Reflective Research Journal – 3rd Year – Week Fifteen

I have been doing a bit of research on the vaccination programmes from the middle of the 20th century, the history of infectious diseases, the sociology of health and medicine and the current research being done on the microbes in our gut. This is just some initial musings on it all and how I feel it relates to our current situation. 

All my research just brings me back round to the hygiene hypothesis. It seems we are too clean and we have known this for sometime. If we have good nutrition, decent housing, and a healthy start in life through natural childbirth, breastfeeding and the beneficial bacteria they endow us with, we do not need to be this clean in fact it does us harm. Exposure to most endemic diseases early in life cause only mild infections because we still have maternal antibodies. Over generations in many countries this seemed to have been protection enough as long as people were not living in extreme poverty with overcrowding and poor nutrition. (Hart, 1985) 

Graham Rook proposed in 2003 though, that the problem is not that we are not exposed to enough infections in childhood, as David Strachan’s hygiene hypothesis suggested in 1989, but that we are not exposed to enough friendly bacteria. He called it the “old friends” hypothesis (Scudellari, 2017) and this exposure should begin at birth. (Collen, 2015) 

In Britain during WW2, people were at their healthiest because rationing meant everyone received the same amount of food, carefully chosen for optimum nutrition. During this time, infant mortality rates declined, (even though – or it has been suggested – because – sixty percent of doctors were fighting in the war – but that is another area of research) and the average age of death from natural causes went up. (Cahill, 2001) 

A steady decline in all the major diseases began “well before the introduction of effective treatment, leaving only a relatively small residue of cases by the time vaccination or effective drugs” became available. (Hart, 1985 P5) 

Antiseptic became widely used or abused and we became less likely to be exposed to diseases early in life because we were busy sanitising everything. Add to this the indiscriminate carpet bombing of our gut microbes with the misuse of antibiotics (which could have remained a wonder drug, had it been kept for life threatening cases) and our microbiomes and therefore our disease resistance became disrupted until the present day, where we now suffer from a host of chronic 21st century diseases that have sprung up or massively increased in number in the decades since mass vaccination: including, obesity, autism, mental health problems, gut disorders, allergies, asthma, eczema, cancer and the host of autoimmune diseases. (Collen, 2015) 

Biologist and Zoologist Alanna Colleen in her book 10% Human suggests that understanding the microbes in our gut and learning to look after them could unlock the mysteries of these diseases and lead to much greater health. More and more research backs this up.  

It seems we have come to rely on vaccines because things have gotten so out of balance, but from what I can garner they are a quick fix, a tiny plaster on a much bigger problem, not a long-term cure. So, vaccinating everyone who needs it (and wants it) against Covid-19 is fine for now, but is that going to be the only solution we reach for every time a new disease crosses over from the badly abused animal kingdom? (Yet another area of research). Or are the scientists looking for the root causes of the problem going to be heard. 

Sadly, it seems unlikely on our current course as any scientist who dares to suggest an alternative route to the one we are taking, quickly becomes discredited in a way which is all too reminiscent of the witch hunts. 

Decided to add this to my FB post:

***EDIT, in case anyone misunderstands, I am in no way saying that during an active pandemic should we not wash our hands and obviously I do. I am saying things have become imbalanced over a long period of time by over sanitising and for example the WHO classify “Antibiotic resistance as one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.”

I just want to reiterate that I am saying that the evidence is saying that bacteria and poor hygiene are not the problem, our weakened resistance is, which is as a result of not being exposed to enough bacteria when we are young and compounded by poverty e.g. factors like poor nutrition, overcrowding and poor housing. 

When we are young is when I am saying in particular we should be dirtier and not RIGHT NOW.

References 

Cahill HA. Male appropriation and medicalization of childbirth: an historical analysis. [Online] J Adv Nurs. 2001 Feb;33(3):334-42. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.2001.01669.x. PMID: 11251720. Accessed From: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1365-2648.2001.01669.x?saml_referrer [Accessed 7 February 2021] 

Collen, A. (2015) 10% Human – How Your Body’s Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness. London, William Collins. 

Hart, N. (1985) The Sociology of Health and Medicine. Ormskirk, Causeway. 

https://www.historyofvaccines.org/timeline/all

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4024226/

https://medicine.yale.edu/news/yale-medicine-magazine/breaking-the-back-of-polio/

https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritioninthenews/wartimefood/warnutrition.html

The Gut Microbiome and Its Role in Obesity 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5082693/

Statistics and the British controversy about the effects of Joseph Lister’s system of antisepsis for surgery, 1867–1890 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4530413/

https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/biggest-threats.html

A simple article about the human microbiome/gut health and what you can do to look after it. 

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gut-microbiome-and-health

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2254471-the-microbiome-how-gut-bacteria-regulate-our-health/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4566439/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2020/sep/15/covid-farm-animals-and-pandemics-diseases-that-changed-the-world

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