Tag Archives: microbiota

GM foods? It’s antibiotics that really harm your gut

Cynical cook
How do you like it that there’s gut-ripping, balance-upsetting, body-fattening antibiotics in every mouthful you take?

GM foods don’t look like Frankenfoods.

In fact they look pretty normal. Switch to organic to avoid them yes, but why?

Yeah, we’re worried about them, but that hasn’t stopped us fiddling around with breeding things. Have done for pretty well always.

Messing with genetics

Rose-growers regularly do it to breed a champion variety. And look what we’ve done with dogs. No, that cute Jack Russell hasn’t evolved from wolves directly, it was bred that way. So was the Maltese poodle – and the Chinese crested dog.

Let’s be honest, humans have been meddling with how things grow for millions of years. So why all the hoo-hah about genetically modified foods when the meat and vegetables we’re already eating are dramatically different to how they were even 100 years ago?

And really, what’s wrong with wheat or maize that can withstand weeds, doesn’t rot when it rains, doesn’t get attacked by insects, and grows stronger and richer because of how it was propagated?

Ah, because now it’s additives and chemicals – and we worried about what they do. Tampering with DNA, our children are going to grow up zombies. And what about harmful antibiotic-resistant bacteria present in the same foods?

We swallow them, no telling what diseases we could end up with. We’re all going to die – ARGH!

Well, yes – except why haven’t we done it already? Pegged off and gone to the Happy Eating Place in the sky? No health hazards in paradise.

Which is really the issue, isn’t it? The possible health hazards.

Unseen, unrecognised risks

Believe us, they’re there alright, and way more dangerous than anything to do with GM. They attack our gut and whole body system, inflicting damage to affect us for years. Yes, they could kill us – and yet nobody really recognises they’re there – not the Food Standards Agency, not the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the British Medical Association, nobody.

Unregulated, uncontrolled, unmonitored, but present in nearly everything we eat – we’re talking about antibiotics.

Antibiotics doing damage? Better believe it. For a start they work by killing bacteria. Not so bad when they’re used against infections on the skin. But sheer havoc when they work internally in our gut.

As medics are now starting to take note, hundreds of trillions of bacteria live naturally down there. A harmonious partnership in which they do the heavy lifting of digestion, protein production and immune system control – while we look cool and do important stuff, like choosing which TV programme to watch next.

Enter, the killers

Drop in continuing mouthfuls of killer antibiotics and it’s like a series of mortar bombs going off – destroying whole families of vital bacteria with every hit – shrinking our gut diversity, massacring our valuable microbiota wholesale, leaving us less able to withstand attacks from other bacteria outside – often invincible because they’ve become antibiotic resistant.

Not what you thought antibiotics did?

OK, so the Doc prescribes them for whatever sickness you have and they go to work quickly to kill the bad guys – blow up their whole house and everybody in it. Along with the innocent folk next door on both sides and several places down the block, all the passers-by, and the several coach-loads of others in the street because it’s mealtime and there’s digesting work to be done.

Except we’re not talking about one-off medical doses here. We’re on about the constant onslaught of small amounts, the never-ending attrition of bacteria-killing antibiotics in everything we eat.

And we mean everything.

Our daily super-fatteners

For decades now, farmers have been adding antibiotics to livestock feed because it speeds up their growth – bigger, better in half the time.

And that’s on top of the GM-accelerated content in exactly the same feed  – which itself also has antibiotics in it from the 80 – 90% drug-laden residues pooed out as manure.

Still don’t believe it?

Here’s a study about antibiotics in maize and other crops used as animal feed, like soya. It demonstrates “that the antibiotic chloramphenicol occurs naturally in straw and maize. This antibiotic is prohibited in the EU for use in food-producing animals.”

Want more? This stuff is not just laced through from manure, here’s the FAO background on why maize among other crops is deliberately treated with oxytetracycline and streptomycin – control against white spot.

If you still want proof, look at your own waistline. Bigger is it, since 5 years ago? Heading steadily upwards to Size 16?

Don’t be surprised, with every mouthful we’re ingesting mini-doses of the same stuff that farmers use to make their animals bigger. We’re getting fatter because a regular diet of antibiotics is driving us to it – so that two-thirds of us are now overweight according to Public Health England.

Of course we are, we’re pigging out all the time on agriculture’s No 1 growth booster!

Not good for any of us

Which means we’re at risk from all the disorders that getting fat brings – type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, asthma, take your pick.

Take a look at your own kids too. Like the rest us, they’re probably chubbier as well. And how about your daughter? Don’t you think it’s strange that she’s developing so early – a woman at 10 years old and already into puberty?

So, GM foods – are they really that bad?

Not alongside antibiotics, they’re not. And they’re not the reason for switching to organic, either.

Antibiotics are. And the sooner we switch, the better. To something all natural, we hope – no additives or whatever, grown with “uncontaminated” fertiliser.

Because like it or not, our food is killing us.

Picture Copyright: zurijeta / 123RF Stock Photo

Gut feel says Dame Sally is right – and it IS all BS

Woman with tummy trouble
Our defences are down – so we need better hygiene

Nannying, yes. But Dame Sally is absolutely right.

And the proof is in our own gut – our gastrointestinal tracts.

Down there, where more than 100 trillion of our own body bacteria are hard at work, providing the life force by which we are who we are – the essence of every one of us.

Our microbiota reality

Our bacteria are possibly the most important body component of all – more than the brain, the heart, the lungs, or any of the rest of us. Simply because, without them we wouldn’t exist. No digestion, no energy, no power, no immunity, no emotion, no opportunity to think – the OS software to drive the body machine.

Pretty vital, right? But already under very serious threat.

Because to fulfil all those functions and enable the many thousands more that we’re capable of, the nature of those bacteria needs to be as diverse as possible – an app for every life eventuality and challenge, our body’s answer to everything.

Great, but nothing like as resilient or all-capable as it was. In the last 50 years, the biodiversity of our internal bacteria has dropped by 30%. Not as many varieties, not as many in each category, whole swathes of them killed off and gone.

Result, we’re not what we were – underperforming 30%. Not so well regulated or running so smooth. Prone to glitches and weaknesses. Out of adjustment and out of balance. Less able to resist hostile bacteria from outside. Liable to infection. Drifting out of control.

All this from bacteria? All they do is eat, right? So how come?

When things go wrong

Ah, but it’s what they eat and how they eat it – and whether they do or don’t. Whether that’s the right thing to do, or something’s not happening because they’re not there anymore.

Like the bacteria that react to taste and hunger satisfaction.

When the body needs energy, the taste boys trigger the brain – and we start lusting after food to suit, whatever the need is. Carbohydrates one way, protein another – which the brain translates into chocolate cake or burger and chips, according to our food experience.

Likewise, when we’ve had enough, the hunger satisfaction boys pull the plug. We’ve eaten, there’s fuel in the tank, we’re good to go for the next few hours.

So what happens if these two glitch? The taste boys go berserk for Coke, bacon sarnies and endless indulgence. The hunger satisfaction boys switch off altogether – can’t be bothered, or can’t remember what they’re supposed to be doing.

Whoops – binge eating. Gobbling mindlessly because we’re out of control. Noshing for the sake of it. Addicted to taste rewards and stopping at nothing to get it. Meal times, snacks in between, constant nibbles – a one-way ticket to obesity. Not a conscious thing in the mind, but compulsion by the body.

All because our bacteria are not all there, or not functioning properly. Dead and gone or missing and damaged.

So what kills bacteria, or graunches them like this?

Enter, the killer

Nothing less than the miracle drugs that have changed modern medicine.

Antibiotics – the phenomenon that has made the impossible possible – heart transplants, brain surgery, hip replacements, everything. And they’re used for everything too, the magic muti that people demand for even the slightest ailment – even against viruses, where they never work. Little Jimmy’s got the flu, give him some streptomycin.

Use and over-use, de luxe.

Er, they also make things grow – faster, bigger, better – bulking up to twice the size in less than half the time.

Sixty-five years of continuous use and farmers are using 65,000 tonnes of the stuff every year. Shovelling antibiotics into livestock, poultry, fish, plants and grain crops like there’s no tomorrow. Millions and millions and MILLIONS of examples that antibiotics promote growth.

But hang on a moment, that’s the stuff that WE eat! If they’re full of antibiotics, that means we must be too. We eat them, it’s their fattening growth promoter that winds up in OUR stomachs.

Nah, nah! Got it all wrong mate. The authorities know about residual antibiotics, so every farmers keeps a withdrawal log to show when he stops dosing them, ready for market. The stuff metabolises into the animal’s system – ten days or two weeks, we’re jake – no antibiotics.

Yeah, right

Which with respect to Dame Sally, is where the BS comes in – and we do mean cow-poo.

Yeah OK, all those animals go through withdrawal. But like they’ve done all their lives, they generate poo by the ton. Beef cattle for instance excrete between 80 – 90% of the nutrients they consume. Along with a lot of the antibiotics they’ve noshed too.

Some of that poo gets processed and fed back to them again – it’s still got lots of nutrients, why not?

And cow-poo makes manure – which fertilises the grass they eat, and a whole stack of cash plant crops too. Including maize meal, corn, rapeseed and sugar beet, which cows get to eat as well – many of these crops also boosted by their own antibiotic growth promoters or blight defence.

You can see where this is going.

The farmer might pull the antibiotics his cows get – they’re still mainlining on the stuff coming through in the crops grown to feed them. BS from start to finish – animals and plants are still full of antibiotics – and we keep eating them, three meals a day, every day from child-birth on up.

Double whammy

OK, Dame Sally, that’s TWO sources of antibiotics everyone has. The medical one, dosed up when sickness strikes, but often silly stuff as well. And the food one, with a residual dose coming through in everything we eat – the water too, because the cattle run-off flows into the streams.

Yup, they’re right there in the Thames – trimethoprim, oxytetracycline, ciprofloxacin and all your other favourites. How do you like them apples – which, by the way are also routinely sprayed with streptomycin and oxytetracycline?

Uh huh.

So now you expect the standard rant about antibiotics resistance and how medicine faces a crisis.

Sorry Dame Sally, but we’re out of our heads about much worse than that.

First off, the obesity epidemic that already has two-thirds of adult Brits overweight and at risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and all the others. The cows were overweight, so we are too – in a slow-motion epidemic that will take decades – quite different from the rapid-fire flu disaster of 1918, or the months-long onset of AIDS.

Second, the lowered resistance and defence capability of our internal bacteria. We’re 30% more susceptible to illnesses and disease – along with unexplained malfunctions in all parts of the body, allergies, deficiencies and other types of failure – probably autism and mental issues too.

And that’s why you’re right to nanny us, Dame Sally. Why we should carry tissues, wash our hands, drink tea not wine and step away from the Jammie Dodger. We’re more at risk than we’ve ever been.

Because in our biologically impaired and deficient state, we’re more likely to catch germs and fall sick, more likely to go off the rails eating the wrong stuff, more likely to wind up in hospital.

As you’ve said yourself, many times, Dame Sally – we need to tighten up on the way we care for ourselves – we need to rediscover hygiene.

Up our game, or else…

And as the pace of this crisis accelerates, that means way more than hand washing. It means the living space around us too. Janitorial companies make a lot of noise about deep cleaning to get rid of germs. But it’s not just surfaces that need attention, it’s the very air around us too.

Viruses and bacteria are so microscopically small, they’re most of the time airborne. Which is why we need a Hypersteriliser – to mist up the air with ionised hydrogen peroxide so that everything is sterilised, safe. Our internal bacteria are safe – the external ones are all oxidised to nothing.

Yeah, we gotcha Dame Sally.

The BS stops here.

Once ALL antibiotics go phut, what do we do?

Helpless doctor2
When the drugs don’t work and your system is down, better be seriously careful
with your hygiene

You take the pill, you swallow, it does absolutely nothing.

The Doc changes your meds, and gives you a shot.

Still nothing.

You’re going downhill fast and this bogey is gonna get you.

Miracle drugs failure

Because when antibiotics don’t work – and they’re beginning not to Big Time – there’s not a lot medicine is able to do.

Why DON’T they work?

Shoulda listened to the heavies when they warned us years ago.

Overuse of antibiotics has triggered an unstoppable wave of antimicrobial resistance – superbugs immune to whatever we throw at them. Already there are some that are resistant to ALL antibiotics. Soon that will be the norm. The cupboard is bare. No more miracle drugs to save us from expiry

As Sir Liam Donaldson – England’s Chief Medical Officer before our charismatic Dame Sally Davies – said back in March 2009, “Every antibiotic expected by a patient, every unnecessary prescription written by a doctor, every uncompleted course of antibiotics, and every inappropriate or unnecessary use in animals or agriculture is potentially signing a death warrant for a future patient.”

In other words STOP USING ANTIBIOTICS.

Not good if you’re already on the slippery slope.

But sound advice considering the damage that antibiotics have done.

Double-edged swords

Damage? Aren’t they supposed to be life-savers?

Once upon a time, yes. But that show left town.

You see, antibiotics work by killing bacteria. Which means round about now they’ve been killing bacteria inside our bodies for sixty-five years.

Not wrong, but oops!

We may not know it, but down in our gut, our bodies are home to several hundred trillion bacteria. They outnumber our human cells by more than 10:1 – and as we’re starting to learn more and more, they’re absolutely essential for our survival.

Because it seems they’re not just along for the ride, they do important things that affect our whole bodies. Like handle digestion, produce proteins, regulate our immune system – even shift our emotions and define our habits. And every single one of us has a unique combination of bacteria, as individual as fingerprints.

Plus this microbiota, as researchers call it, is not just any old bunch of bacteria. To keep us healthy it has as wide a diversity as possible – biological experience and instructions for protecting the body, keeping it in tune, and repelling invaders.

Yeah, so?

At war with our gut

For sixty-five years we’ve been throwing antibiotics at it – every time an atom bomb of killing in our gastrointestinal tract. Bad bacteria destroyed, yes – and a whole lot of beneficial ones as well.

Amazingly, our microbiota usually manages to recover. A bit wobbly maybe, to be expected with several million vital bits knocked out. Which kinda explains why it never QUITE gets back to normal.

Bad news for our kids, because they can only go with what we pass on to them. Assaulted by antibiotics on prescription maybe ten times by the time we’re sixteen.

And ALSO drip, drip every single day from the residual antibiotics we ingest from food – more and more and more – because antibiotics are a major growth promoter for livestock and plant crops, so farmers have used them on an industrial scale for the last sixty-five years.

Uh huh.

Which goes to explain why our bodies’ biodiversity is 30 per cent lower than it was 50 years ago. 30% less able to do all the things they used to be able to do, 30% less resilient, 30% more prone to infections and diseases.

Not helped at all by our lazy couch-potato lifestyle, our sugar-laden diet of processed convenience foods, or the fat we put on thanks to antibiotics bulking us up like pigs ready for market.

Yeah, so we get ill with something, bad enough to need an antibiotic – and the things don’t work. Plus our resistance is down 30% from where it should be. What the heck do we do now?

In the poo

Strangely enough, being in the crapper is one answer.

We’re in trouble because our microbiotas are under-powered, right? No miracle drugs to rescue us, and our internal bacteria are under fire.

OK, so first, send in reinforcements – healthy bacteria from someone who is perfectly hale and hearty. Backup and restore in the shape of a poo pill or poo transfer. Because believe it or not, FMT or faecal microbiota transplants are fast becoming an effective way to restore the gut imbalances that make us ill.

In the clear

Next, avoid getting ill in the first place. Steer clear of germs and get rid of them when they threaten.

Which means back to soap and water – washing our hands before and after every activity that could cause trouble – always before food, and always after the loo.

And keeping germs out of our indoor living space too – where we work, where we eat and sleep, where we get together. All easily neutralised with a Hypersteriliser – by a hydrogen peroxide mist that oxidises all viruses and bacteria to nothing on every surface and throughout the air – safe, sterile and secure.

Antibiotics?

Yeah, still a problem for major surgery where infection control is vital.

But for everyday living – as long as we’re careful, we don’t need them.

 

 

The antibiotic price-tag – wash your hands, or land up in hospital

Rush to AandE
Better believe it, unwashed hands can kill you

Old wives’ tale. Rubbish. A little dirt never hurt anyone.

Your parents probably think that. And certainly their parents did.

Life was different back then. No mobiles. Only two stations on the telly. Central heating only for the rich. No 4x4s to take you to school.

Not like the old days

Yeah – and your parents’ parents’ parents had no hot water, no bathroom, only an outside loo. You did your business on the long drop in the freezing cold.

Washing your hands was a mission back then. Put the kettle on, fill the basin – just to wash your hands? Wipe them off with a damp cloth, stop wasting gas. Nobody ever got ill from it.

Yeah, right. They just died a lot earlier.

But you’ve got to admit, they were pretty hardy.

Their metabolisms were different is why. But not like they were Martians or we are aliens. Their bodies were exposed to wider environments – more outdoors, hands on, getting down and dirty. They grew up with it, their bacteria growing accustomed to it, it was the norm.

Are we aliens?

Wait a minute. Their BACTERIA?

Sure, sure. In those days they never knew it, but all human bodies are full of bacteria, whole colonies growing on our skin, in our mouths – and most especially, in our gut. More than 100 trillion of them, outnumbering our own human cells 10 to 1. A human microbiota that is more microbial than human – perhaps we ARE aliens after all.

OK, so these bacteria don’t just sit there. The body outsources all kinds of functions to them – digesting food and breaking out its nutrients, powering our immune systems, providing the muscle for tissue repair.

Yeah, there’s bad guys in there too – harmful pathogens that could bring us down. Small in numbers though, and smart enough to keep quiet. One false move and the good guys will either fight them or eat them.

Note that word smart.

Adapt and survive

Exactly what bacteria are. Because these remarkable creations are able to adapt and change to new conditions faster than anything else on the planet. Twenty minutes can breed a whole new generation – with new strengths, new skills, generating advanced enzymes to meet the new challenges.

Dirt in the system? They grew up with it, recognised it, know how to deal with it. Food not properly washed or cooked? No problem – they came from a long line of heroes with cast-iron stomachs.

Yeah, they knew upsets, what gut problems were really like. Where do you think names like Montezuma’s Revenge, traveller’s dysentery, Delhi belly, or back door sprint came from? They just manned up and ignored it, the stuff of Empire-building. “No guts, no glory” was how they lived.

Our own stomachs are more sensitive – not just from different lifestyles, the food we eat is no longer the same. Take norovirus – until 1968, it didn’t exist. Named after an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis at a school in Norwalk, Ohio,  it’s now every cruise ship operator’s nightmare.

The double-edged sword

Didn’t they eat the same food back then, same as 100 years earlier? Wasn’t beef, beef – and pork, pork? We’re not SO different.

Yeah, but what about antibiotics? Our food is NOT the same.

In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, but it took till 1942 to develop it, the first patient being treated for streptococcal septicaemia. By 1950, antibiotics were motoring big time – not in medicine, but in agriculture. To bulk up animals for market – beef, lamb, pork, chicken – all the popular meat types.

Today, half the antibiotics in use world-wide are in food production – 63,151 tons in 2010, to rise by 67% in 2030.

Half a century of industrial-scale usage means that traces of antibiotics are now in all of us – directly from the food we eat, and from the recycled waste. Even vegetarians will find them in their systems.

Use and abuse

It gets worse. Because antibiotics have been overused in medicine too. The miracle cure-all, patients clamour for it for everything from minor ailments up. By the time they’re 20, the average teenager might have been prescribed with antibiotics at least 10 times.

And have you any idea what antibiotics do to the human system?

Sure, they clobber harmful bugs – if they haven’t already become resistant (we’re coming to that).

And how do they do this?

By killing bacteria.

Er… But that means us, doesn’t it? Aren’t we 90% bacteria?

Boomitsdabomb!

Yes we are. So you can imagine the effect of antibiotics in the gut with over 100 trillion bacteria all round – like a thermo-nuclear bomb.

OK, so they take out the bad guys – clobber them to nothing. But a lot of innocent bacteria get hit too. Dead or impaired, no longer able to fulfil their vital roles. Collateral damage.

Want proof?

Ever been on antibiotics and you’ve had side effects?

Stomach cramps? Vomiting? Diarrhoea? Hello, clostridium difficile.

And that’s just for starters.

Oh sure, the immediate side effects are not too bad – the medics’ perspective of course, probably not yours.

But every treatment tears into your bacteria community a little more. The bounce-back is a little less each time. A little less, a little less – you and your children and your children’s children. Fifty years of antibiotic onslaught and our microbiota are not anywhere near the same.

All change

The balance has shifted – all of a sardine we face uphill we’ve never faced before, even a generation ago. Our bacteria is different, different breeds with different behaviour, our immune systems are different, our bodies are different.

Some blame it on diet, on lifestyle, on health and fitness levels – but messing with our bacterial balance is probably more the root cause than any other.

Where does our body balance start? As we’re starting to discover, in our gut. And we’re more sensitive than we were. After fifty years of bombardment, absolutely on a hair trigger.

Why suddenly obesity – a major chunk of the population overweight? Where from Type 2 diabetes, like it’s becoming an epidemic? We’ve messed around with our bacteria – and now we’re paying the price.

But bacteria adapt remember? They change to meet all challenges. Which is why they’re becoming resistant, mutating to cope with this continual onslaught.

Clostridium difficile? Staphylococcus aureus? They’re both impervious to antibiotics without getting clever – and you can bet they’ll find a way to get round being clever too, before too long.

Back to basics – soap and water

All of which comes back to washing your hands, believe it or not.

We’re not the same as we were – our systems are different, our defences are different and our resilience is different. We can’t take chances with random bacteria like our grandparents used to – see how quickly norovirus or something strikes as soon as our hygiene gets forgetful.

And what? If you get sick, you want to take antibiotics for it?

Whoops.

Already the docs are aware so many antibiotics don’t work. And the underlying damage has been done too. So if you do get ill, there ain’t no medicine for it, you’ve just got to take your chances.

Which means don’t get ill in the first place. None of us can afford to.

But there’s still one thing we can do – and it works.

Wash your hands.