I was prompted to write this after a Face Book discussion on germs. I thought it futile to comment in the thread as there just wasn’t enough space! Most were alluding to germs being nasty, disgusting and need to be gotten rid of. It’s understandable that parents wish to keep their children’s environments clean. A mother’s day at any given time could be made up with boiling bottles in hot water, cleaning pacifiers that fall on the ground, washing their children’s hands, wiping down supermarket trolleys and purchasing yet more antibacterial soap. Is this all necessary? After all it is still called a germ theory!
I feel when it comes to germs, we have it backward. Germs actually add immense benefit to our life and yes they can be good for you and your children. Keeping things neat, clean and tidy is fine, however going crazy using antibacterial hand soaps, buying antibacterial kids’ toys and other products, and antibiotic medications is actually killing the very microbes that can help strengthen your immune system clearly making this approach counter intuitive. Antibacterial products simply weaken the good bacteria within us and on us!
Let’s look at this a different way…
There is not one thing within our world that is not required, germs included. The mere fact that germs are present begs two questions 1) why do they exist and 2) for what purpose? So I went digging. And found three ways in which our symbiotic relationship with germs is expressed; commensalism, mutualism, and parasitism. Each one supported by the other two. And there we have it the classic Vital Moms triangle appearing again! Here’s a brief description of each:
- Commensalism is a relationship that is beneficial to the bacteria which live off of the host, but does not help or harm the host.
- Mutualistic relationship, both the bacteria and the host benefit.
- Parasitic relationship is one in which the bacteria benefit however the environment has to be ideal for the parasitic expression.
I love etymology so I decided to dive a little deeper to find out what “germ” actually means? Where did the term come from and has society over the years through clever marketing and scare tactics interpreted “germ” to mean something completely different?
Let’s take a look…
“Germ” originated from around the mid 15th century and meant “bud or sprout.” Then in the 1640’s the definition broadened to become “rudiment [beginning] of a new organism in an existing one.” The sense of “seed of a disease” was first recorded in 1803 and that of “harmful microorganism” dates from 1871.
According to a kids health website “germs invade plants, animals, and people, and sometimes they make us sick.” An interesting description demonstrating how the interpretation of “harmful microorganism” has firmly remained since 1871! Most people only think about germs from the context of disease. However here are some things to consider about germs which include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa:
- They synthesize vitamins right in our guts.
- They regulate our immune systems.
- They assist with regulation of our serotonin levels; yes these critters might just help you express happiness!
- There is a forest of bacteria on the skin in fact almost 200 separate species on an average person, according to researchers at New York University.
- They make it possible for certain elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen to be returned to the atmosphere.
- Gerald Callahan, a microbiologist at Colorado State University says exposure to bacteria, both benign and harmful, is what primes the immune system to respond to pathogenic invaders later in life.
- Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has also shown that children who are sheltered from bacteria have a higher chance of developing asthma and allergies.
- They ensure that the cycle of chemical exchange between organisms and their environment is continuous.
- They help digest food.
- The number of bacterial cells in the body is commonly estimated at 10 times the number of human cells.
- They help synthesise Vitamin K for blood clotting.
- Bacteria are the major decomposers of dead plants and animals, freeing their atoms to be re-used by other living things.
- They help us break down food, e.g. plant fibers, that we’re not so good a handling.
- People use bacteria to turn wine into vinegar and milk into cheese and yogurt.
- Double their number every 20 minutes.
- Almost one million bacteria can be created by one person in an 8 hr period!
In other words germs are around us every day and all day for the whole of our physical existence!
For years physiologist, Claude Bernard and chemist, Louis Pasteur’s argued time and time again throughout their lives about what constituted disease – the body (soil) or the germ (seed). Pasteur for his whole life insisted it was the germ (seed) while Bernard claimed it was the soil (the body). On Pasteur’s death bed, it is said that he admitted that Bernard was right; he said, “ it is the soil [body], not the seed[germ]).”
The germ (seed) or the body (soil or host factors) argument was as prevalent then as it is today. Today many authors are agreeing that, although germs certainly play a role in the diseases of man, the germ alone however is not the cause of disease.
Dennis T. Jaffe, Ph.D. in his book “Healing from Within” says “…Of course, micro-organisms are always present… it alone is not sufficient to produce illness”
And Andrew Weil, MD in his book Health and Healing states “Germs are agents of disease. …Agents of disease are not causes of disease…agents of disease do not cause us to get sick. They are merely potential vectors of illness waiting for chances to do their mischief. Given a chance, they will do it. Chances come along because of the natural fluctuations of our cycles of relative health.
Weil goes on to suggest a philosophy that refers to the cause of disease coming from inside, not outside.
And where does this all leave us?
Some medical doctors and most Chiropractors agree that the germ is not the cause of disease. First a person must have created an internal environment that is able to host the germ and express the disease. Internal environments become ripe when a body’s communication pathway is challenged in some way; “blocked”, “unclear” or “disturbed”. These challenges are created via our physical (trauma), chemical (toxins) and emotional (thoughts) self which in turn alters our internal environment and physiology expressing the signs and symptoms associated with a disease which we then notice!
Our “bacteria cafeteria” is essentially giving us a smorgasbord of opportunity. If the germ theory was correct said BJ Palmer then I am sure there would be nobody living to believe it.
Germs will always be with us. I believe it would be useful to spend time learning to live in balance with them and acknowledge their benefits. Consider regular chiropractic care in your health approach for yourself and your children so your body can create the opportunity to communicate via clear channels and establish an internal environment that utilises the full benefits of “germs” for a different expression of health and growth. A far more pleasant way to look at germs!
Germs can thrive and survive without us but can we thrive and survive without them?
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