(4) Intestinal health. "Toxicity" is a concept readily grasped by all ancient healing systems, but often ignored by conventional medicine. The idea that the intestines constitute a source of endogenous toxins is as old as the practice of medicine. The human intestinal tract is thirty feet long, contains over a hundred billion bacteria and has the surface area of a doubles tennis court. Although this immense surface area is necessary for efficient absorption of nutrients from food, it must be closely guarded to prevent bacterial toxins and allergens from entering the body. Almost three-quarters of the human immune system is located in the walls of the small intestine, signifying how important the guarding of this intestinal frontier is to health. When the integrity of the intestinal lining is damaged by infection or by drugs like aspirin or alcohol, tiny breaks occur that allow allergens and bacterial toxins to enter the body, taxing the liver's detoxification capabilities and over-stimulating the immune system, sometimes making it turn aggressively against the body itself.
Improving knowledge of the rela-tionship between intestinal toxicity and chronic disease is a major goal of the Foundation for Integrated Medicine. For this reason, we have embarked on the Parasite Project, an educational endeavor focused on the high prevalence of intestinal parasites in all countries of the world, the impact of these parasites on nutrition, immune function and the development of disease, and the most effective means of diagnosis and treatment.
A weakness of all traditional healing systems is their ignorance of microbes and the role that microbes play in causing disease. The development of the microscope and of methods for isolating and studying microbes was an essential step in the evolution of health care, aiding control of the major epidemic diseases and of the sterile techniques that make modern surgery possible. Contemporary medicine's initial cooncept was that microbes are the primary causes of infectious diseases like pneumonia, TB or polio. More recent research demonstrates that microbes alone do not cause disease. It is the reaction of the person's immune system to the microbe that causes disease. The most recent research indicates that harmful immune reactions to microbes may be important for the development of many diseases that were not initially thought of as infectious. Today microbes are the proven or suspected triggers for coronary heart disease, ulcers, some forms of cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, asthma, psoriasis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, some types of irritable bowel syndrome, and the fibromyalgia syndrome. Infectious diseas-es can no longer be thought of as discrete disease entities with clearly defined causes. They must be understood wholistically: microbes are the triggers that initiate a series of reactions in the body that contribute to the development of a wide range of different, apparently unrelated disorders. The way in which the person reacts to the presence of the microbe, which is influenced by nutrition, environmental toxicity and emotional health, is as important for determining the pattern of illness and recovery as are the microbes themselves. It is within this context of under-standing that the Parasite Project is taking place.
The Foundation for Integrated Medicine can be contacted through this column at HealthWorld on Line (healthy.net), by mail c/o Dr. Leo Galland, 133 East 73 Street, New York N.Y. 10021, or by fax at (212) 242-1057 or (212) 794-0170.