Dean’s Doctor Weekly diary (129): What Vaccines Can’t Prevent

While the world is eagerly awaiting the early release of the vaccine, have we thought about the many long-term problems that the vaccine cannot prevent?

We have been living a very cautious life for the past half year, cleaning our hands, disinfecting furniture, and eating carefully. There is no denying that personal hygiene can greatly reduce the risk of contracting the new coronavirus and influenza, but an absolutely clean environment can also bring new problems to our health, especially to our children’s development.

According to medical research, environmental hygiene and dietary habits directly affect infants’ gut microbiome, and many childhood health problems such as eczema, asthma, obesity, autism, type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, etc., are closely related to intestinal micro-ecology. It is interesting to note that these problems often occur in “very hygienic” families. As the previous generation had poor environmental hygiene, we often used the excuse of “germs eating germs” to cover up our unhygienic eating habits. Recent studies have pointed out that although the previous generation of children had poor hygiene, they formed a more comprehensive gut flora (microbiome with good diversity), making the immune system more mature and thus reducing the risk of these diseases. The study also found that children who take antibiotics regularly since childhood will increase the risk of obesity, eczema and other immune system diseases, because antibiotics will reduce the diversity of intestinal bacteria, again proving the importance of intestinal flora to health.

Children’s dietary habits are also closely related to the gut microbiome, nowadays many foods with a large number of emulsifier (emulsifier), such as ice cream, fresh milk, salad dressing, etc., in order to make the color and flavor of food more attractive, but research points out that these emulsifiers make the intestinal micro-ecological imbalance (dysbiosis), resulting in intestinal inflammation and decreased immunity, increasing the risk of many chronic diseases.

Improvements in quality of life and environment have apparently reduced certain diseases, such as malnutrition and plague, but they have been replaced by more and more “diseases of affluence”. Under the threat of the new global coronavirus, we have become more concerned about personal hygiene, but living in a very hygienic environment for a long time, we have lost the opportunity of “germs eating bacteria”, and the diverse gut microbiota that maintains our health is thus weakened, and human beings may have to bear the long-term consequences.

In the future, we need to protect and improve the gut microbiome to prevent and cure diseases.

(Originally published in Ming Pao)