & Rastall, 2009, p. 848).
Furthermore, let’s just add insult to injury, “Nowadays, about 70 percent of the bacteria that cause infections in hospitals are resistant to at least one of the drugs most commonly used for treatment. Some organisms are resistant to all approved antibiotics and can only be treated with experimental and potentially toxic drugs. An alarming increase in resistance of bacteria that cause community acquired infections has also been documented, especially in the staphylococci and pneumococci (Streptococcus pneumoniae), which are prevalent causes of disease and mortality. In a recent study, 25% of bacterial pneumonia cases were shown to be resistant to penicillin, and an additional 25% of cases were resistant to more than one antibiotic. Unless antibiotic resistance problems are detected as they emerge, and actions are taken immediately to contain them, society could be faced with previously treatable diseases that have become again untreatable, as in the days before antibiotics were developed.,” (Todar, 2011, p. 1). If you are thinking that our hero is a great paradox, then you are correct. The better the bomb works the more powerful the enemies it produces in the process.
The question is; how is this so? “There has probably been a gene pool in nature for resistance to antibiotic as long as there has been for antibiotic production, for most microbes that are antibiotic producers are resistant to their own antibiotic. In retrospect, it is not surprising that resistance to penicillin in some strains of staphylococci was recognized almost immediately after introduction of the drug in 1946. Likewise, very soon after their introduction in the late 1940s, resistance to streptomycin, chloramphenicol and tetracycline was noted. By 1953, during a Shigellaoutbreak in Japan, a strain of the dysentery bacillus (Shigella dysenteriae) was isolated which was multiple drug resistant, exhibiting resistance to chloramphenicol, tetracycline, streptomycin and the sulfonamides. Over the years, and continuing into the present almost every known bacterial pathogen has developed resistance to one or more antibiotics in clinical use,” (Todar, 2011, p. 2). Also,” Evidence also began to accumulate that bacteria could pass genes for drug resistance between strains and even between species. For example, antibiotic-resistance genes of staphylococci are carried on plasmids that can be exchanged with Bacillus, Streptococcus and Enterococcus providing the means for acquiring additional genes and gene combinations. Some are carried on transposons, segments of DNA that can exist either in the chromosome or in plasmids. In any case, it is clear that genes for antibiotic resistance can be exchanged between strains and species of bacteria by means of the processes of horizontal gene transmission (HGT),” (Todar, 2011, p. 2). On the other hand, I’d like to discuss some ways to prevent the paradox from taking place. “Minimize unnecessary prescribing and over-prescribing of antibiotics. This occurs when people expect doctors to prescribe antibiotics for a viral illness (antibiotics do not work against viruses) or when antibiotics are prescribed for conditions that do not require them. Complete the entire course of the prescribed antibiotic so that it can be fully effective and not breed resistance. Practice good hygiene and use appropriate infection control procedures. Avoid use of products which advertise that they contain antibiotics, or are antibacterial or antimicrobial, unless advised to do so by your health professional,” (Government of Victoria, 2010).
In consideration that our supposed to be hero is a paradox, is there a weapon that can be utilized to destroy the super bugs and rebalance our intestinal flora? The answer to that is . . . probiotics. “Good bacteria are known as probiotics and exist naturally in the human body and are your friend and your weapon, your key to good health and your counter-balance against the bad forces of nature. Probiotics are the soldiers you have brought forth to fight the evil, disease causing forces,” (Brudnak, 2003, p. 15). “Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms which when administered inadequate amounts confer a health benefit upon the host,” (FAO/WHO, 2001). Okay folks, you have heard it for yourself, the cavalry has arrived so now we can let out that victory cry right. Well, before you do so let’s just think about the things it takes to maintain a useful army: good equipment, food, training, motivation and etc… In this case, this army already knows what to do and is very good at getting it done and has plenty of motivation to accomplish the task. They also are properly equipped without any help from us to take on the enemy but their ultimate weakness is their habitat and food availability, which depends greatly on our diet and digestion. I felt the need to bring it up here so I could reference it later in more detail.
So lets’ look at some ways the cavalry aides us in this fight. “The uptake of nutrients is heavily influenced by the microbial population of the gut, and this influence extends to the absorption of minerals, such as calcium, that we do not normally realize is dependent upon the actions of probiotics,” (Brudnak, 2003, p. 18). Also “Studies over the past 20 years have demonstrated that probiotic intake is able to confer a range of health benefits including modulation of the immune system, protection against gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections, lowering of blood cholesterol levels, attenuation of overt immuno-inflammatory disorders (such as inflammatory bowel disease, allergies) and anti-cancer effects. However, the strongest clinical evidence for probiotics relates to their effectiveness in improving gut health and modulating (via stimulation or regulation) the host immune system,” (Charalampopoulos & Rastall, 2009, p. 924).
However, we have yet to satisfy the question of whether the cavalry is a friend to everyone. “Despite the excellent overall safety record of probiotics, they should be used with caution in certain specific patient groups – particularly critically patients, those with immune deficiency and patient groups with increased risk for bacterial translocation due to disturbed intestinal mucosal barrier function. The risk of adverse events is likely to differ with each probiotic strain, and published literature has highlighted some strains which may carry higher risks than others. The dose and mode of administration are also important, with higher dose regimens being associated with gastrointestinal symptoms. Careful consideration should be given to these issues before using probiotic supplementation in high risk populations, “(Charalampopoulos & Rastall, 2009, p. 1253). A commonly reported adverse effect of probiotic treatment is sepsis. “Sepsis, also known as systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), is a serious medical condition caused by the body’s response to an infection. Sepsis can lead to widespread inflammation and blood clotting. Inflammation may result in redness, heat, swelling, pain, and organ dysfunction or failure. Blood clotting during sepsis causes reduced blood flow to limbs and vital organs, and can lead to organ failure or gangrene (damage to tissues),” (clevelandclinic.org, 2010) Two reports of sepsis related to probiotic use have been reported in two premature infants with short gut syndrome (Charalampopoulos & Rastall, 2009). “Significant sepsis due to S. boulardii administered to a neighboring patient, but not the patient developing sepsis, has been reported in two cases (Cassone, Serra, Mondello, Girolamo,Scafetti, Pistella & Venditti, 2003). In those respective cases it is noted that a contaminated vascular catheter may have been the culprit (Hennequin, Kauffmann-Lacroix, Jobert, Viard, Ricour, Jacquemin & Berche, 2000). In regards to the correlation between probiotic use and sepsis it is important to understand, “To date, there have been no reports of sepsis related to probiotic use in otherwise healthy individuals. All reported cases of probiotic bacteremia or fungemia have occurred in patients with underlying chronic disease, or immune compromised or debilitated state. In most cases, probiotic sepsis has resolved with antimicrobial therapy, but in some cases patients have developed septic shock, “(Hennequin et al., 2000). Also aside from all of the information of the few adverse incidents related with probiotic use “The current evidence strongly suggests that probiotics are safe to use in general population. Several approaches for the safety evaluation of current and potential new probiotics are available, ranging from in vitro assessments to randomized, controlled clinical trials. Most commonly used probiotics are considered to be generally safe, and in Europe such microorganisms have been granted a QPS status (EFSA, 2007).
Although, what good would all of this information on probiotics do for you if you had no clue as to go about selecting a good blend that will be worth your hard earned money. Something you should be aware of is that on many blends that are marketed, if you will read the label will notify you that your 55 billion viable microorganisms is only so at time of manufacture. This means that on the way to the store before you make your purchase things such as heat and moisture greatly accelerate their die-off rate. “Most formulas will experience a die-off approaching log – 3 (or down to a paltry 13 million) within just 60 days of manufacture, but there is a new process called LiveBac, which significantly retards the rate of die-off so look for formulas that make use of this process,” (Barron, 2002, p. 24). “There are many beneficial bacteria that can be contained in a good probiotic, but two are preeminent. Look for a formula based on the two: 1. L. acidophilus resides primarily in the small intestine and produces a number of powerful antimicrobial compounds in the gut (including: acidolin, acidolphilin, lactocidin, and bacteriocin). These compounds can inhibit the growth and toxin producing capabilities of some 23 known disease-causing pathogens (including: campylobacter, listeira, and staphylococci), as well as reduce tumor growth and effectively neutralize or inhibit carcinogenic substances. There are three recognized super strains of acidophilus: DDS, NAS, and BT1386. BT1386 has an extremely high potential for attachment to the epithelial cells that line the intestine; it’s a high producer of hydrogen peroxide, which kills pathogenic bacteria; and, of the three strains, it’s the only one capable of utilizing glycogen to survive and flourish, which means it can thrive in the urinary tract, where it produces lactic acid to inhibit the growth of pathogens. This is particularly important to women to help prevent a whole range of vaginal infections. 2. Many researchers believe that deckling levels of bifidobacteria in the large intestine actually mark the eventual onset of chronic degenerative disease. Bifidobacteria benefit the body in a number of ways. They: (1) consume old fecal matter; (2) have the ability to remove cancer-forming elements, or the enzymes which lead to their formation; (3) protect against the formation of liver, colon, and mammary gland tumors. And in addition to all of that, (4) bifidobactera are substantial producers of a range of important B vitamins,” (Barron, 2002, p. 24,25). While there are other things you could take into consideration in choosing a good probiotic formula, I feel that this basic knowledge will be most helpful to make sense out of choosing a good mix that is right for you.
Therefore, the deciding factor in who wins this silent war really hinges on two things . . . . diet and digestion. Inconceivable, yes I am sure something so simple would seem to be but I assure that it is not. Remember I told you that I would reference my statement about probiotics being limited to their habitat and food availability, well here we are. To keep things real simple most harmful bacteria are anaerobic and feel right at home in a gut filled with years of backed up rotting fecal matter that was unable to be properly broken down by the stomach because most of it was not mixed in well enough with the saliva. In other words the food was not chewed up enough. That toxic fecal back up not only nourishes the very bacteria that help to bring on your headaches, allergies, constipation, diarrhea, and a host of debilitating, degenerative diseases that make you plain miserable. Aside from that is also offsets the pH balance, tilting things heavily on the acidic side and make it more favorable for the bad bacteria with the exception of the few anaerobic good bacteria and causes a greater die off of good beneficial bacteria.
Now, since you are feeling pretty miserable at this point let’s just pay our doctor a visit and have them nuke our insides. Is the picture beginning to become clear to you yet? If not just stay tuned. Ladies and gentlemen this is a war and the casualties are stacking up faster than they can be attended to and there seems to be no end in sight. At the onset of the flash to bang of that antibiotic; what is left of your friendly bacterial forces that were doing their best to hold back the onslaught of harmful bacteria has just been almost completely decimated. Not only this, but due to the already inviting environment that you have created mainly through your diet and digestion your body is almost completely taken over by these harmful forces who also share information on how to resist that nuke the next time it is used; making it even harder for you to rid them from your system in the future.
As I close I really want to drive a few things home. Antibiotics in and of itself will do more harm than good under the conditions aforementioned. Probiotics will not do very much for you either in that case, considering that they are for the most part dead on arrival since that toxic mess awaiting them will nearly wipe them out and what that doesn’t slaughter the massive host of harmful bacteria will finish off in no time flat. So if you feel it necessary to absolutely use antibiotics you absolutely must take it in conjunction with a good probiotic but that probiotic needs to become a lifelong habit for it to really be of any benefit. Really your diet needs to be addressed along with careful attention to ensure the proper pre-digestion of your food in the mouth. Although even if you do chew your food very well if you are all backed up with old fecal matter your body is not going to absorb the nutrients that it needs so your stomach has exhausted itself and you in the process just to get a return of zero. This is further impacted by the fact that if you don’t contain the necessary friendly flora for certain nutrients like calcium to be absorbed. Are you beginning to see how it is all connected?
You are probably wondering what you can do or just have your foot stuck firmly in the mud and refuse to be moved but all in all it is your choice to do what you wish with the information presented. I would admonish you to consider your current diet and eliminate as much processed foods, hydrogenated oils, trans fats and so on as possible. Consider the things that cause you to get stressed and face them along with resting, exercising and drinking at least eight glasses of water free of fluoride, and other contaminants. Remember that water helps to flush your body of toxins and move wastes. In regard to probiotics I encourage you to in conjunction take a prebiotic like FOS or Inulin which are sugars that can be tolerated by diabetics without upsetting their insulin or glucose. Prebiotics in short are sugars that your body can’t break down but are broken down and digested by friendly bacteria who in turn just help you to stay healthy. Last but not least it may be most beneficial for someone with serious back up to either get a series of colon irrigations through a good doctor or find a good detoxification program. Unless this is done neither probiotics or antibiotics will be of any real assistance and getting any real nutrients from the food you eat is next to impossible, even if you have a good diet.
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Julian Cox is the founder of Seize it Health Matters, a company dedicated to helping people reconnect with themselves and their environment, empowering them with the information they need to make a more well rounded decision in the face of the conflicting information of health and nutrition and provide them with the inspiration to do something for themselves and assist them in achieving their goals of alleviation from their painful state. Based in Spanaway, WA he works with clients by phone, Skype and in person. His practice is focused on helping individuals who are suffering from chronic pain reconnect with themselves and understand the triggers that are contributing to their condition. This is achieved through teaching the individual how to be more in tune with their own body and give them the encouragement, tools and knowledge so that once the program is complete they will be able to continually help themselves maintain a greater level of alleviation than they have known, as he is doing for his own chronic condition. You can learn more about Julian and his services at www.seizeithealthmatters.com. You may also visit his online store at http://www.cafepress.com/bnspired1