Mushrooms and Immunity, Part III

Posted to Subscribers on 12 October 2007


This has taken longer than I expected.

It's been hard to know how to present my understanding.  I decided tonight to go back to the work of Alexander Fleming.  To situate ourselves historically, let's set the stage a bit.  Fleming was working as a biologist and pharmacologist between the two world wars.  His was studying Staphylococcus aureus, a common bacterium that lives on the skin and often causes infections in open wounds.  Soldiers in WWI were more likely to die of infections than bullets and antiseptics had proven to be less beneficial than hoped.

As fate would have it, some of the bacteria cultured in the laboratory became contaminated with Penicillium notatum. "Fate" is carefully chosen here because Fleming had been on vacation.  When he returned, he found that some dishes in which he had been culturing bacteria were contaminated.  He put them in a disinfectant with the intention of disposing of them but a visitor arrived and he fished out a dish that clearly displayed a zone where no bacteria were growing but the pencillium was thriving.

The date was September 1928 and it took many more years before a drug could be developed based on his discovery.  A Nobel prize was awarded in 1945 to Fleming and two others, Florey and Chain, for the work in developing the first real antibiotic, but Fleming himself was well aware of the dangers of antibiotic resistance as well as misuse of antibiotics in situations in which they were not appropriate.

As we know, this advice was largely ignored and we are paying the price for this now. 

You all realize I have a speculative mind, but not a reckless one.  I have studied a lot of medical history and recently have become more than a bit concerned about medical politics and economics.  If I allow my imagination to wander and wonder what will be said about the 20th century should anyone still be living on this Planet centuries from now, I would venture to guess that it will go down in history as another Dark Age, a time when limited concepts were exploited for enormous financial gain at the expense of the larger picture, health, and progress, yes progress.

It will be seen as the century in which medical propaganda triumphed over reason and as the century in which militarization of medicine imperiled survival.

It is in this context that I want to discuss fungi.  I do not want to denigrate the work of Fleming but rather to suggest that there are ecosystems at work that cannot be ignored except at our peril.  Bacteria and fungi and probably parasites and people compete for resources and when there is accommodation, the host and other organisms can coexist, probably with certain mutual benefits, but whenever the commensural nature of these relationships is disturbed, we push Nature to the point that She must seek to restore the balance.

I believe we are all heading for lessons of this type, probably sooner rather than later.

For some time, I have warned people that what is seen in a petri dish is not necessarily what happens inside the body, but it is obviously far more difficult to perform adequate observations inside the body. I believe that great mystics are given insights and visions that allow them to understand the roles and functions of other life forms.  In addition, there is an occasional Lennart Nilsson with his cameras or others with their live blood microscopy which provide additional insights.

In my observations, fungi generally win over bacteria so if bacteria were a enormous problem, fungi or antibiotics based on fungal components would be useful.  However, in nearly every case that I have observed, white blood cells eat bacteria so the infections that allegedly stem from bacteria would generally be resolved in a few days so long as the immune system is working.

That caveat could be a big one:  the immune system may not be working at all if people are exposed to substances that destroy the white blood cells.  My observations suggest that they are fragile and easily vanquished.  In addition to toxic metals, chlorine and fluoride, countless medications, aerosols, and, yes, mushrooms, appear to kill white blood cells or render them so powerless that the limited resources available are used for addressing something other than bacteria.

In theory, I am wrong.  In theory, there is a component of certain fungi that has specific toxicity for specific pathogens and this theory justifies the use of fungal medicines but the question that arose for me came as innocently as Fleming's discovery.  I had been aware of antibiotics since childhood and had been given "enough to kill a herd of elephants" when I was in India (this is what a famous internist told me).  I have also been aware of "medicinal mushrooms" such as shiitake and maitake, but my first darkfield mushroom observation was of edible, not even psychedelic, mushrooms.  There is allegedly nothing mind altering about portobello mushrooms.

It was shortly after this observation that several more situations drew my attention.  I was fortunate enough to be able to observe how the herbs broke up a fungal infection in a Russian patient who had been ill for 20 years.  Then, David Attenborough's video on cordyceps made it onto YouTube.  You might say that I had become sensitized to taking in whatever information I could find on fungi, mushrooms, and the immune system.

Keep in mind that some of these observations occurred while engaged in my own mold battle (now resolved) so I felt I could not afford to miss any nuances or bits and pieces of information.  More importantly, I had the great pleasure of watching hours and hours and hours of live blood microscopy where I could see how the white blood cells behaved in the absence of challenges to their existence.  In reality, I am quite convinced that most textbooks are completely wrong and white blood cells might live for years if not endangered by chronic toxicity of a non-organic type. 

A few of you have complained bitterly of my writing style, but it's how I think and how I write.  I think contextually and without this context, the mind is mainly just noise and irrelevant.  However, in a context, the mind can be a good observer and I am grateful to decades of meditation practice that have made my mind less restless and more detached.  Unlike corporate scientists, I cannot make any money by what I observe, but this may actually incline me towards less bias rather than more.

The fact is, we are exposed to chronic inorganic toxicity.  I used to tell people that we evolved over countless generations in such a way that we can fend off most biological threats but none of us have evolved the capacity to deal with all the chemical pollution of this era.  In the clinics in Europe  where I consulted, I saw that radiation fragments white blood cells, antibiotics paralyze them, toxic metals cause them to disintegrate and turn to fuzz, and there were on top of these hazards countless medications, additives to food and water, and then specific exposures that also affected white blood cells.  However, there were also herbs and foods that nourished white blood cells and enabled them to work more efficiently and survive the toxins they ingested.

Now, let's go back to Fleming and his bacteria.  Penicillin killed the staph, but we know that other substances have the same power in petri dishes.  For example, when an essential oil is tested for its antibacterial power, a variation of the same laboratory procedure is used.  Something we usually regard as dangerous, E-coli or staph or strep, are cultured and a drop of the oil is placed in the middle.  The diameter of the kill is measured and compared to antibiotics and other oils to determine which is most efficacious against which bacteria. 

The trouble is, this is not necessarily how it works in the body.  First of all, the bacteria are not necessarily neatly arranged in some dish and the concentration of the substance used to kill the bacteria cannot begin to approach that used in the petri dish.

So, how does the body handle this on its own?  What I observed fascinated me.  First of all, the bacteria often seemed to appear out of nowhere.  A parasite would die and bacteria would eat the parasite.  The white blood cells seemed perfectly aware of the dead parasite and the bacteria but they did not go near the scene of this decomposition.  They waited for the bacteria to finish eating the parasite.  When the bacteria were done, the white blood cells ate the bacteria, end of story.

The patient felt a little achy while this was going on, but if the process was interrupted by an antibiotic or something toxic to the white blood cells, the white blood cells died as a consequence of the same thing that was killing the bacteria.  In this instance, the parasite broke down through a rather nasty looking, bubbly fermentation process, one that seemed ever so much less hygienic than the short-term bacterial infection.

At this point, I understood that the body knows how to take care of itself.  Under most circumstances, it would manage quite well unless there were some catastrophe and we all know of epidemics in which fatalities can run very high but there are also survivors, presumably of people who were in fact exposed but whose immune systems were so superb that they coped.

I have said this before, but I have spent my life in search of gifted healers and wisdom.  My uncle taught me an invaluable lesson:  "If you wish to understand Nature, do not disturb Her."  He was an oceanographer who, like me, was cursed with the ability to extrapolate and project into the future so he predicted the plight of our oceans decades before environmentalism was fashionable.

Heeding his sage advice, I watch, very patiently and from this have learned a lot.  Based on this, I would, like Fleming, urge caution before introducing fungi into my internal environment because they tend to have the last word.  I am not suggesting they do not have a role; their role may be much more important than we realize but also different from what we think.  They have proven themselves to be infinitely more mutable than humans so it is likely that they can adapt to anything.  We know they are surviving both the dryness and the the radiation in space while electronic equipment is decomposing; however, the fact that fungi are this clever does not mean they promote human health.  I suspect their function is very different indeed.

So, I have completed one more segment of this story.


Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2007

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