February 28th 2018, 15:29
Blaming health conditions on bugs like bacteria or viruses has fallen out of fashion. We look for lifestyle causes of illness, whether diet or too few important nutrients, lack of exercise, too much processed, sugary foods or even the fallout from drugs and other aspects of modern medicine. We figure that in almost every instance, we're ill because of something we're not doing right.
In our zeal to identify Big Pharma or Big Food as the cause of all our ills, we forget one still important source of illness: bugs, in the form of powerful viruses and bacteria.
It's not all about the bug acting on its own. Viruses and bacteria need a weakened host in order to take hold. As Celeste McGovern exposes in this month's cover story (page 28), a dormant Epstein-Barr herpes virus (EBV), the source of glandular fever, or mononucleosis, often called 'the kissing disease' because it can be contracted by mouth, lays dormant and can eventually attack the body years later when an immune system is under par.
As the virus awakens and begins to replicate, the immune system goes into overdrive and starts attacking its own tissue—in this case, the thyroid gland.
The idea that EBV could cause problems years later was disparaged for many years because some 90 percent of people carry the virus. However, it's now gaining traction from increasing evidence that a virus can cause or incite many illnesses.
The late WDDTY panel member Dr Patrick Kingsley was one of the early proponents of the idea that viruses had a certain role to play in triggering or exacerbating many conditions, from cancer to multiple sclerosis. When taking a patient's history, Kingsley would routinely explore whether the patient had contracted chicken pox as a child.
"When I gave a talk about my work to a large group of cancer patients in London a number of years ago, I made the statement that, in my opinion, the shingles virus was somehow involved in patients with breast cancer," he wrote. "During the break I was surrounded by women, so I asked them what their experience had been, only to be told by just about all of them that they had had either shingles or chicken pox shortly before the first signs of their breast cancer appeared."
Kingsley considered the fact that many of his patients had never felt completely well after contracting glandular fever. After putting two and two together, he suspected that most lymph and blood cancers had some sort of viral cause.
Kingsley also noted that his multiple sclerosis patients who had been improving often had a renewed attack, even requiring hospitalization, when they'd had a urinary tract infection, even one without symptoms.
Kingsley's prescience was proved correct with recent evidence from Harvard Medical School demonstrating that the presence of the EBV can change certain cells in the breast, leading to cancer decades later. And this process occurs not simply in the breast but also the lymphatic system, the nose and throat, the stomach and even the body's soft tissues.
There's also new evidence that cancer can be caused by bacterial imbalances, with cancer patients having higher levels of Staphylococcus bacteria and breast cancer patients having fewer Methylobacterium than healthy women. Something in the viral and bacterial population has definitely gone awry.
While medicine is more than willing to consider bugs as the cause of things like cancer, they have only one solution to bugs—antibiotics—and then only for bacteria, since these drugs don't work on viruses. Over the years, they have minimized or destroyed the work of farsighted pioneers like Royal Raymond Rife, who developed a high-frequency device to kill offending microbes in the early part of the 20th century.
Happily, there are relatively simple solutions to strengthening your immune system against an EBV attack, whether or not you have a thyroid condition. In particular, Kingsley used to ensure that patients got enough B vitamins.
"Glandular fever seems to strip people of B vitamins," he wrote, "and if a person catches it, B vitamins given at the time may well hasten their recovery and stop it being too severe." In Kingsley's experience, glandular fever seemed to compromise the function of the liver. He routinely offered a patient who'd had glandular fever at any point a liver tonic or homoeopathy.
As McGovern outlines, it's not especially difficult to boost your immune system and send the virus back into dormancy. But first we have to appreciate that bugs of all varieties may play a central role in our health—and even with chronic conditions like an underactive thyroid.