It took guts to dump the EU – now we need guts again to dump antibiotics

Fighting woman
Time to get tough and take hard decisions

Dump? As in “get rid of?” We can’t be serious, antibiotics save lives. We’d literally be dead without them!

We’ll be dead with them too – after long, slow, lingering illnesses.

Just like the EU – all milk and honey right now, but a disastrous train smash down the line.

Nobody wants to accept it, even our health gurus look like they’re in denial. But the evidence is shoved in our faces every day – antibiotics are a Jekyll and Hyde monster.

Because, yes, antibiotics do save lives. Modern medicine would be impossible without them. Miracles like heart transplants, hip replacements and caesarean births – sorry, can’t be done any more.

The mega-downside

It’s a hell of a lot to lose.

But a hell of a lot worse if we don’t dump antibiotics right now – and start actively hunting alternatives.

You see, while all the miracle-making has been grabbing headlines and saving thousands from certain fatality, the dark side of antibiotics has been creeping up, and is already threatening millions.

We need to dump them like the plague.

Which is exactly the kind of damage that antibiotics are doing. And it takes guts to realise it – because that’s where it’s happening – in your gut and ours, in everyone’s on the planet.

Down there, in our tummies, where digestion takes place. Low-profile background antibiotics at work. Not like the triple-whammy intravenous super heroes. Or the local dab-on-skin trouble-shooters.

Killers at work

Out of sight, out of mind, these guys are killers too – because that’s what antibiotics do, they kill bacteria. And by being in our tummies, they kill some of our own gut bacteria, the vital friendly kind that handle digestion, produce proteins, manage our immune systems and a thousand other chores.

They don’t just kill, they maim. Cause our bacteria to malfunction.

One thing they do is switch off our appetite control – we never know when we’ve had enough, so we overeat a lot of the time.

The other thing is to bump up food absorption – we extract more nutrients than our systems are meant to, making us fatter and fatter.

It’s not our food that does this – the burgers, pizza and chicken so many of us like so much. It’s the antibiotics IN our food – so we eat two helpings instead of one, with double ice cream afterwards, and a mega-Coke, just to be sure.

The proof is in our bulging waistlines – two-thirds of us are bigger than at any time in our history, already overweight or clinically obese – unwanted extra pounds that we’ve never had before.

Over-absorption

Demonised junk food maybe, but even our esteemed Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, has not totally rejected pizza. Just a nibble from a smaller portion perhaps – as recommended by the Department of Health.

A miniscule taste of spinach and mushroom on a whole-wheat base – no challenge at all to a slim and trim athletic figure. No, not pizza, not junk food, not couch potato lifestyle, none of the current bogeys.

It’s over-eating and over-absorption that’s the problem. With over-absorption sneaking up on an increasing number of us unawares. Which means Dame Sally is right when she identifies obesity as a threat on par with terrorism.

Actually, it’s worse. Several million times worse.

Terrorism plus-plus

It might be hard to believe judging from headlines around the world, but UK deaths from terrorism currently average the same as from bees, just 5 a year.   Yes, shockingly, world-wide terrorist casualties for 2014 reached a grisly 32,658 – about the same as Europe-wide road accidents.

Against that, obesity-linked diseases are projected at 38,500 new cases of cancer a year by 2035 – plus 4.62 million new cases of type 2 diabetes, and 1.63 million cases of coronary heart disease. That’s a staggering 7.6 million of us – roughly 10% of the nation – way worse than terrorism.

So how do we know it’s antibiotics that fatten us? And how do they get into our food?

Quite simply, from the 240,000 tonnes of antibiotics the world uses every year – around 70-80% of them shovelled into commercial farming livestock, to stabilise intensive factory-farm production AND perform as growth boosters.

For the last 50 years farming has been revolutionised by the phenomenal effect antibiotics have in accelerating growth in farm animals. Added to livestock feed in small doses every day, their performance is astounding. From egg to full-grown roasting chicken in 6 weeks. From calf to Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak in 16 months instead of four years.

All in the poo

But animals are only the beginning. Though they fatten up amazingly, they still dump around 80% of the nutrients they eat as dung.  Cow pats rich in nutrients, supplements, vaccines and antibiotics – which are all collected and used as manure – prized “all-natural” fertiliser for all kinds of plant crops – grains, vegetables, fruit, and of course feedstuffs.

So whatever it is we’re eating, “re-cycled” antibiotics are already in our food chain. Chomped down unwittingly in small doses with every meal, just like the animals. Proven growth boosters administered in exactly the same way – yet health authorities are either in denial, or don’t want to know, that they are the trigger for our obesity.

Obesity that becomes our death sentence – more and more of us crowding in on the NHS – fading from the scene, losing our grip, heading for a feet-first exit.

Like the plague

Yeah, dump antibiotics. Dump them like the plague.

Dump them before there aren’t many of us left.

Sure it takes guts, knowing that they can’t save us after an accident, or keep us alive in major surgery. We’ll just have to bump our hygiene to compensate. Give those germs less and less of a chance to get at us.

Even sterilise our environment to reduce illnesses picked up from each other – the flu that goes around the office, or something more serious – easy enough with a hydrogen peroxide mister.

We know that dumping wins.

We just have to keep at it.

Picture Copyright: fotofreaks / 123RF Stock Photo

Will your doctor give you cancer?

Doctor with capsule
Antibiotics might save lives quick – they can also trigger a long, slow death

Oh no, cancer! We’ve got to be kidding, right?

Doctors are there to save lives, not threaten them.

True. And more dedicated, committed professionals you could never find anywhere.

Except our own cleverness is catching up- with us.

Especially with antibiotics.

Deadly to bacteria, in more ways than one

We think of them as lifesavers – and yes, they are. Without antibiotics, most of modern medicine would be near impossible – particularly surgical procedures.

Heart bypasses and joint replacements might be routine, but without antibiotics to control infection they couldn’t even be attempted.

Medical miracles, it’s amazing what antibiotics have enabled us to do.

But the gleam is fading.

Fifty years after they were first discovered, they’re showing a major downside. Increasingly, bacteria are mutating to neutralise their effect – the germs that can kill us are becoming immune. Unstoppable.

Over-use and abuse

Totally our fault of course.

We have these magic silver bullets – so of course we use them everywhere. Doctors know they’re potent and need care, which is why all antibiotics are on prescription. But we’re so hyped up about these amazing cure-alls, we demand them for everything.

Which puts us on the cliff edge – about to plunge backwards, more than a hundred years. If antibiotics don’t work any more, what do we do then?

It’s a growing headache – which England’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Dame Sally Davies, puts on the same scale as the threat of terrorism. People are going to die because antibiotics don’t work any more – and doctors are powerless to prevent it.

But not quite yet.

Not all antibiotics are powerless against germs, even though some germs have evolved to be resistant to ALL antibiotics. If we can curb our massive over-use, we stand a fighting chance.

Which is why Dame Sally and the whole medical profession are constantly campaigning to limit antibiotic use.

A monumental uphill battle. Thanks to patient pressure, one in four of all prescriptions for antibiotics written in the UK is unnecessary. Minor ailments are sledge-hammer blitzed when ordinary paracetamol would be more than effective.

Or even a nice, restorative cup of tea – our grandparents knew a thing or two.

But medical over-use is only the tip of the iceberg.

Every year, over FOUR HUNDRED TONNES of antibiotics are shovelled into livestock up and down the country together with their regular feed.

Big profits drive this – the farmers’ rolling jackpot. Because the name of the game in agriculture is that antibiotics promote growth.

They bulk up animals and plants to twice the size in half the time – often even quicker. From egg to supermarket chicken in six weeks  – or more amazingly, calves for quality beef are market-ready between 3 and 16 weeks.

Fat Pills

Forget medical cures, the big plus with antibiotics is they MAKE THINGS GROW FAT.

So while we’ve been swallowing pills to make us better, farmers have been shoving them in to make animals bigger. On an industrial scale – think ship-building or trucks.

And they’ve been doing it for over fifty years – accelerating over the last twenty. Billions and billions of cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry and fish. Billions and billions of tonnes of fruit, vegetables and grain crops. Our entire food spectrum at the supermarket.

Which means everything we’ve been eating for the last twenty years has included proven growth promoters – through antibiotics added DIRECTLY to animal feed, or RESIDUAL quantities acquired via manure and soil enrichment.

Hello obesity

So guess what? WE’RE GETTING FAT TOO. Two thirds of us are already overweight and lurching towards serious medical problems.

Down in our gut, where our personal bacteria thrive, digesting our food and maintaining our systems, antibiotics have disturbed the natural balance that controls our appetite – putting our pedal to the metal in ghrelin production, the hormone that tells us to eat, eat, eat.

Result?

Crucial bacteria are destroyed or damaged, encouraging the growth of enterobacteriaceae, the obesity pathogen. And we’re up to our necks in an obesity epidemic – which according to Dame Sally is ALSO as dangerous as terrorism.

Makes you fat, makes you ill

And that’s where the cancer comes in. From the ciprofloxacin given to you by your doctor.

It might have cured your chest infection – but could also be the spur that tips your gut bacteria over the edge, wiping out whole families of useful and friendly bacteria, allowing enterobacteriaceae to thrive.

You may not have started fat, but along with the other trace antibiotics you eat daily with every meal, it’s so easy to bulk up. Size, 16, size 18 – jump-starting your way to obesity.

And obesity triggers not only cancer, but heart disease, diabetes, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, gout and asthma. Better watch your diet very carefully now – you can’t undo the damage or replace the missing bacteria, but you can avoid the slippery slope.

Illness avoidance

Priority One, avoid antibiotics as much as you can. Difficult when they’re in everything you eat, but you can REDUCE your intake. Organic vegetables as far as possible – they’re less likely to be grown from enriched manure – and deep ocean fish like cod and haddock, the ones they CAN’T farm.

Priority Two, avoid germs, so you don’t need antibiotics. Wash your hands whenever you think of it – certainly before food and after the loo. They might LOOK clean, but you can’t see viruses or bacteria – sometimes as small as 2 microns across, they’re difficult even with a microscope.

But they’re there, always – nano-dirt you can’t see, just waiting to enter your body – transferred from your fingers onto food – or into the soft tissue round your eyes and mouth.

They’re all around us too, on every surface and swirling around us in the air. Know how the sun shows up dust particles in a cross-beam? Germs are like that, only billions of times more – constant work for your immune system.

But you can reduce those too by making your rooms sterile, bringing viruses and bacteria around you down to zero. All it takes is a Hypersteriliser, a machine that mists up the air with ionised hydrogen peroxide, an eco-friendly germ killer that reaches everywhere and grabs germs on the fly, oxidising them to nothing.

Will your doctor give you cancer?

Not today, thank goodness. But don’t go asking for antibiotics unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Yeah, they’re lifesavers. But in ten or twenty years time, if they trigger obesity, they could also make you dead.

Picture Copyright: netfalls / 123RF Stock Photo

Not washing hands more dangerous than terrorism

Man with AK
Deadlier than you know.
His gun might jam, he could miss altogether – but a virus won’t

Read the headlines, and the world is a scary place.

Not as scary as everyday living though – and a lot more dangerous than we might like to think.

Yes, terrorism is awful – and yes, it is deadly. Last year it claimed the lives of 32,727 people worldwide.

Bad & badder

But no lesser person than President Obama claims that global warming is MORE dangerous. Well yes, if you think in natural calamities like hurricanes and tsunamis – the jury is still out long-term.

Closer to home, European statistics put road accident deaths at 25,700 last year – not far off the total for UK deaths from sepsis, a form of blood poisoning that nobody’s heard of, but which is a major killer just the same.

Scary, scary.

But still chicken-feed against what COULD happen. Even obesity is scarier – like two-thirds of adults and a quarter of children.

Look no further than the government’s National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies.

Top of the list is not terrorism, war, or even natural catastrophe. It’s pandemic influenza – the same killer that wiped out 50 million people in 1918 – more than all fatalities in the whole of World War One.

Our worst nightmare

And it could happen tomorrow.

Lesser outbreaks have already shown how such viruses can spread around the world.

Bird flu, Hong Kong flu, MERS – they just hop on a Boeing, courtesy of some unsuspecting traveller – and they’re there in eight hours, twelve tops.

And beware. As we already know flu viruses are super-CONTAGIOUS.

Yeah, yeah – you know all that stuff about coughs and sneezes.

About the handkerchief to – and trapping germs in your tissue.

But that still leaves your hands – which handle the tissue and dispose of it.

And do everything else for you as well – feed yourself, do things, get you through the day. Including touch your face maybe 2,000 or 3,000 times.

Which is where the pandemic bit really starts – from the shocking facts of life that:

Kind of inevitable, no?

Uh huh.

The ultimate killer

Slightly more menacing than a crazy with an AK47.

And the world has got bigger since 1918. When the world population was 1.8 billion and flu knocked out 1 billion, killing a third of the world’s population – all within the space of 8 weeks.

Now, today, nearly 100 years later, we’re 7.5 billion and counting – do the math.

Better get the soap. It’s a lot easier – and safer – than chasing bad guys.