Jollies and super-grub. Ripping into gift-wrap and cramming our faces. May it all be wonderful and great for every one of you.
It isn’t always though, is it?
Not so nice
Because those tummy rumblings are not always from over-eating. Yup, from Noel to norovirus in just hours. The twelve days of cramps and misery – and all we want to do is die. What evil-minded soul lucked this onto us?
Actually, probably ourselves.
The odds on it being proper food poisoning are pretty remote. Both at home or in a restaurant, most food is prepared and cooked properly enough so that germs are eliminated. Though yeah, norovirus is highly contagious – and yeah, it’s probably from something we’ve eaten.
Except our own fingers put it there.
That’s the trouble with this dratted tummy bug. Most of the time it’s undoubtedly self-inflicted – a reality we tend to avoid, except it’s true – because norovirus is the undisputed No 1 Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.
Because our hands touch everything, right? And most of the time we think they’re clean because they look it, so it never occurs to us to wash them.
The invisible nasty
Not good when norovirus is so small it’s only 2 – 5 microns across. You couldn’t see that, even with a magnifying glass.
But it’s so easily there – picked up from high-contact locations like door handles, light switches, grab handles and keypads. And when you come down to it, when WAS the last time you washed your hands? Some time after breakfast? When you went to the loo?
Don’t be ashamed if you can’t remember, a shocking lot of us forget altogether. Would you believe that most of us never think of it after going to the loo – and pretty well all of us never wash before eating?
Now how about the things you touch that NEVER get washed, or never seem to – grab-rails on buses and trains, escalator handrails, just about anything walking down the street – even the inside of your own gloves.
Oops! But our hands don’t LOOK dirty, so we take a chance without knowing it. And the norovirus transfers when we touch our face – which we do 3 or 4 times a minute without thinking – or when we grab a pretzel, piece of stollen or turkey drumstick.
Don’t want the bug – or the cramps? Wash your hands whenever you think of it and you’ll probably be OK.
A word of caution though, about the turkey drumstick.
Gnawing on it at table is probably OK – but turkey needs care in preparation, like any poultry.
That’s because most birds are naturally colonised with a bacterium called campylobacter. It’s harmless to them, but to us humans it’s a villainous carbon copy of norovirus – brings on the cramps, the vomiting and the diarrhoea – exactly what none of us need in the festive season.
Fortunately campylobacter is destroyed by cooking. When that bird is a delicious golden brown, all trace of the bug is gone.
There is a but. Which is that it spreads easily from uncooked meat, so that knives, chopping boards, plates – and of course hands – are easily contaminated during preparation. Wash everything thoroughly and the problem goes away.
So now you’re safe. All set to enjoy every second of the celebrations.
We wish you a very happy and pleasant time – and all the very best for the coming New Year.
With any luck, somebody will give you a nice-smelling soap as a thoughtful reminder.
Neither is asthma, TB, or coeliac allergy. The possible alternatives if you don’t suddenly balloon.
Yeah, yeah – we’re banging on about this a bit hard this week, but blame it on Dame Sally.
Boss doctor lays it on the line
That’s Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, who recently pointed to obesity as being a national threat worse than terrorism – exactly the same as she said about antibiotics resistance only a few years ago. Our super-drugs aren’t working, so super-bugs are killing people.
The thing is though, that these two threats are linked – except Dame Sally doesn’t seem to think so. Her mind-set suggests obesity is self-inflicted and that people largely bring it on themselves – the burger/pizza mentality.
Why else would she suggest a “Fat Tax” for overweight airline passengers? It’s their lack of self-discipline and laziness that makes them the way they are, therefore they should pay.
The real culprit
Yeah, except Dame Sally, fat people are not necessarily the bio-criminals you think they are. Go back to your other worse-than-terrorism threat, antibiotic resistance – and the common denominator is antibiotics.
You’re worried about over-use of antibiotics – causing bacteria to resist them. They no longer work as life-savers, so modern medicine becomes impossible – people die on the operating table.
Not wrong, though it brushes aside WHY antibiotics are over-used.
Yes, doctors prescribe them more often than they should, but it’s agriculture that gets through industrial levels of the stuff – 420 TONNES a year in the UK and counting.
Sure, sure, it’s supposed to be for veterinary reasons, to keep animals healthy. But every farmer since 1946 – when the first batch of super-chicks was produced – has it emblazoned on his profit and loss ledger that antibiotics fatten up animals so they earn more for market. Profit, profit, all the way.
Yeah, so there’s antibiotics in the stuff they sell – and biologically, people are animals too.
Which means pretty well anything they buy at the supermarket has antibiotics to some level or other. Whatever customers eat, their bodies bulk up – just like cattle and pigs and chickens. Exactly like taking pills to make them fat, only they don’t know it.
Suddenly puts our rocketing obesity epidemic into a new perspective, doesn’t it?
Not couch potatoes pigging out, but ordinary Annes and Cynthias being MADE FAT by the carefully chosen and supposedly healthy meat and two veg they make for their families. Their bods are cruelly gone and no wonder – drip-drip antibiotics all their lives, it’s a wonder they’re not bigger.
Going vegetarian doesn’t help much either. Despite the early morning jogs, Dame Sally, your own raw vegetables – organic or not – are just as likely to be laced with antibiotics from the manure used to grow them. How do you like your amoxicillin and tetracycline? Your bod’s at risk too.
Worse than terrorism?
Well yes, a lot more people are at risk – thousands and thousands of them. Trapped in an antibiotic pincer movement. Antimicrobial resistance on the one side – damage and aberrations in the body’s microbiota system on the other.
Because that’s what antibiotics do, they kill and maim resident bacteria, upsetting the balance, triggering the urge to over-eat, or glitching other functions. Where else do we suddenly get all these allergies that never existed 20 years ago? Phantoms and false alarms triggered by the immune system going on the fritz.
Which means we have to be doubly careful if we all want to survive in the future.
If antibiotics don’t work, we could die from a paper cut. And being fat opens the door to other problems like cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis and gout.
And those are just for starters. With the immune system out of balance we are shadows of what we used to be. Weakened defences, lowered resistance, more susceptibility to disease and infection.
All happening just as our reliance on miracle drugs is coming to an end.
Yes, worse than terrorism, Dame Sally – both of them.
A way out
So what can we do?
Well, as England’s CMO, you need a big stick to enforce cut-backs on antibiotics – not just in medicine, but in the world of Big Ag. If DEFRA and the FSA don’t listen, you’ll have to go in swinging.
For the rest of us – not much we can do until the farmers get their act together without antibiotics, so the best is probably to go vegetarian and grow our own – without fertiliser. At least we’ll know what we put in our mouths is safe.
As for our lowered defences and increasing vulnerability, Dame Sally you’re right again – we need to rediscover hygiene.
To go back to basics like washing hands before we do anything. To clean and disinfect everything before we use it – even to sterilising our surroundings, making the air we move in and breathe secure and safe.
They don’t face the jeers and insults – or the misery of staring in the mirror and feeling ashamed.
Everyone gets a chance
Yeah? Well the good news is, they’re going to get theirs.
One day soon, THEY WILL BE FAT TOO.
And like us, they’ll wonder how the hell it happened.
How they could go from good healthy living – walking the mile from the bus to the office and back every day, just an hour of TV a night, no fast-food except on Saturdays, three times a week at the gym, always a walk on Sundays – and suddenly they’re size 18.
It can happen – and it will.
Because however hard we try, more and more of us are getting overweight every day.
Half of us are already there – the number of us fatties has pretty well trebled since the 1980s.
By rights, we should only tip the scales at 65 kg. Fat chance of that now, we’re more than likely weighing in at 70 kg – and that’s without the largeness factor.
Go back to the 50s, and it becomes even worse. Your average bloke weighed 11 stone 6 (72 kg) with a waist of 34 inches. Today he’s 12 stone 6 (78 kg) with a waist of 37 inches – a real porker alongside David Beckham at 74 kg and 32 inches.
In the beginning
So what happened in the 50s? What was it that triggered our unhappy habit of putting on weight like crazy – when we weren’t even close to scoffing ourselves?
Because it made them grow faster. Bigger, fatter, quicker.
Exactly what’s happening to us. Bulking up from chemicals that force our gut bacteria to absorb more calories, the root cause of obesity.
Ramping up more and more and more as farmers realised the profit potential – and high-tech, high intensity production took over farming across the board – beef, dairy, mutton, pork, poultry, fish and even plant crops.
Because however we fill our supermarket trollies, everything’s loaded with antibiotics. Lamb from New Zealand, check. Oranges from Israel, check. Chicken from Norfolk, check. Tomatoes from Spain, check.
The stuff is in all the food we eat, though we don’t know it. In our water too, as the animals poo to enrich the soil, and the ground water winds up in our taps.
Eat, eat, eat
What happens to us is the same as the animals. Some of our gut bacteria gets killed, some of it gets modified. We extract more calories out of the same food and become more efficient at absorbing it. Ever wondered why you get so big but your poo remains the same?
Worse, the switches that tell us when to stop eating get over-ridden. We chomp like there’s no tomorrow. Forget all the baloney about will-power and lifestyle – we become eating machines, just like the farmers force their pigs and chickens to be.
What’s that you say? Antibiotics were banned to EU farmers in 2006?
Quite right, they were – but only for growth promotion. Veterinary use to prevent illness is still permitted. Only on prescription.
So what happens when animals are herded so close together that sanitary conditions are nearly impossible? Careful with that, it’s a breeding ground for epidemics. Better pump in the antibiotics just to be safe. Strictly medicinal. Looks good on the brochure too – the healthiest pigs in Britain.
Every mouthful we take, right?
Every day of our life since birth. Not our fault at all, we had no say in it.
The Mac factor
Oh sure, we shouldn’t pig out on burgers – at 540 calories in a Big Mac, we know that already.
Except a Big Mac is not the junk food the do-gooders would have us believe it is. Yes, it’s loaded with calories, one of the best power foods on the planet. In the poor countries of the world, it’s about the best nutritional boost any starving kid could be rescued by.
The best value for money too. Which is why The Economist magazine created the Big Mac Index – a light-hearted look at real money values around the world, because it’s available everywhere.
We shouldn’t worry though. Saying a Big Mac will make us fat is like saying we’ll get pregnant from kissing. It takes a lot of Big Macs – and a lot of kissing – to achieve the reality.
Plus, don’t forget – the do-gooders eat the same food we do. So it’s only a matter of time before they’re fat just like us. Serve ‘em right for ignoring the evidence in front of their face – that fatteners for animals fatten us too.
So what can we do?
Not a lot, everything coming at us is loaded.
But we can avoid it.
The heck with the price tag, switch to organic food. Not the designer stuff that’s been wee’d on by celebrities – the real products that are labelled “Antibiotics Free” or similar. Choose bottled water, stuff you can check comes from a pure source.
If you have to buy regular food, the only thing is to boil it to hell and gone – 30 minutes at least, but then you’ll know it’s safe. Be sure to chuck away the broth though, you’ve only boiled it out, you haven’t got rid of it. Yeah, the food tastes crummy, but what can you do?
Believe it or not – a poo transplant could work. Sounds a bit sordid, but swapping faeces with someone not affected by obesity can change the composition of bacteria in our own gut and set them straight again. There is even a way to do it ourselves.
Now for the first time, all those weight reducing ideas stand a chance of working. With the fatteners gone, we should really see some results.
About time too.
With apologies to anyone already embarrassed by it, who wants to go through life looking like a whale?
We’ve all got the habit – but never even realise it. No idea we’ve been mainlining on the stuff all our lives – right from that first twinkle in our mothers’ eye.
Addicts? Chronic habitual users, more like.
And yes, we do feel cravings. Some of us more than others, depending on how far we’re gone.
A lifetime of abuse
We’re easy to spot. Not from the sunken face, deathly colour or shrunken bodies. Quite the opposite.
Most of us are rosy-cheeked, full of life and decidedly chubby. More advanced cases are bigger, flabbier, seriously overweight. At the very worst, clinically obese.
Yeah well, bigger, better, fatter is what antibiotics do.
Ask any farmer.
Put antibiotics in any animal’s food and they bulk up – grow faster, bigger, heavier, often in half the time. Stuff like lasalocid or salinomycin for feed conversion, bambermycin to bulk up cattle and poultry, monensin for cattle and sheep, or virginiamycin and bacitracin for growth among poultry.
Banned of course, since 2006. The EU outright recognised that over-use was creating superbugs untreatable by antibiotics, so all non-therapeutic treatment was made illegal.
Because it doesn’t look like UK agriculture got the memo. Banned maybe, but use of antibiotics on British farms rose from 350 tonnes in 2009 to 420 tonnes in 2013.
Not exactly enforced, is it? Not enough budget to police the job apparently.
Why we get fat
Now here’s the inconvenient bit – humans are animals too.
Just like animals, human gut bacteria respond to antibiotic exposure – with the same kind of results.
And all those animals are part of the human food chain. Beef, mutton, pork, poultry and fish are on everyone’s regular diet. Good healthy meat maybe, but laced with a lifetime’s feeding on antibiotics.
Which means there’s antibiotics in OUR systems too. Not a lot maybe, 10 micrograms per meal or less. But every single day – 365 days a year, throughout our whole life time – and even in the womb.
Well sure, Mum has to eat too doesn’t she? And her system nurtures her baby’s. What happens to her gut bacteria is mirrored in her growing embryo.
And there’s no escape, even if she’s vegetarian.
Animal poo makes manure, which feeds the soil, so their antibiotics wind up in the plants that grow in it. But antibiotics get used in plants anyway, to keep crops healthy and free from disease – old favourites streptomycin and tetracycline are widely used everywhere.
Yeah, and in your drinking water too. Drained from the soil, to the rivers, to the reservoirs, to the kitchen tap. Or from insufficiently processed waste water treatment. All those medicines flushed down the loo, come back to haunt us.
You got it. Every mouthful we take, food or drink, contains traces of antibiotics.
Any idea what that does to your gut bacteria?
Well if the Doc gives you antibiotics to treat some bug, it’s a bit like a nuclear explosion going off in your tummy. Lots of dead and dying bacteria – some of them bad guys, but a lot of good ones too. Killed, maimed, or knocked so out of kilter they start going rogue.
Ever had the runs after antibiotics? Now you know why.
Meanwhile of course, you’re still getting low level doses with every mouthful. After the big bang, the terror war continues.
Not good. Because ordinarily your gut bacteria help you digest food, produce proteins, and even help regulate your immune system.
Except now digesting food has gone a bit squiff. The body absorbs more than it should, gets rid of less. The trigger that says “I’ve eaten enough,” stops working. And just like animals, we bulk up.
And not just some of us. It’s beginning to look like ALL of us – already more than a quarter and growing.
Yeah OK, so some of it is life-style – the couch potato gluttony that glossy magazines for thin people accuse us of. But we’re not naturally like that – and nobody in their right mind wants to be super-fat.
Some of us are safe – for the moment. Others are unlucky and their systems run amok – pigging out on sweets, fizzy drinks, cakes and power food like quick-charge burgers and pizza – the snowball effect of a lifetime’s antibiotics. Getting fatter, faster and hating every second.
Dying for it
Which is where the killing bit comes in.
Getting fat challenges the system in other ways. Asthma, tuberculosis, type 2 diabetes – life-threatening conditions if not controlled. No crash diet in the world can fix those – how DO you fix a system that’s running wild and crazy?
Even phantoms get in on the act. With gut bacteria out of order, the body invents ailments which aren’t there. Food allergies, pollen reactions – the perils of anaphylactic shock. Nothing’s really wrong with us, but we can die anyway.
All thanks to the miracle medicine the Doc is now withholding from us to take down our latest infection problem. Antimicrobial resistance is the worry – the fear that whatever antibiotic we’re prescribed won’t work because the superbugs are immune to it.
A bit late now, isn’t it?
We’re already on antibiotics – have been all our lives. Which is why we’re weaker, less resilient and more prone to illness than at any time in our history – possibly even why we’re sick in the first place.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, our very on-the-ball Chief Medical Officer, is right that obesity is a national crisis – an epidemic threat worse than terrorism.
But hang on a minute, obesity itself isn’t the problem – it’s the result.
The real culprit is over-use of antibiotics – the other major alarm issue Dame Sally has alerted us to for at least the last five years.
Antibiotics and obesity?
Sure, the connection is staring us in the face.
Because how come it’s not just SOME of us getting fat, it’s rapidly becoming ALL of us – 50% of women and 80% of men? And how come none of this started happening until twenty years ago?
That’s when farmers around the world – Americans call them Big Ag – started using antibiotics on an industrial scale in livestock production and for everything else. Right now, 65,000 tons a year and climbing – set to be almost double by 2030.
Money, money, money
Big bucks is the driver – higher profits, every farmer hits the jackpot.
With antibiotics regularly in their feedstuff, livestock animals can be farmed more intensively. Closer together, all in one place, easier to manage. But often in very dirty places and prone to disease – without the magic medicine keeping them healthy. Seen those pictures of chicken-houses?
More animals, less space – Jackpot One.
And 65,000 tons a year, remember? Slightly greater throughput than Dame Sally might be used to in the medical field – plenty of practice for superbugs to suss how to resist whatever antibiotics we clueless humans might throw at them. E.coli, salmonella, c.difficile, MRSA – they all start here.
Uh huh. But Big Ag has a bigger, darker motive.
Feed antibiotics to animals regularly – cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, fish, whatever – and they grow bigger, fatter, faster.
Something tricks their natural gut bacteria into extracting more value from less food -at the same time supressing the reflex that tells them when they’ve eaten enough. They gorge themselves stupid.
Waste from animals becomes manure – to replace nutrients in the soil depleted by constant use. Antibiotics are in the ground, seeping into the water table, leaching through into streams and rivers, into reservoirs – into our homes at the turn of a tap.
So unless you eat ONLY organic foods – grown without fertiliser from any animal source. And unless you drink only bottled water, or boil it death before even thinking about it – you’ve been on antibiotics all your life.
All of us have. Drip-drip residual doses – every day, every mouthful, since the day we were born.
Continuous dosing by powerful substances that make our own gut bacteria super-efficient at extracting the absolute maximum from every last molecule of food. Which switch off our natural mechanism that tells us when we’ve had enough. Our own immune system on the fritz – and getting fritzier.
Forget whatever diet you’re on – pretty well all the food we can buy at the supermarket has antibiotics in it. No escape, even if you eat healthy – you’re getting antibiotics every day and on course for obesity.
Fast food to the rescue
Which is exactly why fast food might save us.
OK, so you order a chicken burger. Better throw away the bun, the salad, the sauce and the side-order of chips – antibiotics in the lot of them.
But not in the meat. Or at least, not in the meat – soon.
Because with falling market volumes – and negative press about the sheer volume of their business contributing to major antibiotic resistance – major fast food chains McDonalds, Subway, Chipotle and others are switching to antibiotics-free supplies. Zero in their chicken – and as soon as possible, zero in their beef and other stuff too.
In the meantime, if you’re worried, get ready to boil everything – meat vegetables, fruit, the works. And when we say boil, we mean nuke it for at least 30 minutes – it’s the only thing that works.
Either that, or be paranoid about genuine organic-sourced food. But check the label thoroughly – even the expensive designer stuff is likely to come from soil in some way exposed to antibiotics.
Are we being OCD about all this?
Well, every girl wants to be pretty, not a two-ton Tessie. And laying the guilt-trip on them that they eat themselves fat is unnecessarily harsh, cruel and callous.
Yeah, so they’re overweight. But how are they to know they’ve OD’d on antibiotics all their lives and their body’s regulatory systems are shot?
Antibiotics upset the natural balance of the body’s own bacterial microbiome, drastically altering its defences, weakening its survival strengths – making it prone to asthma, food allergies, diabetes and yes, obesity.
All of which makes Dame Sally especially right to flag down pregnant women. Antibiotics affect their babies’ bodies as much as their own. Worse, they corrupt the mother’s hereditary process that teaches the baby’s body bacteria about immunities before they are born.
So if Mum’s fat – and she may have battled all her life handling that stigma – her baby could be fat too, skewed by antibiotics that neither of them were prescribed, but which are in their systems anyway. And because of continuing exposure to antibiotics, weaker, less resilient, more fragile and helpless.
Is there anything we can do about it?
Dame Sally as usual, has hit the nail on the head – though for different reasons than she first intended.
She’s worried about medical antibiotics not working because bacteria are fast developing all-round resistance. AMR. At a stroke, most surgical procedures become impossible. If antibiotics don’t work, there’s no infection control to safeguard the necessary incisions.
The only answer, stop using antibiotics (they’re useless anyway), rediscover hygiene. Wash and clean everything meticulously and constantly so germs never get a chance. Sterilise living spaces with a Hypersteriliser.
The preggy ladies are in the same boat. Stop using antibiotics – boil food to boredom, or choose expensive organics . Likewise, wash and clean everything meticulously and constantly so germs never get a chance. Sterilise living spaces with a Hypersteriliser.
Hmmm, supper time after all that. We might go a bit hungry though.
It’s going to be a while before all fast food chains get their act together and stop supplying food laced with antibiotics.
It’s Beijing’s first red alert ever. Schools closed, cars banned, visibility down to 600 yards in places.
It’s nasty stuff too. Poisonous particles, like a toxic gas. Essential to wear a face mask.
But at least you can SEE smog. You know it’s hazardous, so you can take precautions.
Not like germs.
One cell of a virus or bacterium might be only 2 microns across. A millionth the size of a smoke or dust particle. Too small to be visible. A bio-smog.
But it’s a fact of life that germs are all around us, all the time .
They’re even necessary – hard to believe, but we’re mostly composed of bacteria ourselves. 10% human, 90% bacteria.
So it’s kind of essential we look after our bacteria as much as ourselves. Microscopic partners that keep us going, regulate our metabolisms, and even power our immune systems.
Of course the world we live in full of bacteria too, especially the air. Viruses, fungi, mould – all kinds of living organisms. And everything else too – oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, dust, fumes, smoke, particles of this and that. Exactly like smog, only invisible.
Not normally a bad thing either. Most of the time we’re never aware of these swirling, floating clouds of matter.
We even generate our own – a personal aura of surrounding bacteria unique to each of us, plus tiny flecks of dead skin, hair, grease, sweat and other body detritus – a unique body signature we trail around with us wherever we go.
It’s not unlike a force field that keeps bad stuff out. Bad bacteria can’t get into our bodies because our resident good bacteria crowd them away.
Unless an accident lets them in through a cut or skin break. Or we let them in through the sensitive tissue of our eyes, nose and mouth which we unconsciously touch 2,000 – 3,000 times a day. Or if we ingest them with our food, or simply breathe them in.
So there it is – bio-smog in the office. Only we don’t know it’s there. An ever-present atmosphere of both life-giving and hazardous forces that we are immersed among every single day.
We could be victim to them at any second. Just be in the wrong place at the wrong time, touch the wrong thing or person, and BOOM – it’s flu, or norovirus, or an allergy attack, or whatever is doing the rounds.
OK, we all know the downside of getting sick.
Our bodies go through varying degrees of unpleasantness while they fight the infection – coughs, sneezes, cramp, vomiting – until we feel better. Our immune systems kick in with defences learnt as an infant, crawling around stuffing things into our mouths. A couple of days, and we’re better.
Which is when we go to hospital, so our bodies can get help.
And one of the first treatments we get is the miracle of our modern age – a course of antibiotics. Amazing stuff, truly. Within hours we turn the corner. The bad bacteria in our bodies get clobbered, their attack is halted. Everything goes back to normal.
Not so miraculous
Because antibiotics don’t only kill the bad bacteria – they kill a lot of the good ones as well. Or hurt them, mutate them, change what they do, or prevent them from doing it properly. Collateral damage.
Which is why so many of us keep feeling sick after the antibiotics – it takes a while for our surviving bacteria to get back on their feet.
Dropping an antibiotic capsule in among the 100 trillion bacteria that colonise our gut is exactly like lobbing a hydrogen bomb among the high-rise apartment blocks of one our biggest cities. Exactly why doctors never prescribe them unless they’re necessary.
Except of course, we “know” about antibiotics, we pressure them to. Gimme my miracle I want it now!
Result, antibiotics have become so overused they’ve developed resistance. Whole chunks from our repertoire of miracle drugs don’t work any more.
If only that was the worst of it.
You see, it’s not just medicine that overuses antibiotics. The big culprit is farming.
Overuse, big time
Shovelling antibiotics into food livestock enables more intensive methods with bigger profits – more animals in less space that’s not always clean. It bulks them up too – makes them fatter, faster, ready for market sooner. Even bigger profits.
The same with plant crops – more from less, quicker. The food production jackpot.
Thing is though, that traces of those antibiotics get through to us in everything we eat. Since child-birth and even in the womb, we’ve been exposed to background antibiotics our entire lives. Little hydrogen bombs one after another – boom, boom, boom!
So no matter how carefully we’ve been nurtured through childhood, our immune systems are shot.
Where our bacteria would have acquired hereditary defences from our mothers and learned new ones from good, healthy exposure to dirt as dribbling babies – they’ve been killed off, stunted, or made unable to recognise threats when they happen.
Yeah, our immune systems are still working, sort of. But not as effectively as before this constant flood of antibiotics started washing over us.
Grandma never got dosed with 20 micrograms of streptomycin every day from the milk she drank. Or enrofloxacin from her boiled egg. Her immune system remained fully intact. No phantom allergies in her day – any illness was real and her body fought it off, naturally.
Without looking like a porker, either.
Bigger and bigger
Yeah, you’ve got it. Just like farm animals, we bulk up too.
In the last twenty years – exactly the time that farming with antibiotics has moved into high gear – we’ve ballooned bigger and bigger. Today, a quarter of our kids are grossly overweight – and two thirds of adults – an increasing cause of heart disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, cancers, depression and anxiety.
You bet. A double-whammy.
“Antibiotics resistance is as big a risk as terrorism,” says Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England.
“Obesity is the new smoking,” says Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England.
Except what neither of them mention is the even BIGGER threat – that antibiotics have weakened and eroded our immune systems – and continue to do so.
Not good news when there’s 30 of you in the same office, sharing the same space, touching the same things and breathing the same air. Twenty years ago maybe, but not now.
The external antibiotic
Unless of course your office is regularly treated with a Hypersteriliser. A nightly or even weekly mist-up with ionised hydrogen peroxide to oxidise ALL viruses and bacteria in your work space. On surfaces, in nooks and crannies, throughout the air space.
Total room sterility when you come in next morning. Sort of like an “external antibiotic”, but with none of the health risk – hydrogen peroxide decomposes after use into oxygen and water, which evaporates. Safe and secure.
At least most of us aren’t – even though, officially, Britain is Top of the Fat Pops of Europe – with more than a quarter of us already obese, and more than half of us definitely overweight or tending that way.
Not our fault
Yeah, admittedly there are SOME of us who do overindulge. Unhealthy eating, gorging ourselves. But not everyone’s into deep-fried Mars bars – even though we’re most of us a bit tubby.
We weren’t always like this, were we?
And while our modern lifestyle of going by car to our desk jobs, downing fast food and platzing out as couch potatoes in front of the TV doesn’t help, stress doesn’t help either. How many of us have sleepless nights worrying about our jobs, security, social image or love life?
No, not everyone’s into comfort food – in fact it’s more of a wonder we don’t waste away to nothing with all those anxieties going round in our head.
You are what you eat, the authority figures tell us – and yes, they’re right.
But they’re not exactly open with the truth about that – mostly because even THEY don’t know.
They actually don’t know that every mouthful we take – food or liquid – includes traces of antibiotics. That eggs, bread, meat, or even a glass or milk is likely to contain as much as 25 micrograms of tetracycline or something similar.
Because every day since agricultural researchers first fed streptomycin to reduce losses of cage-reared chickens back in 1946 – antibiotics have demonstrated the most unusual side-effect of rapid weight-gain, almost double in half the time, for ALL animal production.
Fast-forward to the 70s and 80s, with farmers hard-pressed to stay in business. Now antibiotics start being used on an industrial scale – 400 tons a year and more. They protect livestock crammed together in over-crowded and unhygienic conditions – AND bump up their weight faster, ready for market.
It’s an unbeatable money-maker. The big-time jackpot. So as agriculture ramps up into new high-tech intensive methods, antibiotics are added to the feedstuffs for everything – beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, lambs, sheep, chickens, turkeys – even fish like salmon.
Ah, so you’re vegetarian!
Don’t think you can escape that easily, antibiotics are used for plant culture too – streptomycin and oxytetracycline for fruit orchards and grain production, of course. And you bet – especially for big earners like crops for fuel ethanol and liquor distilling.
Antibiotics get into the soil too. Fertiliser from livestock, or pushed through from plants. The soil affects the ground water, so the stuff gets into everything else. Rivers, streams, reservoirs – and of course, your kitchen tap.
All of which means that whatever you eat or drink, every mouthful adds another micro-dose of antibiotics to your system. Every day, drip-drip-drip, a little more.
Your body bulks up – until one day, you look in the mirror and realise you’re a bit chubby, maybe even more than a bit. Not size 14 any more, most likely struggling for an 18.
No, no, no! You don’t want obesity or anything that goes with it. Not high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, strokes or other heart problems. Not depression, low self-esteem, anxiety or body rejection either.
So how can you avoid this constant dosing by fat-producing antibiotics?
JAM or brute force.
JAM Is Just Add Money. Stop buying ordinary meat and veg and go for the organic stuff.
Yes, it does cost a good bit more, which takes deep pockets. But at least with organic, the farmers undertake not to use artificial anything, which should include antibiotics – but could be a bit iffy with cow manure from unchecked sources.
Always a bit iffy anyway, that “organic” label. Like how do we know everything doesn’t all come from the same place but with different stickers. It happens with sandwiches, so why not organic foods?
Brute force is exactly that. Boil those antibiotics out of existence,
You could get really thin doing this, which will certainly fix any weight problem. It won’t do you much good otherwise though, because antibiotics aren’t alive like bacteria – you can’t scald or oxidise them them to death (just in case you thought you could use an ozonifier) – you have to boil them out.
And the only way is Fawlty Towers landlady style – to boil the food for at least 30 minutes. You then have to chuck out the broth and rinse thoroughly – inevitably making sure all the food value is washed right out. Not much nutrition left there – kinda like canned foods, which are cooked sealed. All the goodness is in the brine – pour that away and it could be soggy cardboard.
Same with your water. Don’t just boil it, boil it to death. Run it through filter paper, twice. With luck you’ll be safe.
Doesn’t exactly inspire you with confidence if the Doc prescribes antibiotics should you get an infection, hey? Yeah trimethoprim will get rid of that urinary tract problem, but what else will it do?
Skewed body systems
You see antibiotics don’t just kill bacteria, they cause them to mutate. Over time and through many generations, the bacteria and others round them develop immunity. They become resistant in their genes, a quality they are able to pass on to other bacteria of completely different kinds.
Which is how a friendly, helpful and useful bacterium might pass on immunity to a passive but hostile pathogen already resident in the body – its character changes – and suddenly there’s a nasty resistant superbug running amok that no medicine can fix.
Change character? Oh yes. You see, bacteria are normally resident and necessary in the body – they even outnumber our human body cells 10 to 1. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to digest food, extract proteins, or regulate our body’s immune system. Mess with them and the whole system goes out of balance.
Which kind of explains why we’re not only getting obese, but coming down with all these weird allergies to milk, eggs, nuts, gluten, shellfish and the like. Asthma and eczema too. How come now, after all the millions of years of human existence without them?
Body bacteria glitched by antibiotics is how. Defences going crazy at phantoms that aren’t there. Lower resistance to all kinds of things, our bodies weaker and less resilient than they ever used to be. Not helped by so many of us demanding antibiotics for every little ailment.
So yeah, enter the superbug resistant to ALL antibiotics.
Think it can’t happen? There’s a kind of super-salmonella already out there that no antibiotic can cure. About the only alternatives are an AK47 or a flame-thrower.
Paracetamol, a blanket – and turn the heating up. Ah, lovely warmth!
Bills, bills, bills
£1,000 a year for a two-bed-roomed house. £5,000 and more for the office at work.
Worth every penny, right?
It won’t stop the sniffles – but goodness, how it feels to be human.
Unless you DO have the sniffles of course. Not human at all, however high you turn the thermostat. And so difficult to breathe when you feel like you’re boiling.
Open a window, let’s please have some air!
Shut the stupid thing quick – do you want us to catch our deaths?
Yeah, right. All those germs circling round. In the air conditioning, out of the air conditioning – spread evenly round the whole staff, so they all get a go. Cough, splutter, EXPLODE!
Fat lot of good paracetamol does when you’re feeling like death. Time to pull a sickie. That stuff on your desk can go to hell for a few days. Forget the heating, time to go to bed. Ironic too, that you’re running a temperature.
Germs, germs, germs
So what about those germs from whatever you’ve got? Still festering in the office, waiting for another victim. Because forget whatever we breathe in or breathe out, we all of us trail around a whole bio-aura of personal bacteria, dead skin cells and body detritus wherever we move.
That’s lingering in the office too. A whole different health hazard to your colleagues – who might have a condition or sensitivities vulnerable to your normal bio-balance. Harmless to you, a possible threat to them.
Plus of course, there’s whatever germs might be hanging around from everyday office activities. Lots of people eat at their desks, so there’s food fragments and attendant bacteria – and all kinds of stuff loitering about in the dust bunnies under keyboards and behind plasma screens – more microbial mayhem for the office germ threshold.
And most of all this stuff is floating around in the air. In that feel-good warmth the company’s paying £5,000 a year to generate. All that money to warm it, but nothing at all to take the bugs out.
Which is crazy, because for not much more than £4 a pop, that whole office space could be sterilised every night – all germs oxidised to nothing by misting up the place with hydrogen peroxide – safe, secure and totally neutral for when your colleagues arrive in the morning.
So what is wrong with this picture? £4 a room (depending on the room size) – around £1,200 a year for the days the office is in use – say, quarter of the heating bill.
Health, health, health
The difference between running a temperature and costing money in sick leave, or feeling that luscious warmth wrap around you in another illness-free day, doing what you do best and MAKING money for yourself and the company.
All it takes is one press of a button on the front panel of a Hypersteriliser machine after everybody’s gone home – and ffffsssssss!
A super-fine all-penetrating mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide spreads everywhere throughout the work area, actively grabbing at viruses and bacteria in mid-air or on surfaces, ripping them to shreds till there’s nothing left.
How can you tell?
Well that two-week old chicken mayonnaise sarnie might still be tucked down the side of Fred Nurk’s desk, but you won’t be able to smell it. The bacteria that caused the stink are dead and gone – the place is pong-neutral until new bacteria start up again. Or Fred Nurk finally sees the remains and chucks them in the bin.
Warm air, good. Healthy air, even gooder.
And yet we never even think about it. We’re not a hospital. We’re not sick. So it never occurs to us about how we GET sick.
Because now we don’t have to. With no germs around, that doesn’t happen any more. No absentees, better productivity, more bonuses, greater profitability.
So why are the brass still moaning about a £5,000 electricity bill?
Uh huh. Even celebs like Jennifer Lawrence fess up that she doesn’t wash after taking a dump. She denies it now, but we all tell those kind of porkies, don’t we?
But let’s get real now, who in the world washes their phone?
Nobody, right? Water and phone batteries don’t get on.
But even if you did wash it, the stuff comes straight back onto your fingers next time you use the thing. And keeps transferring to everything you touch afterwards.
The stuff on your desk? The lift buttons, light switches, door handles and all? 10 million germs on it according to research.
And how do you think the stuff got there?
Your job on the line
OK, so totally gross – what’s this got to do with losing your job? ‘Elf & Safety poo police going to get you fired or what?
A lot worse than that.
Because with stuff on your hands and your desk and your phone, it’s inevitable you’re going to transfer some to other people – the people you work alongside, your colleagues.
And as you’ve probably experienced yourself many times in this life, Sod’s Law always applies.
So while most of the time nothing happens with all this stuff on your hands – just when you don’t want it to, things go pear-shaped. Like the faeces literally hit the propeller.
Most likely calamity choice? Norovirus – the most common cause of gastroenteritis world-wide. A.k.a. gastric flu or food poisoning – or as regulars of this blog already recognise, the Don’t-Wash-Hands Disease.
Translate that as severe cramps, projectile vomiting, violent diarrhoea and days of on-going misery. Strikes in as little as twenty minutes, twelve hospitals in Scotland already smitten with it, 3 million cases annually and around 80 deaths.
The UK’s top sickie
Yeah, a major player. Get norovirus in the office and it goes round like wildfire – seen what it does to cruise ships? But at least they’re ready for it – with doctors, nurses and a whole crew standing by with disinfectant sprays and the works. Back home, all anyone’s got in the office is Band-Aid strips.
OK, so you’re playing with fire. And with poo on your hands, sooner or later something WILL happen.
Like when that make-or-break project comes in, and it’s all hands to the pump. Concentrated 24/7 to get it done. The one critical shot at fame and fortune – or the company goes to the wall.
Think it can’t happen? Ace consultants Pricewaterhouse Cooper put the cost of sickness absence in the UK at £29 billion annually. Top accountant gurus Sage put it at three times that, topping £100 billion. Plenty of companies better than yours go bang against money like that.
So how’s it going, with everyone at home, groaning and clutching their gut? Networked on the laptop, sitting on the loo, nobody’s brain more than mush for longer than five minutes – what chance do any of you have?
Yeah, the writing’s on the wall. Take chances and there might not BE a company left to work for.
So them’s your marching orders.
Don’t take your phone to the loo and ALWAYS wash your hands. Wipe the phone regularly with antiseptic wipes – and everything on your desk too.
If we’ve made you paranoid – and with so many germs hazards around it’s difficult not to be – you can even sterilise your office nightly with a Hypersteriliser. Germs oxidised to zero by ionised hydrogen peroxide – all surfaces and the air itself – the whole place, safe and secure.
Anyway, who wants to talk in the loo? Whoever’s in the stall next to you starts blabbing and it’s all over town, like a virus of its own.
Like, here’s this van parked up in a lay-by selling burgers and you’ve got the munchies, why not? A burger for your friend and bacon butty for you. Looks OK, lorry-drivers all use it, what could be wrong?
The price for not thinking
Food poisoning is what. The worst kind.
Only twenty minutes to kick in too. Doubled-up with cramps, explosive vomiting, cold to touch like you can’t believe – in a coma before you even get to A&E. Another hour and the worst happens – staphylococcal poisoning and some underlying condition nobody knew was there.
Your best friend – gone. Dead from a burger.
Not your fault, right?
How could you know that burger van was suspect? Could happen to anyone.
Yeah, but – even a burger van has to conform to standards.
Public liability insurance, health and safety, health and hygiene certificates – there’s a whole load of legal stuff they have to satisfy before they can hit the road.
Operating regulations too – buying from safe supply, clean preparation area, regulated cooking time, washing hands, covering hair, wearing aprons, handling food with gloves – they can’t just willy-nilly flip burgers.
Which means that burger was probably OK when they handed it to you. The bacon butty too – nothing happened to you, did it?
Yeah, that burger van’s hygiene standards were most likely 100% up to scratch. Those lorry drivers would complain like hell otherwise – and they’d soon go out of business if they weren’t. Fines, criminal charges – lots of nasties to avoid.
So how did it happen?
One finger pointing, three pointing back
You took the burger and the butty back to the car, she opened the door, you gave it to her – has to be the burger van.
And just for the record, when did you actually wash your hands before all this? What were you handling? Did you touch or talk to anyone who had an infection? Did you handle their clothing or bedding?
Oh, sure. You MEANT to wash your hands. Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t – most of the time we all THINK we did. Anyway, what does it matter?
But nothing happened to you, because most of the time it doesn’t. Staph can grow naturally on the skin or in the nose of around 25% of us – all quite safe unless it gets on food.
Which is what hand washing is all about.
Death by negligence
So if you didn’t wash your hands, isn’t that negligence?
And if somebody dies because of it, isn’t that murder?
Not intended or pre-empted or anything, but a cause of death nevertheless.
Death by negligence. Murder, right?
At the very least manslaughter, or culpable homicide.
Yes, culpable – because we all know about washing hands before touching food, don’t we?
A doctor could get struck off for that.
And friends can die from it.
It’s not some ritual we can shrug off, or a matter of conscience. It’s a vital safety measure.
Like turning off power, keeping matches in a safe place, locking the front door, using a seat belt, wearing a crash helmet, checking a gun’s safety catch is on. Forget the last three of those, and we could wind up in court.
So why not washing hands too? It’s not a game or some silly habit. Nurses and doctors prove it every day in hospital – WASHING HANDS SAVES LIVES.
Or not washing them kills. Guilty, or not guilty? Murder or no?