Think Before You Drink

children at the wellBy: Grainne Rhuad

Remember watching Wild Kingdom or something like it as a kid and being amazed or maybe even disturbed by the animals that lived in harmony with parasites?  When was it that you discovered you were one of these animals; that there were parasites in you?

Maybe it freaks you out and keeps you up at night but the fact of the matter is we need our parasites as much as sharks need those little cleaner fish.   There is a huge industry built up around making sure we kill as many parasites in our environment as we can, things like cleaners, filters, ultra violet wands.  We have gotten very good at it, eradicating little bugs that give us the heebie geebies if we know about them; however we are doing ourselves a disservice

Case in point; evidence suggests that it is the absence of parasites in our bellies and guts that is the cause of Chrohn’s Disease.  This bowel irritating cluster of problems seems to be caused by our clean water.  Our body has evolved and was designed to deal with parasites, and in this case our immune system finds itself with nothing to do when our water is clean so it attacks  everything,  because surely( it reasons) the only reason it can’t detect the parasites that must be there is that they have changed.  What follows is agonizing pain for the person with uber clean water sources.

This theory which is not altogether supported by the medical community came about through information and observation.  Chrohn’s was first notices in 1930’s when members of wealthy families in New York City got it.  They also got cleaner water than anyone else.  As cleaner water spread through the west so did this disease, jumping its pattern from mostly wealthy and mostly Jewish families; and no I’m not being racist, it is theorized the Kosher practices kept more of their food and drink a bit cleaner than most.

Chrohn’s landed on its world tour in Japan in 1980, just when the Japanese were beginning to get rich and drink a lot of bottled water.  It is on the rise in nearly every country with a reasonable economy and infrastructure.  However it is completely absent in third world countries.  The truly poor never get it.  People bath daily in the river Ganges which is one of the most polluted rivers in the world and they don’t get it.  Water is drunk from sand by the Maasai, they even drink blood and they don’t get it.

While attending a charity event for an agency that helps bring clean wells to third world countries the thought came to my mind, “Are we really helping them?”  Undoubtedly the water is full of all kinds of really bad stuff, but are we also passing along the seeds to our own global evolutionary destruction?

Chrohn’s disease is an interesting study, but it is not the only place where we are neglecting our own immune systems.  With the recent Swine Flu scare schools around the nation and public buildings have put up hand sanitizers at every turn.  In fact, we are so germaphobic that at a recent visit to an aquarium I noted that hand sanitization was set up by petting tanks, not for the benefit of the animals being touched by human children, but for the human’s to use afterwards.  These captive and cared for sea creatures are probably the cleanest fish and water in the world.  It was odd.

I grew up in a time when the school of thought was you caught something, you got through it and you never had to worry about it again.  This ideal seems to have flown out the window.  Children are now required to get Chicken Pox shots to enter school; or you may sign an affidavit and home school your child every time there is a chicken pox outbreak.  The problem with the Chicken Pox vaccine is it doesn’t last; it has to be updated for the rest of your life.

This leads to another interesting thought.  If you have to take something for the rest of your life, isn’t that a pretty good gig for a company producing that thing?  Nobody wants to get Chicken Pox as an adult; it is much harder and has more complications.  The generation of school children who are in school right now are either going to risk serious side effects like blindness or death or they are going to be having shots every 10 years forever.

There are a lot of good things to say about medical intervention, vaccinations and antibiotics.   A lot of very bad diseases have been curbed and pretty much eradicated due to our interventions.  But why should we intervene if it is unnecessary and maybe even causes more problems?

In recent years humans have been swarming doctors for antibiotics to treat everything from the common cold to using it prophylactically for things like dentistry, bladder infections, and cuts.  This is problematic for two reasons:

1.  Most of the time you will recover on your own making your immune system stronger.  Once your immune system has worked out the code on something it is a much easier fix the next time around.

2. Antibiotics are not working as well anymore.  People are using them too much and the bacteria itself has changed in order to get into your body and cause havoc.  In fact recent studies at the Harvard School of medicine show that some bacteria actually thrive on antibiotics.  It has become their food.  This was discovered by accident when scientists were trying to create bacteria that converted waste.  To set up a control group that wouldn’t grow they bathed the bacteria in antibiotics.  The control group surprised the researchers by flourishing.

Imagine an opposing army that has trained its members to fit in and subvert while looking like regular citizens.  Bacteria has evolved so it can do this, while at the same time, our immune systems are becoming fat, drooling Homer Simpson wannabes.

When we build a clean water system we take bacteria out, both harmful and beneficial, this is why we see more digestion based health problems in countries and areas with a better standard of living.  Yes we can take probiotics in order to put what we need back in, however in the mean time our body is freaking out.  It’s set to do a certain thing. Also keep in mind that probiotics are not regulated, prescribed or taught in depth to those in medical schools.  Invariably people will have to play around with supplements to get the right kind of probiotic.  This too throws off our naturally functioning system.

It is interesting that in treating bacterial imbalance, what is prescribed by doctors is not a probiotic to address the problem, but rather medications that addresses the symptoms. And here there be dragons, because it seems to be becoming increasingly clear that drug companies don’t want us to get better, it would ruin their business model.  A well person doesn’t need them and they lose customers and lobbying power.

What this all comes down to is yes we should be helping to make better water accessible to people who need it.  But let’s not go overboard killing every single bug we see under the microscope.  Some of those bugs are essential to us.  It is easy enough to stick to filtration that has stood the test of time, like sand,plants or if you want to go a step above, use an iodine straw which costs about $3.50 ( U.S. currency) and kills the things that would harm you while keeping the beneficial bugs in.

Probiotics for Chrohn’s



Short list of ailments caused by bacteria

11 Comments on “Think Before You Drink”

  1. Grainne, water, as you know is one of my pet subjects. One of my big objections to purified water is that it removes even the trace minerals that our bodies need. Considering that most of our agricultural foods are grown in nutrient exhausted soil and are artificially pumped for development, there are very few trace minerals in our foods, as well. If we don’t have the proper nutrients, we have weaker defense systems.

    Your paragraph on the aquarium experience left me feeling a bit anxious. I was always taught to put my hands in the water first before touching the sea creatures so that our dry touch will not carry a foreign bacteria the animal can’t combat. I’m glad the sanitizers are an after the act caution. Most sea life has a slightly slimy outside cover, which is their own protective immune system. To touch one with sanitizer on your hands could very possibly kill it.

    I really balked at having my children vaccinated and didn’t have it done until the public school they attended stated it was mandatory, not voluntary. I had been told by my midwife that children who nursed had all the same immunities as their mothers, and i had nursed my children until they were three. Fortunately, they had both already had the chicken pox, with no great hazards beyond discomfort, so they were allowed to skip that particular vaccination.

    I also wonder greatly about America’s new list of antibiotics and can’t help but wonder if some of the affects have been purposely diluted, altered or simply respond to only particular types of body chemistry. One shot of penicillin cleared up a very severe bout of Montezuma’s Revenge within forty-eight hours while i was in Mexico, but ten day’s worth of amoxicillin, back home in the United States, didn’t clear a sinus infection. Strange to think that while i was in Mexico, i battled with heat, hunger, sub standard living conditions, dehydration, polluted water, but i never once battled with a disease, bacteria or a virus that wouldn’t go away with a little standard medication.

  2. Very interesting article!
    Surely it must be possible to strike a balance between over-sanitised water and water in some third world countries where they may not get crohn’s but are prey to other killer diseases.
    I am not a great fan of fluoride but in some places it is put into the drinking water so we have no choice as to whether we get it or not.

  3. Thought provoking blog. I have to disagree with you a bit on two points. We are not good at irradicating germs, bacteria and viruses. They evolve and adapt much better than we do. And quicker to. Bacteria has been around much longer than homosapians. I’m talking hundreds of millions of years. With regards to hand sanitiazers in aquariums and pettings zoos. This is mostly driven by insurance companies and protection from litigation around people getting E coli or other bacteria that are naturally around these destinations. Blame the lawyers and the sue happy individuals that want to capitalize and blame someone for their kids brief illness (yes I know E coli can be deadly to children and folks with compromized immune systems. But a simple hand was would do. Common sense people. Please. I liked your point about not being a germaphobe. We need parasites and bacteria in our body in order for us to survive. There is a symbiotic relationship that is important. Take cows for instance. Since we have moved to housing our cows in massive cow lots and fed “processed” food there has been an huge increase in E coli in our food chain. This is because free ranging cattle eat grasses which put bacteria in their stomachs that protect the cattle for E coli. So lets buy more free range cattle to eat. Or better yet. Shoot your own deer or elk (watch out for scrapie 🙂 ). Friends of ours raise their own cow together, feed it alfalfa, butcher it and split the meat. Sounds good to me.

  4. Hubbleboy, it is clear that there are some bacteria that work better than our bodies and will kill you dead. However, I would ask you to think about the fact that it is possible the reason that our bodies don’t adapt as well or as fast as bacteria is because we intervene too much. If you look at an evolutionary model it becomes more clear that the more adaptable of whatever species will survive and pass those adaptations along to their offspring. It is possible that we could be a lot healthier as a species if we allowed more often for our bodies to work the way they are supposed to.

  5. Fortunately, for now anyways, I don’t have to worry too much about a compromised immune system – the place I work at every day is crawling with filth and all manner of bacteria. I’ve worked there for over two years and caught a couple of significant illnesses from it (like bronchitis), so my bodies defenses are operating on high-alert status.

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