When we fear something and want it to go away, we don’t just push for it, we wage war on it. We declared war on cancer in 1971. That same year we declared war on drugs. A war on poverty started in the 60’s. And a war on crime was declared way back in the 30’s.
While some things are worthy of waging war on, the current war on microbes is far from a good idea. We have a tainted idea of bacteria and viruses, and recently have become downright terrified of these invisible microbes. What many people still do not know is that one of the greatest advances in health, wellness, and medicine in the past decade has been in the study and understanding of our gut biome. This biome is the incredibly large and diverse community of bacteria, viruses and microbes that reside in, and on, our bodies.
How big is it? Well, we have approximately 10 trillion cells in the human body, but have over 100 trillion microbial cells. Wow! That is ten times more microbial cells than human cells. What is even more fascinating is that we now know that we contain approximately 20,000 human genes, yet contain 2-20 MILLION microbial genes. Another wow!
What is fascinating is that these microbes play a major role in health and disease prevention, but also moods, behavior, depression, pain, and even autism. The information we have gained has helped us to appreciate and be more careful with these microbes. This is why the use of antibiotics has been so scrutinized, because it does wipe out bad bacteria, but at the expense of wiping out the good bacteria as well. This is why diarrhea, vaginal yeast infections, and compromised immune systems are common effects tied to antibiotic use.
It turns out that most of the microbes in, and on, our bodies play a major role in keeping us well. This is one reason why being around others, playing outside, and rolling around with our pets is so critical. We need to be exposed regularly to microbes, not just to maintain health, but to maximize it. This is why babies pick things up off the floor and put them into their mouths. They are not being reckless and dumb, they are innately introducing more strains of microbes to help boost their overall gut biome.
Most people know (or did know before these crazy times) that the overuse of antibiotics and overuse of hand sanitizer kills more than just the bad microbes and can cause health problems. Most people know that disrupting the normal balance of microbes leads to stronger strains of bad microbes that we have never seen before and have no medicines to treat. By being too clean and vigilant against microbes, we have created antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Yes… that means more, stronger strains of bacteria that we have no treatment for. Scary!
This war we are waging against microbes is a HUGE mistake. The collateral damage will be devastating. In our futile efforts to stave off this virus, we will undo the decade of progress we’ve made in rebuilding a better, stronger, healthier microbiome. We will become weaker and more susceptible to other chronic illnesses, we will see a spike in autoimmune conditions, and if you think kids are sick now, just watch as the cases of asthma, allergies, food-sensitivities, and digestive disorders skyrocket. The “new normal” cannot be an all-out war on microbes. That will be the biggest mistake we can make.
Oh… if you want wage a war, wage it on unhealthy lifestyle choices, processed junk food, pollutants in our air and water, and on inactivity. These would be battles worth fighting… and battles that would have a much bigger impact on knocking down this virus, as well as any virus or bacteria in the future that threatens us.