Infectious Diseases Are Back (And They Aren't Going To Go Away Again)
Infectious diseases are once again a major threat to our health. Some
have been created by genetic engineers (either messing around looking for new
superbugs for the military to use) and some have developed as a result of the
irresponsible prescribing of antibiotics. Now that they are back infectious
diseases aren't going to go away. As antibiotics become less and less effective,
we must take serious steps to protect ourselves.
Your body's immune
system helps to protect you against infection. If your immune system - your
inbuilt defence system - is in tip top condition then you will be far less
vulnerable to these marauding viruses or bacteria.
What you choose to eat
can have a big effect on the strength and effectiveness of your immune system.
You can strengthen your immune system - and reduce your susceptibility to
infections (and cancer) by changing your diet.
Here is my general
1. You must do everything you can to keep your body's immune
system in tip top condition. It is vital to eat regular supplies of foods which
contain anti-oxidants. Recommended foods include: apples, asparagus, baked
beans, broccoli, brown rice, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chick peas,
corn, grapefruit, lentils, oats, oranges, peas, pineapples, potatoes, soya
beans, spinach, strawberries. I also recommend taking sunflower and pumpkin
2. Unless your diet naturally contains garlic then I
recommend that you take a garlic supplement every day.
3. If you eat
meat it is important that you give it up - particularly if you have an infection
which is being treated with antibiotics. The spread of a number of killer
infections has been traced to meat shipments. The basic cause is simple: farmers
routinely feed antibiotics to their animals to keep them healthy. Animals which
are fed with antibiotics inevitably acquire antibiotic resistant organisms.
Repeated problems caused by meat infected with antibiotic resistant E Coli are a
direct result of this still unregulated and uncontrolled farming practice. Many
of the people who fall ill after eating infected meat have been taking
antibiotics - for throat or ear infections for example. The antibiotic
prescribed for the throat or ear infection clears the body of many of its
natural infections, allowing the antibiotic resistant superbug to take over a
virtually competitor free body.
4. Stress will damage your immune system
and impair your body's ability to fight infection. It is, therefore, important
that you reduce your exposure to unnecessary stress. Make a list of all the
factors which add stress to your life and then avoid those stresses which can be
5. Try to avoid buildings which have closed circuit
air-conditioning systems. When air is constantly recirculated your chances of
acquiring an infection are dramatically increased. If one person sneezes or
coughs then the chances are high that everyone in the building will be exposed
to the bug.
6. You should try to keep away from hospitals, doctors'
clinics and other places where sick people congregate - and where antibiotic
resistant bugs are likely to be much in control. I used to favour open plan
wards (as designed by Florence Nightingale) since patients in such wards can be
kept constantly under supervision by nurses. The explosion in the incidence of
antibiotic resistant bugs means that single rooms are now preferable for any
patient requiring hospital treatment.
7. Whenever possible you should
avoid methods of public transport which re-circulate used air. Modern trains
tend to have no opening windows - with the result that if one person sneezes in
a carriage the chances are that everyone else will be exposed to (and possibly
catch) their disease.
8. If you eat eggs, you should never buy (or eat)
eggs with cracked shells. It is much easier for an infection to enter an egg
with a cracked shell. Eggs laid by genuinely free range chickens are likely to
be healthier than eggs laid by hens kept in battery cages.
9. Make sure
that your fridge is kept cold enough. The temperature inside your fridge should
be below 3 degrees Centigrade.
10. Make sure that you wash your hands
thoroughly before preparing food. Staphylococcus, for example, can be
transmitted hand to hand.
11. Never re-freeze food which has been
previously frozen and then thawed. Thawing increases the number of bacteria and
re-freezing food increases the chances of infection.
12. If you eat meat
make sure that it is completely thawed before you start to cook it. If you do
not do this then the chances are that the middle of the meat will still be
frozen when you start to cook it - and will not be properly cooked when the rest
of the meat is ready. Meat which is raw will probably be full of
13. Keep foods apart from one another in your fridge in order to
reduce the risk of cross contamination. Put meat (a high risk source of
infection) at the bottom of the fridge and keep it away from other foods.
14. Don't ever buy tins which are rusty, bulging or badly damaged.
15. Always check the sell-by-date before buying food. Don't be tempted
to buy (or use) food which has passed its sell-by-date.
16. If your
doctor wants to prescribe an antibiotic ask him if he thinks it is really
essential - or if he is just giving you the prescription because he thinks you
want an antibiotic. Don't take these drugs unless you really need
17. Don't eat foods which contain antibiotics. If you eat meat and
fish make sure you avoid factory farmed produce. Meat and fish from organic
farms should not contain antibiotics. Avoid dairy produce where alternatives
exist (for example, use soya spread instead of butter).
18. Eat live
yoghurt - which contains the `friendly' lactobacillus acidophilus. (Soya yoghurt
also contains it).
19. Have you ever wondered whether the modern
obsession with hygiene could have possibly made us more susceptible to illness?
Poor living conditions are known to be a significant factor in the development
of many diseases (for example tuberculosis) but could too much of a good thing
be a bad thing? There is growing evidence to show that it could. Children who
live in an unhealthily artificial (and clean) environment, and who have very
little contact with infective organisms, may grow up without having acquired the
immunity which might help protect them from some infections later in life. And
children who `miss' common childhood illnesses (such as the big four: measles,
rubella, mumps and chickenpox) may suffer far more seriously if they get those
infections when they are adults. But too much cleanliness may not only result in
an increased susceptibility to infection. Some immunologists now believe that
the dramatic increase in allergy problems such as asthma, eczema and hayfever in
recent years may be due to excessive hygiene. Modern babies have very little
contact with mycobacteria (which live in soil and streams) and this could result
in their immune systems becoming too quick to develop allergy responses (as well
as too slow to kill bacteria and viruses). It's too early to offer definitive
advice on this just yet. But my instinct tells me that children just might grow
up stronger, healthier and less likely to develop allergies if they spent more
time playing in the garden and less time living in a sterile antiseptic-soaked
environment. If I'm right, doctors and drug companies will probably soon find a
way of cashing in on this. What odds against the next generation of doctors
prescribing `mud pie dabbling' three times a week? The mud pies will, of course,
come courtesy of the pharmaceutical industry. They will be expensively
pre-packed and guaranteed to contain just the right number of mycobacteria.
Meanwhile, a tad more soil, a dab more mud and a spray or two less of antiseptic
may be a wise move.
20. Don't take drugs (either prescribed or bought
over the pharmacy counter) unless you really need them. Always investigate other
ways to deal with health problems.
Copyright Vernon Coleman
You can find out more about how to stay
healthy - and reduce your chances of catching an infectious disease or
developing cancer -from Vernon Coleman's book `Superbody', available through all
good bookshops or from the shop on this site.