The way our grandparents keep banging on about it, you’d swear they were tough as nails.
“Didn’t get sick with that in my day, you youngsters are wimps.”
When we was young
Yeah, thanks for that. Doesn’t look like that now though – they get just as sick as we do.
Er, except they have a point.
There are all kinds of sicknesses now they didn’t have back then. New on the radar – nobody hardly heard of them fifty years ago.
Hello Legionnaire’s disease, toxic shock syndrome, Lyme disease, campylobacter, escherichia coli, vibrio cholerae, helicobacter, erlichiosis, Bartonellosis, Marburg virus, Ebola virus, hantavirus, HIV, cryptosporidiosis, cyclyspora, fungal diseases and spongiform encephalopathy, just to name a few. Sick and super-sick.
And how about allergies? Asthma, allergic rhinitis, peanut butter, lactose intolerance, coeliac disease, yeast, shellfish – all of them chronic, highly unpleasant – and in increasing cases, life-threatening.
Yeah OK, we don’t live the same as we did fifty years ago. People smoked like chimneys, air travel was a once-in-a-lifetime luxury – and apart from fish and chips, fast-food was a fledgling that’ll-never-work fancy.
We also didn’t have the wonder-drugs – antibiotics. So amazing they wiped out a whole slew of illnesses and infection sources overnight. Doctors could perform miracle surgery – heart transplants, hip replacements, rebuild faces, reattach lost limbs, do the impossible.
Now they’re used for everything.
Got a problem? Hit it with antibiotics. Even, would you believe, for non-essential conditions like acne.
You got it – use and over-use. Fifty years of chucking them down our throats – no wonder bacteria have found ways to build up a resistance. Suddenly our wonder-drugs are not working so good any more.
Scarier still, right now all our head cheese numero uno medics are reckoning they’re going to conk out altogether. What the heck do we do when they stop working?
But that’s not why we’re getting these new illnesses. It gets way, way worse than that.
The answer lies in the soil
Because with all the wow-factor of antibiotics, farmers latched onto them too. To protect livestock crowded together in muddy, unhealthy conditions. And to fatten them up.
One of the big plus side-effects of antibiotics in feedstuffs is that animals bulk up faster on less food – getting to market quicker, at a higher price. Bingo!
Which means for fifty years, antibiotics have been used in food production big time – on a massive industrial scale, currently at 65,000 tons a year world-wide – and set to more than double in the next ten years.
Wow, amazing! All the world’s food supply problems solved.
With the totally predictable but unrecognised result that antibiotics are now in everything we eat.
Certainly in all meat, because they’re in the animal foodstuff. In plants too, because animal manure is the most productive natural manure. And in the soil, leaching down from the manure. Into the aquifers and watercourses – pretty well every river and stream in the country.
One brutal and awkward fact staring at us right there.
The everyday dose
Whoever we are, man, woman or child – anywhere throughout the UK – WE ALL CONSUME ANTIBIOTICS DAILY as part of our regular diet. Carnivores, vegetarians – no exceptions. They’re even in the water we drink.
How can we tell?
Well here’s another change that’s happened over the last fifty years.
We’re all getting fat.
Check your own waistline. Right now two-thirds of adults and a quarter of children are overweight or obese.
Oh yummy. Which puts us all in line for heart disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, cancers, depression and anxiety.
The medics reckon it’s sedentary lifestyles, low exercise and high fat diets. Yeah, maybe.
But the elephant in the room is what farmers have already discovered – and been mainlining into their animals for fifty years.
Antibiotics make metabolisms bulk up. “Antimicrobial growth promoters” they call them – basically super-fatteners – like the wicked witch used on naughty children in fairy tales.
And traces of antibiotics have been in every mouthful everyone of us has eaten for the last fifty years. Exactly like we’re being fattened up for market.
Yeah, the things are banned for farming in the EU and have been since 2006. Except here in Britain either the message hasn’t got through, or government and big bucks are conveniently looking the other way.
Fifteen odd years ago, the family returned here to UK from a near life-time in South Africa. Within two years, our athletic sylph-like figures had metamorphosed into “charmingly chubby”. No, we weren’t eating different foods – just UK-sourced stuff we’d never had before.
And fifteen years ago, South Africa wasn’t using “antimicrobial growth promoters” to the same saturation level they are now. A chicken was just chicken – and a trip to Nando’s didn’t set you up to ballooning into a porker.
Which underlines the fact that antibiotics really do create major changes in the body.
Our innards are full of benevolent bacteria – 100 trillion of them doing the heavy work of digesting, producing proteins and helping to manage immune systems, while we park off with the Xbox on the sofa – Call of Duty Black Ops 3, or something equally important.
It’s these bacteria that our Mums teach when we’re in the womb and while we’re nursing –building our defences for all kinds of diseases we’ll face later in life. The same bacteria learn how to create immunity in our formative years too. Those days eating mud have a purpose.
Thing is though, that we don’t face the same diseases we were set up for in our childhood. Our water supply is pure, so there’s no germs there. We have inside loos and hot water, so we’re a lot cleaner than we used to be.
Uh huh. An immune system with nothing to do – so it goes rogue. Triggers false alarms like allergies when there’s no real threat. A crisis out of nothing. Net result, we’re less resistant than we were fifty years ago. Grandpa was right, us youngsters are wimps.
All these newly antibiotic resistant illnesses don’t help either. MRSA, salmonella, streptococcus, c.difficile, gonorrhoea and e.coli. Even that Victorian illness TB – almost completely off the scope in UK – has found a way to make a comeback.
Yeah, weaker than our Swinging Sixties oldies – and more at hazard because the wonder-drugs don’t work any more.
Hike up our hygiene
Which leaves one line of defence that’s now essential if we’re going to survive. Hike up our hygiene levels so that harmful pathogens can’t get us – we’re not just clean, our surroundings are sterile. No bacteria, no risk, job done.
Which means two things.
Washing our hands before and after we do anything like eat or hit the loo – so there’s never any germs on them.
And misting our surroundings up with a Hypersteriliser, so there’s no germs around us either – particularly in the air – they’re oxidised to nothing by ionised hydrogen peroxide. Bacteria gone, viruses too, safe and sterile.
OK, now we can stop with the antibiotics, though the farmers have still got an issue. Better hygiene all round should sort it – why shouldn’t pigs and poultry be protected sterile-safe like we are?
Oh yes, and no more obesity either – though count on it, diets will still remain a fad. Yes, still the gym, unless we’re sick of it. Yes, still the carrot juice.
But we don’t all have to be Size 12 to look fit.