Eliminating Bacteria may Reduce Health
Although most people tend to think of hospitals as clean places, they are very wrong. There are thousands, if not tens of thousands of viruses floating about when they are coughed up by people with various colds and influenzas, and there are also drug resistant bacteria in hospital wards. Even if we exclude sterile rooms, ICUs, and isolation wards for highly infectious patients, it is best to think of hospitals as dens full of pathogens.
With TV commercials blasting us with disinfectants and antibacterial products, and constant disinformation telling us that all bacteria are dirty and bad, many people have become brainwashed into believing this is true. The most numerous life forms on Earth are microorganisms, and there is an almost unimaginable number of bacteria living in and around our bodies (roughly one quadrillion bacteria per person). They even fill the air to the extent that we inhale over 50,000 bacteria into our lungs with every breath, making the eradication of bacteria from our daily lives impossible. On the contrary, because “sterilization” is an action that does not discriminate between good and bad types of bacteria, we often kill many bacteria that we need. Because we often have symbiotic relationships with bacteria on the surface of our skin and in our intestines, the more we disinfect, the greater the risks to our health.
Normal Bacterial Flora that Protect the Body
Although the human body is slightly alkaline, the surface of the skin is slightly acidic. It is slightly acidic due to the normal bacterial flora on the skin that feeds on sebum and excretes organic acids such as lactic acid. These acids help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Therefore, excessively washing away the skin’s normal bacterial flora can lead to the skin becoming slightly alkaline, creating an environment in which harmful bacteria can grow and multiply far more easily (there is a disease in which the skin molds that is a condition dominated by harmful bacteria). As this normal bacterial flora on the skin is an important barrier for our skin, we should not wash it off excessively nor disinfect ourselves unnecessarily.
In the case of women, the acid environment within the vagina is maintained by Doderlein Bacilli (a lactobacillus), which creates a barrier that prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. However, more and more women are washing out this bacillus through the excessive use of increasingly popular bidets, which permits the growth of harmful bacteria and has led to an increase in the number of young women with vaginitis.
Excessive “Sterilization” leads to Bacterial Resistance and Food Poisoning
Where do outbreaks of drug-resistant bacteria and O-157 occur? In most cases, drug-resistant bacteria is found in hospitals and food-poisoning occurs in places such as eateries and school cafeterias. It is obvious that the incidence of drug-resistant bacteria in hospitals is caused by the overuse of antibiotics. Additionally, the occurrence of food-poisoning is happening because of strict “hygiene management.” It is believed that what they both have in common is attempts to eliminate bacteria.
If an environment is kept sterile through the use of chemicals, it is only natural that bacteria with the ability to survive that environment will eventually develop and reproduce rapidly. Representative of such bacteria are drug-resistant bacteria. As living organisms, it is only natural that bacteria perceive the threat antibiotics pose to their survival and develop a resistance to them. The use of chlorine to prevent food-poisoning will likely produce an even stronger bacteria.
Although drug-resistant bacteria may be frightening, the vitality of these bacteria is extremely low as they have used up roughly 70% of their vitality in developing resistance. The same is true for O-157, a strain of E. Coli that produces toxins, which has a low vitality due to the efforts expended in producing toxins. They quickly fall prey to other bacteria in a healthy intestinal flora. In short, we should stop the excessive use of chlorine for sterilization, significantly reduce periods of antibiotic use, and prepare an intestinal environment that allows beneficial bacteria to work to our advantage. Drug-resistance in lactobacilli and yeast fungi, which are representative of beneficial bacteria, is unheard of. Therefore, if we continue to eliminate bacteria, beneficial bacteria that inhibit harmful bacteria will decrease and create an environment in which even pathogenic bacteria with low vitality (such as drug-resistant bacteria and 0-157) can thrive.
Winners and Losers against Pathogenic Bacteria
Why is it that, among those that eat the same food, there are those who get food-poisoning and those who do not? It is not because those who do not get food poisoning are equipped with some special ability to kill pathogens, but because they have a rich intestinal flora (a condition in which a variety of bacteria coexist in mutually beneficial relationships) that is undaunted by pathogens. By regularly taking in beneficial bacteria through sources such as fermented foods, an intestinal flora can develop with beneficial symbiotic relationships that inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
According to research by professor Hattori at Tokyo University, it was found that the acetic acid produced by some strains of bifidobacteria inhibits the absorption of toxins produced by O-157 into the blood. The benefits of beneficial bacteria are enormous.
Speaking of pathogenic bacteria, one of the most famous is Helicobacter Pylori bacteria found in the stomach. It is thought to cause gastritis and stomach cancer, and eradication is the standard procedure when it is found. However, is the H. Pylori bacteria, which is found in 80% of the Japanese population, really pathogenic? H. Pylori creates a protein that instructs the stomach to reduce gastric acid when acid levels become too high. Because this protein is known to cause gastric ulcers, the conclusion was made that Helicobacter Pylori = gastric ulcers, but the real problem is why there was hyperacidity to begin with.
The root of the problem is believed to be the sympathetic nervous system reacting to stress. Therefore, before eradicating H. Pylori, perhaps the first priority should be to reduce stress and relax.
Additionally, H. Pylori is thought to produce substances that control appetite and by eradicating the bacteria, there is the possibility that sufferers, being unable to suppress their appetites, eat too much and gain weight. Bacteria really are mysterious. They are something that we, with our limited and naïve human intelligence, cannot hope to fully understand.
Health Techniques that Anyone can do Immediately
If you have ever thought of the road to healthy living, I believe that taking full advantage of the benefits of beneficial bacteria is a great shortcut (for more on the advantages of making allies of beneficial bacteria, please refer to issue 16 of this magazine). Actively and regularly take in a variety of beneficial bacteria with fermented foods and cultivate your intestinal flora to continue to excrete healthy feces on a daily basis. Doing this and avoiding excessive antibiotics and foods tainted with additives so as not to disturb the bacteria flora and maintain a healthy intestinal flora, is a method to stay healthy that just about anyone can do immediately.