Much of medicine, health, and the food industry focus on bacteria as a source of disease. The general message the public gets is more bugs are more problems. Kill the bugs, solve the problem. Unfortunately this message fails to inform us that without bugs we would not exist. Bacteria and viruses are the engines of creation and biodiversity on this planet, without them the world we know would not exist.
Remember the Biosphere Project where a group of volunteer scientists were to live in an isolated man-made environment in a dome for as long as possible? It demonstrated that humans have only a trivial knowledge about how the earth and its biology interact. They could not control the temperature, oxygen, or CO2 levels in the dome without air conditioning. And, most of the animals and plants died within a short period of time. The company that owned the project dissolved and the structure is now being leased by the University of Arizona for climate studies. Many attribute the demise of the life in the dome on a lack of diversity in the microbial populations as well as a lack of understanding of atmospheric science in the biosphere.
Humans have some 500-1000 species and over a 1000 trillion bacteria living in and on us every day. They help exfoliate our skin. They clean or clutter our mouth and teeth. They digest or process much of our food. They stimulate/motivate our immune system. They orchestrate our growth and development during infancy and childhood. They can cause ulcers, cancer, autoimmune disease, obesity, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and more. They have ties to all human disease. Check out the latest science.
So which ones do we keep and which ones do we get rid of? We have almost no clue. What we do know is that these bacteria set up shop and begin to alter the expression of our genes from the moment of birth. Vaginal birth verses cesarean section. Breast feeding verses formula feeding, soy verses meats, grain instead of green vegetables. Each choice makes a difference in which bugs thrive and which ones are suppressed.
The lesson to be learned here is not to get rid of the bugs but to foster the growth of bugs that promote our health. Since we have identified only a small fraction of the bugs we can only rely on history to help us decide. History tells us that our diet and environment are the selection process.
For over a million years early humans survived off of lean animal meats including seafood, insects, and vegetable matter. These foods provided and supported the bugs that promoted our well being and survival. Only in the last 10,000 years have we seen the introduction of grains like wheat, corn, and rice, and other foods like soy, and dairy. In the last 200 years we have seen societies move from agriculture to industry and now to a digital service economy. In this transition we have lost our sun exposure and exercise. Both of these changes have altered our resistance to certain bacteria in us and outside of us. In the last 60 years have we seen the introduction and widespread use of antibiotics that kill the good with the bad. In the last 40 years we have seen an explosion in the number of antibacterial soaps and cleaning fluids.
The prescription is simple. Get back to basics. Minimize the use of chemical cleaners especially on your body. Up until about 75 years ago water and friction worked just fine and it still does. Don’t use antibiotics unless your survival is threatened. Get regular sun exposure; it inactivates viruses, kills bacteria, and facilitates the production of vitamin D, one of your primary defense mechanisms. Stop eating grain, soy, and dairy, they were never meant to be part of our diet. Eat more fresh lean meats that you have prepared. Replace the foods you should not eat with more vegetable matter. And finally, exercise. People who exercise don’t get sick. Look at Jack LaLanne, he’s 93 and healthier than most of us at 40. Your prescription for this lifestyle is The Vitamin D Cure.