“The War on Bugs” – Why We Really Need Germs
The Saturday Evening Post Examines
“The War on Bugs” – Why We Really Need Germs
Indianapolis (February 26, 2013) — In our modern effort to eradicate disease, we pop antibiotics like candy, apply hand sanitizers with abandon, and gargle mouthwash by the gallon. But this carpet-bombing of germs takes a huge toll on good microbes as well as bad. The March/April issue of The Saturday Evening Post, on newsstands now, reveals recent research pointing to medical problems including asthma, obesity, and chronic sinusitis that might be caused by the absence of certain microbiota in our bodies.
According to Post medical contributor Sharon Begley, “Our decades-long war on germs is looking seriously wrongheaded,” and goes far beyond the issue of people becoming immune to antibiotics and similar medications. Microbiota act like genomes – determining who is more prone to certain diseases and medical conditions. Knowing which microbes live in healthy people can help medical experts in the future.
Begley cited recent research and striking examples of how microbiota influence human health:
Excessive appetite: Certain gut bacteria produce a compound which makes you feel full and reduces how much you eat. Absent those bacteria, your brain doesn’t get the “stop eating” signal. For example, Helicobacter pylori regulates the stomach’s production of an appetite-stimulating hormone. Several labs have found that people whose stomachs harbor more H. pylori have less of the hormone and thus less hunger.
Asthma: H pylori also causes peptic ulcers and is linked to stomach cancers. Although once in almost everyone’s gut, H. pylori is now found in just 6 percent of U.S. children, in part due to the widespread use of antibiotics and anti-microbials. While that should mean fewer ulcers, there’s a dark lining to that silver cloud: H. pylori may ward off asthma.
Chronic sinusitis: Last September, scientists reported that the nasal microbiota of chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) patients had low levels of good-for-you bacteria and abnormally high levels of a not-so-good bacteria. When the scientists depleted the microbiota of mice to make them like CRS patients’, sure enough, the animals developed sinusitis. And transplanting that bug into mice inhibited the growth of sinusitis-causing bacteria and prevented infection.
Autoimmune diseases: Researchers have found that the microbes in your gut play a role in regulating the immune system and therefore autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s. For instance one powerful gut bacterium has anti-inflammatory properties, protecting against recurrence of Crohn’s disease.
“Where all this leaves someone who wants to cultivate healthy microbiota is only starting to become clear,” speculates Begley. Until further research is conducted, consumers should protect themselves by considering antibiotic-free meat and restricting use of antibiotics for only must-have circumstances.
The full article from The Saturday Evening Post is available online at www.saturdayeveningpost.com/good-bacteria.
About The Saturday Evening Post
For nearly 300 years, The Saturday Evening Post has chronicled American history in the making—reflecting the distinctive characteristics and values that define the American way. Today’s Post continues the grand tradition of providing art, entertainment and information in a stimulating mix of idea-driven features, cutting-edge health and medical trends—plus fiction, humor, and laugh-out-loud cartoons. A key feature is the Post Perspective, which brings historical context to current issues and hot topics such as health care, religious freedom, education, and more. Tracing its roots to Benjamin Franklin, The Saturday Evening Post mirrors cherished American ideals and values, most memorably illustrated by its iconic cover artist Norman Rockwell. The Post is also known for publishing such literary greats as Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allan Poe, and Kurt Vonnegut, and continues to seek out and discover emerging writers of the 21st century. Headquartered in Indianapolis, the Post is a publication of the nonprofit Saturday Evening Post Society, which also publishes the award-winning youth magazines Turtle, Humpty Dumpty, and Jack and Jill.
“As the nation changed, the Post changed, but it looks to its past as a fertile ground
for its future.”——Starkey Flythe, Jr, Former Post Executive Editor