As you can see by the photo, my corporate-inspired nutrition education started early, when we learned to eat cornflakes for breakfast.
Later, I decided to study nutrition in college. I followed through with the plan and earned a degree in nutrition from an Ivy League University in the late 1980s. It has been years, but certain college academic lessons still stick in my head. Here are the major take-home messages that really left an impression on me: 1) polar bear liver will kill you because of its high vitamin A content; 2) fat-soluble vitamins are dangerous; 3) sugar consumption has no ill effects, except for dental caries; and 4) dietary fat is the principal cause of cancer, heart disease, and just about every thing else. The major message: avoid fat at all costs and eat more carbs. Remember too: avoid vitamin pills and polar bear liver.
Funny thing that at student orientation and other official events, the university nutrition department served danishes and other white flour, trans-fat junk food.
These days I have ideas about what I should have been learning in college. These lessons would include the research of Weston Price and would have included food labs that discussed pre-industrial foodways and food preservation techniques. We would also have walked across the quad to the agriculture school to learn about soil biology and plant-soil biology. We would also have learned about agribusiness and the powerful effects of the farm bill. What a shame that there was so little substantive content about how political systems, growing conditions, food processing and preparation impact the nutritional value of foods and the health of the eaters.
I paid a price for my fancy education with my health. I followed a lowfat, low-salt, polar bear liver-free, vegetarian diet for sixteen years. I also encouraged others to do the same. What a mistake it was! I am happy to report that I have been a life-long learner and have gradually undone many of the false and misleading “facts” of my Ivy League education. And I am rebuilding my health as a result.
Thank you, Weston A. Price Foundation, for your role in my re-education and healing.
Sally Norton, MPH
Editor’s Response: The toxicity of polar bear liver is not due to its vitamin A content. The Inuit peoples avoid polar bear liver during the winter months when the bears eat lichen, which contains alkaloids poisonous to humans.
South Sea Islanders
In the 1980s, I lived for about a year near the village of Ibobang, on the main island of Babelthuap in the Republic of Belau (Palau) in Micronesia. I taught at a village high school that was supported by a wealthy California family, which was specifically designed and created for families who followed the traditional Palauan religion (known as Modekngei). I taught English as a second language, geography and photography. I was able to take several close-up photos of the students for a yearbook we put together.
The students at the school ranged in age from about eleven to somewhat over twenty. They came from various villages throughout the islands (mostly from Babelthuap), and I’m sure were exposed to varying amounts of processed and adulterated foods, although their diets were generally much more traditional than most of the other Palauan students who went to school in the capital of Koror (which had food markets, was near an airport, and catered heavily to the tourist trade).
Freshly caught seafood of all varieties, manioc (tapioca) and taro were staples of their diet. Ibobang was an isolated village (the only way in was by boat), and a core part of our curriculum was teaching natural, local, traditional and sustainable methods so that our students would not be reliant on a monetized economy from outside the islands.
While the villagers used processed sugar in some of their cooking, there was little else in the way of processed and adulterated foods in their diet (at least as far as I remember, even though that wasn’t a focus of my attention in those days).
After having recently completed a certification in Nutritional Therapy, based on the teachings of Weston Price and others, I realized that I had a number of photos that I took showing mostly traditional people (my students) with excellent tooth and jaw structure. I now use these photos in my nutritional classes instead of the ones that Weston Price took, because they are more personal to me.
Jack Leishman, NTP
High School Freshmen from the Village of Ibobang, Island of Babelthuap, Republic of Belau
A Fascinating Concept
A big thank you to WAPF. Your work and efforts have meant a great deal to our family, especially to our autistic son. Within thirty days of putting him on raw goat milk, grass-fed meats, cod liver oil and fermented foods, I received an inquiry from our school district asking me why I’d not informed them I’d put my son on psychotropic meds. When I told them I had not put him on meds, they challenged me, requesting a meeting. I brought Nourishing Traditions along, and there were a dozen special-needs professionals in attendance, taking notes and fascinated by the entire concept. They were astounded by his “behavior” changes.
Before changing the diet, he was subject to hallucinations. After the change, he finally became potty-trained and the auditory and visual hallucinations vanished. He had been headed toward a psychosis-nos, or “autistic psychosis” diagnosis. It’s now been nearly five years and he continues to make huge leaps in his progress.
My son is adopted and received nothing but sugar-water and formula until we brought him into our home when he was eleven months of age. Developmentally, he was like a two-month old—no muscle coordination for grasping foods, unable to sit or crawl, screaming nonstop, and engaging in some pretty severe self-mutilation. It’s been a long road, but now he’s doing great. One of his doctors, Dr. Martha Herbert, (Cambridge) took a nutritional blood panel and said that with our diet he was “abnormally normal” from what is typical of autism.
Amherst, New Hampshire
Too Undernourished to Reason
Thank you for your work. I have followed the WAPF dietary suggestions and notice my health improving.
Last night I attended a party and one of the people there who had suffered from debilitating Parkinson’s disease was walking and getting around much better than I had seen in the four years that I knew him. When asked what had changed, one reason he gave was that his meds were better, but another was that he had given up his vegan life style. It was the difference between night and day. His partner said that he had been starving to death. It was a choice between Parkinson’s and starving.
I meet a lot of people in my circles who are vegan, and they are not healthy. They drink the soy milk and eat soy products, which makes me cringe. If I can, I point out your website, although they are often too undernourished to reason.
I just received the Winter 2008 Wise Traditions magazine and I’m fascinated with Cowan’s “Moods and the Immune System” and Masterjohn’s “The Pursuit of Happiness.” I’ve had over 47,000 students in my sociology classes at North Dakota State University in the past thirty-four years and have noticed subtle but pronounced changes in students’ attitudes, abilities, focus, drive, general stamina and well being. These articles are amazing and shed some light on these conditions and my concerns. Please keep up the good work—we have to help these young people—and the rest of the world.
Fargo, North Dakota
According to one source I found, we slaughter five million cattle per year in the U.S. Let’s make the generous assumption that each cow needs ten acres of pasture. That’s fifty million acres to pasture all the cattle we eat for meat.
The U.S. has about 2.3 billion acres. Raw milk for 300,000,000 people at four cups of milk per day would require nineteen million Jersey cows producing four gallons of milk per day. Again assuming a generous ten acres per cow, 180 million acres would support raw milk production for everyone. That’s only eight percent of U.S. land space.
Also, grazing animals improve soil fertility. The ecosystem was designed to have animals eat the grass and then put their waste and all its bacteria back into the soil. We make our land sterile without land animals pasturing on it.
I don’t know how accurate all those estimates are, but it seems to me that we could probably produce enough raw milk and beef for half of the planet with our open land space just in the U.S. I have heard of ancient farming practices that can increase yields tenfold on crops.
Unfortunately, our culture believes in lack or not enough. What would happen if we had inexpensive food that was truly healthy? People would be healthy, they would be free, and they wouldn’t need to work all the time. The world would be totally different.
San Jose, California
Longevity With Butter
Years ago, before we met, my husband travelled frequently to Russia for his job. Once the Russians asked about what the American diet was like. He tried to explain how Americans tried to eat lowfat, lean meat and lots of salads. The Russians were astounded. One of them shook his head and said, “If Russians ate like that we would all be hungry, cold and drunk!” I always thought that was a great line.
Interestingly enough, my husband had a great aunt who lived to the age of 102. She was very robust until the age of 100, and even during the last two years when her health was failing, she was still able to walk and get around on her own. When asked the secret of long life, her answer was—you guessed it—eat lots of butter! She was a huge fan of butter her whole life. As a kid she would get into trouble for stealing it out of the churn. Once her sisters tried to break her of the habit by giving her tons of butter, thinking that she would get sick of it. It didn’t work. Anyway, her sisters died in their 80s. Maybe that explains why my husband didn’t dump me when we first started dating and I went through his refrigerator and threw out all his margarine!
Irene Musiol, Chapter Leader
Regarding your review of The Devil’s Poison by Dean Murphy (Winter, 2008), some clarifications about fluoride and fluorine are in order. Broadly speaking the element fluorine exists in three forms. While the fluorine atom does have a small radius for its atomic weight, that fact is only the part of the story regarding its reactivity and appearance in so many molecules of human manufacture (industry and pharmaceuticals).
First is the elemental form, a diatomic molecule of tremendous reactivity, exceeding that of other oxidizers. As the reviewer notes, it is not found in nature due to its tremendous reactivity.
Second, the element fluorine appears as fluorine ions either in solution or in salts/ionic compounds. The ionic form of fluoride is what is used in drinking water. The ionic form of fluorine forms very tight bonds with many positive ions, particularly calcium. This is part of its claim to fame for hardening dental structure to avoid tooth decay. However, in large doses it can tie up significant amounts of calcium ions needed for muscular function causing muscle failure, such as breathing stops and heart failure.
This acute form of fluoride poisoning is not possible from the quantities in drinking water; rather, such poisoning is more likely with a laundry chemical containing hydrogen fluoride, which is sold for removing rust and blood stains. If you use that stuff—I don’t let it in the house—please, please follow the safety instructions and rinse it out very thoroughly. The residues can cause nasty chemical burns that are very slow to heal. Similarly, it was at one time common to etch glass with “weak” solutions of hydrofluoric acid to make pretty designs. Be aware that these solutions are quite dangerous.
Third, fluorine can be found covalently bound to a molecule, such as is in some pesticides and pharmaceuticals, as well as in some polymers, particularly the Teflon-like polymers. Here fluorine atom(s) are used to manipulate the properties of the molecules involved. For instance, ordinary ethyl ether has a long history as an anesthetic, but it is very explosive. Fluorinated ethers retain their anesthetic properties but are far less flammable.
According to the article, the adverse effects of certain drugs are linked to their fluorine content. This link is tenuous at best. The drugs aren’t like capsules packaged with “poisonous” fluorine waiting to be released in the body. The fluorine atoms are tightly attached to the parent molecule and are extremely unlikely to be let loose under conditions that will support life.
Further, it is common in drug research to make literally thousands of new molecules to find one that can be sold. Usually, as the field is narrowed down to the molecule that ends up at the local pharmacy, a number of related candidates are carried forward in case the “best” molecule has some fault uncovered. Some of those molecules will sometimes have other substances in the place of the fluorine atom and still have many similar properties to the fluorine-containing molecules. The point is that the presence of fluorine does not make the molecule toxic. Blaming fluoride for side effects is sort of like blaming accidents on spare tires because almost all cars involved in accidents have spare tires.
Putting fluoride in drinking water is indisputably problematic, granted, as a civil liberties problem, probably also as a health issue, but it is far too simplistic to lay the blame for just about everything, or at least the swath of problems in the article, on this one type of atom.
Mark Lichtenstein, BA, MS Chemistry
Reply from Andreas Schuld, of Parents of Fluoride Poisoned Children (PFPC): The claim that fluoride can harden dental structure to avoid tooth decay has long been disproven, even by the CDC. Fluoride binds preferentially with aluminum, not calcium. In the presence of mere trace amounts of aluminum, toxic fluoroaluminate is formed. Fluoride poisoning and its degrees depend on total intake, not just the fluoride amounts in water, although the presence of fluoride in water alone can be detrimental and fatal, as proven by many studies from China and India, areas endemic with fluoride poisoning.
Regarding the use of fluoride in medications, the scientific literature shows that many such compounds cause serious fluoride poisoning. The problem of fluoride in medications is very serious and proper understanding is crucial in providing advice. More than sixty years ago, German scientists showed that all fluoride compounds— inorganic and organic—were able to inhibit thyroid hormone metabolism. This research led to the widespread use of such compounds as Capacin (3-fluoro-4- oxy-phenylacetic acid) in the treatment of hyperthyroidism. In the 1940s, Professor Euler and colleagues from the University of Breslau were able to cause identical bone and enamel defects with organic fluoride compounds as are established to occur with inorganic ones, even though there was no dissociation of the compounds, hence no “ free” fluoride was being stored anywhere. The investigation showed identical “calcium crystal deformation” as seen with inorganic fluoride. For references and further information, visit http://poisonfluoride.com/pfpc/.
I can’t tell you how grateful I am to WAPF for teaching me about correct eating; your information has transformed my life. However, with this great knowledge we embrace comes great responsibility. It is so difficult to see people you care about dying at a young age and so many others who are sick. But they won’t listen even after you have told them how they can reclaim their health.
I am forty-two years old, having outlived more than half my close friends! I regularly hear of very young people dying of cancer. I met a nursing home worker on the way to work two weeks ago, and she told me they have patients in their late 90s who are doing far better than patients in their 60s or 70s. I told her that when raw milk was widely available here in Canada (before 1930), the diets were far healthier than now. The older patients grew up at a time when these nutrient-dense foods were more widely available so their bodies were more robustly formed.
Guts and Grease
Thank you for the wonderful article on the diet of Native Americans.
I rarely, if ever, comment on web writings. But this article really impressed me with its forthright treatment of New Age nutritionists. The way many of us see it, American Indians never left the Garden of Eden. They were dragged out of it by white colonists who considered themselves superior to the “primitives,” who had learned how to live off the land without destroying it. Agriculture, especially the American system of industrial farming, has brought us nothing but illness, and promises to deliver worldwide famine.
My sisters eat breakfast cereal, lowfat foods, and restaurant meals—and are overweight and lethargic. They avoid fats and are always hungry. Such an important topic, yet no one addresses it honestly in the mainstream media. I hope your message reaches a much wider audience.
I have a small bone to pick with one paragraph in the article by Tom Cowan called “Moods and the Immune System.” You write: “People living today basically have two conventional philosophical views to choose from. One is the notion of intelligent design, namely that plants, animals and humans were created and then, boom, it’s all over, here’s the finished product. The other is the Darwinian theory.”
You are confusing intelligent design with creationism. There’s a vast difference there, though aggressive Darwinists like to suggest that intelligent design is just a new name for creationism. What you describe should be termed creationism, which is not the same as intelligent design.
Intelligent design has been brought forward by a sizeable group of highly reputable academicians and medical doctors. Their work generally can be found at the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. Go to this link for a brief description and contrast of their approach with creationism: http://www.intelligentdesign.org/whatisid.php.
I have had a deep interest in this subject for some years and have read several excellent books by intelligent design researchers. I organized a presentation on evolution by Craig Holdredge of the Nature Institute at High Mowing in the spring of 2007.
One key concept of intelligent design is the irreducible complexity of living organisms, which ties in well with holistic thinking. If any group of scientists is going to break through the Darwinistic dogmatism of our culture, it’s this group at the Discovery Institute. They have been able to pass academic freedom laws in several states that make it possible for high school science and biology teachers to question Darwin without fear of being fired.
Keene, New Hampshire
An acquaintance of mine sent me to your site because I used to suffer from fibromyalgia, and she thought the diet you have there might be helpful for me. As it turns out, I no longer have any symptoms, and haven’t had for four years now. But I read the article “Solving the Puzzle of Fibromyalgia” anyway. At the bottom, I noticed you had posted a letter from someone named Geoff Caplan, which put forward the guaifenesin treatment that Dr. St. Amand, MD, has been touting for years as a cure.
In 1996 Dr. Robert Bennett, MD, presented the results of a one-year placebo-controlled double-blind study about the effectiveness of the guaifenesin treatment at the Orlando American College of Rheumatology meeting. It turns out that it doesn’t work any better than the sugar-pill placebo did. The treatment helped in some cases, but it didn’t seem to have much to do with the drug, and it certainly wasn’t because the treatment was drawing out calcium phosphate deposits. In fact several studies,including those of Dr. Robert Simms, MD, in 1993, haven’t shown any hint of such deposits in cells in the first place.You can find out more about Dr. Bennett’s study at www.fmnetnews.com/resourcesalert-product6.php.
Personally, I used yoga, biofeedback, meditation, strict avoidance of sucrose in any form, and (oddly enough) training in singing to push my fibromyalgia into remission. The first four were helping some, but it wasn’t until I added the singing that the symptoms finally went away.
Which leads me, in a totally anecdotal, non-scientific way, to wonder whether proper breathing isn’t one of the important factors, since breathing properly is paramount when singing properly. Or it could be the total body vibration of singing.
Healthy Baby Girl
When my recent pregnancy began I knew I wanted two things: a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and I wanted it free of antibiotics. I began educating myself on both fronts.
With my fifth child, I had to undergo a C-section for placenta previa, a problem in pregnancy where, in layman’s terms, the placenta blocks the exit. There is no safe delivery for mother or baby that doesn’t involve a surgeon and a knife.
For my sixth child I learned all there was to know about the VBAC. I joined ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) and met many moms who shared a similar scar. My road to VBAC began.
Something that concerned me with a VBAC was Group B Strep. I had tested positive for GBS in the past and learned that I was very likely to test positive in subsequent pregnancies. The hospital protocol for GBS patients, suggested by the CDC, is antibiotics administered every four hours until delivery. If a GBS+ mom does not receive at least two doses, the baby is given antibiotics and closely monitored for 24-48 hours. I wanted to avoid this routine exposure to antibiotics.
I set about living the WAPF lifestyle. It was pretty loose as we weren’t buying raw milk yet, but we were living on simple whole foods, coconut oil, and traditional food preparation. I learned that a heightened immune system increases your chances of being GBS negative. I also learned that GBS lives and proliferates in the gut. I figured that having good gut flora was the best way to kick GBS. I gave up sugar—even honey—until I worked that back in. I cultured yogurt from non-homogenized, low-heat pasteurized milk. I drank plain kefir. I brewed my own kombucha and drank six to eight ounces daily.
At thirty-six weeks I was tested for GBS. I got the results on a Monday morning. I was GBS negative! That Friday at thirty-six weeks and five days my water broke. I waited a little more than twenty-four hours before going into the hospital for a soft induction, a very gradual administration of pitocin (a synthetic hormone to bring on contractions).
The pitocin took forever to work. The baby was born fifteen minutes into the following Monday, almost fifty-six hours after my water broke. The midwife and I noticed that the baby was bone dry. I would most certainly have been scared into a repeat C-section had I been GBS positive. With ruptured membranes on a GBS positive mom, the risk of the baby contracting GBS greatly increases with each hour.
Following Weston Price’s teachings, I not only achieved my VBAC, but have a healthy baby because of it. I attribute her lack of colic to having a strong digestive system and feeding on my nutrient-dense breast milk—all due to a good WAPF lifestyle. I’d like to thank all you folks at WAPF for helping me achieve my dream of a healthy me, a healthy baby girl, and a healthy VBAC.
Sugar Hill, Georgia
I am furious with Dr. Joseph Mercola for his recent stand against cod liver oil. I am seventy-seven years old and haven’t been in a doctor’s office for forty-seven years. My mother never let me out the door in the morning without my dose of cod liver oil. She was one of this country’s first women physicians, a board certified internist, and one of the first two credentialed dieticians in the world, with a degree from the University of Chicago. We call them nutritionists now. My mama would be running a Sherman tank down the venue of “The Association of Whatever Organization” that was dishing out bad info and wiping them out. Gosh, I wish I could see her doing that. She died at 102.
I have been a member of the Weston A. Price Foundation for about three months. While reading your journal, I noticed the articles consistently frown on vaccines. Because I am an RN, I have actually seen a few children become very ill from diseases that vaccines can prevent, such as whooping cough and chicken pox. But I am also aware that vaccines can have serious side effects.
Does the Foundation advocate another way of vaccinating children? Or just safer vaccines? Because I encourage parents to vaccinate children, I would like to see an article about homeopathic vaccinations, if such a thing exists, so that I can better understand new options for preventing childhood disease. Thank you for all the work you do. I have learned so much from this organization.
Natalie Copley, RN
Editor’s Response: This is an important question. Just because parents choose not to vaccinate does not mean that they can be insouciant about childhood illnesses. The best way to protect children is through a good diet that minimizes sweets and junk food while maximizing intake of minerals and vitamins, particularly the fat-soluble vitamins. In the case of polio, it is important to protect your child against exposure to pesticides such as DDT (see “Pesticides and Polio“). Some holistic practitioners believe that children should get the childhood illnesses such as measles, mumps and chicken pox, as this gives them life-long immunity. However, if children are sick with these conditions, they need to be given cod liver oil, egg yolks, raw milk, etc., so that the illness does not become serious. Another important point: vaccines do not necessarily confer immunity. There have been outbreaks of illnesses like measles in fully vaccinated populations. We will explore the role of homeopathic preparations in protecting children from childhood illnesses in a future issue.
Raw Milk and Cataracts
I wanted to report my experience of drinking raw milk to stop cataract formation. This endeavor was suggested by Bing Gibb’s letter (Winter, 2007), whom I subsequently contacted. Unfortunately, drinking raw milk did not help my situation, which was far advanced compared to his. My hypothesis is that raw milk only has a preventative effect if used in the early stages of the disease.
George C. Krusen, II
Ear Wax Buildup
Thank you for being there and fighting the good fight! Your information is priceless and the more we learn, the more amazing connections we can make between what we eat and how we feel.
For example, a letter in your Fall, 2008 issue referred to a man who experiences rapid ear wax buildup. At Bastyr University, I learned from the old timers (the traditionally trained naturopathic doctors), that this condition can be a symptom of omega-3 deficiency in the diet, as well as probably excess of artificially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Basically the artificially stiff oils make stiff ear wax (and stiff joints, etc.).
A person with adequate omega-3 oils in their diet will have softer ear wax, which will naturally coat the canal and drain properly.
This tidbit leads us directly back to traditional food wisdom and the work of Dr. Price. My first line of treatment for wax-clogged ear canals (and subsequent infection) is cod liver oil and raw milk from grass-fed cows. Unless there is a rare genetic condition, cod liver oil along with elimination of margarine and artificially hydrogenated oils usually opens the ears within a month. Just another reason to listen to our elders!
Sally B. Boyd, ND
Relic of the Past?
When I was growing up, in the town of Opotike, New Zealand, the daily event before school was a teaspoon of cod liver oil.
There were no beg-your-pardons. This was an established requirement. One could submit to it gracefully or have one’s nose held. When you opened your mouth to breathe, down it went.
The purpose was to build up an immunity, particularly against colds, flu and chest problems, which the cod liver oil did quite successfully. This was all seen to by my strong-willed mother, who in turn was imitating the efforts of her mother in a rural environment in the far north of New Zealand. We got the cod liver oil from the local chemist (pharmacy). It all tasted the same, quite fishy, and we washed it down with copious amounts of water.
In hindsight, it was worth it for we did not succumb to flu—in spite of not receiving a flu shot. And, best of all, it was carried out year in, year out. That was way back in the 1930s.
Geoffrey C. Morell, ND
Conversation With a Cosmonaut
I’d like to report on a recent conversation I had with Edward Alper, a Russian cosmonaut. He was trained at Star City, which is located just thirty kilometers east of Moscow. He is now an engineer and lives in Texas where he trains Russian cosmonauts for the Russian space program.
At Star City, cosmonauts train for space flight and work and live with their doctors to achieve optimal health. Most of the doctors have dual training that includes medication-based medicine and alternative, nutritionally based preventative medicine. Schools at Star City educate children from grades three to eleven. All the diets are controlled, and no Cokes or other sweetened carbonated beverages or junk food are allowed. All the food is whole and unprocessed. . . and all the milk is raw. According to Alper, illness is very rare in Star City.
Edward said that in Russia they describe pasteurized milk as “watered down sheetrock” because it has the same taste and nutritional value. The wonderful Russian drink kefir is made from raw milk, never from pasteurized milk.
Today, Alper gets his raw milk from a dairy near Houston, Texas.
U.S. doctors have a few things to learn from our cosmonaut friends and their doctors. Recently, the cover story of Time magazine gave America a failing medical check-up. It is a must-read article. Medicine that ignores whole food nutrition is doomed to failure.
Mark McAfee, Founder
Organic Pastures Dairy Company
Pain-Free Active Life
To all the wonderful people at WAPF, God bless you every one. I found WAPF three years ago while researching nutrient-dense foods and superfoods to help my ailing sixty-two-year-old body. I latched onto the WAPF guidelines like a drowning man to a rope and now my wife and I have not had to take any medications for over two years. We enjoy a pain-free active life again in the best rested health since our teen years on farms. I look like I could go wrestle on my high school team and my wife is very active with horses again on a daily basis. Others in our families are experiencing greatly improved health—some of it astonishing—as we overcome their skepticism about your diet.
Concerns About Soil-Based Organisms and Probiotics
As a nutritionist who reads Wise Traditions faithfully and listens to what the contributing experts have to say, I take the advice very seriously. However, over the past year, I have become increasingly concerned about advising people to take probiotics that contain soil-based organisms, namely Bacillus subtilis.
Soil organisms (SO) are spore formers, so they make good competitors for yeast, fungus and other pathogens. This is why so many people taking soil organisms will initially experience very favorable results. However, according to certain critics, the fact that these spores are extremely difficult to kill is a potential source of problems; they survive sterilants, disinfectants, acceleration forces, heat, pressure, radiation and many antibiotics. Strong antibiotics, such as Vancomycin, can suppress certain spores. Spores are so persistent in the intestines that another round of germination may occur after the drug is stopped. Soil organisms can also adapt loose genetic material and incorporate it into their cellular structure, the ramifications of which are yet unknown. Various soil organisms can also produce harmful peptides, affecting hemoglobin in the blood. It’s important to keep in mind that virtually all antibiotic drugs were initially developed from soil organisms and as antibiotics become more potent, they cause more damage to the host, not just in the immediate gut environment, but systematically as well.
As I dug deeper, I came across the site of Dr. Ray Sahelian, MD, an integrative medical doctor who believes it is not proven safe to take these probiotics. He says, “There is no explanation made as to the composition of the homeostatic soil organisms. What are these homeostatic soil organisms? What soil do they come from? How are they processed? Are homeostatic soil organisms from one soil region different than another region, state, country, etc? How do we know there are no harmful bacteria, fungi, or other organisms that could cause long term infection? How do we know homeostatic soil organisms are any better than regular probiotics or any other natural treatment with more research backing findings? How are homeostatic soil organisms sold by one company different than the ones sold by another?”
It concerns me that soil organisms may have the capacity to become pathogenic in human beings! And from what I gather, it may well be that the very people who need them the most (those with the most compromised immune systems), are exactly the ones who could be hurt the most by this pathogenic bacteria.
Alana Sugar, CN
Editor’s Response: The use of B. subtilis in medicine has an interesting history. B. subtilis became part of medical usage due to research by German military doctors during the World War II German campaign in North Africa, who were seeking a treatment for uncontrollable dysentery in the German troops. The military’s medical team noted that when the Arabs got dysentery, they began following a horse or camel until it had dropped its dung. Then they would eat the warm droppings! This practice effectively eliminated the dysentery. When questioned, the Arabs told them that the dung had to be eaten while warm and fresh. It did not work if eaten cold. They had no idea why it worked, but said the remedy came down from their forefathers.
When the Germans examined the warm dung, they found it to be teeming with a microorganism that came to be called Bacillus subtilis, a microbe that consumed harmful organisms in the gut, particularly the virulent strain that was causing dysentery in the German troops. The medical personnel then began producing B. subtilis on a large scale for the soldiers and the dysentery problem was solved.
It could be said that B. subtilis was the basis for the first commercial probiotic because for many years after the war, cultures of B. subtilis were sold worldwide—in the U. S., for example, they were sold under the brand name Bacti-Subtil—as a remedy for dysentery and other intestinal problems. The product began losing favor in the late 1950s and 1960s with the advent of synthetic antibiotics. The product is still widely used today in Germany, France and Israel, where scientists have discovered that the organism not only kills pathogens in the gut but supports the human immune defense by activating at least three specific antibodies, IgM, IgG and IgA. Cultures of B. subtilis also release compounds that kill cancer cells. It was marketed throughout America and Europe from 1946 as an immunostimulatory aid in the treatment of gut and urinary tract diseases such as Rotavirus and Shigella, but declined in popularity after the introduction of cheap consumer antibiotics despite causing less chance of allergic reaction and significantly lower toxicity to normal gut flora.
B. subtilis has GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status granted by the FDA. The organism is ubiquitous, found in soil and on many of the raw vegetables that we eat. The organisms are also approved, after detailed safety studies, for use in Europe to be fed to farm animals following the ban on the use of antibiotics in feed. There are no published reports showing any negative results in the animals.
It is worth noting a study which dispels an often held belief that B. subtilis are not resident in the gut of healthy individuals. Although the organism originates from soil, a study by Tam and others (2006) proved the existence of B. subtilis in a normal healthy microflora by examining human stools from thirty healthy volunteers. All of the volunteers were found to be carrying bacillus spores, at an average concentration of about 10,000 per gram of stool. This suggests that spores of bacilli are a normal part of the human intestinal tract. If so, it would be difficult to substantiate a cause-and-effect relationship between products containing soil-based organisms and adverse side effects, especially as many of the people taking them already have serious health problems.
Thus, in principle, the use of products containing B. subtilis is supported by both tradition and science. Nevertheless, taking probiotic pills today, especially for long periods of time, is not the same as eating a single dose of warm cow dung to treat dysentery. As a quick perusal of the Internet will show, there are concerns about the number of organisms in modern products, the purity of the product and the health status and diet of the consumer. There are a huge number of such products available, some of which do not meet label claims and contain the wrong organisms, leading to problems that have tainted the whole industry. The situation is further complicated by claims and counter claims on the part of various companies that manufacture probiotics. And we cannot exclude the possibility of slanderous rumors spread by the pharmaceutical industry, unwilling to give up market share to unpatentable natural medicines.
Probiotic products—both those that contain soil-based organisms such as B. subtilis and those that don’t—have helped many individuals seeking to improve their health. But as with any product, or indeed with any food, they should always be consumed with an attitude that is alert to adverse effects. Such products should only be taken in the context of a diet that eliminates processed food. We hear of individuals who are taking these products because “they don’t want to change their diet,” and then make the mistake of increasing rather than diminishing the dosage when they have adverse reactions. If the product provokes a rapid detoxification effect in an individual with overload of mercury or other toxic metals, the consequences could indeed by severe. In such cases, you should seek professional medical advice .
Given all this information about probiotics in general, and about soilbased organisms in particular, we can only offer the following general advice: use only those products from companies that can confirm that they contain the correct organisms, are safe, contain the correct concentration and are manufactured to the highest standards; such products should only be taken as directed on the label; avoid using the products with conventional antibiotics; if you intend to use the products to address health problems, take only under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner who has experience in using them; be alert to any detoxification or die-off reactions and consult your health practitioner if adverse reactions occur; and as with all products that produce a detoxification or die-off reaction, they should never be used by pregnant or nursing women. If you are taking a probiotic product (with or without B. subtilis) and become pregnant, discontinue use immediately.
For most people, the best way to obtain beneficial bacteria is the way our ancestors did, through contact with dust, dirt and animals in an outdoor environment, and by consuming lactofermented foods such as sauerkraut, naturally made pickles or beet kvass and other lacto-fermented beverages. In situations of illness, since most of us would prefer not to consume warm camel dung, probiotic products have a place in a healing regimen, especially one that is carried out with the supervision of a qualified holistic practitioner.
A LETTER TO MOTHERING MAGAZINE
Dear Mothering Magazine: I have been an avid fan of Mothering Magazine ever since my mother gave me about five years of back copies when I became pregnant with my first child, about eight years ago.
I don’t remember ever reading about Weston A. Price in your publication, and I can’t imagine why he or his work has not been represented. Perhaps I missed an article.
I have been eating the so-called traditional foods diet for the past two months. I follow closely what the Weston A. Price Foundation recommends as a healthy diet. I have changed nothing else in my life but what I eat. I no longer get cramps in my feet or achy fingers in the morning; also my skin is much healthier. But the greatest physical benefit has been a profound feeling of calmness and relaxation. It is hard to explain exactly how I feel but I can liken it to the oxytocin rush I get when I breastfeed. But the feeling is more diffuse, not as pronounced at one time. It rather pervades my life now, and I can’t say I want it to change!
If I may be so bold, I think it is the duty of Mothering Magazine to inform its readers about the traditional foods diet. There are millions of people out there who really do want to eat a healthy diet and feed their children properly. However, it seems we are lost in a world dominated by vegetarianism, whole grain cereals, and low-fat nutrient starvation. What we need is real food!
And, conveniently enough, this all ties in with a recent surge in awareness about the importance of preserving the environment for mankind’s sake, coupled with many economic worries. By eating a “real food” or “traditional food” diet you are somewhat released from your dependence on expensive “foods” manufactured in a factory far away and then driven in a gas-guzzling truck to your local supermarket. By buying from the local farmer who is raising pastured animals and organic produce you are reducing your own costs and supporting not only the local economy, but small-scale farmers. And, as I’m sure you are aware, the benefits to the environment are monumental. Oh, and you’re eating good food, too!
If there has been a recent article and I somehow missed it, please excuse my pushiness. But if not, please, please inform your readers about Weston A. Price and his work. I feel that there is a longing out there, a sense of knowing that things are not quite right and yet the path is unclear. Just as I know with all of my soul that birthing naturally, breastfeeding and sleeping with my children is the most humane way about it, I also know that eating real food, not something that has been clumped together with preservatives and added vitamins and then stuffed in a box to be eaten at an indeterminable later date, is our only hope.
Still and always a fan,