Posts Tagged ‘prevention’
70% of modern health problems are directly caused by lifestyle choices. SEVENTY percent! What would your life be like if almost 3 of every 4 illnesses, disorders or concerns that came your way … didn’t.
What troubles me the most about this statistic is that so many of us already know or at least suspect that, but we still don’t make the change. My husband and I (admittedly documentary junkies) were watching a film last night about another health crusader trying to spread the word about prevention.
Normally I avoid such films and shows and last night once again provided evidence of why… whether it’s Jamie Oliver or Joe Cross – or your or I, the response is almost always the same – a combination of 1) it doesn’t really work, 2) it’s too much trouble, or 3) I’ve already tried the natural route (or know someone that did). And I find myself both saddened and frustrated!
To take a closer look at each of these:
1) it doesn’t really work… not so! Epidemiologists, scientists, researchers, professionals, just about ANYONE that spends any time reading through medical literature can verify that yes, prevention does work! The American Cancer Society tells us that 75-80% of all cancer related deaths are directly related to environmental choices. Not genetics! The experts that devote their lives to researching how we get sick are telling us that we don’t usually have to! What would the country look like if we could prevent / save: almost 3/4 of the dollars spent on illness (medication, days lost in work or productivity, treatment, specialist visits), 3 out of 4 or even 4 out of 5 of the deaths lost to cancer, nearly 3 out of 4 of the health concerns we face – lost days from our lives that could have been better spent elsewhere – instead of sick in bed!
2) it’s too hard… I’ve been up close and personal with a struggle to beat cancer – and seen cancer win. I’ve seen children facing life threatening illnesses that emotionally tear up their parents. I’ve seen individuals of all ages in pain, struggling to enjoy their days despite a chronic health concern. *That’s* too much trouble. Cancer occurring at a rate that is quadruple (or more) what it should be is too much trouble. Diabetes, obesity and adrenal fatigue are too much trouble. Changing simple lifestyle habits – a route I’d prefer any day.
3) I’ve tried it – or my friend has – This one needs it’s own blog post really, but here’s what that usually means: I’ve tried the latest fad diet, I’ve tried the gov’t food pyramid (or revised pyramid, or circle), I’ve taken the latest cool health supplement, I’ve been taking the newest MLM product. I’ve had people tell me they need to take medicine because eating raisins didn’t cure their chronic inflammation, coconut oil didn’t cure their cancer and vinegar didn’t cure their GERD. I’ve seen people eat hot dogs while telling me bananas are bad for you, and eating cake while telling me yogurt is bad for you. I’m not at all advocating the trendy, pseudo-science that passes through communities faster than the illnesses they claim to cure. I’m advocating an evidence based, scientific and rational approach to life. Make the claim back itself up with evidence – both modern scientific and time tested. When formula was introduced as the superior infant food, babies died. When margarine was introduced to replace “bad” saturated fats, heart disease and inflammatory conditions skyrocketed. Processed foods result in chronic health concerns. That’s backed by scientific in multiple languages.
So, what to do? Educate yourself! We have more resources available to us than ever before. Thanks to modern conveniences, students study wellness through our school in over a dozen countries across multiple continents. Get a book on real foods, read labels, make simple lifestyle changes. Each of these baby steps will add up – and you’ll see a difference!
So, it’s easy to talk about antibiotic resistance and antibiotic overuse without clearly defining the situation. Does anybody really think they overuse anything? We all generally feel that we only use medication when necessary, I’ve never met with a parent that believed he or she overuses antibiotics, even if their family uses them once a month. After all, if we didn’t use antibiotics, what would we do instead? And that’s exactly why so many of the campaigns by the World Health Organization and other medical professionals appear to be falling short.
What are we doing that could be changed to lessen the trend of antibiotic resistance? And what can we do in place of those habits? We’ll look at our current habits first, then cover the solutions in the next installment.
Before we dig into specifics that cause antibiotic resistance, I want to make it absolutely clear that these habits are learned and have been taught–even by medical professionals at times. They are not indicators of bad parenting or uneducated individuals–they are habits that were passed down from generation to generation, based on the initial excitement about the new wonder drug that would end all disease. So, there’s no judgement here – but we can’t save antibiotics without looking at the habits that are risking this valuable drug’s future.
1. Viral Infections - Many Americans believe that even though antibiotics are ineffective against viruses, they may still help fight a viral infection. However, studies show that not only are they ineffective, they worsen viral infections! So, in addition to contributing to antibiotic resistance, antibiotic use for a viral infection does more immediate harm than good.
2. Just in case – Many parents want an antibiotic “just in case” for an infection. Yet, (again) studies show that antibiotics can actually make viral infections worse… longer lasting and with stronger effects. If the infection is not determined to be bacterial–and even if it is–antibiotics may not be the best treatment option. Many infections are best treated without antibiotics. This again ensures better health now, and the longevity of antibiotic options for our children.
3. Ear infections – Professional organizations have been saying for over a decade that the wait and see approach to treating ear infections is medically superior to treating with antibiotics. Not because they shouldn’t be treated, but because antibiotics can actually cause recurring ear infections! Clinical trials show that antibiotics rarely do any good, and some alternatives have fared better than standard antibiotic treatment. (Additionally, many ear infections are not bacterial; most are viral.)
4. Patient Demand - When polled, physicians listed “patient demand” as the #1 cause of prescribing antibiotics. Physicians know that parents will turn around and find another provider to prescribe these drugs if they don’t. And in their short 15 minutes of visit time–or even less on a phone call–they don’t have the time necessary to educate the parent on the misuse of antibiotics. So, many have admittedly just given in. This is one key reason that public health agencies such as the CDC and WHO have initiated awareness campaigns that attempt to educate the public about the antibiotic crisis. However, many parents still consider a physician to be a “good” physician if they’ll prescribe an antibiotic over the phone without an office visit. This has also contributed to care providers prescribing antibiotics when they’re not needed under the assumption that the patient is requesting one.
5. The Wrong Antibiotic – Antibiotics are not all the same. Most individuals now know some are stronger than others, but they differ in many different ways. Initially, they were designed to be effective against single diseases. Bacteria can be classified as gram positive or negative, and antibiotics are often more effective against one or the other. Some antibiotics are broad spectrum antibiotics or effective against a lot of bacteria, both gram positive and negative. These antibiotics should be reserved for extreme life saving situations when there is not time to properly identify the offending bacteria, but are often used as a short cut to save time.
6. Incorrect Prophylactic Use – This is the idea that a constant dose of antibiotics will prevent infection. In other words, instead of waiting for the infection to begin, this means treating it before it begins–assuming that it will. Not only is that usually based on bad science, it greatly contributes to resistance and often results in lasting harm to the individual. I’ve worked directly with numerous individuals that are experiencing the negative results of previous prophylactic use. Acne, infection prevention and other common causes of long term prophylactic use are generally better treated with other safer and more effective measures.
7. Animal Husbandry – Animals are among the most common recipients of prophylactic antibiotics. Constant treatment with antibiotics will often result in a faster growing animal and are thought to prevent infections (see #6) However, in reality, this habit is not good for the animal or the individuals that consume the animals–and it contributes significantly to resistance.
8. Antibiotics in the Home / Hand Sanitizers – These habits are directly related to the notion that we can sanitize our lives, eliminating disease. We can’t–and don’t want to–sanitize our lives. Bacteria are our friends in most cases, and experts have determined that the use of antibiotics in the home and in portable sanitizers actually acts as a stimulant for the mutation of bacteria and the development of resistance. It actually hastens the cycle exponentially. With the information we now have about the benefits of routine bacteria exposure, these habits are doubly harmful to children.
WHY are these habits bad? In addition to the situations where the treatment is worse than the disease–or worsens the disease–they contribute to antibiotic resistance. Resistance–if not halted–will result an a post antibiotic era, thrusting us back to a time in which we don’t have the option of antibiotics to treat disease. Imagine yourself 10 years from now. What routine but life saving procedures would not be available to you without antibiotics? What diseases would you fear without antibiotics? The fear parents experienced decades ago with the looming threat of diphtheria and other pre-antibiotic era diseases can and will return unless something changes.
Fortunately, we do have evidence that this cycle can be not only halted but reversed. Countries that have banned routine animal antibiotic use, restricted the availability of antibiotics and implemented public awareness campaigns (like the CDC has with the Get Smart campaign) find that older antibiotics are once again useful; the trend has been halted in places.
In the next installment, we’ll look at practical ways to respond to each of the situations listed above. There are simple and effortless tools available for each of the issues–things that result in wellness without risking one of our most valuable tools!
One thing natural health is known for is anecdotal evidence. Unfortunately, this trend truly permeates the natural health realm, though it rarely comes from the actual professionals. We’ve all seen it – usually the great health advice comes from a friend on facebook or in a play group. It goes something like this:
- I know they say not to let your baby cry at night, but we did it and my 3 year old turned out ok. You can’t listen to everything they say.
- Epidurals don’t increase your risk of cesarean. I had one with all 3 of my kids and didn’t have a cesarean.
- That new study suggesting that cesareans lead to obesity can’t be true because I was born naturally and am overweight while my kids are thin and were born by cesarean.
- I won’t take milk thistle because it made my friend tired and I already have adrenal fatigue.
- This herb will cure strep throat. I’m pretty sure my kids had it once and we took that and it went away.
- Hawthorne doesn’t help with hypertension. I took it for a month and it didn’t change at all.
- Garlic oil doesn’t help with ear infections because it can’t reach the infection. Here, take these ear drops instead.
(and yes, these are all actual examples of things I’ve heard or read! I could go on and on…. )
Here’s the catch:
1. Nothing works for everyone. It is possible that 1 person was the exception to the rule. If the success rate is 99.9%, there will still be that 1 in 1,000.
2. Basic epidemiology tells us to look for confounding factors – other things that are at play in a situation. For example, the milk thistle story – was this person getting enough sleep? Were they fighting off a cold? Were they having a bad day? This is why evidence based medicine uses trials of hundreds, if not thousands of people to find those consistent results.
3. Just as the 1 in 1,000 means that something good won’t happen to everyone, it can also mean something bad won’t happen. You can do something that is known to increase your risks and still be ok – sometimes. I once drive home from my parent’s house to realize that my (then) toddler’s seat hadn’t been properly buckled into the car. My toddler was not injured. I still don’t recommend driving for an hour without having your toddler’s seat properly installed. That case is not an argument for making poor choices, it’s an example of how blessed I was to escape the potential harm that could have taken place due to my oversight.
Case studies are interesting to researchers because they lead to possibilities that result in large scale trials to review these issues and test whether or not they are true. They are leads for potential findings, but not stand alone evidence. However, when we already have large bodies of evidence that show us that *this result* usually happens when *this thing* takes place, we can avoid using our families as guinea pigs and rely on the comfort that comes from scientific evidence. This is the premise for the School of Natural Health and everything that we do at Vintage Remedies.
You’ll find that we err on the side of being conservative when it comes to health. My kids are not guinea pigs and I don’t imagine your kids are either. So, we stick to remedies that are backed with large scale studies verifying the use, safety and effectiveness of what we teach in our programs and our books. Our students know that you’re not going to find the latest (but soon to be disproven) trends, conspiracy theories and scare tactics here – just solid information backed by solid evidence. That’s just the way we do things. While we appreciate the folk medicine from times past and the single case studies, knowing they lead to wider research, we also acknowledge that such tidbits are just the start for real understanding of health.
Antibiotic overuse and the risk of losing antibiotics is a tough concept to understand without reviewing some basic information about bacteria and how it reacts to antibiotics. We have a misconception in our society that antibiotic use is without risks, and there is nothing wrong with taking a dose – or a series of doses – just in case. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. For this installment, we’ll take a peek into the inner workings of bacteria and see what actually happens when bacteria change.
Bacteria are single celled organisms. There are countless types of bacteria throughout our environment. Don’t get grossed out. This is actually a really good thing! Bacteria can be found in the depths of an ocean, in the intestines of animals and humans, in the frozen tundra and miles deep into the earth. They are everywhere. It has been estimated that we have more bacterial cells in our bodies than human cells. This is a good thing! It really is!
We live in a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. They help us to digest our food. They protect our skin from infection. They protect our bodies from infection. Bacteria protect us. These single celled organisms are our friends.
We’ve all heard of pathogenic bacteria with frightening abilities to cause meningitis, pneumonia, ear infections and countless other infections. (As seen in the cartoon drawing of a mean, nasty bug at the beginning of this post!) Yet, we rarely discuss the fact that the vast majority of bacteria are actually good for us. They protect us from these pathogenic bacteria. Researchers are now finding that a variety of conditions from obesity to autoimmune disorders can be linked to bacteria. The beneficial bacteria on our skin protect us from infections. The beneficial bacteria in our gut make sure that we can use the nutrients we consume. A goal of eradicating bacteria from our environment is the frightening concept because we’d quickly perish without the valuable benefits of bacteria.
As living beings, bacteria are also constantly adapting to their environment. They mutate over time and develop new traits, just like humans. And, like humans, they also have the ability to reproduce, creating bacteria with new abilities. Unlike humans, bacteria are asexual. Yet, they have a gene swapping ability that enables them to provide other bacteria with super traits. In some cases, this may mean more bacteria have the ability to resist penicillin or another antibiotic. It may mean that these bacteria have the ability to stay in a dormant state for a longer period of time. It may mean that certain bacteria have the ability to emit toxins within the body. In some cases, this has caused previously friendly bacteria to become pathogenic, thanks to the passing of new traits and abilities.
In humans, this means that a specific strain of bacteria becomes resistant to previous antibiotics and becomes more dangerous at the same time. Not only is it now more difficult to wipe out, it is more likely to be deadly in a faster time span. It means that individuals can now acquire MRSA (a specific type of resistant bacterial infection) from their communities, not just hospitals. It means that individuals are now dying from bacterial infections – something thought to be impossible decades ago. It means that surgical procedures are more dangerous than they were previously because of the potential for incurable infections and it means that today’s children are requiring stronger, second and third generation antibiotics to cure infections that were treated in our childhood with much milder drugs.
What causes this to happen? Some of it is natural. It happens just because it is going to happen. However, research has shown us that the vast majority of the danger currently taking place with certain pathogenic bacteria can be directly linked to human behavior. The overuse of antibiotics is a critical factor in this occurrence, and we have complete control over this factor.
In the next installment, we’ll look at the things that we are doing that are causing it and what it will mean to humankind if this trend continues. Stay tuned…
How it all began…
To understand the issue of microbial resistance, it is best to understand this history of antibiotics and their use. So, like anything I write, we’ll start at the beginning… In 1928, a Scottish biologist by the name of Alexander Fleming (pictured above) was conducting research in a laboratory. Having accidentally contaminated one of his bacterial cultures with a fungus, he returned to work one day to find that the fungus had destroyed all of the bacteria surrounding it in the culture. “That’s funny,” he remarked, not realizing that this funny incident would soon become legendary. Alexander Fleming had discovered the source of the first modern antibiotic, penicillin. In 1929, his work was published in medical journals and the course of medicine would be changed dramatically. Over the next two decades, researchers refined his discovery, working with the chain of fungus to isolate the active principles and make it suitable for human use. By the mid 1940s, antibiotics were ready to be used in modern medicine, sparking a revolution in medicine as it was known at the time.
Suddenly, diphtheria, typhoid, pneumonia, meningitis and other horrific diseases were curable. No longer did parents have to dread the word diphtheria from their physicians – this new miracle drug could cure it. It could cure everything! When the public discovered the drug, they rushed to purchase it, and manufacturers made sure that it was readily available. It was included in cough drops, lotions, cough remedies – over the counter medicines for just about any ailment… no prescription needed!
Alexander Fleming had a problem with this. He advised that the drug should be only made available through iv administration so that it could be regulated in a hospital. If it was made available to the public, he warned, bacterial resistance would emerge. While scoffers abounded, the first documented antibiotic resistant bacterial infection occurred only a year later. Within a decade, 59% of bacterial strains isolated from sick patients were resistant to penicillin – over half!
Not to worry though! The war on infection was now won. New antibiotics began to pour out from researchers and manufacturers. With every resistant strain was a new, stronger and more harsh antibiotic. The days of dangerous life threatening infections were something of the past. Physicians began using this new tool for everything that came along – bacterial infections, viral infections, fevers, colds, anything… just in case.
So, you may wonder… where exactly is the problem? How is this a bad thing? It’s not… it’s a great advancement of modern medicine. However, it’s an advancement we may lose very soon, if things don’t change dramatically.
As Fleming warned, resistance can occur with bacteria – quickly. Bacteria have the ability to swap genes with other bacteria and they can mutate to form resistance to attackers in their environment. What this means is that when antibiotics are used widely, bacteria will learn how to thrive in spite of it – it adapts to its environment so that it is not wiped out. This can take place in a matter of minutes, but it takes researchers decades to release new antibiotics. We take far longer to come up with new ammo than it takes bacteria to come up with new resistance abilities. When this happens, if we don’t create new antibiotics that keep up with the resistance, bacterial infections cannot be cured. Global health professionals are telling us that if things don’t change, we will be thrown back to a pre-antibiotic era of medicine, where we don’t have the ability to cure bacterial infections and lives that could have easily been saved will be lost.
Consider these facts:
- For decades, an incurable bacterial infection was unheard of… it didn’t exist. Now, 19,000 individuals die annually in the United States due to antibiotic resistant infections. (25,000 in the EU)
- In the 1990s, 20 pharmaceutical companies were researching new antibiotics. Currently, there are two.
- The World Health Organization has declared that the single greatest threat to worldwide health today is antibiotic resistance … not AIDS, not famine, not malaria… antibiotic resistance.
- New stains of resistant bacteria are being discovered frequently – many worse than the previous discovery.
- Antibiotic resistant strains can be acquired from the community, not just the hospital, which means they are spreading throughout society becoming more and more prominent.
- Roughly 440,000 new cases of drug resistant tuberculosis arise annually worldwide … resulting in approximately 150,000 deaths.
- Without reliable antibiotics, routine procedures such as surgery, chemotherapy, organ transplants and similar procedures would become dangerous and risky – if possible at all.
- Almost half (49%) of our beef in the US contains drug resistant bacteria. Our poultry also contains a significant amount of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
The problem is not isolated to any specific country; it is an issue the entire world shares and the entire world will lose the benefits of antibiotics if action is not taken. The World Health Organization assures us, “No action today = no cure tomorrow.” In this series, I’m going to cover how exactly this happens, what is causing it, how it affects each of us, what we can do about it, and what happens on a large scale when we each take action. The good news is that we do have time to act… antibiotics can be saved. But now is the time to do so… not after we’ve lost the benefit of one of the greatest advancements in modern medicine.