“Germs” – Have We Got it All Wrong?

“Germs” – Have We Got it All Wrong? 960 639 Janie

There has been a lot of talk about gut health recently. Many scientists, health practitioners and health coaches have been touting the importance of having a healthy gut “microbiome” (us included!).  We are seeing a resurgence in fermented foods and beverages  – like sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir and kvass. People are making their own bone broth and eating natural gelatin – both of which are renowned for healing the gut. And people are realising that hand sanitisers and antibiotic soaps may not actually be as health-promoting as they are made out to be.

Science has uncovered some very interesting health links to the microbiome, such as that when pathogenic bacteria outnumber good bacteria people are more likely to suffer from systemic inflammation, metabolic diseases and appetite dysregulation, and that there is a strong link between the gut and brain – people who take probiotics suffer from less depression. And it seems every week more and more links are being found between the the microbiome and health issues.

Did you know that out of all the DNA and genes in your body, only 1% is human? The rest is from the 2kg of trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in our body. Think about this for a moment – of all the genes being turned on to express proteins in your body, 99% of them are not made from your cells. And in fact 8% of your own DNA is thought to be viral in origin too. This can only lead us to acknowledge that these foreign proteins are a massive part of who we are – in fact you could say that they are more a part of us, than our own genes. Perhaps we have simply evolved as a host for these tiny microorganisms!? What if our entire physiology and cognitive abilities have actually evolved to function relying on these foreign DNA and proteins, and in damaging them we are damaging ourselves? There is no question that their genetic contribution provides us with many basic functions such as immunity, digestion, appetite regulation, manufacturing of nutrients and brain function. What do we still not know?

So our health industry is based on the premise that we are supposed to be “germ-free”, and that once they enter us we become diseased and sick, and potentially die. Clearly this is not correct. Although there are pathogens that can make use sick and kill us, the large majority keep us healthy and are vital for life. The idea of attempting to kill off the very small of minority of damaging pathogens at the expense of the trillions of microorganisms that define us, is a belief system that has certainly had detrimental consequences on our health and environment.

I don’t think the full effects of this change in perspective about “germs” has fully sunk in as yet. Consider these:

  • A mother passes on her microbiome to her child during birth through the vaginal canal and breast-feeding. What happens to children who do not get this exposure but their first encounter of microroganisms is that of the nurse’s gloves in a clinical hospital ward?
  • The hundreds and thousands of species that make up the microbiome in our gut come from our air, soil, food, and water. As we put more and more pesticides and herbicides into our environment, what are we doing to ourselves? What impact are we having on the bacterial populations that have sustained us throughout our evolution?
  • The chlorination of water and preservatives added to food is killing the bacteria that we would normally be exposed to in water and food. What other common practices are harming us?
  • The concept of vaccination even doesn’t quite make sense in this new paradigm. By injecting dead, weakened or genetically modified pathogens into our body to “prevent” future exposure, what consequence is that having on the healthy microorganisms that are vital for healthy functioning?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith our new understanding of the microbiome, unfortunately it seems that many of the technologies and medical advancements that were developed in a world when we believed we should be “germ-free” may in fact be having a tremendous impact on our health in more ways that we can yet comprehend. Is it even possible to change this corporate, medical and governmental infrastructure that might in fact be killing us? Is it even possible to admit we might be wrong and re-evaluate what we are doing? It seems to me that the potential economical consequences of such measures will mean a denial and forced silencing of this issue. How did it come to be that profits come before the health of us and the planet?

Ironically even if we do our best to keep our own personal microbiome healthy, it is a losing battle because the human race is changing the balance of bacterial, viral and fungal species on the planet. And we have absolutely no idea what effect this is really having. And we probably won’t until it is too late.

And maybe eating the dirt is the best thing our kids can do…