You may have heard about those nasty super-germs that have been showing up nationwide as a result of the over-use of antibiotics. 80% of these antibiotics are used in the livestock industry, likely being served on your plate if you aren’t buying organic. Another cause of these microscopic menaces is the chemical triclosan, which is frequently used in antibacterial soaps and other conventional, that is, not organic products. It is likely you have a bottle sitting on your bathroom or kitchen sink right now.
Triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals guarantee that they kill 99.99% of germs. But have you ever wondered about that .01%? That is where superbugs come into play. The small percentage of germs that do survive adapt to these chemicals and multiply, giving way to colonies of these seemingly unbeatable bacteria. Thankfully, the FDA just recently decided to ban its use due to this superbug problem.
Most commonly found and contracted in hospitals, where both germs and antibiotic use run rampant, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) seems to be the latest strain of nightmare-inducing bacteria. Not to say this isn’t for good reason; we should be concerned that there are infections out there that are not treatable by pharmaceutical antibiotics. Luckily though, nature’s got our back. What you may not yet know is that alternatives are available for us to use instead of popping a pill at the first sign of an infection.
Garlic might be one of the most valuable medicinal herbs on the planet. It is known to repel mosquitoes and vampires alike. Additionally, its very useful in helping to strengthen the immune system to fight the cold and flu. In the same way, it also can help your body to fight off bacteria as– even those that are antibiotic resistant. It has specifically been proven effective against the aforementioned MRSA(1), which doctors have been scrambling to combat.
While as an Italian I believe it is always wise to add an abundance of garlic to cooking recipes- it is most effective, for this purpose- crushed up and raw. In this state it maintains the greatest amount of allicin, which is the active component of garlic which has the antibacterial effect. This is because the phytonutrient is heat labile, so for fighting germs, it is best to eat garlic raw or take an extract which preserves the allicin. Garlic has also been shown to be an effective antiviral, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic agent(2), and parasites are much more common that you may think– but I’ll leave that for another post.
Far less well known is grapefruit seed extract (GSE). I only discovered this powerful substance in the last year of my health ventures. This is a shame, too, because if only I had learned about it sooner it probably would’ve helped me beat multiple infections more quickly and completely. Grapefruit seed extract has shown in clinical studies to be as effective as a variety of topical antimicrobial agents(3). It has been found particularly effective against salmonella and listeria(4). This is why you will find it in so many fruit and vegetable washes. This powerful extract can be used on much more than your apples and carrots, though. It has proven effective against candida, which is an under- the radar pathogen that I believe lies at the root of many of our health problems in America. It has been associated with improved digestion in those with eczema, as well as being a general antimicrobial(5).
Oregano oil is another wonderful plant-based remedy that can be added to your arsenal of weapons against pathogens. I find it curious that so many are not aware of this incredible substance! In the following study, oregano oil was shown to be “inhibitory to the growth of all the bacteria under test”(6). Furthermore, it was even more effective than the antibiotic it was compared to! This study demonstrated the effectiveness of oregano oil against strains of E coli and Staph(7). Organic farmers have been using this method on livestock for quite some time to avoid overuse of antibiotics. It is important to note that the compounds thymol and carvacrol are very influential on its effectiveness against bacteria. So, look for them when purchasing an oil of oregano supplement to ensure you’re getting what you pay for.
Oregano oil, like garlic and grapefruit seed extract are quite inexpensive, especially when you consider what you’re getting with the purchase. Each of these items were found at health food stores near me for no more than $10-$15.
Another vital method of combating those unfriendly bacteria which can clog up your sinuses or make your throat sore is salt water. Natural sea salt or Himalayan pink salt are best mixed with warm water and gargled for a sore throat. This should be done for any kind of sore throat to prevent even a secondary bacterial infection. Many know this but do not understand why or how it works. The salt penetrates the bacterium’s cell membrane and causes osmotic rupture, sort of causing it to explode, for lack of a better term. This capability can also be utilized for sinus infections in the form of nasal rinses and neti pots. Just be sure to use distilled or boiled water for this purpose. I personally have used this method with great success in battling sinus infections, with the help of oregano oil of course.
Another kind of natural way to support the body’s systems against pathogenic microbes such as bad bacteria, are probiotics, especially if you have ever used antibiotics. Probiotics work by repopulating the intestines with beneficial flora which kind of crowd out the bad guys in your gut. This is vital, especially once you learn that approximately 80 percent of the immune system resides in your gut. Furthermore, this gut bacteria and whether it is mostly good or bad, has a direct effect on ones mental state!(8) When looking for a good probiotic, I always try to look for a greater number of strains because each strain of probiotics has a different use. Fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha and kefir are also great probiotics.
Now that you are armed with the knowledge of this vast array of nature’s weapons against the pathogens we face in daily life, maybe you will feel a little more empowered to help yourself next time you feel ill and can’t make it to the doctor right away. It is important to note that these natural remedies are effective against a range of pathogens including viruses, fungi and protozoa, unlike prescription antibiotics. This is because they work with your body to strengthen it, not against it. From what I have experienced thus far, nature doesn’t give us challenges that it doesn’t also provide us with solutions to. It is easy to get caught up in the fear and sensationalism about pathogens. It seems there is a new variety with each coming season. Hopefully this won’t be such a concern for you, now that you know how to help your immune system help you. The innate intelligence was created to work with us, not against us. It merely needs to be strengthened in order to do its job properly.