For once an editorial in English. It was an American professor who got me thinking, and it has nothing to do with the discussion that is going on in the Netherlands at the moment. The professor is Dr. Martin Blaser, a professor of internal medicine and professor of microbiology at New York University Langone Medical Center. He was interviewed by ‘de Volkskrant’ (current European Newspaper of the Year). On November 13 Blaser will hold the 21st ‘Anatomical Lesson’ in Amsterdam. The subject will be the undermining of our health by excessive use of antibiotics in health care and bio-industry.
In the interview Blaser tells us why we should nurture our bacteria. Microbes help our bodies to function. However antibiotics threaten our microorganisms, and studies now suggest that antibiotics influence (enhance) the occurance of diseases like obesitas, asthma and type 1 diabetes. Antibiotics not only kill the bacteria that cause infections, they also kill healthy populations of bacteria that are part of our immune system. Blasers new book is called Missing microbes (translated as De beestjes in ons). What he finds is that every generation loses microorganisms. Are there 1,000 species in one generation; then in the next generation there are 950 species and another generation later 900. Unnecessary use of antibacterial soap and C-sections are to blame too. European research has already proven that a large group of people has 40 per cent less diversity in the intestinal bacteria (the gut ‘flora’) and that those people have a disturbed metabolism. They have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases.
What struck me is that we, humans, have been combatting bacteria because we saw them as harmful. People use antibacterial soap and antibiotics because they think that is healthy. When in fact we are already aware that allergies occur more in clean environments than in less clean circumstances. And that using antibiotics can cause intestinal problems. The immune system is helped by the presence of microorganisms. Children living in a house with pets or on a farm develop less allergies than children growing up in cleaner households. Still the standard is that ‘cleaner is better’ and that bacteria and microorganisms are nasty creatures that we want to get rid off. We do not understand that we need the invisible flora/fauna.
Are there more things we get rid off before we understand them? Like parts of our tradition that struck us as odd, as outdated or outrageous? Of course some ’traditions’ in society are harmful and certainly not worth preserving. Child abuse for instance. I don’t see that as a tradition but as an act of violence. But cooking maize or rhubarb with chalk is an effective way of dealing with the decalcifying effect those vegetables have. Even if our grandmothers did not realize that that was the reason for adding chalk (or milk or egg) to the cooking pan.
Maybe we should delve into the backgrounds of our culture and pass on the tradition as we receive it, so that our downlines can study the matter for themselves. We can experiment, but not only with new additions. We can experiment with the older parts of the tradition that we don’t understand. And then decide what to use and what not to use, but still passing on the tradition to the ones after us, because they may understand or for them it may work.
On the other hand passing on everything you have gathered to the next generation means that they inherit a lot. As seniors we should know what is important and what is worth handing over.
Who knows which bacteria are good for us and which aren’t? Or what is helpful and what is not on our spiritual path? This is where we can ask the God for help. He discerns what will live and what will die. He himself is no subject to the cycle of living and dying – the God does not die. He has knowledge of life and death simultaneously. He knows both sides of the coin. He can help us to make up the balance, to separate the wheat from the chaff. We still have to do it ourselves, and we can make mistakes. Even when we’ve thrown out something that was valuable, that we did not recognize as such, it may not be lost forever. For in the harvest of this year, and amongst the seeds of the corn, there will be some seeds of wild flowers that will germinate again. IF we have not meticulously eridicated all the weeds, but left some room for nature. And therein lies the clue 🙂
The index gives an overview of the articles in this edition. With summaries and translations of the summaries.