A Holistic Approach to Infections

There is a basic controversy between the approach of conventional medicine on one side and the holistic medicine on the other side regarding infections.

The controversial question is:

Are the germs the cause of infections or is it the host and its unhealthy terrain (body)? Is getting an infection a matter of susceptibility, more than a matter of the germs? Why is it that only a few people develop an upper respiratory infection when they are exposed to a person who has a terrible cold and is spreading viruses? Why doesn’t everyone who is exposed get sick?

From a holistic or natural medicine point of view, an infection is usually a sign that the person is not healthy enough or the immune system is not strong enough to resist the invaders. Possibly it is because of stress, emotional imbalance, metabolic waste, acidity, toxins, an infected tooth, food intolerances, too many antibiotics, steroids, chemical drugs or other reasons.

When children experience the so called childhood diseases it has a different meaning. The immature defense system of a new born or a child has to learn how to fight against invaders and by dealing with these illnesses it is like a training process for the immune system. Through antibiotics, fever reducing medications, and other suppressive treatments, the chance for the system to learn is taken away. This is one reason why allergies, autoimmune diseases and behavioral problems (ADD) increase.

Before I explain how natural medicine deals with infections lets have a look at:

How Nature Heals

During each infection the “inner doctor” mobilizes the defense system. There is a whole bunch of reactions going on: specific immune factors and blood cells, the lymphatic system and chemical reactions within the connective tissue are highly activated. The whole system works together to destroy the invaders and to get rid of their remains.

The reactions we experience during this process might be tiredness, perspiration, coughing up phlegm, tears, heat, pus (old leucocytes), vomiting, diarrhea, fever etc.

Fever is the most powerful helper. Why? During the fever the production of immune (killer) cells multiply, the pulse rate goes up, the circulation of blood increases which also causes oxygen and the “defense supply” to be carried more quickly to the location of the infection. Increased perspiration helps to get rid of waste substances and toxins. Not feeling hungry, not having an appetite and eating less also saves energy for the defense work

The Natural Medicine Approach

In natural medicine we support the body‘s own defense mechanisms. We work with the body and not against it! 

So the first thing we recommend is cleansing the system. This is what the immune system tries to do anyway. The methods might be: juice fasting, enemas or other laxatives, skin brushing, deep breathing of fresh air, rest and sleep.

A lot of people underestimate their body’s healing abilities. We are so used to going immediately to a doctor when something is wrong. But take an objective look at yourself and your life-style. If you keep coming down with the same thing over and over again, do some thinking and research. How is your stress level? Do you drink a lot of coke or alcohol, do you smoke, do you treat each cold and flu with antibiotics and then do you have intestinal disorders or allergies? Do you have a sedentary life style or do you constantly overuse and overstrain your body?  How is your spiritual life, your relationships? Maybe you just need a “time out” or want to avoid the next unpleasant visit of relatives?  The point is, myriad factors could contribute to illness. When we take good care of ourselves, our bodies are amazingly resistant to infections.

Alternatives to Antibiotics

Other than general recommendations that I have mentioned above, what are other alternatives?
Some of them are medicinal herbs and plants like oregano, thyme, eucalyptus, rosemary, garlic, onions etc. used as tinctures, teas, cataplasms, poultices or for inhaling.

Grapefruit seed extract, cloves, wormwood and a lot of Mexican herbs can be very helpful in cases of intestinal infections.
Homeopathic remedies have to be individually chosen according to the symptoms the person has developed. The more acute the illness is the faster they work. There are dozens of remedies for all kinds of infections available.

Propolis, echinacea, garlic and vitamin C can support the general resistance to infections. You also might consider taking an antioxidant and vitamin supplements. Medications with immune factors are recommended for prevention and in cases of long lasting or repetitive infections.

Hot or cold compresses, repeated rubbings of the whole body with a wet cold wash cloth, getting lots of fresh air and sleep will contribute to your healing. Trust your body in its self healing capacity.

When we treat our common infections in that way, we become more stable and resistant, because our immune system (re-) learns how to cope with it.

As I said in my previous article, there is nothing wrong with antibiotics and we are thankful that we have them. But they should be used carefully and with consideration.

One of the most common diagnoses at a doctor‘s office is the upper respiratory infection. It accounts for up to 70 percent of all of the antibiotics dispensed (Annals of Internal Medicine March, 2001). But most of these infections are not caused by bacteria, but by viruses and fungi. So, unless a secondary bacterial infection presents itself an antibiotic is not of any use and therefore is not recommended.

In one study, the children with ear infections who took antibiotics suffered double the rate of adverse effects and repetitive infections compared to children who took placebos. The difference in the course of the infection (outcome) was almost negligible.

Of course antibiotics save lives, but certainly, most people suffering from the common cold are not near death, so please think twice before taking antibiotics.

If you have to take antibiotics you must commit to the full course unless you experience significant side effects or an allergic reaction. After you finished the (antibiotic) treatment, replace the friendly good bacteria in your intestines with probiotics like acidophilus, bifidus etc. to reestablish a healthy intestinal flora. It will work as general prevention as well.

However the infection is treated, try to understand the message that your body sent to you by becoming sick. Try to enjoy the days of forced rest (rather than becoming angry about it) and visualize being healthy again. When we let the body do the job and just support it, we feel much better because the whole process worked as a cleansing procedure. But most importantly have confidence and trust in your body’s own healing capacity.

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