We’ve all been taught that germs are bad and they are lurking around every corner, waiting to invade defenseless humans. Doctors and the media talk about Swine flu as though getting the flu is an inevitable catastrophe unless, of course, we are injected with the life-saving flu shot. We go to great lengths to combat these potential invaders: frequent hand-washing, learning to cough in our sleeves and grimacing at the thought of eating a morsel retrieved from the floor. Is all this necessary? Or is there a different view?
One of the chiasms between conventional medical doctors and those who embrace alternative practices is the view of how the Germ Theory of Disease (credited to Louis Pasteur) impacts health. Many assume a discussion about the Germ Theory is a moot point. Questioning its validity elicits divisiveness and hostility among medical practitioners and laypersons alike. Why? Because challenging Pasteur’s mechanistic idea of disease—finding the right cure (drug) for each germ—was the seed of the pharmaceutical empire. Nonetheless, it is most unfortunate that Pasteur’s premise was accepted as complete to the exclusion of all others.
There is little doubt that by the 21st century, a 19th century concept should have evolved. The frailty of the immune system is a medical myth. We need a better understanding of the relationship between humans and microbes to live in optimal health.
The Immune System Explained
The immune system is the complex interaction between white blood cells, antibodies, hormones, proteins, enzymes, and inflammatory molecules called cytokines. All act in silent synchrony to maintain health. The body is exposed to billions of microbes on the skin, in the mouth, in the digestive tract, and on everything we touch. Microbes that coexist with humans are called symbionts—organisms we have a beneficial relationship with, and are considered to be part of, our normal flora.
The immune system can easily recognize non-symbionts and effectively eliminates them. This process occurs thousands of times per day with little fanfare. However, it is not the “invasion” by external microbes that leads to symptoms known as an infection; it is the compromise of the immune system due to the contamination of the terrain that allows this to occur.
By most historical accounts, Pasteur is considered a luminary hero. Some of his discoveries were undoubtedly noteworthy. For example, Pasteur has been credited with the development of a process known as pasteurization, a method by which microbes are destroyed by heat, causing little harm to food. Examining his germ theory premises and generally accepted medical history is monumentally difficult, especially regarding someone with the stature of Pasteur. However, there is another view of disease which challenges Pasteur’s 150-year-old premise: Health is about the condition of the body called the “terrain,” or its “soil,” and only when the immune system’s soil is disrupted and contaminated can pathogens propagate.
Renewing the Germ Theory Debate
The germ theory and the opposing view are part of the fabric woven around the history of medicine. Many notable individuals throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s were involved with the debate, but the most vocal figures were Pasteur and his two contemporaries, Claude Bernard and Antoine Béchamp. Both strong critics of Pasteur’s work, it was Bernard—a physiologist and heralded as the Father of Experimental Medicine—who made the statement amidst a group of physicians and scientists,
“The terrain is everything; the germ is nothing,” creating the great debate. As contrary as it seems, germs are attracted to the diseased tissues; they are not the primary cause of it. A quote from Dr. Rudolph Virchow, the Father of Modern Pathology, supports this idea: “If I could live my life over again, I would devote it to proving that germs seek their natural habitat—diseased tissue—rather than being the cause of dead tissue. In other words, mosquitoes seek the stagnant water, but do not cause the pool to become stagnant.” The symptoms of the flu or pneumonia—fever, chills, cough, and excess mucous production—are actually secondary illnesses; the first “illness” was loss of health in the underlying tissues.
Bernard’s view is that disease is an “inside-out job,” meaning that when the body is disrupted by today’s toxicities—vaccines, chemicals, heavy metals, processed food, preservatives, etc. – disease occurs. These molecules create a cellular shift toward an acidic state. When cells become acidic, pathogens find a favorable environment to replicate.
What is little known is that throughout his career, Pasteur had doubts about his own assumptions. On his deathbed, Pasteur said “Bernard avait raison. Le germe n’est rien, c’est le terrain qui est tout.” (“Bernard was right. The germ is nothing; the soil is everything.”)However, by the time of Pasteur’s death, the germ theory of disease had become so profitable that modern medicine dismissed his final confessions as nothing more than the ramblings of a dying man. It should always be remembered: The money is in the medicine—not the cure.
The Benefit of Pathogens?
It may be that the role of both the bacteria and the virus is to induce an inflammatory response, a low-level and modified cytokine storm, to help the body to detoxify. It would be very interesting to test the secretions that are expelled during a bout of the flu for chemicals and heavy metals. For example, if a person reportedly died from “viral pneumonia,” perhaps the body was trying to expel a huge amount of chemical-containing mucous. If the person’s immune system was too weak to muster an adequate response or his lymphatics were too congested to drain the accumulated debris—and more chemicals are added during the acute episode, such as aspirin, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and steroids—the body may have become overwhelmed, leading to the person’s demise.
In the presence of faulty detoxification processes, toxic overload occurs. Maybe microbes are handy to have around, inflaming the system and cleaning out the muck. If everything on this planet is here for a reason and there are no mistakes, perhaps an episode of the flu, with the increased mucous, cough, nasal drainage, and diarrhea is the act of cleaning out the internal dross.
Supporting the body through this elimination process with homeopathy, herbs, and Chinese medicine – instead of suppressing the symptoms with Western medicine’s tools – may be the key to long-term health and longevity. From this perspective, instead of being the problem, viruses may be part of the solution, the “clean-up crew.”It should be noted that the human race evolved because of its relationship to microbes, not in spite of it.
What a novel thought! Instead of fearing the flu and doing everything possible to avoid it – including spending billions of dollars to create an experimental vaccine – it may be okay to spend a week or two in bed, clearing out accumulated toxicities. I’m sure many will think of this heresy bordering on the ridiculous.
But in the words of Mark Twain, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know, it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”