Our language is so curious. “I have a bug,” we says, and the mental images can be varied: we hold a small cage with a little bug in it; we cradle a bug in her hands; a bug sits in our throat. The latter is probably the closest to what we mean: an invisible organism (bacteria or virus) has taken hold of us, attacked our integrity, and caused us to have certain symptoms such as a cough or a stomachache. The image is compelling, but is this really how we get sick?
Our notions of sickness are peculiar to our time and culture. Immersed as we are in this culture, these notions have the aura of absolute truth. We KNOW that bacteria exist: smart people see them under the microscope, and are able to influence them in one way or another. We KNOW that certain bacteria or viruses are associated with the appearance of certain symptoms: smart people tell us so. They also tell us that the fact that the “bugs” appear together with the symptoms means that the bugs caused the symptoms.
These observations have given rise to the notion that the way to eliminate disease — one of the great quests of humanity — is to eliminate all the bugs. Or at least the ones that are associated with sickness. The way to eliminate the little pests is through the magic of chemistry: antibiotics. These substances created a revolution when they first came upon the scene in the Thirties. By the end of World War II, they had proven to be truly helpful in stemming the course of infections, and many people owed their lives to the effectiveness of antibiotic drugs.
Soon, however, the backlash became evident. Antibiotics, which by their name and nature are “anti-life,” killed not just the bad “bugs” but the good ones as well. The good ones help us stay alive and functioning; for example, in a healthy human being the intestines are colonized with bacteria that help assimilate and digest the food we eat, as well as synthesize vitamins and other vital nutrients. When we take a course of antibiotics, these beneficial organisms are decimated; as a result, normal functioning of our organism (which greatly relies on them) is disrupted. The result of such disruption: major health problems. This situation has been known in the scientific literature for a long time. In 1957, a peer review of published studies found that, among others, the following conditions resulted from antibiotic use: asthma, allergies, hay fever, fungal infections, overgrowth of the candida albicans yeast, swelling of the joints, eczema, nerve damage, herpes simplex, collagen diseases, psychosis, convulsions, coma, and death.
The other problem with our little bugs is that they don’t sit still waiting to be slaughtered. As all living creatures, they prefer to live. They like to defend themselves against our chemical weapons, and have found a terrific defense mechanism: in the dark, shielded from our prying, they change form and create resistance. There is no way for us to control that: bugs that quickly used to die in the presence of penicillin now don’t, even if the dose is increased thirtyfold. The drug-resistant tuberculosis currently running through our prisons is but a manifestation of this entire problem.
Beginning with the discoverer of antibiotics Alexander Fleming, experts have repeatedly warned against overuse of those potent medicines. However, to no avail: a study at the University of California in San Francisco showed that 62% of the patients receiving antibiotics in community hospitals had no evidence of infection. As a result of this wanton overuse of killer drugs, we are plagued with illnesses the world has never known before.
How shall we deal with the bugs, if chemistry has such dangerous effects? Most of us are under the belief that nothing but antibiotics is available to deal with infection. Let’s note here that there are definite situation where antibiotics can be life savers. The problem is when they are used for minor conditions, for conditions that don’t respond to them, or as “prevention,” which is not really their proper therapeutic use. Many conditions are not even “caused” by bacteria or virus; it’s just that the bugs like to live in the conditions that the host supplies. Basically, the best defense against infection is a healthy host: resistance in humans can be encouraged as prevention, and will be more effective than any chemical.
How do we increase our resistance? Lets start with enough rest, a real luxury in our overstressed society. In addition, healthful food is a major contributor to a strong immune system. The increased use of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans will nourish as well as strengthen. A minimal use of animal foods is one of the best ways to avoid disease; in our society, the foods most closely associated with infections are milk and milk products. It’s interesting to consider that most commercially raised animals have antibiotics liberally and routinely added to their feed; there is no overseeing from federal agencies to insure it doesn’t happen.
One of the best natural remedies against infection is garlic. Studies have now confirmed the age old wisdom that it keeps away the evil spirits: no harmful bug survives garlic juice. However, it seems that the beneficial bugs are not affected. Not only that, it tastes great! Here is a recipe that is easy to make, and will boost your resistance to colds and flu:
RUSSIAN GARLIC BREAD
2 slices wholegrain sourdough bread, wheat or rye
1 clove garlic
- Toast the bread until well browned.
- Rub the garlic clove all over the slices.
- Sprinkle a few grains of sea salt and a few drops of olive oil over the bread.
- Give some to everybody in your family. Enjoy.