Can bramble and coal dust help with e.coli?

13 May 2007

Question

I used to be a pig man, and many years ago we had a really bad bout of <i>E. coli</i>, we were losing something like 15-20% of piglets born. A herbalist claimed credit for clearing it up. He put bramble tips and coal dust into the adult pigs’ feed. Was it purely coincidence, or was there something in those ingredients that fought <i>E. coli</i>?

Answer

You've probably heard of pro-biotic products, usually yoghurt drinks, which actually contain live bacteria that are said to influence the bugs that live in your intestines. There's also a parallel effect called a pre-biotic effect, based on the idea that the food you eat is also the food that your gut bacteria eat. So if you eat certain foods yourself, it's said to influence the spectrum of bacteria that live in you.It's possible, although we don't have any evidence either way, that there might be something in the bramble that's influencing the digestive system of the pig and therefore affecting the kinds of bacteria they can carry. (Coal contains carcinogenic compounds, so is probably not a good thing to eat). If you eat a lot of porridge, that's very rich in beta glucans, which is very good for encouraging certain types of micro-organisms, said to be good bacteria, which contribute to warding off illnesses.

You can read more about probiotic products here.

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