Farting is universally hilarious. Across every culture, every religion, every language, the issuance of gas from a person’s posterior will – once the wrinkled noses have smoothed out – evoke laughter from just about everyone in earshot. I won’t try to explain why it’s so dang funny, especially when we can turn to Louis C.K. for his masterful thesis on the matter. C.K arrives at three factors: it comes out of your butt, it smells like poop, and it makes a trumpet noise. Taken separately, these things range from gross to inconsequential. After all, plenty of things sound like trumpets. Trumpets, for one. But together, they form a symphony of comedy that’s greater than the constituent parts.
But when they’re issuing out of your body uncontrollably on a regular basis, farts can be a touchy subject. I won’t name any names, but more than a few readers have written in over the past few months with questions about farting spouses, children, and even pets. These readers often admit that flatulence has comedic merit, but just as incessant quoting of Borat after the movie came out quickly got old, farting all the time is annoying. And it might even be the sign of something wrong with your diet.
Are there any viable alternatives to antibiotics? I just spent the last few posts talking about all the bad things that stem from taking too many antibiotics, and you’re likely wondering if there’s anything you can do when an infection comes around. Although I wouldn’t suggest ignoring your doctor’s antibiotic prescriptions for some herb you found on some site online, there are potential alternatives. Not every alternative I list is going to work for you. To be honest, we have yet to confirm many viable alternatives that pack the punch of modern antibiotics. And in many cases, the wallop of conventional pharmaceuticals is exactly what the doctor ordered (in, um, every way). Sure, it could be said that every dose of antibiotics given out is exerting a selection pressure on billions of microbes that will ultimately lead to greater resistance, but when it comes down to it, you don’t want to be sick in the here and now.
So, once again, are there any viable alternatives to antibiotics, and if we have to take one, what can we do to mitigate the potential fallout?
Whenever I think about antibiotics, I stymie my inner Star Wars fan and admit that it’s a good thing the Force isn’t real and Art Ayers is not actually a wizened microbiologist version of Ben Kenobi. Otherwise, he’d be internally wincing every few seconds as another round of antibiotics commences somewhere in the world and a few billion flora cry out in terror and are suddenly silenced, never to be heard from again.
I jest, sort of, but this much is true: every time you take antibiotics, billions of domesticated gut flora die. As I mentioned last week, antibiotics are designed not to target human cells, but the same cannot be said for the commensal bacteria living in our guts. See, most antibiotics don’t discriminate between “good” and “bad” bacteria. They target bacteria. They aren’t us, they are foreign entities, but we wouldn’t be us without them. We need them to function properly. It’s a bit like bringing in an exterminator to kill the bugs infesting your house, and the guy ends up killing your dog and making your cat act funny, along with killing the insects. The job is done, and he technically did what you requested, but now you have to tell your kid that Buddy moved to a farm upstate to go be a sheepdog and figure out how to deal with your cat peeing on the sofa and scratching up your stomach (leaky gut, get it?). Not very fun, and not what you bargained for.
Question: what does your body feel like right now? Go ahead. Take an inventory. From the toes to the head, what’s going on in there at the present moment? How’s your back? How’s your stomach? Your head? How about muscles? Your energy level and mood? Is your thinking clear this morning? Good and bad, what signals are you getting? Beyond the here and now, what’s your body been trying to tell you lately? Any changes since beginning the Challenge? Most important of all perhaps – are you accustomed to listening to what your body has to say?
Everything about our culture, it seems, discourages us from doing just that. From the commercials insisting we don’t need to put up with that headache to the glorification of binge drinking, taking a body’s hint isn’t exactly at the top of most people’s list of talents or priorities. Why live with that pesky fever when you can simply beat it back with 1000 milligrams of extra strength head-in-the-sand? Indigestion from eating that second Big Mac today? Try some Pepcid AC.
The symptoms can be abject misery: searing abdominal pain, debilitating stomach cramps, an excruciating, rising burn, acid-filled hiccups, tightened throat, constant sleep disturbance, and even the rare but terrifying bouts of choking from nighttime acid inhalation. I’m talking of course about acid reflux or GERD as it’s commonly called these days. I personally suffered from occasional bouts of GERD and experienced all the symptoms above for years during and even after my endurance days. (It wasn’t until I gave up grains that my GERD completely disappeared.) Maybe you’ve had it. Maybe you know someone who’s had it. GERD, by the way, isn’t your run-of-the-mill occasional heartburn (which isn’t much fun either) but a chronic pattern of heartburn in which you experience symptoms at least a few times a week. I get emails about it all the time, and it’s little wonder. Statistics suggest that 25-30% of American adults experience GERD related heartburn multiple times a week (PDF). Of all the pharmaceutical categories, proton pump inhibitors (a predominant prescription for GERD) have ranked consistently in the top twenty for years. And that doesn’t even take into account the old-fashioned antacids like Tums and Rolaids that people pop like candy. What, for the love, is going on here? It used to be heartburn was generally confined to women in their last months of pregnancy or to the annual Thanksgiving overindulgence. It certainly wasn’t a chronic condition plaguing a large percentage of the population. I sense a familiar pattern here, no?
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