Friday, April 08, 2011

Boost your (and your children's) immune system now!

I'm sure you've all read about how bacteria mutates over time and renders antibiotics harmless to them. And that the more and more widely we use antibiotics, the more rapidly the mutations occur, and the more difficult it is to produce new antibiotics that will beat the infections.

So...what happens when we run out of effective antibiotics entirely? What happens when scientists and pharmaceuticals companies are unable or unwilling (due to the unlikely return on investment because the bacteria mutates rapidly and renders the drug useless) to produce drugs that kill the bacteria?

According to a scary article in the highly-respected Scientific American, "many lethal infections that antibiotics have held at bay for decades might soon return with a vengeance." (sorry, subscription required to read the whole article).

No, really. We may in the very immediate future face a world in which bacterial infections routinely led to deaths. To give you a sense of how far down this path we have gone, did you know that there is at this very moment an epidemic of a very dangerous and difficult to defeat bacterial infection sweeping through the hospitals in our nation?

From the article: "The expanding epidemic has forced hospitals to reassess the efficacy of their infection-control measures....protocols include washing down patients with antiseptics every day and cleaning the surfaces in patients' rooms, down to the smallest joints and nooks on monitors and computers, as often as every 12 hours."

In other words, our health care system is currently battling simply to keep the infection contained within hospitals and not let it leap into the general population. And it looks like we are losing the battle.

Still, antibiotics are prescribed widely and casually. Worse - and this is really hard to believe - livestock is still being fed round-the-clock a low dosage of antibiotics to stimulate growth. I kid you not.

So I think that we need to do some worst case planning. Corporations today hold sway in our government (supposedly of the people, by te...oh, forget it) and will not allow any policies that reduce their short-term profits. Antibiotics will continue to be used in excess, and pharmaceutical companies will not develop a pipeline of new drugs.

It is, therefore, time for each and every one of us to do the only thing we can do: boost our immune systems to strengthen our bodies' ability to fight the infections. Fortunately, the way to do this is easily accessible to most Americans:

1. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables, especially dark greens like broccoli, spinach, kale. Avoid "factory food," including processed foods and fast food. In fact, just eat food, not food products.

2. Turn off the television and move your body; get some exercise!

Sure, you can take vitamins, supplements that supposedly boost your immune system, etc. - but from what I have read, there is no clear and wide consensus that these non-food delivery mechanisms of isolated components really do help all that much.

There are, on the other hand, endless studies (not to mention common sense) to show that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, complemented by an active lifestyle, will make you stronger, healthier and happier.

Yes, I know - the "same old, same old." - and so boring. Eat right, exercise - where's the fun in that?

It is time, however, to move beyond whining about how it's so much fun to eat chips and candy and watch TV. It is time to recognize that the arrogance and carelessness of humans, driven by our profit-motivated economies, have outstripped our ability to deal the consequences of our actions (think: Japan and nuclear power, "super bugs", climate change, Gulf oil spill...).

Please, at least apply the above advice to your children. Get them started now on a healthy diet and exercise regime. Oh, and let them play in the dirt. Keep their environment too clean and sterile, and that will harm their immune system as well.

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