Two giants of scientific medicine in the 19th century, both French, propounded radically different paradigms for the understanding and treatment of disease, that are still relevant today.
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), chemist and microbiologist, put forward the germ theory, according to which diseases are caused by infectious microbes, that impair the functioning and structures of different organ systems. This paradigm is the basis for the use of antibiotics to destroy these invasive microbes and vaccines with low doses of the microbe to challenge the body’s immune defenses and thereby prevent systemic infection.
Pasteur’s contemporary and friend, the physiologist Claude Bernard (1813-1878), argued instead for the importance of balance in the body’s internal environment – what he called le milieu intérieur. “The constancy of the interior environment is the condition for a free and independent life.” Bernard thought that the body becomes susceptible to infectious agents only if the internal balance – or homeostasis as we now call it – is disturbed. After all, there are billions of microbes and bacteria inhabiting our guts, our blood, our whole body. Why do we sometimes sicken from them, sometimes not? When a bacterial or viral agent is “going around,” as we say, why do some people sicken and others remain healthy?
There is an apocryphal story that Pasteur renounced his germ theory on his death-bed, saying that “Bernard is right. The microbe is nothing. The environment is everything.” The renowned 20th-century French-American microbiologist René Dubos (1901-1982) agreed with Bernard’s principle: “Most microbial diseases are caused by organisms present in the body of a normal individual. They become the cause of disease when a disturbance arises which upsets the equilibrium of the body.”
Today, Pasteur’s germ theory of disease provides the rationale for the pharmaceutical industry’s billions of dollars research and sales programs for ever more potent anti-bacterial and anti-viral drugs, the use of these antibiotics as a feed additive in the disease-prone, overcrowded environments of industrial farming – with the predictable consequence that bacterial evolution is out-stripping the discovery rate of effective antidotes.
The Bernard/Dubos theory that health and resilience is a function of homeostatic balance in the internal environment is reflected in the growing influence of the ancient medical systems of India and China, as well as the field of functional and integrative medicine.
In all these approaches, the maintenance of health and prevention of disease involves conscious attention given to factors of lifestyle, environment, nutrition, exercise, and recreation, as well as psychological well-being and spiritual practice.
It is of utmost importance to be grateful for the wonderful discovery of the works of Louis Pasteur. Infectious diseases that were once lethal can now be effectively treated thanks to Louis Pasteur. Unfortunately, his theory of acute disease management has not been fruitful in the treatment of many chronic diseases. Our present medical system still looks for the “one” treatment for many debilitating diseases like diabetes, auto-immune disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. We constantly see a group of people rallying around the “CURE” for XYZ disease. We are asked for donations to fund a “CURE” for XYZ diseases. Again, this is in line with the faulty theory of Louis Pasteur as it relates to chronic, long-standing health issues. Instead, we need to embrace the workings of Claude Bernard. He was absolutely correct in stating we need to spend more of our time fixing the balance in the body’s internal environment. That is the focus of functional medicine. Functional medicine practitioners are passionate about discovering what has gone wrong with the body’s internal environment and provide solutions to improve it. The results are amazing with many long-standing health problems resolved.
Remember as stated above, Louis Pasteur recognized the truth behind the workings of Claude Bernard when on his deathbed stated, “Bernard is right. The microbe is nothing. The environment is everything.”.
Where do you stand? Are you still looking for the one drug that is going to “CURE” your disease or do you understand that fixing the internal environment of your sick body just may be the solution all along. Investigate functional medicine. It just may be the answer you have been looking for.
Schedule your FREE Discovery Appointment with Dr T. Learn if Functional Medicine is a good fit for you and your philosophy of health & Quailty-of-Life