From Microbes to Models: How Coping with Ear Infections Led to a New Paradigm
After developing a natural, non-drug, method for preventing otitis in children, we were confronted with finding how it worked. That path led to the confirmation that our physiologic defenses have been wrongly seen as symptoms to be treated with drugs. That error is a result of our reductionist thinking in wanting to understand and describe human physiology and health in mechanical terms. The numerous elements in our physiology, their nonlinear connections, and above all our realization that they are adaptive, defy reductionist thinking. Our bothersome secondary defenses exemplify this problem. They are most apparent as they defend us where we are most vulnerable—at the openings to our bodies, primarily our GI and respiratory tracts. These are mostly washing defenses that translate into the GI tract’s nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and the respiratory tract’s rhinorrhea. The homeostatic model sees these symptoms as bothersome and in need of treatment. The allostatic model acknowledges that temporary imbalances often occur in order to restore a homeostatic balance, but does not yet consider these physiologic defenses as within that model.
None of this would have happened without my wife, Jerry’s input. Trained in early child education, special ed, and play therapy, she understands children. It was her panic, based on her experience trying to teach kids who had early problems with ear infections, that prompted our experimenting with xylitol. And it was her understanding of how children adapt that confirmed the idea of the modes of evolution. Children are in fact the archetype of complex adaptive systems, and we should all pay a lot more attention to the experts in this area as we try to cope with our problems in all other areas of our lives.
I would also like to thank Joachim Sturmberg for his excellent illustrations of mucociliary function and Kontiokari’s adherence study.
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