I’ve wanted to write about Functional Medicine, as compared to what has evolved into the practice of Western Medicine, for a while and was spurred into action over the weekend by reading Dr Frank Lipman’s description of his Philosophy.
This is part of how Lipman describes his approach to the practice of medicine:
I believe in true health care
I believe that health is more than merely the absence of disease. It is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well-being. Western medicine is excellent for crisis care; for instance, when you break a bone, cannot breathe or are having a heart attack. But Western medicine is poor at preventing and treating chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis or auto-immune diseases. It offers no tools to get and keep you healthy. We have the knowledge now to go beyond the current crisis care model and incorporate lifestyle medicine, nutrition, supplements and exercise to improve the functioning of organs as a means of preventing disease and creating vibrant, sustainable health.
– Lipman (2010)
I Look For The Root Causes Of Disease Rather Than Suppress Symptoms
In conventional medicine, doctors are trained to suppress (or eliminate) symptoms. Although treating symptoms makes patients feel better temporarily, looking for the underlying cause is preferable. When you’re driving your car and the oil light goes on, you don’t put a Band-Aid over the oil light and drive on. You go to the mechanic to see why the oil light went on. Symptoms should be seen the same way. When there is an imbalance in the system, your body sends you signals. Looking for the root cause, treating the underlying disturbance, and restoring balance are more important than simply treating the symptoms. When a plant is sick or not doing well, you don’t paint it green; you look at the soil, sun, water and nutrients. This is exactly how I see the body, and the new Functional Medicine model looks at disease and dysfunction the same way.
– Lipman (2010)
This is how the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) describes the focus of Functional Medicine:
Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. It is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. In this way, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.
– Institute for Functional Medicine (undated – A)
The IFM lists six guiding principles of Functional Medicine:
An understanding of the biochemical individuality of each human being, based on the concepts of genetic and environmental uniqueness
Awareness of the evidence that supports a patient-centered rather than a disease-centered approach to treatment
Search for a dynamic balance among the internal and external body, mind, and spirit
Familiarity with the web-like interconnections of internal physiological factors;
Identification of health as a positive vitality not merely the absence of disease emphasizing those factors that encourage the enhancement of a vigorous physiology
Promotion of organ reserve as the means to enhance the health span, not just the life span, of each patient
A patient-centered approach refers to health care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and that ensures that patient values guide all clinical decisions. At IFM, patient-centered care is at the center of what we call the therapeutic partnership, the relationship that forms between a patient and clinician that empowers the patient to take ownership of their own healing. The power of the therapeutic partnership comes from the idea that patients who are active participants in the development of their therapeutic plan feel more in control of their own well-being and are more likely to make sustained lifestyle changes to improve their health.
– Institute for Functional Medicine (undated – B)
Western Medicine (also sometimes called Conventional, Allopathic, or Traditional Medicine) is what most of us are exposed to and its offerings are what’s considered ‘customary and usual’ treatment by our health insurance (if we’re lucky enough to have that).
In the Western Medical approach, in the form it has evolved into today, health care practitioners focus on symptoms of ill health and offer pharmaceutical drugs and/or surgery to try to alleviate these symptoms. This approach has proved to cost a great deal and hasn’t been very successful at helping us stay healthy.
Western Medicine, with its many and ever-increasing specialties and sub-specialties, has unfortunately come to resemble this:
It’s well known that the cost of health care in the US is the highest in the world (for health insurance, doctors’ visits, procedures, hospital stays, and prescription medicines) while our quality of health and average life expectancy is no better than – or is worse than – our counterparts in other countries. For more information on this, see More Proof That American Health Care Prices Are Sky-High. (Young, 2014)
Americans spend 2.5 times more on health care as people living in other developed countries. The graphic below compares the 2014 costs of health care procedures and tests, along with life expectancy, in the US to four other developed nations. (Lyons, 2014)
This graph compares health care costs in 13 countries in 2011, showing percentages paid by private citizens and the various governments. Note that the price of health in the US was not only much higher than in any of the other 12 countries but Americans also had to spend a great deal more out of pocket:
Our approach to health care apparently isn’t working so well.
THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION’S DEFINITION OF HEALTH
The World Health Organization (WHO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, was founded in 1948 to address international public health. In the Preamble to its Constitution, adopted in 1946 and signed by 61 countries, it defined health as:
A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
This definition has not been amended since 1948. (WHO, 2003)
Functional Medicine’s approach is clearly in alignment with WHO’s long term mission – while Western Medicine has taken an unfortunate turn away from being concerned with health to focus instead on trying to eliminate symptoms.
As my chiropractor and main health care provider, Denice Hilty, DC, has always stressed, catching a virus, bacterial disease or other illness can generally be avoided by keeping your immune system balanced and strong. This means the whole immune system – especially the gut microbiome, which bears 70-80% of the responsibility for keeping the whole body running smoothly and protecting us from pathogenic invaders.
Hearing about viral or bacterial infectious diseases that have turned into epidemics or pandemics is of course quite frightening. An epidemic describes a disease affecting a large number of people in a single area. A pandemic is an epidemic that spreads to a much wider area, across geographic areas.
DEADLIEST PANDEMICS IN HISTORY
THE SMALLPOX PANDEMIC THAT KILLED 300 MILLION PEOPLE OVER THOUSANDS OF YEARS
Smallpox is caused by a moderately contagious virus called Variola major. Initial symptoms began 12 days after exposure. (Fenn, 2003)
In the old world, smallpox was an ancient scourge dating back to prehistory. Scientists have found DNA evidence that the virus originated 10,500 years ago. Some 3,000 year old Egyptian mummies show evidence of having been afflicted by the disease.
The conquest of the New World was achieved by disease, not by guns or ships, during the decades following Columbus’ arrival in 1492. The mass deaths during the great smallpox plague in the New World was a profoundly significant, history-changing event. The indigenous people living in the Americas, unlike Europeans, Africans and Asians, had not had the benefit of co-evolving with the smallpox virus for millenia and these people died in droves from it: perhaps 80-95% of the 50-100 million native people living on this side of the world – approximately the same number as had lived in all of Europe in the late 1400’s. (Wayne, 2012)
When the Vikings landed in American 500 years before Columbus, they found groups of resilient indigenous people. Fortunately, the Vikings didn’t carry any terrible infectious diseases with them. But then Columbus’ second voyage to the New World (1493-96) brought 1,000 Spanish to settle in Hispaniola. These colonists introduced European epidemic diseases – such as influenza, smallpox, measles and typhus, which spread through the local people in the Caribbean, drastically reducing their population over the next 50 years.
The Spanish conquistador Cortes and his men inadvertently brought smallpox with them into the sophisticated Aztec empire in what is now central Mexico. A Spanish priest traveling with Cortes described the destruction he encountered in the Aztec’s capitol city of Tenochtitlán in 1520. (Wayne, 2012):
“As the Indians did not know the remedy of the disease…they died in heaps, like bedbugs. In many places it happened that everyone in a house died and, as it was impossible to bury the great number of dead, they pulled down the houses over them so that their homes become their tombs.”
The drawing below depicts Nahuas of central Mexico suffering from smallpox transmitted to them by the Spanish conquistadors:
About 30% of smallpox cases ended in death, usually during the second week of the disease. Most who survived the illness bore some degree of permanent scarring. Lip, nose and ear tissue could be eaten away by the virus. Blindness could result from corneal scarring.
The smallpox virus was spread through close contact with the sores or respiratory droplets of an infected person or through contact with contaminated bedding or clothing. A sufferer remained infectious until the last scab fell from the skin. (College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 2014)
See this interesting timeline of information about smallpox, from 1000, in China, through 2010, prepared by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The last identified naturally occurring case of smallpox was in Somalia in 1977.
Throughout history, about 70% of people who contracted smallpox survived – and apparently not everyone who was ever exposed to the virus became ill. Why?
MEASLES (World Health Organization, 2014)
Measles is a serious, highly contagious disease caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family. The virus normally grows in the cells lining the back of the throat and lungs. Measles remains one of the leading causes of death among young children worldwide. In 2012, approximately 122,000 people died from measles. This amounts to about 330 deaths/day, or 14 deaths/hour – mostly children under the age of five. People who recover from measles have lifetime immunity to it.
The measles virus is highly contagious and spread by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions.
Being malnourished and otherwise unhealthy increases the risk of contracting measles when exposed to the virus. A strong clue to how to avoid contracting measles in the first place?
Another viral pandemic, the co-called Spanish Flu or La Grippe, was unusually deadly. Between January 1918 and December 1920 it infected 500 million people world wide, including on remote Pacific islands and the Arctic, killing 50-100 million of them. This represented 3-5% of the world’s population at the time. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history and, occurring during World War I, greatly interfered with the war effort in participating countries. The Spanish Flu was the first of two pandemics caused by the H1N1 virus.
Unlike other influenzas, it tended to strike young adults who were thought to be healthy. Modern research, using virus samples taken from the bodies of frozen victims, concluded that the virus kills through a cytokine storm, an overreaction of the body’s immune system. The scientists believe the strong immune reactions of young adults overcame their bodies while the weaker immune systems of children and middle-aged adults resulted in fewer deaths among those groups.
Again, not every ‘healthy’ young adult who was exposed to this influenza virus succumbed to it. Why?
THE BLACK DEATH (BUBONIC PLAGUE)
DNA evidence taken from human remains found in a 14th century mass burial site of Black Death victims and unearthed during recent excavations in London found evidence that the epidemic was caused by a contagious airborne bacterium called Yersinia pestis, not by rat fleas as had long been believed. Plague researchers extracted DNA of the Black Death bacterium from the largest teeth in some of the skulls and compared it to the DNA responsible for an outbreak of a pneumonic plague that killed 60 people in Madagascar in 2012. The DNA codes were an almost perfect match.
Public Health England scientists say a plague that moved through the population at the rapid pace of the Black Plague couldn’t possibly have been spread by rat fleas biting a diseased person and then biting other people. The speed of transmission could only have been spread by bacteria from the lungs of victims expelled by coughs and sneezes, making Bubonic* Plague a pneumonic plague. The infection could only have been spread directly from human to human. The bacterial strain responsible for the Black Plague in the Middle Ages was no more virulent than today’s disease. It spread so quickly because its victims were malnourished and ill, with weak immune systems. (Thorpe, 3/29/2014)
*Buboes are inflammatory swellings of lymphatic glands, especially in the groins or armpits. The Bubonic Plague derived its name from this symptom.
“Black Death” derives from the disease’s symptom of death of tissue, often in the extremities. The dead, gangrenous tissue turns black.
The Bubonic Plague pandemic in Central Asia and Europe killed an estimated 75 to 200 million people during the Middle Ages. Yet a significant percentage of people who were exposed to the plague bacteria either didn’t become ill or actually became ill from it but then survived. The Black Death arrived in Britain in the autumn of 1348. By late spring of 1349 it had killed 6 out of every 10 Londoners.
This means 4 in 10 Londoners were able to survive the plague. The interesting question is why the many survivors were able to resist catching this plague or didn’t succumb if they did become ill with it.
RECENT VIRAL EPIDEMICS
Here’s a list of some of the more recent viral epidemics and their death toll numbers (Wikipedia, 10/9/2014):
Asian Flu of 1957–1958. Death toll: 2,000,000
Hong Kong Flu of 1968-69. Death toll: 1,000,000
HIV/Aids Pandemic in the Congo Basin 1960-present. Death toll: >30,000
Smallpox Epidemic of 1974 in India. Death Toll: 15,000
SARS Coronavirus Epidemic of 2002-3 in Asia. Death toll: 775
Worldwide Flu Pandemic of 2009-10. Death toll: 14,286
Ebola Virus Epidemic of 2013-present in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, US, Spain. Death toll: 3866 (as of October 2014)
Again, many people who were exposed to these viruses, including Ebola, either didn’t become ill or caught the virus and survived. Why?
Current information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (10/22/2014) on how Ebola Virus is transmitted:
Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with
blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
infected fruit bats or primates (apes and monkeys)
Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitoes or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only a few species of mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.
Healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids of sick patients.
During outbreaks of Ebola, the disease can spread quickly within healthcare settings (such as a clinic or hospital). Exposure to Ebola can occur in healthcare settings where hospital staff are not wearing appropriate protective equipment, including masks, gowns, and gloves and eye protection.
Dedicated medical equipment (preferable disposable, when possible) should be used by healthcare personnel providing patient care. Proper cleaning and disposal of instruments, such as needles and syringes, is also important. If instruments are not disposable, they must be sterilized before being used again. Without adequate sterilization of the instruments, virus transmission can continue and amplify an outbreak.
Once someone recovers from Ebola, they can no longer spread the virus. However, Ebola virus has been found in semen for up to 3 months. Abstinence from sex (including oral sex) is recommended for at least 3 months. If abstinence is not possible, condoms may help prevent the spread of disease.
Also, Ebola is apparently difficult to catch. Read this – the information is from an article on Nature.com called Largest ever Ebola outbreak is not a global threat: Although the virus is exerting a heavy toll in West Africa, it does not spread easily. (Butler, 2014). I’ve seen similar information about the difficulty of catching Ebola cited in many other places as well.
Wait, Ebola is hard to catch?
Though the strain of Ebola in the current outbreak appears to kill 56% of the people it infects, to become infected in the first place, a person’s mucous membranes, or an area of broken skin, must come into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, such as blood, urine, saliva, semen or stools, or materials contaminated with these fluids such as soiled clothing or bed linen. By contrast, respiratory pathogens such as those that cause the common cold or flu are coughed and sneezed into the air and can be contracted just by breathing or touching contaminated surfaces, such as door knobs. A pandemic flu virus can spread around the world in days or weeks and may be unstoppable whereas Ebola only causes sporadic localised outbreaks that can usually be stamped out.
Some reasons there has been a higher rate of transmission in West Africa – also from the Butler article cited above (Butler, 2014):
Local health authorities and international organisations such as WHO and Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders) are struggling to control the spread in these areas because of a lack of trust and cooperation among the affected populations. Doctors and health workers have sometimes been blocked from accessing affected places because of opposition from villagers who fear the medics will bring the disease. According to the WHO, not all people who are infected are getting or seeking care, and so are passing the virus on to family and other close contacts. Another major driver of new infections is that families are often continuing to perform traditional burial rites that involve mourners having direct contact with the bodies of the dead – and unfortunately all too often Ebola.
I hope this information will put your worry about contracting Ebola in perspective and reassure you.
STAYING HEALTHY: A STRONG AND BALANCED IMMUNE SYSTEM
YOU ARE NOT HELPLESS AGAINST THE EBOLA VIRUS – SHOULD YOU HAPPEN TO BE EXPOSED TO IT.
THE BEST WAY TO STAY HEALTHY AND AVOID BEING STRICKEN BY WHATEVER BAG BUGS ARE GOING AROUND – INCLUDING THE EBOLA VIRUS – IS TO KEEP THE MICRO-ORGANISMS LIVING IN YOUR GUT MICROBIOME – YOUR GUT IMMUNITY – BALANCED AND STRONG.
Can you identify who is malnourished in the three photos below?
It’s obvious in the children who are all skin and bones. We expect them to have an impaired immune system from lack of nutrition. But what about the overweight children and man? And the normal picture of health man? The overweight, so-called well-fed ones are also malnourished. And the normal-weight man may be suffering from malnourishment and a weakened immune system too – it depends on what kind of foods he’s consuming.
THE NEW MALNUTRITION (Turner, 2014) (Jeff & Dee, 2012)
Even people who appear quite healthy – at a reasonable body weight – can be malnourished and have unbalanced, weak gut immunity. Doctors tend to take our blood pressure, get our weight, listen to our hearts, and look at our blood test results. If those all look okay to them, they tell us we’re in good health. If they were to investigate the state of our gut microbiomes, they would likely often come to contrary conclusions.
“Malnutrition is a far greater problem than world hunger. Why? Because even if a person gets sufficient quantities of food, they can still be undernourished and thus subject to chronic disease, if the food they consume does not provide the proper amounts of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to meet their daily nutritional requirements.
“In other words, being overweight does not necessarily mean being well nourished. According to the UN Hunger Report, nearly 870 million people, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. The vast majority of the hungry, 852 million, live in developing countries — around 15 percent of their population — while 16 million people are undernourished in developed countries. The FAO states that the world is increasingly faced with a double burden of malnutrition, with chronic undernourishment and micronutrient malnutrition co-existing with obesity, overweight and related non-communicable diseases (affecting more than 1.4 billion people worldwide).
“Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year. However, with much of the imagery related to these reports showing emaciated children in Africa and India, most people fail to realize that obesity is another form of this same chronic problem.
“According to the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) malnutrition is the largest single contributor to worldwide disease.”
Without adequate nutrition, our cells don’t receive the nutrients they need to stay healthy. They become weak and unable to repair themselves. They start to malfunction and die prematurely. Or they fail to die when they should and we develop cancers.
Without proper nutrition, our bodies suffer from chronic inflammation. Our immune systems become seriously compromised. We develop chronic autoimmune diseases. A virus comes along and we are unable to repel it.
If you’re eating the Standard American Diet of fast and processed foods (aptly abbreviated as SAD), you’re probably consuming an abundance of calories. Your stomach may feel nicely full but what you’re consuming is typically nutrient-poor. The empty calories you eat provide some macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) while robbing your body of micronutrients. You’re eating dead food that has a long shelf-life instead of foods that are alive with nutrients.
This is very important information. It explains why only some people become ill or succumb in an epidemic or pandemic.
Famine, malnutrition and suppressed immunity (from whatever cause) go hand in hand with epidemics and pandemics.
Turner’s article also points out:
The three greatest killers of the modern world are:
All are directly related to our food choices. According to WHO (UN World Health Organization) more than 30 million people a year die as a result of those three diseases. That means just changing our food choices alone can potentially save 30 million lives a year!
While these diseases aren’t the result of a bacterium or a virus, 30 million deaths per year certainly qualifies them nonetheless to be designated as worldwide pandemics.
I’ve written on the dangers of hand sanitizers here and there on this site but decided to devote a whole post to them after encountering a big wall dispenser of Purell above a sink in a lovely West Village church bathroom yesterday – with no hand soap option. I’m sure the church believes they made a sensible choice. This got me thinking about how thoughtful people have been seriously misled. So here’s the explanation of why Purell in a bathroom is a bad idea.
It’s important to understand how the heavy use of Purell and other hand sanitizers is doing harm to our health.
The prevalent obsession with germs, viewing all of them as harmful and in need of being killed, is based in ignorance and simply misguided. Without the billions of friendly micro-organisms living in and on our bodies, we wouldn’t be able to sustain life. When we ruthlessly kill them on our skin and inside our bodies, we are doing ourselves a great disservice and jeopardizing our health.
As Michael Pollan, a well known American author, journalist, activist and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, put it in his excellent article Some of My Best Friends Are Germs (Pollan, 2013):
… as a civilization, we’ve just spent the better part of a century doing our unwitting best to wreck the human-associated microbiota with a multifronted war on bacteria and a diet notably detrimental to its well-being. Researchers now speak of an impoverished “Westernized microbiome” and ask whether the time has come to embark on a project of “restoration ecology” — not in the rain forest or on the prairie but right here at home, in the human gut.
THE HYGIENE HYPOTHESIS
The HYGIENE HYPOTHESIS offers an explanation of why it’s important to be exposed to a wide variety of germs in childhood:
A lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic micro-organisms such as gut flora probiotics, and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic and other autoimmune diseases by suppressing the natural development of the immune system. The lack of exposure leads to defects in the establishment of immune tolerance.
The Hygiene Hypothesis is also sometimes called the Biome Depletion Theory or the Lost Friends Theory.
The result of providing too sanitary an environment for our children is that they aren’t able to build up a natural resistance to pathogens, making them more susceptible to developing allergies, asthma, skin conditions and a wide variety of other illnesses and diseases – including all the autoimmune conditions, heart disease and depression. Specifically, lack of exposure to pathogens is believed to lead to defects in the establishment of immune tolerance. (Hardin, 2014)
In Some of My Best Friends Are Germs, Pollan mentions the interesting finding that children who live with a dog at home are healthier overall, have fewer infectious respiratory problems, fewer ear infections and are less likely to require antibiotics. This is strong support for the Hygiene Hypothesis. Researchers found that the effect was greater if the dog spent fewer than six hours inside – the longer dogs are outdoors, the more dirt they bring inside with them so the children are exposed to more diverse micro-organisms from playing with and being licked by their dogs. (Pollan, 2013)
Isn’t this the perfect point to make to parents who tell their children they can’t have a dog because dogs are too dirty?
Many schools in the US now require children to carry and use bottles of hand sanitizers. And, at least in the US, there are Purell dispensers all over hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, airports, work places, grocery stores, bathrooms – and in people’s purses and pockets.
The widespread use of hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps is seen by many as an unwelcome epidemic harming individuals’ health and contributing to the rise of drug resistant bacteria, often referred to as super bugs. (Hardin, 12/22/2013)
Hand sanitizers, antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, and other products that “kill 99% of germs” likely contain triclosan. In 1969 triclosan was registered as a PESTICIDE and is now widely used as a potent germicide in personal care products.
Do you think it’s a good idea to rub a pesticide on your skin?
As with antibiotics, triclosan doesn’t distinguish between useful microbes and pathogenic ones in destroying that 99%. Among the harmful effects of using anything containing triclosan is evidence that it interferes with fetal development. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports evidence that triclosan disrupts the body’s endocrine system, altering hormone regulation. Bacteria exposed to triclosan are apt to become resistant to antibiotics. It weakens the heart muscle, impairing contractions and reducing heart function. It is known to weaken skeletal muscles, reducing grip strength. It washes into sewage systems and pollutes our waters. And it has been found in the blood, urine and breast milk of most people. (Hardin, 9/6/2014)
There is strong evidence that anti-bacterial soaps and hand sanitizers containing triclosan contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, often referred to as super bugs.
Ten years ago, in 2004, a research team at the University of Michigan exposed bacteria to triclosan and found increased activity in cellular pumps that the bacteria use to eliminate foreign substances. Stuart Levy of Tufts University School of Medicine, one of the study’s authors and a leading researcher on antibiotic resistance, pointed out that these overactive excretory systems “could act to pump out other antibiotics, as well.”
This is a serious problem. Pathogenic bacteria such as streptococcus, staphylococcus, and pneumonia are already in the process of evolving defenses against currently used antibiotics and pharmaceutical companies aren’t developing many new antibiotics.
In the 15 years between 1999 and 2014, the FDA approved only 15 new antibiotics – compared to 40 in the previous 15 years. The World Health Organization currently regards antibiotic resistant super bugs as “a threat to global health security”. (Butler, 2014)
And then there’s my favorite bacterium: Clostridium difficile – the one you may not have even heard of but which has reached epidemic proportions, infecting 250,000 people and causing 14,000 deaths each year in the US alone. I had a nasty C. difficile infection in 2010 and fortunately didn’t die from it – though there were times I thought I was going to and felt so miserable I sometimes wished I would.
You can read here about how I vanquished my C. difficile infection without resorting to antibiotics – the usual Western treatment for it. It just didn’t make sense to me to take more antibiotics since it was frequent antibiotics that had weakened my gut microbiota to the point that a C. diff overrun took over.
The bottom line about C. difficile and hand sanitizers is that NO TYPE OF HAND SANITIZER KILLS IT. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012)
YOUR TAKE AWAY FROM THIS INFORMATION
Educate yourself about friendly bacteria versus pathogenic ones, return to washing your hands the old fashioned way – with soap and water, use your “hand sanitizer” only for emergencies – and teach this to your children.
If you must, use a non-triclosan-containing hand sanitizer to clean surfaces on phones, keyboard and laptops, and other high-touch surfaces. But clean your hands with good old soap and water.
Hardin, J.R. (2011). Successful Holistic Treatment of Clostridium Difficile Gut Infection: Case Study. Oriental Medicine Journal, 19:4, 24-37.See: http://issuu.com/davidmiller4/docs/c._difficile_omj_article_lo_res