During these stressful times, many of us are worried about our safety. We are worried because we have lost faith in the natural resilience of our bodies to disease and imbalance, a faith that has been undermined at every opportunity by a prolonged campaign of fear and biological mistrust in order to get the populous to comply. The result is a general population that has largely forgotten its birthright of “natural immunity”, a birthright that has served it well over the course of human history. Life now seems fragile and risky, and as a consequence, most of us are prepared to trade liberty for safety, and to compliantly take whatever treatment is on offer to shore up our immunity and protect ourselves and our families. This is certainly a rational, although perhaps shortsighted, response considering the tendentious information drive and censorship in the mass media and on social media platforms.
This break in trust in our biological resilience may be in relation to COVID-19 right now, but it will likely have big ramifications for every new infection on the horizon, no matter how benign. Once we lose trust in natural immunity, we will look to the medical industry for continual and ongoing protection (with vaccines, drugs and gene therapy).
This is unfortunate because such a perspective of biological insufficiency is not true. In reality, life is robust; it is built to survive. It always was. If we were fragile, we would not be here in our numbers today after the trials and tribulations of millions of years of evolution. Of course, if we are old and/or have sub-optimum health and existing medical conditions, we may well need some intervention, even if just to isolate from an infectious wave sweeping through a population. Yet the vast majority of us are not biologically fragile; the vast majority have immune systems that can cope successfully with most novel infections — and indeed do.
There is however one important caveat: life is certainly built to survive… but collectively.
Biological systems — such as human beings, humming birds and haricot beans — do not exist in a vacuum. They are integrated into a web of life in which any particular life form is a “node” in an interacting living network mediated by microorganisms, chemicals (especially proteins), emotions, thoughts and perhaps other factors. This network shares information, molecules and energy. Life is therefore a collective effort, and its machinations certainly do not stop at the boundaries of individual organisms. This collectivism also applies to our response to infection.
Until fairly recently, that interconnectedness of living things, with regard to health, was not appreciated — we focused on individual health rather than the magnificence of a harmonious orchestra. The reason for this is that we just were not aware of the effects of the microbial world.
Indeed, right until the late 19th Century, doctors didn’t even wash their hands after handling corpses, before operations, and when supervising births! The awareness of microbial pathogenesis was absent, and doctors at first resisted calls for better hygiene. It was only when it became obvious that cleanliness was central to health and recovery that they reluctantly started implementing proper hygiene. As a result, hospital infections plummeted and survival rates escalated.
The Industrial Revolution, which had sparked off in Britain in the late 18th Century, had brought people together into urban environments — cramped and filthy living spaces with shockingly poor sanitation. From an early age they would work inhumanely long hours for the rest of their shortened lives in highly toxic factory and coal mine environments. Their diets were sparse and the lack of food regulations meant that much of what was eaten was rotten, poisonous and diseased; and their drinking water was contaminated (often with raw sewage). No wonder infectious diseases were rife — immune systems were shot! Tuberculosis, dysentery, typhoid fever, scarlet fever, yellow fever, cholera, measles, smallpox, whooping cough and diphtheria were always prevalent and wiped out vast swathes of the population. Life for the majority of these urban dwellers was hell on earth, with over 50% of all deaths attributable to infectious diseases.
It was only with the rise of hygiene and proper sanitation — which started in the mid-19th Century — that things turned around and the rate of infectious diseases plummeted over the period of the late 19th Century to the mid-20th Century. Workers gained rights not to be overworked and limits were put on their exposure to hazards. The general population no longer had to live with raw sewage, eat diseased and nutrient-devoid food, or drink contaminated water. As a consequence of limiting the exposure to pathogens and having healthier immune systems, people gained health and average lifespans soared (with infant mortality hugely reduced).
So our first awareness of the interactions between microbes and people was decidedly negative, giving rise to a medical mindset of extermination and the development as well as widespread use of antibiotics, which first appeared in the early 20th Century. These drugs have become a mainstay of modern medical care, saving hundreds of millions of lives over the decades from infectious diseases. However, this success has come at a cost because antibiotics were overused, creating evolutionary pressure towards resistant strains.
Over the last few decades, however, research has started to uncover the hidden role the bacterial colonies play in our lives, and how their health is inextricably linked to our own. When bacterial colonies suffer — when they are pathogenic, meagre, imbalanced and/or lacking natural diversity — we suffer. And when those colonies are healthy, we are healthy. In this way, bacteria are not “out there” separate from us, but are an integral part of us. From this perspective, microbial eradication is no general solution.
The microbial populations closest to home that most affect our health are actually the massive populations living intimately on or within our bodies: most notably in our gut. These form complex ecosystems made up of bacteria, archaea (similar to bacteria), fungi and viruses, and are collectively known as the microbiome. Three quarters of these microbes lines came down to us from our mother during the normal birthing process, although our lifestyle can also have an enormous effect on the microbial breakdown of our microbiome, its diversity and its pathogenesis.
Although they comprise only 1 to 3% of our body weight, their tiny size means there are still more of them than there are cells that make up our own bodies. (Approx 1.3 to 1.0 ratio of microbiome bacteria to cells in the body.) What is more, compared to the paltry 20,500 or so genes that we have in our own cells, our microbiome can contain 2 to 20 million genes. This means that they vastly increase our genetic data bank and potential, giving us an exponentially more powerful and complex ability to cope with future environmental changes and microbial challenges.
The microbiome has a symbiotic relationship with us, bestowing vital benefits: it helps to digest our food; it regulates our immune system (70-80% of immune system function is in the gut); it protects us from pathogenic bacteria; and it produces specific nutrients that are required by our bodies such as Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B12 and Vitamin K. More recently, research is even finding that the makeup and health of our specific microbiome is linked to disease outcomes such as heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, obesity, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, autoimmune diseases and mental health (including depression), and the list grows longer each year. It appears that the microbiome is intimately involved with our health, but it would be more accurate to see it as an integral part of us than just opportunistic bacteria. We are an ecosystem of various species across kingdoms.
As a consequence of our rising awareness of the fundamental importance of these microbial colonies to our health and wellbeing, we are needing to revise our perceptions of microbes, including pathogenic microbes. When infections strike, the overarching solution is to harmonise the microbial populations we live intimately with. That way, our friends in warm dark places become defenders of our homeostasis. We need them as they carry far greater genetic intelligence to down-regulate persiferous microbes, rather than applying the indiscriminate decimation mediated by conventional approaches that may win the battle, but end up losing the war. Battles certainly have to be won when they are key to our survival, but without a proper long-term strategy that respects our ecological nature — that balances our multiplicity — those victories will be short-lived.
Most modern medical researchers do not appreciate complex systems because they are still caught under the reductionist spell that makes science so successful in so many areas, but which introduces a blind spot to the complexities and nuances of complex systems of living things. (This is how genetic engineering can be deemed a “good idea” even when we do not fully understand how genes express and how they can transfer to other species through processes like horizontal gene transfer.) These types of intervention are only a “good idea” in the minds of those who hold a simplified and static view of our genetic processes, views encouraged by the commercial application of insufficient biological models.
And it is insufficient biological modelling that imposes insufficiency upon us. We regard our biological integrity as insufficient, and so we look beyond ourselves and our lifestyles for wellbeing. We do not trust our innate immunity because so little in the mainstream media promotes our incredible biological resilience. Instead, we are encouraged at every turn to feel weak, frightened and incomplete — an incendiary concoction that instils medical neediness in us so that we end up demanding interventions that may not be in our health interest in the longer term.
If we have more faith in our innate biological design (whether through evolution or a higher intelligence), our focus instead becomes on maximising our health through an optimum diet and lifestyle, so that our immune systems and our microbiome can function ideally. And because the modern diet is almost invariably sub-optimal, natural food supplements are often recommended in addition to a healthy diet in order to give our systems a superlative nutritional foundation. The result is a vibrant health built from the foundation up, rather than a sub-optimal health propped up by chemical and genetic interventions.
That propping up may be essential during times of crisis, but because it does not respect the multiplicity and natural balance of our systems, it is not the ideal long-term strategy. Yet because interventional approaches are lucrative for big business — which owns the mass media, influences government policy and funds international health organisations — these are the solutions invariably promoted and implemented. In this environment, you can feel an outsider if you take the natural approach to optimising the immune system and the gut microbiome — as if you are being irresponsible respecting the innate ability of the human body to maintain its integrity!
And yet, the scientific research increasingly points in the natural direction — in the preservation of our multiplicity and the astonishing capabilities of our innate immune system. Even the viral part of the microbiome may well have an important role in our biological homeostasis, for new research is revealing that viruses shuttle genetic material between bacteria, and may well be an essential part of our health.
Yet as a society, we have so much momentum in the “nuke-em” approach to infection — whether by biocides, artificial antibody induction or genetic engineering — that our knee jerk response to shoring up our defences against perceived microbial threat is still the elimination of the offending microbes, even if it means damaging our microbiome in the process. But the microbial world is resilient and adaptive — when we wage war on it, it turns nasty because it can so easily side-step our attacks and push back. Microbes are not “other”, they are an essential part of a living web that supports all life. And because of this interconnectedness, leading-edge medicine is moving towards cooperation with the microbial ecosystems rather than trying to eliminate specific species. And that cooperation bestows the strongest natural immunity. This is a whole different mindset.
So what can we do to respect our multiplicity and optimise our innate immunity? We must simply look after our gut microbiome and give it every opportunity to be as healthy as it can be. The healthier our microbiome, the healthier our immune systems (both specific and non-specific). This requires a healthy diet (including fermented foods and liquids), the avoidance and elimination of toxins that interfere with biological processes, and a healthy exposure to environmental microbes (including those from other people). This may sound like trite advice, but it requires full-time effort in a modern world that encourages us to eat unhealthy processed foods, that carries an increasingly toxic burden, and which is using ever more biocides in medicine and food production to try to control living systems that we ourselves have put out of balance. (Antibiotics should only be taken when absolutely necessary.) That is the natural health approach in a nutshell — the approach to work with nature rather than against it.
This approach may seem unsophisticated in the high-tech world of modern medicine, however it is an approach that respects the incredible complexity of living systems. Humans are certainly intelligent, and modern medicine is indispensable in many situations — bringing a multitude of benefits and saving countless lives. And yet we, along with all our accumulated medical knowledge and high technology, are absolutely no match for the unfathomable genius of complex biological systems which have evolved and fine-tuned their synergistic interdependency over millions of years. Life thrives on a rock floating in the middle of space because of that interdependency that is intelligent and cooperative enough to create an entire self-sustaining life-support system. And we are an integral part of that system — the boundaries between species are contrived. So if we really want to flourish, we need to stop trying to extract ourselves from the web of life, and re-establish a healthy relationship with the microbes. There is only safety in numbers.
* * *
MICROMAX: It sits there unassumingly on a shelf… and yet, inside, a whole ecosystem of microbes is excitedly awaiting their pending intestinal assignments. Yes, Micromax is the supplement that microbes themselves would order… if they had access to the internet. But unfortunately they don’t, so you will have to order it for them. This liquid probiotic is manufactured biodynamically in the Austrian Alps where up to 80 strains of friendly microbes feast on wild-grown alpine herbs and organic molasses to ensure they are bursting with health and vitality. When they have eaten their fill, they are gently lowered into brown bottles for their journey to new dark and damp potential paradises. Click here for more info on Micromax.
BIOBRAN: Although it sounds like a breakfast cereal, Biobran is actually a serious immunomodulator, so serious in fact that it is used worldwide to turbo-charge week immune systems like no other natural product, and without any ugly spoilers or marketing go-faster stripes. Biobran is backed by over 60 peer-reviewed research papers and 20 years of clinical use, so if you are looking for a safe and natural product to ensure optimum immunity, look no further. Biobran is available in lower-bhp tablets and super-charged sachets. (Road tax not included.) Click here for more info on Biobran MGN-3.