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Well Beyond Medicine

The Germ Theory of Life

I received some startling news the other day that left me totally bugged. “You’re going to just stand there and tell me that 90 percent of the total cells I carry around in my body are microbes?” I gasped.

“Get over yourself,” my friend the microbe expert said offhandedly, surprised I didn’t know this already. “We humans are only 10 percent human cells and the rest teeming, thriving microorganisms along for the ride.”

She pulled out a 2004 report from the American Academy of Microbiology and read to me, “Microbes enable efficient digestion in our guts, synthesize essential nutrients, and maintain benign or even beneficial relationships with the body’s organs. The presence of these organisms influences our physical and mental health.”

I had to sit down immediately. That is, “we” had to sit down, my microbes and I. Why had I never understood or even heard about this before? What is the significance that so many more cells are microbial than human? Who or what controls the 90 percent of me that is not me? When the word finally gets out, won’t it revolutionize the entire world of healthcare?

At the very least, I realized, it is high time to rewrite The Germ Theory.

Of course, there always have been a few “bugs” in the Germ Theory of Disease that kept the theory from becoming a principle of medical science. First off, if germs really did cause disease, none of us would be left standing here to discuss the theory’s finer points. Obviously there is something else at work here, perhaps our ability to maintain resistance and develop immunity.

Louis Pasteur himself found it necessary to falsify his records and fudge the results of major experiments he carried out just to make the Germ Theory work, according to historian Gerald Geison in a New York Times article in 1995. Geison was one of the first scholars to study Pasteur’s personal notes following the Pasteur family’s long delayed release of the research. I imagine this new view of Pasteur describing the fundamental fraud and deception in which he engaged did not go over too well with the French people, who have erected beautiful statues in his image and named venerable public institutions after him.

Pasteur worked hard to garner credit for developing the Germ Theory during his lifetime, even though scientists had already been kicking the idea around for a hundred years or so before he showed up. As an old man though, Pasteur reportedly dropped the entire theory and sided with his contemporary, Claude Bernard. Bernard was the doctor who once gathered a group of colleagues around himself and quaffed down a glass of water teeming with cholera proclaiming, “The terrain is everything; the germ is nothing!” By this act Bernard staked his health on his belief that a “germ” requires the right kind of “soil,” namely diseased tissue, to mount an infection resulting in illness.

Many Germ Theory enthusiasts find the idea intolerable that Pasteur might have abandoned his pet germ theory in old age and sided with Bernard. They dismiss his 180-degree change of heart as the incoherent ravings of a dying man. Many of us believe Pasteur was very sound of mind at the time and we give him credit for publicly changing his mind when he concluded the evidence supported a different story.

At the very least though, the Germ Theory rescued us from the Evil Spirits Theory, which was the dominant theory of disease before blame was passed to germs. This is now regarded as a giant step forward for science. That is because the cures for casting out evil spirits required using harsh treatments that ended up killing significant numbers of patients needlessly. I am told this in no way resembles modern medicine’s incessant war against microbes, whose harsh treatments end up killing staggering numbers of patients unintentionally.

Considering that microorganisms help us digest our food, create vital nutrients for us and protect us from opportunistic infections, is it any wonder that antibiotics and vaccines are linked to so many terrible health disorders, complications and chronic diseases since their effect is to kill, kill, kill?

If microbes could talk, they would make public service announcements crying, “Poison to one is poison to all!” If the human body was ruled by democracy, the microbes in our bodies would no doubt hold an election, and the majority would vote to prevent pharmaceutical attack wherever and whenever possible.

Which brings us back to the task at hand, the rewriting of the Germ Theory of Disease. Since germs are such a big part of who we are, it follows that our good health depends on the good health of our resident microbes. We need a new manifesto to induce everyone to make our microbes feel at home, happy, safe and healthy. In short, we need to make peace with our microbes, love our microbes, and ask our microbes what they want for dinner.

We shall call the new dominant theory the Germ Theory of Life. The transition period will require that all of us reach deep down inside and exercise patience, understanding, and practice extra patience with misguided germ haters and killers. Medical practitioners will be facing enormous challenges and difficulties at first, because they have been trained to reflexively declare war on every germ in sight, plus all the ones they can’t see. But people in the health field tend to have a good heart and they will naturally excel in the new system once they make the transition to being germ lovers. Indeed, many individuals have already seen the writing on the wall and have taken up the new Love Your Germs! banner with gusto.

But the Big Pharma Drug Cartel is based on killing and suppression and will not stand down easily. Big Pharma is the greatest and most powerful economic force in the entire history of mankind. In order to justify perpetual germ warfare and the promotion of germ genocide, the Prescription Drug Cartel needs the Germ Theory intact. Big Pharma clings to the germ theory as tenaciously as the Catholic Church once clung to the Earth Is The Center Of The Universe Theory. Many heads will roll before the transition to loving our germs is complete.

Nevertheless, in the big picture of history, as scientific progress lurches forward down the road like a drunken sailor, theories come and theories go. The old Germ Theory of Disease has always proclaimed “Death to the bugs!” The new Germ Theory of Life says we need to nurture our bugs and raise the healthiest bugs we possibly can. The new theory accounts for the fact that we humans are part of the stream of nature and our health ultimately depends on the health of our environment. When you come right down to it, each one of us is our own environment.

Not surprisingly, the practices needed to ensure the health of our microbes are identical to the practices for ensuring the health of our human cells. These are the usual suspects for creating wellness: Eat well, think well, exercise well, rest well, love well and be well.

The greatest thing about the new Germ Theory of Life is that we do not need prescriptions, physicians or anyone’s permission to choose a lifestyle that creates good health. One caveat though, since making healthy choices and practicing a healthy lifestyle is neither dangerous nor outrageously profitable or expensive, do not expect your medical insurance to pay for it.

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