A debate between two nineteenth century French researchers ended up creating the core belief of the modern medical system.
Nearly everyone has heard of Louis Pasteur, but very few have heard of Claude Bernard.
Modern medicine is built on the germ theory proposed by Pasteur. Yet there is mounting evidence that Bernard, who had a different theory, was correct. In fact, Pasteur was reported to have blurted out the words “Bernard is right!” shortly before he died. The medical profession and mainstream scientific establishment claim that Pasteur never said this.
Why is the controversy still important? Because the modern medical system, built on the Pasteur theory of germs being the cause of most disease, fails many people. Some of those people who found no help from conventional medicine turned to the Bernard theory without even knowing it, and restored their health.
With one important addition—eating real food.
I am one of those people, and I know many others.
The Two Theories
Most people are familiar with the germ theory of disease advocated by Pasteur. This theory claims that most illness is caused by germs, tiny organisms like bacteria and viruses. Since these organisms are the cause of illness, the way to cure illness is to kill the germs. This can aggressively be done through medication, sanitation, radiation, and other methods outside the natural defenses of the body.
In fact, the symptoms of disease are attacked by outside interventions such as surgery, drugs, and radiation—all aimed at killing the organisms that are blamed for the disease. This approach, which is the cornerstone of modern medicine, often does great harm to the patient, and often fails to cure them.
It can work, but it is common for the symptoms to return at a later date.
Bernard believed that the most important part of defeating disease was what he called “the terrain.”
The terrain is the body of the patient, and the natural functions of that body. Bernard taught that the body is full of bacteria, which are benign and helpful if the body is working properly. But if the body becomes weakened, or injured, or malnourished, some of these bacteria change and become dangerous, causing disease.
To Pasteur, killing the pathogens through outside intervention was the way to heal. To Bernard, strengthening the “terrain,” the body, enabled the body to heal itself, creating a condition where the bad bacteria became benign and helpful again.
What We Know Now
We know that killing outside germs through basic hygiene helps prevent disease. Yet we also know that the body needs beneficial bacteria to live, and killing too many of these bacteria has bad effects on the body, and they are often replaced with harmful organisms.
We know that antibiotics and other aggressive medical interventions can relieve symptoms, but they usually fail to treat the cause of the symptoms, which often return at a later date.
Yet we also know that many people who have no medical intervention recover from every kind of illness, and often do not see the symptoms return.
My Experience, and the Role of Food
I have had many illnesses over most of my life. I have had a lot of medical treatment for various conditions. At first, the treatment relieved the symptoms. But my body became weaker from the prescription drugs and other treatments. After some time, the symptoms always returned, and I would need more treatment. Eventually, I reached a point where the medical interventions did not work.
What saved me was an unwitting turn toward Bernard’s theory. I strengthened my body by switching to real food, and avoiding toxins. The real food and grassfed meat gave my body the nutrition it needed to function properly. As my terrain became stronger and stronger, I became healthier and healthier. I have not needed any medical intervention in over ten years.
I do practice hygiene, which gives my body less to fight off, and I believe there is a proper place for medical intervention when it is truly needed. But the best path I have found for myself is to nourish my terrain by avoiding toxins, including dangerous bacteria, and eating real food only. That way, the natural functions of my body keep it healthy. Many of my friends in the real food movement have had a similar experience.
I used to hate hamburger, and ground beef in all its forms. Factory beef makes terrible hamburgers, in my opinion. But that all changed when I switched to grassfed ground beef, and found that I loved it.
As one of my favorite grassfed ranchers once said, “These are hamburger times, not steak times.” Many people think hamburger is boring and uninteresting. Yet many cultures celebrate traditional ground meat dishes, and often prefer them to more expensive cuts.
The beauty of ground grassfed meat is that you can do so much with it. You can add all kinds of ingredients, and the variety is limited only by your imagination and research ability. I have found that traditional ground meat flavor combinations can make the plain hamburger into a delicious, nutritious, delight.
Traditional Ground Meat Delights
I first learned of the value that other cultures give ground meat mixtures when I went to an ethnic restaurant with a friend who wanted to introduce me to his native cuisine. There were many grilled items, and I asked him what he liked best. I thought it might be the lamb kebabs, or the marinated chicken kebabs. Instead, he enthusiastically recommended the ground meat kebabs, which he said were the best thing on the menu. I took his recommendation, and was astonished by how flavorful and good they were.
Many cultures have their own unique traditional ways of preparing ground grassfed meat. The meat is almost always mixed with other ingredients. In Germany, the meat could be mixed with eggs, breadcrumbs, cream, and a little nutmeg. In Poland, a ground onion might be mixed into the meat, with some bread that was soaked in milk, squeezed dry, and incorporated into the burger.
Armenians could mix finely chopped parsley and onions into the meat, along with various spices. In India, curry spices and other ingredients could be mixed into the meat. The combinations are endless.
Turning Grassfed Hamburger into a Delicious Masterpiece
The key to having a flavorful variety in burgers is to mix other ingredients into the meat.
I have tried traditional flavor combinations with grassfed ground beef, grassfed ground bison, grassfed ground lamb, and pastured ground pork. I have used olive oil, all kinds of minced vegetables, eggs, egg yolks, toasted sesame oil, milk, cream, fish sauce, and a huge variety of spices from all over the world. By using traditional flavor combinations as a guide, I have come up with a variety of wonderful burgers that are very distinct in their taste and flavors. The ground meat recipes I have published in Tender Grassfed Barbecue include:
- Great Plains Cherry Bison Burger
- Balkan Burger
- Transylvanian Garlic Burger
- Cinnamon Burger
- Curry Burger, and
- Cajun Burger, to name a few. They are all different, yet delicious.
My upcoming cookbook will include many new recipes for grassfed ground meat, including this one that I have already shared on the Internet:
Ground grassfed meat need never be boring, and can be delicious in so many ways!
This post is part of Fat Tuesday blog carnival.
In researching my upcoming book on traditional cooking, I was fascinated to see how many cultures ate particular food combinations. Certain foods and spices would always be eaten together. I saw this in the traditional cuisines of Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, Latin America, almost everywhere. Why were these foods always combined in a particular cuisine?
I did a bit of research and was delighted to find that science has verified the health benefits of some of these traditional food combinations.
Our ancestors were remarkably well informed about the foods they ate, even without science and research. They had their traditions, which represented the collected knowledge of their ancestors, passed down from father to son, from mother to daughter, over the centuries. Not all of these traditions have been verified, but some of them have been.
Some Verified Benefits of Traditional Food Combinations
Throughout traditional Europe, bread was always eaten with butter. In areas were butter was hard to get, bread was always eaten with some other fat. In many areas it was pork lard or pork fat, often spread on the bread while still raw. Bread was also fried in bacon grease. Olive oil was sometimes used, especially in Southern Italy. But some kind of fat, usually a lot of fat, was always spread on the bread.
Potatoes were also always eaten with fat, including butter, cheese, cream, lard, bacon, chicken fat, duck fat, beef tallow, lamb tallow, and other animal fats.
Bread and potatoes are very high in carbohydrates, and can cause glycemic effects that can harm the body.
Science has verified that fat slows the absorption of the sugar from carbohydrates. This can slow down and often prevent the harmful “sugar rush” effect of eating carbs and sugars. Thus the traditions of always eating these carb-heavy foods with fat had a definite health benefit.
Another example is the Chinese seasoning combination of garlic, ginger, and green onions, which is used in a huge number of traditional Chinese dishes. All of these vegetables have proven antibacterial and blood purifying effects, and ginger is known to help digestion. There was an old Chinese belief that ginger drove “the devils” out of the food. The numerous health benefits of garlic have been proven by science, as have the antibacterial effects of green onions. The combination of all three has not been tested, but I suspect that they are even more effective in combination.
Turmeric has proven antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities, and recent research has shown that it may help the natural processes of the body avoid Alzheimer’s disease. Even more recent research has shown that the helpful effect of turmeric is substantially increased when it is consumed with black pepper, which has a substance that works to increase the beneficial effects of curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric).
Turmeric is a very common spice in India, being a component of almost every curry spice combination. Turmeric is nearly always combined with black pepper in these dishes.
India may have the lowest rate of Alzheimer’s disease in the developed world.
These are just a few of the traditional food combinations whose beneficial qualities have been verified by science. There are many others. There are other food combinations that have not been tested, but I suspect that they are very beneficial as well.
Hippocrates, the greatest of ancient physicians, said it best, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Words of wisdom.
There are times when I think I know a lot about food. Then I have a new experience and realize that I have so much to learn. This post is about the important lesson I was taught by a jar of cherry preserves.
The Cherry Preserves
I was in a store that had imported food from many lands. My eyes were drawn to a jar of cherry preserves. I do not eat fruit preserves, because they are always made with added sugar or some other kind of sweetener. Yet I picked the bottle up and looked at it. The manufacturer had used an incredibly beautiful color for the glass in which the cherries were packed, a magnificent cherry red that no doubt made the preserves look much better in the jar than out.
Sure enough, the few ingredients included sugar, and citric acid. I do not eat foods with added sugar, or citric acid. But I held on to the bottle.
The word organic did not appear on the bottle. I do not eat foods that are not organic, unless I know they have been grown in a way that is the equivalent of organic. There was no information about how the cherries were raised. But I held onto the bottle.
I noticed that the preserves were made in Ukraine. My grandfather was born in Ukraine. I remembered that he would never eat fruit. I asked him why, once. He said that after eating fruit in Ukraine, he could not stand the dead, lifeless, tasteless fruit in the U.S. That conversation took place over fifty years ago, when fruit was much better than it is now.
I bought the preserves. When I got home, I put some preserves on some heavily buttered spelt bread. I tasted them. Wonderful is too weak a word to describe the glorious taste. I immediately felt better, clearer. The preserves were not sweet, and they tasted like cherries. A deep cherry flavor I had never experienced before. The skins had been left on the cherries, there was hardly any liquid in the bottle, and the effect on my body was wonderful. I never tasted fresh fruit that was half as good. Not even the best organic fruit I could find. And as good as the preserves were, I was satisfied after eating two tablespoons. I looked at the bottle. Now that some cherries had been taken out, it was clear glass, with no coloring. The magnificent color was from the cherries alone.
Despite the added sugar, despite the citric acid, the natural goodness of these cherries dominated the experience.
I could not understand this. Then I remembered what my grandfather said, and about the soil.
Ukraine just may have the best soil in the world. The best soil is actually black there, very thick. Incredibly rich in nutrients and minerals. It has been known for hundreds of years for the wonderful crops it produces, the incredible vegetables and fruits. No doubt much of the soil was damaged or lost under the brutal rule of the Soviet Union, which polluted much of the land with the poisons of heavy industry. But obviously much of the sacred black soil of Ukraine remains, and it was that soil that made those cherries so good.
For hundreds of years, people wanted to know where all their food came from, and paid particular attention to how good the soil or grasses were in a particular region. Food raised in a region famous for good soil was highly prized, and even the goodness of the soil of a particular farm was known in the community and valued. The desire for this important knowledge has largely faded away, as marketing and corrupt media and government convinced us that all food was the same. An apple is an apple. A cherry is a cherry. No matter where it comes from. One of the biggest lies about food that has ever been told.
The soil is crucial, our ancestors knew this, and that bottle of cherry preserves proved it once again.
I believe there was a day when most preserves and traditional processed foods were this good, a day that has long passed.
We have lost so much.
I ran into one of my favorite butchers yesterday. He was trained the old way, when butchering was an art. He knows a lot about all kinds of meat. He can cut steaks and roasts that are so beautiful that they are like a fine painting.
He had just finished reading Tender Grassfed Barbecue. He said that he agreed with everything I wrote about nutrition. He could see it in the meat, over the many years he was a butcher. He had wondered for a long time why grain-finished meat looked so different, and was so full of blocky streaks of fat, rather than the fine marbling he looked for in a superior piece of meat. He said that he believed that most conventional foods were not that nutritious. And then he let out a shocker.
“I am still going to eat the conventional food. I know the grassfed meat and real food is much better for me, but it is too much trouble to change. It would just be too much work. And the better food is too expensive.”
I have heard words like these from so many people. It is too hard, too much trouble, and too expensive, to make the switch to real food.
Having reached the point where we eat nothing but real food and grassfed meat, I can tell you this:
- It is very hard to make the switch.
- It is a lot of trouble.
- It is more expensive.
And, many people will think you are nuts.
Is it worth it?
Absolutely. The blessings of good health and mental clarity that I have received from changing my diet are worth all the trouble, expense, and even being made fun of or being thought of as a nut. It has been like being reborn.
Health Is Much Better than Convenience
Many years ago, when I was twenty, my Dad asked me if I ever felt good when I woke up in the morning, full of energy, eager for the challenges and pleasures of the day. I honestly told him that I never did. I did not even know what he was talking about. When I woke up, I was discouraged, annoyed, short of breath, and in pain.
I thought I was eating a good diet, because the FDA inspected all food, and would not allow any food that was not good to be sold. I ate only conventional foods sold by big supermarkets, because they were cheaper, and “just as good.”
I thought I was well nourished, because I was big and looked powerful. And because I followed my doctor’s advice on what to eat.
I thought I was getting the best medical care in the world.
So why was I so sick, exhausted, and miserable?
I am convinced I was suffering from severe malnutrition, like most Americans. And I did not even know it.
Because it is easy to find, buy, and use conventional food, I had convenience. But I did not have health.
Making the Change
Eventually, things deteriorated to the point where the medical profession had no help to give me, and told me so. Rather than give up and die as predicted, I got furious. I got determined. I used my skills as a research attorney to find another way.
What I found was the website of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and the priceless information on their website enabled me not only to save my life, but become healthy for the very first time as an adult.
I knew I had to switch to real food. It was difficult. I had to drop most of the food items I used to buy. I thought I loved many of them, though in reality, I was addicted. I had to learn a whole new way of cooking. And we spent much more money on food than we were used to. And I had to deal with the fact that some of the foods I needed could not be bought, only made. Making homemade broth, especially skimming it, and straining it, seemed so hard. Learning how to cook grassfed meat was hard, especially when I kept ruining it and there was nothing I could find that taught me how to cook it. I wrote Tender Grassfed Meat to make it easier for others to learn how to cook this wonderful meat. Making my own fermented foods was hard, at first. And I really missed the factory foods I was addicted to.
But once I learned how to make broth, cook grassfed meat, and make fermented foods, it became familiar and easy. Still time consuming, but easy.
I learned how to find and buy real food, which became fun. And the extra expense became easier to accept, as we adjusted our spending priorities, realizing that nothing we can buy is as important as the good food that keeps us healthy. We also learned how to find sales and bargains, which really helped.
The addiction to the factory foods began to fade, as we ate much better real food alternatives.
Many of our family members, friends, and acquaintances thought we were too picky. Some got offended when I would not eat the conventional food they liked.
The convincing argument, the one that convinced me that real food was worth all the time, expense, and trouble, is this—I became much healthier. When properly nourished, the natural functions of my body kept me healthy, without any drugs. My mind became much sharper, and the occasional short term memory problems disappeared. The quality of my life became so much better, in every way.
Now I wake up each morning eager for the challenges and pleasures of the day, full of energy, and so happy to be here. I finally understand what my Dad was talking about, so many years ago.