Good vs. Evil. The eternal struggle that exists across time, culture and place. Whether it’s Superman vs. Lex Luther, Katniss Everdeen vs. the Capitol or simply the local Mayberry police against a few moonshiners, the good-evil dynamic seems to be a necessary part of our psyche and outlook of the world. It’s almost human instinct to want to assign good and bad labels to everything in life, no area being more prone to that than health and nutrition.
One of the biggest areas we see this battle playing out is in the realm of bacteria. Ever since the discovery of these little organisms we have been obsessed with finding and destroying them. Associated with disease and illness, bacteria have long been something we fear and try to avoid. Bacteria are germs and germs are bad.
In the last few decades however, we have started to realize that all bacteria aren’t evil and most of them are not only good for us but necessary for life and good health. At any given moment, bacteria out number human cells 10 to 1 in our body. This means, as an organism, we are only about 10% human and 90% bacteria. Subsequently, some researchers are starting to encourage us to look at life, health and behavior through the eyes of our bacteria. It’s very possible that they run the show and that what we consider normal human behaviors exist primarily to keep our bacteria healthy and happy. Whether you want to think of yourself as a bacterial chauffeur or not is up to you but I do think we need to, at the least, think of our bacteria as our partner in health.
The Little People In The Big Walking Bubble
Imagine a city with a big population that’s enclosed in a bubble. You’re the bubble and bacteria are the citizens. There are many different sizes, shapes, ages and cultures represented in this city and citizens interact, go to work, perform jobs/services, get along well and simply go about their business on a daily basis. Most of the bacteria are good citizens and contribute to the city in helpful ways and have the good of the whole in their best interests.
Just like any other city out there however, a few citizens, for whatever reasons, have their own best interests in mind and seem to cause trouble. They try to bully, steal and force their way into an unequal and undeserved piece of the pie. These are the “criminals” and they, if caught causing trouble by the immune system (which has a border patrol and city police), get killed or thrown out of the city. The city government understands the role of every citizen, good or bad, and is willing to allow a little misbehavior as long as the welfare of the city isn’t threatened. The bad citizens are kept in check and, as long as they don’t cross a threshold into organized rebellion and destruction, are allowed to remain part of the population. These bacteria, like most troublemakers, are opportunistic and will organize and uprise if they sense the culture of the city is favorable to their desires. Unfortunately, when we eat a diet too heavy in sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods we nourish them (providing ammo) and when stress, lack of sleep and toxins weaken the city’s resources, they are allowed to grow strong in number and confidence.
These problematic bacteria are what we, as a society, are obsessed with getting rid of. We are trying to do is, in essence, find every last criminal and execute them or kick them out of our city. We also have closed our city borders and won’t let any new citizens in, good or bad. We have Purel-ed, washed, overcooked and pasteurized the borders of our body to ensure no unwanted bacteria make their way in and whenever a little rising occurs inside the bubble we send in the antibiotic swat team that asks no questions, takes no prisoners and tear gases/atom bombs the whole city. Those that survive are lucky and have to work hard and long to rebuild their population and relationships and hope that all the bad ones were killed off.
Our mentality regarding our bacteria citizens has become zero tolerance militant-ism. If you so much as get caught telling a white lie, you are an enemy and will be banished or destroyed. Hard to run a city if you kill off anyone who looks sideways at “the man” and won’t let any new citizens in unless they come via the few city government approved programs, such as the Greek Yogurt Immigration Program or the lesser know Sauerkraut Express. We need these citizens to run our city and it cannot work if we are constantly supplying the criminals with support, zapping our resources, failing to support the good citizens with good food and keeping the borders closed off to new immigrants.
As a result of these collection of behaviors and overall attitude toward bacteria we are starting to see a disturbing trend develop: the more we put our efforts into killing off bad bacteria and overpolicing our micro citizens the more the law of unintended consequences starts to rise from the rubble. The criminals that are strong, clever and adaptable find ways to survive our attacks and find new ways to terrorize. Just like the mafia, an underground crime syndicate or clever computer hackers, the robust bad guys stay alive and grow stronger the more we kill everyone else off in an attempt to destroy them. The good citizens are helpless to attack and the bad citizens practice survival of the fittest to create antibiotic resistant strains and new alliances of criminals. Although well intentioned, we are unintentionally creating an environment conducive and enabling to flourishing problematic bacteria. The harder we try to eliminate crime this way the worse things get.
A New Paradigm
What if, instead of focusing on avoiding and killing off bad bacteria, we focused on supporting the good guy population? Fed them good food, gave them cell phones and professional training on how to spot, report and deal with trouble and then opened up our borders to an influx of more good bacteria? What if, when some unrest starts, we hold off on the atom bomb brute squad and gave the good citizens more resources? What if we simply focused on creating the best possible environment that policed itself? Where the good so deeply outnumber and outresource the bad that they never stand a chance and the citizens keep them in check. Then the police (immune system) gets a break and saves its energy to deal effectively and efficiently with the few citizens that are actually a problem or the occasional outside intruder. We need a few bad citizens to keep balance, harmony and keep law enforcement sharp. Even Mayberry had a little crime now and then and was probably better off for it.
A city with a culture of good citizenship breeds good citizens and keeps crime at bay by default. I say this is how we approach our friendly micro buddies.
How Do You Create Good Citizens?
Populate and support the good citizens
– Eat good bacteria.
Cultured and fermented foods: yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, soft cheeses, miso soup, sourdough bread, pickles, dark chocolate and probiotic supplements (I use a soil based probiotic).
– Feed the good bacteria.
Fiber and resistant starch: vegetables of all kinds and colors (including Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, onions, garlic), honey, leftover rice/potatoes, lentils, oatmeal, green plantains/bananas, red wine and potato starch (a very handy tool).
Stop nourishing and stimulating the bad citizens
Eat less sugar, refined carbohydrates and unnatural, chemical laden processed food products. Take care of your body, get rest and manage your stress.
Open the borders and trust your culture
Don’t live sterile. Beneficial bacteria are everywhere.
Get dirty. Humans have been connected to the earth out entire existence, save only the last couple decades.
Only kill off citizens as a last resort
Use antibiotics only when necessary. If you must do this make it a priority to repopulate the city and support their growth as soon as possible.
The bottom line: support the good in life and the bad shall be outnumbered. With a change in city management philosophy, we can bring our little cities in bubbles back into a well functioning, self sustaining and good citizen filled environment. Take care of your good population and they in turn will take care of their city, which is you.
Thanks for reading, have a great day!