Thursday, December 17, 2009

Are we bringing about our own demise?

This is going to be a bit heavier than most of my other posts. If you enjoy the funny, smarmy posts I make, please know that I am completely serious here.

Technology is a wonderful thing. It has allowed us to do wonderful things. Nowhere is that seen more than in the areas of health and medical technology. We have cures for illnesses that weren't even discovered 60 years ago. Heart disease, diabetes, mental illnesses, even some cancers have treatments that can cure or delay the disease. We are living longer and having more productive lives. However, these same technological advances could easily lead to our demise.

I am not a fan of all the hand sanitizing products out there. I believe that the body's own immune system is a wonderfully effective illness killing machine. However, like a world class athlete, it needs a lot of practice. Besides, there have been numerous studies, some from as far back as 2000, that question the effectiveness of these products. People are given a false sense of security when they use these products. To make things worse, the germs that aren't killed by these products are getting stronger. If they can survive the alcohol, it will make it that much tougher for an out of condition immune system to combat, possibly leading to more severe illnesses.

Let's not forget every doctor's friend, antibiotics. True, it's not as bad as it used to be, but there are still many, many doctors who will prescribe antibiotics for everything. Even viruses which are rarely, if ever, affected by antibiotics. So where does that leave us? More superbugs that are getting tougher and tougher to kill. Malaria, Salmonella, Tuberculosis, even strep throat have all seen strains that have developed drug resistances.

What's worse, all these antibiotics are killing off the friendly bacteria. In case you don't remember your high school biology classes, we have many strains of bacteria in our intestines that help us in many ways. One of these bacteria helps protect us from a bug called Clostridium difficle. Symptoms of this little bugger are: severe diarrhea, ruptured colons, perforated bowels, kidney failure, blood poisoning, and even death. Large doses of antibiotics kill off the friendly bacteria that keeps this bug at bay. So now, because of heavy antibiotic treatments, 15,000 to 30,000 people a year die from this bug. In 2001, only 150,000 cases a year were reported. Now, it's up to 500,000.

We need to take a step back. How many needless deaths do we need to endure before we take a good, hard look at the treatments we are using? You hear a ton of stories on how we need to protect nature from the affects of human activity. From where I stand, it appears that nature is doing a good job taking care of itself.


After thinking about it a little bit while waiting to get my son off the bus, I wonder how much this topic relates to the current health care reform? How much money is wasted by doctors prescribing unneeded antibiotics? Who knows what kind of reform we could get by just eliminating that!


Beeblebrox said...

I completely agree. I was just having this conversation with one of my baby sitters over the weekend. We both came to the conclusion that this Organic Food movement may have some impact on increasing illness resistance as well. However, I am still guilty of hand sanitizer. I like to put it on handles of shopping carts because sometimes the baby tries to put her face on them.

TJSharky said...

The shopping cart thing is probably more effective than your hands. One of the articles I read researching this post said that the 99.9% claim that most sanitizers have on the label are for non-porous, inanimate surfaces.

I'm still undecided on the organic stuff. Despite what people think, there has not been one academic study that claims that organic food is any better for you. For me, it's not worth $6 a gallon for milk if there's no known benefits.