Germ vs. Terrain
Mainstream infectious disease medicine practiced today is based on the "germ theory" as put forward by Louis Pasteur (1822-1985). His theory viewed the body as a sterile machine that will operate properly unless a foreign substance is introduced. Therefore, it is thought that when specific microbes enter the body, they produce a specific disease. In an attempt to correct the imbalance, antibiotics and other medicines are used to destroy these organisms. No microbes, no disease. It was believed that health is restored only if there are no germs present that might cause disease.
In contrast, the famous French physiologist, Claude Bernard (1813-1878) focused on the importance of the body's internal environment. In contradiction to the then current doctrine of Pasteur, he taught that microbes (e.g. bacteria, viruses) could not produce disease unless the body's internal environment was unbalanced and susceptible for the development of disease. Bernard's theory was that the whole must be sick before any germ can make us ill.
[As an example, I was reading about this big debate these two disparate sides in France, between proponents of Pasteur and Bernard. The propronent of Bernard, to prove his point, that if his body's environment was clean and healthy, he would not get ill, actually drank a glass of water containing cholera germs in front of the audience! Cholera can kill quite quickly--but the man did NOT get ill. Must have truly believed his theory to put it to the test like that! I was amazed then, and remain amazed. However, I can't remember where I read this anecdote, so consider this mere anecdote until I can find the source. Thanks, HM]
Renowned microbiologist, Rene Debous agreed with this basic principle, saying, "Most microbial diseases are caused by organisms present in the body of a normal individual. They become the cause of disease when a disturbance arises which upsets the equilibrium of the body." Debous, like Bernard, thought it is not the presence of bacteria or viruses that cause disease, it is the imbalance of the body's normal functions that fails to hold the microbes in check. Even today, more and more doctors and researchers know that microbes are always present. Some of these are harmless and others have harmful potential. Some of these are absolutely necessary to allow the body to function properly; they are only able to cause disease if the body is in a weakened or upset state. Although some microbes with harmful potential can cause disease in even the healthiest persons if a significant dose of the microbe is contacted, those with strong immune function may completely resist infections manifestations or develop only mild infectious symptoms.
Furthermore, an improperly balanced bodily environment may lead to a compromised immune system and more serious disease. Degenerative diseases that lead to chronic failure of body tissues or organ systems result largely from an unstable condition of the internal environment. One the body is in a weakened state, the tissues can be secondarily affected by disease-causing microbes. Interestingly enough, even Pasteur himself condemed his own theory on his death bed, saying, "Bernard is right. The microbe is nothing. The environment is all important."
[Another editorial comment: As a student of medical history and the battles between various schools, it makes sense to me that allopathic medicine (typical American medical system) would latch onto Pasteur's theory rather than Bernard's. With Pasteur's, they can "heroically" use invasive drugs and surgery to "cure" the patient and the drugs/surgery can cost big bucks. With Bernard's, they would have been stuck with the boring preventative stuff like fasting and good nutrition. Where's the glory for the doctor in that, not to mention the money? HM]
The Free Radical Theory
"We know that most degenerative diseases are linked to free radical damage." James F. Balch, M.D.
Even more importantly, in 1954, Dr. Denham Harman described his free radical theory of aging and disease. He said, "A single common process, modifiable by genetic and environmental factors was responsible for aging and death of all living things." He also went on to say, "Aging is caused by free radical reactions which may be caused by the environment, from disease and intrinsic reactions within the aging process." At that time, Dr. Harman's work was, for the most part, ignored by the entrenched medical establishment. They were still convinced that disease must come from outside of man as represented by Louis Pasteur's germ theory.
The Dangerous World of Free Radicals
Think of them as internal terrorists roaming your body, looking for cells to destroy, depriving tissues of blood flow, preventing the removal of plaque and fats from your system. They're unstable oxygen molecules that come with every breath you take and, like terrorists, they can be hard to find and even harder to destroy.
Free radicals damage the body's DNA (the body's genetic code) by injuring or breaking the chemical bonds between the DNA molecules. As more damage builds up in the DNA strands, the DNA coded messages begin to be improperly translated and cellular function goes awry. It doesn't help that oxidation is caused by everything from the air you breathe to the foods you eat to environmental chemicals that can't be controlled. A body in the grip of free radical damage is susceptible to a host of life-threatening diseases and premature aging.
Free Radicals and Aging
"As antibiotics in the last fifty years of the twentieth century helped cure many infectious diseases, so antioxidants will affect a cure of many supposedly incurable diseases in the twenty first century and slow the aging process dramatically." James F. Balch, M.D.
Research by biogerontologists indicates that aging takes place because of destructive cellular changes brought on by free radicals. Professor Rajinjdar Sohal of the Department of Sciences at Southern Methodist University in Dallas concluded, followint the examination of recent free radical studies, "There is enough evidence to give good credence to the free radical theory of aging."
Meet the Free Radical Killers...the Curcuminoids!
To fight a strong enemy, you need an even stronger weapon, and one has been at hand for over a thousand years. In ancient times, it was used as a dye and spice as well as a medicine. Its use in Chinese medicine dates back to the 7th century. It is listed as a medicinal plant in an Assyrian herbal codex dating 600 BC and was one of the herbs mentioned by the first century Greek herbalist physician, Discorides. You probably have a bottle or tin of it on your spice rack. In fact you may have used some to add a little zing to your food lately without realizing you were helping to protect your cells in the process!
You know it as tumeric (or, as we will refer to it in this article, curcumin) far beyond its piquant flavor and brilliant yellow color. The real force in curcumin is in the beneficial phenolic compounds known as curcuminoids. There are three curcumonids that scientists have identified, curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin.
Besides these highly valuable phenolic compounds, tumeric also contains a very potent antioxidant peptide identified as tumerin. In at least one experiment, this incredible little peptide has been shown to exhibit more antioxidant fire power than the curcuminoids.
Antioxidant Functions of Curcuminoids
"Tumeric and its active constituents, the curcuminoids, have antioxidant properties that effectively inhibit free radical damage in both in vitro and in vivo conditions." Vladimir Badmaev, M.D., Ph.D.
Curcuminoids have been scientifically proven to perform the following several antioxidative functions:
- Anti-inflammatory action
- Antithrombotic action
- Hepatoprotective action
- Antimicrobial action
- Antiviral action
- Antiparasitic action
Anticancer Benefits of Curcumin
"The anticarcinogenic activity of tumeric extract and curcuminoids may be in part explained by their well-researched ability to prevent genetic mutation, or mutagenesis." Vladimir Badmaev
Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that effectively prevents precancerous changes within DNA and may prove to interfere with enzymes needed during cancer promotion. Since curcumin reduces inflammation by increasing production of natural cortisone produced by the adrenal glands, it may also inhibit cancer formation in the colon. Recent animal studies showed a significant decrease in tumor growth with the long-term administration of curcumin. Moreover, clinical studies have shown that curcumin-based ointments were very effective in helping to treat the effects of skin cancer.
[The pamphlet goes on to say that curcumin can help in oral cancers, useful in preventing and treating colorectal cancers, and in precancerous leukoplakia.]
Curcuminoids can also lower cholesterol, especially the "bad LDL" cholesterol. It can aid in cutting Alzheimer's Disease risk--the pamphlet discuses the very low incidence of Alzheimer's in India, perhaps because the Indian diet includes lots of tumeric in curry spices. And, of course, tumeric and its curcuminoids are anti-inflammatory, which can certainly help in arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
To sum up: "All of the research and clinical trials seemed to provde what ancient medicine has known for centuries: curcumin may be a major defense and treatment for everything from small wounds to life-threatening chronic degenerative disease."
That's more than enough excerpting, though only small sections out of an 8 page booklet. If you are interested in the proprietary blend of herbs and spices marketed by the Journal of Health & Longevity, the number to call is 1-800-218-1379 or write to Institute for Vibrant Living, PO Box 3840, Camp Verde AZ 86322. The product, called Pain and Brain, is a blend of curcumin 95%, 1350 mg daily dose, Boswellia Serratta 65%, 600 mg, Ashwagandha Extract, 450 mg, Guggul Extract, 150 mg, Bioperine, 15mg daily dose. If I had the money, I would consider purchasing this product. However, I don't, so I'll merely continue taking my tsp of tumeric daily in a glass of water. This is probably NOT a clinically therapeutic dose, but I'm thinking that some is better than none and every little bit helps.
I've written about tumeric before, which you may want to check out. The thing is, these spices were (and are!) considered highly valuable, not only for their marvelous effects in the kitchen, but also for their medicinal uses. No wonder they were worth their weight in gold. They're still mighty expensive, but oh so worth it. Let's see, a double latte at Starbucks, or a fresh tin of good organic tumeric? Decisions, Decisions....