My Dirty Little Secret
I like bacteria. I let my kids eat dirt. Sometimes (okay most of the time) I forget to wash their hands before dinner.
And I’m okay with that.
In this world of antibiotics, antibacterial soap and antimicrobial clothing most people think I’m snuggled up in a nice, warm petri dish full of the enemy. All I can say is . . . yep.
How did you spend your first year of marriage? Mine was a process of becoming incapacitated by cascading failures all across my body’s functional systems. It started with hives, then moved to severe abdominal pain, heart palpitations, fatigue, humiliating acne and weight loss that reduced me to nothing but a skeletal silhouette.
The established medical community gave me a nice little label – autoimmune disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) – also known as “your body is attacking itself and we have no freaking idea why . . deal with it.“
Natural Born Killers
So I did. It took a long time, but I did eventually learned why my immune system was going haywire. Each of us are born with natural killer cells (NK cells) designed to seek and destroy abnormal cells such as cancers and viruses. Their sole function is to fight, but all too often we eliminate their natural enemies with the overuse of antibiotics.
To make things worse, antibiotics and antibacterial cleaners/soaps/etc kill both harmful and beneficial bacteria indiscriminately. Beneficial bacteria are designed to help us fight infections. When they bite the dust alongside their bad brothers, we become more vulnerable to future infection, which requires more antibiotics, leading to more infection . . . the cycle goes on and on. Where beneficial bacteria used to thrive, helping us with essential functions like digestion and detoxification, we have become a wasteland. That’s when NK cells find a new enemy . . . us.¹
Imagine your body is the earth. There are good armies and bad armies, and then there’s a little battalion of good army robots designed to seek out and destroy the stray soldiers from the evil empire (muah hahahaha!). One day the whole world goes nuclear (aka a course of antibiotics that kills indiscriminately), and most of the armies are wiped out. The robot special force is unaffected, but most of the enemy they’re designed to seek out and destroy an enemy no longer exists. Unfortunately they can’t override their programming, so they begin attacking friendlies instead. That, in a nutshell, is the sci-fi definition of an autoimmune disorder. For a more complete explanation of germ theory and why Pasteur got it wrong check out this post.
Winning The Culture War
To maintain health we need to build up the good armies and avoid nuclear options like antibiotics as much as possible. Unfortunately, we’re drinking antibiotics whether we like it or not, so there has never been a more important time to build up the good bacteria in our bodies. (I’m not sure how a battle analogy took over this post, sorry!)
Now, most of this is probably not new to you, but maybe like me you’ve gotten lax about including probiotic-rich fermented food in your diet. If you’re ready to turn that around and start summer healthier, happier and more colonized, I have a suggestion!
Jenny from Nourished Kitchen just launched Get Cultured! How to Ferment Anything. And seriously ya’ll, she means anything! Honey-wine, homemade soda, barbecue sauce, even BACON. With 100 recipes featuring everything from coconut kefir to sour pickles and condiments like ketchup and mustard there is literally something for everyone. And the best part is she shares the principles behind the recipes so you can create your own!
Tomorrow I’ll share a little more about the class, but seriously you should check it out. Let’s put our spring/summer produce to good use this year!
If You Could Ferment ANYTHING, What Would It Be? Spontaneous apple cider? Coconut chutney? Kvass? Tomatillo salsa?
Photo Credit: Joe Photo on Flickr