Bechamp, Salatin and Native American Epidemics

Is modern germ theory wrong? That is, the theory that says “Virus X” or “Bacterium Y” is “bad” and must be killed by antibiotics or by manipulating the immune system with vaccinations to kill the virus?  Joel Salatin is probably America’s most well known farmer. And in his book “Salad Bar Beef” (1996) Joel introduced me to Antoine Bechamp, a contemporary of Louis Pasteur whose view on microbes I would summarize as this: Microbes are not inherently “bad”. Rather they *become* bad in response to unnatural environments. This was called the “pleomorphic view” of microbes and opposed Pasteur’s “monomorphic” view. The practical outworking of Bechamp’s view is that IF we (and our livestock) eat natural foods and have natural, in-harmony-with-Nature environments, then our microbes (viruses and bacteria) will be “happy”, that is, they will remain in our bodies in non-virulent forms. On the other hand, if we subject our microbes to unnatural environments (out of balance body chemistry from industrial foods, unsanitary conditions, etc) then our microbes can mutate to virulent forms and make us sick and cause death. This year, 18 years after Salad Bar Beef, Joel has not changed his Bechampian view of microbes.

“We dare to question the notion that life is fundamentally mechanical and safety requires sterility. We know that most bacteria are good, and bad ones that proliferate into pathogenicity only do that when our management is wrong.” LINK HERE.

But what about Native Americans, many of whom died out from European diseases? Weren’t they living as naturally and as “in harmony with Nature” as it is possible to conceive? And if they indeed were living “in harmony with Nature” then why weren’t their microbes “happy”? Why did entire villages get wiped out with some of these European diseases?

Well, I don’t know … BUT … here’s a paper which might shed some light on these questions …

Emerg Infect Dis. 2010 February; 16(2): 281–286.
doi: 10.3201/eid1602.090276
PMCID: PMC2957993
New Hypothesis for Cause of Epidemic among Native Americans, New England, 1616–1619
John S. Marr corresponding author and John T. Cathey

In the years before English settlers established the Plymouth colony (1616–1619), most Native Americans living on the southeastern coast of present-day Massachusetts died from a mysterious disease. Classic explanations have included yellow fever, smallpox, and plague. Chickenpox and trichinosis are among more recent proposals. We suggest an additional candidate: leptospirosis complicated by Weil syndrome. Rodent reservoirs from European ships infected indigenous reservoirs and contaminated land and fresh water. Local ecology and high-risk quotidian practices of the native population favored exposure and were not shared by Europeans. Reduction of the population may have been incremental, episodic, and continuous; local customs continuously exposed this population to hyperendemic leptospiral infection over months or years, and only a fraction survived. Previous proposals do not adequately account for signature signs (epistaxis, jaundice) and do not consider customs that may have been instrumental to the near annihilation of Native Americans, which facilitated successful colonization of the Massachusetts Bay area.


Rodent reservoirs contaminating land and water? High risk quotidian (daily) practices of the native population? Hmmm … Maybe some Native Americans were not so “in harmony with Nature” after all in some important ways. We may never know for sure, but this is an interesting question. At least to those of us trying to help get society back to “normal.”

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