As time has gone on, we have backed ourselves into a corner in how we deal with bacteria that cause us illness as well as products that we use to keep our homes, clothes and bodies clean. Antibiotic resistant bacteria is a scary topic because it leaves us feeling so very vulnerable, it is no wonder we want to run out and buy every sort of cleaning agent out there to create a safe ring around ourselves so that we will never, ever get sick. But wait! Stop yourself. In light of the latest information from the CDC regarding the newest strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria, I thought it would be a good idea to delve into this topic.
In the recent past, bacteria such as Clostridium difficile, which affects the intestinal tract, Tuberculosis, and the Staph infection MRSA have been reported as causing serious illness and death. To date all of these have developed into bacterial strains which are now antibiotic-resistant. This has been difficult to control and many precautions are taken to prevent the spread of these bugs as well as trying to treat them.
The CDC is now sending a big message: superbugs are once again becoming a threat. This time, hospital environments are also having problems keeping them under control. The bacteria is being referred to by CDC officials as a “nightmare” bacteria that will kill half of all those who are infected. It is originating from a group that includes Klebsiella pneumoniae (a superbug that killed 7 people in the state of Maryland) as well as bacteria made resistant from a gene known as NDM-1. As this "family" gains momentum, even the "big guns" antibiotics are having a hard time controlling these bacteria.
These antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria are a reality. We must be able to control them, but we must first know how to protect ourselves on the front lines against these things. And no, I am not going to suggest wiping everything with Lysol, antibacterial hand soaps and wipes. To start off, it helps to understand a little about these resistant buggers. They are due to and develop because of the following things.
Overuse of antibacterial substances in the hospital environment to “eliminate” bacteria
Over use of antibiotics for illness in humans
Over use of antibiotics in farming environments on animals and birds
They just want to live too. So they find ways to do that, mutating and changing to resist the antibiotics that are meant to kill them. They are very sneaky about this and so often we don't know they are even resistant until we try one antibiotic, then another, and another, and another.....
Also, when these antibiotics are over-used, the result is that ALL bacteria in the body are wiped out. You might think that this is a good thing. Isn't bacteria bad? Don't we WANT to be bacteria free? Not necessarily. There are also good bacteria that live in our bodies and they help to do more things than we likely even know about. Eliminating the good bacteria in our bodies and in our internal environment has dire consequences. If we don’t have the friendly bacteria that normally occur in our intestinal tracts, and that take up residence in our bodies…and which should occur in our farming environments where our food is grown, we become vulnerable to disease and illness. These bacteria not only help our body run smoothly, but it keeps our immune system strong. In modern day, many people have weakened immune systems due to poor dietary habits that include a lot of processed foods, stressful lifestyles, environmental toxins, and the overuse of powerful antibiotic drugs.
There are times that we need antibiotics, such as when an illness is serious and all other methods have been exhausted. The trouble is, over the last number of decades, antibiotics have been the first line of defense in treating illness. And because so much good bacteria is destroyed in our bodies due to the emphasis in our culture on killing bacteria – the problem is that even ONE round of antibiotics can decimate good or beneficial flora in the digestive tract which support the immune system and overall health.
Sometimes the resistance can go on for years in the gut, and cause long-term health effects. Once friendly bacteria are diminished, it becomes easy for opportunistic bacteria to set up house. Most people have had multiple rounds of antibiotics in their lifetime, some dozens. In 2010, a study published in the Journal Microbiology examined long-term effects of antibiotic exposure in human beings, and the results were not favorable. The study determined that even short-term use of antibiotic therapy could have negative long-term effects on beneficial gut bacteria.
So what are we to do? How do we stop perpetuating this cycle? More importantly, how do we keep from getting one of these superbugs that seem to be slowly winning the war?
Tips to avoid superbug bacteria
Avoid antibiotics as much as possible. Use natural remedies instead of drugs and over-the-counter medications. There are many very effective, natural remedies for things that with a little research can be easily accessed. I have posted a few ways to fight things on this blog and I know that there are hundreds of others out there.
Avoid processed foods, sugar and anything refined (out of a package) as much as possible. These depress your immune system and weigh down your digestive system.
Avoid using anti-bacterial soaps, washes, hand sanitizers or any product like them. These contribute greatly to the bacterial resistant strains.
Wash your hands with regular soap and water. The single most effective way to stop the spread of disease is to WASH YOUR HANDS.
Use therapeutic grade probiotics regularly. I have talked about probiotics before and love them. Basically, in a nutshell, probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that we need in our bodies. You can take them capsule form, in a powder, or in a liquid. They repopulate our digestive tracts with good, beneficial bacteria and help us to fight illness and disease. Also, on a side note, it is estimated that upwards of 60% of our serotonin is made in the gut which has to make you wonder about the connection between the soaring rates of depression, anxiety, anger and suicide in our country and all of the packaged, processed food that we eat.
Taking a high quality probiotic is something that every man, woman and child should be doing.
Eat fermented and cultured foods. When I say that, I mean sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, etc. Fermented and cultured foods are vital to supporting the immune and digestive systems. It is even better if you can prepare them at home (with safe, organic ingredients sourced from local farms). This ensures a better proliferation of bacteria and higher numbers of beneficial bacteria because you can ferment them for longer and on a smaller scale rather than what you can normally buy in the grocery store. With this type of bacteria, the more diverse and higher numbers that you can get, the better.
Include as much whole and traditional foods in your diet as you can. This includes: grassfed meats, pasture raised poultry and eggs, raw dairy foods like milk, butter, cream, sour cream and yogurt. Also, raw, cold pressed olive oil, coconut oil, seafood from safe sources (not farm raised), organic fruits and vegetables, sprouted nuts and legumes. Use grains as sparingly as possible. Avoid ANYTHING that has been raised or grown with GMO's (genetically modified organisms), pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics, or isn't produced naturally.
I say to reduce grains as much as possible because they can be inflammatory for various reasons and can contribute to
yeast overgrowth, digestive issues, and long term auto-immune disease.
Which superfoods specifically can I use to resist these crazy superbugs?
Fermented cod liver oil
Liver and other organ meats from safe, pastured sources
Egg yolks from pastured hens
Grassfed meats and poultry
Bone broths made from the bones of animals and birds on pasture – all full of Omega 3s, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2
Healthy fats like lard, tallow, olive oil, coconut oil
Cultured and fermented foods and beverages like yogurt and kefir from healthy cows on pasture and organic cultured vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso), condiments, sauces, and dressings
Safe-sourced seafood which contain fat-soluble vitamins A&D, Omega 3s, selenium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, and other important minerals
Seaweed and kelp (rich in iodine)
Citrus fruits and other fruits high in vitamin C
There are many good books that cover the subject of how to heal and protect your body, but two books seem that come up over and over again is Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions and The Art of Fermentation: An In Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World by Sandor Ellix Katz and Michael Pollen. These two books may have more information in them than you would ever want to know, but they get you started on taking away some of the fear that has been injected into us to make us feel helpless in our own healthcare and empower you with simple, timeless ways to heal and nourish your body. Combine that with good handwashing and you are on your way!