Bacteria … why are we so afraid?

Bacteria … why are we so afraid?

We live in a world of bacteria. Bacteria are literally everywhere … they are all over your body inside and out, all over your food and most everything you touch, yet today everyone is so afraid of them. Most of the soaps we use are stamped “anti-bacterial”. Everywhere you look, there are “anti-bacterial” washing stations that contain a gel-like cleansing substance designed to kill bacteria … and make your hands feel weird. So why are we afraid of bacteria?

Back in the mid 1800’s, there lived a chemist in France whom today many regard as the father of microbiology and bacteriology. He was one of the great scientists of the 19th century whose work was responsible for many advancements in the fields of infectious diseases as well as food processing. His name (+ ized) appears on the label of most dairy and juice products. He is also responsible for the wide adoption of the “germ theory”. His name is Louis Pasteur.

Louis Pasteur was not the first one to come up with the germ theory, but his discoveries aided the theory’s adoption throughout most of Europe. Today the germ theory is a cornerstone of modern medicine and microbiology. For those of you who don’t know what germ theory is, it is simply the belief that microorganisms (bacteria) are responsible for causing various illnesses and diseases.

Back when you were in school or if you are there right now, think about the last time someone came down with the flu. A handful of other people would get sick, perhaps a few more, but that’s it. Logic tells me there must be other variables in the equation – otherwise, if microorganisms were the only variable which determined whether a host (people in this case) fell ill, everyone would be sick all the time. So what are the other variables?

Environment … we have discussed this before in an earlier post. For bacteria or viruses to proliferate and warrant immune system response, the environment in your body must be such that it is easy for the bacteria or virus to survive. Many factors influence the environment in your body … Let us review those real quick:

  • Mental/emotional state – What is your mood like? Are you excited? grateful? depressed? worried? Can you laugh easily? Your mood can have quite an effect on breathing patterns (affects oxygenation of cells and removal of CO2/other waste products from the blood) and immune system function (altered by presence of various hormones triggered by stress response), both which significantly impact the ability of harmful bacteria or viruses to proliferate in your body.
  • Physical state - Are you dehydrated? Are you well nourished? How is the chemistry in your body? Have you consumed toxic foods? alcohol? drugs? Have you had enough rest? Has your body produced antibodies for specific bacteria? These all relate back to your bodies ability to control regulatory functions which are designed to perpetuate your life to the greatest extent possible … i.e. create an environment that makes it easy for your life to flourish while making it challenging for other pathogens to negatively interfere.

The way I like to think of illness or disease is very similar to the way I think of fire. In order for a fire to survive, you must have fuel, heat, and oxygen. Take any one of them away and the fire goes out. In the case of a virus or bacterial infection, the same kinds of rules apply. In order for a bacterial infection to proliferate (bacteria grow and take over the host), you must have the bacteria present and a suitable environment for proliferation. Take one of them away and the bacteria cease to exist.

I couldn’t wrap up this post without thinking about our design. How do bacteria fit into the picture and were we designed to be exposed to various kinds of microorganisms? Turns out bacteria account for a majority of the cells in our body, and the amount of bacteria in the gut (large and small intestines) is actually measurable by weight! The bacteria in the gut are also known as intestinal flora. They are a balance of many different strands of bacteria all with unique purposes, designed to help promote a healthy environment for digestion and assimilation of nutrients as well as the breakdown and processing of waste products. It is widely known this balance can affect immune system response since most of the immune tissues in the body (some 70%) are located in the large intestine. We initially get most of these bacteria from our mother. There are actually several strands of bacteria found in breast milk designed to foster the development of the infant’s immune system as well as digestive function. Believe you me … plenty of evidence exists to prove we were indeed designed to have bacteria in our life … literally.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. Just because I don’t fully agree with the germ theory does not mean I completely disregard sanitation or good hygiene. It’s not like I don’t wash my hands after I go to the bathroom or forget to shower for a week. I just don’t subscibe to the “bacteriaphobe” mentality, nor do I regularly use “anti-bacterial” products. I know that if I live within my design and foster an environment that makes it difficult for bacteria or viruses to thrive in my body, I don’t have to waste any mental energy worrying about bacteria.

There are also rising issues surrounding bacteria’s resistance to antibiotic drugs and cleansers. Apparently, there are several kinds of bacteria that are evolving to withstand certain cleansers or drugs known to be “anti-bacterial.” This poses quite a threat to those living under the bacteriaphobe paradigm, and reaffirms my beliefs about life … I think the following tenant applies to much more than just our society’s fear of bacteria – Life is far more intelligent than you or I or anyone else on planet Earth. Instead of looking for ways to destroy it out of fear in order to protect ourselves, we ought to be asking the questions, “How do we live in harmony with it … How must we be in the world so that this fascinating, super intelligent, omnipresent force called Life flourishes around us … in us … and through us?” See you next time – MD

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 at 10:43 pm and is filed under Design, Nutrition, Philosophy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.