The Germ Theory: The Traditional Naturopathic Perspective – Part I

by | Jan 14, 2009 | Nature's Therapies E-Journal

In recent weeks, we have heard ominous reports regarding the threat of a swine flu pandemic that have stirred up great trepidation. Therefore, I think it both timely and important to share the traditional naturopathic perspective regarding the Germ Theory.

Rudolf Virchow, a contemporary of Pasteur and one of the formulators of the Cell Theory (the foundation of modern biology) reflected: “If I could live my life over again, I would devote it to proving that germs seek their natural habitat: diseased tissue, rather than being the cause of diseased tissue.”

The enduring popularity of the Germ Theory is attributable, in part, to its portrayal of disease onset as being a thunderbolt in a previously clear sky. This absolves the individual of the responsibility to live in accordance with the Laws of Nature that govern health, the violation of which leads to enervation and autotoxemia: the true causes of most disease.

The Actual Role of Microorganisms Within the Scheme of Nature

Bacteria are ubiquitous; countless billions exist in and around us at all times. They are no less required for our continued existence than food, water, sunlight and air. It is estimated that as many as a one thousand different species of bacteria live within the human digestive tract alone. In the human organism, there are at least ten times as many bacteria as body cells.

Bacteria perform the same vital service within the human body that they do in all ecosystems; they scavenge and breakdown diseased and dead tissue into the simple chemical elements of which they are composed.

Our bodies are continuously replacing old and worn out cells in a perpetual process of detoxification and renewal. The decaying debris, which results from these catabolic (i.e., tissue breakdown) events, is toxic to other cells. Most disease in human beings is attributable, in large part, to the accumulation, beyond the body’s threshold level of tolerance, of toxic waste products within the tissues (i.e., autotoxemia).

Diseases are essentially crises of elevated toxin load: vigorous attempts by the organism to reduce its total load of waste to a level that will permit effective organ function and avoid clogging of the tissues.

Microbial participation in all disease phenomena, erroneously viewed by the germ theorists as always being a primary pathological factor, is, in actuality, more commonly an extension of their normal function. If anything, it attests to the indispensability of bacteria to the body while it is urgently endeavoring to rid the system of its burden of internal refuse.

Certainly there are instances when pathogenic bacterial infection is the direct result of drinking contaminated water, ingesting spoiled food, the build-up of dead tissue around a wound, sexual transmission, poor hygiene, etc. Nevertheless, infectious germ activity during disease is most often, a result, not a cause of disease.

Dr. B. Stanford Claunch, a noted naturopath during the 1920′s states: “One may just as logically conclude that the grass caused the earth, as to conclude that the presence of germs in disease symptoms proves that they caused those symptoms.”


Bacteria cells are very tiny, far smaller than the cells of the human body. The cells of most bacteria have one of three fundamental shapes: spherical (i.e., cocci), rod-shaped (i.e., bacilli) and belical (i.e., spirilla). They often attach to each other and form aggregates. Strepto refers to a chain-like arrangement of bacteria (e.g., streptococci), and staphylo suggests a grape-like cluster (e.g., staphylococci).

Technically, bacteria are neither animals nor plants as they possess characteristics of both animal and plant cells. Therefore, biologists group them under a third kingdom of living things called Monera (which also includes blue-green algae).

Under normal circumstances, bacteria are benign and perform a useful function in the body. Whereas the bodily enzymes break down food and prepare it for absorption from the gut into the blood, bacteria help to dissolve the waste residues that remain and prepare it for expulsion from the body. Where enzymatic activity ends, bacterial action begins.

One of the major differences between bacteria in health and that in disease is that, in the latter, they have more work to do, more waste to feed upon. As the body’s level of toxic accumulation-not only from dietary sources, but also, from progressively devitalized tissue elements-expands, bacterial populations increase proportionately.

Initially, this increase works in the organism’s favor as the expanded labor force of this natural sanitation department attacks the body’s backlog of internal toxic load, dissolving it and lessening its inflammatory potential.

It’s doubtful that any disease could be resolved if bacterial action did not facilitate the liquefaction and expulsion of the waste which necessitate the vigorous bodily efforts toward detoxification. Although this is clearly correct action, allopathic medicine persists in viewing it as purely patholigcal in character. If not decomposed by bacteria, self-generated waste would likely coagulate, hinder metabolism, obstruct circulation and interfere with bowel and kidney function, possibly leading to a fatal conclusion.

Bacterial action within a healthy cellular milieu (environment) is Nature’s correct action. Bacteria feed only on dead and diseased tissue, and lack the power as well as the natural inclination to attack healthy cells. However, they can be induced to become part of the problem if their human host persists in the practice of health-destroying habits which gave rise to the two taproots of illness: 1) enervation2) autotoxemia, and then adds insult to injury by using drugs that suppress the body’s instinctive efforts toward elimination and recuperation.

Such self-destructive behavior (unfortunately, the rule rather than the exception among modern folk) encourages the volume of tissue-poisoning waste to increase exponentially which, in turn, sets the stage for explosive microbial proliferation and a subsequent, unavoidable increase in the output of the potentially lethal by-products of bacterial metabolism.

Enervation (the result of insufficient rest and sleep, over-stimulation, emotional stress and taxation of the digestive system) makes sluggish and inadequate eliminative function inevitable. Retained excretions, whether accrued metabolic waste or those derived by the action of bacteria upon said waste, are toxic substances.

Thus, bacteria, which have the potential to assist bodily efforts toward internal hygiene, can undeniably be coaxed (via their host’s ignorance and neglect) into fostering a secondary toxemia. This secondary toxemia in combination with the prerequisite, primary autotoxemia may result in a “mixed infection” so intense and overpowering as to cause violent illness and death.

Famed English bacteriologist, Sir Richard Douglas Powell, pointed out that tetanus and gangrene germs are perfectly harmless if they are washed and separated from the decaying matter upon which they grow. One of the great early 20th century practitioners of natural medicine, J.H. Tilden, M.D. remarks: “The deadly germ must be mixed with retained, pent-up waste products before it becomes metamorphosed into its toxic, deadly state.”

Disease Precedes the Appearance of Deadly Bacteria, Not Vice Versa

Paul Carton, M.D. (1875-1947) was a French physician who promoted “naturist vegetarianism.” His practice and the development of its theoretical context were influenced by his personal experience as a young man of being medically treated for tuberculosis. He states: “In tuberculosis, the soil is practically everything…The tuberculosis germ is a moss, a parasite which fastens upon failing organisms and seals the fate of those already falling into ruin.”

Germ theorists have never denied that bacteria are a normal symbiotic presence in the human body. However, they differentiate between those strains that exist in the body under normal circumstances and the pernicious forms found during times of active disease. The former are portrayed as “tame” beneficial natives; the latter as criminal perpetrators which gain entry to the body and cause disease.

In most cases of disease, however, the pathogenic microbes associated with a particular disorder appear after the conditions preprequisite for disease (i.e., immunological weakness and pollution of the internal milieu) have been established. The particular character of said immunological weakness and corrupted milieu determines the form of the pathogenic micriobe that eventually appears, not vice versa, as we have been taught.

In 1914, while working at the Mayo Clinic, E.C. Rosenow, M.D., then considered America’s most eminent bacteriologist, demonstrated through a series of experiments that the streptococci associated with certain blood disorders could be made to change into pneumococci (i.e., pneumonia germs) simply by feeding them respiratory effluvium and making other minor alterations in their environment.

He found that regardless of the types of germs used, they all changed into other types when their environment and food was changed. Following this simple procedure, he converted deadly bacteria to harmless forms, and back again.

Rosenow’s experiments not only refute the notion that specific bacteria always invade the body to cause a specific disease, but they also support the conclusion that in many cases bacteria already within the body metamorphose to other forms in response to the body’s particular hygienic needs. Thus, if the case is properly managed, these bacteria can potentially play a vital role in the resolution, rather than the exacerbation, of disease.

Clearly, the potential for the development of most infectious illnesses is much more dependent upon conditions within the cellular environment than upon the initial presence of bacteria.

We should ask ourselves why it is that when two individuals have been exposed to the same source of communicable infection, one may develop an infectious disease that proceeds rapidly and virulently while the other may experience no symptoms at all. Most likely, the key to these two vastly different outcomes to the exposure is the superior integrity of the latter individual’s internal milieu and immune system’s resisting power.

We derange the cellular milieu through lifestyle errors including poor diet, inadequate water intake and exposure to sunlight and fresh air, sedentary behavior, insufficient rest and sleep and relentless emotional stress. This, in concert with diminished powers of resistance and recovery, makes the body susceptible to all manner of invasive influences including virulent pathogenic microbes.

Clearly, the first line of defense against diseases like the flu is not yet another risky vaccine, but rather the cultivation via a healthy lifestyle, of a vibrant internal milieu and powerful immune system.

Part 2 of this 3-part series will focus uponviruses, contagion, the flu epidemic and Beauchamp’s microzymas.

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