Ancient Ayurvedic physicians knew the existence of microbes — the Sanskrit equivalent for them being “krimi.” Agreed that they did not “tick-off” microbes as the primary causal factor in the onset of disease, unlike conventional physicians. It ain’t needed — because, Ayurveda does not treat or compartmentalize an individual into parts. It aims at treating holistically — looking at the individual, in totality. This obviously also holds good in combating microbes, or organisms, which attack and/or damage our body, system, or immunity.
The study of microbes has, of course, been a sizzling area of research for just over 250 years in the West. Even as Louis Pasteur was mounting his theories of infection, at one time, a notable contemporary, Antoine Bechamps, was developing a different perspective on the idea. Bechamps observed tiny particles in blood that he said pervaded all living systems. These “microzymas,” as he called them, were, he felt, the basic building blocks of life. It is from them, he claimed, that bacteria as well as the cellular components of our own bodies began.
It is, of course, true that Pasteur’s work goes down in history as the “harbinger” of the germ theory. However, it is said that Pasteur, in spite of all his enormous glory and genius, recanted and admitted towards the end of his life that the microbe was merely secondary. It is primarily the condition of the body, he said, that determines whether or not micro-organisms can flourish.
Long after this time in history, microbiologists have taken the issue forward with “Pasteurian” intent — not so much as one would have wished with Bechamps’ theory. That the bacteria, and other microbes, must be introduced into a system. It is only then can they reproduce themselves in a tight, unchanging lineage. In addition, microbiologists have, in the course of their work, also described a host of intermediate cell wall deficient bacteria and surprising shifts from one species to another.
It was Gunther Enderlein who, during the first half of the last century, pulled together a spectrum of groundbreaking ideas and observations. Enderlein, along with his associates, after decades of careful study, charted the course of the development of organisms — from the tiny particles Bechamps had vividly described through a sort of life cycle that included the transformation to intermediate forms and ultimately into microbes associated with disease.
The concept, it maybe mentioned, has been resonated in a different form, more recently, in the work of Gaston Naessens. Naessens’ life cycle of microbial forms in humans includes bacterial versions as well as yeast and fungi. The best part is — both ideas are revolutionary in their own right, although conventional microbiologists don’t fancy the perception. Some of them even think of the novel idea as being nothing short of the eccentric.
The reality of it all lies, probably, somewhere in-between the two, because current research misses the connection of observations — in other words, it skips the threads that tie the whole picture together. To think of another major example. It is an accepted fact that conventional blood work and even high-power electron microscopes could only be best used for blood smear or tissue to be examined, destroyed and “fixed,” with chemical agents and dyes. Not otherwise!
To move into a different plane altogether. What is inside the gut is a part of you and yet not quite a part of you — the gut reflects your nature, it also reflects that larger nature outside you. Quite like the world outside, it has its own ecological balance of life forms, being populated with a complex range of microbes. These are bacteria, fungi, single-celled animals, and even viruses. These microbes exist in complex relationships that carry over from their lives outside.
Fungi and bacteria, for example, are old rivals; they have been waging a never-ending war over territory long before we humans showed up on planet Earth. However, the fungi, whose spectrum include moulds, yeasts, and even mushrooms, learned long ago to secrete a sort of toxin that could destroy bacteria, or keep them at bay.
We have learned to use fungal toxins, such as penicillin, to eradicate bacteria that had begun to proliferate in the body. But, you should not think that the bacteria are going down without a fight. They have their own bag of tricks. They have learned to counter the toxins, by becoming resistant strains. You could think of a classical example — the development of resistance against antibiotics.
This battle continues among other places in your intestinal tract. What’s more, the fallout from the relentless battle can have serious consequences on your health.
To draw a simile. It must be remembered that the network of life on the surface of the planet is complicated and interdependent, and that the removal of one species can upset the whole, even resulting in substantial changes in the Earth itself — viz., erosion, desertification, and major shifts in climate. This very same principle applies to our intestinal ecology.
It is said that encouraging an overgrowth of fungal forms, as you’d know, will displace and disrupt bacterial growth. Also, one must bear in mind that bacteria are essential to the healthy functioning of the lining of the intestinal tract. Without them, the normal processes of digestion and assimilation are crippled. Losing them amounts to losing a component of the lining itself — the result is irritation and inflammation.
The current attacks on the reliability of our intestinal ecology, as you’d immediately connect, are varied. First and foremost, the ideal bacteria for colonizing the gut maybe missing in the outside world. They have, perhaps, faded away during shifts in bacterial population caused by toxic environmental chemicals. Their absence makes the intestinal tract more than a bit “vulnerable” to disease invasions — most often from birth. Also, the replacement of breast milk with infant formulae probably undermines the process of establishing an optimal population of bacteria itself.
As you’d know, a diet rich in sugar promotes an overgrowth of yeast. Likewise, the addition of oral antibiotics, a common practice to combat infection and disease, running erratically through the gut, is tantamount to a series of nuclear attacks, devastating populations of bacteria that were trying to maintain themselves there. The combination of sugar and antibiotics sure makes a powerful and destructive “ammo,” blasting through the intestinal tracts of a large population of people, and creating devastation.
The best thing you’d do is — follow a regimen that is simple and practical, just like how your ancestors, or grandparents, did. Eating nourishing food, greens and vegetables, walking more than a couple of miles a day, practicing meditation, taking time off in communion, and leading an active, spiritual life.
This is still the best way to maintaining good health and keeping diseases at bay — notwithstanding all our amazing advances in science, medicine, and technology!