The Importance of the Environment
What’s critical to all organisms is the environment in which they live. This determines whether they survive, and if they can thrive, which can mean an infection.
“Fighting infections is more complex but still starts with the same premise – change the environment.”
This concept was understood in the very early days of microbiology. Claude Bernard was the creator of the term “homeostasis” which is when an organism seeks and maintains balance within its own internal environment. He also advocated that a healthy “milieu intérieur,” meaning “the environment within,” would not allow disease to enter. This was eventually agreed upon by the world-renowned Louis Pasteur on his deathbed, with the now famous quote “Bernard was right. The terrain is everything, the microbe is nothing.”
Think for a moment about two common pathogens: E. coli and Candida albicans. E. coli is a common microbe in all our bodies. It can be beneficial, or it can be pathogenic due to its ability to quickly evolve into a different form. This evolution is ultimately controlled by the environment in which it lives. Regarding Candida albicans, the overgrowth of this pathogen is becoming a much more common condition. This yeast is naturally present in all of us and is not usually a problem. But, a change in the environment in which it lives allows it to grow without check and may lead to a yeast infection.
The answer to prevent infection is simple and obvious. Create an environment within your body that is not suitable for pathogenic microbes but suitable to beneficial microbes. Fighting infections is more complex but still starts with the same premise – change the environment.
Types of Environments
So then what environments do we need to consider? Mostly beneficial microbes prefer an acidic environment. Pathogenic organisms prefer an alkaline environment. This can be shown when beneficial microbes such as Lactobacillus produce lactic acid and pathogens such as H. pylori and Candida albicans produce ammonia, which is alkaline. These pH changes are important of course, but there are also many other compounds that influence the environment.
This is where fermented food comes to the table. During fermentation, beneficial microbes break down the food they are given to create a wide array of different acids including lactic acid, butyric acid, acetate and propionate. These acids change the pH level, and therefore the environment, by making it more acidic and where beneficial microbes can thrive. There are also mutual benefits to us with this acid production. For example, butyric acid (a short chain fatty acid) provides 70% of the energy to our own tissues within the colon.
When beneficial microbes are happy and in their acidic environment, they produce various compounds, including bacteriocins, that can kill pathogenic bacteria and viruses. An easy way to observe this is to look at fermented foods. There are many studies showing how pathogens cannot survive within the environment of fermented foods. Think about how cabbage can ferment for many months at room temperature, without spoiling, to create sauerkraut. This delicious, microbe-rich food also tastes quite acidic which comes from the cabbage being broken down by the microbes and creating beneficial acids.
Where it gets much more interesting is when herbs, not just foods, that have anti-bacterial properties are fermented. You now have a multitude of benefits including the healthy environment produced from fermenting the herb, as food for the microbes, and the medicinal properties of the herb itself. For example, there is an active compound called “thymol” within thyme. It’s a very effective anti-bacterial against pathogenic bacteria. The thymol is significantly increased by fermentation from about 14% in the unfermented thyme to an abundant 40% in the fermented herb. Not only are you getting increased amounts of key actives in the fermented foods and herbs, you are also getting beneficial microbes to help maintain a healthy environment within your digestive tract.
Even more interesting is that the fermented thyme does not destroy the beneficial microbes. This is the wisdom of nature, so to say. However, many anti-bacterial or anti-fungal agents such as antibiotics, often do destroy both harmful and beneficial microbes.
So instead of just being “lucky” in not catching a bug, create a healthy environment instead; you’ll have a far less chance of getting sick this winter. If you are unfortunate and do catch a bug, consider a fermented formula of the strongest anti-microbial foods and herbs for a safe and highly effective solution.
Proven to be 500% more effective than pharmaceutical anti-fungals.