Thursday, 3 May 2018

Allergies - Modern Living and Me

I watched the BBC Horizon programme called Allergies - Modern Living and Me. Its interesting conclusion was that in order for a human being to be healthy it needs to be subject to to the right bacteria from birth in order that it can educate our bodies. We need the right amount - and diversity - of good bacteria if we are to be healthy. Amazingly, normal birth through the vagina envelops a baby in important bacteria right from the start. So those born by Caesarean
section immediately get off to a bad start - especially since they are often then exposed to a less beneficial bacteria in intensive care wards. And if infants - especially those younger than 1-year old - are given antibiotic courses, while these might be necessary to kill off bad bacteria, the collateral damage they do of also killing off good bacteria can lead to life-long allergies.  It also explains why we should try to avoid antibiotics at any time, if we can. We need those health-giving mini-beasties, and antibiotics work like a sledge-hammer to squash them all.

It appears that modern living in sanitised surroundings, often far removed from the bacteria of the great outdoors, is also a factor, especially for growing children. So getting them out there in the open air and that outdoor bacteria that our ancestors knew and loved will help to programme their bodies to live a happier and healthier life. This lack of engagement with the great outdoors is almost certainly responsible for less healthy individuals, so if you love your children, get them outdoors poking around for beasties. Horizon showed that this outdoor bacteria is easily brought inside, and then spread around, and that the family dog is a great ambassador in doing just that. So get out to the park, in the garden, follow the lead of that dog!

This is all particularly interesting to me because it helps prove just how intimately we interact with the rest of creation. The billions of bacteria we have on us - and especially within our gut - are not just beneficial for our health: they are actually essential to life. And, apparently, what is most important in all this is diversity. One good bacterium is not enough; we need a variety. So while a  given probiotic might be great, a diversity of them is 'greater'. And fruit - a 'pre-biotic' - can help us to acquire them. It all begins to add up, doesn't it, including that call for 'five a day'?

So how diverse is your life?

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