Meaningless Food Labels We Tend to Believe

Accurate.
 
Easy-to-read.
 
Scientifically valid nutritional information.
 
All 3 are essential components of a comprehensive health strategy to help consumers improve their diets and reduce diseases when shopping at their local grocery store.[*]
 
With the natural/organic food category growing over 400% in the last 20 years,  it really shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that companies are cashing in by resorting to exaggerated, misleading or flat out false claims to gain a dollar in this growing market.[*][*][*][*]
 
In fact, companies spend billions in shady advertising to get you to purchase their product. Millions of which are spent in finding just the right words and written language to give them an advantage over the other guy (via test marketing, segmentation, positioning, branding, targeting, consumer research).[*]

 
Here is a list of the most common examples of false claims and other labeling shenanigans by the US food industry.

 
 
Natural
Also commonly labeled All Natural, 100% Natural, Naturally Raised
 

 
Obviously, products claiming to be natural (particularly those aimed at parents) have a competitive edge in the marketplace…it shouldn’t surprise us to see this label on literally EVERYTHING nowadays.[*] 
 
As you may know, the Natural label is an extremely general claim that often causes a consumer to imply a product or packaging is made from or is innate to our environment.[*]
 
Some consumers may even interpret claims such as “All Natural” or “100% Natural” as indicating a more nutritious or wholesome food product than it really is.[*]
 
In actuality, the FDA and the USDA regulate the term “natural” differently. So let’s clarify.[*]
 
 
FDA: Easy enough, the agency has never issued formal rules to clarify what the term ‘Natural’ represents. This is because, according to the FDA : “From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is 'natural' because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth”.[*][*]
 
In essence, all products labeled Natural that are not meat or poultry – have no merit at all.
 
…and that’s it for the FDA’s definition of the term.

 
 
USDA: Unlike the FDA, the USDA has formal policy (since 1982) on the term Natural. This policy declares all fresh meat and poultry (note, NOT eggs or dairy) carrying the “natural” claim must not contain any artificial flavoring, color ingredients, chemical preservatives, or artificial or synthetic ingredients, and the meat is “minimally processed” defined by USDA as a process that does not fundamentally alter the raw product.[*][*]
 
It may be worth noting that the USDA permits products to be labeled “100% Natural” or “All Natural” even if they contain added chicken broth, beef broth and/or saline water which can raise the sodium content of the product to unnatural levels.[*]
 
Although some producers may use the term “natural” on meat to claim that animals were not exposed to any antibiotics or hormones, this implication falls outside the scope of the USDA definition.[*]
 
Antibiotic use and/or hormone claims are not approved/regulated by the Natural label under the USDA.[*]
 
Also worth noting, the natural label does not include any standards regarding farm practice (ex. humane treatment/animal rights).[*]
 
Regarding annual verification on Natural claims, the USDA has defined the use of the term and can hold manufacturers accountable to the proper use of the claim but does NOT currently have a verification system in place to verify products after the initial approval prior to marketing. [*][*]
 
It may be worth noting that GMO ingredients are commonly used in food, beverages and/or feed used in beef/poultry/pig production that is then later labeled Natural.
 
In fact, a Hartman Group poll in 2010 illustrated that over 60 percent of consumers mistakenly believe that the "natural" label implies or suggests the absence of genetically engineered (GMO) ingredients.[*] 
 
Of course, some may propose that GMO ingredients are not different then the naturally occurring thing (be it animal or plant). But consider, you are genetically manipulating a plant or animal that becomes an organism that has never existed prior in nature…seems pretty UNnatural to me…
 
In 2010, the FDA purported that the consumer can read the label for themselves and determine if the item is natural – unfortunately, GMO ingredients are not required to be labeled (which may make it a tad difficult for consumers to read it).[*][*]
 
 
Bottom line – Natural only has real value when referring to meat and poultry when products are initially approved for marketing by the USDA (after initial approval, there is no verification system in place to validate/re-confirm claims).
 
 
 
Organic
 

You may be asking yourself why is the USDA Organic food label on this list….true, the Organic label comes with MUCH more merit then the ‘Natural’ label, I give you that…
 
However, the USDA Organic label is quickly losing the integrity it once possessed…for several reasons.
 
You may not realize, but to a very large extent, large NON-organic corporations have now come to dominate the organic food market and hold several seats on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).
 
These food corporations include — Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Cargill, ConAgra, General Mills, Kraft and M&M Mars.[*][*]
 
Fun note about the NOSB, this board is in charge of making recommendations regarding which substances are allowed and which are prohibited in organic food. The NOSB serves as an advisory board to USDA.[*]
 
It may not be too surprising, as large corporate memberships on the board increase, so has the number of nonorganic materials approved for organic foods. This list is called the National List. In 2002, 77 ingredients (such as baking soda) constructed the National List… today, more than 250 nonorganic substances are listed. [*]
 
I highly recommend you check out the National List for yourself…a very interesting read.
 
You might note carrageenan, a seaweed-derived thickener, is on the List. This might be interesting since it has a somewhat controversial background. Yet, the National Organic Standards Board voted 10 to 5 to keep carrageenan on the growing list of nonorganic ingredients that can be used in organic labeled foods.[*] 
 
Ammonium Nonanoate, an herbicide, was voted to be added to the list in DEC 2011. Those who voted on the Board for the addition were General Mills, Campbell’s Soup, Organic Valley, Whole Foods Market and Earthbound Farms. Luckily, the vote did not win the two-thirds majority that it needed – if it did, it would have been the first time a herbicide was placed on the list.[*]
 
There is also the issue of repeat failures of inspection and regulation of those using the Organic label.
 
In March 2010, an audit by the USDA Office found inspection agencies were failing to ensure that organic operations were producing organic products under a uniform regulatory requirement. Those involved in the USDA audit recognized that it really doesn’t take much to be certified organic.[*]
 
The problems start to arise when:[*]
 

1 A conflict of interest is created when certifying agency is paid directly by the farmers requesting the Organic label.
 

2 The accreditation of the certifying agencies is seldom re-evaluated.
 

3 Organic farmers are unwilling to maintain the paperwork to provide transparency of their operations.
 

4 The certifying agencies are inconsistent with the frequency of inspections, inspection standards and the punishment of violations. 


5 The National Organic Program does not maintain a systematic program for catching fraudulent operations with very few agencies testing for pesticides.

 
Now, I hope you are starting to get the gist of why the integrity of the organic label is slowly becoming less than the original standards it once stood for.
 
 
Bottom line The Organic label could be considered to be a victim of its own success. As the demand increases for organic foods, so does the interest from large corporations that will be able to influence the regulation and laws the label is composed of. If you can’t grow your own or buy from local farmers, then the best we got is the Organic label…just be aware that it ain’t what it used to be.


 
Contains Omega 3
 

First off, Omega-3 fatty acids come in three main types: EPA, DHA and ALA.
 
ALA does NOT have the proven benefit for the heart as EPA and DHA.[*]
 
Some foods are higher in these ALA, such as flax seeds.
 
Given that, eggs may be labeled as containing omega-3 if chickens are fed flax seed, but they should NOT be considered to have a heart health benefit because of their cholesterol and saturated fat content.[*]
 
Also, some products will add flax powder in their food simple to attach the omega-3 label on their product.[*]
 
Bottom line - If you want to increase you intake of Omega 3 fatty acids, stick to wild caught cold water fatty fish and seaweed.
 
 
 
 
Pasture-raised
 
Due to the number of variables involved in pasture-raised agricultural systems, the USDA has not developed a federal definition for pasture-raised products.[*]
 
Bottom line - In the US, this label is meaningless.
 
 
 
No Added Hormones
Also seen as ‘Raised without Hormones”, No Hormones Administered,
 

Federal regulations have never permitted hormones or steroids in poultry or pork. So, the problem with this label is that by using the term 'no added hormones' it suggests that any other products that do not use this term are adding hormones - this is not the case.[*][*]
 
However, the USDA does allow the use of a number of hormones on beef. Beef and that is labeled as “no hormones administered” is considered to be free from any added hormones over the lifetime of the animal and therefore does imply that the manufacturer has gone beyond USDA regulations for conventional meat production. [* 
 
Yet, it is important to note that the use of the term “hormone free” is considered “unapprovable” by USDA on any meat products.[*]
 
Bottom line - In the US, the merit of this label is trivial because it only applies to beef and in that case is considered ‘unapprovable’ .
 
 
 
Humanely Raised
 
Multiple labeling programs make claims that animals were treated humanely during the production cycle, but the verification of these claims varies widely. This label is not regulated under a single USDA definition.[*]
 
In the US, this label is meaningless (unless labeled Certified Humane® or Animal Welfare Approved).
 
The label Certified Humane® is completely different then the generic, all-encompassing Humanely Raised label.
 
The Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) 28-member Scientific Committee has reviewed all of the current research which resulted in standards for the Certified Humane® label. This certification conducts annual inspections by independent non-profit companies and required producers to meet all animal care standards in order to achieve certification (maybe the Organic label can take note on this one).[*]
 
It’s interesting to note that HFAC's Certified Humane® "Free Range" not only has a space requirement but also a prerequisite that hens must be outdoors for at least 6 hours per day (weather permitting).[*]
 
Bottom line – If you’re worried about animal rights, this label does nothing to make you sleep better at night. If you are interested in where to buy products that have the actual Certified Humane® label check this link out to search in your area.
 
 
 
Free Range
Also labeled Free Roaming
 

The USDA has defined "free range" or "free roaming" for poultry products only (this does NOT include eggs or beef).[*]
 
The USDA's (and industry standard) definition for "Free Range" is that birds must have "outdoor access" for 5 minutes. In some cases, this can mean access only through a "pop hole," with no full-body access to the outdoors and no minimum space requirement.[*][*]
 
These regulations do not specify the quality of outdoor access (ex. small patch of dirt or gravel) of the outside range. [*][*]
 
One thought to add to the ‘free range’ term is beak trimming which still normally occurs even though battery cages have been phased out. Beak trimming is most common in egg-laying strains of chickens. In some countries such as the United States, turkeys are routinely beak trimmed as well. (Beak trimming has been banned in Switzerland since 1992). The practice of beak trimming most often occurs at 1-day of age at the same time as the chick is being sexed and vaccinated.[*]
 
Bottom line – Remember, the label Free Range used on beef and eggs is unregulated and there is no standard definition of this term. In fact, the use of this label regarding poultry is a flat-out joke when you read what the term actually defines. Although you may find eggs or chicken meat claiming to be free range, I wouldn’t assume the bird was out pecking around in the sun outside old Farmer Brown’s barn. [*]
 
 
 
 
Raised without Antibiotics
 
The USDA has banned the use of the "antibiotic free" label on meat and poultry. 
 
Use of the term "antibiotic free" is considered "unapprovable" by USDA on any meat products. Yet the USDA still allows producers to label meat and poultry products with the claims "no antibiotics administered" or "raised without antibiotics."[*]
 
Virtually all intensively farmed animals receive low levels of antibiotics in their feed or water throughout their lives to get them to market weight. When animals are confined indoors by the thousands, antibiotics are used to suppress disease. Often times, animals are taken off the drugs before slaughter – as is often required by law for animals destined for human consumption.[*]
 
There is no organization that verifies this claim other than the company manufacturing or marketing the product. [*][*]
 
In 2008, Tyson Foods settled a class action consumer lawsuit for its false "Raised Without Antibiotics" claim. The company withdrew its modified label and agreed to $5 million in compensation (which isn’t much considering annual revenues of nearly $27 billion). [*]
 
Bottom line – This label is unapprovable and unregulated…which makes it pretty much worthless.
 
 
 
No Additives
 
I see this label a lot in combination with other labels.
 
Unfortunately, there is no official definition for the term ‘No Additives’ and it is not verified when used.[*]
 
Bottom line – worthless.

 
 
Made With
 
This label may claim that a food is “made with” whole grains, fruits, vegetables….it may even emphasize the presence of healthful ingredients through the use of pictures or banners.
 
True, the FDA requires companies to comply with specific regulations for claims about nutrients (such as fats, cholesterol, sodium, fiber)…however, the law does not cover claims about pictures of ingredients which may not even included in the product (such as whole wheat, fruits or veggies).[*]
 

For example: Tropical fruit flavored Gerber Graduates Fruit Juice Treats show pictures of fresh oranges and pineapple. But the main ingredients are corn syrup, sugar and white grape juice concentrate.
 
Another example: Betty Crocker’s Strawberry Splash Fruit Gushers don’t contain strawberries at all— just pear concentrate.
 
Bottom line – Read the ingredient list. If the ingredient even made it on list, look to see if it’s one of the first 3 ingredients in the product.
 
 
Good Source Of
 
This label ensures that the product contains between 10-19% of your daily requirement for a particular nutrient.[*  
 
Where this term can become quite misleading is in terms of fiber. This is because many products add “isolated” fiber.  On top of that, there is very little evidence that “isolated” fiber provides any of the disease-protective benefits that the real soluble and insoluble fibers do.[*][*][*]
 
If you see the words “inulin,” “polydextrose,” and “maltodextrin” listed in the ingredients, you are eating “isolated” fiber.[*]
 
Bottom line – Looking for a good source of anything: stay with whole foods.

 

Lightly-sweetened
Also seen as Low Sugar
 
The FDA has regulations concerning the use of “sugar free” and “no added sugars” but nothing governing the claims “low sugar” or “lightly sweetened”.[*]
 
Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats claim to be “lightly sweetened” but contain 12 grams of sugar per serving. 
 
Bottom line – useless.

Cognitive Dissonance at its Greatest: A Country of Pet Lovers and Meat Eaters

First thing, the most kind and intelligent people in my life purchase/consume animal products that have foreboding origins. And bottom line, a person’s choice of food, in my opinion, does not determine whether that person is a loving and compassion soul... it does, however, bring up a psychological and ethical paradox.[*][*][*]

 


American’s love their pets.
 
Last year alone, we spent over 14 billion dollars on pet services (not including vet care). There has been no time in history that has seen such a wide and growing variety of products and services for pets and pet parents.[*] 
 
 
American’s also love their meat (and cheese)….no other county in the world consumes more meat then America.[*]
 
With these statistics, I have to admit I am a bit confused by the logic of consuming/purchasing animal products (ex. meat, dairy, clothing) but still professing our beliefs against animal cruelty.
 
Is it that people are still truly in the dark when it comes to the origin and process of how their food got to their plate?
 
True, some Americans do choose to stop eating meat and/or dairy (or choose more humane origins such as local farmers) when they learn the extent that animals suffer for its production. However, an overwhelming majority do not. Recent research has illustrated that people keep eating meat by simply dampening their moral consideration of animals when sitting at the dinner table.[*]
 
Research explains that when there is a conflict between people's preferred way of thinking and their preferred way of acting, it is their thoughts and moral standards that people abandon first -- rather than changing their behavior.[*]
 
People may even employ the following when faced with their role as a consumer in the reality of the horrific conditions of industrialized meat/dairy:  



Denial - "Animals are treated fine.” “Animals don’t suffer.” “Human’s are superior.”
 

Minimization - "That's only the non-freerange animals."
 

Passive aggression- A general negative feeling towards people who don’t eat meat or eat locally farm raised meat.
 

Isolation - "The animals are nowhere near me and have nothing to do with me." “There is nothing I can do about it.”
 

Repression - Any guilt arising from having an active role in animal cruelty is avoided..
 

Humor - Making a joke out of the issue to avoid their own feelings about it.
 
 

This may be surprising to some, but animals raised for food in the US, in large part, are excluded from legal protection against cruelty.[*]
 
Specifically, 28 states have enacted laws that create a legal realm whereby certain acts, no matter how cruel, are deem ‘accepted’,‘common’, ‘customary’, and ‘normal’ farming practices. Of those states that do have anticruelty statues, they exclude poultry which represents approximate 95% of the 7 billion farm animals slaughtered annually.[*]
 

(I’m not going to drone on and on regarding what happens to these animals. I’ve seen it and I don’t care to rehash it. If you are truly curious then I suggest watching Earthlings or, the rated PG version, Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home)

 
So how do we go from abandoning our underlying principles of animal cruelty to changing our behavior? Could the answer be in an encompassing grasp on how much power the consumer has over this dilemma?  
 
With each meal, with each dollar – we truly cast our vote each and every day on whether we support animal cruelty or if we have enough balls and wherewithal to stand up against it.


“We patronize animals for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far beneath ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man.

In a world older and more complex than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth."
 

-Harry Beston 1888~1968

 
For those of you who are too afraid to witness how these animals come into this world, live, reproduce and die...just remember that they have to live through this violence each and every day, every minute and every second – and each of us has an active role in its progression (or cessation).  
 
Even more disturbing, in my opinion, is this cruelty is caused not because Americans are starving, naked, or without other means of enriching their lives, but rather - we simple enjoy a cheap double bacon cheeseburger or we like the feel of leather. Suffering caused for nothing more than fulfillment of sensual desire.
 
I understand, no one wants to see, experience or confront this violence…  watching an educational documentary on how animals are treated today in agriculture (such as "Earthlings") is hard to watch, but would be even harder to live.
 
To be honest, I never thought that I'd be the victim of such an impact. To the point that it would have such an immense influence on my health and spirituality.
 
For me, I SEVERELY underestimated how devastating the knowledge a movie like this imparts. I felt so mentally and emotionally exhausted after but also I felt an incredible sense of empowerment.
 
It lends an energy and purpose that tends to light a fire and push a person to be an integral part of ending the suffering.
 
On behalf of the billions and billions of animals who are suffering today, right this second...may your voice and actions be lent to them.
 
 

"Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal."
 

Ecclesiastes 3:19-20
 
 
… how is it that humanity has become so inhumane?
 
There is no NEED for this type of cruelty in today's society.
 
Everyone wants a better world, but few actually place the effort into modifying their behavior to BE the change to make that type of world. Be that change.
 
 

"You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity."
 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Science Behind the Anti-Antibacterial Movement

Let me first start with this fundamental key:
 
One Bizarre Theory Replaces Another
 
In the early 19th century, a few scientists extrapolated a new and bizarre theory: that disease was caused by tiny organisms and each illness had a corresponding germ.
 
After a few years of examining sterile cultures slides and a bit of playing around with vaccines, these scientists were able to convince the world that their germ theory of disease was, indeed, true.
 
This outlook was convenient (and perhaps, perfectly poised to take root at this time in history during America’s industrialization) because it was methodical and specialized in its approach to understanding both the cause and treatment of disease. It allowed us to breakdown, the cause of an ailment to one small, fundamental unit which provided us a simpler way to understand a disease (ex. one germ for each disease). [*]
 
A treatment was then established based on this approach allowing generalized (‘one size fits all’) and massive quantities to be produced at an industrious scale. This approach was able to keep cost and time at a minimum while treating an increasing population. [*]
 
However, this mechanical approach to health is now diminishing…
 
Some biologists have even begun to speculate a new theory (I imagine just as absurd as germ theory was originally thought of back in the early 19th century): that humans are not individual entities, but rather complete ecosystems dependent on billions (100 trillion +) of bacteria and viruses (quadrillion +) to establish, maintain and actively influence health.[*][*]
 
Much of this information would have Pasteur rolling over in his grave…. who would think that viruses would be shown to help keep people disease free?[*][*]
 

Enter the field of Microbiomics.
 
If you have not heard of the human microbiome or microbiomics then, with great reverence, let me provide some mind blowing information for you to digest (no pun intended).
 
 
 

Microbiomics (….and why it’s absolutely mind blowing)
 
 
The ‘specific causes’ of diseases that revolutionized medicine a century ago is going through a conceptual evolution (time to get on board) – the way scientists think about disease and normal physiology is transforming. [*]
 
When I was in 7th grade, I remember the Human Genome Project being the next biggest and greatest thing science had going on…. now that it has been completed, however, a new phase has emerged: the Human Microbiome Project (HMP)….and it is changing everything. [*]
 
The HMP is an initiative to sequence the genomes of all the microbiological flora for a variety of body sites which play a “vital and interactive role” with our human DNA, immunity and disease. As bacteria, microbes and viruses in our bodies are modified under environmental pressure (ex. antibiotics and cesarean section birth), so is the regulation and replication of our genes (yes, our DNA). The two are intimately connected. [*] 
 

Far from being the ‘master molecule’ in our physiology, our DNA is demoted to simply another set of cellular genomes jostling for influence within us, reacting to and being regulated by, a set of microbial genomes that outnumber our own 10 to 1. [*]
 
 
Try to think of the bacteria, microbes and viruses that reside in our bodies as it’s own sensory motor organ which reacts much like our own nervous or immune system.[*]
 
Our microbiome encodes physiological traits that we were able to bypass in evolution; for example, the ability to “harvest certain nutrients and energy from food that would otherwise be lost because we lack the necessary digestive enzymes”. [*]
 
 
The Death of Germ Theory
 
The major conceptual doctrine of Pasteur’s germ theory is the role of causal pathogenic agents in disease. For example, diseases are separable from the patient and bacteria or virus in a human host equals disease. [*]
 
Even before the study of Microbiomics, it was clear that many individuals harbor dangerous bacteria (even at in large quantities) and suffer no ill effects.[*]
 
Certain diseases, such as herpes virus infection, which seem to fit neatly in the germ theory framework began to reveal a beneficial relationship that conferred immune advantages:

 

After clearance of acute infection, latent herpesvirus confers resistance to bacterial infection. To be specific, protection correlated with 100-fold reduction in bacterial burden in the spleen and liver.
 

2007 Nature [*]
 

“We now demonstrate that herpesvirus infection triggers systemic, PROFOUND IMMUNE MODULATION, with the potential to alter significantly the kinetics and nature of host response to foreign antigens.
 

Thus, whereas the immune evasion capabilities and lifelong persistence of herpesviruses are commonly viewed as solely pathogenic, our data suggest that latency is a SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP with immune benefits for the host.”
 
 
So long we’ve swallowed the metaphor of an endless “war” on infectious diseases which involved a search for the microbial ‘cause’ of each and every disease  (of course, followed by the anti-microbial cure). This ideal has served its purpose and now we can no longer allow it to be our sole guide in medicine. [*]


 

“A new paradigm is needed that incorporates a more realistic and detailed picture of the dynamic interaction among and between host organisms and their diverse populations of microbes, only a fraction of which act as pathogens.” (Forum on Microbial Threats, 2006) [*]
 
 
A New Understanding of Disease

 

Quick Personal Backstory: My recent “antibiotic debacle”


About a month ago, my two year old was sent home from daycare for pink eye. I was expected to get a prescription for antibiotics for her to return. I was hesitant to say the least, my daughter has never received antibiotics and I wasn’t certain that all cases of conjunctivitis were caused by a bacteria. When we visited the nurse, she instructed me that only bacteria cause pink eye and my concern on delaying antibiotics was not sound. She went ahead and prescribed antibiotic eye drops.

 

Within 10 minutes of doing my own research once I returned home, I found this to be completely untrue. In fact, the majority of conjunctivitis cases are caused by a virus (NOT BACTERIA). Not to mention, the data very clearly illustrates that antibiotics for conjunctivitis is a complete over kill and often times does more harm than good.[*][*]
 

I made a deal with my husband, let’s wait one day before we administer the medication. We waited and her condition improved on its own. I suspect if we used the antibiotics, we would attribute her recovery to the drugs – luckily, we waited.
 

Medication we use via the ocular route (via eye drops) is just as important to research as ingested or injected drugs. Eye drop medication enters the bloodstream via mucous membranes lining the surface of the eye, the tear drainage system, and the nose. Once in the bloodstream, the medication can cause side effects in other parts of the body, including slow heart rate, dizziness and headaches.[*]

 

The outdated, traditional interpretation of disease correlates health as a matter of being “clean” and in order to obtain and maintain health we are advised to completely obliterate anything that’s not a human cell. [*]
 
Now, of course, microbiomics does not suggest health is all rainbows, ponies and singing kumbayah - our bacteria ecosystem can (and does) go awry. Certain species within us can overpopulate, resources decline, diversity is reduced (via antibiotics) and the interdependent processes can collapse.[*]
 
A new metaphor replaces the old – an understanding of ‘balance’ and ‘harmony’ supersedes the traditional thought of specific causation (one germ for each disease). Rather, human health is a matter of “having ones physiological process and predispositions aligned to promote homeostasis”. [*]
 

“It may turn out that diseases caused by microbial pathogens are best seen not so much as an invasion by a hostile organism, but rather as a kind of holistic dysfunction of the microbiome.” [*]
 

Simply revolutionary.
 
The greatest benefit to the health and wellness of a human body is not sterility, but rather “on maintenance of the symbiotic relationship between the host and the intestinal microbiotia”.[*]
 
This model, based on the latest science has to offer, suggests there are no diseases that exist separate from ourselves (ex. viruses floating around getting people sick) – only sick people whose processes within the body are not in balance. Recovering our health, therefor, is a matter of controlling the forces that influence the homeostasis within us.  Our health becomes a matter of our own responsibility. [*]
 
 
Antibiotics –Use with Extreme Caution (better yet, don’t use at all)
 
Our internal bacteria (particularly those located in the intestines) are essential to our health and “play an active role in nutrition, development, metabolism, pathogen resistance, and regulation of immune responses”. Antibiotic use, even for a short duration, has been “shown to disrupt these coevolved interactions leading to acute or chronic disease”.[*]
 
For every one human cell, there resides 10 bacteria cells within the human body (with viral particles expected to be a hundred times greater). Science, research and data continue to reaffirm that they play an active role in not only maintaining our normal physiology but also protecting us from: [*][*][*]
 
-respiratory infections
-acute intestinal infections
-allergies
-autism
-obesity
-type II diabetes
-cardiovascular diseases
-several forms of cancer
 

In addition to being numerous, our microbes are also “enormously varied” – with over 1,000 bacterial species residing within us. [*]

In fact, all plants and animals can be considered superorganisms; composed of a variety of species – bacterial and viral. [*] 

 
This variation in species is critical to health and is why antibiotics have been shown (repeatedly) to be permanently harmful (especially to children).
 

2007 The ISME Journal, Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology
 

Long-term and persistent impact on human intestinal microbiota is a direct response from antibiotic exposure which never return to its original composition (during the 2 years of the study period). [*]
 
 
Antibiotics use in Children and Immune-mediated Disease
 
Antibiotics hold the possibility to be useful in some cases, but must be used with caution to protect long term health.
 
If you take anything away from reading this collection of data, please:
 

Several studies of antibiotic treatment has shown that the gut microbiota is profoundly and persistently altered by broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy. Data has shown that bacteria communities do not return to their initial state even after antibiotic treatment is withdrawn. [*]
 
During infancy and childhood, appropriate microbial stimulation and colonization is required for the development of a healthy, functional immune system. [*]
 
It is “well known that early life events occurring during critical windows of immune development can have long-term impact on immune-mediated disease. Antibiotic use in children has been shown, with significance, to increase such diseases as: diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma (requiring the use of inhaled corticosteroids), eczema. [*][*][*][*][*][*][*][*][*]
 
Antibiotic use must be critically evaluated, not just for ourselves but especially for children.  Each time we administer antibiotic medication it results in a ten-fold reduction in the amount of beneficial intestinal bacterial present. [*] 
 
With the use of antibiotic drugs,significant alternations are seen in the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines” and Th1 immune maturation which has profound effects on our immune system. [*][*]
 
 
Take Care of Your Health by Giving Your Microbiome Some Love

 
My preference is to eat and drink foods that promote a healthy flora (versus relying on supplements) while being mindful of the lifestyle choices that can hurt me (moderation is key, of course)….
 
Focus on Prebiotics
-Foods with prebiotics are garlic, onions, almonds and asparagus.
-Foods with the fiber inulin promote beneficial flora: bananas, high-fiber veggies like peas and beans.
 
Avoid Sugar (especially artificial sugar)
-Sugar and starch promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the body
-Yogurt may have probiotics, but they are often LOADED with sugar. Be careful!
 
Eat more Fermented Foods (just a quarter to a half cup per day will do ‘ya)
-Homemade sauerkraut, kefir (watch the sugar here too), kombucha, miso soup
 
Lifestyle
-Smoking, caffeine, alcohol, consuming heavily-processed foods

 
 
Conclusion
 
It may go completely against what we all have been taught in high school biology class, to think that bacteria and viruses make our immune system function better, but the science is becoming evident: A healthy, mature immune system depends on the constant intervention of beneficial bacteria.[*]
 
Humans (all mammals, in fact) have co-evolved over millions of years to establish a dynamic, complex check-&-balance system with our microbiota. It shouldn’t be all that surprising that our immune system (particularly our mucosal immune system) has developed an intricate connection that mediates the balance between health and disease.[*][*]
 

Both innate and adaptive immune function has evolved to require microbial interactions during their development. [*]
 

The microbiota provides critical signals that promote maturation of immune cells and tissues, leading to protection from infections by pathogens. [*]
 
We must become more aware of our symbiotic relationship with the bacteria within the body (especially our children’s). This starts with not stereotyping all bacteria as bad. In fact, although a few may be problematic, these account for far less than 1% that exist in our body.[*]

Take care of your ecosystem – it sure takes care of you!

 

You can't learn everything from the laboratory, that's what he used to say. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, he told us. The whole behaves differently from the parts, and has different properties. That's what he taught us, and he was right. It's out of fashion to say these days, when we spend our time scrutinizing the interactions of eukaryotic microbes, but it's true, nevertheless. It's still true.

(M. Drabble, The Sea Lady, 140–1)