In case you haven’t noticed, we live in a germ-phobic society. Maybe you believe this is a healthy and justified fear, but I believe it is destructive to our health and our environment. While Louis Pasteur’s discovery of germs lead to great advancements for the medical profession, (especially with surgery) it also created the erroneous belief that germs cause disease. This idea does not hold up to deductive reasoning.

It has been estimated that we have at least 3500 viruses living in our bodies at any given time. We are host to 90 trillion microbial cells (compared to our basic 10 trillion mammalian cells!) Bacteria and viruses inhabit our environment and our bodies all the time, and the vast majority of these microbes are essential to our health, while a small minority can be harmful. If we are healthy and in balance, our bodies take care of the harmful bugs.

Look at it this way, if germs caused disease, everyone exposed to a certain bacteria or virus would develop symptoms. What happens in actuality is that a small percentage of the people exposed to the germ exhibit symptoms of illness. So why are some people able to stay well in the face of germ invasion? What is actually causing disease?

Holistic healthcare holds to the theory that it is the lack of balance (homeostasis) and improper functioning of the body that causes illness to manifest. When we engage in habits that destroy our beneficial microbiome, the immune system can no longer hold the detrimental organisms in check and the body deteriorates to a state that provides an ideal environment for the harmful germs to multiply and wreak their havoc. That is the natural order of things. All living organisms naturally do their best to survive.

Our current fear of germs has lead to an attempt to eradicate bacteria and viruses from our environment and ourselves. This is not only an impossible task; it is also very dangerous. As we attempt to kill germs with antibacterial soap, antibacterial cleaning agents, pharmaceutical antibiotics, etc., we are merely creating a friendly environment for the strengthening, mutation and multiplication of the hardy harmful microbes. As we eradicate the weaker microbes, we leave room for the stronger and opportunity for the more adaptable to mutate and learn to survive and even thrive in the “disinfected” environment. A disinfected internal and external environment also puts less demand on our immune system to adapt and respond to invaders. This weakens our immune system’s response when it is really needed.

The key here is not to try to kill everything threatening us (something that also does not work on the global scale) but to strengthen our own immune system and resupply the beneficial bacteria through traditional dietary habits. When our bodies are balanced, healthy and working properly, we can co-exist with harmful microbes without serious illness.

I believe we need to zoom out a little and look at the bigger picture of what is going on in our environment and our healthcare system. We need to use common sense and develop respect, (and even admiration) for all life forms. All creatures have a value and a purpose in the grand scheme of things. We also need to learn to allow others (people and creatures) to co-exist peacefully with us. I truly believe a lack of reverence for all living things is at the core of our current health issues. As we learn to value and care for ourselves, the natural inclination is to begin to see the oneness of all … even those pesky germs!

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