Bacteria: Friend or Foe?

By Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

Bacteria gets a bad rap. After all, they are responsible for causing so many frightening and terrible situations. They cause many cases of bronchitis or pneumonia which can lead to miserable days spent on the couch, hospitalization, or even death. They also cause tuberculosis which kills millions of people each year. Bacteria can create the agony of food poisoning, and of coarse, there is the rare but sensationalized flesh eating bacteria that seems to be straight out of a horror movie. While bacteria can cause a wide variety of problems, they also provide many benefits to humans and other living things. Bacteria are believed to be the oldest forms of life on the planet. Science suggests that long before there were plants and animals, bacteria were thriving and evolving. They play important roles in digestion, fermentation, and in the the process of decay. Without bacteria, life on our planet would not exist.

In 1945 penicillin became the first commercially available antibiotic. It dramatically changed the way bacterial infections were treated. Simple infections that previously had been extremely problematic or even fatal, now were being treated with great ease. There were some that believed we would eventually eradicate bacterial infections once and for all. After penicillin was discovered, many other antibiotics followed. Though they have succeeded in greatly reducing the complications of bacterial infections, they have not been the panacea that some expected they would be. In fact, wide spread antibiotic use in medicine and agriculture has begun to create strains of bacteria that are resistant to most antibiotics. These so called “superbugs” are becoming more of concern, as some experts predict, that we will soon create a situation where many widely used antibiotics will be ineffective. To further complicate the problem, very few new antibiotics are being developed because they are not as profitable as pharmaceuticals such as statins which people take daily for life.

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Say Goodbye to Trans-fats

by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

High in fat

I remember spreading margarine across toast when I was a kid. Unlike butter, which was hard and difficult to spread, margarine covered the toast with seemingly magical ease. Mom told me that it was much better for me as well because it was made with a different sort of fat that the food scientist assured us was much healthier than the butter that humans had eaten for millennia. I marveled at the thought that the scientists were busy in their labs creating healthy new foods and food additives to make the world a more enjoyable place. Being a kid, I didn’t give the “healthy” part of margarine much thought, but I did appreciate that mom let me use as much as I wanted on my toast.

That was 30 years ago and now science has proven that trans-fats in all of their forms are pretty toxic to the human body. Though they are found in trace amounts in certain meat and dairy products, trans-fats are most commonly a processed ingredient that is added to foods as a way to extend their shelf-life, flavor and consistency. They gained popularity in the 50’s with the increase in food processing, and then really took off in the 1970‘s when it was assumed that high fat diets were causing an increase in cardiac related diseases. At this time the medical community recommended low fat, low cholesterol based diets which paved the way for trans-fats to be introduced into the food supply in large amounts. This was primarily seen in baked goods and certain vegetable based shortening or margarines. So butter and eggs were out; chemically altered vegetable based fats were the new greatest thing.

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Sugar: Between a rock and a sweet place

Written by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

I remember a few things about childhood better than others: summer vacation, creek stomping with the neighbors and mom’s chocolate chip cookies. The cookies especially stand out. Hot from the oven, the melted chocolate making a mess of my hands, and the sweetness that lingered in my mouth and instantly widened my smile. When we were good kids, mom rewarded us with fresh cookies.

These childhood associations of sugar as a reward or as a universal expression of love, stay with most of us throughout our entire life. But sugar has its dark side. Sugar is physically addictive, operating in our brain in a similar fashion to opiates. This is why people with a sweet tooth get grumpy when they go without their sugar fix. Some science says that sugar and other sweeteners are the single biggest cause of illness in the world. It is a subject that I have been studying lately. I recently read two very well written opinions on the topic: National Geographic August 2013 issue and Mother Earth Living November/December 2013 both have featured articles on sugar. Both of these articles mention that consumption of sweeteners worldwide has dramatically increased over the past 100 years, especially in the USA. It is no surprise that during this time the incidence of sugar related illnesses has also increased.

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