Now more than ever, the fear of contracting diseases and/or illnesses from our environment has become front and center. Schools expect kids to stay at home at the first sign of sickness and I’m sure many of you have seen (and probably used) the disinfecting wipes readily available as you embark on your “dangerous” journey in the grocery store. The overuse of anti-bacterial products has been a hot topic as of late with the announcement that the Food and Drug Administration recently banned the use of several ingredients in antibacterial soaps and washes. The agency said the products were no more effective than regular soap and water in preventing illnesses and could even pose some health risks. Along with this, there is also concern of the overuse of antimicrobials that are contributing to the development of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, which don’t respond to antibiotic treatment.
The “hygiene hypothesis” says that being too clean may mess up the immune system, leading to a wide range of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases which are on the rise. This situation that we’ve gotten ourselves into begs the question, if we are too clean should we stop washing our hands so much or stop trying to avoid our sick friends and family members? The answer is “No.”
Disease prevention via hand washing with soap and water is the best strategy to keeping preventable illnesses away and reducing the incidence of disease among populations. However our clean, indoor-centered lives and a Western diet rich in processed foods have depleted our biomes which are made up of crucial bacteria and worms that naturally live in our bodies, and especially in our digestive tracks. These organisms play a significant role in the development and regulation of our immune systems, and the medical community is now realizing that to get our good bacteria back depends greatly on the right diet.
There is an amazing book called the The Microbiome Solution: A Radical New Way to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out written by a renowned Gastroenterologist that highlights the reasons why our microbial community (gut bacteria) is out of whack and how to get these major players back on the field. The future of Microbiome research is promising and will put us back in the driver seat when it comes to preventing illness and disease.
Another great resource on how to improve your gut health, demonstrates the power cultured food has on healing digestive problems. In Cultured Food for Health, Donna Schwenk digs deep into the amazing healing potential of cultured foods and the links between an imbalanced microbiome and other health ailments, including high blood pressure, allergies, depression, autism, IBS, and so many more.