Monthly Archives: December 2018

Contagious, infectious, why you’re gonna catch it

Unhappy woman in viral mask
They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere! And germs aren’t picky who they infect

What goes around, comes around, right? Which is why you’re gonna catch it.

Because we’re not all hermits.

We need to be with each other and share things – at work, at home, or out enjoying ourselves.

Get a life and keep it

Otherwise, avoiding bugs is easy – we stay in splendid isolation and talk to nobody.

Not much of a life though, hey?

So we’re out there with everybody else – and sure as little apples, if there’s a bug going round, we’re ALL gonna catch it.

No, no, it’s not going to be because someone coughed over us, or sneezed in our direction. It’s not going to be because somebody honked their guts out on the office carpet either.

We’re careful, we keep away. We’re sympathetic, yes – but we don’t let that stuff touch us.

Besides, the place LOOKS clean and our hands aren’t dirty. If whoever it is stays away from work, we’re laughing.

If only we knew.

Because they could stay away for a week and we still might catch it.

Telling ourselves we can’t SEE germs doesn’t mean they’re not there. And germs, believe it or not, can survive for weeks clinging on to whatever – not the same as a nice, warm bod, but do-able.

So yeah, they’re there alright, all around us – like raindrops in a rain storm… No, hang on, that’s not all-embracing enough – like steam particles in a sauna.

SURROUNDING us.

Our own bio-aura

For starters, we each of us trail a cloud of germs – actually a cocktail of bacteria, skin and hair debris, viruses, fungi particles and dust all around us wherever we go.

There’s more in the air too, swirling and floating in every space on Earth. Too small to see so we don’t even think that they exist. Good germs, bad germs – so universally present it’s almost impossible to avoid them.

Only by washing them away are we momentarily safe from them – or eliminating them from the space around us, which amounts to the same thing.

Otherwise, we’re at risk, every moment of our existence.

We’ll touch something that somebody else has touched – a door handle, a light switch, a salt shaker or a phone. Next minute, because we do, we’ll touch our face and that’ll be it – bacteria will get in through our eyes or mouth – we’ve got the bug.

Yeah OK, most of the time it doesn’t happen.

Careless hygiene costs health

Our life and its surroundings are clean enough and hygienic enough for us to get away with it.

Which means we get forgetful. Careless because we’re always on the go. We don’t clean things, because they don’t look dirty. Or we get Harry casual when we do, choosing a wipe instead of a proper scrub with soap. And as for disinfecting… not even on the radar.

Want an example?

Look no further than your favourite coffee hangout.

More especially, watch the barista make your start-of-the-day cappuccino to go. See that steam pipe on the Gaggia machine? That’s to bubble the milk, give it that distinctive foam al perfetto.

Uh huh.

Now watch the J-cloth that wipes the pipe, then into the plastic jug, waiting for the next order. Watch again. Same wipe action, back to the jug. Over and over – all morning if you watch long enough.

Not exactly hygienic, right? Shouldn’t that be a fresh cloth every time? Or a tear-off paper towel?

Yet who else is watching? Not even an inspector is likely to pick that up. Unconscious habit – and so perfectly normal that nobody sees a thing.

And that’s how it happens. Sleep-walking ourselves into sickness.

A little bit of soap

Like, be honest, when was the last time you washed your hands? Before you left home? When you reached work? After you hit the loo? Before your ritual ‘cino and Danish?

Don’t worry if you feel a twinge of conscience at the last two. Most people forget either of them are so vital – a wonder we don’t fall down dead with so many germs around.

Makes you think twice about the office though, doesn’t it?

Perhaps not as safe as you think.

Especially when Harry from Sales upchucks after the staff party.

All those germs floating around. Billions and billions of them. Often only 2 microns across – small enough to fall THROUGH an unglazed terra cotta plate.

Ew! Because it only takes around ten particles of norovirus – our favourite winter vomiting bug – to infect someone. And one droplet of vomit can contain 100,000,000,000 particles.

OK, so Harry stays away – and so do you. Except it’s near the photocopier, an area you can’t avoid.

Germ defence force-field

Nae problem, your work has got you covered with a Hypersteriliser.

You go home last thing – and the chars move in, right? And last thing when they quit is press the button on the machine.

Hisssssssss!

That’s ionised hydrogen peroxide misting up the place. Penetrating everywhere through the air space and oxidising germs on the fly. Over, under, behind, through – into all the cracks and corners. Over every surface too.

Forty minutes later, the place is sterilised. No viruses, no bacteria, nothing.

Next day, Harry is safe, home in bed.

And you’re safe with your ‘cino and Danish – after a turn by the wash basin. No point taking needless chances.

Except what? No Hypersteriliser, it was only on appro?

Better book your own sickie off now, it’s only a matter of time. And get the boss to order one fast.

Because you’re going to catch it.

So’s he.

Originally posted 2016-01-12 16:27:37.

Terror in our tummies – why we keep getting ill

Woman not feeling well
Stop taking the medicine, it’s making us feel worse

You’ve probably noticed it yourself.

We’re going downhill.

Not as resilient as we were. Not as strong either. Victims of terror – a different kind to the one you see in the headlines.

Not feeling so good?

More lasting conditions and ailments. More disabilities, particularly mental or neurological. More vulnerable to disease and infection. Dwindling shadows of who we were.

Getting old? Get real, it’s happening to teenagers too.

Look around and see for yourself. How many people these days are fully able-bodied, stable and emotionally adjusted – with lasting stamina and physical capability?

Something’s wrong, somewhere

Should be the other way round, shouldn’t it?

We live better, have better food, every comfort and service to look after us.

Most visible probably is that we’re all larger than we were. Taller, more full-bodied, yes.

But also fatter. More muffin tops and waistline overflows – like if you read the reports, getting on for two-thirds of us are overweight or obese. Instant candidates for diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, asthma – a list that lengthens every day.

And it’s not just weight. We might not suffer the dread threats of typhoid, cholera or diphtheria any more – medical science has pushed them into the background.

But we have all kinds of other problems – allergies, digestive disorders, circulatory problems, pregnancies that go awry – plus stress, mental hiccups, various phobias and apprehensions – we’re not healthy at all.

What have we done? Why is this happening? Is our modern streamlined lifestyle so terrible?

Unconscious addicts

We’re all junkies is why.

Druggies without knowing it.

And like all junkies we’re going down, the price for this addiction we all unconsciously share.

Deep down in our gut, there’s a war going on. The trillions and trillions of bacteria that we are host to are under siege. Not good, because these bacteria are our lifeline. They handle our digestion, they send signals to the brain that monitor our condition, they even trigger the way our immune system kicks into action.

But little by little, so we don’t even feel it, these bacteria are getting killed. Or maimed – damaged in such a way that they don’t function properly.

Bad news for us because they’re supposed to be there. The right bacteria, in the right place, at the right time. Our first line of defence against wrong bacteria, not supposed to be there. The ones who try to take us over and kill us. The ones that modern medicine controls seeks to control with the all-singing, all-dancing wonder drugs, antibiotics.

Misfiring miracles, more like.

Because it’s antibiotics that are killing our bacteria.

No, not just the bad ones that the Doc might prescribe one-off treatment for – seven days and you’re done, feel better now?

We mean the good guys that do all our body’s heavy work for us. Every day assaulted and beaten up – microscopic victims of GBH and murder. And yes we mean every day – every moment since we were conceived in our mother’s womb and started to become human beings.

Terror in our tummies

You see, killing bacteria is what antibiotics do.

And we’ve been under constant attack by them from Day One. Not in big numbers, but in dribs and drabs – tiny amounts administered a little more with every mouthful of food we take, even the water we drink.

It shouldn’t be so, but it is.

Because, across the board, antibiotics are used to produce nearly every kind of food we eat. Meat, vegetables, milk, eggs – pretty well everything your supermarket has to offer.

They keep animals healthy, see – kind of essential when you think of the crowded and often unsanitary conditions intensive farming methods require to turn big enough profits.

Plus antibiotics fatten them up too – an unexpected money-making side effect. Bigger, stronger animals in often half the time – like as little as five weeks for a roasting chicken.

Money, money, money

Which means the food we eat is full of antibiotics, so we get them too. We’re not supposed to, but we do – despite regulations to stop it.

Just like in our own bodies, animals metabolise antibiotics over time and absorb them into their systems. A one-off dose might be gone in a couple of weeks, or certainly a couple of months. So the law says there has to be a withdrawal period free from any exposure for as long it takes to make residue levels safe for humans to eat.

But of course, time is money.

So even though authorities push for substantial safety margins, residues are NOT always down to zero. Like it or not, an itty-bitty remainder gets through – not enough to have any immediate effect, but everything mounts up.

Because, depending on the antibiotic, not all of it is digested by the animal. As much as 80% of it might be pooed out in grazing areas – to be collected and used as manure.

Plants absorb the antibiotics through the soil and pass them on to us – and because vegetable crops don’t face the same regulations that animals do, we gulp them down without knowing. Pull a potato out of the ground and chances are it’s laced with sulfamethazine.

Antibiotics everywhere

It gets worse.

Because while all animals might go through the eighteen or twenty-eight day withdrawal periods required according to the doses they’ve been given, the unsuspecting farmer has no idea what levels of antibiotics might already be in the feedstuffs he gives them. He thinks the monensin he’s given the cattle he’s earmarked for market has worked it’s way out – the level is either zero or safe.

He’s not wrong. Except the lush grass they’re grazing has been pooed out with their own manure – so is the silage made from it. There’s still monensin coming through.

On top of that, the maize they’re getting was possibly grown with ampicillin to kill the leaf spot – or in any case contains naturally occurring chloramphenicol.

Or maybe they’re fed rapeseed meal, a by-product of the hugely profitable biodiesel industry. No, they won’t get streptomycin anymore, rapeseed has become resistant to it. But how do farmers protect against soft rot (xanthomonas campestris) for this game-changing money-maker crop? High on the list is ciprofloxacin – the same stuff your Doc might prescribe for urinary tract infections or stomach disorders.

Antibiotics everywhere and the effect is snowballing.

Time to stop this terror

We’re not supposed to be on them but we are – constantly. And just like animals, we’re getting fatter, no matter what we do – no wonder two-thirds of us will be porkers by 2025 – only ten years away.

Yes, cut out the sugary drinks and fast foods, join Weight Watchers, fit a gastric band – ever wonder why none of it seems to work? There’s terror in our tummies and it’s ALL of us who are affected, not just the binge-eaters.

Looks like the sooner we get stuck into organic food the better. Either that, or we all OD on paracetamol.

Not really an option, is it?

Originally posted 2016-01-11 13:46:26.

Avoid norovirus or worse as flood waters drop

Rain girl
Just remember, germs are like raindrops but smaller – up in the air and all over the place until you get rid of them

Goodbye Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva and Frank.

You weren’t nice and we never liked you – good riddance.

Likewise storms yet to come – Gertrude, Henry, Imogen, Jake and Katie.

We know you’re coming, but don’t expect us to roll out the welcome mat. You and the rest of your Named Storms mob have done enough damage already.

The long road back

So now it’s the heartache and the clear up. Putting your life back together.

But be careful.

There’s sickness in that water – and sickness where it’s been.

Up to your ankles in the kitchen, even more in the street. With the over-run sewer system four feet below that. Which means there’s poo in that water, nothing about it is safe. And as the level goes down, that yuck is going to be everywhere.

Be safe, don’t touch it, or risk getting it on your skin. Norovirus could be lurking there – or even worse, cholera. For sure, there’s nothing healthy.

So whatever you do, wash your hands if it gets on them – or if you’ve touched anything lying in it. Norovirus spreads on contact – and it only takes a dab. You don’t want that misery on top of everything else. Cramps, runs, upchucks – no thank you.

Wash your hands properly too, this stuff is pernicious. Find yourself some hot water – as hot as you can stand – and give yourself a good going over. Soap and scrubbing brush. Under your nails and between your fingers. Like you’ve got plague on them and you can’t take chances – which if you think about it, is true.

Proper hygiene is everything

And which of course means your place will need the same treatment.

After days of immersion in poo, sweeping out the mud and hosing everything down is not going to be good enough – not even with a turbo-wash. It’ll be in the wallpaper and the plaster – in the concrete and even the bricks. Going to have to be brutal.

It’ll be UNDER the floorboards too – in the crawl space around the foundations. By the time you get to it, a kind of sludgy, gooey gunge. Norovirus in there – and all other kinds of nasties. Squirt it out if you can, possibly forcing it out through the air bricks. You don’t want the drama of ripping everything up to get rid of it.

Yes, it’s a health hazard, but if you can get rid of most of it, it’s possible to neutralise the rest with hydrogen peroxide or some other oxidising steriliser.

Misting up the under-floor gap with a Hypersteriliser is a good choice – any airborne germs will be clobbered immediately and the stuff is good at forcing itself into difficult nooks and crannies. Any viruses or bacteria it comes in contact with will be dead in around 40 minutes.

Likewise any mould. The hydrogen peroxide won’t physically get rid of it, but it will kill it dead – you can tell in two ways. It won’t be that horrible black any more, but a pale grey. And whatever smell there might be – if it’s anything organic – will have disappeared.

That hydrogen peroxide mist will work well in the rest of the house too – especially at getting rid of the smell. But remember it’s only a vapour – actually a super-vapour called a plasma, which is why it’s so effective. But it won’t physically clean or scrub, so any smells could come back when the stuff wears off after a week or so.

It pays to be thorough

To do the job properly, you’ve got to chuck away all the carpets, lino, wallpaper and plaster so you can scrub down with disinfectant right to the bare walls and floor. Your place won’t look pretty, but at least it will be safe. Mist it up again with hydrogen peroxide and chances are good any smell is gone permanently.

The no-smell thing is important, because that means any microbial action has been stopped – there are no more germs breeding in there to come and get you. If the smells come back it either means you missed a bit and the germs break through when the hydrogen peroxide wears off – or the place isn’t fully dry and mould is reforming. Another mist-up will give you a quick fix, but the real answer is to get down and dirty all over again – this time, with a more eagle eye.

Look after yourself while you do all this, because don’t forget you ARE exposing yourself to germs – and nasties like norovirus are airborne as well coating everything, so you could by mischance breathe some in. To be really safe, Public Health England have this excellent guide – useful and easy step-by-step stuff anyone can follow.

There, all done – and well done you. A real schlep, but you don’t want anyone coming down with anything serious on top of all the other setbacks.

Welcome back to the land of the living.

Originally posted 2016-01-07 16:22:45.

Dame Sally’s antibiotics nightmare just got bigger

Large girl exercising
Keep on with antibiotics and soon, we’ll all look this way

Actually, it’s not one nightmare, it’s two.

And they haven’t just happened, they’ve been growing for fifty years.

Antibiotics resistance and obesity.

Both “as dangerous as terrorism”. Exploding in slo-mo, right now.

No more miracles

Already half of our antibiotics – the miracle drugs without which modern medicine would be impossible – fail because of superbugs. And with no new “silver bullets” coming down the pipeline, any day now they’ll stop working altogether.

That’s nightmare No 1.

An unstoppable disaster caused by horrendous over-use. Not just by medicine, where antibiotics are prescribed for everything from a heart transplant to repairing a pulled fingernail. But by agriculture across the board, where antibiotics are used at industrial levels to support high intensity farming techniques.

Industrial level?

And the rest. Currently, farmers around the world are shovelling 65,000 tonnes a year into livestock and plant production, skyrocketing sharply to 108,000 tonnes by 2030.

Strictly for animal health, of course – essential to modern, high-yield, concentration camp farming, where herds and flocks breed shoulder-to-shoulder.

With shhh, the very useful side-effect that antibiotics make everything grow twice as big and twice as fast on even less feedstuff. Fattening up for market. Amazing. Growth promotion de luxe.

Which brings us to nightmare No 2.

Bigger, better, fatter

Because it’s not just animals growing fatter, faster – it’s people.

Already 64% of UK adults are classed as overweight or obese – a number that accelerates daily.

More dangerous than terrorism?

Do the math.

How many terrorist bombs would it take to destroy the lives of 13 million people? All of who are at risk of heart disease or stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, gallstones, osteoarthritis, gout and breathing problems, even asthma.

It’s not nice being fat either. So add problems with stress from ridicule, low self esteem, physical inability, possibly suicidal tendencies.

More than half of us written off from “over-eating” – if you believe the experts.

Which is when you begin to realise the real horror staring Dame Sally in the face. Professor Dame Sally Davies, that is – England’s very energetic and concerned Chief Medical Officer.

Over-eating what?

Animals fed on antibiotics to make them grow fatter, is what.

Which poop out manure to make plants grow bigger and fatter, is what too.

Plants that are also fed antibiotics anyway to keep down blight and other diseases.

Growing in soil which drains to our streams, to our rivers, to our reservoirs and into our taps.

So that EVERYTHING we eat or drink is laced with drugs to make US grow fatter, faster too.

Get ready to bulge

Fat, obese and super-obese – that’s where we’re headed. Rapidly becoming the biggest threat to human survival on the planet. And Dame Sally’s biggest ever headache.

Oh sure, SOME fatties are fat because they’re gluttons – obsessed with food so they eat themselves stupid. But even that suggests that something is wrong somewhere, that somehow their systems are glitched so they can’t help themselves.

But where does that leave the rest of us?

Are we really all victims of a sedentary lifestyle – cliché-ridden couch potatoes, scoffing fast food and sugar-laden drinks in front of the TV? That might be the media hype, but what’s the reality?

Don’t some of us eat almost nothing, tiny morsels like a bird, and still get fat? AND can’t drop the weight off, even though we work out for two hours at a time, five days a week?

How come it’s selective – that some of us are, and some of us aren’t? And how come is it that the older we become, the more at risk we seem to be?

Yeah well, it’s them antibiotics what done it.

Our background diet since before childbirth. A steady intake of fatten-you-up drugs in everything we ingest across the entire food spectrum. Absorbed for our whole lifetimes – exactly the same way as all those cows and pigs and sheep and chickens and salmon we’re so fond of.

And remember how antibiotics work – the only thing they actually do.

They kill bacteria.

Miracle drugs, sure.

Except that our bodies are bacteria too – 90% bacteria and 10% human.

And oops, down in our gut, there are upwards of 100 trillion bacteria – the welcoming committee for any antibiotics coming down the hatch. Blasted to hell and gone in the middle of digesting our food for us, producing proteins, and regulating our immune systems – exactly what our amazing bacteria do for us, every day.

The full catastrophe

Obese? Why are we surprised? Our bacteria have been killed off or graunched in the most fearful ways.

But all of our metabolisms are different, so they react differently too. No two of us are the same.

Some extract more nutrition than they need too, some less. Some fail on certain food groups. And all the while, our body resistance goes steadily more haywire, every day more vulnerable, more susceptible to infection and disease.

Allergies for instance, who ever heard of the misery we have now, fifty years ago?

Yeah, so Dame Sally is right about how to handle the antibiotics problem.

Stop everything, now.

STOP!

Start again

And find some kind of alternative food source while residual antibiotics work themselves out of the food chain. For us personally, that’s got to be grow our own at home without fertilisers – supplemented with ocean fish, not those farmed jobs.

Will it trim our waistlines? Probably not, the damage has been done, so those spare tyres are here to stay.

One thing though, without antibiotics as a safety net, we’re going to have to tighten up on our hygiene. Wash hands for everything, eliminate germs in our living space with a Hypersteriliser.

At least we’ll sleep easy with it. No more nightmares, like Dame Sally has now.

Originally posted 2016-01-06 17:35:51.

Why that festive bulge might never shift, ever

Festive inches
Slimmer and slimmer –
those chances of knocking the pounds off

It’s not exactly your fault if you can’t shift those inches. That bulge is not good.

Because you’re not normally a greedy-guts, are you?

Sure, lots of good food all at once is a temptation. Bulge-aceous bounty!

You’re not to blame for that either. We’re hard-wired to like certain tastes. And when they all arrive together we go into overload. It looks good, it smells good, it tastes good. Oops!

Goodtime overload

We don’t need all that food, but the mind is playing tricks. Without even realising it, a sensory tsunami takes us over.

Yeah we’ve eaten too much and we can feel it. Our gut feels uncomfortable.

More accurately, our friendly gut bacteria – the ones who do all the heavy lifting of digestion – send signals to the brain that we’ve had enough. They start processing like crazy – all 100 trillion of them.

But the brain’s not receiving – tripping out on ANOTHER plate of profiteroles and sherry trifle, with custard and extra cherries.

All that food on hold, waiting for digestion – nothing else for it, push it out to fat. Bulge, bulge.

Except that more and more of us are finding, we can no longer gym it off. Our bacteria aren’t able to bring our systems back to where they were before.

“It must be something we ate!”

You betcha, it is. Only we don’t know we’ve eaten it – or that we’ve been eating it steadily since knee high to a grasshopper.

No, it’s not a friendly something. But these days, it’s in pretty well everything we eat. Vegetarians might get away with lesser exposure, but ALL of us are ingesting this stuff with just about every meal we have – and most things we drink.

The bad good guys

It’s a something called antibiotics.

Yeah, the same stuff the Doc gives us when we’re ill or down with an infection.

Heavy stuff – which is why antibiotics are only ever on prescription. You see, they work by killing bacteria – the bad ones that are giving us grief. At least that’s the intention.

Trouble is, they kill a lot of good bacteria too. Down there in our gut, where our 100 trillion friends are hard at it – digesting our food, producing protein, regulating our immune systems. Kinda like an atom bomb going off in a busy shopping mall. Lots of dead, even more injured – collateral damage.

Which means all of a sudden, our systems stop work properly. Digestion goes loopy, protein production goes iffy – and our immune systems are out on the fritz.

Except this is not a one-off prescription job. This has been happening all our lives. Little bit, by little bit – drip, drip, drip. Even back in the womb, before we were born.

Nightmare, huh? How can this be happening?

Double-edged miracle

Because back half a century ago when antibiotics were first discovered, a bunch of farmers found out it could make things grow bigger and faster too – plants, animals. Ready for market in half the time – and at half the cost.

Result? Antibiotics are used to grow EVERYTHING.

Right now, today, 65,000 tonnes of the stuff is shovelled into agriculture around the world – set to skyrocket to 108,000 tonnes by 2030.

Uh huh.

Sure the medics are worried about it – Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer in particular. Over-use of antibiotics is as big a threat as terrorism, she says. A new Dark Age will soon be upon us.

Except that Dame Sally is alarmed at the medical issue, not the bigger time bomb. About how antibiotics are starting to fail because bacteria are becoming immune to them. Frightening, yes – but somehow like rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic.

Because so far there’s not a word about the effect continuous ingestion of antibiotics has on our bodies. About what happens as damaged bacteria mutate and mutate – doing less of the jobs they were created for and veering off in unthinkable directions.

The medical meltdown – bacteria failure

People getting fatter and fatter?

Predictable, yes – that’s what farmers feed antibiotics to cattle for, to fatten them up for market. Which is how come obesity rates are 20% higher than they were 50 years ago.

And why the fat disease, diabetes, is on the up.

Animals eat the antibiotics, we eat the animals, the antibiotics fatten us too.

All the time remembering, of course, that nobody WANTS to be fat. It’s neither normal nor natural for the body to gorge itself.

That two-ton Tessie you see chugging Coke and a pile of chips has no idea it’s her bacteria on the fritz that are driving her to do that. She’s forced to believe those cruel barbs that she has no control, she’s doing it to herself.

Dame Sally thinks the same – she even wants a tax on fat passengers in aircraft. Bacteria failure has never occurred to her.

Meanwhile forget antibiotics resistance, we’re looking at a real medical meltdown.

Fatness, obesity, diabetes, heart failure, cancer – and all the other defects that happen as our systems chase phantoms. There’s no typhoid or cholera to fight any more, no Black Death or TB – so the body invents false alarms – dreaming up allergies to milk, nuts, proteins, coeliac disease. We just don’t know what’s hit us.

We have reduced resistance too, just as the bad bacteria are strengthening theirs. We’re becoming weaklings without even knowing it. £50 a month at the gym might slow it down, but we’re all of us on the slippery slope.

Fight back, keep clean

Only one thing for it. Be prepared. Wash your hands every chance you get, so no germs can get into your system, you never get sick.

If you’re worried about keeping your living area safe as well, eliminate germs with a Hypersteriliser. Stay out of trouble and nothing can touch you.

So yes, good luck if you shake off that “temporary” bulge, New Year’s Resolution or not.

Will power is all very well, but it won’t be your fault if it’s weak.

Originally posted 2016-01-05 19:12:12.

Which gift will be yours: cramps, runs or barfs?

Santa doctor
Nobody wants to be ill at this time of year – wash your hands and you should be fine

Yay, festive season!

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.

Second nasty

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.

Seasons greetings!

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.

Go well, and don’t over-eat!

Originally posted 2015-12-18 13:54:20.

Why that super-fit bod is going to get fat

Fortune teller
The future’s not looking good – unless we act NOW

Not healthy, right?

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.

Fat pills

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.

Pincer threat

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.

Gonna be a long, hard road though.

The only way to a strong, fit bod involves sweat.

Originally posted 2015-12-17 15:46:16.

Obese? Surprise, surprise – we’re all on fatteners

Sad and fat
You never asked to be big –
it’s not your fault either

The do-gooders are always telling us.

The ones who aren’t fat themselves – yet.

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?

One word – antibiotics.

Not for medicine or fighting disease, but for shovelling into farm animals.

Because it made them grow faster. Bigger, fatter, quicker.

Sound familiar?

Exactly what’s happening to us. Bulking up from chemicals that force our gut bacteria to absorb more calories, the root cause of obesity.

BANG! Jackpot!

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.

Today, round the world, agricultural use of antibiotics tops 65,000 tons a year.

And right there, we’re screwed.

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.

Yeah, right.

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.

Avoidance

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?

Originally posted 2015-12-16 16:55:00.

Why we’re all antibiotics junkies and it’s killing us

Beautiful mouthful
Open wide. Your next antibiotic fix is ready

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.

Uh huh.

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.

Thermo-nuclear tummy

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.

Yeah, antibiotics. Think they won’t kill us?

They’re already doing that.

Originally posted 2015-12-15 16:33:55.

Obesity, Dame Sally? But fast food is our lifeline!

Before and after
It’s not what you eat –
it’s what you don’t know you eat

Yeah, we’re all fat – and getting fatter.

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.

Antibiotics… again

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.

Wha..?

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.

Double the size in half the time – Jackpot Two.

And there’s antibiotics in plant crops too. Streptomycin for peas and beans, tetracycline for wheat – both of them in all kinds of fruit.

Nor does it stop there.

They’re everywhere

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.

Nobody’s fault

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.

Action steps

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.

Shredded newspaper, anyone?

Originally posted 2015-12-11 16:20:45.