Sunday, November 23, 2014

All About Bacteria - Ravi Mantha

90% cells of our body are bacterial. (So if we go on a bacteria killing expedition, you know what you are killing - yourself!). Many of these bacteria that live inside us are capable of causing severe illnesses like meningitis, stomach infections, pneumonia etc - but in most cases they do not. Anyway they are already there and there's nothing we can do about it. Except perhaps to keep them happy and content.

The line 'Harness your inner bacteria' is perfect. Keep your inner bacteria happy and there's a good chance you will be happy too. (Or is it the other way around - be happy and that keeps the bacteria happy. Are we the bacteria or is the bacteria us? Discuss later - let's move on.)

Most of Ravi Mantha's interesting book is about how we in many ways interfere with a wonderfully efficient and intelligent system that nature has already put in place, and by doing so imbalance this ecosystem within the body and without. He mulls over how in China doctors would be paid for preventive medicine - pay when you are kept healthy and do not pay when you fall ill. (The doctor's job was to keep you healthy and not sick!)

In a 100 trillion cells that we have in our body, 90% are of some form of bacteria or other. Considering that we are also 65% water, Ravi presents this visual that we are all a kind of a bacterial soup. He calls this ecosystem the human symbiote.

The fight to save the world is then between evil pathogens which attack our body and good probiotic bacteria which builds and maintains our ecosystem. We can choose to take the boring route of being long term and build a strong foundation so we are healthier, or we could choose the more dramatic route of fighting the evil pathogens with heavy duty artillery that can also kill some of the good people too. Since most of the money in our human world is spent on making war and not love anyway, we are happier producing heavy duty antibiotics to fight these evil monsters. Everyone is happy and there is more excitement.

Not necessarily health, as Ravi argues.

In most cases he says that all we need to get better is to seek a friendly doctor, one who listens to you, one who charges you, one who can give you some placebo and if it continues refers you to a specialist. In all likelihood you feel better in step 1 or 2 itself.

Without going too deep into types of bacteria etc, let me, for the sake of the good cause, list out some of the stuff that Ravi recommends for good health. These are simple things that can be followed (and if you care to seek more information, you can read the book).

  • Drink red wine when you eat red meat - reduces impact because 
  • Add rosemary to meat before grilling to reduce harmful impact 
  • Sweating is good for your symbiote - so please sweat and allow it
  • Soap and water is the best disinfectant to wash and bathe
  • Cow dung fights off pathogens - used heavily in rural areas to plaster walls and floor
  • Warm clothes in cold weather keep out common cold etc - keeps symbiotic bacteria alive (viruses thrive in cold, by the way viruses are bad guys)
  • Stress is natural - manage it, don't pop pills
  • Limit antibiotic misuse - excess use of antibiotics weakens bacterial symbiote temporarily
  • Breastfeeding helps children - breast milk is probiotic
  • Important to keep the bacterial system in the gut stable (its the line of control between the symbiote and the immune system) - much is to do with what you eat and how much (nice quote - there are no poisons, only poisonous doses), wash hands well after going to the loo
  • To reduce high Blood Pressure eat green leafy stuff, drink beetroot juice, practice meditation (drinking beetroot juice before going on high altitude expeditions helps lower risk of DVT)
  • To counter excess iron donate blood once in 6 months (or do bloodletting of some other sorts like say leech therapy), to counter low iron eat tomatoes cooked in an iron skillet
  • Clean teeth, tongue, floss to prevent plaque and thereby heart disease, go to dentist
  • Stay away from hospitals unless absolutely necessary (good idea, but I don't subscribe too much to it)
  • Interesting theory on fecal enemas to change gut microbes that can revolutionise many treatments like say weight loss
  • Buy meat at organic butcher and avoid supermarket meat which is processed meat brought out of highly efficient systems with antibiotic use and what not
  • Do not use disinfectant at home - kills good stuff alongwith bad stuff and lets bad stuff in
  • Get a dog (its wonderful bacterial system boosts ours)
  • Give up milk - no use really, majority humans can't even digest milk so lactose intolerance is normal
  • Look at Resting Heart Rate (beats per minute) as a predictor of mortality - <60 is good, 60 to 80 is ok, >80 is trouble and needs steps to reverse
  • 90% cells in our body get replaced in about a year - so many illnesses can be reversed by changing lifestyle
  • Cardio exercises, 30 minute walks
  • For flat feet, walk barefoot, use flat soled shoes
  • Egg yolk is perfectly fine - no link to cholestrol
  • Hypnotherapy and cognitive therapy are good to treat many psychosomatic stuff
  • If in depression, walk barefoot on earth (most astronauts, submariners and Antarctica visitors suffer from depression due to lack of contact with the earth)
  • French kiss all those who are willing to kiss you, to exchange symbiotic bacteria - it is healthy, strengthens your symbiote (just make sure that what you do is with consent and is legal)
  • Use hypnotherapy which has great success for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Use anti-bacterial ointment to get rid of Body Odour

Ravi advises us also to try not to touch elevator buttons and door knobs in winter with our hands. I wonder how we can get anywhere unless we wait for someone to do it for us, or wear gloves. But that is okay. He also suggests a look at a TED video at

Ravi Mantha is a health writer and activist (who appears to have made boatloads of money as an investment banker) and has spent many  years researching health and the human body. He blogs at Interesting read.

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